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Nehemiah Bourne (c.1611–1690)[1] was an English Royal Navy Admiral.


Bourne, in his earlier days apparently a merchant and shipowner, served in the Parliamentary Army during the civil war, and on the remodelling of the fleet after William Batten's secession, having then the rank of major, was appointed to the command of the Speaker, a ship of the second-rate. As captain of the Speaker he was for two years commander-in-chief on the coast of Scotland, and in September 1651 carried the Scottish records, regalia, and insignia taken in Stirling Castle to London, for which services he afterwards received a gold medal of the value of £60.

In 1652 he was captain of the Andrew, and in May was senior officer in The Downs, wearing a flag by special authority from Blake, when, on the 18th, the Dutch fleet under Maarten Tromp anchored off Dover. It was thus Bourne who sent, both to the council of state and to Blake, the intimation of Tromp's presence on the coast, and who commanded that division of the fleet which had so important a share in the Battle of Dover.

Admiral Bourne

Without knowledge of the battle, the council had already on the 19th appointed Bourne rear-admiral of the fleet, a rank which he held during the whole of that year, and commanded in the third post in the battle near the Kentish Knock on 28 September. But after the rude check sustained by Blake off Dungeness on 30 November, it was found necessary to have some well-skilled and trustworthy man as commissioner on shore to superintend and push forward the equipment and manning of the fleets. To this office Bourne was appointed, and he continued to hold and exercise it not only during the rest of the Dutch war, but to the end of The Protectorate. In this work he was indefatigable, and in a memorial to the Admiralty, 18 September 1653, claimed, by his special knowledge, to have saved hundreds of pounds in buying masts and deals; from which we may perhaps assume that he had formerly been engaged in the Baltic trade. Nor was he backward in representing his merits to the admiralty; and although he wrote on 13 October 1653, that his modesty did not suit the present age, it did not prevent him from quaintly urging his claims both to pecuniary reward and to honourable distinction. This last, he says, 13 April 1653, "would give some countenance and quicken the work. I ask for the sake of the service, for I am past such toys as to be tickled with a feather".


After the Restoration, being unwilling to accept the new order of things, he emigrated to America; the last that is known of him is the pass permitting him "to transport himself and family into any of the plantations" (May 1662). On 3 April 1689 the secretary of the admiralty wrote to a Major Bourne in Abchurch Lane, desiring him to attend the admiralty, who wished "to discourse him about some business relating to their majesties' service"; and on 28 June 1690 a Nehemiah Bourne was appointed captain of the Monmouth (Admiralty Minutes). It's not known for certain if this was the same person. If so, he apparently refused to take up the appointment because of his advanced age or died before he was able to, for on 9 July another captain was appointed in his stead.


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2 Annotations

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.…

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