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Warships for the King: Ann Wyatt (1658-1757), Her Life and Her Ships

Antscherl, DavidNaval History; Annapolis Vol. 27, Iss. 3,  (Jun 2013): 66-67.

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Warships for the King: Ann Wyatt (1658-1757), Her Life and Her Ships Tobias Philbin (text and illustrations), Richard Endsor (plans). Florence OR: SeaWatch Books, 2012. 188 pp. Illus. Notes. Bibliog. Index. $75.

Reviewed by David Antscherl

In the last decade of the 17th century, 7 major warships, part of the 27-ship program of England's King William III, were built in the shipyards at Bursledon. William Wyatt and his wife, Ann, ran these yards; she took over after his death in 1693. The author of Warships for the King, Tobias Philbin, has researched the story of the first and only woman known to have managed a major shipbuilding enterprise. In a time when mortality rates were high, Ann Wyatt's constitution enabled her to survive childbirth and exposure to smallpox and to live to the age of 99. She was, apparently, an altogether remarkable woman.

The book is divided into two parts, the first of which documents Ann's life and times. Many charming photographs that the author took of places where the family lived in Bursledon and, later, Hawstead, illustrate this section. The second part details the vessels, and a set of plans at 1:96 scale by Richard Endsor is included in a pocket at the back of the book. These are of the Cumberfona, 80 guns, one of the largest ships built and launched under Ann's aegis a mere two years after her first husband's demise. Another bonus is the appendix, which contains a transcription of the actual 1694 contract specifications for the Cumberland.

Historical developments are well presented, as are communications between the Admiralty Board and private shipbuilders such as the Wyatts. The transference of the business to Ann after William's death is thoroughly covered, in addition to interesting family anecdotes. It is remarkable that this single private enterprise bid...