A STATED Meeting of the Society was held at the Club of Odd Volumes, No. 77 Mount Vernon Street, Boston, on Thursday, 18 December 1952, at three o’clock in the afternoon, the President, Hon. Robert Walcott, in the chair.
The records of the last Stated Meeting were read and approved.
Mr. Thomas Boylston Adams, of Boston, was elected a Resident Member; Mr. E. Harold Hugo, of Meriden, Connecticut, was elected a Non-Resident Member; and Messrs. Raleigh Ashlin Skelton, of Tilford, Surrey, and Frederick. George Emmison, of Chelmsford, Essex, England, were elected Corresponding Members of the Society.
The Reverend Charles Edwards Park read a paper entitled “Puritans and Quakers.”11
The Editor communicated by title the following paper by Captain William Robert Chaplin, of the Trinity House, London, a Corresponding Member of the Society:
IN the year 1611 there was born in the then hamlet of Wapping, on the Thames-side, one of the early Puritans. He was to become a prominent merchant and shipbuilder of Boston, not then founded, afterwards to return to England to fight for the Parliamentary cause in the Civil War. In turn he became a major in the land forces, a captain at sea in the Parliamentary ships, a rear admiral in Cromwell’s time, later a commissioner of the navy, and, after the Restoration, an Elder Brother of the Trinity House, from which he afterwards resigned to return to Massachusetts, after an eventful career during a stirring period in the history of both England and Massachusetts. Finally he returned to his native London and ended his days as a merchant there, trading to the New England states.
The following account of the Bourne family and their friends is intended to record their part in the early life of New England, as well as their membership of the Trinity House, and associations therewith through intermarriage with their maritime friends.
Two generations of the Bourne family, before Nehemiah, will be noted, but it is not improbable that he was descended from Bartholomew Bourne, of Sharsted, in the parish of Dodington, County Kent, who, with his descendants is mentioned in the Visitation of Kent, 1574, and Berry’s Visitation of Kent, 1619 (Harleian Society’s Publications), where the names of Bartholomew, Robert and John are found, and which recur again and again in Nehemiah Bourne’s family. It is equally probable that he was a collateral descendant of William Bourne of Gravesend who died in 1583.
William Bourne was an “Innholder” of that place and Gunner of Gravesend Fort, and afterwards Portreve, or Chief Magistrate of the town. He was also a mathematician, and compiled, in 1573, A Regiment of the Sea: conteyning Rules, Mathematical Experience, and Perfect Knowledge of Navigation for all Coasts and Countreys: most needfull for all Seajairing Men, Pilots, Mariners, and Merchants etc. as well as many other works. One of these, in 1587, contains what is supposed to be the earliest mention in our language of a ship’s log and line. Another of his inventions, long before its time, was “a Boate to goe without Oares or Sayle, by the placing of certaine Wheels on the outside of the Boate.”
He was a self-taught genius who, although he had mastered mathematics, as then understood, did not always succeed in setting forth his acquired knowledge in fairly good English. The pious sentiments, set out in his writings, are characteristic of Nehemiah Bourne a century later. In his will he desired that his children should be “set to schole, whereby that they may have some facultie to live.” Some of his original manuscripts are in the British Museum.
There were at this time, and later, other Bournes in several parishes in London, and the Nicholas Bourne who married Anne Mason at St. Benet’s, Gracechurch Street, 27 December 1577 (Parish Register) is even more likely to have been a direct antecedent. He, too, was an innholder, and, as hereafter related, Nehemiah Bourne inherited an inn in Grace-church Street in the above parish which was in the family for at least three generations. A Nicholas Bourne in the next generation, probably a son of the above, was a doctor (cherurgeon) in the hamlet of Wapping, where Nehemiah Bourne was born. Contemporary with the above, there was a Bourne, a mariner, in Stepney (19 February 1588, John Bourne and Agnes Robinson, Marriage Reg. St. Dunstaris, Stepney).
However, two generations before Nehemiah Bourne are clearly to be traced. In the Principal Prerogative Court, London, is the will of John Bourne, the elder, citizen and white baker, of London, proved 26 June 1610, who had resided in the parish of St. Katherine’s by the Tower; he seems to have died at a great age, and desired to be buried in the Church of the Hospital of St. Katherine’s. His bequests included an annuity of £5 to the poor of St. Katherine’s, to be bestowed in bread, a not uncommon form of bequest at this period.
The church referred to was situated just eastward of the Tower of London; the Hospital to which it was attached in earlier times having been founded by Queen Matilda, wife of King Stephen (1135–1154). On the south wall of the chancel there existed, in 1633, according to Stowe’s Remaines, the following inscription: “The gift of Master John Bourne, being five pounds per annum to be distributed in Bread amongst the poore of the Precinct, beganne the 10 day of May Anno Dom. 1609, to be continued unto them for forty years following.”
The church was not a large or important one, but was a memorial of more than local interest as it was the personal property of the Queens of England, and as such escaped the fate of the monastic establishments when Henry VIII carried out his ruthless policy of confiscation. The site of the parish of St. Katherine’s, some twenty-three acres, the church, hospital, and over twelve hundred houses were acquired and demolished in 1824 for the construction of St. Katherine’s Dock.
John Bourne speaks of his plate, and money, leaves legacies to several servants, and a piece of gold to his friend John Skynner, of Leigh, Essex, mariner, who was one of the Elder Brethren of Trinity House named in their then new Charter, granted by James I in 1604, and to whom, by inference, John Bourne appears to have been related. He bequeathed to his wife, conditionally, some houses and leases, and describes the same, as well as his house at Wapping and his “dwelling house situate within the Precincts of the Hospital of St. Katherines.”
He had three sons, John, Robert and Bartholomew. John, the eldest, was a mariner and is described as of Wapping; he married Jane, daughter of Richard Harris, of Leigh, mariner. The family of Harris were amongst the Leigh mariners who for so long predominated at the Trinity House, many of whom, with the increase in shipbuilding and commerce nearer London, removed to Stepney, Wapping and other Thames-side parishes. Richard Harris, who died in 1607, is probably the Captain Harris of Leigh, who served with Drake in the fleet against the Spanish Armada. The inscription on his tomb in Leigh Churchyard, almost obliterated, records that he was an Elder Brother of the Trinity House, and so far as can be deciphered, an officer in the Royal Navy.
John Bourne inherited from his father some houses in Wapping and in London, including one “called or knowne by the name of the Pewter Platter, in Gracechurch Street, London,” for his life, and then to his brother Robert. John Bourne died in 1618, leaving two daughters, Elizabeth and Jane. Elizabeth married William Harris, of Wapping, mariner, son of William Harris, of Leigh, also a mariner. William Harris, senior (evidently a brother of the before-mentioned Richard), who was a Warden of Trinity House in 1587, died in 1592, at which time he was described as of Wapping, County Middlesex, and Milton Shore (near Leigh), County Essex. His widow, Dorothy, married secondly, 28 March 1595, Rowland Coytmore, of Wapping, mariner, as hereafter related.
William Harris, junior, at this time was on a voyage to the East Indies, and either did not survive the voyage or died soon after, as his widow married Brian Harrison,12 of Wapping, mariner, who thus became related to Nehemiah Bourne, and will be more particularly mentioned later. Bartholomew, the youngest son of John Bourne, senior, inherited “all the implements incident and belonging to the trade of a baker”; his career is obscure, but in the Wapping parish registers he is described as a mariner.
The second son, Robert Bourne, the father of Nehemiah Bourne, was a shipwright (shipbuilder) at Wapping. He was a prominent person in the hamlet, and together with Rowland Coytmore, Thomas Gray (who describes himself as a kinsman of Robert Bourne) and several other of the principal inhabitants, procured the church of St. John’s, Wapping, as a chapel under St. Mary Matfellon, Whitechapel. It cost £1,600 to build (equal to at least between £20,000 and £30,000 in present-day value), the money being subscribed by the merchants, mariners, and other inhabitants of the hamlet, and was consecrated by the Bishop of London, 7 July 1617; Rowland Coytmore subsequently became one of the churchwardens. The original church stood for about a hundred and fifty years, as in 1769 it was referred to as having “lately been rebuilt.” St. John’s was one of the many London churches destroyed in the German air raids in 1940, nothing being left but a much-damaged tower.
Robert Bourne, shipwright, died in 1625 (“16 June 1625, Robert Bourne,” Bur. Reg. of St. John’s, Wapping). His estate, which principally consisted of some houses “within the Precincts of St. Katherines, near the Tower of London,” inherited from his father, and the house called the “Pewter Platter” which came to him on the death of his brother, John; some land at Hockley, in Essex, probably inherited from Leigh relatives, and the “Bell House” and his dockyard at Wapping were left to his wife, Mary, conditionally, for her use and for the benefit of his five children, Nehemiah, John, Martha, Mary and Ruth, and provision was made for educating and supporting them until they attained the age of twenty-one, respectively.
He desired that his eldest son, Nehemiah, “whom I will shall be a scholar and brought up at the University of Cambridge if God shall fit him with gifts in that behalf,” should inherit the “Pewter Platter” in Gracechurch Street and the land at Hockley, in Essex, and that his second son, John, should have the Bell House and dockyard at Wapping. Bequests were made to each of his three daughters when they attained the age of twenty-one, respectively, or upon their marriage, and some relatives are mentioned, including Elizabeth Harrison (lately the widow of William Harris), the wife of the before-mentioned Captain Brian Harrison. Captain Rowland Coytmore is appointed overseer and executor of his will, and is asked to advise and assist his widow.
The Bell House and dockyard may have been built by Robert Bourne or his ancestors, and possibly the oldest shipyard in Wapping. It survived for two hundred years and became a prominent, if not a large and important one, as it is shown on many old maps of the river and parish down to the end of the eighteenth century, and only disappeared when much of the area was acquired for building the London Docks, opened in 1805. By comparing old maps with those published after building the London Docks it is seen that the old Bell Dockyard occupied the site of the present Wapping Basin entrance to the docks.
Mary Bourne, Robert’s widow, soon afterwards remarried to one Peter Whare,13 also a shipbuilder of the parish, who died only two years later,14 and she was still a widow at the time of her death in 1630.15 The family shipyard at this time was leased to her son-in-law, John Hoxton, and to John Taylor, both master shipwrights. The latter was probably the John Taylor who later became a prominent shipbuilder and in Cromwell’s time built the London, which was accidentally blown up off the Nore in 1665 with considerable loss of life. In the same year he was chosen by King Charles to build her successor, the Loyal London.
Mary Bourne, or rather Mary Whare, had evidently been well advised and assisted, and in consequence had added to the family fortune and was able to bequeath to her son, Nehemiah, “all the returns of an adventure sent over to Gottenburg, in Sweden,” and to John, as well as her interest in the dock and shipyard, a row of houses at Wapping, and also to make further provision for her three daughters. At the time of her death her family by Robert Bourne were still under age—Nehemiah was born in 1611; the year of the next two is not recorded, but the two youngest who were born after the building of St. John’s Church, were baptized there: Ruth16 in 1618 and John17 in 1620.
Martha, the eldest daughter of Robert Bourne, married at Wapping in July, 1627, the before-mentioned John Hoxton, shipwright, of that parish, and son of Reynold Hoxton, also a shipwright. The Hoxton family are said to have come from a Suffolk family, and were probably one of the Suffolk shipbuilders who had migrated to the Thames-side during the previous half century. She died in Wapping in 1641, and John Hoxton subsequently removed to Stepney, where he became a prominent merchant, a justice of the peace, and was a churchwarden of St. Dunstan’s, Stepney, from 1648 to 1661. As a member of the Independent Congregation at Stepney he took a leading part in the Nonconformity controversy, in which Stepney and Wapping were always in the forefront. He is probably the John Hoxton who was buried at Stepney, 13 September 1670 (Stepney Parish Registers). Other members of the Hoxton family will be referred to. Ruth, the youngest daughter of Robert Bourne, married at Wapping, 7 January 1636, “Peter Senthill, parson of Ovington in Essex and Ruth Bourne of Wapping in Middlesex” (Mar. Reg. of St. John’s).
Before continuing with the narrative of the Bourne family it is necessary to say something of Rowland Coytmore, the executor of the will of Robert Bourne and adviser to his widow, as well as of several others whose names occur in connection with the career of Nehemiah Bourne. Rowland Coytmore is said to have been of Welsh descent, and of the family of Coetmor, of Caernarvon, whose arms his descendants used. In the contemporary records his name is variously spelled Quatmore, Quaytmore, Coitmore, and Coytmore—such variations in the spelling of names was not uncommon at that time—but the last mentioned was the more general and as used by his descendants.
He resided in Wapping where, for many years, he was one of the leading inhabitants. His relationship to the Bourne family—he is mentioned as a kinsman—probably refers to his connection with them by his marriage to the widow of William Harris, senior. He was a mariner and merchant of wide interests, and was one of the grantees named in the Second Charter of Virginia, 23 May 1609, from which it may be inferred that his early sea service had been with the pioneers in the Virginia trade. However, the charter granted to the East India Company soon opened up large possibilities in maritime adventure, and about the year 1617 he commanded the Royal James (sometimes referred to as the James Royal) to Surat. It seems to have been a long voyage, accounts of it are meager, but in any case are not relevant; however, there is one incident of interest—a letter dated 1 March 1618 from India and signed by Rowland Coytmore, master of the Royal James, which took nearly a year to reach England, was read at the meeting of the Committees of the East India Company on 23 February 1619, informing them of a voluntary contribution on board the ship of upwards of £180 towards building the new chapel at Wapping. This would be equivalent to at least ten times this amount in present-day values, and therefore could hardly have been subscribed by the ship’s company, and must have been largely contributed to by the merchants, who evidently were Wapping and Stepney men, otherwise they would not have been interested. The building of this church has already been mentioned, but the above incident shows the extent of the interest and enthusiasm aroused therein.
The Royal James returned at the end of 1619, the first herald of her arrival, with other ships from India, being a letter received in November from Captain Coytmore, then lying in Scilly Roads, weatherbound, giving an account of their narrow escape from shipwreck and asking for provisions, extra anchors, ropes, etc., to be sent to them. It does not appear from any records that Captain Coytmore went to sea again, and he probably retired on the proceeds of arduous but successful voyages. From a passing reference it seems that he had been wounded during the voyage to India “in fights with the Hollanders.”
Rowland Coytmore was an Elder Brother of Trinity House from 1613,18 possibly earlier, and at his death in 1626 was a generous benefactor to their funds. According to the Parish Register of St. Dunstan’s, Stepney, he married there, 13 January 1591, Christian Haynes. Her death is not recorded in that parish, but on 28 March 1595 he married at St. Mary’s, Whitechapel, Dorothy Harris, widow of the before-mentioned William Harris, senior, of Wapping and Milton Shore, Leigh. Two daughters of this second marriage, Elizabeth and Sarah, were baptized at St. Mary’s, Whitechapel, the former on 25 February 1596.
He married thirdly, apparently at Harwich, Essex, on 23 December 1610, Katherine, daughter of Robert Miles, yeoman, of Sutton, Suffolk, and widow of Thomas Gray, mariner, of Harwich, who died in 1607. The parish registers of Harwich contain so many Grays that there is difficulty in determining their line of descent, but it seems that Thomas Gray was either a son or a collateral descendant of the Thomas Gray of Harwich who was master of Drake’s flagship against the Spanish Armada, and was Master of Trinity House in 1582, as he signs himself as such “on behalf of the whole body corporate of the Trinity House,” in a petition to the Crown concerning pilotage (Lansdowne MSS, British Museum).
Of the family of Thomas Gray of Harwich and his wife, Katherine, a son, Thomas, and three daughters, Susan, Parnell, and Katherine, the three latter being quite young in 1610 when they removed to Wapping, only Thomas and Katherine are of any interest here.19 Thomas Gray, like his forebears, became a mariner; he died in 1627 leaving his modest estate to his sisters, but apart from his relationship to Captain Rowland Coytmore there is nothing of note concerning him. Katherine, born about 1604, married Thomas Graves, of Wapping, a mariner whose later career was closely associated with that of Nehemiah Bourne, both in New England and again in their native country during the First Dutch War, which will be more particularly related hereafter.
Rowland Coytmore died in 1626; he had acquired an ample estate from his various mercantile adventures which he divided between his wife, Katherine, their son, Thomas (who, as noted above, died a year later), and his daughters by his earlier marriages; he remembered the poor seamen and their widows dependent upon the Trinity House, of which he had been a prominent member, and also the poor of the hamlet of Wapping, and made Thomas Gray, junior, and his son-in-law, William Rainsborough, also of Wapping, mariner, his executors and overseers of his will. His son, Thomas, followed his father’s profession and became a mariner, and married at Wapping, on 24 June 1635, Martha, eldest daughter of William Rainsborough. Their daughter Katherine was born in the following April and buried at Wapping in the same month; and in the same year, he and his wife as well as his stepmother, the widow of Thomas Gray, senior, and of Rowland Coytmore, migrated to Massachusetts, where there will be occasion to meet him again.
This introduces the family of Rainsborough who, although better known to history, must be noted at some length in order that their association with Nehemiah Bourne may be more clearly seen. Thomas Rainsborough, latterly of East Greenwich (died 1623), but some time of Whitechapel where he was married (Thomas Rainborow and Martha Moole, 11 November 1582. Reg. of St. Mary’s, Whitechapel) and where his family of two sons and two daughters were baptized; of these we are only concerned with the eldest son, William, baptized at Whitechapel, 11 June 1587.
William Rainsborough was brought up to the sea service and throughout his life resided at Wapping. The principal events of his interesting career and his relationships only are relevant. In 1626 he was master and part owner of the Sampson, a heavily armed vessel, apparently employed in the Levant trade, but afterwards in the service of the Crown. A few years later he seems to have been accounted one of the most experienced and capable seamen, and was frequently consulted by the Lords of the Admiralty on maritime matters. In 1632 he was associated with several other prominent mariners on a commission for manning the King’s ships, and, later, on an enquiry into the defects of the ships and the faulty administration of the Navy. He was an Elder Brother of the Trinity House, apparently from 1625, but for certain in 1628.
In 1637 Rainsborough commanded a squadron of ships sent out to the Mediterranean to suppress the Algerian pirates and sea rovers of Sallee, who were said to have taken some two thousand captives within the previous two years, and had become so bold that it was feared that seamen would no longer go to sea. The ships blockaded Sallee and finally brought the Moors to terms, thus releasing some hundreds of captives.
In 1640 he was one of the two members for Aldeborough, Suffolk, in the Long Parliament, the other being Squire Bence,20 a merchant of that town, who was for many years a Younger Brother of Trinity House. A brother of the latter, Alexander Bence, was appointed Master of the Trinity House by the House of Commons in February, 1660, just before the Restoration of Charles II. Both Alexander and Squire21 Bence were Commissioners of the Navy during the Civil War; they were prominent merchants and adventurers in the American and West Indian trade, as well as owners of privateers. They both appear to have resided in Wapping at some time, as their names are found in the parish registers there, and at the time of Rainsborough’s death, Squire Bence was living in one of his houses.
William Rainsborough married Judith, daughter of Reynold and Joane Hoxton, and sister of the John Hoxton who married Martha, sister of Nehemiah Bourne, but it seems quite clear that he had been married previously, to a daughter of Rowland Coytmore (by his earlier marriage), as the latter speaks of Rainsborough as his son-in-law. Rainsborough died and was buried at Wapping on 19 February 1642, his wife Judith having been buried there 3 March 1638. At the time of his death he had been an Elder Brother of the Trinity House for some fifteen years and, like many others, left a legacy in perpetuity for the poor seamen in the care of the corporation. Of his five sons and three daughters, some of whom were baptized at Whitechapel and the others at Wapping, only his eldest son, Thomas, and eldest daughter, Martha, are of interest here.22
Thomas Rainsborough followed the family tradition and went to sea, although he is better known to history by his military rank as Colonel Rainsborough. He probably went first in the merchant ships in which his father was interested, but on the outbreak of the Civil War served in the Parliamentary fleet and is mentioned as commander of the Swallow, of 34 guns, in 1643, which captured a ship conveying reinforcements to the King. He assisted Lord Fairfax in the defense of Hull, at which time he is described as Colonel Rainsborough and was now definitely entered in the land service. He fought at the Battle of Naseby and at the siege of Bristol; after the capitulation of Oxford he besieged Worcester and was recommended by Fairfax to be made governor of that city.
In 1646 he entered Parliament for Droitwich. In the political discussions held in the Council of the Army he was leader of the republican section among the officers and opposed any further negotiations with the King. The “honest men of England,” he argued, “had fought for their liberties, and at any risk it was the duty of the army to secure them those liberties.” In September, 1647, he was appointed vice-admiral and ordered to take command of the ships for the winter guard, but his political escapades hindered his employment, and in December the House of Commons negatived the proposal to send him to sea.
This, however, was reversed soon after, and on 1 January 1648 he proceeded to his command, but his vice-admiralship lasted only five months. He was accused of being “rough and imperious,” and was unpopular for having deserted the sea for the land service. Parliament in the meantime having appointed the Earl of Warwick Lord High Admiral, Rainsborough returned to his employment in the army. He took part in the siege of Colchester, and in October of the same year was in command of the siege of Pontefract Castle. A party of the Cavaliers made their way through the besiegers and surprised Rainsborough in his quarters at Doncaster and attempted to take him prisoner. In the struggle he was mortally wounded and died on 29 October. He was buried at Wapping on 14 November 1648, his funeral being marked by a great public demonstration demanding vengeance on the Royalists.
Martha, the eldest daughter of William Rainsborough, who was baptized at Whitechapel 20 April 1617, married at Wapping,23 24 June 1635, Thomas Coytmore, the son of Captain Rowland Coytmore by his third wife, Katherine (widow of Thomas Gray of Harwich), and in the following year they went out to Massachusetts. Katherine Coytmore, twice a widow, went with them, and died in New England a few years later. Thomas Coytmore’s association with Nehemiah Bourne in New England will be more particularly related.
One more, Captain Brian Harrison, requires some notice here. Captain Harrison was born at Sedgfields, County Durham, but from his associations in shipping he appears to have been of the same family of Harrison, all mariners, who are mentioned as of Leigh and Wapping. His marriage on 18 February 1620 to Elizabeth, widow of William Harris, junior, has already been noted, and he then became a cousin of Nehemiah Bourne. Elizabeth Harrison did not long survive, as the Register of St. John’s records her burial there on 9 August 1625.24 He married again, where is not stated, Susanna, widow of one James Carter, of Wapping, late master of the ship Anne of London, with whom Harrison had been part owner of ships in the Virginia trade.
In May, 1630, the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty granted a warrant for issuing letters of marque to Captain Brian Harrison and others, owners of the Unicorn, of London, the ship to be commanded by Captain Brian Harrison. Harrison was a personal friend of William Rainsborough, and by inference it seems that he had at some time commanded one of Rainsborough’s ships. When, in 1637, Rainsborough was appointed to command the squadron sent out to suppress the Algerian pirates he petitioned the Admiralty for Captain Harrison to have command of one of his ships (Cal. State Papers. Dom. 15 January 1637). The other appointments would seem to have been to some extent Rainsborough’s choice, as two of the smaller ships of the fleet were commanded by Wapping men, Captain Thomas White and Captain Edmund Seaman, who, years later, were to become Elder Brethren of the Trinity House, the former 1660 to 1675, and the latter from 1665 to 1672.
Harrison commanded the Hercules, of London, evidently a hired merchant ship and probably the one of that name which had been employed in carrying settlers to New England, and was appointed rear admiral of the squadron. Early in September of that year he arrived at Falmouth in advance of the rest of the ships, bringing the first news of the success of the expedition. In 1650 Captain Harrison commanded the Rainbow in the fleet under Richard Deane, and if a hired ship, probably the one of that name formerly owned by Thomas Gray, William Rainsborough and other relatives. Rainsborough was now dead but his share in the Rainbow had been bequeathed to his son.
In 1653 Harrison still had a share in the Unicorn, as there is a reference in the State Papers to a petition by him to the Council of State concerning her, which in June of that year was referred to the Committee for Foreign Affairs. At some time, probably between 1640 and 1649, he was elected an Elder Brother of Trinity House, but evidently was one of the members proscribed by the Act of January, 1649, relating to the Trinity House, as his name does not appear again until 1659, when together with other former members of the Corporation he was prominent in the re-establishment under its former charter and was re-elected an Elder Brother at the Restoration. He acquired from Nehemiah Bourne, probably when the latter went to New England, the house called the “Pewter Platter,” and his ownership thereof will be more particularly referred to later.
Having thus introduced a number of people whose names recur from time to time, we can now return to Nehemiah Bourne and his family. He was born in 1611 and therefore was about fourteen years of age at the time of his father’s death. Although Robert Bourne had desired that his eldest son should eventually go to the University of Cambridge, the son evidently cared more for his father’s trade than for his father’s wishes, and followed in his footsteps as a shipbuilder. We may suppose that he learned his trade at the family shipyard at Wapping and became a master shipwright at an early age.
Bourne married very young, when under twenty years of age, to Hannah Earning; she being about seventeen years old. The entry in the Parish Register of St. Dunstan’s, Stepney, is: “18th January 1630, Nehemiah Bourne of Wapping in Whitechapel, Shipwright, and Hannah Earning of Limehouse,25 Maid.” She was the daughter of Anthony Earning of Stepney, a merchant and mariner. A son of the latter, also named Anthony, followed the same profession, traded to New England and, by inference, afterwards commanded one of Bourne’s ships. He later served with Bourne in the Dutch War and must be more particularly mentioned in connection with the events of the war.
Nehemiah Bourne had two sons born in England; the Registers of St. John’s recording that the first was born 12 July 1635, baptized on the 17th of the same month, and buried on 15 December of that year; and the second baptized at the same church 1 March 1637 and buried 20 September 1638.
The only reference to him during the next few years which can be traced is in the High Court of Admiralty Examinations 1637, where he is described as a master shipwright of Wapping, aged 25, when, on 10 June 1637, he gave evidence of having raised and repaired a Dutch vessel, the Caulkman, which had been sunk off Wapping by having been holed by the anchor of the Salutation, William Haddock, of Leigh, owner and master.
The Haddock family was one of the more prominent of the merchant mariners of Leigh, and later generations were distinguished naval officers. With the decline of Leigh as a port they had, with many others, removed to Stepney and Wapping, now the center of the maritime interests of London, but most of them long retained their connection with Leigh. The Haddock family had their roots deep in the Trinity House, successive generations for a hundred and fifty years being members thereof. William Haddock was an Elder Brother of the Corporation before the Commonwealth, and re-elected after the Restoration. He was the father of Admiral Sir Richard Haddock, sometime Master of the Trinity House, and at this time evidently residing in Wapping as the Parish Register records the births and deaths of his children; he would, therefore, be well acquainted with Bourne, but they were to have some stirring times together at sea during the Dutch War, some fifteen years later, and afterwards to be associated at the Trinity House.
The incident of the two vessels, Caulkman and Salutation, and the raising and repairing of the former must have been almost the last work with which Bourne was concerned before departing for New England, and possibly at that time making such disposition of his estate as would enable him to sever his connection with his homeland, but before following him to New England it is necessary to describe at some length both the history of his native parish and the conditions of life at that time, which drove so many of the best of the nation’s manhood across the sea in search of freedom.
The extensive parish of Stepney, which formerly included Limehouse, Poplar, Whitechapel and the adjoining hamlets of Blackwall, Shadwell and Wapping, owed its development to the naval enterprise which began in the reign of Henry VII. Deptford, County Kent, rose into prominence, the shipyards eventually extending upriver to Rotherhithe, and, on the north side of the Thames some of the more famous shipbuilders laid out their yards at Blackwall, Poplar and Wapping. As the shipbuilding increased, Stepney attracted to itself such adventurers as Humphrey Gilbert, Stephen and William Borough, and many others famous in maritime history, and here, too, the Trinity House transferred from its original home at Deptford, probably in the late sixteenth century, although it always retained its title of the Trinity House of Deptford Strond, in accordance with the wording of its charter, and here it soon became a monopoly of the merchant mariners of Stepney who were largely prominent in the chartered companies, such as the Virginia Company, the East India Company, and others.
Drawn to the riverside parishes also were the prominent mariners and shipbuilders of Leigh, Woodbridge, Aldeborough and other Essex and Suffolk ports which from this time began to decline. Coincident with the rise of Stepney was the religious reform and the growth of Puritanism, which had its birth in East Anglia, Leigh being foremost in the controversy; by 1580 it was firmly established in Stepney, although there were yet some years of development before it finally broke away from the established church.
Bourne was old enough to remember the departure of the Pilgrim Fathers in the Mayflower in 1620; the Mayflower was a Rotherhithe ship, owned by four merchant mariners of that place, just across the river from his own parish of Wapping, and most likely knew her well. He would also have seen and appreciated the significance of the steady stream of adventurers who followed them. Brought up in an environment of Puritanism, which had now spread far over the southern counties, he would have watched with increasing anxiety the growing political and religious confusion of the time, which were eventually to lead up to the Civil War, and the frequent persecutions which were creating in some of the best type of craftsmen and others a desire to emigrate to a land of more economic opportunity, and freedom for the peculiar religious life they wished to lead, and, incidentally, wished to see their neighbors lead.
In 1628 King Charles I issued, on the advice of Laud, who became Bishop of London in that year and who, in the following years supported the King in his struggle with the Commons, the declaration prefixed to a new edition of the Articles printed in the Prayer Book which prohibited controversial preaching, Laud holding it incumbent on him to compel religious observance even by those who disapproved of them. This at once brought him into conflict with the higher Puritans of his time, who attacked him and his system with courage, and sometimes scurrilous bitterness. In this same year the Duke of Buckingham, friend and adviser to the King, was murdered by a Puritan fanatic, to the joy of many of the common people, and Charles, striving to govern without the Parliaments that he hated, ended with a violent quarrel with the House of Commons in the following year. No Parliament was held again for eleven years.
In the meantime the steady migration continued, and no doubt many of Bourne’s friends had left the country. The great majority of the first Anglo-Americans came from the eastern and southern counties of England. Of the thousands who had settled in New England between 1620 and 1640 it has been calculated by genealogists that fifty per cent came from Suffolk, Essex and Herts, and another twenty per cent from Norfolk, Middlesex and Kent. By the early place names in New England it would seem that Hampshire and Dorset were well represented; the northern counties supplied only scattered individuals. When, on the assembly of the Long Parliament in 1640 and the breach between the King and the Commons, the former oppressions came to an end, almost at once the emigration ceased and was not resumed until after the restoration of the monarchy, in 1660, when the Puritans were again in need of a free land; or, as written by Governor Winthrop in 1641, “The Parliament of England setting upon a general reformation, both of Church and State . . . caused all men to stay in England in expectation of a new world, so as few came to us.”
However, 1628 was a long way from 1640, and in the meantime the antagonism between the High Church and those of a freer spirit had become more acute. In 1628 a group of Puritans had obtained from the Council for New England a grant of land in eastern Massachusetts, and one John Endicott with fifty settlers sailed to join a smaller number already there. Meanwhile the number of those interested in the enterprise increased and in March, 1629, the King granted a charter of incorporation under the title of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England.
One of those who became interested was John Winthrop, of a family long established at Groton Manor, Lavenham, in Suffolk, and one of the ardent type of Puritan who was destined to have a prominent place in the history of Massachusetts. To earnest men of Winthrop’s views England was becoming a place no longer fit to dwell in. Although he was not amongst the first to join the new company, at their meeting in October, 1629, when plans for emigration on a large scale were made, Winthrop was chosen to be the first governor of the colony “for his integritie and sufficiencie.”
Winthrop embarked at Southampton on 22 March 1630 in the Arabella, flagship of the fleet of eleven vessels which carried between six and seven hundred passangers, the largest number to cross the Atlantic in one body up to that time. The Arabella, which is described as a vessel of 380 tons and manned by a crew of fifty-two, had been purchased by the Massachusetts Company. She was formerly the Eagle, and probably the former East India ship of that name which had been prominent in the earliest voyages of the company. The remainder of the fleet were ships hired under an arrangement to carry the passengers, apart from the rate for freight, at five pounds each, and to give them ship’s provisions of “Salt-Beefe, Porke, Salt-Fish, Butter, Cheese, Pottage . . . with good Biskets, and Sixe-Shilling Beere.”
In addition to the Arabella, the fleet consisted of the Ambrose, Jewel, Talbot, Charles, Mayflower, William and Francis, Hopewell, Whale, Success, and Trial. Nothing is known for certainty of these vessels, and names which repeated endlessly are no sure guide,26 but the Hopewell was probably the ship of that name owned by a number of merchants, all zealous Nonconformists and afterwards ardent supporters of Cromwell, who were also members of the Trinity House, which appears from time to time in the State Papers in connection with voyages across the Atlantic, and whose name will recur in these pages.
The Whale was commanded by Captain Bradd, of Leigh. Thomas Graves, whose name has already been mentioned, was mate of the Talbot, and two years later was in command of the Whale. The William and Francis, later a privateer, was owned and commanded by Captain Edward Johnson, some years afterwards a Warden of Trinity House, his son-in-law, Captain Lawrence Moyer, of Leigh, being an Elder Brother at the same time. They were staunch Puritans and often in trouble after the Restoration. These facts give some clue to the ownership of the vessels and suggest that the merchants from whom the ships had been chartered had more than a commercial interest in the voyage.
It is also of interest to speculate as to whether some of the ships may have served with Drake against the Spanish Armada. There is a certain significance concerning the Jewel, now commanded by Captain Nicholas Hurlestone, who also was, later on, a Warden of Trinity House and for a brief time before his death in 1665 was Master thereof. Hurlestone came from Leigh where he was widely related to other maritime families there, and as the commanders were invariably part owners it is not unlikely that she was a Leigh ship—the time had not yet arrived when Leigh ceased to be a port and to own ships—and if so, she may have been the Jewel, of Leigh, one of the merchant ships fitted out by the merchants of London for service in Drake’s fleet in 1588, at which time she was commanded first by Abraham Bonner and afterwards by Henry Rawlins, both Leigh men who were Elder Brethren of the Trinity House. The Leigh mariners for long had almost a vested interest in the corporation.
It was only a little over forty years since Drake’s time, and this was not long for the life of a wooden ship; admittedly, the wooden ships had extensive overhauls, which, in earlier times, often meant almost reconstruction. As an instance of the long life of a contemporary ship, the Victory, launched in 1561, was Sir John Hawkins’ flagship at the defeat of the Spanish Armada. Although “altered into a galleon” in 1586, and rebuilt as a larger ship in 1610 when she was renamed Prince Royal, but changed again to Resolution after the death of Charles I, she remained in service for over a hundred years. In the First Dutch War, 1652–1654, she carried Blake’s flag at the Battle of the Kentish Knock, in which fleet Bourne commanded a ship. After the Restoration her name was changed once more to Royal Prince, and in the Second Dutch War carried Admiral Sir George Ayscue’s flag in the engagement on 3 June 1666, when she grounded on the Galloper Shoal and was burned by the Dutch. Another, and equally famous Victory, Nelson’s flagship, was a veteran of forty-five years at the time of the Battle of Trafalgar, had many years of service after the French Wars, and although long past sea service, she was over a hundred and seventy years old when she was finally moved into a permanent land berth.
John Winthrop’s fleet was delayed off Yarmouth, Isle of Wight, waiting for several of the ships still detained at Southampton. For the seamen, the period of idleness was made bearable for the godly by a fast on Friday, and by the ungodly by tapping a “rundlet of strong Waters” (a small barrel), and making merry on the stolen spirits. For this they were first “laid in bolts” and then “whipped in the morning” and kept on bread and water. Whilst riding off Yarmouth they entertained to breakfast, on 6 April, Captain Burleigh, Captain of Yarmouth Castle, “a grave comely gentleman, and of great age; he was an old sea Captain of Queen Elizabeth’s time, and being taken at sea, had been kept a prisoner in Spain for three years.”
The fleet sailed from the Solent on 8 April and after a passage of sixty-five days arrived at Salem on 12 June, when the promised land lay at their feet. Almost simultaneously with Winthrop’s arrival a smaller fleet with two or three hundred passengers came in, and within a few weeks another thousand arrived in several small fleets and single ships. Charlestown, heretofore numbering barely three hundred, increased at a bound to between two and three thousand, and the colony of Massachusetts may well be said to have become established from this time.
The departure of the earlier emigrants excited little or no official interest and it may well be that the King and his advisers were glad to be free of an increasing body of malcontents, but the steady stream which followed during the next decade and the rise of a colony far removed from the homeland in religion and ways of life, and with a growing sense of independence, eventually caused serious concern to those in authority in both state and church, and an attempt was made to prevent the further departure of disaffected people to any land where they could perpetuate their beliefs, any departure from the established church still being regarded as sedition.
In February, 1633, there were lying in the Thames no less than ten ships, and two more at Ipswich, “freighted with passengers and provisions” for New England. The ships, whose names are given in the contemporary records, were the Clement and Job, Reformation, True Love, Elizabeth Bonaventure, Sea Flower, Mary and John, Planter, Elizabeth and Dorcas, Hercules, and Neptune, and the Francis and the Elizabeth at Ipswich.
The tonnage of all the vessels is not given, nor is there any indication of the number of passengers embarked in the twelve named; they probably varied considerably, but some estimate can be made by comparison with the list of ships in a similar fleet which sailed in 1639 wherein these figures are given, the vessels ranging from one of 50 tons burden and carrying 50 passengers, to one of 320 tons and carrying 250 passengers. Some further guidance is given by existing records of the above mentioned Francis and Elizabeth of Ipswich in the following year when they again sailed from that port for Massachusetts with 98 and 116 passengers, respectively, mostly from the county of Suffolk.
The Reformation and True Love were almost certainly the hired ships of those names which twenty years later served in Admiral Blake’s fleet in the First Dutch War, and the Hercules the same one mentioned in the State Papers in connection with early voyages to Virginia and the one commanded by Captain Brian Harrison in the squadron under Captain William Rainsborough in his attack, some four years later, on the Algerian corsairs in the Mediterranean, and the Hercules commanded by the before-mentioned Captain Lawrence Moyer, of Leigh, in the Earl of Warwick’s fleet in 1643.
There was also a Hercules which sailed from the port of Sandwich in 1634 bound for New England with about a hundred passengers, but whether they were one and the same vessel can only be a matter of conjecture. It was the custom then, and, in fact, has been in all naval wars, to hire suitable merchant ships as occasion demanded, and in the seventeenth century there was so little difference between the larger merchant ships and men-of-war of their size that they were ready for war service at very short notice.
In the above-mentioned fleet the Reformation was commanded by Captain Thomas Graves, who was still in the ship in the following year and again bound to New England with passengers. As Graves was an old friend and later a business colleague of Bourne’s in the succeeding years it is not improbable that they both had an interest in the ship, most vessels being owned by a number of merchants and often relatives too, including the master, on the sixteenth share principle. This is further supported by the fact that when the Reformation was hired by the state, on the outbreak of the First Dutch War for service as a man-of-war, she was commanded by Captain Anthony Earning, Bourne’s brother-in-law, who continued in her throughout the war. There were several instances of ships so hired being commanded in the war by their master-owners. As Thomas Graves is later to fill a more important role some account of him may be given here, leaving his later service for mention in the proper place.
An account of the ancestry of Thomas Graves and other members of the family who are said to have been of East Anglian origin, and probably one of the shipbuilding families who migrated to the Thames-side, is given in the Essex Institute Historical Collections, Vol. 31, which shows that there were several generations of shipbuilders and mariners in Wapping and Stepney.
John Graves (formerly Greaves), the father of Thomas, was a shipbuilder of some consequence in Limehouse, and for many years was a vestryman of St. Dunstan’s Church, Stepney.27 He married there, it is implied firstly, but quite obviously from the ages of his family, a second marriage, Sarah Chester, daughter of Richard Chester, of Leigh, mariner, who for many years was a member of the Trinity House; she died within a few months and almost immediately, on 24 June 1624, he married Susan Hoxton, of Wapping, daughter of the before-mentioned Reynold Hoxton, shipbuilder, and thus became related to the Bournes. John Graves died in 1637 but his shipyard continued in his family for several generations and its position is shown on Gascoigne’s map of Stepney and adjoining parishes, published in 1703.
The elder sons became shipwrights, and inherited their father’s shipyard; the eldest, William, born in 1598, married, 1 September 1631 at St. Dunstan’s, Stepney, Elizabeth Diggins, daughter of Nicholas Diggins,28 a shipbuilder and shipowner of Limehouse, who was much employed by the East India Company, and who also was one of the Elder Brethren of Trinity House. William Graves, in company with Peter Pett, of the family of famous shipbuilders of that name, was constantly employed in building ships for the navy.
Thomas Graves, the third son, with whom we are more concerned, was born at Ratcliffe on 6 June 1605 and baptized at Stepney ten days later. He married Katherine Gray, daughter of Thomas and Katherine Gray, of Harwich, where she was born in 1605. Katherine Gray, the elder, it will be remembered, married, secondly, Captain Rowland Coytmore, and was the mother of Thomas Coytmore.
We have noted that Thomas Graves was mate of the Talbot in 1629, one of the ships in Governor Winthrop’s fleet, and although continuing at sea, he became a settler in New England, as in the following year he was made a freeman of Charlestown. In 1632 he was master of the Whale and later of the Elizabeth Bonaventure, one of the ships in the Thames in 1633, and now in command of the Reformation in the same fleet.
In 1635 he was in command of the James, when it was stated that he had voyaged to Massachusetts yearly for seven years, and was given a silver cup by the owners for having captured a Dutch privateer in the English Channel. He settled in Charlestown more permanently in 1638, after which he is constantly mentioned in the town records. He returned to England during the Civil War, and later, during the Dutch War. There will be frequent references to him, but for the present we must follow his fortunes in the Reformation, and the rest of the fleet lying in the Thames ready to sail for New England.
As we have already observed, the steady migration had hitherto aroused no official interest. It has been estimated by historians that for some time there was an average of a ship a day leaving the country with emigrants, many, of course, quite small vessels, and almost solely from the southern ports between London and Bristol, bound either to the West Indies, Virginia, or New England. Single ships from scattered ports would hardly attract much notice; however, the intended departure from London of ten ships largely filled with disaffected people caused the authorities to move in the matter and instructions were hurriedly issued for the fleet to be detained. This was followed by an Order of the Council, dated at Whitehall, 21 February 1633, as follows:
Whereas the Board being given to understand of the frequent transportation of great numbers of his Majesties subjects out of this Kingdom to the Plantation called New England, and divers persons known to be ill-affected and discontended as well with the Civil as Ecclesiastical Government are observed to resort thither, whereby such confusion and disorder is already grown there, especially in point of religion, as besides the ruin of the said Plantacion cannot but highly tend to the Scandall both of the Church and State here. And Whereas it was informed in particular that there were at the present divers Shipps now in the River of Thames, readie to sail thither freighted with passengers and provisions. It was thought fitt and ordered that stay should forthwith be made on the said Shipps until further orders from this Board. And that the several Masters of the same should attend the Board on Wednesday next in the afternoon with a list of the passengers and provisions in each ship.
The masters of the ships attended before the Council of 28 February, gave the requisite particulars, and were then ordered each to give a bond of £100 to the Clerk of the Council, to observe and cause to be observed on the voyage the following articles:
That they cause the Prayers contayned in the Booke of Common Prayers established in the Church of England to be sayde dayly at the usual howers for morning or Evening Prayers and that they cause all persons on board these said ships to be present at the same.
That they do not receive on board or transport any person that hath not a certificate from the Officers of the Port where they embarqued that he hath taken the Oaths of Allegiance and Supremacy.
That upon their return into the Kingdom they certify to the Board the names of all such persons as they shall transport, together with their proceedings in the execution of the aforesaid Articles.
It was then thought fit “for this time” that they be permitted to proceed on their voyage, and the Admiralty Marshall and other officers were directed to release the ships and allow them to depart.
It is very significant that the larger or mass migrations coincided with fresh incidents of persecution. In the year of the previous large migration, 1630, Laud, who had long persecuted the Nonconformists, took part in passing a cruel sentence on one of them in the Star Chamber. In this year (1633) he became Archbishop of Canterbury, and having at once succeeded in compelling the use of the Prayer Book in the English regiments in the Dutch service, then transferred his attention to other spheres.
About this time William Prynne (1600–1669), a barrister and Puritan pamphleteer, came first before the Star Chamber. After a year’s imprisonment he was sentenced to imprisonment for life, to be fined £5,000, to be deprived of his degree by the University of Oxford, to be expelled from Lincoln’s Inn, and to lose both his ears in the pillory. A few weeks after being pilloried he addressed to Archbishop Laud, whom he regarded as his chief persecutor, a letter charging him with injustice. Laud handed the letter to the attorney general as material for a further prosecution.
Even in the Tower of London where he had been imprisoned Prynne contrived to write, principally attacking the prelates in general. In June, 1637, he was once more fined £5,000, and was handled with great barbarity. He was once more sent back to the Tower, deprived of the use of pens and ink, and shortly afterwards removed to Caernarvon Castle, and later to Jersey, in order to deprive him of any contact with his Puritan friends. It is unlikely during these earlier years that Prynne was acquainted with the young shipwright at Wapping, Nehemiah Bourne, but twenty-five years later they were to sit together as members of the Trinity House.
Presumably the orders already noted regarding emigration remained in force during the succeeding years and no further ones appear to have been made. It may be that single ships leaving the ports with passengers attracted little official notice; however, soon after the further persecutions, of which the above was only a more notorious incident, there was another mass migration.
In March, 1638, there were eight ships lying in the Thames ready to sail for Massachusetts, when, on the 30th of that month, by an Order of the Council, it was ordered for “reasons of State best knowne unto theire Lordshipps” that the Lord Treasurer shall take speedy and effectual order for “the stay of eight shipps now in the River of Thames, prepared to goe for New England,” and likewise to give orders for the landing of all passengers and provisions therein. Two days later (1 April) a further order referred to the previous one, and stated that the Board were now informed that there were other ships ready or preparing to sail for New England, and that His Majesty now ordered the Lord Treasurer to take effectual means “for the stay of all ships discovered to be bound for New England.”
On 6 April the King in Council took into consideration the frequent resort into New England of persons ill-affected to the religion established in the Church of England, but on the petition of the merchants and owners of the ships, and the reasons represented by them, the ships lately restrained were released and to be at liberty to proceed on their voyage. However, on account of the religious disorders caused by “unruly and factious parties” in New England the attorney general was ordered to draw up a proclamation prohibiting all merchants, masters and owners of ships from accepting passengers for New England until they (the passengers) had first obtained a special license to leave.
Despite these orders many got away unnoticed. Winthrop, writing in this year, observes: “Many ships arrived this year, with people of good estate, notwithstanding the Council’s order that none should come without the King’s licence, but some obtained a licence and others came away without. The troubles which arose in Scotland over the book of Common Prayer, which the King would have forced on the Scotch Churches, so occupied the King and Council that they had neither heart nor leisure to look after the affairs of New England, but upon the report of many thousands, which were preparing to come away, the Archbishops were responsible for causing the ships to be stayed. But, on the petition of the Masters, and the suggestion of the great damage it would be to the country in hindering the Newfoundland trade, which brought in much money, they were released.”
Having described at length some of the causes of the large migrations at this time, and some of the events of the preceding years, particularly those likely to influence men of Bourne’s beliefs, we can now return to the young master shipwright, now in his twenty-seventh year, and resolved to join his friends in New England. He had, no doubt, disposed of all his inherited property as well as an established business as a shipbuilder, and had little thought of returning to his native country. He was amongst those now about to sail in one or other of the fleet referred to, or in one of the other ships “ready or preparing to sail for New England,” and was one of the first to apply for a license under the new regulation. The State Papers record on 10 April 1638 (with a note that it was ordered on the 6th, the date of the regulation) that there was issued an order for “A Passe for Nehemiah Bourne of the parish of White Chappell, White Baker, to travyle into the parts of America,” with a clause touching prohibited goods. On the same day, on the petition of the merchants, owners and masters of the ships, as well as of the passengers, the restraint was lifted “for this one voyage” and they were allowed to depart.
It may appear odd that Bourne should be described as a white baker instead of as a shipwright, and at least one writer has considered it to have been an error in the original record, but it is more probable that it was correct, and that he was a freeman of the Company of White Bakers, no doubt by the patrimony of his forebears (his grandfather was a freeman of the company), the freedom of a company being invariably granted to the eldest sons in succession without fee, even though they did not follow the trade. A similar instance, and in the same family, appears in the records of 1620 when William Bonde, of Wapping, mariner (a brother-in-law of the before-mentioned Robert Bourne) “bound forth on a voyage to the East Indies,” is also described as “citizen and White Baker of London.”
In London the bakers formed a brotherhood as early as the year 1155, and were incorporated in 1307. In 1450, according to The English Gilds, “no baker that bakes white bread shall bake brown bread, nor he that bakes brown shall bake white bread.” There were two distinct corporate bodies, the Company of White Bakers, and the Company of Brown Bakers; although nominally united in 1509, the union did not become complete until the middle of the seventeenth century.
Regarding the question of prohibited goods referred to on the passes granted to those leaving the country, there was considerable agitation, particularly in the southern counties, over the continued export of certain commodities, and on 15 April the Council directed the attention of the sheriffs and justices of Hampshire and Dorset to the “Secret abuses committed in their counties” by the export of prohibited goods, and defining the same, which had caused a rise in the price of those goods, to the prejudice of the poor people. On the other hand, the prohibition on the export of the particular goods seems to have been detrimental to the growing trade with the new colony and caused an equal degree of discontent amongst the merchants. In March, 1641, the merchants of Bristol, who had a considerable trade there, petitioned for a free trade to New England and that all restraint on the export of commodities should be removed, but by that year the country was on the verge of the Civil War, and there were more pressing matters for the Council of State. However, there was always much sympathy for the colonists and many were ready at all times to assist those leaving the country; Winthrop says that “the Customs officials were favourable to the colonists and never made search of their goods, but let them bring what they would without question or control.”
Bourne sailed for Massachusetts in the ship Confidence, probably the ship of that name, of 200 tons, owned by Captain William Rainsborough and others (possibly including Bourne himself) who were allowed, on 19 February 1638, by the Lords of the Admiralty to arm her with twenty pieces of cast-iron ordnance. The date of his departure in the Confidence is not recorded. Although his pass to leave the country was dated in April, his second son, Nehemiah, about a year old at that time, died in the following September and was buried at Wapping, but whether the child had been left in England as being too young to survive the hardships of an Atlantic voyage in those days, or that the departure of the ship was delayed, is not known.
About a month after that of Bourne’s, a pass was issued to Thomas Hawkins, “of White Chapel, Shipwright to go into the part of America called New England and to take with him his trunk of apparel and other necessaries.” He was a fellow shipbuilder of Bourne’s in Wapping where, in the Parish Register the baptism of several of his children are recorded, but had already been out to Massachusetts, as the records there show that he had obtained a grant of land at Charlestown in 1636. It is not improbable that he had influenced Bourne to join him there, as they at once became associated in business in the new colony.
Thomas Hawkins probably belonged to the Devonshire family of that name and descended from William, elder brother of the more famous Sir John Hawkins. William Hawkins, a mariner and merchant, was three times Mayor of Plymouth but subsequently settled on the Thamesside and was buried at Deptford on 9 October 1589.29 His eldest son, William, also a mariner, was in the service of the East India Company, and is particularly mentioned in connection with the fleet under William Keeling, in 1607. He died at sea in 1614. Other members of the family are mentioned from time to time in the Stepney, Whitechapel and Wapping parish registers, all as merchants, mariners, or shipwrights.
About the time that Bourne and Hawkins sailed, there were many petitions from masters of ships for permits to proceed to New England, which suggests that there was a considerable migration in progress at this time. Having reached Massachusetts, Bourne became located as a merchant and shipowner, first at Charlestown and later at Dorchester and Boston, and entered into some form of partnership with Thomas Hawkins. In May, 1639, they jointly sued one Nicholas Hewett, shipwright, for a debt of £10. They were soon trading across the Atlantic, as in January, 1640, the Sparrow, of New England, a description which may imply that she was built there, was in the Thames and application being made to the Council for a license to sail for New England with fifty passengers. The ship is described as of fifty tons burden and owned by Thomas Hawkins and Nehemiah Bourne, merchants.
Bourne’s third son, and eldest to survive—also named Nehemiah, was born at Charlestown on 10 April 1640, and, according to the New England records, was baptized four days later. Other relatives seem to have joined him in New England and in September, 1639, a John Bourne was bound to Mr. Nehemiah Bourne for six years if he would undertake at his coming from England to instruct him in the trade of a shipwright if not, for four years.
Bourne and Hawkins afterwards removed to Boston, where Bourne and his wife Hannah were duly admitted to the church, and here their daughter, Hannah, was born 10 September 1641. The New England records contain long lists of those admitted to the church; religion had been the motive of the foundation of the colony, and it was practically ruled by its democratic church. Politics and religion were inextricably mixed in the public life there. Full political rights were confined to church members, who composed a considerable proportion of the whole population. Bourne was made a freeman of Boston on 2 June 1641; Thomas Hawkins, Thomas Coytmore and Thomas Graves, the latter now settled in Boston, were already freemen of the town. They were all soon taking an active part in the public life of the town, and on 7 October 1641 Bourne, Hawkins and Coytmore were appointed as a committee to settle the rates of wharfage and porterage.
In 1641, the year in which Bourne had removed to Boston, the colonists turned their attention more earnestly to shipbuilding. Governor John Winthrop writes: “The general fear of want of foreign commodities . . . set us on to provide shipping of our own.” On 25 January 1641, according to the town records, “Mr. Bourne desired a place adjoining his house for building a ship.” This was the first vessel, at least of any size, to be built at Boston; the exact location of where she was built is not known, but from old maps and deeds of conveyance the position appears to correspond with the site of the present Union Wharf. Bourne, however, could have little realized when he laid his first keel there, the first of a long line of famous ships, that it was the foundation of a great industry which was to make Boston celebrated for all time.
The vessel was built for Governor Winthrop in partnership with some merchants, which no doubt included Bourne himself, and named the Trial. She was between 160 and 200 tons. According to Winthrop’s journal, she was finished by June of 1641, but had to wait until July of the next year for the rigging for her, and other vessels building, to arrive from England. Thomas Coytmore, possibly a part owner, was appointed master of the Trial, and on 24 August 1642 when ready to sail, a service was held to mark the occasion of her first voyage, at which “Thomas Coytmore, Master, and divers godly seamen attended,” but as the audience was expected to be too large for the ship it was held at their meeting house.
She sailed in August for the Azores, where they had a good market for their cargo of pipe staves and fish, and then carried wine to St. Christopher, in the West Indies. This they exchanged for cotton and tobacco, as well as some iron from wrecked ships. The governor of the island offered Coytmore half of such ordnance, anchors, etc., as he could salve from the wrecks. He recovered some fifty guns, some anchors, as well as a quantity of gold and silver, which were brought home, and so “through the Lord’s blessing they made a good voyage, which did much encourage the merchants, and made wine, cotton and sugar very plentiful and cheap, in the country.” They arrived home in March, 1643.
On the next voyage of the Trial she was commanded by Thomas Graves, “an able and Godly man,” says Winthrop, who, as we have already noted, had some connection with Thomas Coytmore, having married Katherine Coytmore’s daughter, Katherine, by her first marriage to Thomas Gray, of Harwich. They sailed in June of that year on a more extended voyage, first to Bilboa with dried fish, and thence to Malaga where they loaded wine, fruit, oil, iron and wool, and returned to Boston in March, 1644, where, after refitting, they sailed in May to trade along the coast towards Canada.
In the meantime, Thomas Coytmore had sailed in command of another ship owned, or partly owned with the other merchants, by Thomas Hawkins. Hawkins had continued in commerce and shipbuilding, and in 1644 built the ship Seafort, of 400 tons, which Winthrop described as being “fitted with much strength of ordnance and ornament of carving etc.” On her completion she sailed from Boston in September under the command of Hawkins himself, in company with the ship of which Thomas Coytmore was master. Unfortunately both ships were wrecked near Cadiz on 27 October 1644, and from them nineteen lives were lost, including Thomas Coytmore.
The local inhabitants pillaged the wrecks of all they could come by, but the governor of the province gave Captain Hawkins five hundred pounds for the wreck of the Seafort. By a singular coincidence Hawkins was wrecked at the same place in the following year when, in December, he was in command of one of thirteen vessels bound out of the Straits of Gibraltar. They were caught in a southerly gale and five ships, including that of Hawkins, were driven ashore as near as possible to where he had been wrecked the year before. Nothing further is heard of Hawkins until 1648, in which year he died on the return voyage of his ship from England.
Thomas Coytmore left an estate of something over twelve hundred pounds to his wife and a young son, Thomas; “a right godly man and an expert seaman,” writes Winthrop. “Dearly beloved,” wrote another, “a good scholar and one who had spent both his labour and estate in helping on in this wilderness work.” Martha, the widow of Thomas Coytmore, married in December, 1647, Governor John Winthrop, she being his fourth wife. Winthrop died in March, 1649, his widow surviving him.
We must now return to England, and the year 1640. As soon as the Long Parliament assembled, William Prynne was released from prison, his university degree and membership of Lincolns Inn were restored, and the sentence against him declared illegal. On 18 December Archbishop Laud was impeached by the House of Commons and on 1 March 1641 committed to the Tower. Prynne pursued him with great animosity, collecting evidence, hunting up witnesses and assisting in the prosecution. After Laud’s execution, on 10 January 1645, he published an account of the trial and commitment. When the Civil War broke out Prynne became one of the leaders of the Parliamentary cause.
About this time the troubles commenced between Charles I and the Parliament, and the Civil War broke out in 1642. Charles fled to the north where, and in the west country, the people were strongest for the King. The sea was held by the King’s enemies and the seaports practically made a present to Parliament of the merchant ships.
The overseas trade was carried on to increase the wealth of the rebels, while Charles had difficulty even in importing arms from abroad. Although the King’s generals had early successes, Parliament had the money, and when Cromwell went to East Anglia to raise among the yeomen and small freeholders well-mounted regiments whom he taught to combine a strict military discipline with their religious zeal—later to become known as the “Ironsides”—a force was created which, together with the political events, turned the tide in their favor.
The colonists in New England were not remote from the quarrel. Laud had contemplated an attack on the religious autonomy of New England, and although he was no longer to be feared, they knew that if Charles I’s despotism became securely established in the old country a crisis would soon have arisen out of an attempt to extend the system of arbitrary government across the Atlantic. The colonists were not slow to realize that their own security was bound up with the success of the Parliament, and there was soon a steady exodus of volunteers to fight for the cause.
On 23 December 1643 five ships sailed from Boston, one of them carrying many passengers for London, amongst whom, says Winthrop, “were men of chief rank in the country.” One of them, Captain Israel Stoughton, a mariner who had been one of the first settlers in Dorchester in 1633, was an early volunteer and again visited New England for a short period but returned “with divers others of our best men,” and entered into the Parliament’s service.
Bourne was one of those who volunteered to serve, and may have sailed in one of his own ships, but the date of his leaving is not known. On arrival in England he was at once appointed Major of the Suffolk Regiment, a part of the forces raised by Colonel Thomas Rainsborough, whom we have described at some length, for service with Cromwell’s army; Israel Stoughton being lieutenant colonel of the same regiment. It was largely officered by mariners from New England, due, no doubt, to the influence of Rainsborough, himself a seaman, and those originally from the Thames-side would be well known to him and their zeal for the cause to be relied upon.
Edward Montagu, second Earl of Manchester, was in command of the army in the eastern counties, to which Rainsborough’s forces were attached. The city of Lincoln had been retaken by the Royalists in March, but Manchester stormed it on 6 May, and thus secured the county for the Parliament, and it was there that Israel Stoughton, one of the most zealous of his officers, died. Soon after this Manchester subsided into inaction; at the second battle of Newbury, on 28 October, his lethargy became fatally conspicuous. Through delaying to attack till too late in the day the Royalist army made its escape westward.
Discord amongst his officers was growing, his army was deserting him, and soon the breach between him and Cromwell was irreparable. Cromwell laid before the House of Commons a narrative charging Manchester with neglect and incompetency. It was evident that Manchester had no heart for the war, and thought the quarrel could be settled by a compromise, but the presentation of the bill for remodeling the army turned the course of public debate from the shortcomings of individuals to more general principles, and on 2 April 1645 Manchester, with others, resigned his commission.
Bourne evidently resigned his commission at this time, but whether from disappointment with the course of events or because there was no place for him in the remodeled army, where the officers were composed more of men trained in military tactics, or whether he found land service uncongenial, cannot be known. However, it was said of Rainsborough’s mariner officers that they had rendered good service at a critical time. It is a curious fact that Bourne and many of the other mariner officers thereafter retained their military titles. Even when in command of ships in the Parliamentary navy he was referred to as Major Bourne, as also when a commissioner of the navy; it was used by the Trinity House after the Restoration, and generally for the rest of his life. Where, hereafter, he is referred to as Major Bourne, it is in quoting contemporary documents.
On leaving the army, Bourne, and most of the other New England mariners returned to Boston. It seems that Bourne went home in the Trial; she was still commanded by Thomas Graves and now trading regularly to England. The Journal of the House of Commons records a ship of that name having a permit to sail from London in 1644, and in the interval she may have made further voyages across the Atlantic.
A letter from Emanuel Downing to John Winthrop, junior, dated London, 3 March 1645, has the following: “Mr. Weld and I were agreed soe soon as Mr. Graves’ ship should be gone hence to cleare the account of Major Bourne, but I am prevented by his sudden and unexpected going away with Mr. Graves,” and goes on to express surprise at his hurried departure, as Bourne had formerly agreed to go in a ship commanded by a Captain Andrews, sailing at a later date. According to a letter from Rev. Roger Williams, at Narragansett, dated 22 June 1645, to John Winthrop, Jr., it is therein stated that “Major Bourne is come in,” the Trial having arrived about this time with a cargo of various goods from London and Holland, after, it was said, “a dangerous voyage,” the ship having been “preserved from desperate dangers, after grounding on the sands by Flushing, and again on the Goodwin Sands, and in great tempests,” as Governor Winthrop noted in his Journal.
Nothing is known of Bourne during the year and a half that he was again in New England. He probably resumed his former pursuits of shipbuilding and trading, but when he once more returned to England it would seem that he had so disposed of his interests there as to enable him to leave the colony for good, as he now brought his wife and family to England. Since he had resigned his commission in England, Cromwell, who had been largely responsible for remodeling the army, had fought with some success in Oxfordshire and at Naseby, relieved Taunton, taken part in the siege of Bridgwater and Bristol and captured Devises and Winchester during 1645, and negotiated the surrender of Oxford in the following year; the fortune of the Parliamentary cause was clearly in the ascendancy when Bourne once more set out to join in the conflict.
According to one of the Winthrop letters it was reported that Major Bourne’s ship would be ready by the end of November, which suggests that he may have been sailing in command of one of his own vessels, and Winthrop’s Journal records that he sailed for England with his wife, Hannah, on 19 December 1646. All trace of his career in England is then lost for some three years; there is no evidence that he again served in the army, and it is extremely unlikely, but whether he was employed in fitting out ships for the Parliamentary service or served at sea, can only be a matter of conjecture; from his subsequent appointments it seems more probable that he was serving at sea in some employment which found no place in contemporary records.
In a list of five captains recommended to the House of Commons in a report dated 2 March 1650 by the Commissioners of the Navy to command the Parliament’s ships “for the next summer service” under Blake, are “Major Bourne, of the Great Frigate at Woolwich, and Captain William Penn of the Great Frigate at Deptford.” These were the Speaker and Fairfax,30 two new ships of nearly the same dimensions just completing at the dockyards as above. The appointment to a new and important command supports the probability that Bourne had for some time been employed at sea and suggests that he had already given some outstanding service. The appointment of Penn, who had been trained to the sea earlier in life is more understandable. Amongst the merchant ships employed as a part of this fleet were the Hercules, Captain Zachery Browne, both ship and commander have been met with earlier; the America, Captain William Haddock, another familiar name, and one who will be heard of again; and the Merchant, Captain John Bourne, the brother of Nehemiah Bourne, whose earlier career is more obscure, and who now, for the first time, comes into prominence.
On 26 September of the same year the five ships nominated for the Downs and East Coast Squadron for the ensuing winter included the Speaker, 52 guns, and then manned by a crew of two hundred and seventy, and the Assistance31 36 guns, another new ship just completed at Deptford, to which John Bourne was now appointed to command. The Speaker was the largest ship in the squadron and Nehemiah Bourne appointed “Commander-in-Chief on the Coast of Scotland,” although nominally the Downs and East Coast guard for the winter.
Bourne’s fleet was soon busily employed in preventing supplies from reaching the Royalists in Scotland, and a number of prizes were brought into the northeast coast ports. Charles II had landed in Scotland in June, 1650, where his supporters had raised the Royal Standard, and with whose aid he hoped to raise an army sufficiently strong to march south and regain the north of England. Cromwell invaded Scotland in the following month taking with him General George Monck, for whom he formed a new regiment by taking five companies each from two other regiments. This regiment was subsequently placed on the establishment, and after the Restoration it became the Coldstream Guards, under which name it still continues. When Cromwell returned to England he left Monck in command in Scotland.
In April, 1651, Charles moved his court to Stirling, and preparations were then made by the Parliamentary army to march on the city. On 26 June the Admiralty Committee wrote to Bourne, still in command of the Speaker, to proceed to Hull to take on board ammunition and transport it to Leith for the use of the army. Thus equipped, General Monck invested Stirling on 6 August, and a week later the governor of the castle surrendered, the garrison being allowed to march out. The spoils of Stirling Castle included the Scottish records, regalia and insignia, which were conveyed to London.
On 2 September the Council of State wrote to General Monck, “. . . We have given order to Major Bourne, Commander-in-Chief on the coast of Scotland to receive on board the Speaker, frigate, under his command all the records, together with the regalia and insignia32 taken from Stirling Castle on its surrender; cause the same to be delivered accordingly, with a note of such things as you shall deliver, which are to be brought to London to be disposed of as Parliament shall order. Deliver to the said Commander all the brass guns in Stirling Castle, if you can spare them.”
On the same day they wrote to Bourne informing him of the above order and instructing him to receive the spoil on board his ship, or such other ship as he shall appoint, and sail at once for the Thames, giving them notice of his arrival. Rough weather was encountered on the voyage south and they were obliged to obtain victuals at Yarmouth, during which a boat and its crew were lost, but the only notice of it is an order from the Admiralty Committee to the Navy Commissioners on 19 November to examine the circumstances of the information laid by Nehemiah Bourne, that in sending £100 in his boat to the shore at Yarmouth, to pay for some victuals, the boat with the crew and money was cast away.
At the same time the Council of State was considering Bourne’s service, and on 21 November they revoked an order made the previous day, on the recommendation of the Admiralty Committee, to give “£50 to Major Bourne,” and instead thereof a medal of the value of £60 was to be bestowed on him, and the Admiralty Committee was to carry this into effect. Bourne’s reputation was now established, both as a capable seaman and an outstanding commander, and in the near future he was to become an equally efficient administrator. For the next few years the State Papers abound with references to him and his activities, and contain many of his reports to the Admiralty Commissioners, the Navy Commissioners, and sometimes direct to the Council of State, and it is possible during this period to follow his career with more exactitude than at any other time. On 28 November (1651) Admiral, or as he was more generally known, General Blake, reported to the Council of State a list of ships ready, or nearly ready for service during the next summer, which included the Speaker and the Assistance, still commanded by Nehemiah and John Bourne, respectively.
In the early part of 1652 war became imminent with Holland. The cause of the First Dutch War, if not a direct result of the Navigation Act, was at least a predisposing cause of it, by reason of the irritation caused amongst Dutch merchants and seamen by the interruption of trade resulting from the Act, which forbade the importation into England, her colonies and dependencies, of goods not the produce of the country to which the importing ship belonged, and of all trade with certain colonies (in the West Indies and Virginia) upholding the cause of Charles II against the Parliament.
Blake was appointed to the command of the fleet on 4 March, and a week later the Council of State directed the Trinity House to forward a list of merchant ships lying in the Thames which were fit for the States Service and instruct those lying in the river already taken into service and ready for sea to proceed forthwith to the Downs.
The Dutch admiral, Marten Tromp, was ready to sail with instructions to protect Dutch vessels from being searched for contraband, and to engage and, if possible, capture all foreign ships attempting to visit or search Dutch ships, and, therefore, the outbreak of war was only a matter of time. Although the war broke out on another question altogether, it was evident that the Dutch challenge of the right of search would inevitably have brought on hostilities without much delay; however, it was hastened by the action of an English squadron cruising in the Channel. On 12 May Captain Anthony Young, in the President, 36 guns, accompanied by two other frigates, fell in off Start Point with a small squadron of homeward bound Dutch vessels escorted by three men-of-war. On being summoned, the vice-admiral refused to strike his flag as an acknowledgment of the sovereignty of the narrow seas which the Kings of England had arrogated to themselves, and held on his course, whereupon Captain Young gave him a broadside, which was promptly returned. This action, unimportant in itself, soon had an important result.
A few remarks may here be made of Captain Anthony Young, as no more than a passing reference will be made to him hereafter. A bold and resolute seaman, he had distinguished service under the Commonwealth both before and during the Dutch War. In November, 1651, the Council of State had ordered the Admiralty Committee to provide a “Chain and Medal for Captain Young, not exceeding £50 value, to be given him in token of the Council’s acceptance of his good service.” This award was for his service against the Spanish in the West Indies, when he captured the Governor of Havana, and a rich prize.
His action off Start Point, highly provocative though it appears to have been, was subsequently approved of, as on receipt of his report the Council of State made an order on 17 May “To write to Captain Young that Council are well satisfied with what he has done in making the Dutchmen strike.” Shortly after this action he was removed into the Worcester, “Captain Thomas Graves to command the President which Captain Young commanded before” (Council of State, 30 May 1652). Although Young was charged with neglect of duty in the action against the Dutch in November, 1652, nothing appears to have come of it and he was soon afterwards again in command of a ship. Thereafter he served throughout the war, and in the years succeeding it, principally in the English Channel. In 1659 he was still at sea and in command of the Rainbow, and as late as February, 1660, General Monck wrote to the Admiralty Commissioners recommending him for a command equivalent to his former ones. After the Restoration he does not appear to have had any service at sea, and on account of his age it is very improbable that he had, and the Captain Anthony Young who was second captain of the Royal Charles in 1673, and afterwards of the Sovereign, Prince Rupert’s flagship, and later, commander of the Plymouth and of the Unicorn, is almost certain to be his eldest son, of the same name. Captain Young, senior, was elected an Elder Brother of Trinity House on 29 August 1676 when about sixty years of age, the year in which Pepys was Master of the Corporation, for the first time. He died on 12 November 1693, aged seventy-seven, and was buried at St. Nicholas Church, Deptford. Evelyn (Diary) records his funeral on the 17th of that month: “(today) was the funeral of Captain Young, who died of the stone and great age. I think he was the first who in the first war with Cromwell against Spain, took the Governor of Havannah, and another rich prize, and struck the first stroke against the Dutch fleet in the first war with Holland in the time of the Rebellion; a sober man and an excellent seaman.”
On 12 May when Captain Young engaged the Dutch off Start Point, Bourne was lying in the Downs, in the Andrew, a second rate of 42 guns, with eight other ships, including two more second rates, the Triumph and the Fairfax, the latter commanded by Captain John Lawson, four lower rates, and two hired merchant ships. Bourne, by special permission from Blake, was wearing a flag at the main, as commander of the squadron. On 14 May, Marten Tromp, in command of a Dutch fleet of forty-two ships, was lying off the Flemish coast between Nieuport and Dunkirk. A strong northeast wind sprang up, and, anxious for the safety of his ships, he resolved to seek the shelter of the Kentish cliffs. On the 18th he rounded the southern end of the Goodwin Sands, and on sighting Bourne’s squadron sent two vessels into the roadstead to explain his presence in English waters.
These two vessels came into the Downs and saluted the flag, their captains went on board the flagship and explained to Bourne that Tromp’s presence was involuntary; that it was due to foul weather which made it impossible for him to lie longer off Dunkirk, where he had lost many anchors and cables, and that all he desired was shelter. Bourne answered that Tromp would show his sincerity by getting away from the coast as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, Tromp had continued his course, and thus avoided all question of the flag so far as the English fleet was concerned and came to anchor in Dover roadstead. Failing to strike his flag, the Castle fired a shot to call his attention to the fact, but all the notice he took was to exercise his men at small arms, firing volleys continually throughout the day.
Blake was then lying in Rye Bay with the main part of the fleet. At the first sight of Tromp, Bourne had made up his mind that there was danger of attack, and besides clearing his ships for action, had sent a despatch vessel to Blake to come to his support. Blake weighed anchor at once and returned a message to Bourne to join him. This message reached Bourne on the evening of the 19th, by which time the Dutch, on sighting Blake beating up towards them, weighed and stood close-hauled towards Calais. Bourne, who had been lying all night with two frigates stationed between him and Tromp, weighed about midday when the tide served. When he was off the South Foreland, the Dutch suddenly went about and bore down on Blake, who was then off Folkestone, a Dutch despatch vessel, it is said, having brought word to Tromp of Captain Young’s engagement off Start Point.
As Tromp drew near, Blake, already cleared for action, fired a gun for him to strike his flag. As this had no effect, it was followed by a second and third, to which Tromp answered with a broadside. This was at once returned, and the other ships were soon engaged. The fight grew hot, and although Blake was supported by several of his heaviest ships, a few were so far to leeward that some time passed before they could come up. The Dutch, being greatly superior in numbers, would have surrounded the English van had not Bourne come up almost simultaneously with his nine ships and fallen impetuously on the enemy’s rear.
The battle raged till dark. For a time it was not seen who had the advantage, but in the morning it was found that Bourne had taken two ships, one of which was afterwards abandoned in a sinking condition. The English had lost no ship, but Blake’s flagship, the James, was badly damaged, being the first into action and the chief object of the Dutch attack; Bourne’s ship, the Andrew, was also badly maimed. On the 20th the enemy stood over towards the French coast, and Blake with his fleet went into the Downs.
Bourne wrote to a friend in London a long discursive letter giving an account of the circumstances leading up to the outbreak of hostilities and a full description of the battle as seen from his ship. The latter had it printed and published under the title The Copy of a Letter from the Rear-Admiral of the English Fleet for the Commonwealth of England to an Eminent Merchant in London. Being a true and plaine Narration of the whole Proceedings and Fight betwixt them and the Dutch Fleet near the Downs, upon the 19th day of May, 1652.
It was “Printed for William Hope, and to be sold at his shop at the North door of the Old Exchange, 1652.” In the absence of newspapers, printed pamphlets were often the only way in which the reading public were able to obtain first-hand accounts of important events. A copy of Bourne’s letter is in the Library of the British Museum, bound with other contemporary pamphlets into one volume. Despite its dull and heavy style it is probably the most complete eyewitness account and has been used by historians when writing accounts of the First Dutch War.
The nomination of vice and rear admirals for the summer service had been under consideration for some two months, and two blank commissions had been drawn up for three positions, to be filled in after consultation on the subject with the Lord General Cromwell and Mr. Dennis Bond (President of the Council). Without knowledge of Bourne’s part in the battle on the 19th, the Council of State on that same day appointed Captain William Penn33 to be vice-admiral and Major Nehemiah Bourne to be rear admiral, and ordered warrants to be issued to them as such. However, it may be noted that Penn had been in the Assurance as rear admiral of the fleet guarding the western approaches in 1648, and in the Lion as vice-admiral in 1649, in the same service; and Bourne had been commander-in-chief on the coast of Scotland about the same time. As yet, the appointments of flag officers did not carry permanent rank and they ceased to hold it as soon as a fleet was broken up or they were superseded, but several of those appointed during the war rose to permanent rank and had distinguished careers during the Commonwealth and after the Restoration including Captain John Lawson, who commanded the Fairfax in Bourne’s squadron.
Amongst the commanders of the ships Bourne had relatives as well as many old friends and associates. As already noted, his brother, John Bourne, was captain of the Assistance; and in the same ship, as lieutenant, there was a Bartholomew Bourne, probably a cousin or nephew. His brother-in-law, Captain Anthony Earning, commanded the Reformation throughout the war, and Bourne subsequently made recommendations of two younger officers of the name of Bourne, who evidently were nephews. Thomas Graves, his old New England associate, had just taken over from Captain Anthony Young the command of the President, 42 guns, another Deptford-built ship of 1650, and was later attached to Bourne’s squadron.
He was frequently in company with Captain William Haddock, whose ship he had repaired at Wapping some fifteen years before. Now in command of the Hannibal, Haddock had distinguished service during the war, and both he and Thomas Graves were to serve as rear admirals. William Haddock had been an Elder Brother of the Trinity House for some years before the Commonwealth and was re-elected there after the Restoration. Admiral Penn refers to him as “Old Captain Haddock,” evidently to distinguish him from some other member of the family serving at sea, possibly from his son, Richard, who seems to have had some minor command in the service at this time and who subsequently became Admiral Sir Richard Haddock, in the reign of Charles II; who followed his father at the Trinity House and was Master thereof in 1687. There were others from the Thames-side parishes Bourne would be well acquainted with, and with whom he was later to serve at the Trinity House.
Trained in warfare, with sometimes long service in privateers, and commanded by self-reliant and capable men, the navy of the early years of the Commonwealth was the finest both in its civil and combatant branches that had yet existed in the history of the world. Never before nor for long after were the combatant branches of the navy so well supported. Our seamen have often had to defeat the enemy at sea in spite of the Admiralty ashore, but here they had every assistance that foresight and earnestness could give.
When the Dutch War broke out the want of men was greater than the want of ships, and the fleets were manned by the age-old method of the press-gang, all seamen between fifteen and fifty years of age being liable for service; nevertheless they fought with resolution and courage, and the mutinies appear to have been of a trivial nature. Bourne complains from time to time of his trials and tribulations over the seamen, but the troubles were mostly attributable to drunkenness or to wages and prize money remaining unpaid, the Parliament being invariably without funds; of disaffection in the sense of a leaning towards the Stuart cause there was not a trace among the men.
Blake was in command at sea during the summer of 1652, but on 26 November the three generals, Blake, Deane and Monck, were appointed jointly as admirals and generals in the command of the fleet. Richard Deane was killed in the Battle of the Gabbard in June, 1653, his place not being filled; and although Robert Blake was the greater seaman, Monck’s services were considerable, and he alone survived the wars of the Commonwealth and was to have a more distinguished part in the national life during the succeeding years, both before and after the Restoration.
Apart from the battle off Dover, and a less fortunate engagement off Dungeness, during the early part of the war the fighting was confined to skirmishes, principally in protection of merchant convoys, and it was not until September (1652) that the opposing fleets met in the Narrow Seas, and a battle ensued on the 28th near the Kentish Knock, from which the engagement took its name.
Until this time Blake’s more distinguished service had been on land, and his report to the Council of State describing the battle, dated 3 October 1652 from on board the flagship, then lying in the Downs, is essentially a soldier’s narrative. In it he says: “First Major Bourne with the Andrew led on, and charged the enemy stoutly, and got off again without much harm. Captain Badiley with his ship also (for we have one of the Badileys,34 a captain with us, besides Captain Badiley in the Straits), he charged exceeding gallantly; but was in very great danger to have lost his ship, for the Hollanders were so close on both sides of him, charging against him, that one might have flung biscuits out of his frigate into the Dutch ships. . . .” This was Bourne’s last major engagement at sea, but he was to be as actively employed in another sphere, not only during the war with Holland, but for several years after.
Since February, 1649, when the monarchy ceased, the supreme control of the navy had been vested in the Council of State, appointed by and acting under Parliament. The ordinary direction of naval affairs was, however, placed in the hands of the Commissioners of the Admiralty, who directed all questions of policy and finance, and the Commissioners of the Navy, more frequently known as the Navy Committee, who were responsible for the maintenance of the ships, repairs, stores, and the manning of the fleets. The latter committee at first consisted of Captain John Holland, with the duties of Surveyor of the Navy, Thomas Smith (one of the Trinity House Commissioners), Peter Pett, of the family of famous shipbuilders, and Colonel William Willoughby.
Writing of the period of the Commonwealth, M. Oppenheim (Administration of the Navy) says that never had England, so far as administration was concerned, been better prepared for war. Instead of officials who, in the preceding half century, owed their posts to court influence, or to seniority, the work was in the hands of men chosen for business aptitude and who, in most instances, had given proof of higher qualifications on the field of battle or in Parliamentary Committee.
Of the latter class were the Admiralty Commissioners; but the Navy Commissioners, and especially those in charge of the dockyards, on whom fell most of the duty or organization, were officers who had been taught by actual warfare. Prompt, capable, honest, and energetic, sparing themselves neither in purse nor in person, and frequently bringing religious fervor as a spur to their daily service, they conveyed to war on another element, although one with which they were more familiar by early training, the same thoroughness and zeal which had made them victorious on land.
In 1652 the Commissioners of the Navy requested that their number might be increased, as half their committee were constantly away in charge of the dockyards. Colonel William Willoughby, a former merchant and shipbuilder of Wapping who had gained his military title during the Civil War, had been appointed Master Attendant at Portsmouth in 1649, and at the same time had been made a Commissioner of the Navy. In 1636 he was alluded to as one of the chief shipwrights of London, and with John Taylor, a shipwright of the same parish, was engaged in raising the Ann Royal, sunk with all her guns on board off the mouth of the Thames. He died in 1651 and was succeeded by Captain Robert Moulton.
Robert Moulton was another mariner shipwright who had formerly settled in New England. In 1629 the Massachusetts Company sent out six shipwrights with Robert Moulton at their head, but during the next ten years they built only small sloops and shallops of under twenty tons; however, it is probable that much of their work was in repairing stormdamaged ships which had crossed the Atlantic. How long he remained as chief shipwright is uncertain, but was back in England with the rest of the leading mariners and merchants at the time of the Civil War and in April, 1643, was captain of the Swiftsure under Admiral the Earl of Warwick; thereafter he is not heard of until he succeeded Colonel Willoughby at Portsmouth.
Robert Moulton died in 1652, a year after taking office there, and almost at the same time Captain John Holland, the senior member of the Committee, resigned. The remaining Commissioners at once petitioned the Admiralty Commissioners calling attention to the deficiency and “desire timely remedy or dismissal from our employment.” The Admiralty approved—or accepted their ultimatum—and recommended Captain Francis Willoughby, Major Nehemiah Bourne, and Captain Edward Hopkins to be additional Commissioners of the Navy. On 20 December 1652 the Council of State approved the recommendation and ordered warrants to be issued to them as such.35
It appears to be more than a coincidence that all three were New England colonists who had gone out to Massachusetts at about the same time (1637–1638). Sir Henry Vane, the younger, a former Governor of Massachusetts (1636–1637), was now a member of the Council of State as well as one of the Admiralty Commissioners. Whether he particularly influenced the appoinments in favor of New Englanders cannot be asserted, but the number of colonists who obtained appointments in the navy is very noticeable; however, they were always men of outstanding merit and ability.
Francis Willoughby was the son of Colonel William Willoughby, and on his appointment was sent to Portsmouth as resident commissioner, the office recently held by his father. Early in life he had been in command of a vessel, probably trading across the Atlantic, and in 1638 went to Massachusetts and settled at Charlestown where he became a prominent merchant, investing much money in building warehouses; he built the first wharf there, and in 1641 owned a shipyard as well. In May, 1650, he was appointed to a committee to draw up a code of maritime laws for the colony. He was also the town magistrate.
Willoughby had relatives in America, possibly a brother, as according to the New England records Nehemiah Bourne made a letter of attorney to a Thomas Willoughby, in Virginia. There was a close association between Bourne and Willoughby at Charlestown, and it may be noted that Francis Willoughby’s two elder children, born in Charlestown, bore the names of Bourne and his wife: Hannah, born in 1643, and Nehemiah in 1644. In his official correspondence with Bourne during the Dutch War, Willoughby usually subscribed himself “Your loving friend.” He was also an intimate friend of Maurice and Robert Thomson, merchants trading to America, who were prominent figures and fellow commissioners during the Commonwealth.
Willoughby returned to England in May, 1651, possibly to settle his father’s estate; no doubt the outbreak of the Dutch War soon involved him in national affairs, and eventually led to his appointment to the office so lately held by his father; however, in his sphere he was one of the most outstanding and capable administrators of his time. His many letters to the Admiralty during the war, and after, bear testimony to his zeal and energy.
Edward Hopkins was born at Shrewsbury, England, in 1600 and early in life was a prominent Turkey merchant in London. He went to Boston in 1637, with the big migration, and later settled at New Haven, where he soon became one of the leaders of the Connecticut colony and was elected governor in 1640, and thereafter in alternate years until he returned to England. Winthrop speaks of him as a merchant “of fair estate and of great esteem for religion and wisdom in outward affairs.” He returned to England in 1653, where the first mention of him was in June of that year, in a petition by Francis Willoughby and Edward Hopkins that they might be permitted to send a ship, laden with powder and shot, to New England, and to give notice to the colonies of the war between the Commonwealth and the United Provinces.
The Committee for Foreign Affairs, in recommending that liberty be granted for the same, further suggested “that it be declared by the Council of State that, as the Colonies may expect all fitting encouragement and assistance from hence, so they should demean themselves against the Dutch, as declared enemies to the Commonwealth.” Later in the year he was appointed a Commissioner of the Navy, and in 1655 a Commissioner of the Admiralty, and continued there until his death in March 1657. He in the parish of St. Olave’s, Hart Street, London, and left legacies to Major Robert Thomson and Francis Willoughby, both Commissioners of the Navy, who were the executors of his will. After his wife’s death £500 was to be made over to “his loving friends Robert Thomson and Francis Willoughby” for public ends in New England. This legacy was paid over to Harvard University.
When Bourne relinquished command of the Andrew he was relieved by his old friend Thomas Graves, but the latter appears to have soon afterwards returned to the President. Within a few weeks Captain John Lawson, one of the best seamen of his day, was made rear admiral in the place of Bourne, and thereafter had a distinguished career. The last note of Bourne’s flag rank was in February, 1653, when the Council of State issued an order to the Treasurer of the Navy for the payment to General Blake, three pounds a day, to Vice-Admiral Penn, two pounds a day, and Major Bourne, then rear admiral, one pound a day “for their entertainment [employment] for the last year’s service.” However, like the pay of the seamen, that of the officers was always in arrears, and in a later reference it will be seen that the payment approved by the Council was long deferred.
The duties of the Commissioners of the Navy, or as they were more frequently referred to, the Navy Committee, have already been noted. Oppenheim, in the work already mentioned, states in an oft-quoted passage that “the brunt of administration work and responsibility fell on the Navy Committee, who, so far as may be judged from the letters relating to them and their work, laboured with an attention to the minutest details of their daily duties, a personal eagerness to ensure perfection, and a broad sense of their ethical relations towards the seamen and workmen, of whom they were at once the employers and protectors, with a success the Admiralty never attained before, and has since equalled”; and adds that from the first they adopted a tone towards the Admiralty Committee that would hardly have been endurable but that it was excused by an obvious honesty, and justified by superior knowledge.
Bourne was no exception; many of his letters to the higher Committee almost amount to a censure on them for their failure to reply to his requests; on the other hand, he often appealed to them in a more personal way when his own interests were concerned. In his many letters and voluminous reports there is ample evidence of his personal attention to the smallest details of his multifarious duties, many of which normally would be left to junior staff, of long hours of duty, and always a sense of overanxiety, not to please the Admiralty Committee but to do what was right in the circumstances, keep down expenditure, and to stamp out waste, corruption, and abuses, and generally to serve the state to the best of his ability. Nevertheless, he was not indifferent to personal praise and reward, and, like most of his Quaker brethren, was a hard-headed businessman, ever ready to adventure to sea, where a profit was to be made, but apparently just in all his dealings.
The qualifications of the Commissioners of the Navy at this time, and particularly those in charge of the dockyards, were essentially those of a shipwright, and, as already noted, several of them were shipbuilders of repute. Apart from manning and supplying stores for the ships, their duties were largely those of the supervision of the overhaul, repair, and re-rigging of ships damaged by stress of weather or in battle, and it is reasonable to suppose that Bourne owed his appointment as much to his known reputation as a master shipwright as to his distinguished sea service during the preceding two or three years.
In accordance with the custom of the age, the Navy Commissioners were able to carry on their own business as shipbuilders, side by side with their official duties, and even to undertake work for the navy which, in their official capacity, they were in a position to assign to their own yards, a fact which has seldom been noted by historians, who have not had occasion to follow closely the careers of other than the leading figures of the period. Such a system had little to recommend it, but there is nothing to suggest that during the Commonwealth they profited beyond what was the custom of the age, or that they subscribed to the abuses in the dockyards which were so roundly condemned by Samuel Pepys some twenty or thirty years later.
Such a one was Thomas Scott, sometime a Commissioner of the Navy at Deptford, and one of the most energetic members of that Committee, often associated with Bourne during the Dutch War and afterwards at the Trinity House, who owned a shipyard there, and had his own ships hired out in the state’s service, apparently as victualers for the fleet. He also owned a brewhouse nearby, and as beer was then an important item of naval victuals, he was able, no doubt, to contract both for supply and delivery to the fleets. Nevertheless, the State Papers contain ample evidence that the Commissioners of the Navy, under the Commonwealth, carried out their official duties with zeal and diligence, and support the opinion recorded by Oppenheimer in his account of the navy of that period.
Although Bourne did not resume shipbuilding on the Thames-side until 1655, there is occasional mention of his ships, which he had kept in the New England trade and employed in carrying such imports as were in constant need by the naval service, particularly planking and spars, of which he was at once in a position to estimate the probable future demands of the state’s shipyards. With the closing of the Baltic in 1652 the navy was threatened with a shortage of masts and tar, essential items when ships were constantly being dismasted, either in battle or by stress of weather. Overtures were received from New England, which, in anticipation of business, may have been inspired by Bourne and others in the trade there. At the end of the year the Committee for Foreign Affairs ordered that Navy Commissioners confer with such “New England men” as were available concerning the furnishing of masts from America. The order seems significant when it is remembered that the Navy Commissioners were largely composed of New Englanders and those with trade associations there, and still more so when in due course the Navy Commissioners recommended to the Council of State to purchase masts and spars in New England “upon private account” in preference to sending out the state’s ships to carry them. The Council agreed, and directed the Commissioners to send for such merchants as they thought fit and contract with them for deliveries.
Bourne was one of those who contracted to supply; we have no means of knowing how many ships he owned, or was part owner of, in the New England trade, or to what extent he contracted for masts and spars, but we have one reference to an agreement between himself and one of the other Commissioners and the State for the supply of ship stores which may have included timber and spars, in an order of the Council of State of 4 February 1653, which reads: “Letter to be sent to the Magistrates of New England to provide 10,000 barrels of tar, which the State will buy of them at a reasonable price. Ships stores to be had in New England to the value of £5,000 to be provided by Mr. Hopkins and Nehemiah Bourne, Commissioners of the Navy.” Some reference to Bourne’s losses of ships through capture by the Dutch, as well as by ordinary marine risks, will be mentioned later.
Bourne now assumed his new office and entered into its multifarious duties with the same zeal with which he had “charged the enemy” at the Battle of the Kentish Knock. Within a few days, together with the Treasurer of the Navy, he was on his way down the river in a small vessel with twenty-five thousand pounds on board to pay the fleet at Chatham, but owing to fog they were compelled to return. Two weeks later (12 January 1653) they were in the Medway, but were again hindered by fog and reported that they had put the money on board the Assistance (still commanded by his brother, John Bourne) for safety and gone to Chatham.
From this time onward, the State Papers contain, besides many references to him and his work, scores of his letters and reports—and there is evidence that not all have been preserved—from which for a considerable period it is almost possible to follow his day to day activities. The letters are too many, too long, and often too wearisome to be given in full, but quite a lot of them will be quoted, not only because they relate to his work, and to his trials and tribulations, but also on account of his quaint and curious phraseology, peculiar not only to the period, but to the Puritan mind, and of the many personal matters interspersed in his official letters. He was a prolific writer, penning sometimes two or three long reports in a day, often giving the hour as well as the date on which they were written! They are mostly directed to the Admiralty Commissioners and the Navy Commissioners in London, and sometimes to each on the same subject, also occasionally direct to the Council of State, advising them of his daily proceedings, frequently to the most tedious detail, and often airing his grievances on the laxity of others, probably well founded, in long and wordy sentences. These were sometimes written from on board the ships, probably under difficulties and discomfort—but these obstacles rarely induced brevity in his letters, and when they did, a later one apologized for it.
Bourne’s earlier duties as a Commissioner were concerned with the hire and fitting out of merchant ships as men-of-war and with the pressing of seamen. The English ships were generally well manned, but only by a vigorous use of compulsion; his letters give a good idea of the energy and resource displayed by him and his brother officials in ransacking the Thames-side and coast towns for seamen, and in holding up merchant ships in order to take the men out of them.
On 5 February, Mr. Pett and Major Bourne were directed to view (survey) the merchant ships named in two lists sent to them which had been submitted by the Trinity House, and select forty to serve as men-of-war, with twenty-six guns each, and to report their names, dates of readiness, and the terms of hire. From the names of ships selected, most of them appear to have been East India ships, as well as some formerly in the Levant and New England trades.
Later in the month Captain William Wildey was appointed to assist Bourne in fitting out the forty ships selected, in order to get them out with the fleet as soon as possible. Captain Wildey, an energetic and capable officer, who for a time held the rank of rear admiral, was an owner, or part owner of ships in the service of the East India Company, and whose son, also William Wildey, later commanded ships in that service. Wildey had earlier been connected with the Trinity House; at the Restoration he was again elected an Elder Brother, and was Master of the Corporation 1669–1670. He died in 1679 and was buried at St. Dunstan’s, Stepney, in which parish he had resided.
Peter Pett, the Navy Commissioner at Chatham, replying to his committee in London, dated at Chatham, 10 February 1653, said he had lain two nights “upon the deck of a nasty sprat-boat,” and enclosed a letter he had brought in from the generals of the fleet, who had sailed that day with “a gallant fleet of fifty ships well manned.” He hoped that Major Bourne would come down to Chatham, and commended the appointment of Captain Wildey to assist in fitting out the forty merchant ships.
Bourne went to Chatham, and there found that all was not well on board the merchant ships taken up by the State. The commanders, who were also part owners, had not been indemnified against the loss of their vessels, and the officers and seamen had had no agreement as to their pay. In Bourne, himself a merchant seaman and shipowner, they at once found a champion, and from on board the Vanguard, off Queenborough, in the Medway, he wrote on 19 January to the Admiralty Committee stating that the merchant ships engaged were “very zealous for the honour of the nation” but that the commanders were part owners and had the greater part of their estates at risk, and recommending that they be given some assurance of compensation in the event of their ships being lost in battle; and secondly, that their officers and seamen should have the same augmentation of their wages recently granted to those in the State’s ships, adding, in his quaint manner, “I am clear of any design in my particular, which gives me the greater confidence herein”; meaning, of course, that he had no financial interest in any of the ships engaged.
On his return to London he was engaged in impressing men for manning the fleet, and ransacked those Thames-side parishes which for generations were the hunting ground of the press-gang. On 15 February he made a search of Ratcliff and Wapping, and then went down the river to Gravesend. Writing to the Admiralty Committee that same night, marking his letter “10 o’clock at night,” he said, “The appearance of men at Ratcliff this day was very thin, there being not above twenty-three, all which I caused to be put on board a light horseman36 and brought down. As I passed to and fro in the streets I met with several parcels of men, who carried themselves very insolently, which I was forced to endure because I had no present means to quell them. I shall use my endeavour to inquire after them, understanding that they belong to the Centurion.”
“When I came to Gravesend I met with some more men, which I caused to be put on board the light horseman as she came by, and dispatched them down aboard the Lisbon Merchant, who is now in Tilbury Hope and is now completely manned.”
Bourne stayed at Gravesend that night; but long before daybreak of a winter’s morning he was out in continuance of his onerous task, and determined to take his victims unawares; however, his efforts are better described in his own words, in a further report to the Admiralty Commissioners which followed close on his letter of a few hours before: “The last night I gave your Honours an account of the State of your affairs here, as also of my resolution to prosecute your commands to the utmost about men, which accordingly was endeavoured, and this morning about four o’clock I called the assistance of the Constable and made a thorough search all over the town, and very early sent away about fifty men aboard the Old Warwick . . . I shall glean all men hereabouts, and the next ebbtide I propose to be on the water with two or three wherries to search all boats and barges that come down with passengers, and prevent their landing, and I question not but to make up the number above 100 aboard the Warwick, and shall then command her to the fleet . . . Nehemiah Bourne, at Gravesend 16 February 1653, 12 at noon.”
Bourne had evidently rounded up all the available seamen in Gravesend so early in the morning that they were not aware that the press-gang was abroad; the element of surprise being over he composed his report to the Admiralty Committee and then at the turn of the tide went afloat on the river to intercept the vessels coming down on the first of the ebb, and with such success that he was able to fully man the Old Warwick and order her away to sea.
On her departure he left Gravesend, and on 20 February wrote to the Admiralty Committee from Canterbury, reporting that on his way he had been to Rochester to hasten the ships away to sea, and two days later from Dover a further letter to the same Committee informing them that the fleet had sailed for the Isle of Wight, and he had sent out a frigate “to discover the motions of the Dutch fleet,” which had since returned and reported thirty-four sail riding at anchor a little eastward of Calais, and dated his letter 22 February “past nine at night.”
Bourne had had an arduous week since leaving London; it was winter time, seventeenth-century roads were bad and stage coaches primitive; it was hard traveling after, probably, a strenuous day, and he was now weary of a task which, no doubt, he found less agreeable than the equally strenuous life he had had at sea. The next day (23rd) he wrote to Robert Blackbourne, Secretary to the Navy Commissioners, and after telling him of his efforts to get intelligence of the fleet, says “I am now fit for nothing but a retiring place, and would the necessity of public affairs admit it, I would have been elsewhere . . . If I be able to do anything more at present I desire it nearer home, where I may have the advantage of some means for the repairing myself . . . Your real friend to serve you, Nehemiah Bourne. P.S. I am quite weary.”
On the same day he again wrote to the Admiralty Committee giving further news of the Dutch fleet, and says that although “very indisposed” he had taken a shallop and boarded the Fairfax in Dover Roads, and on account of her battered condition had sent her into the Downs, and ends by begging for “a little respite to recover myself in order to your further service, for I hope I may say without vanity I have endeavoured ever beyond my ability to obey your commands.”
However, by the next day he had recovered his spirits and was again full of zeal, as he wrote his Commissioners a more cheerful and optimistic letter and advised them that he had sent out some vessels to assist the prizes up the Channel. The Battle of Portland had been fought a few days before—on 18 February—and the disabled and damaged ships were arriving off Dover and leaving on his hands their maimed and wounded. The Fairfax, a 64-gun ship, commanded by one of the finest seamen of his time, Captain (afterwards Admiral) John Lawson, had a hundred killed and wounded and was in such a shattered condition that Bourne sent her at once into the Downs, and later ordered her to go round to Chatham.
At the same time a letter came from Francis Willoughby, the Navy Commissioner at Portsmouth, one suggesting a long-standing friendship, and it is curious that this one, entirely personal to Bourne, should have been preserved amongst the State Papers; it is dated at Portsmouth, 20 February 1653—
“I suppose37 you have a more full relation of our fleets engagement than I am able to give you, only you may please to take notice that the Assistance, whereof your brother is Commander, is come hither, being much torn, in which engagement Providence hath so ordered that your brother hath received some wound in his head, but I hope not mortal.
Your loving friend,
On his arrival at Dover, Bourne had received instructions to send round to the Thames such prizes as were taken from the enemy and to arrange for their convoy, and in a letter in reply he complains of the “horrible mischief caused by the embezzlement of cables, hawsers, sails and provisions stolen from the prizes,” which had been brought in there, and that he had moved the mayor of the town and the governor of Dover Castle to assist him, and had searched a number of houses and found hawsers, coils of rope and sails, which the owners admitted had come out of the prizes. He speaks of them as “sharking people,” and mentions one Dutch man-of-war which had not a hawser to warp her into the pier, all having been “embezold” in the roadstead; and further complains that the prize crews sell all the goods from between decks before they come in, and the rest in Dover, under the nose of the prize officers, and sell it for half of the value. It seems that the Downs boatmen and hovelers were living up to the reputation they had long had as wreckers.
At the same time he wrote to the President of the Council of State giving information of the movements of the fleet, and advising that he had ordered the Dutch prizes that were damaged to come into Dover, in order to arrange for their convoy round the Foreland where they were liable to be retaken by the Dutch privateers, and had sent two ships over to the French coast “to gather up the lame and laggard ships.” Of the Dutch prizes then at Dover, five of the merchant ships were vessels of some size, one of them mounting thirty-six guns, and were mostly laden with wine and brandy from the French ports.
The next two weeks were spent at Dover in getting the prizes away from the temptations of the “sharking people” and the disabled men-of-war to the dockyards, after which he returned to London, but was soon afterwards directed to proceed to Chatham to investigate into the loss of the Fairfax which had been destroyed by fire soon after her arrival there. On his way he wrote from Gravesend on 23 March to say that he had ordered Captain Lawson to attend him there, and the next day they surveyed the vessel, which was a total loss, having been completely burned to the water’s edge. It was an unfortunate loss for the navy as she was considered to be one of the best ships in the service, and had only been completed four years before, in 1649.
Pett thought that her loss was due to treachery, but Bourne and Lawson, who made a very careful enquiry, sent a joint report to the Navy Commissioners in which they said they were satisfied that it was due to the careless setting on fire of loose powder; and to the Admiralty, Bourne wrote that they had found no evidence of any design to destroy the ship, “only a thievish contrivement, which occasioned the firing of some loose powder in the powder room, by the fall of a candle,” apparently by some men who had been attempting to steal rope. Although they considered her to be a total loss, it was ordered as early as 29 March “that the Fairfax frigate (burned down at Chatham to the lower deck) be new-built, according to the proportion and rate she was before” and her remains were later towed round to the Thames.
Bourne then returned to London, but was not to have the respite he had so often asked for, as on 2 April his Committee desired him to go down the river in charge of some victualing ships, and by the 7th he had made contact with the fleet, then riding at anchor, as in a report to the Admiralty Committee of that date, marked as at 11.00 p.m. he said he had just landed from Admiral Penn’s ship, the fleet of forty-one ships being anchored off the North Foreland by reason of a calm; they were in need of seven hundred more men but now had victuals for about ten weeks. The fleet intended to go to Southwold Bay where they would join the rear admiral’s fleet, the Dutch fleet under Admiral De Witt having been reported W.N.W. of the Texel and sailing northward.
The next day, to the Secretary at the Admiralty Committee, he said, “I left the fleet yesterday, and am hastening to Gravesend, but am delayed through illness.” However, on the same day he wrote again from Deal, noted as at “two in the afternoon,” in which he said that “after seeing the fleet away from the anchorage off the North Foreland, I came on here . . . and am now returning to Gravesend, but am so extremely ill in my head that I cannot be there according to my commands and desires.”
Nevertheless, he was at Gravesend on 11 April and to the Admiralty Committee reported that he had been on board several ships and found them “much out of order through want of men, guns and stores. This business is so full of rubs and knots that I have my head and hands full”; and at the same time to the Navy Committee that he will look for men in the merchant ships coming up the river, and only leave them sufficient men to work them up to their berth, “although it is robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
Two days later he was still at Gravesend, and in a letter dated 13 April, “11 at noon,” desires the Admiralty Committee to make some better provision for the sick, and states that the ships were badly in need of hammocks; he concludes by saying that “The whole business here is like a raveled38 bottom; I know not at which end to begin, but now I am here shall do my best and hasten to an end this voyage.” To the Navy Committee the same day, “I am almost jaded with my employments, having a crew that will neither lead or drive.” The officers of the London were absent from their ship, but when he got them back and the ship into Leigh Road he would “form them into a better model.” In the same letter he referred to himself and says, “I shall not give offence, neither am I ambitious of a shadowy honour, but something by way of a distinction aboard would give some countenance and quicken the work. I ask it for the sake of the service, for I am past such toys, as to be ticked with a feather.”
He wrote again that day, this time at “11 at night,” advising that he had endeavoured to go down to Leigh Roads, evidently in search of seamen for manning the fleet, but had “met with so much wind at N.E.” that he could not proceed, and therefore had examined the ships in Tilbury Hope and interrogated the masters of the inward-bound colliers for information of the Dutch. Four long letters had been written this day (13th) reporting in the minutest detail on every matter that came before him, offering advice, repeating his constant requests for stores for the ships, and not neglecting his own complaints and ailments, which must have taken some hours to compose and write; the last one, with his characteristic punctiliousness, being marked at “11.00 p.m.” ends with: “Pray acquaint my wife that I am well.”
The next day he was down at Leigh and in yet another report dated from on board the London., “14 April 1653, past 5 in the afternoon,” he said that he had boarded the ship at two o’clock, at which time the Newcastle fleet of colliers, numbering about eighty sail, were standing into the river, and he had sent two ships down to meet them, round up the stragglers, and bring them to anchor in order that the men could be taken out. He thought it was the best time and opportunity to obtain men, and “therefore endeavoured to make a thorough work.”
He went on to say that some of the collier masters were insolent and endeavored to run through the fleet, which had been forced to spend forty or fifty shots before they could bring them up. Some they had allowed to pass so that the ships in Tilbury Hope “might have some work,” but “just now I have brought about forty of them to anchor and we are digging for them where they have burrowed themselves.” A hundred and forty sail were also on their way from the Humber, and “these winds being northerly will bring them along and tomorrow we shall be ready for them.”
Bourne then returned to London, and on 22 April went down the Thames with a fleet of twenty merchant ships to join Admiral Penn, then lying in Aldeborough Bay, and together they joined Deane and Monck in the Channel, where he handed over his ships and on 3 May was at Deal and endeavoring to collect enough victualers together to ship twelve hundred tons of fresh water out to Blake’s fleet, then cruising off the North Foreland. Earlier in the day, together with Captain John Limbery, the Navy Victualing Agent, they had boarded Blake’s flagship off Deal to arrange to supply the fleet there, but on a report that the Dutch fleet of seventy sail were off the Texel, the fleet had sailed at once.
On 9 May the Council of State directed him to survey Dover Pier and report what could be made of it and how far the state would have to repair it to make it serviceable. In the same letter he was instructed to find a convoy for a richly laden English ship lying at Calais and bound for London. He was evidently back in London within a few days, as on the 14th he was appointed with three others, including the Lieutenant of the Tower of London, to form a committee to meet at once and consider the question of prisoners of war and how many may be exchanged for such English prisoners as had been taken by the Dutch. However, he was given little respite from more arduous duties, as on the 27th he was ordered to be ready to drop down the river with as many ships as were available to join the fleet.
This is a break in his discursive reports until 4 June, when he was on board the Joshua, in Leigh Road. The Battle of the Gabbard had been fought the day before and a full report of the success achieved had not come through; in a letter, “past 11 forenoon,” he informed the Navy Committee that he was endeavoring to get stores and still more men for the fleet, and seeking intelligence from fishermen who had seen some part of the action at sea on the previous day.
In the same night, from on board the Recovery “about 10 at night,” he wrote to the Admiralty Commissioners one of those curious and diffusive
letters which appear so frequently and seem to have no other purpose than to relieve his mind of the burden of responsibility which often weighed heavily upon him, occasioned either by ill-health or overconscientiousness in performing the multifarious duties which devolved upon him. “Right Honourable,” he wrote, “I would not study words to make anything I can do look big or propound difficulties where there are none, only speak this word under a favourable acceptance that I have my hands full of this rugged work, but it is upon a public account and the motion being so swift I hope its of no long continuance, I resolve against weariness as to my part. . . .”
He was searching all inward-bound merchant ships for men to man the Recovery, who had only a third of her complement; he ends his letter by saying that he had had no small trouble to “quiet the spirits” of the seamen who wanted their pay, and again appeals for hammocks and clothing for the men. If the Admiralty ignored Bourne’s many personal complaints, they took notice of his request for stores, so urgently necessary after an action at sea, as on the next day they directed the Navy Committee that masts and rigging for the fleet were to be sent down instantly to Major Bourne in Leigh Roads, “who has a full account of the defects in the ships resulting from the recent battle.”
Bourne shortly afterwards sailed from Leigh with his fleet and victualers to reinforce and supply the fleet of Blake and Monck, then cruising off the Texel, both generals being in the Resolution flagship. Blake, in a letter to the Council of State, dated 12 June, from on board the Resolution, reported that Major Bourne had brought over seven men-of-war and eleven victualers and waterships, and that he had desired him to station himself at Harwich to despatch the ships and keep up the supply of ammunition, and also to maintain contact and correspondence between the fleet and the Council of State. The Council approved of it, and on the 19th informed the Admiralty Committee accordingly. Thus began Bourne’s association with Harwich, which was to continue for six or seven years, the first two or three practically as Resident Commissioner, and marks the beginning of Harwich as a naval base.
The appointment was not to his liking and he has much to say of it later on. However, the need of a Commissioner there was very real; difficulties over the victualing of the ships were continually arising, and many of the frigates were already using the port for graving and cleaning, and furthermore, largely as a result of the failure to pay the seamen, they were freely deserting their ships. Writing from Harwich on 9 July, Bourne rather peremptorily told the Admiralty Committee to send “one of the gentlemen of the Victualling Office here to assist me . . . The disquiet and confusion about victuals troubles me more than all my work. Fourteen frigates have arrived to be tallowed and victualled. I will give them quick despatch.—P.S. I have way-laid the seamen at Ipswich and Colchester, yet I hear many are on the road to London. You should give orders to Romford to have them stopped.”
Writing again on the 15th, the hour of writing as usual being given, i.e., “10 forenoon,” he gave them such news of the fleet as had been brought in by the scouting vessels, and an account of the damage sustained by the ships that had come in to Harwich. “I perceive,” he said, “here is like to be a continual intercourse betwixt this port and the fleet so long as this work lasts upon the Holland Coast; which puts me out of hope of returning so suddenly as I have good reason as to myself and what concerns my particular interests to desire, but I desire to waive it at present.” His prophecy as to the importance of Harwich was fully borne out, and its usefulness far outlived the present war, and, as already noted, its rise as a naval base dates from this time. Bourne’s passing regret at being stationed there, developed, as will be seen later, into the strongest protest against his continuance there, and his dislike of the place is often all too apparent, but in the meantime there was much work to be done.
He wrote to them again on that same day. It seems from his letter that he was feeling the strain of long hours and strenuous duties, and possibly, too, from the fatigue of continual traveling up the coast under the primitive conditions of seventeenth-century roads and conditions, and desired to relieve his mind of the worries which seemed to bear so heavily on him. In a long and quaintly worded letter he speaks of his onerous duties, of the number of ships coming in for repairs, of the shortage of masts and timber as well as of other stores, and also of the burden of the ever-increasing number of sick and wounded. He then says, “It becomes me not in the least to use any words to set off what I have done since I came thither, being sensible how little I can do in comparison of what I both ought and desire to do, but in accomplishing this little I have been exercised with no small trouble, yet am sufficiently encouraged finding some fruits of my endeavours. But if some short end be not put of this war I shall acquaint you with my thoughts as to the settling some other way both as to stores and some persons who may at least off it of that cumber and trouble that now lies upon too few hands.”
The revelries of the seamen added to his trials, as he concludes by saying: “On Tuesday last we had a beginning of an ugly mutiny occasioned by the drunken, debauched sailors. . . . Three of the chiefs I clapped fast that night, and have made strict order to restrain the ale houses that do so much debauch these wicked wretches.”
Bourne had been prolific in reports during the six weeks he had alternately been afloat and traveling round the southeastern naval ports, and was no less so during his long association with Harwich. He invariably addressed the Admiralty Commissioners as “Right Honourable,” subscribing himself “Your humble and faithful Servant” or “Your very real and ready Servant.” To his colleagues of the Navy Commissioners, “Gentlemen”; and signs as “Your very affectionate Friend,” and sometimes “Your very assured and affectionate Servant.”
Until the early part of 1653, Robert Coytmore had been Secretary to the Admiralty Commissioners, but in March was succeeded by Robert Blackborne. It has not been possible to determine any relationship between him and the Captain Rowland Coytmore mentioned earlier, but with such an uncommon name it would seem probable that he was at least a collateral descendant. Robert Coytmore had earlier been a Commissioner of the Navy for a brief time; he is not to be confused with Robert Coytmore, commander of one of the state’s ships during the war, who, however, appears by inference to have been a nephew. Robert Blackborne continued as Secretary down to the Restoration; he was on intimate terms with the Bournes, and there are many personal letters from both Nehemiah and John Bourne.
Letters immediately succeeding have not been preserved; in July, Bourne was at Yarmouth, but back at Harwich at the end of the month, and in a letter of the 30th at three in the afternoon, to the Admiralty, he refers to his “very rude39 and short account of the matters entrusted to me, but having lain under a very sore distemper of body, but through the bounty of God I am now better able to serve you, having in a good measure shaken it off.” Then follows a long report on the state of the ships in harbor and the repairs necessary to fit them for sea; informs them of the many complaints of the badness of the beer supplied to the fleet, and of a report he had received that Admiral Tromp was out with a fleet of ninety ships.
In the interval he had been to Ipswich to obtain money, where apparently the Admiralty imprest was payable, in order to pay the seamen and to obtain stores, which were frequently bought direct from merchants in the nearby ports who had recently received consignments of such items as timber, tar, hemp, etc. From there he went to Yarmouth and despatched some victualing ships out to the fleet, left three ships in Yarmouth Roads to collect as many seamen as possible from a fleet of colliers daily expected from the north, and then went to Southwold where he ordered five ships to take on board about two hundred men from the town, which probably included many of the sick and wounded from the fleet who had been billeted on the inhabitants, and were now recovered. Southwold, having had a large number of the wounded seamen landed there after the Battle of the Gabbard, in June, complained of the delay in the payment of their charges and Bourne recommended to the Admiralty Committee the sale of some Dutch prizes to provide the money.
Whilst up the coast Bourne would have received the news of the death of his old friend and associate in New England, Captain Graves, now a rear admiral, who had been killed in the recent action off the Dutch coast. Graves had first commanded the President, fourth rate, the ship in which Captain Anthony Young was involved in the incident off Start Point concerning the saluting of the flag, when the first shots in the war were fired. Captain Young was immediately afterwards removed into the Worcester, third rate, and succeeded in the President by Captain Graves. In command of the President, Graves was with Vice-Admiral Penn in the North Sea at the latter part of the year, and was still in his squadron at the Battle of Portland, February, 1653. A letter from on board the flagship, written after the battle, says: “Captain Lawson took a lusty ship by boarding, but it was with some loss; Captain Graves the same by another; so that we have gotten some of their ships.”
With his prize in company, Graves was one of the first to carry the news of the battle to Portsmouth. Captain Willoughby, the Commissioner there, writing on 22 February to the Navy Commissioners in London giving them the news, said that Captain Graves in the President, frigate, had come in, and had taken a Dutch man-of-war of 500 tons. After the ships had refitted, Graves was transferred to the Andrew, Bourne’s old ship, and promoted to be rear admiral in Penn’s fleet; as such he took an active part in the Battle of the Gabbard in June of that year, a more decisive victory for the English fleet, the Dutch retiring to their harbors badly shattered; however, they were soon at sea again, and in the Battle of the Texel a few weeks later there were heavy losses on both sides, the English losing six captains and some five hundred men killed and eight hundred wounded. Graves was amongst those killed in this engagement; his death being recorded as having taken place on 31 July.
The last mention of him is in the journal of the Vanguard, the flagship of Vice-Admiral Joseph Jordan, where there is an entry a few days after the battle that they bore up for Aldeborough Bay and came to anchor, and on the following day went ashore to the burial of Rear Admiral Graves.40 Being close by, it is probable that Bourne went over to Aldeborough to the funeral of his old friend, and one of the last survivors of those who came from New England with him. Graves’s will was left in New England, where it was presented by his widow, Katherine (who has already been mentioned at length), before the deputy governor and magistrates, by them approved and recorded on 25 October 1653. His estate was principally in Charlestown, but a house in Limehouse, County Middlesex, is mentioned; attached to his will is an “Inventory of the goods and Chattels of Rere Admiral Thomas Graves.” In England, Parliament granted Graves’s widow £1,000 as compensation, £700 of which was to be secured in equal portions to his five children.
Following the Battle of the Texel, disabled ships in still larger numbers were now being sent to Harwich for refitting, and the rise in importance of Harwich as a naval base can be more definitely ascribed to this time. Writing from one of the coast towns on 6 August to the Admiralty Committee, Bourne said that the Generals at sea had written to him to say that they were sending some more ships to Harwich and he intended to go back there and prepare for them. He asks for masts to be sent down there, in order to hasten the fitting out of the more severely crippled. Two days later he had been out to the fleet, then plying between Orford Ness and Dunwich, and arranged for twenty frigates to go into Harwich. Back at his base, the situation was temporarily relieved by the unexpected arrival of a vessel from Norway with a cargo of masts which Bourne at once purchased, informing the Admiralty that he had done so and a bill had been drawn upon them. However, the arrival of forty-five ships and frigates on the 14th of the month (August) used up the whole supply, and thirteen masts picked up at sea and brought into the port were a welcome addition, but still left the yard without any reserves. At the same time he had told the Admiralty that he had great difficulty in keeping down the “mad and savage spirit of the seamen on shore” and had sent to the governor of Landguard Fort for a company of soldiers.
When writing to General Monck at sea, giving him an account of the progress in fitting out the ships, he said he was “jaded by the sluggishness he finds at Harwich.” The stores and masts were exhausted and he was going to London for ten or twelve days to obtain a further supply.
To the Navy Commissioners he wrote to say that a large number of ships had come into the port with heavy weather damage and he feared that most of the men would desert. These fears were not groundless, and the problem of desertions there proved almost insoluble during the next year. The principal reasons seem to have been that they were pressed men, they were not receiving their pay, and being mostly from the Thames-side hamlets, they sought the first opportunity of returning to their homes. “I have taken all courses and means,” he said, “to lay a stop upon the men to prevent their going away, both by land and water, and have wrote as effectively as I may to the Mayor of Colchester, and suggest that a guard be placed at Romford41 and Bow Bridge to arrest the seamen on their way to London.” The Commissioners at once accepted the suggestion and sent an extract from Bourne’s letter to the higher committee with a rather peremptory request that it be complied with.
About this time Bourne would have received a copy of the resolution of the Council of State of 24 August that Peter Pett and Major Bourne are to receive the thanks of the Council for “their great care and pains in despatching the fleets to sea.” He appears to have gone to London early in September, as on the 18th of the month he wrote to the Admiralty from Harwich, one of those long and ambiguous letters particularly designed to draw attention to his services, past and present, and on this occasion with more than a hint to some improvement in his emoluments and personal expenses, in the preamble of which he mentions having been with them recently:
Being confident of your favourable acceptance, I take liberty for a word, as I received some intimation thereunto when with you the other day. I have no design to stir up notice of my poor service, yet I have served the honest interest of this nation heartily ever since I was called thereto, both by land and sea, and for four years have been employed about the Navy, but I never propounded advantage to myself, nor have I made it my design to enlarge myself.
For two years I commanded a squadron on the coast of Scotland, and had charge of another nature relating to the Army, which is well known to the Lord General and the Generals at sea. What my service was it does not become me to relate; but of this I am sure, that I had a large opportunity there to scatter what I had before gathered by my own endeavours, my allowance being only the ordinary salary belonging to the ship’s rank, 12s. a day, though three times as much was allowed to others in the same capacity, whose service was neither more honourable nor of higher concernment to the nation; but possibly I might have obtained more if I could have steered the same course with others.
As for my last year’s service, I cannot be certain what my allowance is like to be for the time I served before I received commission as Rear Admiral of the Fleet; during that time I commanded a squadron, and rode in the Downs and elsewhere wearing a flag.
As for the present year, since being appointed to this station, upon advice of a liklihood of the fleet’s being engaged, in February last I was ordered to Dover to take command of a squadron, which was promised to be sent to me there, so as to fall upon the enemy; which service was welcome to me, and although I left my family and estate unsettled, I did not dispute with any such low considerations, knowing that the interest of the Lord Jesus and his Saints (at present so deeply concerned in these affairs) would be a sufficient compensation.
I will not instance particulars wherein I have saved hundreds of pounds in buying masts, deals, etc., when I have been upon the coast, which every man is not capacitated for, nor the continual toil of body and mind that hath attended me in those negotiations, by a constant motion from Dover to Yarmouth, Gravesend and Lee [Leigh], before I came to Harwich; but if the orders and warrants directed to me were consulted, they might say more than I am willing you should take notice of; neither am I solicitous about this matter, but rather study what my duty is, in order to the public good.
I confess I have acted the least part as a Commissioner of the Navy, but the exigencies of your affairs would not allow me to observe those distances, or stand upon such terms as might have suited other men’s apprehensions, and I have willingly taken up any man’s work, so that the usual delays and demurs might not prejudice affairs. What ships have been sent to Harwich, and what assistance I have had from the Master Shipwright, Attendant, and Storekeeper, is well known.
Besides what properly fell under my hand in the capacity I am now in, I was empowered by the General to give orders to all ships on the coast in his absence, which gave me an additional opportunity of expense for the encouragement of the work; and the truth is I could not be over frugal, neither would the places of my residence admit it, where provisions were very much enhanced in price by occasion of the fleet’s neighbourhood, and no one left but myself to afford entertainment.
I cannot present a particular account of the charge and expenses in travelling to and from my residence upon the coast, and shall therefore leave that to your pleasure, and trust you will find my readiness the same at all times, as I do not serve for wages, or expect to increase my outward estate; yet I am confident you will judge it equal that I should so far tender my family as to desire the preserving what I had when I entered the service, unless the necessity of the public require it, to which I shall freely submit.
I do not know of six hours spent about my private concernment these many months, and it is not convenient for me to express wherein, or how much I have suffered in my private affairs, as I am content they should be dead at present; I thank the Lord I have done this out of the apprehension I have of a necessity lying upon me to act with all my might, and that upon principles of conscience.
Bourne probably felt better for having relieved his mind; the Admiralty Commissioners probably knew him well enough to pay little heed to his personal complaints; however, the Council of State directed that Nehemiah Bourne, and Peter Pett, at Chatham, be thanked for “their great care and pains in despatching the fleet to sea”; and made some slight response four months later (January, 1654) when the Admiralty Committee directed the Navy Committee to make out a bill to “Major Nehemiah Bourne for his pay and entertainment as Rear-Admiral from 13 March to 19 May 1652”; evidently an augmentation to the period for which he had earlier been paid as a rear admiral.
His appointment as Resident-Commissioner at Harwich was now confirmed, but he lost no opportunity of telling both his colleagues of the Navy Committee and the Admiralty Commissioners in the strongest terms how distasteful it was to him; however, his superior officers seem to have been very tolerant, and just ignored his complaints. Some correspondence now ensued regarding a house for his residence, and one having become available suitably situated near the waterside, permission was given to him to negotiate. In a letter to the Admiralty Commissioners of 27 September, after informing them that he had been obliged to buy stores and provisions from Yarmouth and London, although the victualing agent could very well supply the ships there, observes that “a little oil upon that wheel would not be amiss,” then refers to the house they had given him leave to purchase and says, “I have had a pass or two at a distance with the owner, and I suppose his price may be about £340 . . . yet in my judgment suppose it may be accommodable for your ends if this war hold. The town at present is very nasty and sickly, and the truth is something like a prison to me, but the Lord can make it otherwise if he pleases; here being little else but what is of a vexing quality.” He then ends his letter by again appealing to them to settle some way whereby he might be supplied with money to carry on the service.
Two days later he wrote that “the owner of the house is cold at selling it upon the terms proposed,” Bourne having offered him £320. True to the old Puritan spirit he was driving a hard bargain, but the owner was no easy prey and negotiations lagged for a time. The Admiralty Commissioners discreetly enquired how he was getting on with the matter, which gave him an opportunity to say a little more about Harwich, and also of their neglect to attend to his frequent representations on various matters.
Referring to the house, he says,
“I was always slow in promoting it, and although I am clear from any temptation of desiring to make my habitation here, yet possibly I might be thought to do what is too common (viz: to drive on private designs under public pretences)”; he then tells them again that there is little to content him in Harwich, “yet have shuffled through such inconveniences and lived at such expenses that I have no reason to desire a continuance as to myself. I have not often intimated anything of this nature, and were I not too sensible of some discouragements which I have often been accustomed unto, I should have been silent altogether . . . but I hope the candour will interpret my clear intention, and please to rest assured I am and shall be, your honours very faithful and ready servant
However, by 18 October he was able to report that he had at last contracted for the purchase of the house, which included a wharf and warehouse, for £335, which, he added with some satisfaction, was £200 less than it cost three years before. Circumstances seem to have been to the vendor’s advantage inasmuch that the house was urgently needed, Bourne observing, by way of excuse for his partial defeat over the bargaining, “if I am to continue at Harwich I must have the accommodation, as I cannot make shift any longer as I am.”
The weeks following his return from London were full of difficulties. Appeals for money were coming in from all quarters, and more will be heard of them during the succeeding months. Bourne’s frequent appeals to the Commissioners for stores passed unheeded or the supply sent was always inadequate, as more and more ships came in for repairs. Harwich was full of riotous seamen, who all too frequently were making demands for their pay. For some reason not clear, but possibly on account of the sickness in the town, the military were preparing to leave Harwich, and Bourne wrote at once recommending that the garrison should not be disbanded “when so many men of the fleet are here, many of whom must be awed by authority.”
As usual, there was no immediate response to his request, and on 26 September he wrote to the Commissioners, “I want an order to the Governor of Landguard Fort for a troop of horse to guard the town, otherwise there will be no living here and keeping up any face of authority. The letter to the Mayor and Magistrates to suppress the excessive numbers of tippling houses which so much debauch the seaman is not yet come.
A few days later the order was issued from London to maintain a guard in Harwich town, apparently from the Landguard Fort, but in the meantime the military had commenced to demolish Harwich Fort, preparatory to leaving the town. Bourne wrote at once, “unless a fort is kept up I shall desire to be removed, rather than be forced to see such violence and insolence committed, and no power to suppress it. What I have suffered already, as to this part, besides the care of other matters, is not fit for me to relate, but I am sure it will much benefit the service, and encourage honest instruments, when the pride and insolence of men’s spirits dare not show itself. I have presumed to stop the demolition of the fort until I hear from you.” There the question of the continuance of the fort seems to have ended.
Bourne made several requests for orders as to what he was to do with the Dutch prisoners of war, who, he said, “are many, and run all over the country, giving much trouble”; no answer seems to have been made, the Admiralty Commissioners were far removed from the trouble. Harwich was only one of several ports with problems of their own, and the Commissioners had other and more urgent matters to occupy them, and that of the prisoners seems to have been left to solve itself. Bourne, however, rounded up a large number and sent them to Colchester Castle to get them out of his way. Reports to the Admiralty Commissioners on a variety of matters were frequent, and almost as many to the Navy Commissioners; to the latter they were mainly about the ships under repair, but not infrequently requests them to bring pressure on the Admiralty Commissioners to attend to his more urgent needs.
Having had no reply to a further demand for money he wrote to the Navy Commissioners begging them to move the Admiralty Commissioners to give orders for the sale of prizes then lying in Harwich Harbor, “as the charge to maintain a company of knaves to look after them eats up all.” The pilfering of stores and cargo from the prizes was rampant in all the ports, and frequently rouses Bourne’s wrath, but at the present time he was more concerned to obtain ready money by their sale.
In October he was again up the East Coast, at the ports of Woodbridge, Aldeborough, Southwold and Yarmouth, surveying ships building and fitting out, endeavoring to appease the bailiffs of the towns who were continually pressing their claims for arrears of payment for quartering the sick and wounded, and protesting against receiving any more until their people were paid.
These complaints were common from all the coast towns, and the inhabitants were neither soothed nor satisfied by merely receiving the thanks of the Parliament, conveyed in an order of 3 August 1653, that “The Council of State signify unto the counties of Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk that Parliament hath taken notice of their great care and tender respect showed unto the sick and wounded soldiers and seamen put ashore in those counties, and their good resentment and acceptance thereof and return thanks unto them.”
The seamen at the ports everywhere complained of the bad beer and of arrears of pay, and many were deserting from the ships. In his report of what he found there, Bourne concludes with “I know none more like to take effect than the report of money to be sent down to pay them.” In the meantime he had been recalled to Harwich by a report that trouble was brewing with the seamen there, and on his return wrote that the men had left their ships, “400 coming ashore in a mutinous manner” and were about the streets calling for their pay.
“I gave them fair persuasive language,” he said, “with promises of making provision for them in case they would orderly go aboard and follow their business, which they seemed to accept and went away.”
Unfortunately, they only went away to induce other men ashore, and thus reinforced they went on a spree. Bourne then suggests that they be paid one moiety and the rest when they went to sea, but admits that this “will much distemper them,” and then tells the Admiralty Committee very pointedly that had they seen fit to pay them when the ships came into port money would have been saved and “the frigates manned seasonably and with more satisfaction . . . Excuse me that I am so full of words about this particular.” A few days later, in a letter to the Secretary to the Commissioners, once again applying for stores, he ends by saying that he appears to be entirely forgotten, is weary of the place, and “his modesty does not suit the present age.”
On 6 November he was able to report that he had paid all the ships, and, in effect, now I want leave of absence from Harwich. He wrote to both committees: to the Admiralty Committee, “I stopped 40s. a man of the Assurance pay, until the ship was in the Rolling Ground42 and they appeared on board, because they were second to the Mermaid in deserting. The Mermaid I have left to the last; they were the first to mutiny and invited others, stirring up a spirit of distemper. I have subdued the mutiny and committed the worst to Landguard Fort where they now remain seemingly sorrowful.” He was doing all he could to prevent the seamen getting out of the town, “yet they still find ways to run. I am despatching the ships and beg leave of absence being ill, and wishing after so long a spell, to visit my family.”
In a more personal letter to Robert Blackborne he said, “I have got over the worst part of the work of paying off the ships, and been even with the worst of the crew; now I hope for liberty to come home to my family. The first ship’s crew that rebelled shall march forth tomorrow before they are paid, and they now begin to curse one another for drawing them in.”
In a further report of 10 November on the condition of the ships then at Harwich, including the Recovery, which required little cost bestowed on her, “she having robbed the store long enough, if I may so say,” he concludes with some observations on the seamen, lamenting their ingratitude and general behavior, and says, “I hear that Ipswich and other ports are full of them, but here are few enough, they love not the air, since I have banished strong waters and sent them away to sea.”
The answers to his requests for leave, if any, could not have been too encouraging, as on the same day he wrote to the Admiralty Committee, “I do not serve for wages, and would have been content with my expenses. I shall sit down in silence, but the world is unequally divided. I shall be glad to have the question of the prizes concluded. It is the season that will make it a courtesy to me. I hope to be able to leave in sixteen days. I have been nearly killed by the extreme cold taken in coasting up and down.” And again on the 17th as a further reminder, “I am not fit to venture abroad, but am obliged to drive a backward and dull generation, void of reason and conscience.” He went on to say that he hoped to finish the repairs to the ships by the next week, and that the generals at sea would not send any more ships to Harwich to be practically rebuilt, as some had been, as it was not equipped for such extensive work; and concluding with the remark that, “Although I much desire peace, I hope the talk of it will not damp preparations.”
On 20 November he reported that Dutch fishermen were fishing for cod off Lowestoft and Yarmouth; a nimble vessel was needed on the coast to secure them, and to keep watch on the enemy fleet, and that there were several lying at Colchester which would be useful for this purpose. “The mariners of the Assurance committed to Landguard Fort for mutiny are very tame now, and have nearly a year’s wages due, but one is a villain, having embezzled iron work and ropes out of the ship . . . I hope soon to come home, but I will leave a mast-maker and some men to convert the trees to the best advantage. If the Hollander do not prove honester in his desire for peace, this place should be considered hereafter.”
Two days later (22nd) he forwarded news from General Monck of the damage done to the Dutch fleet in the recent storm, and of the whereabouts of our own ships. “All the ships in the harbour are now completed, I hope I may repair homeward next week, as I and my family are not well.” However, during the next week he was at Woodbridge superintending the launching of two frigates building there. During the previous month he had written to the Admiralty Committee recommending his brother-in-law, Captain Anthony Earning for the command of one of the new frigates building at Yarmouth and Woodbridge, “he having served in his own ship for several years.” In a note to the Secretary of the Commissioners from Ipswich, on the 25th, he said that the launching “was well performed” and he was returning to Harwich. “I have often asked leave to come to town, but the Commissioners say nothing. I am tender of doing it without their allowance. Pray tell me what they say, for I am out of frame, and want to come as soon as possible.”
During October he had written to the Admiralty Committee to say that he had lost £700 through the capture of one of his ships by the Dutch and asks for the grant of two or three of the prizes at Yarmouth, and that he would pay their full value as he could employ them as privateers, or to fetch masts (presumably from New England, as he had kept up his connections with the colonies). Writing to Robert Blackborne, Secretary to the Commissioners, on 27 November to thank him for forwarding an allowance granted him for extra service, he asks for his influence with the Commissioners in procuring him two or three prizes, and adds that he hopes the time for his continuance in Harwich will be short, as he is bound to preserve the remainder of his estate.
Bourne seems to have eventually had the leave so long and so urgently asked for, as there is a break in his roving and desultory reports, but in December he reminded them of his charges by sending an account for traveling from London to Ipswich, Yarmouth, Woodbridge, and Harwich, amounting to £30. 5. 0. and marked “irrespective of diet.”
According to the State Papers the first response to Bourne’s request for a grant of some prize ships was to offer him two herring busses at their current valuation; however, this was changed, and on 10 November (1653) the Council of State ordered the Commissioners of Prize Goods to “deliver to Major Bourne two prize flutes43 at the appraised rate, instead of two busses formerly ordered him.” These also were not agreeable to what Bourne considered was a just compensation for his services, nor were they suitable for his requirements, and he evidently decided to ignore the Admiralty and appeal to a higher authority, as on 30 January 1654 he wrote to Oliver Cromwell as follows:
“Fourteen months ago, there being a great want of masts in the State’s Stores, I adventured to New England in three ships to supply them by contract; but two of the ships, having no convoy, were taken by the Dutch, and the third foundered at sea, to a loss of £1,000. Towards repair thereof, I beg a Dutch prize ship, or leave to buy three or four at the appraised rate. I have performed many years faithful service, especially on the Scottish coast, where I spent much more than my salary, having only captain’s pay though I wore a flag, and sometimes commanded ten or fifteen ships.” Annexed to his letter there is a further address to the Protector that as most of the best prizes were sold last week, he may have a gift of one or more, to the value of £400 or £500. His petition is marked “specially recommended to the Council” by someone, possibly by Cromwell himself. If his request was not granted with quite the liberality he hoped for, it was at least dealt with promptly, as in February an order was made by the Council of State to the Prize Goods Commissioners to allow him one or more prize ships, and out of the price thereof to allow him £400, “he paying the overplus of the value, which is not to exceed £700.”
From a letter of Bourne’s to the Admiralty Committee dated 22 January (1654) some support is given to the supposition that the lieutenant of the Assistance, commanded by Captain John Bourne, was a relative, as he strongly recommends the widow of Lieutenant Bartholomew44 Bourne for relief, “her husband having been slain off Portland last February.” A few weeks later two other relatives are mentioned in a letter to him from Vice-Admiral John Lawson, who says, “I shall be very glad when your brother Earning (brother-in-law) comes to the fleet; he will be very welcome and respected. Your brother Bourne is at sea.”
Shipbuilding at the small ports in Essex and Suffolk, such as Maldon, Wivenhoe, Woodbridge, Aldeborough, Walberswick and Yarmouth, had steadily declined since the early years of the seventeenth century owing to the increase in the number of yards on the Thames-side, where many of the east coast builders had migrated, one of the most noteworthy being Henry Johnson, founder of the famous Blackwall Yard who had formerly built ships at Aldeborough, and soon after this time Suffolk towns ceased to build for London owners. With the outbreak of the war there was a sudden demand for more ships and new ones were being fitted out as fast as they could be built. The resources of the state yards were quite unequal to the strain thrown upon them, and recourse was necessary to yards of private builders, and those on the Thames at once became of the first importance; they, however, soon combined to put pressure on the Admiralty by refusing to tender below certain rates. The state then invited tenders elsewhere, and shipbuilding at Bristol, the south coast ports, as well as the eastern counties at once became prosperous. The revival at the Essex and Suffolk ports, however, was inevitable, not only on account of the availability of timber long renowned for shipbuilding, but because of their convenience for careening and cleaning the ships of the large fleets operating in the North Sea. Vessels built in private yards were subjected to close and continual inspection at the hands of naval surveyors and commissioners, and the supervision of private building at all the east coast ports fell upon the commissioner at Harwich, who now had an appreciable number of vessels nearing completion and requiring constant attention. In reporting on their progress on 1 April, Bourne concluded his letter by saying, “I shall be glad to hear of the conclusion of the long expected peace with the Dutch.”
Impatient of the delays in the work there, he was again at Walberswick and Yarmouth a week later endeavoring to hasten the rigging of the new ships, and remarks to the Secretary to the Commissioners that he “has seen much that might be improved, and would be more quiet in spirit if he could wink at things.”
Peace was signed on 5 April 1654, the Dutch conceding the supremacy of the English flag, and submitted to the Navigation Act, but a protective fleet of ships was still maintained on the coast, with a consequent heavy demand on the facilities, limited though they still were, of the naval yard at Harwich, which had proved itself such a useful base during the war. Sickness and scurvy were rampant in the fleet, and as yet no better means were available for dealing with the sick and wounded than billeting them on the inhabitants of the coast towns. In May of this year Bourne had a hundred and fifty sick men unexpectedly landed upon him at Harwich, a heavy strain on the accommodation of a comparatively small town already carrying its share of earlier casualties, and was obliged to appeal to the Admiralty to advise him as to what he should do with them; however, they invariably left their resident commissioners to do the best they could in their difficulties.
The sickness in the fleet created the need for still more men, and Bourne was obliged to organize an extensive impressment up the east coast, a difficult task because the mayors and bailiffs of the towns more often sheltered the men than assisted the press officers. The ships building at the smaller ports depleted his yard of all stores, especially of rigging, and there were frequent requests for replenishment. In May there were ten frigates laying at Harwich, but work on them was delayed by want of caulkers. On the 31st he reminded the Commissioners that he had frequently asked that caulkers should be sent down from London, and then refers again to the sick seamen, saying that he had taken the names of those in the town who had taken them in, and the time of quartering them “so that the State would not suffer loss by the people who entertain them, who would reckon fast enough.” The workmen in the yard were very troublesome and he had frequently been obliged to dismiss them for “knavery.” About this time, too, he was reminded of the seamen still imprisoned in Landguard Fort for mutiny and, as they state, a false charge of threatening to blow up his house, by a petition from them for “a favourable report” so they could obtain their liberty and arrears of pay.
During June his letters were principally directed to the Navy Commissioners, acquainting them of the progress of the new vessels building, with frequent reminders about his orders for stores. On the 5th he told them he “has had more to do, both in body and mind, than he wished, owing to the dulness of others. The sick men are recovering, their disease being generally scurvy, a little fresh air and diet will soon effect a cure.” In July they were mostly on the same subjects. Work on the new ships was proceeding and already those built at Maldon had been brought round to Harwich to be rigged, but there was still an urgent need of rigging to fit them out for sea. He also wrote to the Admiralty Commissioners pressing for payment of his traveling expenses to Yarmouth and the other ports and his charges for removing the sick and wounded from the ships and billeting them.
Although frequent mention is made of the ships building at the smaller ports they are nowhere mentioned by name; probably a number of them were small vessels used as scouts, but the two built at Woodbridge are readily identified as the Maidstone and Preston, fourth rates, of 40 guns, renamed Mary Rose and Antelope after the Restoration, listed as having been built there in 1654. At Walberswick the Basing, afterwards renamed the Guernsey, a fifth rate, of 28 guns; the Jersey, fourth rate, of 48 guns, built at Maldon; and the St. Fagans, a fifth rate, of 22 guns, at Wivenhoe, all built in 1654. They were the first men-of-war of the modern navy to be built in Essex and Suffolk; the largest ships built in Suffolk during the seventeenth century were those at Woodbridge.
On the 18th of the month Bourne was still at Harwich and wrote to the Admiralty Committee pressing for payment of his traveling expenses to Yarmouth and the other ports for the survey of ships and for the cost of removing the sick and wounded from the ships. However, before the end of the month he had returned to London and on the 27th wrote to his own committee from Deptford, where he had gone to press a hundred and fifty seamen and watermen to man the victualing ships. He said that seamen were difficult to be had, but he would go on board the ships and personally see to their immediate despatch.
Oppenheim, in Administration of the Navy, states that Bourne took up his residence at Harwich and remained there until March, 1658, but it is clear from his letters and reports that from this time onward he was at the Navy Office in London, with occasional visits to Harwich, and still more frequently at Deptford and attending to ships farther down the river. With his return to London there is some evidence that he was now giving more attention to his own business affairs, possibly one of the underlying motives in wishing to quit Harwich, and there are occasional references to his own shipping ventures.
Many of his letters are now written from the Navy Office and principally addressed to the Admiralty Commissioners, who were at first established at Whitehall, but from January, 1655, occupied Derby House. From June, 1649, when the Commonwealth was establishing its administration after the fall of the monarchy, the Navy Commissioners had occupied rooms in the Victualing Office on Little Tower Hill, on the site of the present Royal Mint, but in 1653 they objected to the victualers’ slaughterhouse there, and in the next year the house of Sir John Wolstenholme, in Seething Lane, was purchased for them for £2,400 and this became the Navy Office for many years. It was the office to which Samuel Pepys came a few years later, and makes us more familiar with it through the pages of his Diary. Until September, 1653, each Navy Commissioner was allowed only one clerk at £30 a year, scanty assistance for the work thrown upon them; but the number was then doubled and two purveyors were appointed to assist in purchasing stores.
The house in Seething Lane was not without its earlier association with the navy and other maritime interests, as it had been the town house of Sir John Wolstenholme, father of the one who had now vacated it. Sir John Wolstenholme, senior (1562–1639) became one of the richest merchants in London and took a prominent part in the early extension of English commerce to America, as well as in colonization and maritime discovery. In December, 1600, he was one of the incorporators of the East India Company; in 1609 was made a member of the Council of the Virginia Company, and was for many years one of the farmers of His Majesty’s Customs in London.
He helped to finance the attempts to discover a northwest passage made by Henry Hudson in 1610 and William Baffin in 1615, both of whom added Wolstenholme’s name to the chart of those regions. He encouraged the study of navigation and instituted lectures thereon. In 1619 he was appointed a Commissioner of the Navy, and in 1635 to the Commission for the Administration of the Chatham Chest. He died in 1639 and was buried in Stanmore Church, where there is a handsome memorial to him.
His son, Sir John Wolstenholme, knighted in 1633, inherited from his father the collection of the customs dues, and for many years was a leading member of the Court of the East India Company. There are many references to him in the volumes of the minutes of the company; on 25 November 1636 he “represented to the Court the extraordinary blessing of God in preserving the Reformation (in which he had a considerable investment) through many dangers and difficulties, and through providence was brought safely to anchor in the river at Woolwich.”
He supported the Royalist cause in the Civil War and subscribed liberally with money and plate, for which he was subsequently heavily fined by the Parliament, and his estates sequestrated to the value of £100,000. He was declared a bankrupt in 1651, it was said improperly so, but for several years he was in financial difficulties and it was then that his house in Seething Lane was sold. His creditors tried to persuade the East India Company to assign his adventures to them, but being mindful of his long and able service in the administration of their affairs they declined, declaring that “they did not think it fit that they should be the first to appear against him, as it would be an inconvenience, and a discouragement to other adventurers.”
Five years later, in 1656, his creditors were still pressing the company to make an assignment to them, but were told that the court would leave it to the law to settle. They seem to have had no success at law, as in 1660 Sir John was allowed to transfer an adventure of over £11,000 to one James Edwards, his son, John, giving a bond of £4,000 to indemnify the company in the event of the creditors subsequently succeeding. Sir John, however, weathered the storm; at the Restoration he recovered his estates, and had restored to him the patent of Collector of Customs for London. He was created a baronet by Charles II in 1665. After leaving Seething Lane he appears to have resided in Fenchurch Street, where he died in July, 1670, and was buried at Stanmore. He was an intimate friend of the Earl of Clarendon, Lord Chancellor in Charles II’s time.
Now that Bourne was in London he was better able to press his own claims for long-deferred payments, and after some further reminders the Admiralty, on 8 August, made an order to the Navy Committee to pay Major Bourne £80 for his expenses for traveling to Yarmouth, Southwold, Ipswich, Aldeborough, Woodbridge, etc., and “for keeping a table at Harwich while part of the fleet was there.”
In this year two large fleets were fitted out; one commanded by Blake made English trade secure in the Mediterranean and, in the following April, bombarded Tunis and forced the Bey to release English prisoners. The other, commanded by Admiral Penn, went out to the West Indies to attack the Spanish possessions there; they made Barbados their base, and during the next year Bourne was frequently sending reinforcements and victualers there. The fitting out of the fleets kept the Thames-side dockyards busy throughout the summer of 1654, and during August most of Bourne’s letters are written from Deptford and generally were confined to particulars of the ships under repair both there and at Woolwich, but add that he was frequently up and down the river, visiting each ship and hastening their departure.
On 8 September he was back at Harwich, reporting on the state of the yard and the ships there, and worrying the Admiralty for the wages due to the staff and workmen. He wrote to them again on the 18th to say that it had taken him ten days to settle the Harwich accounts for the past year. A few more letters follow during the month giving detailed accounts of the condition of the vessels in harbor, and under repair, during which time his colleagues at the Navy Office had digested his disbursements and on 2 November reported to the Admiralty that “Major Bourne’s account for money received and issued for supplying ships at Harwich has been well kept.” During December he was back at the Navy Office in London, but from his reports to the Admiralty he was frequently down the river, hastening the loading of some vessels, apparently victualing ships consigned to Barbados.
The victualing contracts for the navy made in 1650 ended in 1654, and the Admiralty Commissioners recommended to the Council of State that the victualing would be better managed by commissioners and that it was time to have it attended to. The Council agreed, and referred the subject back to them to consider whether Major Bourne, Captain Thomas Alderne and Captain Francis Willoughby were suitable for the office, and to draw up the necessary articles and instructions and consider salaries. As a result of their report these three were appointed and thenceforth styled Commissioners of the Navy and Victualing, and received an additional £250 a year for their services.
Captain Thomas Alderne’s earlier career is obscure. Holland, in his Discourse of the Navy (Navy Record Society), refers to him as Major Alderne, from which it may be inferred that he was one of the mariners who had fought on land during the Civil War, and one of those who came over from Massachusetts and joined Colonel Rainsborough’s regiment. It is fairly clear that he had settled in America, as a part of his estate was “a saw mill in New England beyond the Seas.” He was now a London merchant, and probably engaged in importing timber from New England, for which there had been a heavy demand by the shipyards since the outbreak of the war. His period of office as a Commissioner of the Victualing was short, as he died in 1657.
Although his official duties had now increased, Bourne was still able to attend to his own shipping affairs, and now that he was stationed in London there was an absence of those complaints of arduous duties and ill-health which occurred so frequently in his letters from Harwich. In March, 1655, he applied to the Admiralty Committee for a protection45 for thirty men in his ship Hopewell, then lying off Gravesend and bound to New England for masts, and also for a warrant for her to sail “as there is a stay on all ships outward bound.”
It is not without interest that one who had been so zealous in raiding the merchant ships for their seamen, and, in fact, had only a few months before been up and down the river in search of men to man the Barbados fleet, should now be seeking a protection for his own men. A possible reason put forward may have been that the cargo of masts was intended to supply the public service, but nevertheless it was a private venture.
Except those of the navy, the ships of the period can seldom be identified with certainty, and some names were so favored as to be repeated too often for any one particular vessel to be determined, unless associated with certain people or a limited sphere of trade; there was a Hopewell, a merchant ship mounting twenty guns, brought into the naval service during the war and recorded as having been built in 1652, but this evidently was not the one, as she was not sold out of the service until 1656. However, it is not improbable that it was the Hopewell frequently mentioned in the State Papers in connection with voyages to New England, Virginia and the West Indies, and owned by a coterie of merchants in which Maurice and Robert Thomson, two of Bourne’s fellow commissioners, were prominent, and with whom, on account of their American connections, he may now have been in partnership; in which case it may have been the Hopewell that was in Governor Winthrop’s fleet in 1630.
Bourne appears to have been at Harwich again in March, as in the Suffolk County Records (Vol. II, p. 211) there is the following entry: “I Nehemiah Bourne of London, Esq. have made my loving friends J. Leveret of Boston in New England, Merchant, and William Bartholomew, of Ipswich in New England, Merchant, my true and lawful attorneys,” dated 22 March 1655. His power of attorney was presented before the County Court at Boston, Massachusetts, on 30 July of that year, whereby he received a judgment against one Thomas Savage, a captain of the militia, to the value of £300.
Up to this time his private ventures seem to have been confined to trading to New England, but in 1655, when he gave up his residence at Harwich, he again turned to his trade of shipbuilding and laid out a new “shipwrights yard” with a dry dock, a store for pitch, tar, etc., and a store for “laying up hemp,” evidently a ropewalk, of which many of the shipyards appear to have had their own, judging by the large number which are marked on early maps of the Thames-side. There is also a mention of having built workmen’s houses at the same time.
No indication is given of the locality, but from a later reference it is fairly clear that it was at Wapping. It is said to have been laid out on waste ground and therefore more likely that it was at the eastern end of the parish where, on the still open space, the shipyards were gradually extending down-river to those at Shadwell and Limehouse, and eventually to the more important ones, which survived longer, at Blackwall.
As already noted, throughout 1655 Bourne’s letters and reports to the Admiralty Commissioners are mostly written from the Navy Office, but there are many to his own committee at the above Office addressed from Deptford. In April he informed them that he had a warrant (presumably from the Admiralty) to take all the laborers to Woolwich for the launching of a ship and that he expected to be forced to call in the help of all the ropemakers in the merchants’ yards. During May he was again at Deptford and wrote that he was going down to hasten the despatch of ships. A fortnight later he was at Gravesend and reported to the Admiralty that the ships were ready to sail for the Downs but the captains were reluctant to sail and recommended that the commander of the squadron should have power to appoint others if they were absent. Three days later (15 June) they were in the Downs; Bourne had followed by road, and wrote from Deal to say that he would remain there to see that the ships took advantage of the first favorable wind.
The services of the Navy Commissioners were not entirely overlooked, as in June the Admiralty ordered the other committee to make out bills for £150 each to Major Nehemiah Bourne, Major Robert Thomson, Thomas Scott, Edward Hopkins, Peter Pett, and Francis Willoughby “for extraordinary services as Navy Commissioners.” During September, Bourne was at Chatham with several other Commissioners and the Treasurer of the Navy checking up the muster books and paying the crews of the ships. Two months later he reported from the Navy Office on his survey of the ships at Deptford and said that if there was much ice in the river during the coming winter it would be very hazardous for the ships. His fears were not without foundation, as a month later they were frozen in for the winter and suffered damage when the ice eventually broke up.
He goes on to say that he had despatched to sea two ships from the Woolwich yard and names five there for which the state was at a great expense for moorings, adding that it would be better to sell them for a small sum “than be at a constant charge for such ugly beasts.” He had inspected the stores in the ships and finding “excesses” had ordered some rope to be landed; “more care is required,” he said, “there being much waste and especially when cordage is so high.” Leaving Woolwich and returning to Deptford, he surveyed the Indian, a vessel which—and her personnel—seems to have given him a good deal of trouble and annoyance, as also had some of the officials at the dockyard. “I have put the ships in a way for a quick despatch,” he wrote, “and am hastening them away to the Downs. The boatswain of the Indian is a drowsy idle fellow.” He had then arranged for the future storage of ammunition at Deptford “and perceiving some neglect arising from the excessive quantity of boatswains stores allowed to the ships, which he had ordered to be landed, had told all the officers to look after their respective charges.”
Back at the Navy Office there was an echo of an acquaintanceship of his early days as a shipbuilder at Wapping, when he replied to an enquiry from the Admiralty saying that Captain William Haddock would answer their expectations in whatever they may entrust him with. Captain William Haddock had taken an active part at sea during the late war, and in the early part had served with Bourne; they were later to serve together at the Trinity House, of which Haddock had become a member before the Civil War, and rejoined after the Restoration. Interspersed with Bourne’s reports and letters are many recommendations to the Commissioners for officers and petty officers seeking employment in the state’s service who had first petitioned for his assistance. For the rest of the year he was busy with the ships fitting out for the western expedition, probably the winter guard for the western approaches, which again took him back to the dockyards.
At Woolwich he was hastening the work on the Plymouth, Bridgwater and Diamond, hauled up for repair, and reported in November that there was not sufficient work remaining to justify the loss of another spring tide, adding that “the men are offering themselves to be entered on board, who if refused, may turn their thoughts another way,” and desired that the ships may be launched at once, although he was much concerned as to the uncertainty of the frost.
In February (1656) the ships were still in the Thames, as on the 24th he was at Gravesend inspecting those lying in the Tilbury Hope, “but found most of the officers absent and business very raw. The ships require men and victuals, but with proper attention could be got away,” and informed his Committee that he was going to Chatham in order to hasten their departure. In this same month the Council of State appointed Bourne a member of the Trade Committee which later became the Committee of Trade and Plantations, and, eventually, the Board of Trade.
In the meantime matters were not going at all smoothly at Harwich, and Robert Grassingham, the master shipwright left in charge there, wrote complaining to the Navy Commissioners that the Admiralty had charged him with neglect and asking for their support. He then goes on to say that he was still without money for carrying on the work there, and forwarded bills of exchange he had received from Ipswich which had been drawn during Bourne’s time there. Money was sent to tide him over and nothing further is heard from him for a while.
Early in May (1656) the Navy Commissioners appointed three of their number, Major Bourne, Captain Francis Willoughby and Captain John Taylor, to go to Portsmouth to report on the dockyard there. Willoughby was already familiar with the place, as he had been resident commissioner there during the war. On the 23rd, they reported that they had surveyed the yard “and find there is convenience for the erecting of a drydock there, at a cost of £3,200 and that it could be extended for £500 more.”
During the next month he was back at Harwich investigating the supply of timber for the navy. On 4 July he wrote advising that he had been to Hitcham Wood and ordered the felling of twelve hundred trees, five hundred of which would be useful for the navy and the remainder might be sold to defray the charges of converting and transporting the former to the stores at Deptford, Woolwich and Harwich, and still leave a balance. He said that, “As the felling will be a great loss to the poor tenants, and was much resented by them, has promised them the tops, which are of little value. The tanners offer only a shilling a tree for the bark.” He then advises the Admiralty Commissioners to make an agreement with Mr. Grassingham, the state’s shipwright, at Harwich for felling, converting, and transporting the timber on the terms he suggests and “leaves the consideration of his own pains and travail to them.”
A month later he required more money to pay wages at Harwich, and reports at the same time that he had got the first four hundred trees down to Ipswich from Hitcham, “the best parcel of timber he has seen for years.” On 18 August he wrote that he had drawn a bill on the Treasurer of the Navy for £400 but required further money as there would be £500 due for carting five hundred trees from Hitcham Wood, and he was shortly going to Hitcham to settle with the proprietor for the remainder.
The purchase of the timber from Hitcham Wood was not concluded until early in 1657, when Bourne forwarded to the Admiralty Commissioners the particulars of the bargain made with Giles Andrews, of the sale of lops and tops, and an account of his expenses, and at the same time desires consideration of his services. Thus pressed again, the Admiralty Committee instructed the Navy Committee on 4 March to make out a bill to Major Bourne for £120 “as a gratuity for preserving the State’s interest in the timber at Hitcham Wood, co. Suffolk, which was anciently reserved for the Navy.”
In the same month the Admiralty accepted Bourne’s advice to build six small vessels for the state’s service, two in each of the yards at Deptford, Woolwich and Chatham. Captain Alderne, one of the Victualing Commissioners, died this year and the commission was renewed with Bourne, Robert Thomson and Francis Willoughby as the three members, with the same emoluments of £250 a year each. As a result of frequent applications, the Admiralty eventually asked the Navy Committee in February to certify Major Bourne’s disbursements in refitting ships at Harwich and to allow him one and a half per cent “for his pains,” but for what period is not stated, nor is the date of eventual payment recorded.
Bourne spent most of July at Deptford, and whilst there he received an order from the Admiralty to demand satisfaction from a certain Colonel Rich who had been felling and removing timber from Eltham Park which had been reserved for the navy. An Act of July, 1649, for the sale of the former Crown lands provided that all timber growing within fifteen miles of a navigable river and fit for the navy should be cut down and carried away before July, 1657, but this does not appear to have been effectively carried out. In the same year (1649) a careful survey had been made of the Crown possessions at Eltham; some thousands of the best trees had been marked to be reserved for the navy, but in the succeeding years there had been much destruction of timber by private individuals by reason of the park palings having been broken down and destroyed. In 1655 the Navy Commissioners had reported extensive embezzlements of timber from Eltham, and made an order for an enquiry into the losses.
In March, 1657, Cromwell had concluded an offensive and defensive alliance with France, by which six thousand English troops were to take part in the war in Flanders against the Spaniards, and Dunkirk and Mardyke to be the English share of the joint conquests. In the following month Blake destroyed the Spanish fleet at Santa Cruz, and in September Mardyke passed into Cromwell’s hands. The latter was a serious blow to the Royalist party, who had been plotting an invasion of England and had contemplated using it as a base.
On Mardyke passing into the hands of Cromwell’s officers great activity was shown in making provision for erecting quarters for the troops, and Bourne was busily engaged in hiring and loading transports with heavy material and in collecting and engaging carpenters and masons. In April he had provided shipping for twelve hundred troops for Flanders, and made provision for victualing them; and again in September for a further fifteen hundred to garrison Mardyke. The hired ships were always a source of trouble, and his work did not end with the fitting out and loading of the ships, as from his reports he invariably had to follow the ships down beyond the Lower Hope to ensure that they sailed at the earliest opportunity.
Money was still Bourne’s principal difficulty and one which was fast exhausting his patience. From Deptford he sent an account of the disbursements at that yard, and of the amount he had been obliged to pay out of his own pocket, saying that he had hoped they would reimburse him quickly, “otherwise desires to be disengaged.” Most of the accounts were for ropes and cordage, and the remainder for wages which, he said, “could not be excused,” and adds that he was not well or would have called on them.
The Victualing Office in London still occupied much of his time; the pursers’ accounts for the ships home from Jamaica were scrutinized with the greatest care, claims for more than half rations for prisoners of war disputed, and where it was stated that extra rations had been ordered by the commanders to be issued to the seamen as an “encouragement,” it was only passed after approval by the Navy Office. The State Papers of this year contain many notes of Bills of Imprest, at first for £3,000 every two weeks and later rising to £4,000 a week, on the order of Majors Bourne and Thomson and Commissioner Willoughby, for carrying on the work of the Victualing Office. This department seems to have been the only one able to obtain adequate funds, but the imperative need of a regular supply of provisions and the inevitable consequences of failing to pay the contractors, left no alternative but to keep the department in funds.
The debts of the navy were now £100,000 and its immediate needs £300,000, but Parliament had refused to grant it unless the control of the militia was restored to them, and Cromwell, utterly refusing to allow the military power out of his own hands, in a fit of temper, dissolved Parliament. Such a situation did not ease the difficulties or improve the tempers of the Navy Commissioners, who were at once the butt between the seamen and dockyard workmen and the administration. Pensions of the sick and wounded were always in arrears; the men in the dockyard were unpaid and frequently complained that they were unable to obtain credit for the necessities of life. Commissioner Peter Pett had been obliged to leave Chatham for a time to get rid of the clamor of the unpaid poor.
Bourne was again at Deptford in January (1658), and whilst there was being harassed by the financial affairs at Harwich, the master shipwright continually forwarding the complaints he received, and asking for Bourne’s assistance. Receiving from the Admiralty a letter which roused his ire, he replied sharply that he would have waited on them had not public affairs detained him. “There are,” he said, “two bills of exchange for £714 drawn on you for cordage bought at Ipswich, and the contractors expect it. I am not accustomed to such language as I receive from you, and request an order for payment, and a bill of imprest for £450 for carrying on Naval affairs at Harwich, and ask it in the public interest.” He was quieted for a time by the Admiralty instructing the Navy Office to forward them Bourne’s accounts for disbursements in fitting out ships at Harwich, and to allow him one and a half per cent for his “pains,” as had been done in the previous year.
Early in February Bourne was on board the vice-admiral’s ship, the Swiftsure, then lying in Hoseley Bay, arranging for the refit of some of the ships, and from there went to Harwich where he had ordered some of the ships for graving. Writing on the 11th he told the Admiralty that evidently by reason of more important matters they had not considered the state of affairs at Harwich, which was entirely without the kind of stores in daily need, if they desired to continue using the port, and again explaining that the conditions there were quite different from other more settled and established yards.
He then recommended the building of a ballast wharf a hundred feet long, where the vessels could discharge their ballast before being laid ashore for cleaning, and for convenience in reloading it afterwards, as the use of ballast lighters caused unnecessary delays, and ended by asking that adequate stores and timber be supplied at once. Some weeks later the Admiralty took note of his letter and instructed the Navy Office to supply the stores required and the Commissioners were to consult with Bourne regarding his proposal to build a ballast wharf.
In proportion to the difficulties of the Cromwellian party arose the hopes of the exiled Royalists, and several plots were discovered and severe sentences passed on the promoters. In January, Charles II had collected in Flanders the Irish regiments in the Spanish service, hired Dutch ships for their transport and was preparing to effect a landing in England, but the strength of the English navy prevented any invasion. However, disaffection had broken out among the garrison at Mardyke and it became necessary to send over there additional and more reliable troops.
Bourne was back at Deptford in April, collecting and hastening away the transports. The Parliament became impatient and enquired of the Admiralty as to the cause of the delay. Bourne replied curtly to the latter by saying there had been no delay in despatching the ships, but they had been detained by contrary winds, and “he hoped they will attend to his letter of last week concerning the Harwich debts.”
Still more transport was called for and once more Bourne had to find ships and fit them out. Replying to the Admiralty Committee’s letter of 16 April he said,
“I received your command last evening in reference to Mardyke, and wish I were in better health to do your service. Nevertheless, perceiving the weight you seem to lay on the present affair I have been over the River to look out some vessels for transportation of the men, but find it a little difficult to procure such as are fit for the service, the River being empty of Ships, and the time allotted short enough to make such provision. I shall do what I can to comply with your orders, though I have been sufficiently discouraged by the difficulty and trouble I met with in obeying such commands as this is, for as yet I cannot, notwithstanding much solicitation, obtain your order to this office to make out bills of freight to such vessels as I have contracted for by special order.
“In particular, I was ordered by his Highness and the Secretary of State to freight the Fortune, flyboat, with her full lading of provisions, to the Fort at Mardyke and to be employed as a storehouse there, which service had been performed according to contract and the vessel has returned home. Without your order I cannot obtain a bill for her freight, this Office not taking notice of such extra commands to any single person, unless directed to the body.
“Please give me a release from such vexatious complaints, that fill my ears daily, about this and the like cases, or else excuse me from such service as few except myself would accept of. I never hitherto disputed any commands, neither shall I now begin, provided I may be disengaged from my personal obligations, made for the State’s advantage, which I am confident you cannot but judge equal and reasonable to grant me, who receive no allowance or consideration in lieu of my pains, care, and hazard of health
Bourne had returned to Harwich for a brief time early in May to report on the progress of the work on the ships under repair, and remarked that—that so long as they used the port for refitting and cleaning it could never be without ships. As usual, they were in need of money to pay the men, “there being great complaints. I have been constrained to take up some to stop their mouths, but will study to save money and facilitate the business whilst under my care.” By the 26th of the month he had returned to Deptford and wrote to the Navy Office that having taken a cold coming back from Harwich he could not come to London, but asks for £ 100 for the contractors’ cleaning the dock, “as they have many poor men to pay. I would be glad to be out of the dirt, which makes me move on your behalf.” The summer of 1658 was very unhealthy and a malignant fever raged so generally in England that a day of public humiliation on account of it was ordered. Sickness and mortality was very high in and around London. During the next few months he was frequently back at Deptford and principally engaged on the survey of ships under repair, but judging by his complaints he too was suffering from the prevalent illness which, combined with the constant worry resulting from the penurious condition under which naval affairs were being conducted, left him in an irritable state of mind which was constantly reflected in his reports.
Robert Grassingham wrote to the Admiralty in June, also urging that a ballast wharf should be built at Harwich, and again presses for money to pay the wages as he was already heavily out of pocket and “has no delight in being a creditor to the State.” He was still in financial difficulties in October when he wrote to the Admiralty, and in a tone of despair deplored the departure of Major Bourne from the port; however, they had become hardened to appeals for money and there does not appear to have been any response.
Cromwell died on 3 September (1658) and the intrigues which followed that event intensified the disorder existing in naval affairs. In the autumn it was decided to lay up the big ships, and the Admiralty sent Bourne, Robert Thomson and Captain John Taylor down to join with Peter Pett and Captain William Badiley at Chatham to survey the Medway and report as to how far the ships could be taken up the river and how they should be moored, and particularly, whether the Sovereign, the largest ship in the service, could be taken above Upnor Castle and whether she should be moored by chains or cables; also, what kind of a guard was necessary for their protection. They made a long and comprehensive report, which the Admiralty approved of, and then directed the Navy Commissioners to put into effect.
Thereafter Bourne seems to have had more time to attend to his own affairs, and in a petition to the Protector (Richard Cromwell), dated 22 January 1659, he said, “Being encouraged by a proviso in the statute of Queen Elizabeth—that the Act prohibiting buildings shall not extend to houses within a mile of the sea or navigable river, if inhabited by sailors or persons employed in or furnishing or in victualling ships—I built four years ago on waste ground on Thames Bank, and made a new drydock and Shipwrights yard, with stores for laying up hemp, and for pitch and tar, and also workmen’s houses, for which the Parliament Commissioners for New Buildings demand of me £300. Being tender of giving offence, I would rather submit to this judgment, than by demurring, encourage others to dispute authority; but to do this, I beg an order from the Admiralty Commissioners to the Navy Treasurer, to pay me a debt of £500 due for Shipping taken up for the Parliament’s service in 1644, out of the proceeds of the sale of condemned ships and stores.”
In the time of Queen Elizabeth there were several proclamations made regarding the building of new houses, some of which were repeated in the time of James I, and in Cromwell’s time an ordinance was made “whereby all persons who have erected houses since 1623 shall be fined one year’s rent; and for every house erected since September 1656 shall be fined £100, for the use of Oliver Cromwell.” This was one of the many schemes adopted to help to fill the exchequer of the Parliamentary Party.
Wapping was formerly a swamp, but afterwards, “by Pains and Art,” reclaimed from the Thames by the building of a wall and made a grazing land, commonly called Wapping Marsh. The maintenance of the walls was a heavy charge, and between 1560 and 1570 a breach was made and the marsh flooded. Repaired at considerable cost, it was then considered that the most effectual way of securing the bank was to build houses on it, and in 1571, ground was leased for that purpose; the means adopted proved effective, as the lessees eventually had to lay out considerable sums themselves to strengthen the wall in order to safeguard their property. From these first houses arose the hamlet, and afterwards the parish, of Wapping.
In 1583 Queen Elizabeth issued a proclamation for stopping all new buildings in general but it was represented that it would be harmful to stop building on Wapping Wall; the reply is unknown, but it is probable that a dispensation was made for this locality as the erection of buildings appears to have gone on there. Stow, writing in 1598, said it was the usual place of execution of pirates and sea rovers, and that forty years before there was never a house standing there, but since the gallows had been moved further off, there was now “a continual street,” probably the present principal thoroughfare, a part of which is still called Wapping Wall.
The parishes which eventually grew out of the larger one of Stepney increased their population very gradually and for many years there remained much open country immediately east of the Tower of London. It is recorded that Charles I on 24 July 1629, having hunted a stag from Wanstead, in Essex, killed him in a cottage garden in Nightingale Lane, in the hamlet of Wapping, the owner of the cottage suffering “much damage to his herbs,” by reason of the mass of people who quickly gathered. Nightingale Lane still exists, and is the main thoroughfare down the eastern side of St. Katherine’s Dock and joins Wapping High Street at the Hermitage entrance to the London docks.
The Hermitage Dock, in the vicinity of which Bourne had his first shipyard is mentioned as early as 1627, and the name still exists. Strype, in his edition of Stow’s Survey, in 1720, said that Wapping was chiefly inhabited by shipbuilders, seafaring men, and those dealing in commodities for ships, and that it was then “exceeding thick with buildings and is very populous, having been very much improved by human industry.” The building of the London docks, in the early nineteenth century, which now occupy a large part of the original parish, no doubt did much to alter the character of the locality and changed it to an area of warehouses, and of those employed in the handling and storage of imports.
Bourne having built his house early enough to escape that part of the order concerning houses built since September, 1656, nevertheless came within the former part relating to those built since 1623, whereby he was liable to a tax or fine equal to a year’s rent, but apparently hoped to get a release under a clause in one of the statutes of Queen Elizabeth, designed to encourage shipbuilding and assist trade and mercantile ventures. There were other clauses, in several statutes, he might equally well have chosen, but no doubt used the one which seemed to have the strongest appeal. The success or otherwise of his petition is not known, but his naive offer to waive his claim rather than encourage others to appeal may not have been entirely lost on those to whom it was referred to adjudicate. However, his letter is of further interest, as it discloses that he had ships hired out to the government as early as 1644, for which he had not yet been paid, and how great was the financial hazard of such service to the merchants in those troublous times.
In the meantime affairs at Harwich had gone from bad to worse; Grassingham wrote on 8 January (1659) complaining that his men were still unpaid and said that when Commissioner Bourne was there he always made “a special inspection of the Naval affairs of the port,” but since then they had been unable to get their wages. Bourne was sent down there again and on his arrival found more to occupy his attention than the men’s pay. Writing on the 26th to the Admiralty, he said that six ships were in port for cleaning, some were ready to be laid ashore but the weather had been so violent that all work was stopped and they had had difficulty in securing the ships. On the following day he boarded the flagship, the Swiftsure, then lying in the outer roadstead, and arranged for the rest of the ships requiring a refit to go on to Chatham.
Bourne remained at Harwich during most of February, but, at the end of the month and in March was again at Deptford. On 30 May he wrote tersely to the Navy Office that he was ill and confined to his home, and nothing was heard of him for a few weeks. One Richard Watkins, a master blacksmith at Harwich, wrote to him in June asking him “to consider his miserable condition and procure him some money.” He had used up all his iron, the state owed him £ 1,000 and his creditors were threatening to arrest him.
In the meantime the request they had made for a ballast wharf at Harwich had been acceded to, and in March (1659) Grassingham wrote to the Navy Committee that he had made an agreement for building it at the rate of £10. 5. 0. per rood, the contractor to have half the money down to buy the timber, and the other half when the work was finished, but if he was to wait for payment until the wharf was built the rate was to be £10. 10. 0. per rood; the contractor undertaking to complete the work in four months. In order to avoid finding ready money the Committee agreed to pay £10. 10. 0.
If Bourne realized the growing unrest throughout the country, which was more apparent in the seaports than elsewhere, his letter to the Navy Commissioners, of 18 August, from Harwich, where he had once more journeyed to assist Robert Grassingham in smoothing out his ever-increasing difficulties, makes his first mention of the rising storm. “Since Monday,” he said, “I have been here, and found business worth my time and labour. The spirit and temper of this county (notwithstanding the means they have had) may be compared with the rest of the nation, who are embittered and malignant, and want nothing but opportunity to give trouble to the Army . . .
“. . . As for these blind people here, they are as malignant as others who show their teeth; fourteen days since, some of the baser sort declared for a King, and invited others to join with them, which insolence was too lightly passed over by the Governor of the town.” He went on to say that he had sent to the Governor of Landguard Fort to seize some of the more bold and violent people and had advised the Admiralty to raise a company of well-affected men to secure the town and port, “which is needed as the spirit of the nation is”; he ends as usual with a comprehensive report on the ships there, and the unfailing subjects of money and stores; at the present time he said that the workmen had difficulty in getting credit owing to arrears of pay. The storehouse was empty and there must be speedy provision made for the frigates daily arriving.
He returned to London soon after this, and at the end of the month Grassingham wrote to him that he was in great want of money, and evidently receiving no answer, in desperation went up to London. Writing on 3 September from New Crane,46 Wapping Wall—which may have been Bourne’s residence—to the Admiralty Committee, he said that the money received only cleared all accounts, wages still remained unpaid and his own and the storekeeper’s salaries were still longer in arrears. Timber was urgently needed and the stores were again exhausted. “There was a time when my complaints were answered by Commissioner Bourne, but since he left off inspecting the port my complaints have seemed of little weight to any, and for eighteen months, I have not known to whom to complain, so as to find redress.” He desired them to consult with Bourne, and said that if £1,000 is not sent down he would be unable to carry on.
This called for Bourne’s immediate departure for Harwich again. Writing from there on 9 September, in a sullen and angry mood, he demanded that cables, ropes, canvas, and victuals be sent at once as there are six frigates in hand and many coming in, and the port was wholly destitute of stores. “I had hoped to have been home today, but am commanded to remain against my will.” For once his request was attended to, as despite an adverse wind a vessel arrived with cables on the 15th, but Bourne, in reporting her arrival to the Navy Commissioners, said with more than a touch of despair, that no victuals had been sent down, so that all the ships were detained, adding that he was weary of staying at Harwich and was resolved to leave the next week.
During his stay there he had been assisting Grassingham with the finances of the dockyard, as on the 17th the latter wrote to the Admiralty that he had been to Ipswich and with the assistance of Major Bourne, and after much difficulty, had borrowed £500 as part payment of the workmen’s wages and drawn a bill on the Navy Treasurer for the amount, payable in six days, “and as his reputation, of which he is dearly tender, is engaged, hopes it will be promptly met, otherwise he could obtain no more in future for the use of the public affairs at Harwich.” At the same time Bourne wrote to the Navy Office referring to Grassingham’s bill for the £500, and said, “the six days are nigh completed and therefore intreat your interest to press the matter with the Admiralty, which I shall esteem a friendship to me, whose reputation stands charged therewith. I purpose to make homeward on Tuesday, if not strongly countermanded.”
In August and September there had been further Royalist plots throughout the country—Bourne’s letter concerning the spirit of the Harwich men only reflected the dissatisfaction with the existing government which was becoming more general everywhere; one rising after another had been quelled, and for a time the fortunes of the Royalists seemed at their lowest ebb. There was, however, one element still in Charles’s favor, namely, the want of union in the governing power in England, between the Parliament and the military force; and such was the dissension that by October or November at least those in Parliament knew that the Restoration was certain, the time and circumstances alone were not clear.
Two men had held themselves aloof as much as possible from the government on the one side and the Royalists on the other; and as one commanded a considerable force in Scotland and the other was at the head of the fleet, on their will the destinies of the nation hinged. These were General George Monck, soon to become Duke of Albemarle, and Edward Mountagu, afterwards Earl of Sandwich. Monck had returned to the command of the land forces in 1654; Mountagu, who had command of the fleet in the Downs in 1657–1658, covering the operations against Dunkirk and Mardyke, and in March, 1659, of the fleet ordered to the Sound to enforce peace between Sweden and Denmark, but later in the year was in retirement. In February, 1660, Monck and Mountagu were appointed jointly to the command of the fleet, and both went over to Holland with the ships that brought King Charles to England.
Despite the unrest throughout the country and the inevitable trend of events, unpleasant enough to men of Bourne’s views, he carried on assiduously with his duties at the Navy Office. Although, as we have seen, he had a personal dislike to Harwich, and his association with the place during the past seven years had given him much reason for it, he had long been convinced of its importance as a naval base, an opinion amply confirmed in the wars of 1666–1668 and 1672–1674, and his attention was now directed to securing its permanence. The small beginning in 1654 by the purchase of a modest house, a store, and a wharf, had subsequently been added to by acquiring a plot of land from the Corporation of Harwich, but this was not enclosed by a fence until 1657. Writing to the Navy Commissioners, the mayor and council of Harwich said that they would not interfere with the piece of ground chosen, but, as it was larger than that for which the last tenant paid £4 a year, they hoped that the poverty of the town would be remembered.
No lease, however, had been sealed at that time, and Bourne was anxious to have the matter put in order, so wrote to Robert Grassingham enclosing a letter designed to conclude the deal, and at the same time instructed him to measure up all the ground from the limits of the former purchase, namely, from the wharf, in order that the lease could be drawn up.
Grassingham replied to him on 6 December saying that he had delivered his letter to the mayor and council of Harwich who desired him to say that they expected an annual rental of £5, and as the ground had been enclosed in 1657 they expected rent from that year, and when paid, they would seal a lease for ninety-nine years. Although many other and important matters were pending, Bourne went down to Harwich at once, but whether the lease of the yard was finally concluded is not stated, and his letter to the Navy Office of the 13th of that month was concerned solely with other difficulties which confronted him there.
“I presume,” he said, “your hands are full at this season, and therefore wish I were not bound to be absent, but I have not been in want of business, having had rather too much, by means of some who might have prevented it if timely care had been used (I mean by the bad condition of the Assistance which came into this harbour on Saturday). Since then we have had very bad weather, and all that we could do was little enough to preserve her from sinking in the Channel, and therefore we were forced to heave her ashore, to prevent a greater mishap. Since then she had troubled all hands until today, and the tides having fallen off, she is quiet and well shored, but she does not dry, and yet we have sight of her wounds, which are such that I wonder she ever came here,” and then goes on to say that the most they could do was to “plaster her up” to get her to Chatham. He was concerned for the safety of the fleet in Hoseley47 Bay, “where they beat their cables” and could not take in victuals by reason of the weather. “I have been urgent with my reasons, but as yet I hear nothing, which now wholly keeps me here . . . I also wonder that I have not a word from you, having written two or three letters and laid before you the state of the stores. I pray take one look upon this inconsiderable port, for it is your own as well as others of riper age and greater growth, and hath its share in service and use.”
Bourne shortly afterwards returned to London from what seems to have been his last visit to Harwich. There are a few more letters concerning the Harwich yard, showing that his last efforts as a Navy Commissioner were directed towards securing its permanency as a naval base, and then his reports cease, or at least none later have been preserved. The events of the next few months are a matter of history; in February, 1660, General Monck returned to London, and, now having the military power in his hands, insisted on the Parliament’s voting its own dissolution and the summoning of a fresh Parliament consisting of a House of Commons and a House of Peers, which was effected on 20 April. The Royalist tendency of these changes could no longer be mistaken and the Restoration was a fait accompli from that time.
Parliament voted on 1 May for the King’s restoration; on the 10th General Mountagu received orders to sail for Holland to embark the King and his retinue. Charles landed at Dover on 25 May where he was met by Monck who accompanied him to London. On 7 July Monck was raised to the peerage as George, first duke of Albemarle, and on the 12th Mountagu as Edward, first Earl of Sandwich. The events following the return of the King, however, are not of interest here.
The Restoration ended Bourne’s career in the service of the state; by an Order in Council of 4 July 1660 for the appointment of Commissioners of the Navy, Lord Berkeley, Admiral Sir William Penn (knighted on 9 June) and Peter Pett were appointed, with Samuel Pepys as Clerk or Secretary to the Commissioners, the first appearance of his name in the State Papers, and now on the threshold of his career at the Navy Office.
Bourne’s letters and reports from Harwich are invaluable as a record of the administrative problems during the Dutch War, and also of the difficulties in maintaining the fleets at sea in the succeeding years. Notwithstanding his verbose and discursive style—which was typical of the Puritan mind—his letters often contain most trenchant remarks and give the impression of a robust and sturdy character, as well as of vigor and energy and a readiness to take responsibility; he was clearly a stronger man than the Commissioners at either Chatham or Deptford, who complained as often and achieved less. There is a consensus of evidence as to the success he obtained at Harwich under well nigh insuperable difficulties. Oppenheimer, in The Administration of the Navy, has described Bourne and Willoughby, the commissioner at Portsmouth, as being, in their own sphere, amongst the ablest administrators who have ever served the state.
General Monck’s letter of 20 July 1653, addressed to the Admiralty from on board the Resolution, stating that, “It is strange that twenty ships should be so long fitting out from Chatham, Deptford, and Woolwich, where there are so many docks and instruments to give despatch, when there have been twenty-two or more fitted out from Harwich in half that time by Major Bourne whose extraordinary care and diligence herein is worthy your knowledge,” is in itself a tribute to his energy and resource, especially when it is remembered that Harwich lacked all the facilities of the older dockyards, that at no time did he possess more than a modest house, a store and a wharf, apart from the vacant land acquired from the Harwich Corporation, and, except for ropes and canvas made and purchased in Ipswich and the other coast towns—when his bills on the Treasurer of the Navy were accepted—and for chance consignments of timber, was dependent upon Chatham and Deptford yards for stores and equipment for the ships.
Ships could only be hauled on to the foreshore for cleaning, and it was not until about a year before the Restoration that a ballast wharf was built to enable them to discharge their ballast before being laid ashore; hitherto the ballast had been discharged into lighters, which, apart from other disadvantages, resulted in it going back into the ships without being cleaned, and often wet, and therefore adding to the unhealthy and unsanitary condition of the ships and the consequent high rate of sickness in the crews.
Bourne’s letters from Harwich during the Dutch War, as well as those of other commissioners in charge of dockyards, reveal many administrative deficiencies and shortcomings; difficulties in manning, provisioning, and equipping of ships, and also of the lack of discipline; but the picture must not obscure that of the things which did not go wrong. After all, it is only the deficiencies and shortcomings which used to be written about; not the things which were working smoothly. On the other side, the Dutch admirals complained bitterly of how they had been handicapped by the shortcomings of their own administration, and on the whole, one of the causes of England’s success was the superiority of her administration and the vigor of her executive departments.
The difficulties arising from the lack of funds have frequently been mentioned, and it is clear that they added considerably to the problems confronting all those who were called upon to be both administrators and employers, and therefore obliged to find the wages of the dockyard workmen. The financial difficulties which had wrecked the designs of Charles I, at first, presented few obstacles to the Parliament and the Protector. By means of the sale of Crown lands, and the composition of the delinquents, large sums had been raised, but the system was reckless and improvident in the extreme, as it largely consisted in living on capital; however, no system of taxation, then possible, could have met the demands of the army and navy, engaged in war on land and at sea, during those years, and in 1660 every branch of the administration was overwhelmed with debt.
The troubles with the seamen were no greater than before and after this time; the Dutch War was at first very popular with the men, and early in the war volunteers flocked to man the ships; even in 1655, it will be remembered, when Bourne was anxious to get the ships fitting out at Woolwich into commission, he said that volunteers were freely coming forward—although there was generally a dearth of seamen in the country—and was afraid that unless engaged at once they would go elsewhere.
After the volunteers there was always a residium of men accustomed to certain trades, such as the colliers, and those who sought the higher pay in the merchant ships or the greater chances of prize money in the privateers, who could only be reached by the press system. It may be thought that the crews of the privateers would have been protected as they were fighting ships, however, they were not so regarded at this time, and warrants to owners to fit out privateers were issued not so much for the damage they would inflict on the enemy as to enable merchants who had had their ships captured to recoup their losses. Most of the applications by the merchant owners for warrants were prefaced by an account of their losses at sea by the depredations of the enemy, although some were granted as a reward for services to the state in other ways.
The press was applied vigorously, especially when the novelty of fighting the Dutch wore off, and again, when Admiral Penn’s fleet fitted out for the expedition to the West Indies where the seamen had a wholesome dread of the fever; but, in fact, there were not enough seamen in England to man both the merchant ships and the large fleets then in commission. Being nearer the seat of the administration, where the press system could be better organized, the Thames-side was probably ransacked more thoroughly than other ports, and was not confined to sea-going men; there were times when the Thames, normally giving employment to some thousands of watermen, was practically denuded of every able-bodied man as a result of the continual excursions of the press-gang.
Bourne, who expected all ranks and ratings to be inspired by the same sense of duty and zeal for the cause as those of the administration, complained often and bitterly of the men. From Harwich he wrote mournfully that the seamen were “sensible neither of what is the public or their own interest but are below the beasts that perish”; but did his best to grapple with a very difficult task, made even more so by reason of the seamen considering that their duties began and ended on salt water, and when in port were more ready for a carousel than attending to the refitting of their ships. The men, however, had legitimate complaints; the quality of the beer was a frequent subject of complaint, but no doubt the long delays in paying their wages was their principal grievance.
Robert Grassingham, the master shipwright, who has so frequently been mentioned, continued at Harwich until after the Restoration, when he was arrested, apparently for debt, and appealed to the new Commissioners of the Navy for redress, in which he stated that he had served them faithfully at Harwich for seven years. Although the Admiralty in 1656 had censured him as “very negligent and remiss of late,” it is quite clear that the delays for which he was blamed were due to want of stores and lack of credit. It is unlikely that he would have survived so long had he not been efficient, and animated with the same zeal as his senior; and, furthermore, he appears to have had duties and responsibilities assigned to him beyond those of a master shipwright, especially after Bourne had left Harwich. He was a thorough-going Puritan,48 probably Bourne’s own choice for the position, and these may have been the reasons for his removal after the Restoration.
The shipyard increased its activities by commencing to build ships, the first naval vessel to be constructed there (in 1660) being the Harwich, a small vessel used for conveying stores between Deptford, Chatham and Harwich, and is not to be confused with the Harwich, a third rate, built there in 1674. However, the future rise of Harwich naval base is no part of Bourne’s career.
We now come to Bourne’s membership of the Trinity House, which dates from 1656, when he left Harwich and went to the Navy Office in London; but before giving an account of his association therewith it is necessary first to say something of the constitution of the Corporation under the Commonwealth. It had enjoyed a varying degree of popularity during the Civil War. Although a few of the members were supporters of the Royalist cause, many of those who were not had at least been anxious for a compromise, or a settlement by peaceful means.
Amongst those who supported the King, the most prominent was Sir Henry Mainwaring, courtier, and naval commander, who had often been a special commissioner for naval affairs. Sir Henry was Master of Trinity House in 1642, when on 20 June an ordinance was passed in the House of Commons empowering Sir Roberty Harley, Sir John Evelyn and Mr. Bence49 “to treat with the Trinity House for the loan of money for these great occasions.” With what result is unknown, but Parliament soon afterwards removed from office any officials who were suspected of Royalist tendencies. Mainwaring was amongst these, as on 9 November the Commons resolved that he should no longer continue as Master of Trinity House and directed the Corporation forthwith to make election of a new Master. He subsequently took up arms and fought on the side of the Royalists.
Unfortunately the records of the Trinity House for the next few years have not survived the confiscations of Cromwell’s Parliament or of subsequent fires, and there is no complete record, or in fact, very little evidence of their varying fortunes during the Civil Wars, and, during the interregnum, owing to the multiplicity of interests of the then members and the fact that some of them were often at sea or serving as Commissioners of the Navy, or attached to the dockyard ports, little account was kept of their proceedings.
On the death of Charles I and the establishment of the Commonwealth Parliament, an Act was made on 16 January 1649 for “Regulating of the Officers of the Navy, Customs, etc.,” which ordered that all officers of the navy, of the Customs, Commissioners of the Navy, Members of the Trinity House, and others, who had voluntarily aided or assisted the King with money or otherwise, since 1641, or that since 1 March 1647 had promoted or signed petitions for the King to come to London should, after 1 February following, be incapable of holding such office, and all persons so offending should forfeit the sum of £200 for the first day and £10 for every day they should continue in their said office.
The Act must have affected most of the members of the Trinity House, as there is at least one petition to the two Houses of Parliament among the State Papers in the Public Record Office signed by over ninety Elder and Younger Brethren of the Corporation for “A Personall Treaty with His Majesty, as the only remedy for the present distempers of this distressed Kingdome.” No doubt other petitions had been signed as well, or they were compromised in some other way, despite the fact that the majority were opposed to the principles for which the Royalists had been contesting, and when it came to the final conflict with the King and a settlement no longer possible, the majority declared for the Parliament and gave good service both on land and at sea.
Apart from the needs of the public service there were influences at work to ensure the continuity of the House, and on 23 February, following the above-mentioned Act, the House of Commons appointed nine Commissioners, Colonel Richard Deane, Captains Thomas Smith, Henry West, Robert Dennis, William Bundock, Samuel Moyer, Thomas Scott, John Sayer and Maurice Thomas, to be a committee to act with such members of the Corporation who were not affected by the Act of 16 January. Owing to the limited number as well as the many other public duties in which they were engaged, the Parliament, on 5 September, added three more to the above-named Commissioners, namely, Captains William Badiley, George Pasfield and Jeremy Blackman. These twelve were nearly all Younger Brethren of the Trinity House and men who had some family ties and associations with it, and undoubtedly the appointments were made of those familiar with its work, and to ensure its continuity.
A brief account of each of them is of interest as showing that most of them were men with much the same kind of careers and professional interests as those of Bourne, and the majority of them were Stepney or Wapping men. Colonel Richard Deane is the one best known to history. He was a kinsman of Oliver Cromwell, and is said to have been a merchant shipowner before the Civil War. He joined the revolutionary party in 1642 and was attached to the garrison artillery at Gravesend. In 1648 he accompanied Cromwell into Wales and was present at the Battle of Preston. For the events which led up to the King’s execution, Deane had a full share of responsibility; he was one of the commissioners for his trial, and signed the warrant for his execution. On 24 February 1649—the day after he had been appointed to the Committee at Trinity House—he was one of three appointed to the command of the fleet, and the events of the next three years, followed by the Dutch War, kept him continually at sea. He took part in the Battle of Portland, in February, 1653, and was killed in the Battle of the Gabbard in June of that year.
Thomas Smith, a merchant shipowner, is first heard of in 1635 when he was contesting with William Burrell, a well-known Thames-side shipbuilder, for the exclusive right of raising ballast from the bed of the river for the use of ships, but apart from this, little is known of him. After the fall of the monarchy he was appointed a Commissioner of the Navy, and in 1655, a Commissioner for Prize Goods. He owned several vessels hired out in the state’s service.
Captain Henry West was captain and part owner of the Transport, a privateer, in 1626, and in the following year letters of marque were issued to him and his associates for a second ship, the Vintage, commanded by Captain Richard West, probably his brother, and the two ships sailed in company. During the next two years they had a successful time and brought in some rich prizes. So prosperous had they become by 1629, when letters of marque were renewed for the Transport, that his former partners now retired and Henry West appears as the sole owner of the ship. After another cruise he retired from the command of her and was succeeded by Richard West, but the same success attended her until the end of the war with France. Thereafter, there was considerable litigation over the prize goods taken by the ship. Some of the captures appearing to have bordered on piracy, however, the prizes were condemned, and this was followed by an appeal by the seamen for their share of the prize money which the owners were slow in paying.
The wife of one seaman who had gone to the East Indies appealed to the Council for her husband’s share, stating that Captain West “in a very uncivil manner had refused to pay her.” In September, 1630, the Council referred the matter to Sir Henry Marten, Judge of the Admiralty Court, who made an order for the payment thereof. Two years later she again petitioned that it had not been complied with and that when she made application for payment Captain West had replied “in most unreverend terms that he did not care a—— for their order,” and now prays that an order be made for his contempt of court.
In 1637 Henry West was part owner of a ship fully laden with provisions, “strong waters, ironware, knives, etc.” bound from London to Piscatoway,50 in New England, which, having put into Falmouth for shelter, fouled the anchor of a Dutch vessel lying there and filled with water, whereby the owners lost between three and four thousand pounds. The Admiralty Court gave a decision in their favor and the Dutch vessel was condemned and sold.
Henry West resided in Limehouse, then a part of Stepney, where he was a church warden from 1637 to 1649, and owned some property in the parish of St. Katherine’s, leased of the Master and Brethren of the Hospital of St. Katherine’s, by the Tower. He was a Younger Brother of Trinity House as early as 1628, possibly before that year, and long associated with its members in shipping ventures. He died in 1659 and was buried at St. Dunstan’s, Stepney.
Captain Robert Dennis commanded a ship sent out to Bermuda in 1637 by the “Company of the Somers51 Island,” and was later engaged in the Virginia trade. He appears to have been retired from active command at sea by the time of the Civil War, and residing in Stepney, where he was a church warden in 1647. Like most of the merchant mariners he was a staunch supporter of the Parliamentary cause.
Virginia supported the Royalist cause, but was left alone for a time as Cromwell was engaged in consolidating his power at home, but in due time took notice of the defiance of the Southern Plantation, and in September, 1651, Captain Dennis was appointed—probably on account of his knowledge of Virginia—to command a small squadron ordered to sail for Virginia and reduce all plantations within the Bay of Chesapeake, to publish the Act of Parliament against “Kingship and the House of Lords,” and to use force if the inhabitants would not submit by fair means. He was also to seize all ships trading with any of the plantations, prohibited by the Parliament, and to dispose of them as he might think fit. He sailed in command of the John and a second vessel, with the above instructions which were to be opened “when he was twenty leagues from the Scillies.” However, he was lost with both the ships in circumstances not recorded, but probably in one of the winter gales off the American seaboard.
Captain William Bundock, of Leigh, was one of a family of mariners of that town who were long connected with the Trinity House. He commanded the John Bonadventure, a privateer, in 1627, and two years later the Jane Bonadventure, also a privateer. During the next few years he was associated with Maurice Thomson in the New England trade, and in 1635 commanded the Hopewell on a voyage to Massachusetts. This is probably the same Hopewell we have met with before. He later became a merchant shipowner and resided at this time in the parish of St. Katherine’s, near the Tower of London, but evidently had lived at some time in Wapping, as his name frequently occurs in the Register of St. John’s, where several of his children were baptized.
Samuel Moyer, of Leigh, was the son of James Moyer, a former Elder Brother of Trinity House who died in 1638. Samuel Moyer was a Younger Brother of the Corporation, and was related to nearly all of those merchant mariners of Leigh who were connected with the Trinity House. Although he and his family had long been engaged in the Levant trade, with the opening up of commerce with the Americas he adventured into the trade, frequently in partnership with Maurice Thomson, but eventually both were to become more prominent in the East India trade. He was an ardent supporter of Cromwell’s regime and held various offices in its administration. Like most of the Leigh mariners he was a staunch Puritan (southern Essex was early in the religious controversy), and he and his brother, Lawrence Moyer, who became one of the Elder Brethren of the House at the Restoration, were subsequently committed to the Tower of London and kept under restraint for several years on suspicion of plotting against the monarchy. Captain Nicholas Hurlestone, his brother-in-law and a Warden of Trinity House both before 1649 and after the Restoration, it will be remembered, was captain of the Jewel, one of the ships in Governor Winthrop’s fleet in 1630.
Thomas Scott, of Ratcliffe, had been employed in 1635 in redeeming English captives from Algiers, for which purpose the Trinity House had subscribed considerable sums of money, and therefore it may be inferred that he had some early association with the House. He was a master shipwright as well as a master mariner. In 1650 he was appointed master attendant at Chatham Dockyard where his name is often mentioned together with that of Peter Pett, in the survey of ships. He was later master attendant at Deptford, and worked in close co-operation with Bourne during the latter’s many visits to the yard when fitting out the ships and transports for Admiral Penn’s expedition to the West Indies. He owned a shipyard near the naval dockyard where he repaired vessels, sometimes those owned by the state or in the state’s service, and owned at least one vessel hired out to the state, probably as a victualer. As master shipwrights of the Thames-side, he and Bourne were probably long acquainted. Scott was an intimate friend of Colonel Thomas Middleton, one of the pioneers in the West Indian trade, and also of Admiral William Penn. His many letters from Deptford give the impression of a zealous official, and of very forthright personality.
John Sayer, a mariner and shipowner, was born at Leigh, where his father, also John Sayer and a mariner, was related to the Moyers and other maritime families of that town who were members of the Trinity House, but had long resided at Wapping where most of his large family were baptized. His early career is obscure, but at the time of his death, in 1655, he was part owner of the ships Shipwell, Hopewell and Luke, all of which were or had been in the service of the state, payments for their hire being due to his estate. One of his daughters was the wife of Richard Badiley, sometime an admiral in the Parliamentary navy, who has already been mentioned. Richard Badiley inherited his house at Wapping. The two families appear to have been further related, as the Wapping Register has the marriage of Thomas Badiley and Martha Sayer, 25 November 1629.
Maurice Thomson was the eldest of the sons of Robert Thomson, of Walton, in Herefordshire. They were staunch Puritans, strong supporters of Cromwell’s government, and all had some service in the Civil War and in the subsequent administration. Robert Thomson, one of the younger sons, had long been a member of Trinity House and was one of the Commissioners of the Navy with Bourne. Maurice Thomson, the more prominent member of the family, was a wealthy merchant and shipowner, the foundation of his fortune having been laid in the Virginia trade. As early as 1632 the governor of that colony recommended him with two others for a three-year monopoly of all the tobacco grown there. Shortly after this time he got into trouble for trading with Canada and was ordered to pay a fine of £400 to the Canadian Adventurers, which, however, he obstinately refused to do. Six years later his enterprise got him into a similar scrape, this time for poaching on the preserves of the Guinea Company.
Like others, already mentioned, he had been permitted to recoup his losses at sea by means of privateering and appears to have been successful. He later traded regularly to Guinea and the West Indies and took a leading part in the original settlement in the Bahamas having, in 1641, sent out the Hopewell, of which he was then the principal owner, his brother, Edward Thomson, being master, with the first English settlers there. He eventually became a considerable plantation owner both in the Bahamas and Barbados. During the next few years he was engaged in the New England trade and later adventured into the East India trade with Samuel Moyer and others, first as interlopers and afterwards as members of the East India Company, on whose council both he and Moyer eventually became prominent.
During the Commonwealth, owing to his friendship with Cromwell, he was often engaged to represent the interests of the company at the Council of State, of which he was also a member, and particularly in getting convoy escort for their ships homeward from India. One petition for frigates to be sent to meet their ships at St. Helena stated that it would “not only redound to the honour of the nation, but, by the blessing of God be the means of preserving the estates of many persons.” He was one of the earliest advocates of a free Parliament, and always a staunch supporter of Oliver Cromwell. He prepared the expedition for reducing Virginia, commanded by the before-mentioned Robert Dennis, and afterwards was appointed a Commissioner for Somers Island (Bermuda). During the Dutch War he had a number of ships hired out to the state, one of them, the Peregrine, being lost in an engagement with some Dutch ships in the Straits of Gibraltar.
Thomson was appointed a member of the Committee for Trade at the same time as Bourne. He was always very prominent in the affairs of Trinity House, and was one of the members of its Committee to be reelected at the Restoration, but towards the end of 1660 withdrew, probably on account of the active part he had taken in the late administration; however, at his leaving he gave £100 towards the purchase of the estate in Southwark which subsequently became the principal source of the Corporation’s charitable revenue.
During the Commonwealth he had held many high offices, but after the Restoration his intimate connection with Cromwell caused him to be regarded with suspicion, and though in 1660 the King had granted him his pardon, and he had accepted it, on 24 June 1660, during the Second Dutch War, he and his brother Robert were charged with giving information to the Dutch of the English fleet. The charge stated that “Maurice Thomson was always violent against Kingly government, he was intimate with the Protector, sat in the High Court of Justice, and sentenced some of the beheaded Lords.” It goes on to state that he was once poor, but got a great estate in the Civil Wars, “mostly rent out of the bowels of the King’s party.” Nothing came of the charge, which was probably untrue, as indeed it was incorrect to say that until the Civil Wars he had been poor, having at that time long been a prominent merchant adventurer.
In 1654 he was one of the founders of Old Poplar Chapel, and at the “preaching of the first sermon gave an uncommon instance of his great Humility and Piety in that he condescended to go to the Clerk’s desk and there named and set the first psalm.” He resided at Worcester House, Mile End Green, Stepney, which he later disposed of to the Stepney Meetinghouse and removed to Bishopsgate Street, in the city. He died in May, 1676.
William Badiley was a brother of Richard Badiley, and although the latter’s service was sufficiently distinguished to gain him a brief notice in the Dictionary of National Biography, William Badiley had equally active service at sea during the Dutch War, and is the Captain Badiley whose action was commended by Blake, in his report of the Battle of the Kentish Knock where he commanded a ship in Bourne’s squadron. He later served as a rear admiral for a time, but thereafter his service was more particularly in the dockyards.
He was a Younger Brother of the Trinity House as early as 1628,52 when he appears to have been master of a ship in the Levant trade, and subsequently owned several vessels engaged in that trade.
On the outbreak of the Dutch War three of the ships he owned, or was part owner of, the Dolphin, Anne of Cleeves and William, were taken up for the state’s service, and Badiley himself served at sea under Blake and Bourne until December, 1653, when he was appointed Master Attendant at Portsmouth. He was afterwards Master Attendant at Deptford and Woolwich, where during the succeeding years he was frequently associated with Bourne in his dockyard activities. In these later years William Badiley resided on Tower Hill and was frequently engaged in the impressment on and about the river, a reference in this connection stating that his membership of Trinity House “particularly qualified him for this work.” He was the only one of the original twelve Commissioners appointed in 1649 to continue as an Elder Brother of the Corporation after the Restoration, and remained at the Trinity House until his death in 1666.
The Badileys were Wapping men, and the names of members of the family occur in the Marriage Register of St. John’s in 1627 and 1629. Captain Richard Badiley died there: “14th August 1657, Captain Richard Badiley, dwelling in Milk Yard, near ye chapel, dyed of an ulcer”; his first wife, Rebecca, having been buried there in 1641. William Badiley married at St. John’s, evidently a second marriage, 30 November 1658, to Elizabeth Tatum, spinster. Both are described at this time as of Stepney, and to the entry in the Marriage Register there is the following notation: “in the presence of Richard Badiley, Captain John Cox and others then present.” The latter Richard Badiley was evidently a son of either Richard or William, as Richard Badiley, senior, was dead at this time. Captain John Cox, also of Wapping, and probably the John, son of John Cox, who was baptized in the parish in 1623. He was the son-in-law of William Badiley, by having married the latter’s daughter, Rachel. Captain John Cox was elected an Elder Brother of Trinity House on 20 July 1664 in succession to the before-mentioned Captain Brian Harrison, who died in that year. In the Second Dutch War Cox was captain of the Sovereign, a first rate of 100 guns, and was knighted for his services. In the Third Dutch War he was killed in the action off Sole Bay, 28 May 1672.
Jeremy Blackman was an old associate of Maurice Thomson and Samuel Moyer, and early in life had been engaged in the Virginia trade, and commanded the ship William (possibly the one of that name later owned by William Badiley), and subsequently owned some plantations in Virginia. He joined his colleagues when they entered the East India trade, and commanded, probably as a part owner, the Golden Fleece on a voyage to India in 1647. Two years later he was a member of the Court of the East India Company, and in 1650 was appointed president of the company’s establishment at Surat, sailing for India in the following year. Although he did not continue as a member of Trinity House, he was closely associated with its members for the rest of his life.
George Pasfield of Rotherhithe, a merchant and shipowner in the West Indian trade, had his ship, the Barbadoes Merchant, hired out in the state’s service, and later obtained a warrant for her to sail as a privateer, and for his seamen to be exempted from impressment. He, too, owned considerable estates in Barbados and elsewhere in the West Indies. He was actively engaged in the affairs of Trinity House up to the time of the Restoration, in which year he died.
These brief accounts of their careers sufficiently describe the men who had taken control of the affairs of Trinity House, and, generally, were comparable to the Navy Commissioners, some of whom, as we have seen, served on both Committees. Some mention has been made of their relationship one to another, and the Stepney and Wapping parish registers show them to have been more intermarried than it is necessary more particularly to describe. Bold, adventurous, and sterling seamen, all of them; and although merchant mariners they were trained in warfare, as then understood; staunch nonconformists and supporters of a free Parliament, they were loyal to the state and the departments in which they served, yet mingled public service with private trade, losing no opportunity of a business venture, with a success and a standard of integrity that rarely obtained after the Restoration. Such were the men with whom Bourne was associated, and all of whom had achieved success in the same hard school of maritime adventure.
In the meantime, some of the original members proscribed by the Ordinance of the House of Commons of January, 1649, had died, and the number of commissioners appointed in that year had, from several causes, been reduced. Almost immediately, after having been made a commissioner, Richard Deane was appointed to a command at sea, and later was killed at the Battle of the Gabbard, 3 June 1653. Robert Dennis was lost at sea on his voyage to Virginia in 1651–1652; John Sayer died in 1657, and Henry West about this time or soon after. No further appointments were made by the Council of State or the House of Commons, but the existing members of the Corporation, apparently by exercising the rights and powers under their original charter, made such additions to their membership as were necessary to enable them to carry on their work, and it was in these circumstances that Nehemiah Bourne joined the Trinity House, of which so many of his intimate friends and relatives had been members as far back as he could remember.
During the Commonwealth years no records of the proceedings at the Trinity House appear to have been kept. They were stirring times, some of the members were often at sea, and others had various appointments, several being Commissioners of the Navy. A volume entitled “Transactions” which consists partly of copies of letters and partly of resolutions made concerning matters not always stated, and is of more value on account of the names of members than as a record of proceedings, has survived at Trinity House. From this it appears that Bourne became a member in 1656, the year in which he left Harwich and came to the Navy Office; the Cash Book also confirms that he participated from that year in the fees which represented their remuneration. In the passing references to the activities of the Corporation during the next four years his name frequently appears and he was as zealous in their affairs as he had been in those of the Commissioners of the Navy.
William Nieuport, the Dutch Ambassador in London, writing home on 7 June 1657, states, from information he had received, that Major Bourne is to be employed as rear admiral of the fleet which was to be ready in about a month, under General Blake and Vice-Admiral Lawson; however, this appears to have been wrong information, as there is no other evidence of Bourne having been offered an appointment at sea at that time, and in all the circumstances it is very unlikely. In July, 1659, he was made a Commissioner for the Militia in the County of Kent, but does not appear to have had any further official appointment. His shipyard on the Thames-side was now occupying more of his attention, and no doubt the losses during the wars had created a demand for ships which had not yet been made good. His own vessels were still trading to New England and probably largely employed in carrying spars and other material for new ships. In 1658, when Parliament for a time was again giving some attention to the colonies, Bourne was consulted by various committees on measures appertaining to New England.
In September, 1649, a bill had been brought into Parliament for regulating the Society of the Trinity House. In October it was deferred and again so in December. In May, 1650, it was revived, but no decision come to, but in December, 1652, the Commissioners of the Admiralty recommended to Parliament that the Corporation’s charter be revised and altered, and passed under the Great-Seal. In the following January (1653) the Council of State ordered Whitelock and Lisle, both Commissioners of the Great-Seal, to hasten to Parliament the report of an Act for settling the Trinity House; Cromwell, however, dissolved the Long Parliament on 20 April of that year and the subject was again deferred.
Thomas Smith and others, Masters of the Trinity House, again petitioned Parliament in August, 1654, for incorporation, in order to enable them to carry out their public duties, and for a bill for maintaining the many poor and maimed seamen resulting from the depredations of the enemy privateers, and stated that by direction of the late Council of State, the attorney general prepared a charter and a bill for the support of poor seamen, which by Parliament had been twice examined by the Lords Commissioners of the Great-Seal and nine judges, and a docket prepared a few days before the dissolving of the late Parliament. Although Parliament recommended that Cromwell be requested to pass a charter, and that one be prepared as speedily as possible, nothing was done, and a year later the same members were again petitioning for incorporation; the matter then seems to have been dropped, probably as a result of the death of Cromwell, and thereafter the Trinity House continued to operate under their original Royal Charters until the Restoration, when a new charter was granted.
During these years the duties of the Trinity House appear to have been complementary to those of the Navy Committee, the latter controlling the dockyards, manning of naval ships and the supply of stores, the former in finding suitable merchant ships to augment the fleets, advising on terms of hire and charter and recommending names of suitable commanders and officers; both were equally engaged in the impressment of seamen. The Admiralty Committee frequently invited the opinion of both on general matters affecting the service. In their personnel the two committees were very similar, both being composed of shipbuilders, merchant shipowners and mariners, and at least two, namely, Thomas Smith and Nehemiah Bourne, were members of both committees, and equally active on each. Other members of the Navy Committee had earlier associations with the Trinity House, and it is clear that there was a common outlook on their problems, and no doubt mutual interests to protect. It is equally clear that the merchants trading to New England, Virginia and the West Indies predominated on both committees, although the other powerful maritime interest, the East India merchants, was probably the more wealthy. No doubt the merchants trading to the Americas were considered more reliable politically, being mostly men of the Puritan outlook, and others besides Bourne had been settlers there and still had their trading interests in the colony.
By 1659 several of the original members who had continued to serve at the Trinity House had died, as also had some of the Commissioners appointed by the Parliament in 1649, and in June a meeting was called to consider how the affairs of the House might be managed and the future attendance of the members made less frequent, and it was decided to invite the former and excluded Elder Brethren to meet them and discuss the matter. At a joint meeting held on 16 July it was resolved and agreed that the Ordinance of January, 1649, was no longer valid or effective, and that there was nothing to prevent them acting together as a single body. As the order had not been revoked it could only have been that the period for which it was made had expired, or that the political situation had so changed as to make it ineffective. Thereafter there were frequent meetings of the fuller membership, principally directed towards recovering former privileges which had lapsed during the years of strife.
Many former members now returned, including Brian Harrison, William Haddock, and several other of Bourne’s Wapping associates. By the end of the year further members had been appointed, including John Bourne and others who had served in the late wars. Early in 1660 the former Wardens and Assistants had so far established themselves as to renew the petition to Parliament for the grant of a charter. The petition was read on the 1st and on the 12th of March, and the House of Commons then approved of Alexander Bence to be Master of the Trinity House and ordered the appointment of other members. Bence, who has already been mentioned, was a prominent merchant who in 1640 had been appointed with Captain William Rainsborough as the two members of Parliament for Aldeborough, County Suffolk, in which town the Bence family had been established for generations. In the Parliament of 1654, an assembly nominated by Oliver Cromwell, he was one of ten members appointed to represent the County of Suffolk. He served in Parliament until the Restoration and was always very active in the service of the Commonwealth.
Almost at once (17 March) the members met at the Trinity House at Stepney and took the oath prescribed by Parliament. A week later the Lord General, George Monck, was elected an Elder Brother together with William Prynne, the Puritan barrister whose misfortunes during the reign of Charles I have already been alluded to, and who having been released from custody early in the Civil War, had taken an active but nevertheless controversial part in public affairs during the Commonwealth, and now elected a member of Trinity House, the only barrister in a body of merchants and mariners, as a compliment for his part as Chairman of the Committee of the House of Commons on whose recommendation the Corporation had been reconstituted.
April 7 was “sett apart to entertain his Excellency the Lord-General George Monck” and Admiral William Penn, who had been nominated for membership. Monck was now the accepted leader of the nation and his part in bringing about the restoration of the monarchy is a matter of history. On Trinity Monday, 18 June, the Corporation met in accordance with their former custom, to elect their Master for the ensuing year, and the choice fell upon Monck, who, as already noted, was soon afterwards (7 July) created Duke of Albemarle.
Nehemiah Bourne was not present on this day but attended their meeting on the 23rd of the same month and together with Samuel Moyer and Maurice Thomson took the Oath of Allegiance and thereafter continued his membership and attendance. The latter two, however, retired before the end of the year, when the new charter for the Corporation was granted, probably an obligation forced upon them on account of the active part they had taken in the Council of State under the late regime, but Maurice Thomson, at his parting from the House, gave a handsome donation towards the purchase of an estate in Southwark (South London), which has ever since been in the possession of the Trinity House, the revenue from which is devoted to paying pensions to seamen.
It has been stated53 that at the Restoration Bourne fled to the Continent and remained in voluntary exile for some years. This is not so; indeed, if he did decamp, like many others at the time of Charles II’s landing at Dover it could only have been for a few weeks, and until satisfied that he was not one of those excluded from the general pardon, who were very few, and principally those surviving who had sat in judgment on the late King and signed his death warrant, and Bourne’s name appears in the Trinity House books as being in attendance, if not regularly, sufficiently frequent to suggest the improbability of his having left the country at all.
Soon after this time there was a ship loading in the Thames for which a petition was made, dated in August, 1660, by two persons, probably customs and excise officers, “for a warrant to the Vice-Admiral to assist them in searching an outward bound vessel of Captain Bourne, an enemy of the late King, who is endeavouring to export treasure.” This may have been Nehemiah Bourne, but more probably his brother John, who is known to have gone to sea about this time. However, nothing came of it, and most likely it was only the action of some over-zealous officials, many of whom, out of consideration for their own future, were now as enthusiastic Royalists as they had hitherto been ardent Republicans; and as Bourne had too many interests not readily disposed of it is unlikely that he then contemplated leaving the country, and more probable that the ship was only carrying the money necessary for the purposes of her voyage.
In November, King Charles II granted a new charter to the Trinity House, confirmed the Duke of Albemarle as Master for the year as well as the Wardens in office, and named the eight Assistants. In a letter “Directed to our Trusty and well beloved the Master, Wardens, Deputies and Assistants of the Trinity House of Deptford Strond,” he enjoined them to elect none who refuse the Oaths of Allegiance and Supremacy, and to admit none but able and experienced mariners. The opening of the charter required the renewal of the oaths of office, which now included the Oath of Supremacy.
Bourne took the oaths required, but, like many others of his beliefs, it must have been with some misgivings and mental reservations. Many of those of nonconformist beliefs, varying from extremes to moderates, now took office under the Crown, no doubt accepting the new order in the hope that it would give the country a stable government instead of the state of chaos into which it had been drifting, even though they may have foreseen the controversy which must arise over the Oath of Supremacy. Others may have been concerned over protecting their vested interests.
Amongst the thirty-one members of the Trinity House were many well known to Bourne, as well as old friends of the Dutch War. Albemarle’s part therein has been mentioned, as well as his commendation of Bourne’s services. Admiral Mountagu, now the Earl of Sandwich, and patron of Samuel Pepys, was now rising to fame; Admiral Sir William Batten was one of the former members of Charles I’s time who was now re-elected. Sir John Mennes, Sir William Ryder, and Sir George Carteret are three names that often appear in the pages of Pepys’ Diary. Others who had served in the Dutch War were Admiral, now Sir William Penn; Captain John Limbery, who had been a victualer to the navy; Captain William Haddock, first in the Vanguard, a second rate, and later in the Hannibal, a large hired ship of 44 guns, and was sometime vice-admiral to Sir George Ayscue; Captain John Prowd, for a time captain of Monck’s flagship, the Resolution; and Captain Thomas White, of the Mathias, a large Dutch prize of 52 guns.
There was also Captain William Badiley, who was with Bourne at the Battle of the Kentish Knock, who, according to Blake’s report, “charged exceeding gallantly,” and later was associated with him in the survey of the Medway and on other services; Captain William Wildey, an energetic officer, who was often associated with Bourne in the fitting out of ships at Woolwich and Deptford; another, Captain James Talbot, commander and part owner of the hired ship Samuel of 300 tons, 30 guns, and manned by a crew of 110 men, whose original Articles of Agreement between him and the state is still preserved in the British Museum (B.M. Add. M.S. 9304, fol. 50).
Of his own relatives, there was his brother, Captain John Bourne, and Captain Brian Harrison; and, amongst old friends, Captain Nicholas Hurlestone, who had commanded the Jewel in Governor Winthrop’s fleet in 1630, and who had more relatives in the Trinity House past and present than any other member; and Colonel Thomas Middleton, a veteran of the Civil War, a former mariner, and now a merchant trading to the West Indies, later to become Surveyor of the Navy.
There is little to record of Bourne during the next two years; his ships still sailed to the New England colony and no doubt his shipyard flourished. At the Trinity House he undertook the supervision of the building and maintenance of the ballast barges, the rights and profits of ballasting ships having been regranted to the Corporation after much dispute and contention by other claimants.
The Restoration did not bring peace in the spheres of administration or religion, and the Court became a center of intrigue, in which the several religious factions played a not unimportant part. Churchmen and Nonconformists disagreed, but were at one in not tolerating the Catholics; however, a more deadly blow was dealt at the Nonconformists in the renewal of the Act of Uniformity which enforced the use of the Prayer Book in all public worship as from St. Bartholomew’s Day, 1662, and thereafter some two thousand rectors and vicars were ejected and driven from their parishes as Nonconformists for refusing to make the declaration required by the Act.
The suppression of all dissenters was increased, and although a common suffering blended the Nonconformists into one and marks the real beginning of the influence of their churches, the sudden outbreak and violence of the persecution turned the disappointment of many into despair; religious freedom seemed again to have been lost, and many of the Nonconformists went over to Holland and others fled to the American colonies. The Trinity House, which now contained a preponderance of men who had served under the Commonwealth, and some of strong dissenting opinions, managed to steer a middle course and maintain a semblance of conformity, although Captain Lawrence Moyer, one of the Elder Brethren, was sent to the Tower of London in 1662 and kept there, and in Tynemouth Castle, for five years under suspicion of being concerned in a plot to overthrow the monarchy, and others were charged with secretly attending conventicles. During this time Bourne was in frequent communication with New England and he, too, came under suspicion.
When, early in 1662, it was deemed advisable by the General Court of Massachusetts to congratulate the King upon his restoration, and to send an agent to act for the general interests of the colony, a letter was written to Herbert Pelham, Esq.,54 Major Nehemiah Bourne, Captain Francis Willoughby, Mr. Richard Hutchinson (later Treasurer of the Navy under the Commonwealth) and others, desiring that they would supply their representatives, upon their arrival, with such funds as they might require, on the account of the colony; however, by this time both Bourne and Willoughby were preparing to leave the country.
Unwilling to accept the new order of things, Bourne now decided to return to New England, and appears to have disposed of at least some of his interests in England, as on 3 January (1662) the East India Company books contain the transfer of £1,000 of stock from Nehemiah Bourne to one George Gifford; this is the only reference in the East India Company records to Bourne, although his brother John is mentioned occasionally during the interregnum in connection with providing convoy for their ships when he was cruising in the approaches to the Channel.
The State Papers record that there was issued in May, 1662, “The King’s passe for Nehemiah Bourne, Merchant, to transport himself and family, together with their goods and necessaries, to any of the King’s dominions or elsewhere without let or hindrance.” His resignation or departure from the Trinity House is not noted, but in the record of their proceedings of 8 November of that year there is the brief entry that “The Master, Wardens, and Assistants proceeded to the election of an Elder Brother in the place of Major Nehemiah Bourne, who with his family is departed out of the Kingdom.” Captain Henry Teddeman was elected in his place. Henry Teddeman had commanded the Exchange, 30 guns, one of the hired merchant ships in the fleet under Admiral Penn, in the Dutch War, and was probably related to the more distinguished Captain Thomas Teddeman.
Francis Willoughby also went back to New England, and evidently preceded Bourne by a few weeks, arriving there in May of 1662. He again became prominent in the affairs of Massachusetts, was made Deputy-Governor in May, 1665, and so continued until his death. About 1666 the necessity of laws for regulating maritime affairs and Admiralty cases was again agitated, and particularly for the control of unskilled shipwrights, and the Court nominated a committee of five, under Willoughby, to draw up such laws and orders as were necessary.
Three years later (12 October 1669) he was granted 1,000 acres of land as a reward for his public services, “as well at home as in England,” which, at his death, he bequeathed to the school at Charlestown. He died in 1671 and amongst his legacies was a bequest of £20 to the town of Charlestown towards commencing the purchase of a stock of arms to furnish the men on exercise days, and to be in readiness against any sudden emergency. He appears to have been thrice married; his elder children, born in Charlestown, have already been mentioned. His first wife died, and he married secondly, in England, Sarah Taylor, probably the daughter of the John Taylor, shipwright of Wapping, already referred to, and one of the children of this marriage was baptized at the Church of St. Olave’s, Hart Street, London (close by the Navy Office of that time) and the others in New England; but a third wife, Margaret, survived him. He had a large family, nine being mentioned in the New England records.
Bourne probably sailed for New England in one of his own ships, as from another source we find that he went via Hamburg, where possibly he had gone to load her with a cargo not obtainable in England. Thereafter he is lost sight of for some years, there being no mention of his residence or business ventures in New England, nor of the date of his eventual return to England or the motives that brought him back. Fourteen or fifteen years had elapsed since leaving Boston and his return thereto; in the meantime Coytmore, Hawkins and Graves, as well as other old colleagues had died, but besides Willoughby, there would still be many who had left the Thames-side parishes with him twenty-five years before. Although fifteen years would have brought in many strangers, they were people whose religious and political views were in accord with his own. However, for one who had enjoyed some measure of success, the prospects were probably less alluring than they appeared when he was twenty-five or thirty years younger. New England was then a poor country, even by the standards of the day, where the struggle with nature for a livelihood was always hard, and although not without capital he probably found it harder to trade profitably from the American colony than it had been to prosper as a merchant in London.
During the next few years much was to happen in the homeland; the plague and the Great Fire devastated London; another war had taken place with the Dutch during which the English fleet never reached the standard of efficiency in which its ships were maintained by the very able commissioners of Bourne’s time, and the war ended with an humiliating peace, leaving the enemy strong enough to embark on the Third Dutch War within a few years.
There was discontent throughout England, the persecution of the dissenters was being renewed, and everywhere people were reflecting bitterly on what the Restoration had brought them. Even the loyal Pepys records, on 12 July 1667, “It is strange how every body do now-a-days reflect upon Oliver (Cromwell), and commend him. What brave things he did, and made all the neighbour princes fear him; while here a prince, come in with all the love and prayers and good liking of his people, who have given greater signs of loyalty and willingness to serve him with their estates than ever was done by any people, hath lost all so soon, that it is a miracle what way a man could devise to lose so much in so little time.” There was the possibility of yet another rising.
Bourne again returned to his native London, but in which year is unknown, there being no reference to his departure in the New England records or any mention of him in the English State Papers. He may have been in England in 1668, as there was a letter written from Rotterdam to one Samuel Cottington, a merchant in London, saying that there was great joy in Holland over the dispute between King Charles and his subjects in Parliament, and letters had been sent to “retired brethren” in several parts to be at hand in the event of a resurrection of their cause; one of the “grand incendiaries” over there having a daughter residing in Basinghall Street, London, who kept him well informed.
The writer goes on to say that “one of the jovial creed, named Nehemiah Bourne, after a consultation seriously debated at a fanatic’s coffee house, missed his way back to the Scotch ordinary,55 and fell into the water, though he had a candle in his paw.” This hardly sounds like the revelry of the old Puritan and it may have been his eldest son of the same name.
However, Bourne settled in London and engaged in importing timber. In April, 1670, one Edward Byland, a shipbuilder at Woolwich who had contracts with the Admiralty, reported to the Navy Commissioners that he had inspected Major Bourne’s timber, “which was very good and would average seventyfive ft. lengths,” and then goes on to speak of the shipbuilding there. One other passing reference, a certain William Peake, a name which occurs in the contemporary Directory of Merchants in London, writing to a Mr. Hull of Boston, Massachusetts, on 7 March 1672, says, “I have had much contest with Major Bourne, but have now ended it.”
In 1672 he was one of the executors of the will of Colonel Thomas Middleton, one of the Elder Brethren of Trinity House and a friend of Bourne’s for many years. Middleton was one of the mariners who fought on land in the Parliamentary army during the Civil War, and, like Bourne, retained his military title after the Restoration. He was appointed the Commissioner of the Navy at Portsmouth in 1664, and Surveyor of the Navy from 1667 until his death. There are many references to him in Pepys’ Diary. He speaks of attending the office on 19 December 1667 when Middleton first took his place at the Board as Surveyor of the Navy, and thought he would be an excellent officer. Later, when Middleton appeared overscrupulous in investigating the terms of contracts, Pepys’ opinion of him declined.
Middleton owned considerable shipping, as well as some plantations in Barbados and Antigua, in the West Indies. Bourne was asked to afford his son his best advice; if the latter died without issue his estate was to go to the Trinity House for the benefit of poor seamen (it never came). Although he held office under the Crown he was “a known Protestant and zealot,” but probably was not as extreme in his views as was Bourne.
On his return to England Bourne resided in Abchurch Lane in the city of London. Abchurch Lane, which dates from before the fourteenth century, takes its name from the Church of St. Mary Abchurch, situated on the western side of the lane, which was rebuilt in 1686 from the design of Sir Christopher Wren to replace the one destroyed in the Great Fire. Abchurch Lane originally connected Lombard Street with Cannon Street, but was cut into two portions by the formation of King William Street in 1831, a number of houses in the center of the lane being demolished for that purpose.
For two centuries or more Abchurch Lane was inhabited by the more prosperous merchants; as early as 1708 it was described as a street of good buildings. In Bourne’s time there, it was not free from the Protestant intrigue which continued throughout the reign of Charles II and only ended with the abdication of James II, and in the house of one of his neighbors, Thomas Shepard, a merchant prominent during the reign of Charles II, William, Lord Russell, the Duke of Monmouth and others opposed to the policy of the Duke of York (afterwards James II), then the leader of the Catholic party, were accustomed to meet. Established, too, in Abchurch Lane soon after the Restoration was Pontack’s (or Pontac’s), a celebrated French eating house, where the annual dinners of the Royal Society were held until 1746, when the dinner was removed to the Devil Tavern at Temple Bar. Pontac’s is frequently mentioned in Evelyn’s Diary, and also in many eighteenth-century books, and remained a famous place for over a hundred years. The Trinity House frequently dined there and its name recurs through their records.
Only a few yards from Abchurch Lane is Gracechurch Street, which, for some unknown reason was for generations the home of the city of London’s Quakers. In White Hart Court, Gracechurch Street, almost backing on to Bourne’s house, was the Friends Meetinghouse, where, no doubt, Bourne often attended. It was here that George Fox, the founder of the Society of Friends, was seized in 1670, after the passing of the Conventicle Act, and was taken before the Lord Mayor. This meetinghouse was the oldest in London, and in it William Penn, son of Admiral Penn, and founder of Pennsylvania, was accustomed to deliver his homilies.
Gracechurch Street is built on Roman remains and foundations; the earliest mention of it is in 1284, and in 1320 it was written as Graschurche Street. Stow writes it “Grasse Street”; another, in 1604, calls it “Gracious Street” and said it was “worthy of that name it carries to this hour.” However, from the latter part of the seventeenth century it was commonly known as Gracechurch Street and an early writer describes it as “where are many fair houses for merchants and many fair Inns for travellers.” Leadenhall Street, adjoining, was the main road out of London to the eastern counties and the direct route to Harwich from whence the packets sailed for the continent; the inns in the locality continued to be the coaching houses down to the era of the railways.
Gracechurch Street was destroyed in the Great Fire, but not so completely as is implied in some accounts of the fire, as Seymour, in the 1754 edition of the Survey of London, mentions that it still contained a number of very old wooden houses built before the Great Fire. The Quakers were still there in the eighteenth century as shopkeepers and merchants, when it was said of them that they were in all trades, many of them making large fortunes, and that although as a body they enjoyed the reputation of being honest in their dealings, they were “keen hands on a bargain.”
Another writer, later in the century, with a more modern and worldly touch, remarks that many of the shops in Gracechurch Street are owned by Quakers, who “lead a dull and monotonous life, having no fighting, no dancing, and no amusements of any kind, and that the rich Quaker rarely lasted till the age of fifty; he died of sheer monotony and dullness. He ate too much and had no excitement to keep him alive.” His final comment is that “their daughters are pretty but demure,” so evidently was not writing from hearsay.
Near to White Hart Court was the Cross Keys Inn, a large and noted coach house and only pulled down in the latter part of the nineteenth century, its site, until White Hart Court was destroyed by German bombing, being marked by a wall plaque. Directly across the street from White Hart Court and the Cross Keys stood the Spread Eagle, another famous coaching house, from where, according to a Directory of 1832, the coach left with the foreign mails for Harwich, via Colchester, Manningtree and Mistley, making the seventy-two-mile journey every Tuesday and Friday.
Immediately adjoining the Spread Eagle was the Pewter Platter Inn,56 formerly owned by Bourne and his antecedents. If it was destroyed in the Great Fire it was rebuilt and continued under its name for another two hundred years and for some long time appears to have been a coaching house for towns in the southeastern counties. Seymour, in the before-mentioned edition of the Survey of London, in his account of Gracechurch Street makes a passing reference to it, and also to Pewter Platter Alley, a by-way by the side of the inn, leading into the street beyond. By 1810 (Lockie’s Topography of London) it had become the “Pewter Platter Coach House, 86, Gracechurch Street, by the Spread Eagle Inn” (which was No. 84). From the above description, and from old maps of the city, the site of the inn can be accurately determined.
We have already noted that it was owned by the elder John Bourne in 1610, and was probably the home of his predecessors as there were Bournes in the parish of St. Benet’s, Gracechurch Street, two generations before this time. From him it passed to his sons, John and Robert, successively, and thence to the latter’s son, Nehemiah Bourne, who disposed of it to his kinsman, Captain Brian Harrison, evidently when he first migrated to New England. Brian Harrison died in 1664, bequeathing the Pewter Platter to his wife, and after her decease to his kinsman, John Harrison, with the proviso that from its rental there should be paid annually to the church of his parish, St. John’s, Wapping, the sum of £2. 10. 0.
The meetinghouse still existed in White Hart Court down to the early years of the nineteenth century but the Quakers have long since gone from Gracechurch Street, together with all signs of Puritanism; its circumscribed limits contain mainly blocks of offices, banks, and modern shops, but until destroyed in the German air raids in 1941 there were a few courts and byways with names dating back two or three centuries, and an occasional wall plaque marking the site of former well-known taverns, coach houses and other historical places. The Spread Eagle was pulled down in 1865 and the Pewter Platter at the same time, if not before, as the vacant site of Nos. 84 to 87 was sold by auction in October of that year for the sum of £95,000. Acquired by a city firm owning large office properties, it now has a handsome modern building, principally occupied by the Bank of China. The entrance hall of the building has an exit into a small street at the back, leading into Leadenhall Market, and by comparison with old maps this is clearly the site of Pewter Platter Alley. The present-day rental value of the site of the old inn would have dazzled Bourne, as well as generations of subsequent owners, but the present owners still pay annually Captain Brian Harrison’s legacy to the Wapping church.
The Trinity House had removed in 1661 from Stepney to Water Lane near Tower Hill; their house was burnt down in the Great Fire in 1666, but soon rebuilt, and there they remained for the next 135 years, except that it was again burnt down in 1715, when they found temporary quarters in Mark Lane, close by, for three years until again rebuilt. On his way from Abchurch Lane to Wapping where he still had an interest in a shipyard, Bourne must often have passed by Water Lane when the members of the Trinity House were gathering for their court meetings, but by 1685 all except one other of the thirty-one members elected at the Restoration had died, including his brother, John Bourne; however, of their successors, there were many from Wapping and Stepney well known to him, and some of the younger men who had served with him in the First Dutch War and had had more fighting at sea in the two subsequent wars with Holland.
A few hundred yards away from the Trinity House was the Navy Office in Seething Lane, where, nearly thirty years before, Bourne had labored in the service of the state. Samuel Pepys, who had entered there as an unknown Clerk of the Acts about the time Bourne returned to New England, was now at the height of his career, had been Master of Trinity House in 1676 and again in 1685, at a period when a second term of office was a rare distinction, but had only a few brief years before political events brought about his retirement and comparative obscurity.
Captain Anthony Earning, Bourne’s brother-in-law, was for many years a Younger Brother of the Trinity House. He had served throughout the First Dutch War in command of the hired merchant ship Reformation, whose name has often crossed these pages, and for some time was under Bourne’s command when the latter was serving as a rear admiral. At the Battle of the Gabbard he was in the squadron of which Thomas Graves was rear admiral. There is evidence that some of the family of Earning had settled in Massachusetts as the records there show that Katherine Earning of Dorchester, Massachusetts, widow, gave a letter of attorney in July, 1639, to Nehemiah Bourne of Dorchester, merchant, and Anthony Earning of London, mariner, to receive all monies due to her in England. It is fairly certain that this was the mother of Bourne’s wife and the widow of Anthony Earning of Limehouse who had died a few years before.
Bourne, in his recommendation of Anthony Earning to the Navy Commissioners for the command of one of the new ships building at Woodbridge during his time at Harwich, implied that he had formerly commanded one of his (Bourne’s) ships, a very probable partnership. Anthony Earning was actively employed during the war but thereafter is not heard of until after the Restoration, when, presumably, he is the Anthony Earning who commanded the John & Martha and the Sampson in the East India Company’s service, and in the latter vessel was killed in an engagement with the Dutch (during the period of the Third Dutch War), in the Straits of Banca in 1673.
His widow was paid compensation by the company, but soon afterwards petitioned them that her friends might build a ship in place of the Sampson, and the command given to her son. No reply is recorded, but soon afterwards a new ship, the George, was commanded by Captain Nehemiah Earning (East India Company Minutes).
Of Bourne’s kinsmen, none remained at the Trinity House. Captain Arnold Browne, whose son (also Arnold Browne, an East India Company commander) appears to have married one of Bourne’s granddaughters, died in 1682, and Captain Thomas Collyer, evidently similarly related, in 1687.
John Bourne, the brother of Nehemiah, has been mentioned from time to time, and therefore some further account of him will not be out of place. He was the second son, and apparently the fourth child of Robert Bourne, his baptism being recorded at St. John’s, Wapping: “14th November 1620, John Bourne, son of Robert and Mary, Shipwright.” His early life is obscure, but whilst it seems probable that he would join his elder brother in New England, it is difficult on account of his age to reconcile him with the John Bourne mentioned in Pioneers of Massachusetts as being in Salem in 1636 and afterwards in Gloucester, Massachusetts, who made a contract with Nehemiah Bourne and who at some time later was master of the Indevore, of Cambridge, Massachusetts. On the other hand, this John Bourne was described as late of the Parish of St. Mary Magdalene, Bermondsey, County Surrey, which was John Bourne’s parish when subsequently he returned to England, and possibly the above description refers to this time. He may be the John Bourne who was bound to Nehemiah Bourne for a term of years to learn the trade of a shipwright, was made a member of the church at Boston in 1644, and whose son, John, was born in the colony in 1645, but certain dates create a doubt. However, he is first met with for certainty when appointed to command the frigate Assistance, in 1651, in the small squadron commanded by Nehemiah Bourne, and employed in the North Sea.
On the outbreak of the Dutch War he was still in the North Sea, protecting the trade between London and Newcastle against privateers and raiders, when he was ordered to join Blake’s fleet in the Channel. It is not clear whether he took part in the first engagement of the war, off Dover, on 19 May 1652, but it seems probable.57 However, he was present at the Battle of the Kentish Knock, his ship, the Assistance, being attached to the squadron of which Nehemiah Bourne was then rear admiral.
In the fleet under Generals Richard Deane and George Monck, joint-commanders, he took part in the Battle of Portland, 18 February 1653, and wore a flag as Rear Admiral of the Blue. The Assistance was in the thick of the battle and was boarded and taken by the Dutch, but another vessel coming to her help, the enemy were beaten off and the ship retaken; in the fight John Bourne was struck over the head with a poleaxe and severely wounded.
On the day after the battle the Assistance arrived at Portsmouth in a shattered condition with eighty prisoners on board who had been captured when the ship was retaken, and escorting one of the enemy prizes. Captain Francis Willoughby, the Commissioner at Portsmouth, writing to the Commissioners of the Admiralty on the 22nd, said that Captain Bourne has come in, and begs to be excused writing, having received a dangerous wound in the head. On the previous day Willoughby had written a personal letter to Nehemiah Bourne, then at Dover, to inform him of his brother’s misfortune, which has already been quoted.
Following the Battle of Portland, Deane and Monck, in a joint letter to the Admiralty Committee, of 24 March, recommended that John Bourne be appointed to the Swiftsure, a second rate, and in a further letter of the following day on other matters, concluded by saying, “let Captain Bourne be appointed to the Swiftsure, who although wounded will be fit to command her when she is ready.”
In another joint letter of 1 April they said that Captain Bourne is almost well and offers to go to sea with them, but as the Swiftsure would not be ready for two months they desired that he might have the Unicorn, a second rate of 56 guns, “for Bourne being desirous to go along with us, we are very willing to have him, having had good experience of his ability and courage.” No answer being sent, they again asked the Admiralty Committee on 11 April: “What do you intend to do about Captain Bourne”; however, a week later the Council of State made an order appointing him to the Unicorn.
In this ship he was employed in the North Sea, and was later transferred to the Resolution, first rate of 88 guns with a crew of 550 men, the flagship of Deane and Monck, and in her took part in the Battle of the Gabbard, in which Deane was killed. One of the ships damaged in the fight, the Swan, went into Harwich to refit, and her captain, in his report to Nehemiah Bourne, then at Harwich, said: “Your brothers, Captain Bourne and the Captain of the Reformation are well,” the latter, of course, being Captain Anthony Earning.
In September Bourne was still in the Resolution, but at the end of the year had removed into the Marston Moor and was in command of a small squadron cruising between the Isle of Wight and Cape Barfleur to keep watch and inform Monck of the presence of any hostile fleet. Whilst lying in St. Helens Roads on 16 November he wrote to the Admiralty Committee desiring that he may not be forgotten as to his extra allowance while he was the general’s captain. No reply being made, he wrote again in January, 1654, to remind them of it.
On 3 July 1654 the Council of State appointed him to the Essex, a third rate of 56 guns, then lying at Portsmouth, and to command a squadron of six vessels to go out as a guard for the Newfoundland fishing fleet. After several delays through adverse weather the squadron sailed, and when off the Scilly Islands fell in with six sail of Frenchmen, three of whom were captured, the others escaping. Soon after this time they met with heavy weather, during which the Essex lost her mainmast and was so badly damaged by the falling spars that she was obliged to leave the squadron and return to Plymouth.
From Plymouth, Bourne informed Robert Blackborne, Secretary to the Admiralty Committee, of the casualty in a letter which united official matters with much private intercourse, a procedure which, as already noted so often, was very common at the time, and ended by desiring the Secretary’s prayers for him, “that he may answer the employment to which he is called forth, and be in some way useful to his generation.” The Essex went on to Portsmouth to refit, where Bourne appears to have received a comforting letter from the Secretary, as from Spithead he replied on 23 August thanking Blackborne for “his Christian letter” and said that he was “ashamed of his own distrust in the Almighty, and of living upon the fawns and good opinions of men . . . and hopes to sail next week.” Some further comfort was evidently offered by Blackborne, as Bourne wrote on 2 September thanking him for “favours and prayers, which refresh his spirit.”
John Bourne was now ordered to cruise off the western approaches to the Channel with a small squadron to protect the trade. By 6 September the Essex had sailed from Portsmouth and in October rescued a Plymouth ship taken near Lands End by a Brest privateer. In reporting it in a letter addressed from the Scilly Islands he reminded the Admiralty Committee that there was thirteen months’ pay due to his own and two other frigates with him.
In November the Essex went into Plymouth and then on to Portsmouth to refit, where Bourne was transferred to the Portsmouth, a fourth rate. On the 14th he wrote a friendly letter to the Secretary thanking him for his removal to the Portsmouth, and a few days later Captain Joseph Cubitt, who was relinquishing the command, wrote an equally personal letter to the Admiralty Committee that he had had the Portsmouth well fitted out and delivered to Captain Bourne and “hopes she will continue an honour to the Nation.”
Having spent the winter in cruising in the Channel, the Portsmouth returned to her base in March, 1655, when Bourne reported that some of the ships of his squadron were unfit for further service. Bourne was now removed into the Lyme, taking the Portsmouth’s crew with him, and ordered to the Downs to join Vice-Admiral Lawson’s fleet, and there employed in protecting the merchant ships. From the Lyme, then lying in the Downs, where he was temporarily in command of the fleet, Vice-Admiral Lawson having gone to Portsmouth to clean and revictual, Bourne wrote on 28 May to the Commissioners of the Admiralty one of those long, discursive letters which seem to have been so typical of the Bournes:
It is several years since I had the honour to serve this Commonwealth by Sea, and this is the first time I have presumed to trouble you in this manner, and now it is not without reluctancy. If hereby I should be judged too sensible of my private concernment, my encouragement is that you will not conclude so, I have never disputed any commands, nor consulted my own advantage.
Since the beginning of the Dutch War I have been in continual action, and God has graciously upheld me beyond my own and others’ expectation, especially in the Portland engagement (at which time I wore a flag), where myself and my frigate were wonderfully preserved, being thrust at very sorely by three of the enemy’s ships at once (besides what I received from the whole fleet passing through the midst of them), by which we had almost perished, and in which fight I received a very dangerous wound in my skull by a poleaxe, besides other bruises, which rendered me by all who saw me, a dead man; under this wound I remained with extreme torment some weeks, and expenses great in order to a cure; when I had in a measure obtained it, General Deane, who loved me beyond my deserts, being ready to go forth in the Resolution, appointed me Captain of that ship under him, which command I could not resist, though much disabled in body. In this command I continued until the Lord crowned the war with an issue; but the remembrance of the wound received will continue with me to my death.
I confess I am well satisfied with the Lord’s providence and your respects towards me, although my advantages have not been like others, being for a good time of late in the General’s own ship, where I had opportunity of service, and wanted no business, but no great alteration in my small estate. However, I bless the Lord, who has kept me from stretching my principles to the least prejudice of the Commonwealth.
As for my salary for the time I was in the Essex and Portsmouth frigates, I crave your order for such allowance as you think fit.
There is a note added to his original letter, presumably at the Admiralty office, that from 1 July to 10 November he was in the Essex frigate upon the design to Newfoundland and the westward; from 10 November to 1 March in the Portsmouth; and from that date until now in the Lyme. That when he was in the Assistance as rear admiral to General Penn, in the Portland fight, he had 14s. a day, in the Resolution and Swiftsure 17s., and as rear admiral of the Red in the Marston Moor 14s. a day.
However, his letter brought forth a ready response, as on 2 June the Admiralty Committee directed the Navy Committee to make out a bill to Captain Bourne at 20s. a day as commander of the squadron bound to Newfoundland, and a like bill for the time he had served in the Portsmouth.
For the next few months he was in and out of the Downs, cruising between Beachy Head and Dungeness with a squadron of five ships protecting the merchant ships and escorting them through the Straits of Dover. Addressed from his ship in the Downs, there are many letters to the Secretary to the Admiralty Commissioners amongst the State Papers, and they are generally in the same intimate terms as noted in his earlier letters. On 17 October he wrote thanking the Secretary for his friendship, and then continues with an account of the condition of his ships.
On 26 January 1656 the Council of State ordered, on a report from the Commissioners of the Admiralty, that Vice-Admiral Lawson be appointed to the Resolution, and Captain John Bourne to the Swiftsure, as rear admiral, in the present expedition. The expedition was, in fact, a continuation of Blake’s attack on the Spanish fleets begun in the previous summer and only suspended during the winter when the ships had returned home. From the Swiftsure, then lying in the Downs, Bourne wrote to the Admiralty Commissioners on 25 February a further long letter giving details of his past services to the state, and said that being uncertain of his position and what allowance would be made for his present service, “desires to be enlightened.”
Although his letter seems to have caused some concern to the Commissioners, it prompted them to settle his emoluments and to send an early reply. The Swiftsure had in the meantime sailed from the Downs, but their answer reached him in Stokes Bay, in the eastern Solent, and in acknowledging it on 7 March Bourne said he was “sorry his letter had grieved them but it did not proceed from a discontented and unsteady spirit,” and thanked them for their allowance of 30s. a day, and would endeavor to discharge the great trust imposed upon him.
Blake’s fleet went to the coast of Spain where they cruised in search of the enemy, and in September a squadron of his ships fell in with the Spanish Plate Fleet off Cadiz, and within twelve miles of their destination. In a spirited engagement the galleons were destroyed, with a loss of over two million sterling to the Spaniards, in addition to the ships. Several of his ships went home for the winter but Blake continued on the station and John Bourne remained there with him, as in April, 1657, the Commissioners of the Admiralty directed the Navy Commissioners to make out a bill to Major Nehemiah Bourne for £400 on account of the salary of his brother, Rear Admiral John Bourne, “Now with the fleet on the coast of Spain.”
In April, Blake, having had news of a Spanish fleet from America, attacked and destroyed it at Santa Cruz. Their object having now been achieved and Blake’s health failing, the main part of the fleet returned home early in the summer of 1657 with a great quantity of plate and silver bars on board. Blake, however, did not live to reach England, dying on 7 August within a few miles and in sight of Plymouth. John Bourne was one of the witnesses to his last will.
The Swiftsure and part of the fleet had parted company the night before when off Lizard Head, being bound for the Downs; Blake’s parting message to Bourne was a request that he would represent to the Admiralty Commissioners the sad condition of the ships left behind on the coast of Spain. The Swiftsure went on to Chatham and paid off before 7 September, on which date the Admiralty ordered that John Bourne was to have his pay of 30s. a day to the date she paid off. There is no indication as to whether John Bourne had any sea service during 1658, but it is fairly evident that many records for this year are missing. The next reference to him is in July, 1659, when he was in the Richard,58 a new ship of eighty guns launched at Woolwich in the previous year, then lying in the Downs, and Rear Admiral of the Fleet John Lawson being vice-admiral and employed in providing convoys for merchant ships, protecting fishermen and the coasting trade, as well as intercepting vessels from Dunkirk and Calais suspected of carrying Royalist agents, and generally on the same service as when he had served with Lawson on this station some three years earlier. During the succeeding weeks there are a few letters from him to the Admiralty Committee referring to instructions from them to provide means for conveying certain persons, evidently secret service agents, into France.
On 2 September Vice-Admiral Lawson reported that the Richard had gone round to Chatham, where, soon afterwards, she paid off, as on 15 October the Admiralty Committee made the usual order to make out a bill to Rear Admiral John Bourne for the time he served in the Richard at thirty shillings a day. This was his last sea service under the Commonwealth, but he was one of the officers of the fleet who wrote to General Monck, 4 November 1659, to induce him to come to an accommodation with the army in England, during the dissensions following the fall of Richard Cromwell.
Early in 1660, when the House of Commons had appointed a Master to the Trinity House, John Bourne joined those other members, which included his brother Nehemiah, who were reconstituting the Corporation under its old charter, and was elected an Elder Brother of the House on 24 March of that year. A few weeks later his name disappears from the Trinity House records and is not found again for nearly a year, as he had gone back to sea. In the meantime the Restoration of Charles II had taken place, and although many of his old friends and contemporaries now served under the Crown at sea, it is unlikely, on account of the known friendship of the Bournes with the prominent members of the late regime as well as their extreme Puritan views, that there was any place for him in the naval service; his name is nowhere mentioned therewith nor does it appear in any contemporary list of sea officers, and it is fairly evident that he now returned to mercantile pursuits.
He was probably the Captain Bourne for whose ship an application was made for the Admiralty Marshal to issue a warrant to search his ship on suspicion of attempting to export money and treasure (Cal. State Papers. Dom. 7th Aug. 1660), but, as already noted, nothing came of this. John Bourne seems to have sailed on an extended voyage, or voyages; he returned the following year and at his next appearance at the Trinity House, 8 June 1661, it is recorded that, “Captain John Bourne, an Elder Brother formerly elected (having been at sea) this day took the Oath of Supremacy and the Oath taken by Elder Brethren.” This refers to the oaths which were again taken by the members on the opening of the new charter granted by Charles II in November of the previous year.
Thereafter, little is known of John Bourne; he continued as an Elder Brother of the Trinity House after his brother, Nehemiah, had resigned to go back to New England and until his death, in 1667. He probably died in July or August of that year, when aged about forty-seven, as Vice-Admiral Sir Joseph Jordan was elected in his place on 4 September. In his will, which was proved in October, 1667, he is described as of the parish of St. Mary Magdalene, Bermondsey, County Surrey, mariner. He bequeathed his estate, which was principally land and houses in Bermondsey, and in the parish of St. Mary Matfellon, Whitechapel, equally between his wife, Mary, and his sons, Robert and John. To his eldest son, Robert, he bequeathed “my meddall and chayne,” and to John “my biggest silver tankard.”
The medal and chain was probably one of the large gold medals and chain, worth £100, presented to the flag officers after the First Dutch War. John Hoxton, his brother-in-law, who has earlier been referred to, now a merchant at Stepney and a prominent figure in the dissenting congregation there, is also mentioned, as well as the children, Robert and Mary, of his cousin, Bartholomew Bourne, who was killed in the action off Portland in 1652. John Bourne’s younger son, John, may be the John Bourne who was Third Lieutenant of the Royal Charles in 1678, otherwise nothing is known of his descendants. John Bourne was clearly an able and zealous commander, despite the querulous tone of many of his letters, a fault very prevalent at this time, but seemingly excelled in by the Bournes. By 1659, when he was still under forty years of age, he had had nearly ten years of active service at sea, and must have been an excellent seaman and an outstanding personality to have attained to flag rank at so early an age, especially at a period when promotion and the appointment of flag officers was entirely on merit. His early death may have been hastened by the effect of the wound he received at the Battle of Portland, of which he occasionally complained. He seems to have been held in the highest esteem by Monck, Deane and Blake, as well as by old Admiral Lawson, one of the best seamen of his time.
To return to Nehemiah Bourne; we have noted that he had settled in London as a merchant at some time prior to 1670, and was living in Abchurch Lane, leading off Lombard Street, an area largely occupied by the more prosperous merchants. Although he had resigned from being an Elder Brother of the Trinity House in 1662, he continued to be a Younger Brother of the Corporation, and on his return to England would naturally resume his association with it and his old friends there; however, nothing appears concerning him until 1685, when on 18 May the minutes of the proceedings at the Trinity House record that it was resolved that Major Bourne, “an ancient Younger Brother,” be asked to give evidence in a case for trial in which some Trinity House dues had been refused payment. At the beginning of the interregnum some of the Trinity House records had been delivered up to Parliament, and no doubt others had been lost when the House was burnt down in 1666, and there were now very few alive who had any early association with the Corporation and able to testify to their ancient rights to levy dues on shipping.
In other ways he was clearly regarded as an authority on matters relating to shipping and the naval service, and on 3 April 1689, according to the Naval Minutes, the Secretary of the Admiralty was directed to write to Major Bourne in Abchurch Lane desiring him to attend the Board who wished “to discourse with him about some business relating to their Majesties Service.” This is the last that is heard of Bourne. The Dictionary of National Biography notes that a Nehemiah Bourne was appointed captain of the Monmouth on 28 June 1690, presumably the tengun yacht of that name built at Rotherhithe in 1666. This quite clearly was not Bourne; it may have been his son, but more probably his grandson. Whoever it was, he did not accept the post as shortly afterwards another captain was appointed.
Bourne’s wife predeceased him by seven years and was buried in the Bunhill Fields Burial Ground. This burial ground near Upper Moorfields, north of London Wall, was enclosed and consecrated in 1665, the year of the Great Plague, but was subsequently used for the Dissenters from the Church of England. It was used as a burial ground until 1852, and during the intervening period of a hundred and ninety years, more than a hundred and twenty thousand were buried there. Many thousands of people, not in England only, but in America and the British dominions and colonies have ancestors buried there.
On a former tombstone was the following inscription:59 “Here resteth in Hope the Body of Hannah, wife to Nehemiah Bourne, Senior, sometime a Commander at Sea, and Commissioner for the Navy. By whom he had four Sons and one Daughter. Who after she had lived with him as a most Affectionate Wife above 52 years, during which Time she was a most suitable Companion to him in various and extraordinary Paths of Divine Providence by Sea, and Land, at Home, and in remote Parts, and an eminent Example and Pattern to all who knew her, as well as in the several Excellencies of a natural Temper, as those of the Spiritual and Divine Life, being ripen’d for a Better, she departed this World at Ebisham60 in Surrey, upon the 10th of June; from thence was brought to this Place, and buried the 21st in the year of our Lord 1684, and of her Age 68.”
After a long and chequered life the doughty old admiral and pioneer died in the year 1691, aged eighty, and was buried with his wife. He appears to have died quite suddenly in March or April of that year. His will, dated 11 February 1691, was proved in London in May of that year and runs as follows: “I, Nehemiah Bourne, of London, Merchant, being in a good measure of health . . . desire to be decently buried in my vault in Bunhill where I laid my dear wife . . . ,” and further desired that his funeral expenses should not be large, not exceeding £150 (it was an age of pompous funerals).
Despite his varied career he had the Puritan’s aptitude for making money, and died in comfortable circumstances. Substantial bequests were made to a large number of relatives, including grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nephews, etc. His native parish was remembered in a bequest of £100 to be distributed among needy persons and families “such as fear God and are of sober conversation,” especially to shipwrights and seamen in and about Wapping.
A great-grandson was Arnold Browne, son of Captain Arnold Browne, a former East India Company commander, and an Elder Brother of Trinity House from 1672, who died in 1682, and grandson of Captain Arnold Browne, a prominent mariner in Stepney who died in 1627. The latter was a brother of Captain Christopher Browne who had a leading part in the early ventures of the East India Company. Many members of the Browne family were mariners and seem to have been associated with Bourne in his early life, but any earlier relationship cannot be determined. Another grandson was Benjamin Collyer, probably of the family of Captain Thomas Collyer, an Elder Brother of the Trinity House from 1675 to 1687, so that Bourne’s contacts with the House were well sustained.
Bourne lived through stirring times and had an eventful career. He may well have remembered the Mayflower, a Rotherhithe-owned ship, leaving England in 1620 with the Pilgrim Fathers; had lived through the period of the persecutions which drove so many into settling in New England, and when old enough to appreciate the implications of them, had joined his friends in the New World. When, some five years later, he left Massachusetts to take part in the Civil War, the population of the New England colonies was between seventeen and eighteen thousand, and Boston still a small township. By the year in which he died, Boston, the largest town, had a population of seven thousand and that of the colonies over a hundred thousand. As the first shipbuilder there he had, unknowingly, been the pioneer of a great industry which was to make Boston famous long after he was forgotten.
In his homeland, he had fought for the civil and religious liberties of the people, had been an able commander at sea and an outstanding administrator during the years when the modern navy was really first created. The end of the regime he had fought for must have been the defeat of all the hopes of those of his beliefs; the Restoration brought only a return of the oppression of his earlier years. The reason for his return to England cannot be known; it may have been on account of family ties, invested interests, which were never far removed from many a Puritan mind, or the hope that better times lay ahead. Although the repressive legislation against the dissenters enacted after the Restoration continued, there were times when there was some relief and hope may have been revived, but any relaxation was short-lived.
In spite of the Conventicles Act and the mass arrests of the Dissenters, they continued undaunted and their numbers increased. Their preachers, dogged by spies from conventicle to conventicle, were haled from prison to prison by infuriated justices of the peace. When the preachers were carried to prison their followers met in silence, the lawyers failing to prove such meetings illegal. The meetinghouses were nailed up or demolished; they then assembled outside or amid the ruins. For twenty-five years they were kept down by severe though intermittent persecutions, but even in their worst sufferings they always looked forward to the next general election to bring them relief through Parliament.
For this reason there was no general exodus to America as in the decade before the Civil War. The Puritans continued to have faith in the House of Commons, although so long as the Cavalier Parliament sat—and it sat for seventeen years—it was the prime source of their troubles. King Charles, a Romanist at heart, desired to tolerate and promote the Catholics, but he knew it was not safe to do so unless the Puritans were relieved at the same time. Although the Parliament was intolerant, the persecuting statutes were on more than one occasion suspended by a Royal Declaration of Indulgence.
In these latter dissensions Bourne seems to have taken no part, although there were other Bournes in London who were in trouble from time to time as “obstinate Independents” and no doubt his kinsmen. He was now well past the prime of life and the torch of freedom could well be passed to younger hands. He had lived through most of the reign of James I, through that of Charles I, as well as the interregnum; had seen the Restoration and the death of Charles II, the abdication of James II and the crowning of William and Mary.
George Fox, of the White Hart Court Meetinghouse, died in the same year as Bourne, but lived to see the Act of Toleration proclaimed in 1689, and the birth of religious liberty; King William publicly promised religious toleration; Holland had been successfully united on that basis under his great ancestors. The settlement of 1689 stood the test of time and led to a new and wider liberty than had ever before been known, even though more than a century was to pass before the last restrictions were removed.
Of the five children referred to in the inscription on Bourne’s gravestone, which probably included the two born at Wapping who died in infancy, only the two born in New England are anywhere mentioned.
His daughter, Hannah, who we have noted was born at Boston in 1641, married a Mr. John Berry, a merchant in London, who is named in the London Directory of 1677 as then residing in Philpot Lane, close to Gracechurch Street, and possibly the John Berry whose name appears on the roll of the Younger Brethren of the Trinity House, and the John Berry, merchant, who died in the parish of St. Olave’s, Hart Street, a few years later.
The other, his son Nehemiah, born at Charlestown, Massachusetts, in 1640, may be the Nehemiah Bourne who was in Holland in 1668, otherwise he nowhere crosses the pages of history. He was probably a mariner in early life but in later years was a merchant at Epsom, County Surrey. He owned a dockyard, probably a shipbuilding yard, at Rotherhithe, just across the river from Wapping, from which it may equally be inferred that he had been brought up as a shipwright. He died in 1710, also possessed of a fair estate, which was divided between a large number of relatives, with a legacy of £100 to the poor shipwrights and seamen of Wapping, in almost identical terms to that in the will of his father.
Nothing is known of Bourne’s descendants, but it may be noted that a Mr. Bourne was a merchant in New England in 1699–1700, and a Mr. John Bourne was one of the first twenty-four directors elected in 1732, for the Royal Exchange Assurance, in London. The last remote connection of Bournes with the Trinity House was Admiral Sir Charles Wager. Wager’s father, Captain Charles Wager, of Rochester, who served in the Commonwealth navy and commanded the Yarmouth in the fleet that brought over Charles II at the Restoration, married Prudence, daughter of William Goodson, of Ratcliffe, 29 January 1663.61 A Younger Brother of Trinity House in the early years of the Restoration, Pepys speaks of him as “A brave fellow and very honest”; he served in the navy of Charles II and was captain of the Crown, “bound for the Straits,” in 1666, in which year he died, aged thirty-six.
William Goodson, a former Yarmouth shipowner who removed to the Thames-side in early life, and was also a Younger Brother of Trinity House, had for some time lived on the Spanish Main. In 1650 he hired out to the State one of his ships, the Hopeful Luke, of London, which appears to have been used as a transport and victualer to the fleet. She was still in the service in 1653 as her name appears amongst the ships used by Bourne for attending on the fleet when he was at Harwich.
Goodson entered the naval service during the Dutch War and was captain of the Happy Entrance in the Battle of Portland in February, 1653. He was afterwards captain of the Rainbow and of the Unicorn, serving in the former as rear admiral of the third squadron under Vice-Admiral Lawson at the Battle of the Gabbard. In 1654 he was vice-admiral under Penn, with whom, afterwards, he went to the West Indies. Later, in 1657 and 1658, he commanded a squadron against Moodyck and Dunkirk with his flag in the Dover, and later in the Swiftsure, after John Bourne had brought this vessel home from the coast of Spain. In the autumn of 1658, with his flag in the Swiftsure, he was vice-admiral in the fleet under Admiral Sir George Ayscue which attempted to pass the Sound, but owing to the lateness of the season and foul weather was unable to do so and returned to England.
In the following year (1659) he was again in the fleet ordered to the Sound under Edward Montagu (afterwards Earl of Sandwich) and continued with the fleet until the scheme for the restoration of the monarchy began to take form. Goodson was an intimate friend of Nehemiah Bourne, and the latter, when at Harwich, was often on board his ship in the roadstead to discuss with him the order in which the ships were to go into the harbor for repair and graving. He, too, was a staunch Puritan, and after the Restoration nothing more is heard of him in a public capacity,62 and he appears to have retired to Ratcliffe. A William Goodson in New England is said to have been a son.
Captain Wager’s son, Admiral Sir Charles Wager, born in 1666, the year of his father’s death, married Martha, younger daughter of Bourne’s brother-in-law, Captain Anthony Earning, “Charles Wager of Rotherhithe, Co. Surrey, bachelor, 25, and Martha Earning of the same, spinster, about 24, her parents dead, and she at her own disposal, 8th December 1691” (Chester’s London Marriage Licences). Admiral Sir Charles Wager’s distinguished career is well known. He was elected an Elder Brother of the Trinity House in 1716 and was Master of the Corporation in 1721–1723, and again in 1728–1729. His pleasant remarks are sometimes included in the minutes of their proceedings; with his death, in 1743, the last that can be traced of those in any way related to Nehemiah Bourne passed out of their records.