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Research Findings 9 – Piracy and Poole

Piracy and Poole 1580-1730                      Don Nutt

Elizabethan Days

At the start of the period Piracy was rife in the Poole area and Lloyd saw it as one of Dorset’s important industries[1], “having its rich men even as the wool trade had”. A syndicate, involving local wealthy people and members of the establishment, was believed to exist that controlled the ports, as in other parts of the country. Commentary on the “Dorset Piracy Scandal”[2], so-called, in 1577 implicated Sir Richard Rogers, sheriff of Dorset (1573). One historian referred to him as a “very great landlord…… and a very great pirate promoter”. Rogers was said to be the brother[3] of Francis Rogers of Poole who was identified as a pirate in 1576 but who was set free on payment of £100 by Richard.

A network of merchants and local gentry passed the goods inland from pirates lying in Lulworth Creek or Studland Bay. Poole and Weymouth were the only ports in Dorset where vessels could be attended to and provisioned and Poole was in a strong position as a County in its own right. The town and county of Poole had its own Admiralty Court. In the 1580’s Poole was the principal support for the pirates’ trade in Dorset and Studland Bay an anchorage for pirate vessels and their “prizes”[4].

In 1572 Elizabeth ordered her Lord Admiral to clear the seas of pirates and in 1578 she instituted a commission under her great seal concerning the apprehension of pirates. The Crown fitted out four vessels to chase pirates in 1583 and over 40 vessels were caught along the Dorset coast in a two month period.

In August 1583 two pirates who had created problems in the English Channel and off southern Ireland, Purser (Thomas Walton) and Clinton Atkinson, were hanged at Wapping. With others they had used Studland Bay as a pirates’ haunt for its attractions; sheltered anchorage, several local hostelries and corrupt local officials[5]. Over the 1580’s hardly a year went by without some mention of piratical activities in and around Poole in the historical archive[6].

John Piers was a pirate from Padstow in Cornwall and he relied upon his mother to sell some of his spoils at local fairs. He and fifteen men were captured in Studland Bay in 1581 and taken to Dorchester gaol where he managed to bribe his way out. He was soon caught again and he and eight of his men were hung on Studland beach in March 1582. Their bodies were left in chains for two tides, wallowing in the water.

People became pirates from a variety of backgrounds and for a variety of reasons, some were well educated and had some social standing before becoming pirates; others became pirates because they were elected to captain pirate vessels by their crews; yet more found they had little alternative but to take up the life when they found they could no longer serve as sailors, trade or fish for whatever reason. Many of them moved into and out of piracy as fate dictated and careers did not generally last long. There is no evidence that the piracy had any moral significance for people then, rather that it was seen to be something of an adventure.


[1] Dorset Elizabethans – Rachel Lloyd

[2] The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603 Ed PW Hasler 1981

[3] Outlaws in Medieval and Early Modern England: Crime, Government and Society – Ed. Dr John C Appleby

[4] Prizes – Privateers with their ‘letter of marque’ had the right, granted by the monarch, to seize shipping assets of citizens of enemy states and to sell them at auction. Pirates also referred to their ‘prizes’ after their raids on other vessels.

[5] Jolly Roger – Patrick Pringle

[6] See Appendix 1

Another local pirate from the 1580s was Stephen Heynes a Purbeck man; feared by his men for the brutality of his treatment of captives. He would torture people to find out what he wanted, by twisting ropes around their heads until their eyes bulged and placing burning matches between their fingers and thumbs and leaving them until they burned down often causing serious damage to people’s hands. In those days ‘matches’ resembled loose pieces of thin rope, they could be lit and would smoulder for some time during a battle, so that cannons could be set off using them.

In 1582 Heynes left 3 tons of Brazil wood with the gunner of Brownsea Island and 112 hogsheads (barrels) of herrings in the castle there.

The wealthy people involved in the syndicates, such as lord lieutenants, sheriffs, high naval officers and Government officials that financed and directed pirate operations across large areas, acted within their networks without being directly involved in the piracy themselves. Most ports were controlled by one or other syndicate which provided money, ships, and port facilities (through bribery of local officials); they also acted as receivers of goods and arranged for plunder to be disposed of. All the pirates had to do was to capture prizes and bring them into port. This of course encouraged piracy and the shore based networks dealt with the goods taken and passed them on.

The Killigrews, a Cornish family, were behind the biggest syndicate controlling ports in the country. It was run by Sir John Killigrew a relative of Lord Burleigh, the Queen’s first minister. He was Vice–Admiral[7] of Cornwall and had inherited the syndicate from his father and uncle who had built it up. Other relatives controlled a Welsh branch and there was also an Irish one. The syndicates took the main share of the profits from the work; typically 4/5ths for the syndicate and 1/5th for the pirate Captain and crew.

When Elizabeth needed men to make up her naval force she made more efforts to control piracy. In 1581 Lord Howard of Bindon, Vice-Admiral of Dorset, closed Lulworth harbour to the Killigrew combine and built the Castle overlooking the cove.

Queen Elizabeth’s intent to control piracy was damaged by her positive attitude to privateering[8]. Privateering was essentially state sponsored piracy in times of war, against ships of the foreign powers that were at war with England. The Crown gave “Letters of Marque”, licences, to Masters and vessels that gave them permission to attack shipping belonging to those other countries. Until the beginning of the C18th, this was the attitude of all monarchs (but James I) and the government of the country; privateering was a cheap way effectively to bolster the Navy’s fleet and to carry on a war. While recognised here and in other countries, Spain did not recognise privateering. Privateering was not stopped completely until the middle of the C19th.


[7] Vice-Admiral – The vice admiral was the chief of naval administration for his area. Some coastal settlements like the Town and County of Poole and all 20 maritime counties had Vice-Admirals appointed to them; their role (as deputy to the Lord High Admiral) included deciding the lawfulness of prizes, taken by privateers; acting as judges in matters of salvage claims for wrecks and the actions of the impress service in the Admiralty courts. In the second half of the C16 they received their orders from the Privy Council and by 1660 they were responsible to the Board of the Admiralty.

[8] Privateering – The Crown gave specific licences to individual Masters and their vessels for the purpose of privateering ventures. Essentially this granted the right to attack any vessel of a country at war with England and to take it and its goods and crew as a “prize”. In most of this era, until the early 1700s, all ‘prizes’ had to be brought to England where the admiralty Court sat in judgement on their future.

As seamen were laid off from naval roles then so they turned to piracy, this was especially true after the death of Elizabeth in 1603; James 1st effected peace with Spain in 1604 and reduced the size of the Navy from around 50,000 marines to 12,000. He also reduced the expenditure on the Navy by 57% to just £20,000 over a few years. At that time there were few jobs on land available as an alternative and so piracy grew. In times when war was not part of the international backdrop, piracy tended to become more in evidence.

Piracy and privateering were present for almost all of the period 1580 – 1730, although it is generally agreed that the so-called ‘Golden Age of Piracy’ stopped in 1727. Their significance rose and declined with the times.

For instance, the Barbary pirates from the north coast of Africa were around for much of the period. After the Moors began to leave Spain in the late C15th many of them reverted to the Barbary Coast joining others; the African Moors and the Muslim adventurers from the Levant. Ottoman sailors also joined in, in 1571, when the Ottoman navy was defeated in battle, and later still in 1609 when the Moors were expelled from Spain, so piracy grew further. For a while their attention was on the Coasts of Italy and Spain and many of the Mediterranean islands where they attacked settlements and carried away local people as slaves, but they soon came further afield too and caused trouble on English and Irish shores. It is estimated that between 1569 and 1616 100 Moorish ships captured 466 English ships selling the crews into slavery.[9] For the next 200 years England sent expeditions against the Barbary Coast (See Button below) but mostly these meant paying a tribute to the pirates concerned, as protection money.

The New World became the focus for piracy as it was opened up, by 1563 it was estimated that there were 400 pirate vessels preying on Spanish treasure vessels returning to Spain from the New World.  In the 1620s the buccaneers began to be active in the Caribbean.

Privateering and piracy were evidently troublesome in Poole in the 1610s and 1620s; pirates from further afield were a problem too. North African Barbary pirates and corsairs were a nuisance in English and Irish waters in the early C17th capturing vessels, their goods and crews. The Newfoundland convoys were attacked by them in the ‘narrow sea’ (the Bristol Channel and South West approaches, and off of the southern Ireland coast) both going out to Newfoundland and coming back and in some years the fishing fleets reduced in size as a direct result. Admiral Sir Thomas Button’s navy role, after he was knighted in 1616, was to control this problem until he died in 1634; something that he found difficult to achieve.

In 1623 Captain John Nutt, a pirate from Lympstone, Devon, heard in Dartmouth that King James I had ordered Sir John Elliot, Vice Admiral of the West, to press seamen for the Navy’s service. He sent messages to ports all along the coasts of Devon, Cornwall and Dorset, before the order was officially communicated, to the effect that when the hated press gang got to work hundreds of sailors had either escaped to Newfoundland in the fishing fleet, or gone in to hiding inland.[10]


[9] History of Transnational Crime –  Bruisma G (Ed); Chapter 5 Historical Piracy and its Impact – Ed Bruce Elleman

[10] Poole and Newfoundland  – FV Matthews

After the death of James I in 1625 several masters and vessels in the Poole fleet were granted licences as privateers. These were probably taken in order to assist in escorting fishermen to and from Newfoundland and while there.

Local problems concerning piracy continued in the 1630s but at a lower level of significance in most years. The Barbary pirates were still a problem in the Channel and off southern Ireland, indeed one night in 1631, in Baltimore they came ashore and captured the entire population of 111 people, carrying them off to the slave markets in North Africa.

In the latter half of the C17th New World piracy became of greater international significance. In 1651 there was a major rise in piracy off the north American coast  as the monopolies on trading, attempted by the English were rejected by the merchants in the colonies. The merchants began to trade instead with privateers who were mostly pirates. In the Caribbean by the start of the C18th trade generally amongst the islands was plagued by the pirates.

If Poole fishermen and merchants were affected in the early years of the C17th it got worse by the end of the century. In 1696 Poole fishermen and merchants in Newfoundland requested up to eight vessels to protect the convoys and fishing ground and later in that decade Admiral William Whetstone (subsequently to become Woodes Rogers’ father in law) escorted the English south west ports’ fishing convoys from Plymouth to and from Newfoundland and remaining there on station for a couple of fishing seasons.

After 1690 there was a dramatic increase in New World piracy. England reached agreement with Spain in the 1680s and while fighting with France then broke out, piracy in the Caribbean was a result.  Peace with Spain did not last long as the war of the Spanish Succession began in the early 1700s.

Piracy peaked in the Caribbean in 1716. This was a couple of years before Woodes Rogers went out to New Providence as a Privateer aiming to deal with it and establish a colony. By the end of 1718 he had acted to deal with the problem and largely done so.

In England by the end of the C17th privateers were still active off of Poole and legitimate prey for local sailors. Peter Jolliffe in 1694 and William Thompson in 1695 were given gold chains and medals, from the King and Lords of the Admiralty respectively, for their exploits in local waters in capturing French privateers.

In 1708, when Woodes Rogers left Bristol as a privateer with his two vessels to sail around the World, he did so having lost several of his vessels (in shared ownership), their goods and their crews, to French privateers in the English Channel in the few years before that.

Similarly in the far-east trade was affected by pirates on Madagascar and amongst the islands of the East Indies, as well as in India and China.

Poole merchants and ship owners must also have been exposed to these risks.

Newfoundland and Piracy

At the end of the C16th life was hard for the rural dweller in England and hence the departure of so many people for the new territories in North America. Newfoundland had begun to be important to the economy of Poole and was growing swiftly in its importance; the regular March/April – out, and October – back, migratory fishing convoy from/to the south coast of Britain was a target for Barbary pirates and corsairs[11] and others from English and French shores. When ships got to Newfoundland and during the fishing season piracy also went on around the fishing grounds and it was necessary to guard against attacks.

Such was the amount of fishing, processing and storage of fish in Newfoundland that there was a very large contingent of people there from the whole of Europe; several thousand fishermen were involved. Pirates saw this also as a resource to plunder and regularly went in search of vessels, provisions, and sailors as crew for their own purposes. The two examples below, both involving English pirates, show the extent to which this was a problem for the ship owners and merchants concerned and the fishermen. The fact that only two years separated these two known examples of piracy experiences indicates the amount going on; while this may have been a “peak piracy” moment in Newfoundland there were still reports of it going on nearly eighty years later.

In 1610 Peter Eston (Easton), a pirate Admiral in command of 40 ships in the Bristol Avon area, sailed with ten of them to Newfoundland where he replenished his crews with 500 enlisted English fishermen according to Whitbourne[12]. He robbed Portuguese, French and Flemish shipping in the area and pillaged the shore communities before sailing to the Azores where he intercepted and plundered a Spanish Plate Fleet sufficient to be able to retire to Villefranche in the Mediterranean for the rest of his life with an estimated £2m.

Another famous Jacobean pirate also used this means to amass and man a fleet of pirate ships; Sir Henry Mainwaring. Mainwaring was a example of the “well placed and well educated” category of pirate. A son of an old Shropshire family and educated at Brasenose College, Oxford, he matriculated at 12 and received his BA three years later in 1602. After working briefly as a lawyer and then as a soldier he went to sea. In 1611 he received a commission from the Lord High Admiral to try to catch Eston and while he failed in this, he was subsequently given a Letter of Marque[13] as a licence from the Crown to plunder Spanish shipping in the West Indies. This was something he did not do, instead deciding with his crew on his way out to the West Indies, rather to head for the north coast of Africa where they became pirates.

Before long Mainwaring had a fleet of thirty captured Spanish vessels but had difficulty in finding crews, given he could not return to England. Hence in 1614 he sailed eight vessels to Newfoundland where he arrived on 4th June and left on 14th September with fresh provisions from plundered French and Portuguese ships, 400 mariners and fishermen ‘many volunteers many compelled’, according to records. He was careful only to capture sailors from other European nations, but presumably persuaded Englishmen also to join him. His later life proved interesting and just showed how it was possible in those days for some to move back and forth from a life of piracy to that of respectability, with ease. (See Appendix 1)

The major problems for the fishing trade in Newfoundland and other piracy problems in those waters were such that the first Vice-Admiralty Court outside British waters was set up there in 1615 with authority to try and punish pirates on the spot. While this was a temporary expedient to deal with the crisis, it marked a significant development in terms of colonisation.


[11] Corsairs – privateers of other nations

[12] Whitbourne – Discourse and Discovery of Newfoundland, 1622.

[13] Letter of Marque – a letter authorising the privateer to act in times of war against ships of other nations at war with England

Sir Thomas Button

Admiral Sir Thomas Button worked for the Admiralty in the years leading up to the 1620’s, across that decade and into the early 1630’s; much of the time as Admiral of the Narrow Sea (Bristol Channel and the whole of the southern coast of Ireland). His work concerned the protection of coastal communities and merchant shipping; also and importantly the interests of the convoys of fishing vessels plying back and forth to Newfoundland from the west country of England and southern Ireland from the pirates (local ones and also those from the Barbary coast).

In the summer of 1610 more than one hundred fishing ships from the Newfoundland convoy had been taken and sent home empty handed by Barbary pirates and this went on across the decade. In 1620 it was reported that Barbary corsairs (privateers) were also becoming a serious nuisance in the English Channel and had on one occasion captured the whole of the returning Newfoundland convoy. It is thus not surprising to find that the number of fishing vessels going out to Newfoundland from Poole in this period fell significantly in some years.

For a period Button commanded the Pheonix naval vessel which from 1618 for five years supported the interest of the merchants of Bristol by taking on pirates successfully in the Bristol Channel. Bristol in those days did not sit within a Vice–Admiralty but rather answered directly to Button as Admiral and the merchants used the relationship to their best advantage. They were very supportive to him in 1619 sending a letter of support of him to the Privy Council; this presumably was because he had also attracted attention in Admiralty circles for working hand in glove with some local pirates and selling prizes in his own right, something that the Admiralty was unhappy about and which would dog him throughout his career.

Button’s uncle, Sir Robert Mansel (Mansell), Treasurer of the Navy, and who had also previously held the role of Admiral of the Narrow Sea, including the English Channel, led the Algiers Raid in 1620/21. They sailed with a fleet of six King’s ships, ten merchantmen and two pinnaces but were recalled in the following year. This  was an important but ineffectual attempt to disrupt the pirates of the North African coast (which included Turks and many other European pirates, including some English ones) who raided the English Channel and Irish coasts as well as elsewhere, further afield.

Button subsequently commanded two vessels on regular watch over the southern Irish and English south west coastal communities and fishermen for the rest of his career to 1634 when he died. Another black mark against him, as far as the Admiralty was concerned, was his absence when Baltimore was raided by Barbary pirates in 1631. The pirates took 111 people from the town to the north African coast and sold them in the slave markets. The townspeople were largely English immigrants to Ireland who had moved there some time before the raid. Button was at home in Glamorgan.

The Buccaneers and Piracy in the Caribbean

In the second half of the C17th piracy extended to affect new colonies and settlements on coastal north America and in the Caribbean. For a period the Buccaneers (French in the West Indies, English in the Pacific) were a dominant presence disrupting trade and settlement. With the defeat of the Armada in 1588 the sea-power of Spain and Spain’s monopoly of power in the new world broke down. Other sea-faring nations began to trade and settle in parts of the New World and in the early years of the C17th the British, French and Dutch all got footholds in the West Indies and North America. The early buccaneers who began to populate islands were land based nomads, rather than the pirates that subsequently some of them became, having been driven towards the existence through war.

One Englishman and buccaneer relevant to our story was William Dampier who was present in the Caribbean towards the end of the buccaneering period in 1679. Born in East Coker in Somerset, and well educated, he was sent out to the West Indies as an apprentice to the plantation of his first employer. Dampier is today remembered as an explorer and navigator, particularly of the north-west coast of Australia; but his early life as a sailor was an introduction to life as privateer, pirate, buccaneer, adventurer, biologist and author. He is also the same man who some years later, in 1708, became a financial partner of Commander Woodes Rogers in his privateering venture to the Pacific in the Duke and Dutchess vessels. He served as navigator of their circumnavigation of the globe. (See Appendix 2 for more details of his extraordinary life)

The Buccaneers in West Indies became less relevant after 1688 when there was a general pardon and later still in 1727 when the action to deal with the problems caused by pirates in Carolina and the Bahamas, by the local Governors and Royal Governor of the Bahamas, Woodes Rogers, saw the end of piracy as it had been known.

The end of “the Golden Age of Piracy”

Piracy knew no boundaries; it took in the East Indies and Red Sea across the C17th; Madagascar was a haunt for pirates from Europe and North America in stepping off to the Red Sea and East Indies.

Traditionally it had been the case that adjudication of privateering prizes and piracy trials had to take place back in Britain, wherever the incidents had happened. In 1700 the Piracy Act, designed to step up the pressure on piracy, changed the arrangements so that incidents could be “examined, inquired of, tried, heard and determined, and adjudged in any place at sea, or upon the land, in any of his Majesty’s islands, plantations, colonies, dominions, forts, or factories”.

Another significant change happened a few years later when in 1708 the Crown stopped asking for its traditional contribution from privateering activities. This stepped up the interest in privateering commissions as can be seen from the large numbers of letters signed on behalf of the Crown then and available today in books in the National Archive.

Woodes Rogers, a boy of nine in 1688 living in Thames Street, Poole and now a 28 yr old, must have benefitted from this decision of the Crown. His family had moved to Bristol in the late 1690s, while he did his 7 year apprenticeship at sea. As a fully trained and experienced seaman, in 1708 he set off as commander of two ships and 300 men on his own expedition around the world as a privateer, backed by Bristol and London merchants. His Letter of Marque, gave him permission to capture vessels belonging to countries with whom England was at war and after a battle in which his brother died from wounds he succeeded in capturing a Spanish Manilla Galleon laden with gold and jewels and returned to London in 1711, a national hero.

On the return leg of his expedition, in 1710 or 1711, he witnessed the effects of piracy in East Africa and Madagascar and hatched a plan after returning to England, to go out and see if he could establish a colony there, thereby freeing-up trade and settlement. He got permission to try and with the backing of merchants spent two years trying and failing. It was after this experience that he created his plan instead to colonise the Bahamas where the piracy problem was also endemic at the time.

The 1713 Treaty of Utrecht, a complicated agreement between the European powers that resolved long running disputes between them, was a significant development in international affairs. It was preceded by settlement of terms by France and Great Britain, and involved all of the countries engaged in the war of the Spanish Succession; including France, Great Britain, Spain, Portugal, Savoy and the Dutch Republic. Three outcomes of the settlement included the following:

  • It helped create a commercial world in the colonies and trade grew considerably as a result;
  • It transformed the nature of piracy at sea by improving the lot of coastal communities with the reduction of war and dispute; and
  • It led to more settled conditions in much of the world and arguably the resultant maritime, commercial and financial pre-eminence of Great Britain.

In 1717 the piracy problem in the Caribbean was so bad that the Governor of Bermuda wrote that north and south American coasts were “infested by these rogues, the Bahama Islands are their rendezvous and there are not least 1000 (of them) in ships, brigantines and sloops. Trade in the West Indies is almost paralysed.

A ‘republic of pirates’ had been declared in New Providence in the Bahamas and pirates and bitter rivals, Benjamin Hornigold and Henry Jennings dominated activity there. These two were mentors to many of the famous pirates, still known today, such as Edward Teach, (Blackbeard); Charles Vane, (Calico) Jack Rackham, Ann Bonny and Mary Read; all of whom were affected by the arrival of Woodes Rogers, the man who had grown up in Poole.

Woodes Rogers and the end of piracy

Rogers, with the support of the monarch, went out for a first visit to New Providence (Nassau) in the summer of 1718. He had persuaded George I, in September 1717, to offer a pardon to pirates there and the Governor of Bermuda passed the proclamation to the Islands.

A month before Rogers’ arrival with a fleet of seven ships, Edward Teach (or Blackbeard as he was known) and his fleet, crewed by 700 men, left the New Providence Harbour for the American coast near Charlestown. He had evidently decided not to take the King’s pardon and persuaded his men to join him in further piracy. They did not last long, for in November that year he was no more, having been captured and beheaded and his vessel sunk, off of Ocracoke Island, North Carolina.

In New Providence, on Rogers’ arrival, were several pirates, of world renown today, amongst them some who would take the King’s pardon, at least for a time, and other who like Blackbeard had decided not to. They included:

  • Benjamin Hornigold, long a pirate, who saw himself a leader of the ‘republic of pirates’, and who decided to take the King’s pardon and in due course actively supported Rogers in his endeavours;
  • Charles Vane, once one of Blackbeard’s Captains, who was reputed to have fired a shot across Rogers’ bows as he entered the harbour and as he Vane was leaving to continue his piracy. In 1720 he was eventually captured, tried and executed in Port Royal, Jamaica; and
  • Jack Rackham, Ann Bonny and Mary Read who also left New Providence together, soon after Rogers had arrived, in the ‘William’, to go ‘a piratin’ off Jamaica. They were active across the wider area until late 1720, when they too were captured and similarly tried and sentenced in Port Royal. Rackham was found guilty and hanged in late 1720, Bonny and Read, also found guilty, ‘pled their bellies’; they were found to be pregnant and were kept in prison. In late March 1721, Read died there, in childbirth and Bonny was thought to have been bought out of gaol perhaps by her father, and probably taken back to Charlestown. Subsequently she married and lived until 1782, reputedly having borne 8 children.

During the early months after his arrival in July 1718, Rogers established an Assembly, a Court and begun the mission to upgrade the wooden fort with stone. He had also ordered Benjamin Hornigold to sail out in order to follow and capture any pirates in the area. Hornigold brought back nine men to the Island and Rogers’ proceeded to try, sentence and hang eight of them, all before the end of the year.

While some of the pirates in New Providence, having taken the King’s pardon, failed to keep up their new lives and returned to piracy, most involved themselves in plantations or other commercial ventures. Rogers is still remembered in the Islands for the changes he effected; the motto for the Bahamas survived from those days until 1973 – ‘pirates expelled, commerce restored’.

His actions during that three year period from 1718 to 1721 undermined the status of pirates in the Caribbean such that they ceased to be such a significant problem, from that time.

Rogers himself was forced to return to England in penury in 1721, having spent £90,000, despite only being backed to the tune of £9,000. Given his expedition was a private venture backed by merchants, he returned to find his own financial position precarious, ending up in a debtors’ prison in London. It was several years before he could put his finances to rights, with the help of the state. In 1729 he was re-instated as Royal Governor of the Bahamas and returned until his death there in 1732.

The era known as “the golden age of piracy” is generally taken to mean that period between 1570 and 1727 when in North America it ended as a result of the harder stance taken by the colonial governors towards piracy and the hanging of several hundred pirates. Woodes Rogers is named in some reference books as having been instrumental in seeing it finished in the Caribbean, several commentators saying that he did not get due recognition for the work he did towards that end.

With the death of George I in 1727 the colonial Governors’ commissions to try pirates expired. Neither in Virginia nor South Carolina was it thought necessary to apply for their renewal[14].

While of course piracy is still present today in different parts of the world it was generally felt then to have been dealt with as a generic problem by the governments of the places covered here, by the end of our project period.


[14] The Jolly Roger – The Story of the Great Age of Piracy – Patrick Pringle

Appendix 1

Henry Mainwaring – his life, subsequent to the Newfoundland piracy raids in 1614

Mainwaring’s subsequent life, having returned to the North African coast, saw him offered important commissions by the Dey of Tunis and the King of Spain both of which were turned down.

Instead, following the visit of an envoy from King James, in 1616, he was pardoned, on the grounds that ‘he had done no great wrong’, and all those serving under him were given an amnesty. He had written a book which he dedicated to King James, Of the Beginnings, Practices, and Suppression of Pirates, telling the whole story of piracy, especially in the Mediterranean, in his time.

Subsequently in 1618 Mainwaring was knighted and appointed a Gentleman of the King’s Bedchamber and then Lieutenant of Dover Castle and Deputy Warden of the Cinque Ports; later on he became and MP and he finished his career as a Vice-Admiral.

Mainwaring’s story is but one of many which show that in those days it was evidently possible for pirates to find a much better way in life despite their earlier misdemeanours.

Appendix 2

William Dampier – his life, subsequent to buccaneering in the Caribbean in 1679

He was the first Englishman to explore parts of Australia, and to circumnavigate the world three times, the second of these alongside Woodes Rogers between 1708 and 1711, as his financial partner and navigator.

His first circumnavigation was as a crew member under Captain Bartholemew Sharp a buccaneer in 1679. Thereafter he spent until 1691 working as a privateer in the Pacific and/or in the Caribbean. Then he went back to Britain where he wrote up his various expeditions and exploring. He is remembered particularly in this period, for his work on drawing and describing the flora and fauna in north western Australia and the indigenous people he found there, while they were careening their ships.

He impressed the Admiralty with his book, ‘A Voyage Around the World’, published in 1697, and it was popular in this the great age of exploration, when ordinary people avidly read all they could of the explorers’ experiences. As a result he was employed in 1698 to Captain HMS Roebuck on a commission by King William to explore the East Coast of New Holland (Australia); something that he completed successfully and wrote up in his book, ‘A Voyage in New Holland’, published in 1703, albeit many of his records were lost at sea. Dampier was not to so proficient at captainship, HMS Roebuck was wrecked and his crew had to be picked up after several weeks on shore; on his return he was court martialled for cruelty to his crew.

On his second circumnavigation, Dampier also ended up without his vessel, the George. He had set off from Kinsale in, in 1703, with a crew of 120 men and with a companion vessel the Cinque Ports with 63 men. Having rounded the Horn and entered the Pacific he failed in several ambitions, including a raid on a Spanish settlement and on the Manilla Galleon. The Cinque Ports after splitting off from the George set down Alexander Selkirk on Juan Fernandez Island, because Selkirk felt the vessel was not sea worthy (he was found there four years later by Woodes Rogers and Dampier). Selkirk had been right; subsequently the Cinque Ports vessel sank off the Columbian coast with loss of life and, for some of the crew, capture and imprisonment by the Spanish.

After the loss of his ship the George, too, on his second circumnavigation, Dampier made his way back to Bristol in England in 1707, where he was able to be involved in the 1708 plans for what would be his third circumnavigation of the globe this time as navigator under the command of Woodes Rogers.

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