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photograph of the March 2011 poster

Norma Crowe, the Achivist and Local History Librarian at Medway Council, spoke about the life of Admiral Sir Cloudsley Shovell.

He joined the Navy as a midshipman in 1664 at the age of 14 and ascended the ranks through his exceptional navigational skills and paternalistic command of men. He spent much of his career in the Mediterranean Sea fighting the French, Spanish, in fact any warship he could take as a prize. As a result he became very wealthy indeed. In 1690 he was promoted to Admiral of the Fleet and in 1695 became M.P. for Rochester. He was a benefactor of the city and paid for the decorated ceiling in the Guildhall, the Corn Exchange and the clock in the High Street. There seems, however, a mystery about the naming of Cloudsley House in Rochester High Street as it seems he did not live there! He was given the freedom of the City in 1695.

He was returning from an unsuccessful AngloDutch campaign, attempting to take the port of Toulon, when, in a gale off the Scilly Isles, the failures of accuracy in plotting longitude caused a miscalculation and the fleet ran aground with the loss of 4 warships and 1600 men. Queen Anne was heartbroken! This was considered the worst naval disaster in maritime history. Shovell was drowned and discredited. His name, once as famous as Horatio Nelson, is almost unknown today.


Report written by Polly Chandler.

Last Revised: 20-Mar-2011

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