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The overlays that highlight 17th century London features are approximate and derived from Wenceslaus Hollar’s maps:

Open location in Google Maps: 51.937639, 1.281623

22 Annotations

Paul Timbrell  •  Link

The reference to lighthouses and Harwich is significant. The port has two pairs of lighthouses ( now disused ) at Harwich and Dovercourt. These lights were so designed that when the higher and lower flames were kept in line a vessel was in the safe channel to enter port. Pepys' interest in Harwich would quicken in the future. He became its MP in 1679.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Harwich, Essex -- near Felixstow -- One of the Haven ports, located on the coast with the North Sea to the east. The town became a naval base in 1657 and was heavily fortified. During the 2nd Dutch War the Navy yard there had to cope with a sudden and large amount of business because of the location of the naval campaigns.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Capt. John Taylor was appointed as Navy Commissioner to Harwich on Nov. 1, 1664, http://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1664/11/04/

Sir William Batten and Sir John Robinson objected after-the-fact to the appointment because he was a fanatic.

Then on 19 December 1664 Mr. Coventry had "to vindicate himself before the Duke and us, being all there, about the choosing of Taylor for Harwich" -- http://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1664/12/19/ , because a hold had been put on sending Capt. John Taylor there until that day's rather pro forma proceedings.

Later in December 1664 Sir William Batten obtained a patent from Charles II to provide two lighthouses at Harwich. He left on January 4, 1665.

No wonder it was so important for Coventry and the Duke of York to make a point that Capt. Taylor was their choice and make Batten reveal his objections first. No doubt they had to work together to build those vital lighthouses.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

The distance between Harwich and City of London is 106 kilometers (66 miles) as the crow flies. Let’s guess this was 100 miles to Westminster in Stuart times.

Horses gallop an average 40 to 48 kilometres per hour (25 to 30 mph). The world record for a horse galloping over a short, sprint distance is 88 kilometres per hour (55 mph).

I therefore estimate a messenger, taking a relay of horses, could get from Harwich to Westminster in about 4 hours of hard riding.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Harwich is not mentioned in the Domesday Book so if anyone lived there, it must have been a tiny settlement. (The name Harwich is believed to be derived from the old words here wic, meaning army camp because the Danes camped there in the 9th century). However there is an entry for Dovercourt. It was a little village with a population of about 120. The inhabitants were peasants who farmed the land around a cluster of wooden huts.

By 1177 a chapel existed at Harwich so there must have been some people living there.

In 1253 the Earl of Norfolk, Harwich's Lord of the manor, started a weekly market. Once the market established, craftsmen and merchants move to the town.

After that, new streets were laid out and wooden jetties were built for ships.

Harwich grew rapidly and in 1318 it was given a charter (a document granting the townspeople certain rights). In the later Middle Ages Harwich was a busy little port. At that time England’s main export was wool and bales were sent from Harwich.

The main import was wine (the drink of the upper class). Furthermore in Harwich there were the same craftsmen found in any town such as carpenters, brewers, butchers, blacksmiths etc. then at the time of Henry VIII strong defences were built at Harwich. Three forts were erected. At that time Harwich was a busy fishing port with a population of about 800.

In 1604 King James gave Harwich a new charter. As well as the weekly market, Harwich was allowed 2 annual fairs. People came from all over Essex to attend a Harwich fair.

In the 17th century Harwich continued to flourish. Shipbuilding was a major industry in the town.

Harwich became an important naval base in the 1650’s, The Navy Yard was the original site of one of the town’s most impressive surviving monuments, the Harwich Crane, dating to about 1667.

Samuel Pepys became the MP for Harwich in March 1679.

The Treadwheel Crane, built at the shipbuilder’s yard in 1667 was operated by two men walking inside twin wooden treadwheels and was in use until the early years of the 20th century. In the 18th century quieter times returned but civilian shipbuilding continued in Harwich and fishing was still an important industry. Harwich does suffer from flooding at intervals.

In the 1720s the writer Daniel Defoe visited Harwich and he said it was ‘a town of hurry and business, not much of gaiety and pleasure; yet the inhabitants seem warm in their nests and some of them are very rich’.
Defoe was also impressed by Harwich harbour. He said it was ‘able to receive the biggest ships and the greatest number that ever the world saw together’.

http://www.harwichanddovercourt.co.uk/harwich-his…).

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Shipbuilding at the small ports in Essex and Suffolk, such as Maldon, Wivenhoe, Woodbridge, Aldeborough, Walberswick and Yarmouth, steadily declined during the early years of the 17th century because of the increase in the number of yards on the Thames, where many of the east coast builders migrated.

Coincident with the rise of the Thames ship yards, which were mostly in Stepney, was the growth of Puritanism, which had its birth in East Anglia; by 1580 it was also firmly established in Stepney, although there were yet some years of development before Puritanism finally broke away from the established church.

Stepney in the early 1600’s included what we know of as the parishes of St. Leonard-Bromley, Stratford-Bow, Hackney, St. Matthew Bethnal Green, Whitechapel, Christ-Church Spitalfields, St. George in the East, and Shadwell, plus the parish of St. Anne Middlesex, or Limehouse.

With the outbreak of the First Anglo-Dutch War in 1652 there was a sudden demand for ships, and new ones were fitted out as fast as they could be built. The state yards were unequal to the task, so private builders were commissioned, and those on the Thames became essential, but they soon raised their rates.

The Admiralty then invited tenders from elsewhere, and shipbuilding at Bristol, the south coast ports, and the eastern counties became prosperous again. The revival of the Essex and Suffolk ports was inevitable, especially as they had access to timber renowned for shipbuilding, and because of their location convenient for careening and cleaning the large fleets of ships operating in the North Sea.

Vessels built in private yards were closely and continually inspected by naval surveyors and commissioners, and the supervision of private shipbuilding at all east coast ports fell upon the commissioner at Harwich -- but there was no commissioner resident there until 1653.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

PART 2

Adm. Robert Blake, in a letter to the Council of State dated 12 June, 1653 from aboard the Resolution, reported that Rear Admiral and Navy Commissioner Nehemiah Bourne had suggested Blake station him 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 the idea, and on 19 June 1653 informed the Admiralty Committee accordingly.

Thus began Major Nehemiah Bourne’s 6-7 year association with Harwich, and marks the beginning of Harwich as a naval base.

Resident Commissioner at Harwich Nehemiah Bourne cursed the day he got the idea. The need for a Commissioner was real; difficulties over victualing were continually arising, many of the frigates were already using the port for graving and cleaning, and largely because of the failure to pay the seamen, they were always deserting their ships.

By 9 July, 1653 Commissioner Bourne at Harwich 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 on 15 July 1653, at “10 forenoon,” Major Nehemiah Bourne gave the Admiralty Committee news of the fleet and an account of the damage sustained by the ships that had come into Harwich. “I perceive, 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.”

Commissioner Bourne’s prophecy about Harwich’s importance was fully realized as its usefulness far outlived the First Anglo-Dutch War, and its rise as a naval base dates from this time. Bourne’s regret at being stationed there caused many protests, but there was much work to be done.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

PART 3

Writing from one of the coast towns on 6 August 1653 to the Admiralty Committee, Commissioner Bourne said that the Generals-at-Sea had written to say they were sending some more ships to Harwich and he was returning to prepare for them. He asks for masts in order to hasten the fitting out of the more severely crippled.

By August 8 Bourne had been out to the fleet, then plying between Orford Ness and Dunwich, and arranged for 20 frigates to go into Harwich.

In Harwich the situation was relieved by the arrival of a ship from Norway with a cargo of masts which Commissioner Bourne purchased, informing the Admiralty that he had done so and a bill had been drawn upon them.

However, the arrival of 45 ships and frigates on 14 August 1653 used up Harwich’s stock, and 13 masts picked up at sea were a welcome addition, but left the yard without reserves.

As Commissioner Bourne told the Admiralty, 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.
[Landguard Fort at the mouth of the River Orwell defends the approach to Harwich Harbor. It was the site of the last opposed seaborne invasion of England, by the Dutch in 1667, who were repulsed by the Royal Marines in their first land battle. https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/… ]

When writing to Gen. George Monck at sea with a progress report, Commissioner Bourne said he was “jaded by the sluggishness he finds at Harwich.” The stores and masts were exhausted and he was going to London for 10 or 12 days to obtain a further supply.

Bourne wrote to Navy Commissioners that a large number of ships had come into the port with heavy weather damage and he feared most of the men would desert. These fears were not groundless,

The problem of desertions at Harwich proved almost insoluble because the pressed men had not received their pay, and being mostly from the Thames-side hamlets, they sought the first opportunity to return home. “I have taken all courses and means 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 Romford and Bow Bridge to arrest the seamen on their way to London.”

The Navy Commissioners quickly sent an extract from Major Bourne’s letter to the higher committee with a rather peremptory request that it be complied with.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

PART 4

The Council of State on 24 August 1653 issued a resolution that Commissioner Peter Pett and Major Bourne were to receive the thanks of the Council for “their great care and pains in despatching the fleets to sea.” And in September 1653 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”.

Nehemiah Bourne’s appointment as Resident-Commissioner at Harwich was confirmed in January 1654, 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; his superior officers ignored his complaints.

Correspondence followed about buying a Harwich residence for the Resident-Commissioner, and when one became available near the waterside, permission was given to Major Bourne to negotiate.

The 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 Harwich facilities, limited although they were, 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 1654 Commissioner Bourne had 150 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 he 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 Commissioner 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.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

PART 5

The ships being built at the smaller ports depleted Harwich’s yard of all stores, especially of rigging, and there were frequent requests for replenishment.

In May 1654 there were 10 frigates laying at Harwich, but work on them was delayed by want of caulkers. On May 31 Commissioner Bourne reminded the Commissioners that he had frequently asked for caulkers to be sent from London, and then referred 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, Resident-Commissioner at Harwich Bourne also 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 favorable report” so they could obtain their liberty and arrears of pay.

During June 1654 Commissioner Bourne’s letters were principally directed to the Navy Commissioners, acquainting them with the progress of the new vessels being built, with frequent reminders about his orders for stores.

On June 5 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 1654 Commissioner Bourne’s letters 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 built at the smaller ports they are not mentioned by name; probably a number were small vessels used as scouts.

But by 1654 the St. Fagans, a fifth rate of 22 guns, at Wivenhoe, was the first man-of-war of the modern navy to be built in Essex and Suffolk; the largest ships built in Suffolk during the 17th century were those at Woodbridge.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

PART 6

On 18 July 1654 Commissioner Bourne was 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.

[August 7, 1654. Off the Texel – Between Adm. Van Tromp (who was killed in the action) and Admirals Monck, Penn, Jordan, and others. The two fleets were about equal in force. The Dutch lost 26 men-of-war, 2,700 men killed, 2,500 wounded, and 1,000 prisoners. The English lost three ships, and 1,300 killed and wounded. The Dutch now sued for peace.]

Following the Battle of the Texel, disabled ships in large numbers were sent to Harwich for refitting.

In Commissioner Bourne’s letter to the Admiralty Commissioners of 27 September, 1654 -- after informing them that he had been obliged to buy provisions from Yarmouth and London, although the victualing agent could well supply his ships, and observes that “a little oil upon that wheel would not be amiss,” -- he 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.”

Commissioner Bourne ends his letter by appealing to them to find a way whereby he might be supplied with money to carry on the service.

Two days later Bourne wrote that “the owner of the house is cold at selling it upon the terms proposed,” Bourne having offered him £320. True to the Puritan spirit he was driving a hard bargain, but the owner was no easy prey and negotiations lagged for a time.

Later the Admiralty Commissioners enquired how the negotiations were going, which gave Commissioner Bourne an opportunity to say a little more about how much he hated Harwich, and of their neglect to his frequent requests.

However, on 18 October 1654 Commissioner Bourne reported he had 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. Bourne observing, “if I am to continue at Harwich I must have the accommodation, as I cannot make shift any longer as I am.”

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

PART 7

Harwich was full of riotous seamen, who frequently demanded their pay. For some reason (possibly on account of the sickness in the town), the military were preparing to leave Harwich, and Commissioner Bourne wrote asking the garrison 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 Bourne’s request, and on 26 September 1654 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. I will do my best but it is very irksome. N.B. I hope you are mindful respecting the masts I ordered.”

A few days later the order was issued from London to maintain a guard in Harwich, apparently from the Landguard Fort. But the military had already started to demolish the fort, preparatory to leaving the town. Commissioner 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 was the question of the continuance of Landguard Fort seems to have ended.

Commissioner Bourne asked for orders on what to do with the Dutch prisoners of war, who, he said, “are many, and run all over the country, giving much trouble”.

No answer, as the Admiralty Commissioners were far removed from the trouble. Harwich wasn’t the only port with problems, and the Commissioners had urgent matters occupying them, so the problem of prisoners of war was left to solve itself.

Commissioner Bourne rounded up a large number and sent them to Colchester Castle to get them out of his way.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

PART 8

Having had no reply to a further demand for money, Commissioner Bourne wrote to the Navy Commissioners begging them to move the Admiralty Commissioners to order the sale of prizes 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 ports, and frequently roused Commissioner Bourne’s wrath, but he was really more concerned about obtaining ready money from the sale of the ships.

In October 1654 Commissioner Bourne was again visiting the ports of Woodbridge, Aldeborough, Southwold and Yarmouth, supervising the building and fitting out of ships, appeasing the town bailiffs who pressed claims for payment for the care of the sick and wounded, and protesting against receiving any more patients 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.”

At all ports seamen complained of bad beer, of arrears of pay, and many deserted. In his report, Commissioner Bourne concluded, “I know none more like to take effect than the report of money to be sent down to pay them.”

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

PART 9

Commissioner Bourne was recalled to Harwich by a report that trouble was brewing with the seamen, and on his return he 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, 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, the seamen only went away to induce other men to come ashore and, reinforced, they went on a spree. Commissioner Bourne then suggested they be paid one moiety and the rest when they went to sea, but admits that this “will much distemper them,” and pointedly tells the Admiralty Committee that had they seen fit to pay the sailors when the ships arrived in 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.”

On 6 November, 1654 Commissioner Bourne reported he had paid all the ships, and now wanted a leave of absence from Harwich. He wrote, “I stopped 40s. a man of the Assurance pay, until the ship was in the Rolling Ground 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.”

Bourne 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 Secretary to the Commissioners, Robert Blackborne, Commissioner Bourne 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 1654 Commissioner Bourne 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.”

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

PART 10

The answers to Commissioner Bourne’s requests for leave could not have been 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 16 days. I have been nearly killed by the extreme cold taken in coasting up and down.”

Again on 17 November 1654 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.”
Commissioner Bourne continued 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 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 1654 Commissioner Bourne reported, “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.”

On 22 November 1654, Bourne forwarded news from Gen. Monck of the damage done to the Dutch fleet in the recent storm, and of the whereabouts of the English ships. “All the ships in the harbor are now completed, I hope I may repair homeward next week, as I and my family are not well.”

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

PART 11

But the next week Commissioner Bourne was at Woodbridge overseeing the launching of two frigates.

In a note to Robert Blackmore, Secretary to the Commissioners, Bourne wrote from Ipswich on 25 November 1654, 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.”

Impatient with delays, Commissioner Bourne 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.”

M. Oppenheim, in his 1925 book, “Administration of the Navy”, states that Resident-Commissioner at Harwich Major Nehemiah Bourne took up his residence at Harwich and remained there until March, 1658, but it is clear from his letters and reports that from July 1654 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.

Now Major Nehemiah Bourne was in London he was able to press his own claims for long-deferred payments, and on 8 August, 1655 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.”

Major Nehemiah Bourne now gave up his residence at Harwich.

By February 1656, matters were not going smoothly at Harwich, and Robert Grassingham, the state’s shipwright, wrote complaining to the Navy Commissioners that the Admiralty had charged him with neglect and asking for their support. He continued 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 Commissioner Bourne’s time.

During June 1656, Bourne was back at Harwich investigating the supply of timber for the navy. On 4 July he wrote to say he had been to Hitcham Wood and ordered the felling of 1,200 trees, 500 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.”

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

PART 12

Bourne then advises the Admiralty Commissioners to make an agreement with Robert 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.”

In August 1656 Commissioner Bourne required more money to pay wages at Harwich, and reports at the same time that he had got the first 400 trees down to Ipswich from Hitcham, “the best parcel of timber he has seen for years.”

Early in February 1658 Commissioner 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 11 February 1658, Bourne 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 established yards.

Commissioner Bourne then recommended the building of a ballast wharf 100 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.

In March 1658 the Admiralty instructed the Navy Office to supply the stores required for the wharf, and the Commissioners should consult with Bourne on how to build the ballast wharf.

Bourne returned to Harwich briefly early in May 1658 to report on the progress of work on ships under repair, and remarked that so long as they used the port for refitting and cleaning, Harwich could never be without ships. As usual, they needed 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.”

Robert Grassingham, the state’s Harwich shipwright, wrote to the Admiralty in June 1658 also urging for the ballast wharf to be built, and again pressing for money to pay the wages as he was heavily out of pocket and “has no delight in being a creditor to the State.”

Grassingham was still in financial difficulties in October 1658 when he wrote to the Admiralty, deploring the departure of Commissioner Bourne from the port; however, they had become hardened to appeals for money and there is no record of a response.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

PART 13

Oliver Cromwell died on 3 September, 1658 and the intrigues which followed intensified the disorder existing in naval affairs.

In the meantime, affairs at Harwich went from bad to worse; shipwright Robert Grassingham wrote on 8 January, 1659 complaining 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.

Commissioner Bourne was sent back to Harwich, and found more wrong than the men’s pay. Writing on 26 January 1659 to the Admiralty, he said 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 27 January 1659 Commissioner Bourne boarded the flagship, the Swiftsure, then lying in the outer roadstead, and arranged for the rest of the ships requiring a refit to go to Chatham.

Commissioner Bourne remained at Harwich during most of February, 1659 but, at the end of the month and in March was again at Deptford.

A master blacksmith, Richard Watkins of Harwich, wrote to Commissioner Bourne in June 1659 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 for a ballast wharf at Harwich had been approved, and in March 1659, Robert Grassingham, the state’s shipwright at Harwich, 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 Navy Committee agreed to pay £10. 10. 0.

If Commissione 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, 1659 from Harwich, where he was again assisting Grassingham in smoothing out his difficulties, makes his first mention of the rising storm:

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

PART 14

“Since Monday, I have been here, and found business worth my time and labor. 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.”
Commissioner Bourne continued he had asked the Governor of Landguard Fort to seize some of the more 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 with a report on the ships there, and the unfailing subjects of money and stores; he said the workmen had difficulty getting credit owing to arrears of pay. The storehouse was empty and there must be speedy provision made for the frigates daily arriving.

Commissioner Bourne returned to London, and at the end of August 1659 Robert Grassingham wrote to him that he was in great want of money, and evidently receiving no answer, so in desperation he went to London.

Writing on 3 September 1659 from New Crane, Wapping Wall — which may have been Major Nehemiah Bourne’s home — to the Admiralty Committee, Robert Grassingham said that the money received only cleared all accounts, wages still remained unpaid and his own and the storekeeper’s salaries were longer in arrears. Timber was urgently needed and the Harwich 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.”

Grassingham asked them to consult with Commissioner Bourne, and said that if £1,000 was not sent, he would be unable to carry on.

This called for Commissioner Bourne’s immediate departure for Harwich.
Writing on 9 September, 1659 in an angry mood, Commissioner Bourne 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 Bourne’s request was answered, as despite an adverse wind a vessel arrived with cables on 15 September, 1659 but Bourne, in reporting her arrival to the Navy Commissioners, said with more than a touch of despair, that no victuals had been sent, so all the ships were detained, adding that he was weary of staying at Harwich and was resolved to leave the next week.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

PART 15

During Bourne’s stay at Harwick, he assisted Grassingham with the finances of the dockyard, On 17 September, 1659 the latter wrote to the Admiralty that he had been to Ipswich and with the assistance of 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 Commissioner Bourne wrote to the Navy Office referring to Robert 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 1659 there were Royalist plots throughout the country — Commissioner 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 was quelled, and for a time the fortunes of the Royalists seemed at their lowest.

Despite the unrest and the inevitable trend of events, which were extremely unpleasant to men of Major Nehemiah Bourne’s views, he conscientiously carried out his duties at the Navy Office.

Despite Bourne’s dislike of Harwich, his last 7 years had given him good reason for that, he was still 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 making it permanence.

The small beginning in 1654 of 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 had been sealed, and Commissioner Bourne was anxious to finish the matter, so wrote to Robert Grassingham, enclosing a letter designed to conclude the deal, and at the same time instructed him to measure the ground from the limits of the former purchase (i.e. from the wharf) so the lease could be drawn up.

Grassingham replied on 6 December 1659 that he had delivered the 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 99 years.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

PART 16

Although many important matters were pending, Commissioner Bourne went to Harwich. Whether the lease of the yard was concluded is not stated, as his letter to the Navy Office of 13 December 1659 was concerned solely with other difficulties which confronted him there.

Commissioner Bourne was concerned for the safety of the fleet in Hoseley 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.”

Commissioner Bourne returned to London shortly after this, from what was 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 to secure its permanency as a naval base, and then his reports cease.

There is much evidence of the success Commissioner Nehemiah Bourne achieved at Harwich under insuperable difficulties.
M. Oppenheim in his 1923 book, “Administration of the Navy,” described Major Nehemiah Bourne and Capt. Francis Willoughby, the commissioner at Portsmouth, as being, in their own sphere, amongst the ablest administrators who have ever served the state.

Gen. George 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 a tribute to his energy and resource, especially as 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 onto the foreshore for cleaning, and it was not until 1659 the ballast wharf was built to enable them to discharge their ballast before being laid ashore.
Before the wharf, ballast was 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 condition of the ships and the consequent high rate of sickness in the crews.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

PART 17

Commissioner Bourne’s letters from Harwich during the First Anglo-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 the things which did not go wrong. After all, it is only the deficiencies and shortcomings which are written about; not the things that are working smoothly.

(The Dutch admirals also complained bitterly of being handicapped by the shortcomings of their administration, and on the whole, one of the causes of England’s success in the First Anglo-Dutch War was the superiority of her administration and the vigor of her executive departments.)

Commissioner Bourne expected all ranks and ratings to be inspired by the same sense of duty and zeal for the cause as those of the administration.

From Harwich, Bourne wrote mournfully that the seamen were “sensible neither of what is the public or their own interest but are below the beasts that perish”; and did his best to grapple with the difficult task, made worse by the seamen considering that their duties began and ended on salt water, and when in port were more entitled to party than to attend to the refitting of their ships.

The men had legitimate complaints; the quality of the beer was a frequent subject, but no doubt the long delays in paying their wages was their principal grievance.

Robert Grassingham, Harwich’s master shipwright, continued there 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 clear the delays for which he was blamed were due to want of stores and lack of credit.
It is unlikely he would have stayed so long had he not been efficient, with the same zeal as Commissioner Bourne; and he also appears to have had duties and responsibilities beyond those of a master shipwright, especially after Bourne left.
Grassingham was a committed Puritan, probably Bourne’s choice for the position, and these may have been the reasons for his removal after the Restoration.

The Harwich Naval Shipyard increased its activities by building ships, the first naval vessel constructed there in 1660.

Capt. John Taylor was appointed as Resident Navy Commissioner to Harwich on Nov. 1, 1664, http://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1664/11/04/

In December 1664 Commissioner Adm. Sir William Batten obtained a patent from Charles II to provide two lighthouses at Harwich. He left on January 4, 1665.

Most of these facts are taken from a 1952 paper presented by Capt. William Robert Chaplin, of the Trinity House, London.
https://www.colonialsociety.org/node/630

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