On This Day: 9 October 1703

On this day in 1703, Samuel Leadbeater sent his bill to Thomas Bowrey.

Every so often, a document within Bowrey’s papers causes me to pause. Something surprises me. There can be many reasons. For example, the language used sounds so modern – like the fag end of the World phrase I mentioned previously. Today, I came to a halt because Mr Leadbeater had supplied lead to Bowrey. In his PCC Will, he describes himself as a merchant.

By Bowrey’s lifetime, everyone in England had a surname and their ancestors probably had for a few centuries but there was a time when no one had a surname. Surnames came from a number of sources: they may have evolved from a physical description or a location, for example. Another root of surnames is occupation.

Although Samuel Leadbeater’s father may have been a butcher or baker, it is tempting to visualise his paternal ancestors working with lead for centuries gradually progressing from beating lead to selling it.


On This Day: 8 October 1702

On this day in 1702, the English, or New, East India Company in London held a Court meeting. This was a rival to the London, or Old, East India Company. The two Companies would eventually merge.

At this meeting, the Company set out how much bullion its Commanders, Officers and Seamen of various ranks were permitted to export from England and what type of goods they were permitted to import to England. It also set out the type of goods only the Company was permitted to import. In other words, the Company regulated the private trade permitted by its employees. These regulations were set out in a printed notice.

The notice has been endorsed on the reverse in Thomas Bowrey’s handwriting with a list of the good officers of the Company were not permitted to export from England. This list is not mentioned in the printed notice. It is notable that this list includes lead, iron arms or ordinance and glass – all items that were loaded in large quantities on Bowrey’s outbound ships. He was setting himself up in opposition to the Company rather than the private trade of the Company’s employees.

On This Day: 7 October 1704

On this day in 1704, Thomas Studds made an inventory of the things he had on board the Mary Galley. Studds was a cousin (once removed) of Thomas Bowrey and a midshipman on the ship. Having no children himself, Bowrey took a number of young men under his wing during his life in England. Studds was one of these.

The list provides a rare insight into what a young midshipman in the merchant service required at the time. There is much more material available for those serving in the Royal Navy. Studds had, in his sea chest, 4 check shirts, drawers, caps (one velvet) and handkerchiefs. He had 3 pairs of shoes but just 2 pairs of buckles and 2 pairs of stockings.  Studds’ bedding was a pair of pillowbears, a pair of blankets and one quilt. He took a tin box (his sea chest?) and tin candlesticks, 2 knives and forks, 2 combs and a pewter chamber pot.

Also included was 4 yards of broad check. Was Studds still growing and may he need more shirts made before the end of the voyage? No breeches are mentioned so, perhaps drawers were the loose trousers worn by sailors rather than an undergarment. However, Peter Earle reports mariner’s Wills that include breeches and drawers and he says that the breeches worn by sailors were their short, wide trousers. The most surprizing omission is any from of waterproof outer clothing.


On This Day: 6 October 1669

On this day in 1669, the East India Company in Bombay reported the death of Thomas Bowrey’s relative, Captain Samuel Smith, to their superiors in Surat.

Smith, who had died of a flux during the night, had been supervising the building of the fortifications at the new Company settlement of Bombay. The work, to Smith’s own design, had been going very well and they hoped this would continue under Smith’s replacement.

Smith had been the captain of the Little Charles sent to India with special orders following a revolt in Fort St George on the East Coast of India. He had also carried a copper plate showing the destruction of London in the Great Fire. Because his departure had been delayed, Smith had gone first to Bombay on the West Coast. Here, he was prevailed on to take charge of the building of the fortifications and the Little Charles had proceeded under a new master.

Smith’s wife, previously Elizabeth Bowrey, was on her way to Bombay unaware of the fate of her husband.

On This Day: 5 October 1704

On this day in 1704, Braham Smyth send his two bills to Thomas Bowrey. Smyth was a cheesemonger and had supplied cheese and butter for the Mary Galley.

Cheese was an important element in the early 18th century diet. Wholesale cheesemongers kept factors in the dairy producing regions of the country. They purchased cheese and butter direct from the farmer and at the local fairs, sending the produce by ship to London.

The first of Smyth’s bills was for 63 cheeses. The other was for a total of 139 old Cheddar and other cheeses plus 8 firkins (small barrels) of butter. Half the butter was from Whitby.

Whilst an 18th century ship cannot have been the best environment for storing cheese, it is easy to understand how it kept well enough during a voyage. Butter would be very different. If it survived the early stages of a voyage, it cannot have stayed fresh for long once the ship reached the tropics.

On This Day: 4 October 1701

On this day in 1701, Jacob Holam nominated his well bellowed Freind Dorothy Hammond to receive two months of his pay each year. He was about to depart for the East Indies on the Prosperous.

Provision was usually made for dependants at home when sailors set off on long voyages. Dorothy Hammond may have been Holam’s well beloved friend but it is much more likely that she was a local inn keeper or landlady with whom Holam had run up debts. The Royal Navy was notorious at the time for being very late paying their sailors who, consequently relied on credit when in port between ships. If Bowrey’s example was typical, life was better for those in the merchant service.

This document had been written out in Bowrey’s handwriting with gaps for name, friend and ship to be completed later. In the future, Bowrey would use printed forms but this was early in his career as ship owner and freighter. At this stage, perhaps he could not afford these or was not aware that there was an easier way than preparing handwritten forms. Did his sit, late into the night, just writing forms? His writing certainly looks a little shaky.

Having worked as a mariner himself for nineteen years in the East Indies, his understanding of the lives of the sailors on his ships was greater than that of most London merchants at the time.

On This Day: 3 October 1705

On this day in 1705, Charles Sherer wrote to Thomas Bowrey in London from Kinsale, Scotland. Sherer was working his passage home from India on the Scipio and finished his letter by asking Bowrey to send word to his wife of his and her son’s safe arrival and good health by the next ship leaving for the East Indies. This is the letter I mentioned a week ago explaining that Richard Williams returned home as a passenger on a separate ship.

Sherer’s wife was the sister of Bowrey’s deceased business partner, Robert, Masfen, and remained in India because she was not well enough to travel home having recently been very sick. Sickness and mortality were a constant risk in the East and at sea. Sherer had the distressing news for Bowrey that his kinsman, Midleton, was dangerously ill and not expected to live. Bowrey had four Midleton cousins. It is a shame that the letter does not say which this was but, I think, it was possibly John.

Sherer sent news of the ships waiting in Kinsale for a convey to London. Bowrey had invested in the Scipio five years earlier. He does not appear to have had an interest in her current voyage but would have been pleased to know that the Marlborough (from China), Anne Galley (from Bencolen) and Rochester (from Surat) were safe. Bowrey had invested in all three.