On This Day: 15 February 1704

On this day in 1704, Captain Thomas Wybergh made a list of the things belonging to Mr Samuel Rowly on board the Rising Sun. Whilst considerably less rare than yesterday’s document, this list is remains of interest to social historians.

A sailor’s possession on board were sacrosanct. Theft from a fellow crew member’s sea chest a serious matter. Inventories of a sailor’s belongings were always drawn up when they died on a voyage.  It was usual for the items to be auctioned to the rest of the crew. This not only provided some additional money for the deceased’s dependants but also provided a way for members of the crew to supplement their own meagre possessions.

For the social historians, such lists provide a small window into the life of a mariner. In this case, Rowley was the chief mate of the Rising Sun. That is, he was second in command of the ship after the captain.  As a senior officer on board, this list taken towards the end of the voyage, includes goods that Rowley had traded on his own account. This makes the list more unusual than most. The other unusual aspect was that Rowley had not died. In this case the inventory was taken because there was a dispute between Wybergh and Bowrey at the end of the voyage, in which Rowley had been caught up.

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