On this day in 1704, Martin James sent his bill to Captain Bowrey for Old Cordage for the Mary Galley. Old Cordage is how Bowrey endorsed the bill on the reverse. According to James, the items supplied were worn cabell and worn ropes. The total cost of this old rope was £3/19/6 – about 50% more that yesterday’s cost of paining oars and canvas.
Was Bowrey economising by purchasing second-hand rope for use on the Mary Galley? This is always possible but old rope was also used to caulk ships – fill the gaps between boards to ensure that the vessel was watertight. Centuries later, workhouse inmates and prisoners would be given the job of oakum picking or unpicking old rope to be used for caulking ships.
On this day in 1704, Samuel Nix sent his bill for painting connected to the Mary Galley. The cost of priming and painting eight oars for the Galley was one shilling per oar and for thirteen boat oars was six pence each. Later in the year, Nix primed and painted eighty-four yards of canvas at six pence per yard and stained another piece of canvas at a cost of 2/6.
Samuel Nix (or Nicks) was one of two painters used for the Mary Galley and had previously painted Thomas Bowrey’s Duck yacht. It has to be assumed that he valued Bowrey’s business because, when he settled the bill at the end of the year, Nix signed the receipt stating that Bowrey had paid only £2 in full settlement of a bill that came to £2/19/0. In reality, Bowrey paid even less. He had endorsed the reverse showing that he had paid only £1/18/9 – little more than 65% of the original bill.
Did tradesmen inflate their original bills in order to be able to absorb such enormous discounts? £2/19/0 in 1704 is worth approximately £430 today. and Bowrey paid the equivalent of £283.
On this day in 1684, Thomas Bowrey write to John Evans at Hugly from Fort St George. As I have written previously, John Evans later became Bishop of Bangor but, at this time was employed by the East India Company.
Like most of the Company’s employees at the time, Evans was also involved in the East Indies trade on his own account. He had commission Bowrey to carry goods for him. Today’s letter was to explain why he was unable to return to Hugly in the current year and give Evans a detailed account of the business he had done on his behalf.
The business was not one-sided. Evans had purchased some musk on Bowrey’s behalf. This musk was a greasy secretion with a powerful odour produced in a gland of the male musk deer and similar secretions from other animal. and used in the manufacture of perfumes. Unlikely as it sounds, this secretion was valued for its use in perfumes and many perfumes today are still referred to a musk but now a synthetic equivalent is used.
Musk, one of the most valuable product of the East Indies, was to cause Bowrey great difficulties. He had purchased a quantity as one way to send his wealth home to England only to discover that the East India Company had banned musk owned by private individuals on Company ships.
On this day in 1706, the delightfully named Session of Sewers of Tower Hamlets was held at the White Lyon in Whitechapel. At the meeting, Thomas Bowrey on behalf of himself and the other residents and owners of properties in and around Leman Street, Goodmans Fields complained that Mr Abells was stopping the channel the usually conveyed the waters from the houses (in other words, the open sewer). The complainants houses had been made uninhabitable by the overflowing sewer.
Rather than petitioning that Abells be stopped from blocking their sewer, Bowrey and the others requested that they be allowed to create a new sewer to serve the houses. Permission was given.
Despite all his considerable business interests at the time, it was Thomas Bowrey who led the efforts to get a solution to the sewerage problems for his neighbours in Goodmans Fields. Today’s document demonstrates how Bowrey’s papers can shed light on his character in unexpected ways.
About this day in 1702 twenty-eight of the crew of Thomas Bowrey’s ship, the Prosperous, escaped from Madagascar in the sloop. Linnet. They had been put ashore at Madagascar after their captain and chief mate had been killed by pirates and the Prosperous taken.
The Linnet went first to Johanna in the Comoros Islands where five of the crew, including the third mate John Weber, decided to remain. The remaining twenty-three sailed on, arriving at Surat, India in September only to be suspected of piracy themselves. The East India Company Consul believed they were innocent but was unable to stop the Governor imprisoning them for almost six months.
They were only released because Surat came under attack and they were required to help defend the town.
Around this day in 1706, Thomas Bowrey was extremely concerned about piracy. He was working on proposals for schemes to help reduce the menace. Why was this?
The previous year, Captain Thomas Green, John Madder and John Simpson from Bowrey’s ship, the Worcester, had been executed in Scotland on a false charge of piracy. The ship they were suspected of attacking the Speedy Return had, indeed, been taken by pirates but not by the Worcester. After being taken, the Speedy Return had been united for some time with another of Bowrey’s ships lost to pirates, the Prosperous.
Bowrey himself was attacked by pirates on the Malabar coast of India and was well aware of other acts of piracy in the East Indies. He was not to know that the next year another of his ships, the Mary Galley, was also to be taken – this time by French privateers (officially sanctioned pirates).
On this day in 1712, Thomas Gillotts declare that although his rent for the Kings Head Inn, Southwark was due on 24 June, he could not pay Thomas Bowrey. His rent was one shilling a day (or £18/5/0 a year – about £2,500 p.a. in today’s values) and he agreed to pay the arrears at one shilling a day until it was repaid. The statement, written in Bowrey’s hand, was witnessed by Bowrey’s servant, Joseph Noden.
Bowrey himself rented the Kings Head from Peter Briggins paying him £15/2/6 each half year (or £30/5/0 p.a.).
It is difficult to understand the economics of the Kings Head for Bowrey. He was making a loss of £12 per year (over £1,600 in today’s values) and yet was still willing to be lenient about late payment of rent.