This text was copied from Wikipedia on 22 April 2024 at 6:10AM.

Nehemiah Bourne
Battle of Dover (1652), where Bourne commanded a squadron
Commissioner, Navy Office
In office
December 1652 – July 1660
Commander North Sea Squadron
In office
Personal details
Bornbaptised 26 January 1611
Wapping, London
Died (aged 80)
Resting placeBunhill Fields
SpouseHannah Earning (1631–1684) her death
Parent(s)Robert and Mary Bourne
OccupationNaval officer, administrator and ship-owner
Military service
Years of service1643–1645; 1652–1660

Nehemiah Bourne (baptised 26 January 1611, died 1691) was an English naval officer, administrator and ship-owner who fought for Parliament during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. He has been described as "a typical servant of the Commonwealth, a committed radical, energetic, public spirited, yet with a shrewd eye to personal profit."[1]

Originally from Wapping, he emigrated to Massachusetts in 1638, before returning to England in 1644 to take part in the First English Civil War. He later served with the Commonwealth navy during the Anglo-Scottish war (1650–1652) and First Anglo-Dutch War before being appointed to the Navy Office in December 1652. He retained this position until the 1660 Stuart Restoration, and thereafter focused on commercial activities until his death sometime between February and May 1691 in London.

Personal details

Nehemiah Bourne was born in Wapping, close to the Port of London, eldest son of Mary Bourne (died 1630) and her husband Robert (died 1625), a wealthy shipwright. Baptised on 26 January 1611, he was one of five surviving children, the others being Mary (born 1607), Martha (born 1609), Ruth (born 1616) and John (1620–1667), who later served under his brother in the Commonwealth navy.[2]

He married Hannah Earning (1616–1684) in 1631, and they had five children. Two were still living when he made his will in February 1691, a son Nehemiah (1640–1709), and daughter Anna.[3] His brother-in-law, Anthony Earning, was also a captain in the Commonwealth navy from 1651 to 1660.[4]


Bourne followed his father into the family business and was part of a close-knit group of Puritan merchants and shipowners, among them future Parliamentarian soldier, sailor and political radical, Thomas Rainsborough. The period of Personal Rule exercised by Charles I from 1629 to 1640 led many Puritans to emigrate to New England, including Bourne. In 1638, he journeyed to Massachusetts in a ship owned by the Rainsborough family, and established a ship-building company in Boston.[1]

The First English Civil War began in August 1642, and in the winter of 1643/1644, Bourne travelled to England where he was appointed major in a regiment of infantry raised by Thomas Rainsborough for the Eastern Association. Several members of this unit were returned emigrants like Bourne, among them Israel Stoughton, John Leverett, a future Governor of Massachusetts, and Stephen Winthrop, son of John Winthrop, the current governor.[5] In October 1644, he took part in a daring operation led by Rainsborough to expel a Royalist garrison from Crowland Abbey, before resigning his commission in early 1645 and returning to Boston.[1]

Admiral Robert Blake, Bourne's commander during the First Anglo-Dutch War

One reason for doing so may have been his Anabaptist beliefs or sympathies, which he shared with Thomas Rainsborough. Viewed as dangerous radicals by mainstream Protestants, including the moderate Presbyterians who dominated Parliament and had to approve the appointment of officers to the New Model Army, Anabaptists were widely persecuted in both Europe and the North American colonies.[6] These factors may have influenced both Bourne and Leverett, who returned to Boston at the same time. The two men campaigned for John Winthrop to amend Massachusetts laws banning Anabaptists; after these efforts failed, in December 1646 Bourne sailed for England with his family, this time permanently.[1]

Over the next few years, Bourne was busy building up his trade with New England, and although offered a position within the Commonwealth navy in 1649, it was not until 1650 that he accepted command of the Speaker. During the 1650 to 1652 Anglo-Scottish war, he was commander-in-chief of the North Sea Squadron, providing support for land operations in Scotland, his brother John being captain of one of his ships.[2] This was also a period of tension between the Commonwealth and Dutch Republic over trade, and in May 1652 Bourne was senior officer in The Downs when a Dutch fleet under Maarten Tromp anchored near Dover. Now using the Andrew as his flagship, Bourne immediately informed his commander Admiral Robert Blake. This initiated the inconclusive Battle of Dover on 19 May 1652, although the First Anglo-Dutch War did not formally begin until 10 July.[1]

Promoted Rear admiral, on 28 September Bourne also commanded a squadron at the Battle of the Kentish Knock, but despite his good performance in the two battles, it was decided his talents were more urgently needed in administration. In December 1652, he was appointed one of three Commissioners at the Navy Office, responsible for managing the crews, ship repairs and marine supplies. He proved efficient enough to retain this position until the Stuart Restoration in May 1660, when he was replaced by the new regime. Although given permission in 1662 to return to New England with his family, his concerns over the treatment of Anabaptists there remained, and in the end he settled first in Hamburg, then Rotterdam.[1] Bourne moved to Abchurch Lane in London around 1670, where he lived until his death sometime between February and May 1691. As stipulated in his will, he was buried next to his wife Hannah in Bunhill Fields, a graveyard used for Nonconformists.[3]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Capp 2008.
  2. ^ a b Capp 2004.
  3. ^ a b Dean 1897, p. 113.
  4. ^ Anderson 1938, pp. 429–450.
  5. ^ Carr, Ivor. "Colonel Thomas Rainsborough's Regiment of Foot". BCW Project. Retrieved 6 October 2022.
  6. ^ Preheim, Rick (19 June 2004). "Atonement For 2 Centuries Of Persecution". Washington Post. Retrieved 6 October 2022.


2 Annotations

Second Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Major Nehemiah Bourne (1611 - 1690) was a man of his times.

He was the eldest son of a Puritan Wapping shipbuilder. He would have seen the Mayflower set sail in 1620, and possibly met the settlers.

As a young man Nehemiah Bourne emigrated and became a prominent merchant in Boston, MASS. (not then founded), later returning to England to fight for the Parliamentary cause in the first Civil War.

Nehemiah Bourne became a major in the land forces, a captain at sea in the Parliamentary ships, then promoted to rear admiral all in Cromwell’s time. For whatever reason, he was always referred to as Major from his Army days. Later he was appointed a commissioner of the navy board, and, after the Restoration, an Elder Brother of the Trinity House, from which he resigned to return to Massachusetts.

He became a successful trader and shipwright there; his berths are still in use today.

Finally, Major Nehemiah Bourne returned to his native London and ended his days as a merchant there, trading with the New England states. His house backed onto the Quaker Meeting House in Gracechurch Street where Fox used to preach, and William Penn Jr. will be arrested (after the Diary). Bourne knew them all as he was probably a Quaker by now.

This 1952 paper was presented by Captain William Robert Chaplin, of the Trinity House, London, and has lots of information about the growth of shipbuilding under James I and Charles I, the Civil War years, shipbuilding in Boston, the history of Seething Lane offices, and the colorful characters Nehemiah Bourne was related to by marriage ... the entire Trinity House Brotherhood were his Puritan in-laws from Wapping during the Cromwell years.

And yes, Pepys and the Diary get some mentions.…

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

The part of Commissioner Nehemiah Bourne's story which may explain many of Pepys' observations and challenges in the Second Anglo-Dutch War have echoes in the First War when Bourne was made Resident Commissioner of Harwich, and built a wharf there that make Harwich into a permanent navel instillation.

Captain Chaplin's paper cited above is very long. I took the highlights and entered them under Harwich.…

Log in to post an annotation.

If you don't have an account, then register here.


Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.