“HOT PRESS” & PROTECTIONS AGAINST IMPRESSMENT 1690
ADMIRALTY COMMISSIONERS’ ORDER 1690. Directed to Edward Gregory Esq, at Chatham, one side folio, 26th November 1690, and signed by J[ames] Sotherne, J[ohn] Lowther, Ri[chard] Onslow and H[enry] Priestman, reading: “Whereas since our last Granting Protections to severall of the Fishermen of Rochester, Stroud and other Parts about Chatham, We are informed that some of the persons mentioned in the said Protections were before either Impressed or warned in to be imployed as Riggers for fitting out their Mats. Ships at Chatham. We think fitting hereby to direct and require you to give order that all such Persons as were so warned in, or Impressed for the service aforesaid, before the date of the Protections given them by this Board, be obliged to attend the said service notwithstanding these Protections. For which this shall be your Warrant Dated at the Admiralty Office this 26th Novemb. :90”. Three sides of the folio sheet are ragged, but without loss of text.
The addressee and signatories of the document are:
Sir Edward Gregory (1639-1713) Navy Commissioner at Chatham 1689-1703. He is mentioned in Samuel Pepys' Diary as 'the purser of the largest ship in the Navy, the Sovereign'.
Sir John Lowther, 2nd Baronet of Whitehaven (1642-1706) Admiralty Commissioner from 1689-1696.
Sir Richard Onslow, first Baron Onslow (1654–1717) Admiralty Commissioner 1690-1693. He later served as the Speaker of the House of Commons and as Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Henry Priestman (1647-1712), Royal Navy officer and politician, and an Admiralty Commissioner 1690-1699.
James Sotherne (d.1702) Secretary of the Admiralty 1690-1694. He was a friend of Samuel Pepys.
The Admiralty issued "Protections" for men in specific areas of employment exempting them from impressment into the Navy, a copy of which they had to carry on their person at all times. In times of crisis or threat to the country, the Admiralty would order a "press from all protections" (a "hot press"), which meant that no-one remained exempt. This Order appears to be a “hot press” requiring that the protections given to fishermen in the Rochester-Chatham area be waived, and that the men concerned comply with being impressed. Britain was at this time engaged in the Nine Years' War (1688–97), which required a heightened readiness for the Royal Navy, which became engaged in several conflicts.