Norie, John William (DNB00)

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NORIE, JOHN WILLIAM (1772–1843), writer on navigation, born in Burr Street, London, on 3 July 1772, was son of James Norie (1737–1793), a native of Morayshire, who, after being trained for the presbyterian church, migrated to London in 1756, and kept a flourishing school in Burr Street, Wapping. Norie's mother was Dorothy Mary Fletcher (1753–1840), daughter of a merchant in East Smithfield. The son, John William, resided, according to the ‘London Directory’ for 1803, at the ‘Naval Academy, 157 Leadenhall Street.’ At the same address William Heather carried on business as a publisher of naval books and dealer in charts and nautical instruments at the ‘Navigation Warehouse.’ Heather's name disappears in 1815, and the business was henceforth conducted by Norie with a partner, Charles Wilson, under the style of Norie & Wilson. The ‘Navigation Warehouse’ has been immortalised by Charles Dickens in ‘Dombey and Son’ as the shop kept by Sol Gills (cf. J. Ashby-Sterry's article ‘The Wooden Midshipman’ in All the Year Round, 29 Oct. 1881, p. 173). Norie retired about 1830, but the business was carried on in the same place until 1880, when the premises were taken down and the firm removed to 156 Minories, where the figure of the little midshipman which decorated Norie's house of business still exists. Norie, who is variously described as ‘teacher of navigation and nautical astronomy,’ and ‘hydrographer,’ died at No. 3 Coates Crescent, Edinburgh, on 24 Dec. 1843, and was buried in St. John's episcopal church.

Norie wrote:

  1. ‘Explanation and Use of the Planispherium Celeste, or Map of Zodiacal Stars,’ 1802.
  2. ‘Complete Set of Nautical Tables,’ 1803.
  3. ‘Epitome of Practical Navigation,’ 1805.
  4. ‘Sailing Directions for St. George's and Bristol Channels,’ 1816.
  5. ‘Naval Gazetteer,’ 1827, together with a number of charts and sailing directions for different parts of the world.

His books have gone through a large number of editions, and his ‘Navigation’ is still a standard work, and is in constant demand.

[Private information; Gent. Mag. 1844, pt. i. p. 221; Caledonian Mercury, 30 Dec. 1843.]

R. B. P.