On This Day: 16 August 1704

On this day in 1704, Thomas Hammond wrote to Thomas Bowrey at Tunbridge Wells about warehousing for the cargo of the Worcester. Being away from home, Bowrey was unable to find warehouse space himself.  One of the warehouses he had enquired about was already being used by the East India Company for the goods arrived on the Arabella.

Hammond added the comment that he was sorry you are disappointed of the Enjoyment you went downe to Tunbridge for; hope it will soone blow over. Although it is tempting to think that Bowrey was experiencing disappointing August weather such as we are at present, the comment was more likely to be his concern about his ships. Hammond and Bowrey were still waiting for news that the Mary Galley was ready to sail but the greatest concern was for the Worcester even though news of her seizure was unlikely to have been known to Bowrey on the 14th when he wrote to Hammond.

On This Day: 15 August 1707

On this day in 1707, Edward Bellamy wrote a second letter to Thomas Bowrey. Frustratingly, the first letter does not appear to have survived. However, in a complete change from Bowrey’s East India trading, this correspondence appears to relate to a house he purchased in Goodman’s Fields, Whitechapel.

Goodman’s Fields was a newly developed area close to where Bowrey lived in Well Close (or Marine) Square, Wapping and Bowrey may have been purchasing land on which to build a house.

The property in question had an old garden house. Bellamy is recommending that, if Bowrey does purchase the premises, he demolishes an old garden house on the land, increasing the size of the plot. A larger garden, rather than a garden house, will enable him to charge more rent. Bellamy points out that, if he does what he recommends, Bowrey will also save himself the cost of rebuilding the garden house.

On This Day: 14 August 1704

On this day in 1704, Thomas Bowrey was still staying at Tunbridge Wells unaware that the Worcester had been seized in Scotland. He had received news about some of the misfortunes that had befallen the ship and her cargo on the Malabar Coast of India and these appear to have been causing him most concern. There had been premature rumours in London for a few weeks that the Worcester had been taken but it was still the poor trading results of the voyage that was on his mind..

In a draft letter to Charles Sherer, his friend in India, a month later Bowrey scored out the following passage: Here is arrived this season the Worcester, in whome I was chiefly concerned, in whose yoiage we suffer much by the imp(r)udence of Mr Callant, the supracargo, who had opportunity of making a very great voyage, had he pursued his instructions.

On 14 August, clearly Bowrey still believed that the ship would soon reach London either not believing the rumours of seizure or assuming that the ship would quickly be released. It could not have been more wrong.

On This Day: 13 August 1702

On this day in 1702, Thomas Bowrey completed an agreement to hire the Resolution From Josiah Jenkins for a sum of £150 plus £2/10/0 per month for a three year trading voyage to the East Indies. The cost for three years would be worth approximately £35,000 today. William Daly was to be the commander.

From the few papers that survive concerning the Resolution, it would appear that she was a lucky ship (or, at least, not an unlucky ship) for Bowrey. He may have chartered her five years earlier as well but insufficient papers from that time survive to be certain. This second voyage appears to have ended successfully as, presumably, did the first.

That there are only a few documents relating to the Resolution over a probable two voyages over eight years reinforces my opinion that Bowrey papers are far from a full picture of his business dealings and that picture is distorted, showing more of is failures than his successes. It makes me wonder what stories have been lost with the documents that have not survived.

On This Day: 12 August 1704

On this day in 1704, the Worcester was seized by the Scots whilst anchored in Leith Road in retaliation for the seizure of the Annandale by the English.

Captain Thomas Green, his senior officers and many of his crew were ashore in Leith and Edinburgh when Roderick MacKenzie carried out a carefully planned operation the start of which was signalled by the Royal Mary, a Scottish warship who then stood guard to ensure that no English ship came to the aid of the Worcester. Leading eleven carefully selected gentlemen, MacKenzie boarded the Worcester in a convivial manner, pretending he wished to speak with Green. They drank with the remaining officers before suddenly drawing their weapons, overpowering the crew and taking the ship.

By nine o’clock at night, the Scots had sealed the hatches, gunroom, chests and cabinets with the official seal of the Scottish African and East India Company. The remaining officers and crew of the Worcester were put ashore.

On This Day: 11 August 1706

On this day in 1706, Thomas Bowrey drafted a petition to Queen Anne on behalf of himself and the other owners and freighters of the Worcester and cargo. This was just one of many petitions to the Queen, Parliament and others concerning the Worcester starting within months of the seizure of the ship at Leith and continuing for a number of years. The seizure of the Worcester was claimed to have been in reprisal for the seizure of the Annandale by the East India Company.

This petition quantified their losses as £35,006/1/3, calculated as sum they would have been to make by trading and interest with their initial loss of £23,975/00/10. It is a remarkably precise figure (Bowrey’s calculations are not given) and would equate to at least £5.3m today. A substantial sum but I doubt that the petitioners were in the distressed Condition the petition claims. They wanted Queen Anne to issue Letters of Reprisal against the Scots Company or by such other ways as she in her great Wisdome should seem meet.

This latest petition had been prompted by the legal judgement requiring them to pay the seamen’s wages which with our other great losses is unsupportable and will be the utter ruine of Several of us unless Relieved by your Royall Bounty.



On This Day: 10 August 1704

On this day in 1704, John Shore wrote to Captain Bowrey at Tunbridge Wells in response to the letter he had received from Bowrey who was enquiring about warehousing for his goods. Although the warehouse enquired about was currently full of Canes (sugarcane?), Shore would attempt to clear it or he had another available.

Bowrey presumably wrote enquiring about storage capacity for the cargo of the Worcester when he was notified that the ship had arrived at Leith. Despite being away from home, it was Bowrey working out the logistics for the cargo rather than any of the other owners.

It is an interesting insight into the East Indies Trade at the time. Independent merchants did not have the volume of stock to justify having their own warehouses unlike the East India Company and, with communication being so difficult, warehousing could not be arranged much in advance of the ship’s return. They relied on warehouse owners such as Shore and Bowrey’s friend, Nathaniel Long.