On This Day: 28 December 1705

On this day in 1705, John Cressett wrote to Thomas Bowrey at his house over against Deans Church in Ratcliffe Highway. The letter was a plea for assistance for the family of a member of the crew of the Rising Sun.

However, today I am going to write about Bowrey’s address. He lived most of his time after returning to England in the house of his father-in-law, Phillip Gardiner but, if you looked at how his correspondence was addressed over the years, you could be excused for thinking he moved frequently. At a time before the house numbering we accept as normal today, addresses were more a description of where someone lived.

Gardiner’s house was situated in Well Close (or Wellclose) Square, also known as Marine Square because of the number of sea captains living there. The square was still being developed at the time Bowrey lived there. In the centre of the square was a church built by the Danish community in the area. Following the Great Fire of London in 1666, there was a huge demand for timber for rebuilding that could not be met domestically. Many Danish timber merchants moved to the Wapping area. Wapping, being outside the City of London, was not included in the building restriction imposed following the Fire and there is some evidence that many buildings in the Square were built of wood.

Today’s address places Gardiner’s house close to the Dane Church. Others describe it as close to the Coffee House near Ratcliffe Highway but, unfortunately, do not name the coffee house and I have been unable to identify it. Other post was addressed to Bowrey at other coffee houses close to the Royal Exchange, including the Union, the Garter and Garraway‘s. You may question why mail so variously addressed was ever delivered unless you were aware that the postage was paid by the recipient rather than the sender. It was worth the effort required to find the addressee.

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