Naval policy dictated that Admiralty charts be destroyed when superseded to avoid navigational error.
The Admiralty’s first Hydrographer, Alexander Dalrymple, was appointed in 1795 and in the next year the existing charts were brought together and catalogued. The first chart the Admiralty produced was of Quiberon Bay in Brittany and did not appear until 1800. Dalrymple was succeeded in 1808 by Captain Thomas Hurd, under whose stewardship the department was given permission to sell charts to the public. Hurd oversaw the first production of “Sailing Directions” in 1829 and the first catalogue in 1825 with 736 charts. Rear-Admiral Sir W. Edward Parry was appointed Hydrographer in 1823 after his second expedition to discover a Northwest Passage. Under Dalrymple’s successor, Captain Thomas Hurd, Admiralty charts were sold to the general public, and by 1825 there were 736 charts listed in the catalogue. In 1829 the first sailing directions were published, and in 1833, under Rear-Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort the tide tables were first published. Notices to Mariners came out in 1834, allowing for the timely correction of charts already in use. Beaufort was certainly responsible for a step change in output; by the time he left the office in 1855 the Hydrographic Office had a catalogue of nearly 2,000 charts and was producing over 130,000 charts, of which about half were provided to the Royal Navy and half sold.
1795 – 1808 Alexander Dalrymple
1808 – 1823 Captain Thomas Hurd
1823 – 1829 Rear-Admiral Sir William Parry
1829 – 1855 Rear-Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort
1855 – 1863 Rear Admiral John Washington
1863 – 1874 Vice Admiral Sir George Richards
1874 – 1884 Captain Sir Frederick Evans
1884 – 1904 Rear Admiral Sir William Wharton
1904 – 1909 Rear Admiral Mostyn Field
1909 – 1914 Rear Admiral Herbert Purey-Cust
1914 – 1919 Rear Admiral Sir John Parry
1919 – 1924 Vice Admiral Frederick Learmonth
1924 – 1932 Vice Admiral Percy Douglas
1932 – 1945 Vice Admiral Sir John Edgell
1945 – 1950 Rear Admiral Arthur Norris Wyatt
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