On This Day: 15 December 1691

On this day in 1691, John Gray wrote to Philip Gardiner from Barbados. I am extremely grateful to Mr Gray for writing in an extremely clear hand – unlike the letter’s recipient – even if his spelling was very poor in modern terms. Gardiner not only used a script long outdated by this time but scribbled it in a way we expect of GPs today. Gardiner was an apothecary and poor handwriting in the medical profession is nothing new.

Gardiner was Thomas Bowrey’s father-in-law and, possibly, also his cousin who he trusted with his business affairs in England before he returned from India. This letter interests me because Gardiner’s origins are still a mystery to me, other than he possibly had a connection with the Clacton area of Essex, and I am always looking for clues. It seems that Gray may have been a Wapping man because he mentions his friends there.

John Gray had not only sent the letter. Captain Hobman, who had brought it from the Caribbean, had also been given a piece of eight (or silver dollar) to have a drink with Gardiner, Captain Rutter and brother Bayly. The letter concerned the payment of money due from the estate of a Mr Richardson. Gray was greatly put out by the work in having to deal with the estate without the payment of even a farthing (a quarter of a penny) and clearly wanted Gardiner to feel obligated to him.

I know from Bowrey’s papers that great pains were taken in settling the estates of people who died thousands of miles from home.¬†Gardiner has written notes on the reverse of the letter but the parts I can decipher do not add anything meaningful to what Gray wrote.


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