6500 BC Britain became an island when the channel plains flooded with rising sea levels.
1600 BC The first craft used by Britons would have been rafts, dugout canoes and coracles.
600 BC Phoenician trade routes to England started trading in tin and other raw materials. 5th century Saxon mercenaries arrived in "three keeled boats". This led to much trade across the North Sea.
730AD a toll was placed on ships using the port of London. Wine, timber and food was imported while salt, cloth, hide, lead and slaves were exported.
9th century Vikings raided Britain but were also traders. King Alfred raised a navy to counter this and the first sea battle against them is thought to have been fought in 875 AD.
937 Irish pirates sided with Scots, Vikings and Welsh in an invasion of England.
1066 northern Britain was attacked by King Harald of Norway and Tostig Godwinson in 300-500 ships. The Norman conquest of England, in the autumn of 1066, occurred after a seaborne invasion at Hastings.
1147 a fleet of 167 ships sailed from Dartmouth on a crusade to capture Lisbon from the Moors.
12th century The cog was a boat design which is believed to have evolved from (or at least have been influenced by) the Viking longship.
12th and 13th centuries The English Navy began to develop, King John having a fleet of 500 sails.
1241 William Maurice was convicted of piracy and is the first person known to have been hanged, drawn and quartered.
1340 During the Hundred Years' War (1337-1453) the French fleet was initially stronger than the English one, but was almost completely destroyed at the Battle of Sluys.
14th century Edward III's navy had 712 ships.
1408 The post of "Lord Admiral of England" was created.
1545 The Admiralty was set up as the King's Council of the Marine.
15th century to 17th century, English ships travelled around the world trading and mapping new lands.
1509 and 1511 The Mary Rose was built in Portsmouth for Henry VIII. She was the flagship of his navy and one of the first with gunports. She was rebuilt in 1536. Mary Rose sank on 19 July 1545 off Portsmouth.
1514 Trinity House of Deptford was founded to look after navigation marks in the Thames Estuary. Trinity House now looks after most of the marks in England and Wales.
1542 Francis Drake was born. He later sailed on the first English slaving voyages, taking Africans to the New World. Drake attacked Spanish ships sailing back from South America laden with silver. He took their treasure for himself and his queen.
1554-1618 Walter Raleigh was a favourite of Queen Elizabeth. He built a warship which he named the "Ark Raleigh" later changed by the queen to the Ark Royal. He is generally credited with introducing tobacco and potatoes to Britain from America.
1578 Sir Francis Drake in the course of his circumnavigation of the world discovered Cape Horn at the tip of South America. The sea between this and Antarctica is now known as Drake Passage.
1588 The Spanish Armada sailed against England and consisted of about 130 warships and converted merchant ships. It was attacked by an English fleet of about 200 vessels. A fire ship attack drove the Spanish ships from their anchorage. The Armada attempted to return to Spain by sailing around Scotland but many ships were wrecked off Ireland.
1596. Drake died at sea in Nombre de Dios bay, Panama in January. 1578 The first modern underwater boat proposal was made by the Englishman William Bourne who designed a prototype submarine. Unfortunately for him these ideas never got past the planning stage
1599 The Honorable East India Company was set up and the Hudson's Bay Company.
In 1600 Queen Elizabeth had given the Honourable East India Company the right to trade east of the Cape of Good Hope. By 1804 the company's fleet from India was said to be worth £6M. The Virginia Company failed in 1624. The South Sea Company had been set up to trade in the Pacific but became involved in domestic politics. The Levant Company was set up to trade with Turkey.
1620 to 1624 The first modern submersible to be actually built was that of Cornelius Drebbel, a Dutchman. Its exact design is not known but versions were tested in the River Thames.
1620 The Mayflower sailed from Plymouth. The connection between the American colonies and Britain, with shipping as its cornerstone continued to grow unhindered for almost two hundred years.
1652 to 1653 The First Anglo-Dutch War was fought between. Battles were fought at Dungeness, Portland, the Gabbard and Scheveningen.
1665-7 In the Second Anglo-Dutch War their victory meant the Dutch Navy became the world's strongest.
1699 The first offshore lighthouse was that built on the Eddystone Rocks.
17th century ship design improved, exports were coal and corn, imports of fish and sugar.
1758 Horatio Nelson was born. 1st Viscount Nelson was a British admiral who was famous for his participation in the sea battles of the Napoleonic Wars, most notably at the Battle of Trafalgar a decisive British victory where he lost his life.
17th century trade expanded with. The Royal African Company had a monopoly of the African trade until 1712 but there was much privateering. Later a major part of this trade was in the "Triangular trade" which involved taking goods from Britain to West Africa, slaves from Africa to the West Indies and America, then sugar to Britain. The main ports involved were London, Bristol and Liverpool but there were many others, with a total of 11,615 sailings with 3.4 million slaves between 1662 and 1807. William Wilberforce and his supporters got the slave trade abolished in 1808 and subsequently the Royal Navy tried to suppress it.
1732 The first lightship was positioned at the Nore.
1728 James Cook was born in Yorkshire he became apprenticed to a firm of Whitby coal shippers then joined the navy and worked his way up to command. The Royal Society wanted to observe the transit of Venus due in June 1769 and to find the supposed southern continent. They persuaded the Admiralty to provide a ship and James Cook, an excellent navigator. For the voyage Cook chose the HM Bark Endeavour which was a Whitby collier. It was adapted in the Royal Navy Dockyard at Deptford, and scientific instruments for observing the transit were loaded. Accompanying Cook were the astronomer Dr Green, a botanist Joseph Banks and two artists. The Endeavour sailed around Cape Horn to Tahiti, then to New Zealand and finally to Australia. After a year at home, Cook took two colliers, Resolution and Adventure, to the Antarctic and then to Tahiti, testing the new timekeeper of John Harrison. He made a third voyage, to try and find the Northwest Passage, with Resolution and HMS Discovery. After encountering ice he turned back to Hawaii. When Cook tried to take the king hostage, because of the theft of a ship's boat, he was killed on 14 February 1779.
1735 to 1760 John Harrison developed four types of marine chronometers for use at sea to allow accurate determination of longitude.1734 Lloyd's List was established in and Lloyd's Register in 1764/5.
1759 to 1765 HMS Victory was built at Chatham Dockyard with over 100 guns. She fought at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Later she sailed on many naval expeditions.
1768 HM Bark Endeavour was built as a collier in Whitby. She was full rigged ship and sturdily built with a large hold. Endeavour's flat bottomed hull was well suited for sailing in shallow water and was designed to be beached. She was acquired by the Royal Navy, and after a major refit at Deptford she was used by James Cook on his first voyage to the Pacific Ocean. On her return to Britain, Endeavour was used as a store ship and then sold out of the navy and used as a merchant ship. Her later fate is uncertain. A replica was built in Fremantle from the original drawings, starting in 1988. This was completed in 1994 and Endeavour undertook a voyage to Whitby where she stayed from 1997 to 2003. She is now at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney.
1793 to 1821 The first paddle steamer was used between Leith and London. The first British steamer to cross the Atlantic was the Sirius in 1838, closely followed by the Great Western. The Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company was originally set up to take passengers to Gibraltar and this was extended to India, the company eventually becoming "P&O". The "White Star Line" originally concentrated on the emigrant trade but had fast liners after 1871. During war time the liners were used as troop ships. Southampton became the main passenger port because of its deep harbour with four tides.
1787 Britain used Australia as a penal colony. The First Fleet consisted of 1,200 people including 780 convicts.
1795 The Hydrographic Department of the Admiralty was set up and had seven vessels by 1820. The first catalogue of charts was produced in 1825.
1793 to 1815 the Royal Navy lost 344 vessels due to non-combat causes: 75 by foundering, 234 shipwrecked and 15 from accidental burnings or explosions. In the same period it lost 103,000 seamen: 84,440 by disease and accidents, 12,680 by shipwreck or foundering and 6,540 by enemy action.
1776 John Paul Jones attacked British shipping in the Irish Sea and also the towns of Whitehaven and Kirkcudbright.
1789 There were some locally organised lifeboats. The Royal National Lifeboat Institution was founded by Sir William Hillary in 1824. The boats were rowed with oars until the 1890s when steam-driven boats began to be introduced.
21 October 1805, the Battle of Trafalgar, a numerically smaller but more experienced British fleet under the command of Lord Horatio Nelson decisively defeated a combined French and Spanish fleet.
1801 a steamship called the Charlotte Dundas ran trials on a canal near Glasgow, towing barges. In 1815 Pierre Andriel crossed the English Channel aboard the steamship Elise. By the mid-century steamboats were a common sight on British rivers and canals. Regular steamship sailings across the Atlantic started in the 1830s. Shipbuilders began using iron instead of wood as the ships could be made larger with more cargo space. Ships also began to be fitted with steam engines and paddle wheels but the latter was found to be unsuited to open sea use. From the 1840s screw propellers replaced paddles. In the 1870s new more efficient engines were introduced so that sailing ships began to be phased out. From the 1880s steel began to replace iron for the hulls. Because of the space required for coal and the large crew requirements on steamships, sailing ships were favoured for long voyages and reached a design peak with the clippers used for transporting tea and wool. Steamships gradually replaced sailing ships for commercial shipping during the 19th century, particularly after more efficient engine designs were developed.
1819 Herring fishing started in the Moray Firth. The peak of the fishing at Aberdeen was in 1937 with 277 steam trawlers, though the first diesel drifter was introduced in 1926.
1827 The Battle of Naverino was the last to be fought by the Royal Navy entirely with sailing ships.
1843 The SS Great Britain was Isambard Kingdom Brunel's second ship design, after a wooden paddle steamer called the SS Great Western. She was the first steamship to make regular crossings of the Atlantic. This was the first large iron steamship and the first to use a screw propellor. After a long career she was abandoned in the Falkland Islands but was brought back to the drydock in Bristol in 1970. 19th century Britain built up the largest merchant fleet in the world. Around half the ocean-going tonnage was under the Red Ensign. Foghorns were incorporated in lighthouses to provide warning in low visibility.
1845 Examinations for masters and mates of large merchant ships were introduced for foreign-going ships and in 1854 for coastal ones. Engineers tickets were required after 1862. Logs were required after 1850.
1851 America's Cup began.
1826 Cowes Week and races around the Isle of Wight.
1858 The SS Great Eastern was launched and was six times bigger than any ship before. She was the third ship designed by Brunel. The Great Eastern had six masts as well as coal fired engines driving paddle wheels. It was designed to carry enough coal to travel to Australia and return, and was intended to carry 4,000 passengers (or 10,000 soldiers). Work started on the ship in 1854 but there were many problems in building and launching the ship. After fitting out at Deptford she undertook trials in September 1859 but the heater attached to the paddle engine boilers exploded. As the ship had been fitted with watertight bulkheads she survived and was repaired. Because of the opening of the Suez Canal, she was not used on the Australian route as envisaged but on the Atlantic crossings. Passengers did not like the rolling in storms and she was sold to a cable laying company after only six years. The Great Eastern was used to lay the first transatlantic telegraph cable and many others subsequently. She was broken up in 1888.
1860 HMS Warrior was built. She was the first iron-hulled ironclad, with three skins of iron, teak and iron. Warrior was broadside firing with 9 ton muzzle loading guns. Her construction started a revolution in shipbuilding which meant that she was soon outclassed. She ended her days as an oil jetty at Pembroke Dock but was restored and has been on display since the 1980s at HMNB Portsmouth.
1868 Samuel Plimsoll became concerned by the scandal of overloaded sinking ships and published Our Seamen which revealed the situation. A load line (which became known as the Plimsoll Line) was required by the Merchant Shipping Act of 1876 but it was not until 1890 that the Board of Trade became responsible for determining where it should be.
1869 The Cutty Sark was a clipper ship built Dumbarton, Scotland, to carry 600 tons of cargo. She raced the Thermopylae and other clippers in the tea trade from China and later in the wool trade from Australia. She was capable of sailing at over 17 knots (31 km/h). Built as a full rigged ship, she spent her final trading years as a barquentine. She was dismasted in 1916 but restored in 1922 then used as a training ship. Cutty Sark was taken over by a preservation society in 1952 and moved to Greenwich. In 2007 she was damaged by fire during restoration work but is to be repaired.
1881 Steam trawlers were introduced in fishing, mainly at Grimsby and Hull. The steam drifter was not used in the herring fishery until 1897. In 1890 it was estimated that there were 20,000 men on the North Sea. The first trawlers fished over the side but in 1961 the first stern trawler was used at Lowestoft for fishing in Arctic waters. By 1981 only 27 of 130 deep sea trawlers were still going to sea.
1886 The first British tanker was launched and could carry 1,950 tons of oil. By 1961 the typical tanker was around 80,000 tons which grew to over 100,000 tons by
1967 and to over 250,000 tons by 1973. By 1965 BP had 170 tankers.
1898 Frederick W. Lanchester built the first power boat using a 8 horsepower (6.0 kW), water cooled engine. The British Power Boat Company built many power boats between 1927 and 1946 including Miss Britain III and PT9 that became the basis of Motor Torpedo Boats and the US PT boats during the Second World War. The power speed record rose from 95 knots (176 km/h) in 1930 to 123 knots (228 km/h) in 1939. After the war the record speed rose again with runs by Donald Campbell, who was killed during an attempt on the record in 1967.
1908 The gyrocompass was introduced.
1909 The Board of Customs and Excise, later Her Majesty's Customs and Excise, was formed.
1912 The sinking of the Titanic led to the Global Maritime Distress Safety System and to the Iceberg Patrol. The Titanic and her sister ships Olympic and Britannic were built the White Star Line to outdo the Mauritania and Lusitania which belonged to the rival Cunard Line. Titanic was 269 m long and weighed 46,000 tons. She was described as a luxury hotel at sea and as "unsinkable". She was fitted with a double bottom and 16 watertight compartments so that even if two were flooded she would not sink. Titanic departed from Southampton on 10 April 1912 on her maiden voyage to America. She called at Cherbourg and then Queenstown (now Cobh) before heading for New York City. Despite warnings of icebergs, she continued at 20 knots (37 km/h) on the night of 14 April. About midnight she hit an iceberg and five compartments started to flood. Two hours afterwards she sank. There was only enough lifeboats for half the passengers and 1,503 people perished. In 1985 her wreck was identified by sonar 4,000 m down and explored using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV). Some objects from the wreck have been recovered.
1913 Britain had 61% of the world ship building market, with 40% in 1920 but this had declined to 0.7% in 1997. Modernisation of the shipyards took place in the 1960s allowing construction of supertankers. The British yards were nationalised as part of the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Act 1977 and renamed "British Shipbuilders" but were privatised again in the 1980s. Rosyth Dockyard was started in 1909 while HMNB Clyde (Faslane) submarine base was created in the 1960s
1914 Ernest Shackleton led an expedition to try to cross Antarctica. His ship became crushed in the ice but he led 28 men to safety on Elephant Island. To get help Shackleton and six men crossed 800 nautical miles (1,500 km) of sea in an open boat to South Georgia and then crossed the mountains to Grytviken. He returned to rescue all his men from Elephant Island. He died on South Georgia in 1922.
First World War a fifth of Britain's pre-war merchant shipping had been sunk by 1917, including 1349 ships in August of that year. Most deep water ships were sunk by torpedoes while most coastal ones hit mines. Development of refrigerated ships allowed the importation of lamb and other meats from places such as New Zealand.
1915 The infamous sinking of the passenger ship RMS Lusitania by Germany caused Britain to arm its merchant ships. The Battle of Jutland was the major sea battle of the First World War. Although the British Grand Fleet suffered greater losses than the German High Seas Fleet, the latter withdrew to port and the British retained control of the North Sea.
1917 merchant ships travelled in convoys escorted by destroyers. This tactic made it difficult for U-boats. The accompanying destroyers might sink a submerged submarine with depth charges. The First World War also saw the first use of aircraft carriers in combat, with Furious launching Sopwith Camels in a successful raid against Zeppelin hangars at Todern in July 1918.
1920 to 1960 Many yacht clubs were formed and new yacht designs such as the Salcombe yawl. Later designs such as the "Enterprise" were introduced in 1960. In the late 19th and early part of the 20th century great yachts such as the J-Class were built, including "Shamrock V" constructed for the America's Cup.
1925 The Fastnet race was first run. 20th century at the start 25% of the world's trade was through British ports, 18% of this being to North America. New types of cargo ships appeared - the container ship, the oil tanker and the gas container ship. Specialised ports for handling these were also developed.20th century saw structural changes in the Navy brought about by the First Sea Lord Jackie Fisher who retired, scrapped or placed in reserve many of the older vessels, making new funds and manpower available for newer ships. He saw the development of HMS Dreadnought, the first all-big-gun ship and one of the most influential ships in naval history. This ship rendered all other battleships then existing obsolete, and indeed lent her name to an entire class of battleships, the dreadnoughts. Admiral Percy Scott introduced new programmes such a gunnery training and central fire control which greatly increased the effectiveness in battle of the Navy's ships.
1930s Radar is first used on ships. The Decca Navigator System was a hyperbolic radio navigation system that was installed around the coasts of Britain in the
1940s. It was phased out after the introduction of satellite-based navigation from the 1960s. The echo sounding was introduced in the 1930s to determine water depth.
1936 RMS Queen Mary was built in by John Brown & Company in Clydebank, Scotland for what is now the Cunard Line. She made runs across the Atlantic between Southampton, Cherbourg and New York City in partnership with Queen Elizabeth. She won the famous Blue Ribbon trophy for the fastest crossing. The Queen Mary was used as a troop ship in the Second World War, carrying 16,082 people on one voyage. She was withdrawn from service in 1967 and is now in Long Beach California as a hotel and tourist attraction.
1938 HMS Belfast launched. At the start of the Second World War she was part of the force mounting a blockade on Germany. After sustaining mine damage she was reconstructed and became the heaviest cruiser of the class at 11553 tons. Belfast fought in the Battle of North Cape against the Scharnhorst and took part in operations against Tirpitz. She was part of the bombardment force during the D-Day landings and later served in the Far East. Belfast also took part in the Korean War. Belfast was then modernised and went to the Far East again. She was paid off from the Royal Navy in 1963 and is now a museum ship on the River Thames in London.
1939 The British sank the Deutschland class cruiser (German pocket battleship) Admiral Graf Spee and the battleship Bismarck in 1941. 1940 In the North Atlantic, German U-boats attempted to cut supply lines to Britain by sinking merchant ships. In the first four months of the war they sank more than 110 vessels. One U-boat sank the British carrier Courageous while another managed to sink the battleship Royal Oak at her home anchorage of Scapa Flow. In the early stages of the war the Royal Navy placed much faith in ASDIC (an early form of active sonar) to detect submerged U-boats but the Germans countered this by the use of the "wolf pack" which attacked on the surface at night.
1943 saw the last major sea battle between the Royal Navy and the Kriegsmarine (War navy) at the "Battle of North Cape" Germany's battlecruiser Scharnhorst was sunk by HMS Duke of York, HMS Belfast and several destroyers.
1944 For the D-Day landings the Royal Navy provided most of the warships and three-quarters of the landing craft. After the German surrender, a force was sent to the Pacific Ocean to attack the Japanese.
1950s "flags of Convenience" were taking an increasing share of world trade and the Eastern Bloc's shipping was expanding.
1950s to 1970s Three Cod Wars. British boats were excluded from Icelandic waters in 1976. In 1977 a 200-mile fishing limit was set up by the European Economic Community and British waters were opened to other Community members. This led to overfishing. Landings decreased 28% between 1967 and 1997.
1953 HMY Brittania was the name given to two yachts owned by the British royal family and served them for nearly 43 years. Britannia is 5862 tons and during her time in service she steamed 71 million miles.
1955 Most warships used steam propulsion until the advent of the gas turbine. Steamships were superseded by diesel-driven cargo ships in the second half of the century. Submarines were mainly powered by a combination of diesel and batteries until the advent of nuclear marine propulsion in.
1955 and 1959 The first single-handed circumnavigation by a Briton was by John Gusswell, while the first Single-Handed Trans-Atlantic Race was held in 1960 and won by Francis Chichester.
1960s The fleet carriers Ark Royal, Eagle, the rebuilt Victorious, Hermes and Centaur gave the Royal Navy the most powerful fleet outside the United States. New, more modern units like the County class destroyers and Leander class frigates began to enter service in the 1960s. At this time the Royal Navy received its first nuclear weapons and was to become responsible for the maintenance of the UK's nuclear deterrent.
1960s gas fields in the North Sea in production
1968 The first non stop world circumnavigation race was won by Robin Knox-Johnston while the first "wrong way" circumnavigation was by Chay Blyth in 1970.
1966 A Round Britain Single Handed Race was instituted.
1975 Oil discovered off Scotland. Platform construction has declined since 1985.
1980 A sailing speed world record of 36 knots (67 km/h) was set at Portland by a catamaran.
1998 The Maritime and Coastguard Agency was formed to look after safety in British waters. It coordinates the search rescue services and determines safety standards.
2005 Ellen Macarthur completed the fastest solo round the world yacht trip, 27,000 miles in 71 days 15hrs.
2009 Mike Perham completed the youngest solo round the world yacht trip at the age of 17.(Source material using Wikipedia)