A new Stuarts storybox became available this year and has been used to support study day sessions at the Queens House. It contains four manuscripts and two rare books, covering the period 1638-1671, which spans the reigns of two Kings and the inter-regnum period.
The study session includes interactive palaeography, focusing on a commonplace book written by Sir Thomas Fairfax (1612-1671) and others. This includes a collection of historical notes, transcripts, a seamen’s dictionary and contemporary accounts of actions during the civil war. A few sentences from the commonplace book have been provided here to put your palaeographic skills to the test (see right hand image. Full transcription provided at the bottom of this post).
Also included in the storybox is a letter written by Oliver Cromwell, 23 February 1648/9. Notice the discrepancy between the two years to distinguish between the Julian calendar and the Gregorian new year. The letter concerns an order for new flags to be flown in the fleet and new, ‘more appropriate’ parliamentarian ship names to be used. For example, the Henrietta Maria was renamed Paragon and the Prince Royal was renamed Resolution.
Another item from the manuscripts collection is a holograph letter from Queen Henrietta Maria (1609-1669) to the Prince of Orange, 27 February 1642/3 (notice the two dates) reporting completion of Admiral Tromp’s task to safely transport her from Holland to England and asks the Prince to reward the Admiral for his service.
One of the rare-books in this treasure trove of Stuart material is the declaration of Charles II, read in Parliament, 1 May 1660. The proclamation was read to the English fleet by Samuel Pepys, the same year he began his diary and was appointed clerk of acts to the Navy Board; a prominent role in the administration of a leading government department.
In contrast to the writing style of the mid-17th century, is text from the Intelligence book of William Lytlestone, 1582, also used in another of the NMM’s education events on the subject of the Armada. Here is an example of the writing from Tudor times. Let’s see if you can decipher the text here and observe the contrast between the text here and the previous examples!
We shall be running a competition to complete a full and accurate transcription of the excerpt above. Please email answers to firstname.lastname@example.org. A prize draw will commence on 3 April, the winner will be announced and receive a £5 voucher for findmypast.com, home of Ancestors on Board as well as many other genealogical sources.
Excerpt from the commonplace book (17th century)
The Kings field forces for the Midland countyes. The field forces for which the King had for the securing of these Midland countyes and garrisons &c. was 1st the Royall army (countenanced by the Kings own presence in it) com(m)anded by Prince Rupert and Prince Maurice, which was that Army which fought his excellency Sir Thomas Fairfax’s his army at Naseby. 2. Besides, the King had a very considerable force of Horse and Foot in Wales, under the com(m)and of the Lord Gerrard. 3. and also a good strength of Horse (continuation sign)
Mike (Manuscripts Department)
Moderate and fair at 4pm made a signal and anchored in Madera [sic] road
On 18 March Anson anchored the Centurion in port having completed the first stage of her voyage. Here Anson employed Portuguese boats to restock his ship’s water supply, the existing supplies being described as “very bad”, and made preparations to set sail once again. In time ADM/L/C/299 will also set sail for the new store which will form part of the Sammy Ofer Wing. That, however, is perhaps to get ahead of ourselves and for now the logbook is safely on the shelf which will be its home for the next three years.
Ensuring that the manuscripts can be easily retrieved has been quite a task. The photograph above shows the van-load containing the logbook being unpacked. Each crate was assigned an individual number and plans were made of the new store to ensure that each item had an allocated home. The image on the right shows the crates waiting to be taken into the new store where they were finally unpacked.
Saluted the Commadore [sic] with 13 guns, the Falmouth saluted with ditto he returned 13 in answer to both
It seemed fitting to end this series of posts with a salute, of sorts, to the successful move of the logbook of HMS Centurion. As the final photograph demonstrates, it is now on its shelf and as of yesterday could once again be viewed in our reading room.
Richard (Assistant Archivist)
More than 100,000 records of overseas births, baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials of British subjects, including those onboard ships, have been added to the searchable online service listing non-parochial births, marriages and deaths. These newly added records were previously only viewable on microfilm at the National Archives.
This richly illustrated journal, containing 58 separate watercolours in total, covers the career of Major Kirkham, seamen in both the royal navy and merchant service (MSS/88/056). Chronologically, he begins his career in 1798; leaving his home in Crayford he boards the Providence of London on a voyage to the Baltic Sea. The journal contains meteorological data, as expected in a maritime log, but also contains a variety of other events and especially detailed descriptions of towns and cities visited, with statistics concerning population, distances, number of churches and any other features of interest. Whilst sailing past Denmark, Kirkham produces a rather eccentric watercolour of Elsinor (Elsinore). The illustration includes Kronborg castle, known as the setting for Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
His next journey, in 1800, follows the Brig Martha on her voyage from London to Kent to Somerset and then back to Kent again. Illustrations from this part of the journal include Canterbury, Dover and Reading. The Martha is taken by privateers at Deal but is subsequently freed.
Kirkham served on the Royal George between 1806 and 1809 as a seamen and his career included visiting the Mediterranean, the Dardanelles, Gallipoli and Constantinople. Of the events that took place, he witnessed a court martial off Cadiz, whilst part of Lord Collingwood’s fleet, observed the burning of the Ajax, near the Dardanelles, where only 350 men and women were saved. On 20 July 1807, off Devon, he writes that a woman on board was found dead. There is no context provided or anything more reported and many of the comments in the journal are as various as they are brief.
The Royal George was previously named the Umpire and renamed in September 1782, after the famous loss of the Royal George at Spithead a month earlier.
Other interesting details in the journal include a very detailed index of his major voyages between 1798 and 1809 and a series of street maps of various English towns and cities. Towards the end are letters to Government from Sir S J Duckworth off Constantinople, 21 February 1807 and astronomical notes, 1814-5, separated into the four seasons of the year.
Mike (Manuscripts Department)
Last Monday, the 2nd March, saw the beginning of the move of the collections in preparation for the building of the Museum’s new Sammy Ofer Wing, which will include a new archive and library store.
The South West Wing store that we are emptying currently holds over 3000 shelves worth of material, tens of thousands of volumes, boxes and files of material that need to be carefully packed into crates, transported to the outstation and then unpacked in the correct order. As anyone who has ever moved home can imagine, this is a mammoth task, and the last few months have seen plenty of planning, spreadsheets and equations to work out what will fit where.
Perhaps the most laborious part of the job has been labelling each of the shelves in the order that they need to be packed – the vagaries of the storage system meaning that it is not as simple as starting at one end of the room and moving to the other! We are also trying to rationalise, as far as we can, the present system of storage, reuniting materials from collections that have become separated over the years – hopefully this will make the task of locating items easier in the future.
It is quite an eerie experience to stand in the store that we have used for so many years and see it gradually empty – but it certainly allows us to see the progress that we are making. It all appears to be going remarkably smoothly so far, with no surprises unearthed. I still have my fingers crossed that we are going to uncover those elusive Admiral Hornblower papers that we are meant to hold….
Andrew (Curator of Manuscripts)
Fresh Gales and Squally. Lost Logg lines three.
The entry for 11 March 1738 in the log of HMS Centurion highlights two concerns of a captain at sea: the weather and the speed his ship was traveling. Two hundred and seventy one years later and the same topics are still an issue as we continue to relocate manuscripts to off-site storage. A move from one location to another is always easier in good weather but perhaps more pressing is the idea of making good time.
As the move is limiting access to our collections it is a priority that we transport the manuscripts as quickly as possible. The public records have been moved first to enable them to be unpacked in time for 17 March when they can once again be viewed in the reading room. I’m pleased to say that the logbooks, including ADM/L/C/299, have now successfully completed their journey to the new store. Due to the scale of the move there will be a brief wait before the items are unpacked onto shelves but, with a bit of luck, only the severest of gales should hinder us now.
The speed at which the removal company works is quite something. In fact, I was only just able to get this photograph of their van leaving the museum before it disappeared round the corner. In the next few days I’ll be posting the last entry in this series as we begin to unpack the logs ready for future retrievals.
Richard (Assistant Archivist)
Ditto weather a large swell from the NW. PM found the main top mast sprung in the wake of the upper part of the capp made a signal for the Falmouth got down top gallant yard and mast and hand’d the main top sail. Lower’d the main yard struck, main top mast, found it sprung in another place 5 foot above the capp, got him down, got up another topmast and rigged. Set up the main shrouds and sway’d the main yard up and set the mainsail.
The entry in the Centurion’s log for 6 March 1738 demonstrates some of the problems inherent in taking a wooden ship to sea. A sprung mast could, if not dealt with swiftly, become a lost mast. The resulting loss of speed and the time required to make repairs would have a serious effect on the length of a voyage and demonstrates why Captain Anson was so keen to remedy the problem at an early stage.
It seems unlikely that a sprung or lost mast will affect the latest journey made by the log but nevertheless we are all working towards ensuring a smooth trip to its new location. ADM/L/C/299 as the log is officially numbered has now been packed ready for transporting.
The photograph above shows a member of the specialist removal team lifting the box which contains the log from its shelf. It was then placed in a padded crate ready for loading onto the delivery van. Having thus ensured that the log is safe to travel, I’ll be posting in the coming days with news of the voyage.
Richard (Assistant Archivist)
These stunning photographs, discovered in a London auction in February 2009, tell a wonderful story of life on board two early Hull fishing trawlers, the SS Canada and SS New Zealand in the early 1900s. The website is looking for help in gaining more information about the people and events portrayed.
Excellent source for navy history, such as World War 1 and World War 2 campaign summaries, battles and more.
On the 9th instant I was commission’d to command his Majesty’s ship Centurion at Portsmouth … On the 13th … hoisted the pendant and this day made my appearance on board.
With these words George Anson began the first log of his new command, HMS Centurion. The logbooks held at the National Maritime Museum are amongst the best travelled items in the archive collection. In the case of Anson’s 1737-1739 log the journey is not yet over as it will be amongst some of the first items to be packed and moved to off-site storage as part of the South West Wing store decant. During the move period we will be posting regular updates on the log’s progress tracking its voyage towards a new storage location.
Built in Portsmouth and launched in January 1732, the Centurion was a 4th rate vessel of the line of some 1005 tons, carrying 60 guns, and measuring 144 feet in length. Anson was appointed captain in December 1737 and was quickly at sea, sailing to the coast of west Africa to help protect British trade there before crossing to the West Indies.
The Centurion returned to England towards the end of 1739 and the following year, on 18 September 1740, sailed at the head of a squadron of eight ships sent on an expedition against the Spanish in the Pacific. It was for this expedition that Anson is best remembered and it propelled him into the public eye as a national hero.
Due to a delayed start to the voyage the squadron attempted to round Cape Horn in March 1741 at perhaps the worst possible time of year. A number of ships were either wrecked or forced to turn back. By August only the Centurion was still afloat and the effects of scurvy and terrible cold were taking their toil.
Unable to fulfil his original orders, and with a severely depleted crew, Anson proceeded to circumnavigate the globe as Sir Francis Drake had done before him. Anson’s aim was to cause the Spanish as much damage as was still possible and on 20 June the Nuestra Senora de Covadonga was captured along with 1,313,483 pieces of eight and 35,682 ounces of silver. This victory ensured that the Centurion made a triumphant return to England in June 1744.
If you would like to learn more, the Caird Library holds a number of books about George Anson and the Centurion including a transcription of the log kept by Anson’s first lieutenant, Philip Saumarez, on the 1740-1744 voyage. Visitors to the museum can even view a log kept during the Centurion’s circumnavigation of the globe in the Time and Longitude gallery at the Royal Observatory Greenwich.
Richard (Assistant Archivist)