On This Day: 19 October 1703

On this day in 1703, Thomas Bowrey purchased beer and spirits for the Rising Sun. There are two bills from James Lansdown for beer and a third from John Dearsly for strong waters.

In towns, at the time, water was rarely drunk because insanitary conditions made it unsafe. Most people drank small beer, that is weak beer. Tea and coffee were both still novelties and expensive. At sea, rain water was saved and fresh water was collected whenever possible during the voyage but it often had to be rationed, especially in the tropics.

Plentiful beer and spirits were usually carried on board but were not freely available to the crew. They were usually sold to sailors with the cost taken from their wages. I have found no evidence in Bowrey’s Papers but, as mariners were renowned for being heavy drinkers, the sale of beer and spirits was possibly a money-making side-line on a long trading voyage in the tropics.

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