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Charts and Figures



1 Initial Stages

2 The Wollstonecraft Connection

3 Records at the Guildhall Library

4 Edward John's Family

5 Edward's Will

6 Edward Bland, Merchant Adventurer

7 Links with the Rutson Family

8 Poor Britannia!

9 Edward Wollstonecraft, Weaver and Citizen of London

10 Marin v Wollstonecraft

11 Entertained in the House of Nell Gwynn

12 The Chancellor's Decree and Order

13 Epilogue







Chapter 6Part 1 (of 2)

Part 2

                Edward Bland, Merchant Adventurer


                We learn from his will that Edward Wollstonecraft held a share in the East Indiaman, the Cruttenden. There was a traditional system of part-ownership of merchant ships. To minimise risk, ownership was divided into shares, of which there were, at that time, normally sixteen or, sometimes, thirty-two and the shareholders would receive a portion of the profits, or losses, accordingly. A Principal Managing Owner would represent the shareholders who, amongst their responsibilities, would appoint the ship's officers and crew, subject to the approval of the East India Company, itself. Within certain limitations and guidelines depending on seniority, the officers and seamen would be allowed to undertake private trading, exporting and importing their own goods. Understandably, on a ship there were varying constraints on the types of commodities, their weight and the space they could occupy. The prospect of private trade was an attractive incentive, handsome profits could be made. An additional enticement to joining service in the East India Company was that the captains and first mates were exempt from being pressed into the Royal Navy.

                Considerable expertise was required to navigate the seas to the Far East and the master was accorded a high degree of respect and social status. He might be the son of a merchant and had learned the necessary skills from an early age. His first mate could be required to take over command of the ship at any time on the voyage and so his degree of education and proficiency would need to have been similar1.

                Edward Bland Wollstonecraft's first sailing with the East India Company was, as third mate, aboard the Valentine, the first Company ship to bear this name.

                Farrington records that she was built by Perry. Perry, Wells and Green owned the largest private ship-building yard in the country and it was sited on the Thames at Blackwall. It was here at Blackwall, that the huge East India Docks were to be opened in 1806. The Valentine was launched in 1758. She had three decks, was 655 tons and the Principal Managing Owner was Charles Raymond.

                Shortly before his twenty-third birthday, Edward Bland embarked on the vessel's maiden voyage with Captain William Fernell. The Valentine left Portsmouth on 16th February 1759 and, after rounding the Cape of Good Hope, reached Trincomalee in Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, on 15th July.

                The next port of call, two weeks later on the 29th July, was Negapatam, now Nagappattinam, on the coast of India. Moving northwards, they came to Madras on 16th August. On 6th December, they were at Batavia, in Java, now Djakarta the capital of Indonesia.

                The town had been built by the Dutch in the style familiar in their home country. It was situated in a low-lying, flat area of land and had canals running beside most streets. It was, however, ridden with disease. The canals were foul, stagnant and heavily polluted with rubbish and sewerage. In the sweltering heat of the tropics, infection-carrying mosquitoes bred at an alarming rate. Vermin made their home in the filth, increasing the risk to health. Malaria and dysentery were rife. Eleven years later, in October 1770, Captain James Cook called there in his ship, the Endeavour. He remained in the town until just after Christmas and, during that time, seven of his ship's company of ninety-four died after falling victim to disease. When he left port, a further forty were so badly incapacitated by sickness, they were unfit to carry out their duties and, in the ten-week voyage to the Cape of Good Hope, twenty-three died2.

                The Valentine sailed on to arrive at Whampoa in China on 7th June 1760. Whampoa, or Huangpu, lies on an island in the Pearl River, about fifteen miles below Canton, or Guangzhou, in the Guangdong province of South East China. A sea pilot would accompany the ship to the estuary, as far as the Macao Road, where a river pilot would take charge, guiding the vessel over two dangerous bars before reaching their destination3.

                Here at Canton, in 1699, the East India Company had established one of its fortified warehouses, called "factories". It was an impressive edifice situated on the riverfront and staffed by officers of the Company. They would trade with the Chinese through the Emperor's Imperial Agent, exchanging gold or silver bullion for rare merchandise that would have a ready market at home and bring a good profit. Having the facilities to store the goods to await the arrival of the annual convoy, they would be able to buy when the price was most favourable to the Company4. The hold of the Valentine might be loaded with quantities of tea, silk, nankeen, lacquered-ware, chinaware, fans of all descriptions, sweetmeats, ivory-wares, paintings and many other fine commodities. From the middle of the eighteenth century, their particular interest would have been in tea. Silk was another important commodity, the majority of which would have been raw, to meet the needs of the weavers in Spitalfields.

                A year later, the Valentine was on her way back home and, on 6th June 1761, she had navigated as far as St Helena, in the Atlantic Ocean. Three months after that, on 20th September, the log records she completed her voyage and was on that day off the "Downs" in the English Channel. She had been away for two years and seven months.

                Soon after returning home, on 3rd November 1761, Edward Bland married Lydia Cooke. They named their first child Lydia and she was baptised on 11th October 1762. When the baby was hardly five months old, Edward Bland put to sea again with the East India Company, as first mate on the Cruttenden.

                Like the Valentine, the Cruttenden was a newly built ship making her maiden voyage. She, too, was a product of the Blackwall yard, having been built by Wells and was launched in 1762. With three decks, she was over 112 feet long, 36 feet wide and weighed 784 tons. Her Principal Managing Owner was John Durand and her captain, John Bowland.

                The ship's journal records in detail the whole of this and subsequent voyages5.

                Officers and seamen amongst her crew were as follows:

                MasterJohn Bowland
                First MateEdward Bland Wollstonecraft
                Second MateJosiah Hindman
                Third MateWilliam Baker
                Fourth MateGeorge Pack
                Fifth MateThomas Brettell
                Sixth MateJohn Hall
                SurgeonJames Kerr
                PurserThomas Smith
                GunnerJohn Crawford
                BoatswainJohn Hawkins
                CarpenterJoseph Hoare
                CoxswainJohn Hawkins
                SeamanJohn Rutson

                The following extracts from the journal are particularly interesting:

                Thursday, 24th February 1763Put Benedict Mead and Walter Watkins, two of the Company ye Soldiers in Irons for attempting to cut the Jolly Boat away from quarter to make their escape.
                Tuesday, 1st March 1763In the night Benedict Mead and Walter Watkins, two Soldiers in Irons, made their escape ashore in the Jolly Boat. In the morning found the Boat again.

                The Cruttenden left Portsmouth on 7th March 1763. Two weeks later, on 20th March, they sighted Porto Santo and the extreme coast of Madeira. On 17th May, they were at St Helena. The next four months of their journey seemed calm and uneventful until an unhappy accident occurred:

                7th July 17639 AM Jacob Momfrey, Boatswain's mate, fell overboard. Boat looking for him till noon and, not being able to find him, made sail.

                Cruised peacefully on and the following month they reached Java, where they had a curious experience:

                4th August 1763In the evening, perceiving the water to be as much discoloured as last night, Drew several bucketts of water and found in it a vast quantity of fish spawn and many young fish.

                They made their way to the coast of China, arriving early in September.

                  Sunday, 9th September 1763William Wallis, seaman, being in Liquor, fell overboard and was drowned.
                  12th September 1763Found body of William Wallis and buried it.

                  The captain reported that, on 26th September, the ship had successfully negotiated the "second bar" and anchored at Whampoa. She was not alone:

                    27th September 1763Opposite the river between French and Danes Island on ye...... there Hector, Egmont, Brittania, Havana and Houghton, English, three Dutch, three French, two Danes and one Swede.

                    The Britannia was also making her maiden voyage. She was the third Company ship so-named. Slightly smaller then the Cruttenden, she had been launched in 1761. Under Captain Thomas Bales Rous, she had started her voyage in May 1762 and had spent nearly a year visiting and re-visiting ports on both the east and west coasts of India.

                    The name, Britannia, was given to later ships built for the East India Company. In 1805, the fourth Britannia was lost off the coast of Brazil, whilst making her twelfth voyage. The fifth was launched the following year, 1806, but she was no more fortunate and was wrecked on the Goodwin Sands in 1809, when making her second voyage.

                    The Cruttenden remained with the other ships at Whampoa for three months, loading their cargoes. The stay was not without event:

                      29th November 1763Richard Dunlop and William Bynan, Boatswain's mates, run away with the Jolly Boat. Sent the Pinnace down the River to Look for them and found them in a creek below ye Ships at ye second Barr. They brought them on board and confined them in irons.
                      1st December 1763Punished the two boatswain's mates that run away with the Boat by flogging them and ordered them out of irons.

                      A few weeks later, the East Indiamen were preparing to set sail for their long journeys home:

                        22nd December 1763Sailed the Britannia, ye Havana.

                        Two days before the Cruttenden's departure, they received on board ten French prisoners.

                          Thursday, 29th December8AM Weighed.
                          Past over second bar, ...Tyger Island, mouth of Bora.
                          Sunday, 1st January 1764Peak of Grand Ladroom
                          Castle of Mocoa
                          Pilot left us
                          2nd January 176412 Noon, signalled and answered ye Havana.

                          For the next five days, the Cruttenden sailed in the company of the Havana as they swiftly swept across the China Sea, gaining Manila in the Philippines on 9th January. However, all was not peaceful, more trouble ensued with certain members of the crew:

                            13th January 1764Punished Richard Dunlop, Boatswain's mate, Samuel Laycount and John Underwood for theft.

                            A solution to the problem was readily at hand:

                              Sunday, 15th January 1764AMRichard Dunlop
                              William Bynan, formerly boatswain's mates,
                              William Watson
                              William Piper
                              William Alexander
                              John Brown and
                              Henry Watson, seamen, entered for His Majesty's ship, Falmouth, and was carried away in that ship's boat with their Chest and Bedding.

                              The Royal Navy, always anxious to enlist crew, would press the seamen of the East India Company. The ship's company would be most vulnerable when they came to home-waters, towards the end of their voyage, where the Press Gangs would lie eagerly in wait.

                              From Manila, her route took the Cruttenden to Benkulen in Sumatra, now Bengkulu in Indonesia, which she reached on 7th March.

                              The journey continued with remarkably little incident. They returned to St Helena on 2nd June and from there, made haste for England.

                              Sadly, one on board did not quite succeed in seeing his family again:

                                15th August 1764South Foreland, Walmer Castle, Deal
                                John Long, pilot came on board and took charge of the ship
                                Depart this life, John Bothwell, second Master
                                30th August 1764Anchor at Deptford.

                                This journey had not been as long as Edward Bland's first and had lasted one year and five months.

                                1Lavery, Brian, Nelson's Navy, The Ships, Men and Organisation, 1793 - 1815 (Conway Maritime, 1990)
                                2MacLean, Alistair, Captain Cook (London, Collins, 1972)
                                3Sutton, Jean, Lords of the East, The East India Company and its Ships (London, Conway Maritime, 1981)
                                4Wild, Anthony, The East India Company, Trade and Conquest from 1600 (Harper Collins, 2000)
                                5British Library: Oriental and India Office Collections: L/MAR/B/531A, B, C and D

                                Chapter 6Part 1 (of 2)

                                Part 2


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