On This Day: 21 October 1704

On this day in 1704, Captain Joseph Tolson on board the Mary Galley wrote a very short note to Thomas Bowrey to inform him that they had arrived safely to the Downs. The letter was sent safely by their pilot, Mr Cull, who came with Tolson’s strong recommendation as able, sober and careful.

The letter was addressed simply For Capt. Bowry with no location but Bowrey had written to Tolson from Clacton, Essex the previous day and Cull probably delivered it to him there. A week later Tolson was writing to Bowrey at Wapping again. On 16 October, Bowrey had signed an agreement with Tolson at Gravesend, Kent. His stay in Essex had been very short.

Why this intense interest in Bowrey’s movements? There is great debate about whether Bowrey ever visited the Americas, in particular the east coast of South America. Later in life he was to make a number of proposals connected to the setting up of the South Sea Company (infamous for the South Sea Bubble) but it is not clear from these whether or not he was writing from personal experience. In the absence of any long-term diary, evidence for this has to be inferred from other document such as today’s, tailors’ bills and the like.


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