Jarman Family History

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History Page 1

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The earliest member of the family so far traced is Gregory Jarman, who was born around the year 1719.[1]  (See Family Tree 1, link above).  Gregory Jarman's surname is often written ‘Jerman’ (or other variations including ‘German’) reflecting the lack of standard spelling at this time. Gregory Jarman was a shipwright and lived in Chatham, Kent.



  Newly built unmasted ship being 'floated out', Chatham, 1773           


Family origins


By 1732 Gregory Jarman is found working at Chatham Royal Dockyard in Kent as a “Quarter Boy”.[2]  Although Gregory Jarman’s parents have not been established, Jarmans had been living in Chatham and working at the dockyard since at least the 1630s.  Many of them had the Christian name of Gregory.[3]  Neither “Gregory” nor “Jarman” were particularly common names. Prior to the Industrial revolution, people tended not to migrate and Chatham remained a small town of about 2,000 people throughout the 17th century.[4]  It seems likely, therefore, that Gregory was a family name and this was the same family.


Chatham Royal Dockyard was founded in the 16th century on the Medway estuary in Kent, 30 miles south east of London and was one of Britain’s largest Naval dockyards until its closure in the 1980s. Prior to the 17th century, the dockyard relied on temporary labour and most workers lived locally only while employed there. Chatham itself was a tiny fishing village with a very small permanent population.  However, between 1600 and 1650, Chatham became much more populous as the Navy expanded the dockyard and changed its employment practices to make the work force more permanent. There was an influx of workers and their families settling in the village,[5] and it is likely that the Jarmans came from elsewhere in the country and moved to Chatham around this time (that is, between 1600 and the 1630s).


By the 18th century Chatham had become the Royal Navy’s premier warship building facility and the largest industrial employer in South East England.[6]  Daniel Defoe, visiting the dockyard in the 1720s, wrote:


            “This being the chief arsenal of the Royal Navy of Great Britain.  The buildings here are indeed like ships themselves, surprisingly large, and in their several kinds beautiful.  The ware-houses, and store-houses for laying up the naval treasures are the largest in dimension, and the most in number that are to be seen anywhere in the world.”[7]


                 Chatham Royal Dockyard, 1783





Gregory’s Apprenticeship


In April 1735 Gregory Jarman began work as an apprentice shipwright at the Dockyard.[8]  His master was one of the senior shipwrights, Albert Pelham.


The shipwrights were the backbone of the dockyard workforce, and were essentially specialist carpenters responsible for the key aspects of the construction of the vessel’s hull.  They worked long hours: dawn to dusk in winter; 6am to 6pm in the rest of the year, but were relatively well-paid.  Shipwrights were considered a highly skilled occupation essential for the nation’s Naval capability, and could, particularly in time of war, be in short supply.  In order to become a shipwright, a boy had to be apprenticed to a master (very often his father) for seven years.[9] 


Normally, a man would wait until he had completed his apprenticeship before getting married. As an apprentice, his wages were taken by his master, who would provide him with food and lodging.  The master had no obligation to provide this to an apprentice’s wife and the apprentice had no independent income. However, while he was still an apprentice, Gregory married Mary Harsnett on 2 March 1741.[10]   This was probably because Mary was pregnant - their first child, Gregory, was born[11] less than five months later.


Chatham dockyard today: the Upper Mast House, built in the 18th century              




Shipwright in Chatham’s heyday


In January of the following year, Gregory completed his apprenticeship[12] and would receive a wage of 25d per day. This gave him an annual income (including working additional shifts and a lodging allowance) of about £25.


In early 1743,[13] they had their second child, James.  He was followed over the next two decades by two more sons and five daughters.[14]  James was the only one of their sons not to die in childhood.[15]  Of their daughters, one died in childhood,[16] another probably died in her teens,[17] and the fate of two of the others are unknown. Only the eldest daughter, Frances, is known to have survived into adulthood.  She married Charles Rockliffe, a shipwright, in 1767.[18]


Gregory spent the rest of his working life as a shipwright at Chatham Dockyard.

               '6th Rate' ship of the line being built 'on the stocks', 1758


Aside from Gregory, there were at this time two other Jarmans working in the Dockyard. James Jarman (or Jarmon) was related to Gregory and was probably his cousin or uncle.[19]  James had been a shipwright in the yard since at least 1734[20] but left the pay lists in 1742/3.[21]  He owned Freehold property at Chatham, since he voted in the General Election of 1734.[22]  James died in September 1751 and was buried in the churchyard of St. Mary’s, Chatham where his gravestone can still be found.[23]   (In his will he left his freehold property to Mary Eastrey who he was living with at the time.)[24]


In 1755, after 13 years’ service as a full shipwright, Gregory was allowed to take on his son, James, as an apprentice.[25]  Although the normal age in most trades for beginning an apprenticeship was 14, the Navy Board, which administered Chatham, required that dockyard apprentices had to be 16.  James was 12. Gregory presumably wanted him to begin earning for the family as early as possible and he may have succeeded in persuading the yard to accept his son because of the need for extra manpower at the time.   


In the 1750s tension with France had been building up over conflicting colonial claims in North America and elsewhere. In this climate, Chatham, as Britain’s most important warship building facility, had significantly increased its manning and production levels.[26]  The construction of two 90-gun ships of the line was completed in 1756.  (In comparison, over the whole of the previous 15 years, the yard had constructed only two ships of the line of any size). In 1756, war broke out in the global conflict known as the Seven Years' War.  The Dockyard was working at maximum capacity and twelve ships of the line were constructed during the war years.[27]  This culminated in the building of HMS Victory between 1759 and 1765.[28]  TheVictory would, nearly 50 years later, be Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar. As the first 100 gun ship to be built in the yard since the previous century, its construction was the premier project in the yard at the time, requiring by far the greatest manpower and materials.  It is therefore very likely that Gregory and James would have worked on her.


HMS Victory today, on display at Portsmouth Harbour                




James completed his apprenticeship in July 1762, and continued as a full shipwright.[29] Gregory, in order to maintain the extra income afforded by an apprentice, immediately took on a new one, George Louch.[30]


Before the Victory was completed, Gregory died suddenly in June 1763.  The Dockyard pay records show that he worked until 10 June[31] - he was buried just 4 days later, on 14 June in the churchyard at St. Mary’s, Chatham.[32]   He was about 43 years old.  His widow Mary continued to receive George Louch’s wages until the end of his apprenticeship in 1769[33] and this effectively provided her with a pension.  She died in 1771;[34] her age is unknown.


The next page covers Gregory’s son, James.




History Main Page

History Page 1

History Page 3

Family Tree 1 - Main Chart

[1] Based on the date of the commencement of his apprenticeship – see later. 

[2] The National Archives (referred to later as ‘TNA’): ADM 42/178 pt1

[3] Local parish registers contain many entries for Jarmans including the marriage of Gregory Jarman with Mary Parker, 16.1.1632 at the adjacent parish of Gillingham; of Gregory Jerman, joiner, with Anne Evenden 18.10.1654 at Chatham; of Gregory Jarman with Mary Vase 18.7.1680 at Chatham. There was also a marriage between Gregory German and Joane Tyshurst at nearby Maidstone on 12.4.1619. 

[4] Chatham Past by Philip MacDougall, 1999, p.38

[5] Chatham Past, as above, p.20

[6] Chatham Past, as above, p.29

[7] A Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain 1724-1726 by Daniel Defoe

[8] TNA ADM 42/181.

[9] This and other information on this page about Chatham shipwrights is derived from an unpublished monograph, The History of Chatham Dockyard by James Crawshaw held by Chatham Dockyard Historical Society.

[10] 1740 OS, Wouldham marriage register at Maidstone Record Office (‘MRO’), ref. P405/1/1

[11] Baptised 24 July, 1741, St Mary, Chatham

[12] 21 January 1741/2, TNA ADM 42/189

[13] Baptised 18 March 1742/3, St Mary, Chatham

[14] Frances, baptised 19.7.1747; Gregory, baptised 17.12.1749; Elizabeth, baptised 5.5.1751; Mildred, baptised 27.5.1753; Susanna, baptised 25.5 1756; Gregory, baptised 24.9.1758; Charlotte, baptised 25.9.1761; all at St Mary’s, Chatham.  As there is a gap between James and Frances (1743-1747), it may be that there were other children baptised in another parish, not yet found.

[15] Since they had three sons called Gregory, the first two would have died before the birth of the third.  Their burial record has not been found.  The third Gregory was buried on 28.8.1762 at St Mary’s, Chatham.

[16] Susanna/Susanah buried 14.8.1762, St Mary’s Chatham

[17] The burial register of St Mary’s, Chatham has an entry for Elizabeth Garment being buried 22.3.1768.

[18] 15.11.1767 at St. Mary’s, Chatham.  His occupation is mentioned in the Marriage Bond dated 2.11.69 (part of the documentation seeking a marriage licence from the Bishop of Rochester)

[19] James left a will in which he described Gregory’s son as “cousin”.  This was used to mean any relative and not necessarily a cousin as such:  p.95 Tracing your ancestors in the Public Record Office, 6th ed., by Amanda Bevan

[20] ADM 42/180 pt.4

[21] ADM 42/190 pt.4

[22] Poll Book for Kent held at SoG.  He voted for the Earl of Middlesex and Sir George Oxenden and, effectively, against Viscount Vane and Sir Edward Dering.

[23] The burial register has an entry for James Jarmon buried on 1 October 1751.  The gravestone in the church yard is now unreadable. The Medway Series of Monumental Inscriptions Vol 9., Chatham St Mary’s (held at SoG) prepared in the 1940s records that it reads “In memory of James Jarmon who died 25 September 1763 aged 59 years”.  However, according to the burial register, nobody of that name was buried on that date or at all in 1763.  It seems most likely that the year has been mistakenly recorded for 1751. 

[24] TNA PROB 10/2106

[25] TNA ADM 42/202 pt.4

[26] Chatham Past, as above, p.38

[27] This information is derived from the Chatham construction lists at:


[29] TNA ADM 42/208 pt.3

[30] TNA ADM 42/208 pt.4

[31] TNA ADM 42/209 pt.2

[32] Kent County Record Office, Chatham St Mary Burials KE/REG/99372/0 1-11

[33] TNA ADM 42/209 pt. 3 to 42/214

[34] Burial register of St Mary’s, Chatham has an entry on 4.1.1771 for Mary Jerman.