On This Day: 6 April 1695

Today I am looking at two letters sent from Fort St. George to Bowrey after he had returned to England. The letters are both three pages long and their contents interesting but, the fact that they are two copies of the same letter is also meaningful.

On 6 April 1695, Robert Masfen sat down a wrote out two copies of the same long letter updating his friend Bowrey twice. Why would he do that? The two copies were sent via different people: one by Mr Deane on the Armenia and the other by Captain Hatton on the London. So many things could go wrong on a voyage from India to England: shipwreck, attack by privateers or enemy vessels, piracy and mutiny. Sending a letter by two different ships increased the chances of it arriving at its destination.

Both letters were addressed to Captain Thomas Bowrey Living in Greenwhich: or Elce: wheare In London. At the time, the regulations stated that letters brought from oversea by ship should be posted on arrival to go through the postal system, subject to any censorship the authorities wished to apply. I am not sure how much of Bowrey’s mail actually followed these rules. Some have stamp marks on them showing that they did. Others such as today’s letters do not. However they arrived, it is amazing that anything with such a vague address ever arrived.

The other notable fact about these letters is that they have ended up separated. The first is held within those papers entrusted to Lloyds of London and now deposited at the London Metropolitan Archives. The other is held within the papers of Bowrey’s life in India held at the British Library despite postdating his time there and is another demonstration the almost arbitrary way Bowrey’s papers were separated (see yesterday’s post).


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