On This Day: 21 September 1703

On this day in 1703, Roderick Mackenzie wrote to Thomas Bowrey from Edinburgh. He had written to Bowrey a month earlier but had received no reply. He assumed that the reason was either Bowrey’s continued indisposition or the letter had gone astray. He was now writing via Mr Fraser to ensure it arrived enclosing a copy of his earlier letter and a recent Act of the Scottish Parliament. I wrote about the copy letter on 21 August.

Mackenzie hoped that now the Act had been passed, Bowrey would have more confidence in the privileges granted to the Scottish Company. He seems very keen to obtain Bowrey’s investment promising to convene a special meeting of the Company’s directors to answer any further question he may have. The Company purchased the ship they named Annandale the following month. After all their misfortunes, the injection of new capital was probably desperately needed at this stage.

Mackenzie was a leading actor in the seizure of the Worcester and the subsequent actions against her captain and crew. There is no evidence that Bowrey ever purchased shares in the Scottish company. Was this rejection of Mackenzie’s efforts by Bowrey an underlining reason for what was to happen?


On This Day: 20 September 1704

On this day in 1704, Elias Grist signed an indenture with Thomas Bowrey, Thomas Hammond and George Jackson to be purser on the Mary Galley. Hammond and Jackson were in partnership with Bowrey for the trading voyage of the ship. Grist was also a part owner with a 1/24th share. Bowrey owned a half share.

Grist had paid £53/15/0 for the privilege of becoming purser and, in return, would receive half a percent of the sale price of the homebound cargo.

Grist’s dual role as owner and purser may have been the cause of conflict with Joseph Tolson, who was captain, supercargo and part owner (with a 1/6th share).. They quarrelled and, at one point, Tolson accidentally stranded Grist at Batavia for a number of months.

However, nothing is known of Elias Grist except his involvement with the Mary Galley. Had Bowrey’s papers not survived, he may well have disappeared into obscurity. The only other person I have been able to find with the name married Margaret Row at St Martins in the Fields in 1709.

On This Day: 19 September 1679

Today’s document is one that proves that Thomas Bowrey’s future father-in-law was involved in trade in addition to being an apothecary. On this day in 1679, John Payne wrote to Phillip Gardiner, Captain Nicholas Kerrington & Rest of Owners from Brindisi, Italy. He had previousing written to them from Gallipoli. The reverse of the document was addressed to Phillip Gardiner Apothecary from which we can assume the Gardiner was one of the principal investors. He later invested in at least one of Bowrey’s ventures.

Gardiner was described by Bowrey as a kinsman and cousin at different times but I have been unable to establish their exact relationship. Bowrey knew Gardiner before he returned from the East Indies. Gardiner owned property and was buried in Clacton, Essex but I have been unable to find any concrete connection with that country. He married and practiced in Wapping where his three daughters were born. He took apprentices as an apothecary but, otherwise, he remains a mystery.

I would dearly love to discover his exact relationship with Bowrey. Could they have been related through Bowrey’s mother? I know very little about her.

On This Day: 18 September 1703

On this day in 1703, Thomas Bowrey purchased 28 bundles of iron hoops for his ship, the Rising Sun, from Samuel Berdoe. There is nothing very remarkable about this purchase but it does point to how self-sufficient the crew of ships of this period needed to be.

Ships always carried a highly skilled carpenter who was usually considered to be an officer. The carpenter would be required to make repairs to the ship’s hull and masts. He would build additional cabins if needed. A ship needed a fairly substantial small boat to ferry people and goods between ship and shore. This smaller boat was also frequently used for side trips to other markets while the mother ship remain behind. To avoid towing these smaller boats during the outward journey they could be carried as a flat-pack and built closer to their destination.

As today’s document shows, barrels would also be made on board as they became required. Barrels would be needed for drinking water and cargo purchased. Bowrey’s ill-fated Worcester brought back a barrel of mangoes (probably as chutney). Bills for fitting out a ship and inventories of a ship’s equipment show that a great many woodworking tools were carried.

On This Day: 17 September 1689

On this day in 1689, the East India Company held a sale of goods from the Bengal Merchant.

Captain Thomas Bowrey departed Fort St George for England as a passenger on the Bengal Merchant on 20 October 1688 after nineteen years in the East Indies. Little is known of hs return voyage except that the ship stopped at the East India Company island of St Helena. Here, Captain Poach request Bowrey to take money he owed to Gabriell Powell.

The date Bowrey arrived back in London is unknown. He did not pay Powell until 26 October 1689 but a ship leaving India when the Bengal Merchant did would have been expected to arrive home in Spring 1689. We know that Bowrey was back by this day in 1689 because of the auction of the cargo. Goods would usually be sold fairly quickly after their arrival in London. Goods from the St George Galley, which arrived back in London unexpectedly, was sold within a month.

A copy if the sale catalogue for the goods from the Bengal Merchant survives in Bowrey’s papers. It shows much of the cargo was damaged in transit. Perhaps it was a difficult voyage that took longer than normal.

On This Day: 16 September 1707

On this day in 1707, Henry Smith in Edinburgh received three letters from Thomas Bowrey all of one tennour and date all ordering Smith to return For England. He wrote that he would comply and leave the next day. He was healthy but Indifferent this ten days laste. The rain was cold and the weather like winter. He would return as quickly as possible. I think he was pleased to be leaving Scotland.

He did not find it easy, however. Going privately to collect a horse, Mrs Binning and her firey faced lawyer confronted him. Barbara Binning had looked after John Madder before his execution and was attempting to reclaim her expenses from Bowrey and the other freighters of the Worcester. She had made life difficult for Smith and was now stopping him leaving. He eventually got away for her by noon but, rather than risk further trouble, slipped out of a back gate.

His return journey took many days. Leaving on Wednesday 17 September, he reached Morpeth on the Friday. Travelling via Newcastle, Durham and Wetherby, Smith arrived at Doncaster a week after setting off. Three days later, he spent the night at Market Harborough. From there he travelled via Olney and St Albans, reaching London in a total of twelve days. He calculated that he had covered 288 miles.

On This Day: 15 September 1703

On this day in 1703, William Norris, box maker, sent his bill to Thomas Bowrey.

Norris supplied a number of chests of various types to Bowrey including: iron bound chests, chests for glasses and cases for strong waters. These were reasonably self-explanatory as were the 4 foot and 3 foot chests but I am not sure what cases home or the 1/2 chests were.

The majority of the chests must have been for cargo on board a ship because of the volume ordered – most were purchased by the dozen. Perhaps the cases home were for domestic use (there were only 6 of them) but I would have expected those to have been described as chest and not cases. A 3 foot 1/2 chest was perhaps one not as deep or high.

What surprises me about the bulk of the chests purchased is that they were necessary. There are many bills for cargo purchased in volume in Bowrey’s papers. Surely these came packed in cases from the maker. Why would a freighter need additional cases?