Fraud and Corruption

Fraud and Corruption

contributed by Jenny Oliver

In July 1682, William Culliford, an officer in the King’s Customs Service, arrived in Poole prepared to delve into the all too cosy relationship between the Poole merchants and local customs officers. Culliford had been appointed by the Board of Commissioners to survey the efficiency and integrity of the Customs Service in western ports from South Wales to Dorset. In Poole he found widespread corruption involving merchants, ship-owners, masters and customs officers of all ranks, one of whom was Thomas Barney, Surveyor of Customs for the port. Among the ten charges of fraud made against Barney was one concerning the Robert of Poole and her master Robert Bennet who also kept the George Inn (now Scaplen’s Court). The following statement of two tidesmen gives a flavour of the fraud.



The Information of Wm Vincent & Thomas Keeping

Tydesmen in the Port of Pool

Saith:   That about the latter end of May past came into this Harbour the Robt of Pool, Robt Bennet Masr, from Virga Loaden with Tobacco, upon the accot wholely of the said Mar and Mr Wm Orchard of Pool, which said shipp was full & had between decks, in the Steerage and great Cabbin 38 hhds of Tobacco, & the hold of the said shipp was as full as could be stowd, the said shipp being upwards of 60 Tuns, on which shipp these Informts & Richd Checkford, together with Richd Gardner & Richd Westover, two Extraordinary men were appointed Tydesmen, & did keep carefull Watches thereon, till Munday the 12 June last, when Mr Barney suspended this Informt Tho Keeping for being off the shipp about two houres (the Sunday before in the day time, tho all the other Tydesmen were at the same time upon the shipp) And this Informt Wm Vincent sayeth, that the same night Keeping was taken off, upon the importunity of John Penny, the King’s Searcher, & the Mar of the shipp who earnestly solicited this Informt to consent to the running some Tobacco, by giving this Informt severall hints, that Mr Barney was willing thereto whereupon this Informt and the two Extraordinary men did agree to go off the shipp & there was that night run out of her 17 hhds of Tobacco & severall Baggs and Bundles, which was conveyd away by Mark Adams, Wm Bonham, Samll Wallis, & Wm Wallis, & by them carried into the Stock Celler, which is in the possession of Mr Wm Orchard, & as soon as they had left work, which was about 3 of the Clock in the morning, this Informt saw Mr Barney (who had been drinking with Mr Orchard, Mr Miller the Collector, & Mr Emerson the Deputy Comptroller all the night at the Mars House whilst the fraud was committed) go into the Shipp Alehouse upon the Key, with the said Mr Orchard, Mr Penny & the Mar of the shipp, where they staid not long before they returned to the Mats house to the Collector & Deputy Comptroller, with whom they continued drinking together till 6 a Clock in the morning, & then the very next night in a like manner was run out of the said shipp 30 hhds more, & a very great quantity of Baggs & Bulk Tobacco, which both these Informts saw delivered out of the sd shipp & conveyed away by the four aforenamed men, & by them carried pt into the Stock Celler, & pt into the Cole Celler, (both which are in the possession of Mr Wm Orchard) & the other pt thereof into a Celler in the George Inn in Pool, being the Mars house where was the said Collector, Mr Barney, Mr Wetwang, the Landwaiter, in company with Mr Orchard, Mr Penny and the Mar: drinking together all the night long, till about 7 a Clock in the morning, & this Informt William Vincent further saith, that he acquainted Mr. Barney of the running the 17 hhds of Tobacco the first night, who made no search for the same, nor removed the Extraordinary Tydesmen, that this Informt told him, had consented to the said fraud, but continued them on the said shipp till her delivery, by which this Informt was satisfied, the said Barney was consenting to the said fraud, & these Informts did receive of Robt Bennet the mar of the said shipp forty shillings a peece for consenting to the said fraud, & Richd Gardner did receive twenty shillings.


Another witness, shipwright Charles Daw lived next door to the George and was awoken in the middle of the night by a noise outside. Looking out of the window, he saw the bundles being carried into the inn. The next day more tobacco was brought round by boat, landed near the church and carried through the alleys to the back door of the George in broad daylight. With the inducement of backhanders and all-night drinking sessions, William Orchard and Robert Bennet were able to get the tidesmen removed from the ship and land a large part of their cargo without paying customs dues. They also claimed that some of the tobacco was damaged and not eligible for customs, even though it had not been inspected or certified.

For this and a whole list of other frauds, Thomas Barney was dismissed from the service as were Thomas Miller, John Emerson and several other officers. The informing tidesmen were not dismissed. Culliford also hired a better located building to serve as the custom house, and tightened up procedures to make future fraud more difficult (at least for a time).


The Report of Wm Culliforde Gent of his Survey of the Port of Pool. 1682 TNA Ref T 65/139 pp.43-52

Stephens, W. B. The Seventeenth Century Customs Service Surveyed: William Culliford’s Investigation of the Western Ports, 1682-84. Routledge 2017

Guttridge, Roger. Dorset Smugglers. Dorset Publishing Company 1984



This project is about Poole’s Maritime Heritage in the period 1580-1730 and as such it draws on research materials that largely concern the men of Poole in their different guises and occupations. But we wondered what ‘was life like’ for the women in that time period as they receive very little written recognition in their own right.

In an interview with Lyse Doucet for a Radio 4 programme in January 2018, Vigdis Finnbogadottir (Iceland’s first democratically elected female President in 1980) talked about the Icelandic fishermen who sent a long telegram in her support. We think this modern day quote is very relevant to women’s lives in the period we are talking about, 1580-1730. English fishermen used to fish in Icelandic waters before Newfoundland was discovered. Asked why she thought the seamen were supporting her, Vigdis Finnbogadottir said: “Seamen know so well the qualities and the capacities of women, because they (women) are there ashore and while they are out at sea and they (women) are taking care of the home and everything; they are taking care of the home, the finance minister of the home, the architect of the home, they (the seamen) come home for 3 days leave and everything is under control and they realise that that is a woman who has done that – a housewife has done that”                       IMG_0309

Women in the C16th and C17th were not admitted to the professions but they were often employed by fathers or husbands in their workshops and it was not unknown for the widow of a craftsman to carry on his trade. Women could earn money as milliners, dyers, embroiderers, bakers, brewers and confectioners. They were employed as washerwomen, nurses, midwives and domestic servants, in Poole, we know from sources like the 1574 census that many girls and women were employed in domestic service. In 1574, a quarter of the households had at least one maid servant, and 65 maids are listed in total.      IMG_0302

One trade that women did pursue in their own right was inn-keeping. A 1620 list of Inn-keepers and alehouse-keepers includes six women including Mistress Field, as one of the four inn-keepers. The Melledge family owned Poole’s most important Inn, the Antelope and in a tax record of 1662, the widow Mrs Melledge was listed as holding the inn. This was probably Elizabeth, the widow of Micha Melledge, as a trade token of 1666 connects her to the inn. After Elizabeth’s death the Antelope came into the possession of Alice, the widow of Johnson Melledge who left it in her will of 1678 to her daughter, Alice junior, a very rare example of an unmarried woman inheriting property from another woman. Among other women inn-keepers were Rachel Lloyd of the King’s Arms and Mary Carter who ran the White Bear in the early C18th.       IMG_1115

Not everyone treated women fairly ( in work that would be considered professional these days) for example, in 21st December, 1648, a nurse, Mary Freind, who attended to the sick and maimed soldiers in Poole garrison, by order of Col. Bingham, by the space of two years and upwards, and ‘made it all her labour, for which she never received any satisfaction,’ is to be paid £6 ‘ for satisfacc’on for her pains taken therein’.

In contrast to Mary Freind’s experience who was finally paid for her work, according to Mr Hutchins in The History of the Town and County of Poole, ‘in or around 1666, a young woman named Mary Cutler, was condemned to be hanged in this town for the murder of her baftard child:  That dreadful difeafe the plague being then in this town, the fherrif granted her a refpite from execution provided fhe would attend the perfons afflicted with the plague as a nurfe; this fhe faithfully performed and efcaped the contagion, and in confideration of her fervices, the fheriffs and corporation made great interft to obtain her pardon from the king; but fuch was the juftice or cruelty of thofe times, that their felicitations were without effect, and fhe was executed near the entrance of the town (to the great concern of the Corporation and inhabitants) which place retains to this day the name of “Cutler’s Gallows”.’   

When they married, the job of women was to keep the house and look after their families but no doubt they frequently also helped in their husband’s businesses. As housewives, women were kept busy baking bread, brewing beer as the water was unfit to drink, curing bacon, salting down meats, making jams, jellies, preserves, soaps and candles. Tending the garden, growing vegetables and herbs for the table and to make simples to treat common ailments; cooking, cleaning, washing, spinning wool and linen to make clothes, feeding the animals; keeping hens for their eggs and for the pot, IMG_0305possibly bee-keeping as well, with much of this produce being sold on a stall on market day.

Wealthy women supervised and instructed servants and were capable of running an estate and doing the accounts if their husband was away. Women could be named in their husband’s will to inherit the business – mainly because they knew how to run it. It was often in widowhood that women acquired some status and independence as property owners and executrices of their husband’s estates. In the early C17th, widow Helen Dolbery kept an inn and also leased the passage service from the Corporation. Edith, the widow of George Dackombe was listed among the 34 richest citizens in a subsidy list of 1628. Widows could also be vulnerable. In 1598, the wealthy widow Alice Green with her servant Agnes Beard were murdered in her house in High Street and her strong boxes broken open and ransacked.   IMG_1106

Elizabeth Hyde is one of the few notable women in the latter half of this period about whom we have proven information. She was the only woman on record as signing bonds for cargoes of clay in the Poole port books. But best of all, (and I am now directly quoting from the article by David Cousins) in 1688, Thomas Hyde was in Rotterdam with a ship, at the time when William of Orange landed in the West Country. The Princess of Orange wished to send important letters to her husband, and approached the masters of several English ships to carry the letters back to William in England. However, they were apprehensive, as memories of the consequences for those involved in the Monmouth rebellion were still vivid. Elizabeth Hyde then travelled to The Hague, took the letters from the Princess, quilted them into her skirt, and carried them to William. As recognition for her bravery, the Hydes received a pension.


Away from the port, the main occupation was farming which did not provide sufficient for the families to live on so the men were fishermen also. Once Newfoundland was discovered and the vast quantities of cod reported in the seas, men equipped their boats with everything they might need to be away fishing for seven months at a time leaving their wives to run homes, businesses and their lives as best they could.

Pirates and slavers (usually one and the same) were a big problem to fishermen throughout the period; they could be attacked and taken anytime and sold into slavery. Sometimes it was possible for them to be ransomed and set free and it was their womenfolk who had to try and raise the money. A document exists dated 6th January 1697, concerning an appeal for ransom to free some Poole seamen held as slaves in North Africa.   John King and Henry Hunt were held captive by the Turks and sent letters concerning their plight which Elizabeth King and Elizabeth Hunt (wife and sister to the men) put before the Mayor, Justices of the Peace, Aldermen and Burgesses of Poole Town and County, as they were too poor to pay the ransom themselves. It was suggested that to save these men, it was recommended that the money should be raised by charitable donation by ‘good and well disposed people not in the least doubting but considering the incertainty of the fortunes and chances of this life and that as charity is not only a great duty Incumbent on all, But alsoe very acceptable with God he loving a cheerful giver / they will answer the end thereof.’ The council stated that they would ‘ take and use all possible care for the safe and speedy remitting of all such moneys as shall be given towards the reliefe release and discharging of the said captives…’;  this is surely an early example of crowd-funding.

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The Mulberry Tree



In the Universal British Directory compiled by Peter Barfoot and John Wilkes (of Milland House, Sussex) it states that’ The (soil) foil of Poole and its environs is particularly adapted to the culture of the mulberry….’ The fascination with the cultivation of mulberry trees seems to have been passed down through the centuries. The mulberry tree was brought to England by the Romans who used the leaves and bark for medicinal purposes. In Tudor times the trees were prized for their juicy fruit. Henry VIII was recorded as having a mulberry tree for his Chelsea Manor.

During his daughter Elizabeth’s reign there grew a national interest to inspire new industries as “projects” through the work of “projectors” and to give out patents and allow monopolies to the entrepreneurial business people creating them. This was because the cost of imports from other countries was seen not to be in the country’s best interest and besides to encourage such work would help poorer people. The new industries that began to grow out of these projects were good for creating jobs and improving the lot of hard-pressed families that could earn a living wage as a result. They included many new industries and occupations to do with the production of consumer goods, the very first ones were then beginning to be created; pin and starch making, tobacco growing and vinegar making were examples.


King James I conceived an idea of taking the silk-making monopoly away from the French to weave silk in England and save money as silk became more popular and more expensive, by growing mulberry trees and creating a silk industry in England.   He had a four acre mulberry tree garden planted near, what is today, Buckingham Palace. More to the point, in 1609, he imported 10,000 trees from Europe and requested estate owners ‘to purchase and plant mulberry trees at the rate of six shillings per thousand’. It was an awful mistake – it is thought that he was deliberately given bad advice from the French to order black mulberry trees instead of white. Silk worms can eat the leaves of the black mulberry trees which grow well in England and produce silk threads but the thread is coarse and breaks easily. But they thrive on the leaves of the white mulberry tree which is their natural food and produce the perfect silk threads with which to weave cloth. The silk project failed but the mulberry garden thrived and became a pleasure garden until demolished during the building of Buckingham Palace. James also encouraged the colonies to consider the same opportunity; he sent out seeds to Jamestown for instance, but little, if anything, came of his initiative.


In 1681 however, Charles II offered sanctuary to Protestant Huguenots who were being oppressed by Louis XIV. Many found their way across the Channel and many more came when the Treaty of Nantes was revoked in 1685. From 1670 to 1710, thousands of Huguenots settled in England, many were rich and many were weavers. Some Huguenots found their way to Poole and planted orchards of mulberry trees by which to carry on their trade. A few trees can be seen today indicating where the orchards may have been for example, there is one in the carpark off Lagland Street beside Weston’s Lane and another outside the Leisure Centre on Kingland Road.

Peter Barfoot and John Wilkes stated that their directory provides ‘a most interesting and Instructive History of Great Britain’ in the descriptions concerning many towns in the country. The first edition was published in1790 and includes the article on mulberry trees in Poole, a proposed venture started in 1719.

It states that the heath around Poole seems to have been cultivated at some time as traces of fencing can be seen which would have enclosed the fields. Also the soil in Poole and surrounding areas is ‘particularly adapted to the culture of the mulberry; where it grows fo luxuriantly that a whole foreft might be raifed from layers, without any trouble or difficulty. Our late worthy clergyman, Mr Fawconer, was given irrefragable proofs of the eafe wherewith the white mulberry might be propagated, and he succeeded in his experiments fo far as to lay claim (had he chofen to apply) to the prize offered by the Bath Society. As the many experiments which have been attempted in different parts of the kingdom for raifing filk-worms have failed through a dearth of mulberry trees, would not a trial here be an object worthy of the attention of fuch as are competent for the undertaking? – Mr Henry Barham of Chelfea, wrote to Sir Hans Sloane, that in the months of May, June and July 1719, he made, with much eafe, as good filk, in the judgement of the dealers in that commodity, as any imported; and further wrote , that worms produced from an ounce of eggs will make fifteen pounds of fine filk, which is twice as is made in Languedoc and Provence; and that experience taught him, that we may have filk worms twice over and that the mulberry tree will bear to be ftripped of its leaves twice a year, without injury to the tree or fruit. On the whole, as the materials for fo valuable a manufactuary could be realised, and children, o’d persons who are at prefent a burthen to the people could be inftructed in a day and be employed; it appears to be an improvement worthy of the patronage of the Lord of the Manor and others concerned. Should fo beneficial an improvement be introduced and found to thrive here, it could not long be confined to this fpot. But is of great confequence, that it should be begun where it is moft likely to fucceed, and where it would beft deferve that encouragement which it would be equally neceffary and expedient for the public to give.’

Obviously business opportunities offered by growing mulberry trees are hard to give up despite historical examples to the contrary. Mr Barham felt he would be doing a social service by employing children and old people as well as creating a lucrative business but there is no evidence to say whether the venture was a success or not. It is difficult to say when mulberry trees still growing in the environs of Poole were planted but they have a great age to them.


Legend of Silk


Many legends concerning the discovery of silk in China abound. Leizu, wife of the Yellow Emperor, is accredited with its discovery around the year 2629BC. The idea for silk first came to Leizu while she was having tea in the imperial gardens sitting under a mulberry bush, a wild cocoon fell into her tea and unravelled. She noticed that the cocoon was actually made from a long thread that was both strong and soft. Leizu then discovered how to combine the silk fibres into thread. She also invented the silk loom that combined the threads into a soft cloth. Soon Leizu had a forest of mulberry trees for the silkworms to feed on and taught the rest of China how to make silk. Ever since, Leizu has been worshipped as the ‘Goddess of Silkworms’ by the Chinese people.


Sources: – History of the Mulberry Trees by Pat Rick         last viewed 03/06/2018 Sherborne’s silk industry           last viewed 03/06/2018 ‘Mulberry tree in Poole damaged during works’ 10th April 2012         last viewed 03/06/2018 – the Turbulent History of the Mulberry by Widget Finn 10 September 2015         last viewed 03/06/2018 ‘The History of Yorkshire’s Mulberry trees’ by Judy Dowling Ancient Tree Voluntary Verifier 28 September 2016         last viewed 03/06/2018 The Universal British Directory of Trade, Commerce and Manufacture….       Last viewed 03/06/2018 The History of the Town and County of Poole compiled from Hutchin’s History of the County of Dorset       last viewed 03/06/2018   ‘Here we go round….’ Jenny Oliver             last viewed 03/06/2018

Were Poole People Silk Farmers by Andrew Hawkes      last viewed 03/06/2018

Just for interest –  – good article on mulberry trees in their Summer 2018 publication

William Dampier

William Dampier                                                                                        164084210[1]

This description of the fascinating and diverse life of William Dampier offers some insights as to the extraordinary lives some people led in those days.

Today Dampier is well known as a famous explorer and naturalist, but the life he led encompassed much more besides. His connection to our story is that late in life he was employed by Woodes Rogers as navigator in Rogers’ privateering voyage around the world between 1708 and 1711 – with the Duke and Dutchess vessels from Bristol. This was Dampier’s third and last circumnavigation of the world.

He wrote books about each of his world voyages, which became best sellers of his day. He was well known and dined with Samuel Pepys at his home before setting off on his second round the world voyage in 1699. In 1709 he was with Woodes Rogers when they came upon Alexander Selkirk (of Robinson Crusoe fame) who had been marooned four years earlier on Juan Fernandez Island, and he may have already known that he was there.

William Dampier was born in East Coker, Somerset, around 1656 and orphaned early in life. At 17, he sailed for Newfoundland, but that was too cold an experience so he took another ship to the East Indies before joining the Royal Navy circa. 1673.

Proceeding to Jamaica he became an under-manager and then manager of plantations. He next became, in turn, a logwood cutter; a privateer; a sea trader in the West Indies (which enabled him to buy a small estate in Dorset); a buccaneer who marched and raided settlements across the Isthmus of Panama with the intention of heading along the Pacific coast of South America to raid the Spanish silver mines. Plans changed and he then sailed with other buccaneers to Virginia for more adventures; trips to Africa and back into the Pacific around Cape Horn, early in 1684, and eventually returning to England in 1691.

Along the way on that voyage he also indulged his love and driving passion as a naturalist, writing extensively on the giant turtles, flora and fauna he found on the Galapagos Islands and another exploration in the north-west coast of Australia.

From 1699, his life and fortunes took a downhill turn; he failed as Captain of his Royal Navy vessel the Roebuck, he and his crew having to be picked up and brought home by an East India Company boat after the vessel was lost near Ascension Island. A subsequent privateering venture in 1703 also exposed his inadequacies as a Captain/ Commander, he simply could not get on with his fellow officers and the two ships he commanded eventually split up. He returned to England, after a spell of piracy and gaol, in 1707.

He returned to England in 1707, an impoverished man; he was appointed navigator for Woodes Rogers from 1708 to 1711. He played his part effectively on the voyage returning to financial difficulties. He died, in debt, in 1715; before Woodes Rogers had finally been able to settle up on the payments to his crew for the voyage.

Life was like this then…



With many thanks to Roger Guttridge for his permission to use these extracts from his articles ‘A habit from the past’ and The water that is passed’ for Dorset Life.

Swanskin had nothing to do with swans.  It was a coarse, wool-based cloth known for its warmth and waterproof qualities.  The material was used to manufacture hooded garments popular with fishermen travelling to Newfoundland.DSCF0274 (4)

This picture shows a fisherman wearing such a garment or ‘habit’ thought to be made from swanskin, whose manufacture provided a living for generations of people living in Sturminster Newton.

The fabric was white hence its name.  North Dorset’s swanskin industry dates back to at least 1578 when Sturminster clothier, James Yonge, is recorded as seeking tax relief on cloth sold to mariners ‘ going beyond the seas’.  Following John Cabot’s discovery of Newfoundland in 1497, numbers of ships were sailing from the South West to exploit the cod-rich North Atlantic.  Poole increasingly dominated the Newfoundland trade and was just down the road from Sturminster Newton and carriers carried cloth to the hundreds of ships bound for Newfoundland each Spring.

These carriers were apt to stop at a few pubs along the way, safe in the knowledge that if they fell asleep at the reins, their horses knew the route well enough to complete the journey unassisted.  But not all these journeys went to plan.  At Spetisbury, the local lads thought it a jolly jape to turn the horse around and point it in the direction from which it had come.  When the carter awoke, he would find himself back where his journey had begun.  This mischief became such a problem that in the Dorset Archives is a letter from a carter asking a magistrate to do something about it.  The alternative, of course would have been for the carters to cut back on the pub-crawling and stay awake.


The Pirate Code

Pirates are considered to be a brutal, lawless lot.  But on board ship, they live under a set of rules called ‘The Pirates Code’ or ‘Articles of Agreement’.  Each Captain had his own set of rules for the ship and crew under his command but they followed a general pattern.  These included discipline, compensation, share of the booty and compensation for injury.  Each crew member must make his mark or sign on the Articles whilst swearing an oath of allegiance. This gave each crew member the right to vote for officers and other affairs of interest, bear arms and share booty.

Here are the articles used by Captain John Phillips, of the Revenge, from 1724:

I. Every Man shall obey civil Command; the Captain shall have one full share and a half of all the Prizes; the Master, Carpenter, Boatswain, and Gunner shall have one Share and quarter.

II. If any Man shall offer to run away, or keep any Secret from the Company, he shall be marooned with one Bottle of Powder, one Bottle of Water, one small Arm, and Shot.$_35[1]

III. If any Man shall steal any Thing in the Company, or game, to the Value of a Piece of Eight, he shall be marooned or shot.

IV. If any time we shall meet another Marooner that man shall sign his Articles without consent of our Company, shall suffer such Punishment as the Captain and Company shall think fit.

V. That man that shall strike another whilst these Articles are in force, shall receive Moses’s Law ( that is, 40 Stripes lacking one) on the bare back.

VI. That Man that shall snap his Arms, or smoke tobacco in the Hold, without a Cap to his Pipe, or carry a Candle lighted without a Lanthorn, shall suffer the same punishment as the former Article.

VII. That Man shall not keep his Arms clean, fit for Engagement, or neglect his Business, shall be cut off from his Share, and suffer such other punishment as the Captain and the Company shall think fit.

VIII. If any Man shall lose a Joint in time of Engagement, shall have 400 Pieces of Eight; if a Limb 800.

IX. If at any time you meet with a prudent Woman, that Man that offers to Meddle with her, without her consent, shall suffer present Death.

The Pirate Code became the basis for The Articles of Association used by all companies in England today.  These govern the internal management of the company, regulating the rights of the members among themselves……. it is a requirement of company law for a company to register its own special set of Articles which make specific provision on matters of internal management, particularly suited to the needs of that individual business.

sources: A General History of the Robbers and Murderers of the most notorious Pyrates by Captain Charles Johnson; The Gower Handbook of Management


The Fate of the Anne

Anne snip

Early in August 1625, three sailors, Nicholas Nurrey, Robert Rapson and Thomas Marryner arrived in Poole with an ominous tale to tell. A meeting was hastily arranged with the Mayor John Harward and three Justices of the Peace, and the men were soon relating their story. A few days before, the three, together with 12-year-old ship’s boy, Nicholas Jerrard, had been sailing to ‘Croysick’ in France (probably the Breton port of Le Croisic) aboard the 20 ton Anne of Poole. South southwest of Plymouth, between Deadman’s Point and Looe they were surprised and taken by Barbary pirates, then commonly known as ‘Turks’. Nurrey told how they had ‘beate him verye cruellye and toke away from him such commodityes as were abord him wth their victualls, apparrell and their boy, Nicholas Jerrard’.

The pirate ship was not alone but part of a flotilla of six ships which sailed in pursuit of two Scottish merchantmen keeping company with the Anne. What is more, the ‘Turkish’ ships were large and well armed, two of them being about 160 to 180 tons and another two having 20 guns apiece. The pirates had already taken a considerable toll among English merchant ships. Rapson and Marryner described how once aboard the pirate ship, ‘they saw some three skore English captives lyeing in chaynes in ye hold’ who had been taken in the Channel from Bristol ships, a Barnstable vessel sailing from Virginia, and fishing boats ‘driveing uppon the streame’.

At the helm of the pirate vessel was another English captive whose ship had been taken the previous season when sailing out to Newfoundland. He told Thomas Marryner ‘that there were twentye sayle of Turks att sea about this coast & the coast of ffrance or hovering betwixt Bellyle and Ushant to make their praye on all his Maties subiects tradeing to and fro twixt England and ffrance especially on the newfoudlandmen expected homeward wthin this moneth, threatening that wthin these 2 yeares they would not leave ye king of England sayles to furnish his shipps to sea.’

How the crew (except for the unfortunate boy Nicholas Jerrard) escaped being taken captive, we do not know, but perhaps the pirates had taken as many captives as they could manage. John Harward lost no time in writing to the Privy Council with the news of the situation, warning the authorities that unless measures were taken the returning Newfoundland fleet of 250 sail with 4,000 to 5,000 men on board would be surprised and fall victim to the pirates. His message joined a chorus of protests from Channel ports suffering shipping losses. The mayor of Plymouth, for instance had fears for the ships sailing from Virginia and Newfoundland, adding a grim statistic. In the space of only 10 days, 27 ships and 200 men had been taken by Barbary pirates.

piece contributed by Jenny Oliver


The Smuggler’s Curse


Copy of an original letter written by a smuggler to a Captain Bursack of the Revenue Cutter Speedwell and was found in Poole Custom House during renovations. The gentleman in question, a one J. Spurier, is hopping mad that Captain Bursack has dared to interfere with his (un)lawful smuggling activities and says as much in very colourful language!

‘Sir, Damn thee

and God Damn thy two Purblind Eyes thou Buger and thou Death looking son of a Bitch O that I had bin there (with my company) for they sake when thou tookes them men of Mine on Board the Speedwell Cutter on Monday ye 14 Decr. I would drove thee and all they Gang to Hell wher thou belongest thou Devil Incarnet Go Down thou Hell Hound into thy Kennell below & Bathe thy Self in that Sulpherous Lake that has bin so long Prepared for such as thee for it is time the World was rid of such a Monster thou art no Man but a Devil thou fiend I hope thou will soon fall into Hell like star from the Sky; there to lie (unpitied) & unrelented of any for Ever and Ever Which God Grant of his infinite Mercy Amen’

Letter from J. Spurier, smuggler; Fordingbridge, January 1700 to Captain Bursack

Source – Smugglers Tales by Tom Quinn in Contraband p.167

No Friendly Fire

The blockhouse on Brownsea Island was built in 1547, one of a string of coastal defences ordered by King Henry VIII against invasion from the continent. It was based on a solid platform and consisted of a single storey square tower about 13m by 13m with walls 2m thick and guns mounted on the flat Brownsea blockhouse 4roof of the tower. On the eastern side was a barbican or walled courtyard and the whole structure was surrounded by a ditch, with a drawbridge to give access. The purpose was to protect the entrance to Poole Harbour from enemy ships but in fact the guns were rarely fired in anger and on one rare recorded occasion when they were, the target was no enemy but a ship from Poole itself.

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Project timeline

Our project concerns Poole’s Maritime Heritage between 1580 and 1730, a fascinating 150 years of development to the town and port of Poole. So much happened across the period and the backdrop to change in Poole was at times quite dramatic.

Message in a bottle


As the timeline we have prepared shows, the period saw the reigns of nine monarchs, despite the civil war and 18 year period to the restoration. The Spanish Armada featured at the beginning of the period and across the rest of the period there came the settlement of Newfoundland and other colonies on the eastern seaboard of the America and in the Caribbean.

In the coming months we’ll add more besides to this overarching backdrop and summarise the developments of relevance more locally here in Poole.

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The lives and some experiences of our leading men – Woodes Rogers

Governor Woodes Rogers

Rogers statue NassauWoodes Rogers was a boy in Poole until his teens, when his family went to Bristol with their shipping and trading business.

He went to Newfoundland as an apprentice seaman and set off later at the age of 28 on a voyage around the world as a privateer captain with two vessels under his command, the Duke and Duchess.

He found the castaway Alexander Selkirk on Juan De Fernandez Island in the Pacific, whose experiences became known world-wide through Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe book, following Rogers’ return to Bristol.

Later in life and at his own expense, and that of merchant backers, he established the colony of the Bahamas after first ridding the islands of pirates. His fame endured there – the motto of the Bahamas until 1973 was “piracy expelled and commerce restored” a direct reference to his significance.

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