On This Day: 13 October 1701

On this day in 1701, Captain John Hilliard of the Prosperous received supplies from John Martin, ships’ chandler. A ships’ chandler was the closest thing to a one-stop supermarket for ships’ provisions at the turn of the 18th century. The Prosperous received 87 different items ranging from gun carriages to billet wood (wood for fuel).

I am constantly amazed every time I look through Thomas Bowrey’s Papers just how much had to be purchased for each new voyage. Some ships were brand new, built specifically for the voyage, such as the Mary Galley, but others had only just returned from a similar East Indies voyage, such as the Scipio. All appear to have needed to be resupplied with almost everything. More firewood is understandable. New gun carriages for a ship that would have only used its guns for saluting a port or another ship is more unexpected.

Even allowing for considerable wear and tear during a voyage, there seems to be far too many new purchases leading me to wonder if everything was sold off at the end of a voyage because it was not known who would charter the ship next. Sir George Matthew, for example, owned the ship London of which he was commander but chartered her both to the East India Company and to Bowrey. It may explain why everything was sold off when the voyage of the St George Galley was aborted.

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