Nowhere near as famous as Daniel Defoe, Peter Briggins is still well known in certain circles. His diary is studied by many historians of Early Modern Quakers. We know from these diaries that he was acquainted with Thomas Bowrey. Richard Carnac Temple in editing Bowrey’s Papers and Bay of Bengal concluded that they were close friends but I am not sure that he was correct.
Bowrey rented the King’s Head Inn in Southwark from Briggins and there are many diary entries when Briggins was chasing for late rent payments and having to search for him. Not, in my opinion, what you would expect from friends. Temple, however, had the advantage of reading a later diary the location of which is not now known. Perhaps they illuminated more of their relationship. Temple certainly claimed that Briggins helped Bowrey a great deal in the few days before his death and then provided assistance to Bowrey’s widow.
Peter Briggins was born in 1666 the son of William a tobacconist of Bartholomew Close in the City of London and Susanna (nee Cooper). In 1689, he married Marabella Farmborough, the daughter of Thomas, a baker from Stepney at the Quaker Meeting House at the Bull and Mouth. The coupe had nine children, three of whom died in infancy. Their youngest child, Marabella Farnborough Briggins was born in 1708 and, in 1736, married John Elliott, a merchant of London and son of John Elliott also a London merchant, at Devonshire House Meeting Room in Houndsditch.
The family were devout Quakers and Briggins attended Meetings two or three times a week. Much of his diary records and reflects on these Meeting.
The descendants of Marabella Farnborough and John included Eliot Howard to whom the Bay of Bengal manuscript passed. It was Temple’s theory that Mary Bowrey passed her late husband’s manuscript to Briggins in gratitude for the help she received. Whatever the truth of this theory, we have reason to be grateful. Bowrey’s other manuscripts, specifically bequeathed in his Will, have since disappeared.
It is an interesting coincidence that Eliot Howard’s cousin, John Howard, was instrumental in the preservation of Bowrey Papers and the reason we know of him today. There is, perhaps, another connection with the Briggins/Eliot/Howard family. A John Elliott was the ship’s doctor on Bowrey’s ship, the Mary Galley, the story of which was published by Temple in 1927. This John Elliott was an adult defendant in a court case in the year Marabella Farnborough Briggins was born. Having sailed in the East Indies trade, it is conceivable that he was the merchant father of the man Marabella married.