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Families & History of Deal & Walmer

Sea Fencibles2019-03-13T13:52:05+00:00

Sea Fencibles

Sir Home Popham

With Britain at War with France in 1793 a Royal Naval Captain, Sir Home Popham organised groups of volunteer fishermen to guard the coast against French vessels. He then suggested that the Admiralty organise and coordinate these volunteers into units. Initially, they covered the coast from Emsworth, in Hampshire, to Great Yarmouth in Norfolk. Then eventually, by 1803, they covered the whole of the British coastline.

The Navy provided the Sea Fencible with uniforms and weapons and trained them in the use of cannon and pike. Their initial duties were to guard the Martello Towers and adjacent beaches. They were expected to use their own private or commercial vessels to attack any French vessels threatening the coast and they operated under Letters of Marque.
Many smugglers, apparently, volunteered for this service as the men also received a certificate that exempted them from impressment into the Navy.

Their initial duties were to guard the Martello Towers and adjacent beaches. They were expected to use their own private or commercial vessels to attack any French vessels threatening the coast and they operated under Letters of Marque.
Many smugglers, apparently, volunteered for this service as the men also received a certificate that exempted them from impressment into the Navy.

Rank Per Day Assembled Approximate Modern Equivalent
Senior Post Captain £1 15s 0d £123
Junior Post Captain £1 10s 0d £108
Lieutenant 8s 6d £31
Petty Officer 2s 6d £9
Ordinary Seaman 1s plus provisions or 2s with no provisions £4 or £7

The 1805  Sea Fencibles paylists show that there were 335 Sea Fencibles from Deal.

Home Popham himself was appointed the district between Beachy Head and Deal which was considered at greatest risk of a French invasion.

Another Sea Fencible was Francis Austen, a naval captain and future admiral who was the brother of the novelist Jane Austen. He was appointed to raise and organise a corps of Sea Fencibles to defend a strip of the Kentish coast.

Sources and further reading:
Sea Fencible Indexes Volume 1 Kent Coastline 1805  compiled by Jennifer Killick available from http://www.folkfhs.org.uk/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sea_Fencibles