The Petts family Shield

The Petts Family Ancestry and History

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Famous Pettses

Peter Pett. (? - 6th September 1589)

Married first time date unknown, wife unknown.
Married second time to Elizabeth Thornton, sister of Captain Thornton of the Navy.


From his first wife -
Joseph, who succeeded his father at Deptford as master shipwright; died 15th November 1605.
Peter, a shipbuilder at Wapping.

From his second wife -
Phineas Noah, Master of the Popinjay in 1594.
Four daughters one of whom was Abigail, who died in 1599 beaten to death with a pair of tongs by her stepfather Thomas Nunn.
  Nunn a clergyman, received the Queen's pardon, but died immediately afterwards.


Peter of Harwich, probably a shipbuilder.



Great Grandfather

  Thomas, reputedly of Skipton in Cumberland (Skipton is in Yorkshire); see (Le Neve, Pedigrees of the knights pp. 155-6).
Although some kin settled in the north, it is probable that he belonged to the family of the name which early in the fifteenth century owned property in Pett in the parish of Stackbury in Kent (HASTED, History of Kent, ii.525 n).
  Heywood stated in 1637 that for two hundred years and upwards men of that name had been officers and architects in the Royal Navy (CHARNOCK, History of Marine Architecture, ii.284).
  Peter, was in the service of the crown from an early age; he was already Master-Shipwright at Deptford in the reign of Edward VI, and there he continued until his death on or about 6th September 1589.
  During this time he had a principle part in building most of the ships of the navy, though details are wanting. Richard Chapman who built the ARK, was brought up by Pett, and also, in all probability, was Matthew Baker, with whom, from 1570, Pett was associated in the works at Dover. In 1587 he and Baker accused Sir John Hawkyns, then treasurer of the navy, of malpractices in connexion with the repair of the Queen's ships. The charges were apparently held to be the outcome of a pique or jealousy. Hawkyns was annoyed, but suffered no material injury, and Pett remained in his office. In 1583 he was granted arms. Or, on a fess gules between three ogresses, a lion passant of the field; and the crest, out of a ducal coronet, a demi-pelican with wings expanded.

Peter Pett (1610 - 1670?)

  Commissioner of the navy, fifth son of Phineas Pett, he was born at Deptford on 6th August 1610. He was brought up by his father as a shipwright; while still very young, he was his father's assistant at Deptford and Woolwich, and in 1635-7 built The Sovereign of the Seas under his father's supervision. In 1647 he was ordered by the parliament a gratuity of £10. For building The Phoenix at Woolwich. He would seem to have been appointed master-shipwright at Chatham, and in 1648 to have sent up important information to the parliament, and to have been mainly instrumental in preserving the ships at Chatham from revolting. Probably as a reward for his services, he was appointed commissioner of the Navy at Chatham, an office analogous to that of the present superintendent of the dockyard, with the important difference that Pett, as a practical man, exercised immediate and personal control over several departments of the yard, and was thus largely responsible for the efficiency of the ships during the Dutch wars.
That during the commonwealth the ships were fairly well maintained is matter of history, but Pett excited a strong feeling of animosity by filling all the more important posts in the yard with his near relatives. As early as November 1651, complaints were laid by some of the subordinate officials, including the chaplain, that members of the family worked into each other's hands, the stores were wasted or misappropriated, that higher wages were charged than were paid, and that false musters were kept. A special inquiry was ordered in the following January, when Pett had little difficulty in proving that the charges were malicious; but it is clear that there were great opportunities for fraud and reasonable grounds for suspicion.
  The commissioner's cousin, Joseph Pett, was master-shipwright at Chatham; another cousin, Peter Pett, was master-shipwright at Deptford; a younger brother, Christopher, assistant master-shipwright at Woolwich; another Phineas, clerk of the check at Chatham, and a cousin, Richard Holborne, master mast-maker. When, in the following summer, his cousin Peter at Deptford died, he was able to have his brother Christopher promoted to the vacancy, and Peter's son Phineas, appointed assistant. Pett was also permitted to undertake private contracts for building ships of war (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 7th Jan. 1650).
  He was reappointed to his office after the Restoration, and remained in it until the 29th September 1667, when he was charged with being the main cause of the disaster at Chatham in June, and was summarily superseded. He was accused in detail, of having neglected or disobeyed orders from the Duke of York, the Duke of Albamarle, and the navy commissioners to moor the Royal Charles in a place of safety, to block the channel of the Medway by sinking a vessel inside the chain, to provide boats for the defence of the river, and to see that the officers and seamen were on board their ships (19th December 1667). On the 18th June, he was sent a prisoner to the Tower, on the 19th was examined before the council, and on the 22nd October before the House of commons. There was talk of impeaching him, but the accusation was merely the outcome of a desire to make him answerable for the sins of those in high places, and the matter was allowed to drop. The general feeling was clearly put by Marvell, in the lines beginning:

After the loss, to relish discontent,
Some one must be accused by Parliament:
all our miscarriages on Pett must fall;
is name alone seems fit to answer all."

  After being deprived of his office, Pett disappears from view. He married on the 8th September 1632, Catherine, who herself was born in August 1617. She was the daughter of Edward Cole of Woodbridge, Suffolk (Register of St. Mary's Woodbridge, by favour of Mr. Vincent B. Redstone). Mention is made of one son, Warwick. Pett has often been confused with his cousin Peter, the master shipwright of Deptford, who died in 1652, and with each of Peter's two sons, Sir Peter, advocate General for Ireland, and Sir Phineas Pett, master shipwright at Chatham, who was knighted in 1680, was comptroller of stores and resident commissioner at Chatham, and to be distinguished from the commissioner Peter's brother Phineas, a clerk of the check at Chatham. Three others, named Phineas Pett, were at the same time in the naval service at Chatham or on the Thames, one of whom was killed in action in 1666, while in command of the Tiger. The name Phineas Pett continued in the navy till towards the close of last century.

[Calendar of State Papers, Dom., the indices to which have so confused the Peters and Phineases as to be useless; the only possibility of clearing the confusion is by reference to the original documents, and by carefully distinguishing the signatures; Pepys's Diary; Harl. MS. 6279; Literae Cromwellii, 1676, p.229.] J.K.L.

Sir Peter Pett (1630-1699)

  Lawyer and author, son of Peter Pett (1593-1652), master shipwright of Deptford, grandson of Peter Pett of Wapping, shipbuilder, and great grandson of Peter Pett (died 1589), was baptised in St. Nicholas Church, Deptford, on 31st October 1630. He was educated in St. Paul's School and at Sidney-Sussex College Cambridge, where he was admitted in 1645. After graduating B. A. He migrated to Pembroke College, Oxford, and in 1648 was elected to a fellowship at All Souls'. He then graduated B. C. L. In 1650, was entered as a student at Grey's Inn, and settled there "for good and all" about a year before the Restoration. From 1661 to 1666 he sat in the Irish Parliament as M. P. for Askeaton. He was called to the bar from the Middle Temple in 1664.
  When the Royal Society was formed, in 1663. Pett was one of the original fellows, elected on 20th May, but was expelled on 18th November 1675 for "not performing his obligation to the society". He was probably absorbed in other interests. He had been appointed advocate-general for Ireland, where he was knighted by the Duke of Ormonde.
  He was also much engaged in literary work, more or less of a polemical nature. A short tract of his, headed "Sir Peter Pett's Paper, 1679, about the Papists," is in the Public Record Office (Shaftsbury Papers, ii. 347). His published works are: 1. "A Discourse concerning Liberty of Conscience," London,1661, 8vo. 2. "The happy future Estate of England," 1680, fol.; republished in1689 as "Discourse of the Growth of England in Populousness and Trade... By way of a Letter to a person of Honour." 3. "The obligation resulting from the Oath of Supremacy..." 1687, fol. He edited also the "memoirs of Arthur [Ammesley], Earl of Anglesey," 1698, 8vo, and "The Genuine Remains of Doctor Thomas Barlow, late Lord Bishop of Lincoln," 1693, 8vo. He died on the 1st April 1699.
  Pett has been confused with his father's first cousin, Peter, commissioner of the navy at Chatham. [Knight's Life of Cloet, p.407; Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Wood's Athenae, iv. 576; St. Paul's School Reg. p.43; Burrows's Worthies of All Souls', pp. 476, 540.] J.K.L.

Phineas Pett (1570 - 1647)

  Master-builder of the navy and naval commissioner, elder son of Peter Pett (died 1589) by his second wife, Elizabeth Thornton, was born at Deptford on 1st November 1570. After three years at the free school at Rochester, and three more at a private school at Greenwich, he entered Emmanual College, Cambridge, in 1586. After his fathers death in 1589, Phineas was left destitute and in 1590 was bound "a convent servant" to Richard Chapman, the queen's master-shipwright at Deptford.
  Within three years Chapman died, and he shipped as carpenter's mate on board the Edward and Constance, in the second expedition of Edward Glemham. The voyage had no great success, and after two years of hardship and privation, Pett found himself again in London, as poor as when he started. In August 1595 he was employed "as an ordinary workman" in rebuilding the Triumph at Woolwich. Afterwards he worked, under Matthew Baker, on the Repulse, a new ship which was being prepared for the expedition to Cadiz.
  During this winter Pett studied mathematics, drawing, and the theory of his profession, in which Baker gave him much assistance and instruction. In April 1597 Lord Howard, the lord admiral, who was much at Baker's house, accepted him as his servant. It was not, however, until near Christmas 1598 that Howard was able to employ him in "the finishing of a purveyance of plank and timber" in Norfolk and Suffolk, which occupied Pett through the whole of 1599; and in June 1600 Howard appointed him "keeper of the plankyard, timber, and other provisions" at Chatham, "with promise of better preferment to the utmost of his power."
  A quarrel with Matthew Baker followed, and for the next ten or twelve years, according to Pett's story, Baker lost no opportunity of doing him a bad turn. According to Pett, the administration of the dockyards was at that time altogether swayed by personal interest, jealousy, and malicious intrigue.
  In March 1601 Pett was appointed assistant to the master-shipwright at Chatham. In November 1602 his good services in fitting out the fleet in six weeks won for him Mr. Greville's "love, favour, and good opinion;" and shortly after the accession of King James he was ordered by Howard to build a miniature ship - a model, it would seem, of the Ark - for Prince Henry. This was finished in March 1634, and Pett took her round to the Thames, where on the 22nd the prince came aboard. The admiral presented Pett to him; and on the following day Pett was sworn as the prince's servant, and was appointed captain of the little vessel. He was also granted the reversion of the places held by Baker or his brother Joseph, whichever should first become vacant; and in November 1605, on the death of Joseph, he succeeded as master-shipwright at Deptford.
  In 1607 he was moved to Woolwich, and there remained for many years, favourably regarded by Howard, John Trevor, the surveyor of the navy, and Mansell the treasurer; and, in consequence, hated and intrigued against by their enemies and his own, of which, as a successful man he had many. In October 1608 he laid the keel of a new ship, the largest in the navy, which was launched in September 1610 as the Prince Royal, but in April 1609, definite charges of incompetence displayed in her construction were laid against him by the Earl of Northampton, instigated by Baker and George Weymouth, "a great braggadocio." A commission was ordered to investigate the matter, and reported in Pett's favour; but as Northampton refused to accept their decision and press the charges, the King had the case formally tried before him at Woolwich on the 8th May, Pett was formally acquitted on all points.
  In 1612, Pett was the first master of the Shipwrights' Company, then incorporated by royal charter. In 1613 he was in the Prince with Howard when he took the Lady Elizabeth and her husband, the Paltine, to Flanders; and was ordered by Howard to dine at his table during the voyage. In 1620-1 he seems to have accompanied Sir Robert Mansell in the expedition against the Algerian pirates; and in 1623 went to Santander in the Prince, which he had fitted specially for the reception of the infanta. Charles I, on his accession to the throne, gave him a gold chain valued at £104.
  In June 1625 he was in Boulogne in the Prince, which brought the young queen to Dover on the 12th. In August 1627 he was sent to Portsmouth to hasten the equipment of the fleet, and, continuing there, "saw many passages and the disaster which happened to the Lord Duke [of Buckingham]." In February 1629-30 he was appointed an assistant to the principle officers of the navy, and in the following December one of the principal officers and a commissioner of the navy. He still, however, continued to exercise the supervision over Deptford and Woolwich yards, assisted to a great extent by his son Peter (1610 - 1670?).
  In 1635 he was sent to Newcastle to provide timber, etc., for a new ship to be built at Woolwich, the keel of which was laid on 21st December. She was launched on 13th October 1637, and named The Sovereign of the Seas - the largest and most highly ornamented ship in the English navy. A model of her, possibly contemporary, is preserved in the museum of the Royal Naval College at Greenwich. However, although the Prince Royal and the Sovereign of the Seas were the chief products of Pett's art, he was more or less responsible for every ship added to the navy during the reigns of James I and Charles I, as well as for many of the largest merchant ships then built, among others the Trades's Increase and the Peppercorn.
  During this period shipbuilding was improved and the size of ships increased. It has been said that the secrets of the trade were preserved in the Pett family - handed down from father to son (Charnock, History of Marine Architecture, ii. 284); but Phineas Pett learned nothing directly from his father, and indirectly only as far as Chapman and Baker were his father's associates. The excellence which he attained and handled down to his successors may be more justly assigned to his Cambridge training and his subsequent studies in mathematics. He died in 1647, and was buried at Chatham on 21st August.
  Pett was married thrice: the first time in 1598 to Anne, daughter of Richard Nichols of Highwood Hill in Middlesex; she died in February 1626-7; the second time in July 1627, to Susan, widow of Robert Yardley, and mother, or stepmother, of the wife of his son John; she died in July 1636; and the third time in January 1636-7, to one Mildred. By his first wife he had three daughters and eight sons, the eldest of whom, John, a captain in the navy, married, in 1625, Katherine, daughter of Robert Yarley, and died in in 1628. Peter, was the fifth son. Phineas, was the seventh son Born in 1618, he was in 1651 clerk of the check at Chatham; Christopher was the youngest son, born in 1620, he was master-shipwright at Deptford, where he died in 1668, leaving a widow, Ann, and for children.
The principal authority for the life of Pett is his autobiography - Harl. MS. 6279 - a late seventeenth or early eighteenth century copy. It appears to be trustworthy as to its facts, though with a strong personal bias. A lengthy abstract is printed in Archaelogia, xii. 207 et seq. Pett is frequently mentioned in the Calendars of State Papers, Domestic; see also Birch's Life of Prince Henry.

William Petts (? 1838 ?)

Convict, arrived in Australia in 1838, aboard the Loch Lynoch. His trial took place at Derby in 1838.

John Petts (10th January 1914 - 26th August 1991)

  Born in London, John was a stained glass and wood engraver. There has an example of his work in the windows of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Alabama.
  He lived in Wales, and had a spinal disability. He went to the Hersy College of Art, he studied engraving and painting under Robert Lyon and Norman James of the Royal Acadamy, his tutors were Thomas Mornington and Walter Russel. (In 1934 for hastle to Art studies).
  Married Brenda Chamberlain, with whom he founded the Casey Press at Llanlledud in Snowdonia. He produced wood engravings and typography first in 1930s. Engraving published in Welsh review and London Mercury, then a new venture with Alun Lewis - Caseg Broadsheet. He was a conscientious objector in the war and served with R. A. M. C. resuscitation unit.
  He worked on a commission of wood engraving for the Golden Cockrel Press (Against Woman 1953). In 1960s produced stained glass for the Brighton and Hove Synagogue. Married three times and has two sons and a daughter.

Flt. Lt. Nick Petts

  From a report in the newspaper dated 13th May 1989. At a celebration to mark the 40th anniversary of the maiden flight of the Canberra, Britain's first jet bomber, held at R. A. F. Wyton, Cambridgeshire. The Canberra was designed by W. E. W. Petter at Preston for the English Electric Company, to follow their production of the Vampire fighter. More than 1,600 planes were built before production ceased in 1964, 140 are still in operation, 40 with the R. A. F. .
  Camberras were deployed in Suez, Malaysia and Vietnam and by the Argentine air force in the Falklands, where at least one was shot down. They have very good handling capabilities, out-turning the Tornado fighter at 50,000 ft. Flt. Lt. Petts, 55, who first flew in a Camberra in 1957 said, "You would be hard pressed to find a pilot anywhere in the world who did not like the Camberra. It is very forgiving." Report by John Harlow.


War Veterans

  The following pages show the lists of inscriptions on war memorials in the United Kingdom showing the name Petts.

All lists are exactly as written.

Places listed are:-

  • Ely Cathedral
  • St. Clement Danes on the Strand, in London, the church of the Royal Air Force
  • The Royal Air Force Memorial near Runnymede

Ely Cathedral
Those who died during the 1939-1945 World War in the RAF: Henry Neville Petts,
Hubert Thomas Petts D. F. C.,
John Russel Petts,
Laurence Alfred Herbert Petts,
Leslie William Petts,
Ritson Findlay Petts

R. A. F. Memorial near Runnymede
Laurence Alfred Herbert Petts, 21, RAF reserve 3/8/43
son of Amey of Middlesex

St. Clement Danes, the Strand, London:
the Church of the R. A. F.

Infamous Pettses

  Listed below in date order are the details as know of various Pettses who have been the subject of penalties as exacted by the law for their offence.

William Petts
  After a trial in Derby in 1838, he was shipped to Australia as a convict aboard the Lord Lynoch.

Edward Petts
  7th of January 1975 in the London Evening Standard. Edward Petts, 27, of Genister Road Plumstead, along with Colin Appleton, pleaded not guilty of rape at the Old Bailey in London.

1. (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 28th May 1599) [Calendars of State papers, Dom; Defeat of the Spanish Armada (Navy Recprds Soc.); Autobiography of Phineas Pett (Harl. MS 6279)]