Adam Hayes rarely features in books about Captain Cook, but he played one significant role and one that shaped Cook’s future—Hayes was the dockyard official tasked with choosing the vessel for Cook’s First Voyage.
The Navy Board had suggested using a cat-built vessel, similar to the many ships sailing in the North Sea Coal trade. The Admiralty assented immediately, and ordered the Navy Board to inspect two vessels, Valentine and Earl of Pembroke, which were both then moored at Shadwell. Officers from Deptford dockyard led by Adam Hayes, the master shipwright, promptly surveyed both vessels and even inspected a third vessel, Ann and Elizabeth. Within a week, Hayes reported back recommending Earl of Pembroke.
The Earl of Pembroke, Mr Thos. Milner, owner, was built at Whitby, her age three years nine months, square stern back, single bottom, full built and comes nearest to the tonnage mentioned in your warrant and not so old by fourteen months, is a promising ship for sailing of this kind and fit to stow provisions and stores as may be put on board her.2
Hayes then oversaw the refitting of the vessel in readiness for the Pacific voyage. At this stage, Cook had had no involvement with the process.
Hayes was baptised at St. Botolph’s, Aldgate, London, in mid-November 1710. He was the son of Adam Hayes and Sarah (née Urmstone), one of their many children. The younger Adam Hayes joined the Royal Navy, and at some time became a carpenter; his first warrant was dated 1739. In 1740, he sailed in HMS Centurion under George Anson for the voyage to the Pacific, and probably shared in the plunder from the Spanish treasure galleon Nuestra Señora de Covadonga captured in 1743. Hayes would benefit from Anson’s patronage.
After a brief spell in HMS Kent, Hayes ended his active service at sea, and became a mastmaker and shipwright at a series of Naval Dockyards. He was Temporary Assistant Master Shipwright at Gibraltar from 1746 to 1748. He was Master Mastmaker at Chatham Dockyard from 18 April 17483 to 26 May 1749.4
Hayes was then Assistant Master Shipwright at Plymouth Dockyard to 22 November 1750, when he took up the same position at Woolwich Dockyard,5 staying there until 8 July 1751. On this day he became Master Shipwright at Sheerness Dockyard,6 and on 17 June 1752, moved to the same position at Woolwich Dockyard,7 where he stayed until 13 March 1753. He was then back at Chatham Dockyard as Master Shipwright7 until 6 August 1755,8 when he moved to Deptford Dockyard for the first time, as Master Shipwright,9 staying there until December 1785.
During these forty years ashore, Hayes assisted with, or was responsible for, the construction and launching of tens of ships of the line, frigates and smaller vessels. He also worked on the refitting and recommissioning of many other ships, including the commissioning of Earl of Pembroke as Endeavour Bark. In 1750, at Plymouth, he helped in the construction of HMS Northumberland, in which James Cook was Master from 1759 to 1762.
Adam Hayes married a woman called Elizabeth. They had no children. She died in 1758, aged 45, and was buried at St Mary, Newington. Before his death in 1785, Adam asked to be buried with his wife, and a stone in the church recorded their burial. On a flat stone, formerly in the Chancel in front of the altar rails, it read,
In Memory of
Mrs. Elizabeth Hayes Wife of
Adam Hayes Esq Master Shipwright of
His Majesties Yard at Deptford Who died the
21st of November, 1758. Aged (41 or) 44 years
Also the Body of Adam Hayes Esqr
Husband of the aforenamed Elizabeth Hayes died
Decr 20th 1785 in his 76th Year
also the body of Mrs. Elizabeth Hayes
who died August 2nd 1792
Aged 49 Years.10
The younger Elizabeth Hayes was their daughter-in-law. She is mentioned in his will, as are many other nephews, nieces, great-nephews and great-nieces. One great-nephew was John Hayes, who would subsequently have a naval career rising to be a rear-admiral. John Marshall, in his biography of John Hayes,11 wrote that Adam Hayes tried to mould his great-nephew into a career similar to his own, rather than active service at sea. Marshall also explains Adam Hayes’s demise.
his [John’s] juvenile predilection for the naval service was shortly after over-ruled by his great-uncle, the late Adam Hayes, Esq., Master Shipwright of Deptford dock-yard, who being without any children of his own, was particularly anxious to have a junior branch of the family educated as a naval architect under his immediate directions; and therefore selected Mr. John Hayes for that purpose, hoping, as he said, to qualify him for the appointment of Surveyor of the Navy, or at all events to be succeeded by him as Builder at Deptford.
In consequence of this arrangement, a nephew whom he had previously been instructing, but whose abilities did not answer his expectations, was discarded, and the subject of this memoir passed four or five years under the sole controul of his great uncle, to whom his father had resigned all authority over him; but immediately on the demise of the old gentleman, an event occasioned by a violent attack of gout in the stomach, he laid aside the rule and compass, and quitting the drawing board, embarked as a Midshipman on board the Orion 74, commanded by the late Sir Hyde Parker, under whom he served during the Dutch armament, in 1787.
Adam Hayes died in December 1785 aged 76. His will was proven on 9 January, 1786.12
- Offered by Wick Antiques Ltd., Lymington.See www.wickantiques.co.uk/product/presentation-silver-to-the-master-shipwright-of-captain-cooks-endeavour/
- Deptford Yard Officers to Navy Board. 27 March, 1768.ADM 106/3315.Held at The National Archives (TNA), Kew.
- ADM 3/17/345.
- ADM 6/17/465.
- ADM 6/17/536.
- ADM 6/18/7.
- ADM 6/18/39.
- ADM 6/18/62.
- ADM 6/18/186.
- The Monumental Inscriptions in the Old Churchyard of St. Mary, Newington, Surrey. Part 1. With annotations. 1880. Page 121. Online at https://archive.org/details/monumentalinscr00englgoog
- Marshall, John. “John Hayes, Esq” in vol. 2 of Royal Naval Biography. 12 volumes. London: 1823-35.Pages 673-683.
- PROB 11/1137/91.Held at TNA.
Originally published in Cook's Log, page 38, volume 44, number 2 (2021).