How did the Navy's oldest and most successful shipyard come to be
called Norfolk Naval Shipyard?
The name stems from colonial development that came 147 years before the
formation of the United States government and about 130 years before the
establishment of the city of Portsmouth.
In 1634, the colony of Virginia was divided into eight shires or
counties. English colonist John Wood applied for a patent for a shipyard
along the Elizabeth River as early as 1620. The area along the Elizabeth
River was named Norfolk County.
For more than 300 years, Norfolk County and Norfolk - the dominant city
in the area - continued to serve as significant and vital political
entities. Although the shipyard was called Gosport by its founder in 1767,
and this name was used by the U.S. Navy when it leased the yard in 1794 and
purchased it in 1801, the shipyard was often called "Norfolk" or the
"Gosport Yard at Norfolk" in official correspondence.
Early pay records bear the name "U.S. Navy Yard, Norfolk". Ships logs,
including those of the USS CONSTITUTION (Old Ironsides) and USS
CONSTELLATION entered the name Norfolk when those ships were undergoing
repairs in the shipyard. Early pilot records also show the name Norfolk in
reference to the yard. Nineteenth century maps also designate the shipyard
as Norfolk because of its location within Norfolk County.
On May 10, 1862, the shipyard's name was designated as "U.S. Navy Yard,
Norfolk". The Navy Department further focused the designation in 1929 with
"Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth". The present name, Norfolk Naval Shipyard
was formalized in December 1945. It is a Navy tradition to name a station
or yard after the largest cities in the geographical area.
Norfolk, the name with the greatest staying power through the centuries,
also has provided the greatest geographic recognition that also reflects
the location of the heart of the United States Atlantic fleet. Under this
name, it has won world recognition as perhaps the finest repair and
overhaul yard in history.
Rules of the 1800's
For the Regulation of the Navy-Yard at Gosport
It being essential to the Public Interest, that the Officers, Workmen,
and others employed in the Service of the United States, at the Navy Yard
at Gosport, should conduct themselves with Order and Regularity in the
execution of their several Duties, whereby the same may be carried on with
Economy and Dispatch - I HEREBY ORDER AND DIRECT, that all Officers,
Workmen, and others of every denomination whatsoever, employed therein, do
conform themselves to the following REGULATIONS as a GENERAL RULE for their
Each officer will receive from the Constructor, such Orders and
Instructions, from time to time, as may be judged best for the Public
Service, to which he must undeviatingly adhere: He will have such persons
placed under his directions as may be deemed necessary: he will direct them
in the performance of such parts of the work as he may be entrusted with,
which will be his duty to forward by all means in his power, and see that
the same be properly and efficiently executed, at the smallest expense
He will discourage those placed under his direction, from quarrelling,
committing excesses of any kind, or absenting themselves from work. He will
use his utmost endeavors to protect all public property placed under his
charge, or otherwise disposed. It is expected, that he shall attend to the
business of the Navy Yard in Preference to any other whatever, and shall on
no account absent himself therefrom, without leave, except in case of
sickness, or other unavoidable causes. He will be careful to check each
person under his direction, for the time he may be absent from his work:
and observe those who show an idle disposition: and in all cases to report
ARTIFICERS, LABOURERS, &c, &c.
All persons on being entered in the Navy Yard, will report their real
names to the Constructor and Clerk, that they may be inserted in the
Such wages will be allowed to each Workman or other person, as the
Constructor may judge his qualifications entitle him to receive, which
shall be paid on the Saturday of each week, (or as soon after as can be
done) to himself, or the person who may be qualified to receive the same,
as circumstances may be.
To each Workman who may be sent on board any ship or vessel to work, the
same lying below Fort Norfolk, one quarter of a dollar per day, will be
allowed him in addition to his Wages at the Yard: to those who may work on
board any ship or vessel above that place, the same wages will be paid him,
as if he had actually worked in the yard, and no more.
As soon as possible after his name has been entered on the roll, he will
be placed under the direction of a Quarterman, or other Officer, as
occasion may require, to whom he will apply for instructions respecting his
work, &c. and from whose orders he shall in no wise deviate, (unless
directed so to do by a Superior Officer) but in all respects he is to
execute the same with diligence, care, fidelity, economy and dispatch.
The time of Daily Labour will be from sun-rise to sun-set: The
commencement and termination of which will be noticed by Ringing of the
Yard-Bell, as well as at Breakfast and Dinner: for the former three
quarters of an hour in Winter, and one Hour in Summer will be allowed; for
the latter, one Hour in Winter and two in Summer: The Winter to be
considered from the first of September to the first of May;: and the Summer
from the first of May to the first of September following. N. B. From Sun-
rise to Noon is to be understood as comprising one half a Day's Work; and
from Noon to Sun-set the remaining half - and he shall not at any time quit
his work, before the Bell rings for that purpose, without leave of his
Officer, unless compelled thereto by rain or other unavoidable cause.
To perform his work in the best and most expeditious manner, he shall
provide himself with such Tools as the officer placed over him may deem
required for his occupation, -- He shall not make use of Tools belonging to
another person, without his leave, neither shall he conceal, injure, nor
He shall not loiter at his work, nor set an example of idleness to
others by unnecessary conversations or otherways - He shall neither Game,
Quarrel, give abusive Language, get intoxicated, or insult any Person
whatsoever within the Yard, nor be absent on Public Day.
He is not to perform work for individuals during the hours of Work,
without leave being first obtained; and it will be expected that he shall
not leave his Work to perform Military Duty without leave (except in the
case of an emergency) unless the Fine for absence shall exceed the amount
of a Day's Work.
He shall not willfully Waste, Destroy, nor embezzle any part of the
Public Property, nor suffer others to do it; and it is strictly forbidden
to cut up any serviceable Timber, Boards, &c. for Chips - He is not to
break the Fence of the Yard , or enclosures, nor take off any Boards.
from the same, nor suffer others to do it, without leave being first
obtained from the principle Officer at the time in the Yard.
In case of fire happening in the Yard, or to any Ship of War, or other
Public Vessel lying in the vicinity thereof, it will be required of him to
use every endeavor in his powers to extinguish the flame, and preserve and
protect all Public property that may in any wise be endangered thereby -
And it is strictly ordered that no fires shall be kindled in the Yard, but
at such places as may be appointed for that purpose.
He will be accountable for such Tools, Implements, &c. belonging to
United States, as he may occasionally be furnished with, and in case they
are left or willfully destroyed, the amount of their value will be deducted
from his wages.
If any person finds himself insulted, or personally aggrieved, he is
required to make his case known to the Constructor, on in his absence to
the Superior Officer, who will take the same into consideration, and afford
him such redress as circumstances may dictate.
As it may happen that Workmen and others, whose residence is distant
from the Yard, may have occasion to quit their Work on Saturday Afternoons
at an early hour, those will have the time noticed, and when the same shall
amount to a Day's Work, it will be deducted from their wages.
A printed copy of the preceding "Rules for the Regulation of the Navy
Yard:" shall be hung up in the CLERK's OFFICE. Or some other conspicuous
place, for the perusal of all Persons concerned; and no plea will be
admitted of ignorance of any part thereof.
Given under my hand at the Navy Yard, Gosport, this______day
JOSIAH FOX, Navy Constructor and Superintendent.