Friday, November 16, 2018
RMS Tayleur

The following is an extract from the presentation of a joint meeting of the Australian Institute of Navigation and the Company of Master Mariners on the 8th March, 2017 at Sydney.

I knew that Janet Taylor was an interesting relative. What kind of woman runs a navigation school in mid- 19th century London, for over thirty years, has eight children (and three stepchildren), patents a nautical instrument and swings ships? She did – and she was my great-great-great-great aunt. Just how extraordinary she was, was something I was determined to find out about. What started as a journey of curiosity resulted in a determination to tell her story, to fill in a unique, and missing, piece in the history of sea navigation.

My interest in Mrs Taylor began with my father, Sid, who traced the family tree on his maternal side, through Olive Stella Ionn, back to the Reverend Peter Ionn, born 8 March 1762. Sid corresponded with Lt Comm Ken Alger in Surrey, whose own interest in Janet Taylor arose because Ken was teaching navigation on the same site that Mrs Taylor had run her navigation school. Sid and Ken corresponded, swapping snippets about the intriguing Mrs Taylor. I followed up, meeting Ken myself when I visited the UK in 1996. It was then I first found Janet’s grave, in the graveyard of the parish church of St Helen Auckland, in County Durham. The memorial was a simple one: ‘In memory of Janet Taylor. Born May 13th AD 1804. Died January 26th AD 1870’. Although the tribute was brief, Janet’s at least had survived longer than its neighbours – her’s being granite, the others mainly sandstone.

When Ken Alger passed away a few years later, his widow Edna swept all of Ken’s bits and pieces of research on Janet into suitcases and dispatched them to me, thus beginning my years of research, to turn the fragmentary records into a living, breathing story, a project in which my wife, Rosalind, enthusiastically participated, to piece together what could be uncovered about Janet’s fascinating life. Janet was born ‘Jane Ann Ionn’ on 13 May 1804 to the Rev Peter Ionn and his wife Jane. Peter was the curate and schoolmaster at the Free Grammar School in Wolsingham in County Durham where he also taught, among many other things, the subject of navigation. When Jane Ann’s mother died in May 1811, two months after giving birth to her sixth child Frederick, Jane was still only six years old. She attended the Grammar School as the only girl and, under her father’s instruction, demonstrated her brilliance in many subjects, especially mathematics.

When she was 9 years old, a scholarship became available for girls aged 14 and over to take their place at The Royal School for Embroidering Females that had been established at Ampthill in Bedfordshire, under the patronage of Queen Charlotte. Janet was so outstanding that she was accepted as a pupil and stayed there until the death of the Queen on 17 November 1818 when the school was then closed. Now aged 17, Jane Ann obtained a position as governess to the family of the Vicar of Kimbolton, the Reverend John Huntley. Kimbolton was a small town of only 1,500 people and only about 40 km north of Ampthill.

On 2 May 1821 her father Peter died suddenly when Jane was 16 years’ old. She inherited a reasonable amount of money from her father’s estate and went to live with her brother Matthew who had opened a linen draper’s shop at 44 Oxford Street in London. Jane Ann assisted in running the business but was still fascinated by the mathematics of navigation. She knew that she needed a husband to be ‘respectable’ and married George Taylor Jane, a widower with 3 children and some 12 years her senior: she was 29 and he was 41. As a former naval man during the Napoleonic wars and now a publican, he had an understanding of dealings with men. But what was most telling was that he was a ‘dissenter’, brought up outside the Church of England. They educated girls with boys. So Janet’s fearsome intelligence and determination were perhaps not such a surprise for him.

George and Janet were married on 30 January 1830 in the Hague, Interestingly, he changed his name to ‘George Taylor’ and she became ‘Mrs Janet Taylor’ for the rest of her life. The couple set up residence at 6 East Street, Red Lion Square, near Oxford Street in London. Janet Taylor’s spectacular life was about to unfold. Janet was a determined woman and one with great plans: to write books, to design nautical instruments and to teach navigation.

Her entry into publishing began in 1833, at the age of 29, and she went on to produce a number of major works of importance to the maritime community, most of which went into many editions. To illustrate: there were seven editions of her first book, Luni-Solar and Horary Tables (or Lunar Tables) alone, appearing between 1833 and 1854. An Epitome of Navigation and Nautical Astronomy went to twelve editions between 1842 and 1859. Each was dedicated to a member of the royal family – King William IV, whose mother had sponsored Janet’s scholarship as a child; Queen Adelaide; the Duchess of Kent (then Princess Victoria’s mother).

Mrs Taylor’s nautical tables – a vital tool in the determination of longitude at sea – were widely recognised as an invaluable aid to merchant seamen. She also discussed the use of the marine chronometer – developed by John Harrison.

MARINER’S CALCULATOR
But there was more. In September 1834, Mrs Janet Taylor of East Street, Red Lion Square, Middlesex, obtained a British patent for ‘A Mariner’s Calculator’, claiming ‘improvements in instruments for measuring angles and distances, applicable to nautical and other purposes’. Between 1617 and 1852 only 79 patents were awarded in the category ‘Compasses and Nautical Instruments’, the patents were awarded to renowned leaders in the field, but during this 235 year period only one of these was to a woman: Mrs Janet Taylor, aged 30.

The ‘Mariner’s Calculator’ was an ingeniously clever concept, combining several nautical instruments in one. Janet delivered a prototype of her new device to the Admiralty for assessment, and it was given to their own Hydrographer, Captain Francis Beaufort. Beaufort had had a long naval career. He was a master naval surveyor and, in 1829, at the age of 55, he was appointed the Admiralty’s Hydrographer, a position he was to hold with great acclaim for the next twenty-six years.

Captain Beaufort was a worthy one, in ordinary circumstances, to undertake an assessment of the Mariner’s Calculator. On this occasion, however, the timing could not have been worse, as he was in the throes of a great personal crisis with the imminent death of his wife of over 21 years, Alicia, from breast cancer. It was in the midst of this great upheaval of his life Beaufort finally delivered his report to the Admiralty, as noted in the Admiralty Minute Book. It was not favourable. It was not that he thought it wouldn’t work, but in the ‘clumsy fingers of seamen’, he thought not. He also thought it would encourage slovenliness (perhaps because it would do too much of the hard work).

In the light of this context, was his judgment a fair and accurate one? We commissioned a reconstruction of the instrument to test this question. It was undertaken under the supervision of Ron Robinson, one of England’s leading compass adjusters and a specialist in the restoration of period nautical instruments.

Robinson’s judgment was strikingly similar to Beaufort’s. He said, ‘to get a true sense of it, imagine giving something like the Mariner’s Calculator to someone like a coal miner, with fingers like sausages, in poor light and under seagoing conditions.’

The Mariner’s Calculator was not a success. But this meant that it became a rarity. Only one is known to survive and this was sold to a private buyer, at a considerable price, by Sotheby’s, in 1999. (We wrote about the reconstruction project in an article in the British Journal for the History of Science in 2010).

Read the rest of this article with additional pictures in Sea Breezes Magazine - June 2018 Issue
Click here to subscribe

Subscribe Graphic

Latest Issue - Look Inside!

Nexus

Most Popular

  • Less (K)Notts, More Speed! +

  • Message from the Bridge - November 2018 +

  • Honfleur Hull Sections Craned Into Place +

  • Tragedy in Tanzania +

  • Bells Will Ring Out on 100th Anniversary of War's End +

  • 1
  • 2

Top Ten Books and DVDs of 2018

Latest Products

Maritime Log

  • Clean Air Hero +

    Titus The first in a new class of four large roll-on,rolloff car and truck carriers for Wallenius Wilhelmsen, of Norway, has Read More
  • Wreck of Cook's Endeavour Found? +

    HM Bark Endeavour Replica A team of marine archaeologists believe they may have found the wreck of Captain James Cook’s famous vessel Endeavour which Read More
  • Bells Will Ring Out on 100th Anniversary of War's End +

    Lusitania This month, Remembrance Sunday is also the 100th anniversary of the ending of the First World War and various events Read More
  • Focus on Historic Photographs of Lifeboats +

    Beken Lifeboat Collection Photographs of lifeboats dating from the turn of the 20th Century are the centrepiece of a new RNLI exhibition that Read More
  • Vehicle Carrier Runs Aground +

    Makassar Highway The vehicle carrier Makassar Highway, 17,735gt, of the Japanese company K Line, ran aground off the Swedish coast on the Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

North America

  • Disabled Bulk Carrier Towed Into Harbour +

    GDF Suez North Sea A 55,848dwt bulk carrier had to be towed into New York harbour after she became disabled while more than 100 Read More
  • Annual Surveys of Titanic Wreck to Start +

    Island Pride A major expedition takes place next summer to explore the wreck of the White Star Line passenger liner Titanic, 46,328grt, Read More
  • USCG Respons as Ports Closed in Hurricane +

    USCG Dilligence Shipping and ports from the states of Virginia south to Georgia were seriously affected in mid-September by Hurricane Florence, which Read More
  • Forest of Giant Cranes and a New Wharf +

    Port of Houston The Port of Houston, in Texas, took delivery of three new neopanamax ship-to-shore cranes on Aug 6 and five rubber-tyred Read More
  • Garbage Patch Clean-up Set to Start +

    garb The first offshore cleaning system was to be installed last month in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch located halfway between Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Asia-Pacific

  • Cranes Lift Ferry Superstructure onto Hull +

    Express 4 The Australian shipbuilders Austal has rolled-out a new catamaran ferry for the Danish company Molslinjen at its Henderson shipyard in Read More
  • China is World's Top Shipping Nation +

    China Containers China is the world’s leading international shipping nation, according to a new report presented at a Hamburg trade fair on Read More
  • Automatic Berthing Project Test +

    Shioji Maru The proposed joint demonstration project by four Japanese organisations relating to the safety of vessels’ auto berthing and un-berthing has Read More
  • Record Voyage for Northern Sea Route LNG Cargo +

    Christophe de Margerie A new record for crossing the Northern Sea Route was set up in July by the icebreaking LNG carrier Christophe Read More
  • Antarctic Ship is Re-Chartered +

    Aurora Australis The contract for the icebreaker and research ship Aurora Australis, 6,574gt, to resupply Australia’s Antarctic stations has been extended until Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Naval Focus

  • Sea Trials Recall for Zumwalt-Class Destroyer +

    USS Michael Monsoor American News The Zumult class destroyer USS Michael Monsoor was in dockyard hands at Bath in Maine for the removal Read More
  • HMS Albion Proves Big in Japan +

    HMS Albion British News The assault ship HMS Albion, at time of writing, had just completed a five day visit to Tokyo Read More
  • Royal Navy Commissions New Survey Ship +

    HMS Magpie British News The latest survey vessel to join the Royal Navy was commissioned into service at her homeport of Devonport Read More
  • F-35 Stealth Fighters Land in UK +

    F-35 British News The first four of Britain’s next generation F-35 Lightning supersonic fighter jets touched down in the United Kingdom Read More
  • Upgrade Planned for Russia’s Only Aircraft Carrier +

    Admiral Kuznetsov Russian News Russia’s only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, will be refitted to prolong the warship’s operational life. Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Ferry World

  • Seatruck Irish Sea Expansion +

    Seatruck Power Seatruck Pace At this time, when all cross-border ferry operators ex UK must be extremely apprehensive as leaving the EU approaches, Seatruck Read More
  • Tragedy in Tanzania +

    Nyerere A country well used to tragedy, saw another, on Lake Victoria in September. Read More
  • Trouble for "Loch Seaforth" +

    Loch Seaforth Ferry services between Ullapool and Stornoway were disrupted when Caledonian MacBrayne’s Loch Seaforth lost power just over an hour into Read More
  • Stena Adds Extra Freight Capacity to Liverpool Service +

    Stena Forerunner In response to growing market demand, Stena Line has upped freight capacity on the popular Belfast – Liverpool route. Read More
  • Honfleur Hull Sections Craned Into Place +

    Honfleur Brittany Ferries has celebrated the second milestone in the build of its next ship Honfleur with the keeling laying - the Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Sail Review/Coastal Comment

  • The Temps Fête Maritime Festival +

    La Recouvrance During World War II, most of France’s traditional sailing vessels were destroyed and after the war, the emphasis was on Read More
  • Sunderland to Esbjerg Race +

    Oosterschelde On the north east coast of England, it was Sunderland’s proud claim that more ships had been built here than Read More
  • Tall Ships at Liverpool +

    Belem At the end of May, a Tall Ships fleet met at Liverpool. Read More
  • New Bridge Challenges Melissa +

    Melissa The organisers of the charter barges working from Ipswich are worried by plans to build a road bridge across the Read More
  • German Schooners +

    Thor Heyerdahl Two German schooners based at Hamburg are regularly making voyages under sail with general cargoes across the Atlantic. Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

From the Lookout

  • Forty Years of Sailing for Mercy Ships +

    Africa Mercy Over the years, I have been a great admirer of the vital work which Mercy Ships carries out in the Read More
  • World Class Simulator Arrives at Montrose +

    Ethos simulator Coming from the NE of Scotland myself, I have been impressed by how, in recent years, Montrose Port Authority (MPA) Read More
  • New Flying Focus Calendar 2019 +

    Flying Focus 2019 Once again, Flying Focus’ maritime aerial photographer, Herman IJsseling, has taken to the skies to brave the elements of nature Read More
  • Less (K)Notts, More Speed! +

    Sir Keith Speed A recent addition to my book collection is Sea Change, a commentary on the battle for the Falkland Islands and Read More
  • UK P&I Club Launches Interactive Video Series +

    Lessons Learned Video I am always in favour of any steps taken to improve safety of life at sea and I feel that Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Cruise News/Superyacht News

  • Three Year Restoration for Alicia +

    Alicia The Southampton headquartered ship repairer and marine engineering services provider, SMS, has launched the classic 1930’s superyacht Alicia from its Read More
  • Latona - A Family Affair +

    Latona With her wide open-air spaces, CRN’s new superyacht Latona offers an original interpretation of timeless elegance, coupled with Italian style Read More
  • Back to Back Transatlantic on the Queen Mary 2 +

    Queen Mary 2 In the past I have been fortunate in that I have been on a cruise to a number of the Read More
  • Turnkey Explorer Yacht +

    Explorer 67 An exciting opportunity for an owner looking to build one of the finest explorer yacht projects available has presented itself. Read More
  • Great Perseverance +

    Meira Behind the construction of every great yacht there is a story and in the building of Meira, it is one Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Ships, Ports and Places

Maltese Maritime Museum

A Visit to Ye Olde Naval Bakery

Malta’s “Maritime Museum” is housed in the former Naval Bakery on the quay of Valletta’s urban ward Birgu. Construction of Read More
Presidente Peron

"Eva Peron"

If someone in 1939 had decided to sit out the Second World War they might well have done so in Read More
  • 1
  • 2

Companies, Events and Other Features

MV Crestbank

A Bank Line Voyage in 1959

The Crestbank was the second of a massive 17 ship order from Harland & Wolff in Belfast commencing with the Read More
USS Liberty

The Attack on the Liberty

You can feel for the captain of USNS “Liberty” Commander William McGonagle, after he was wounded in a sneak Israeli Read More
  • 1
  • 2