Posted by: Christine | April 11, 2013

Start of the Voyage

Last year, on the anniversary of the death of John Madder, I wrote about his execution and the reasons behind it. This year I thought I would write about some of the research I have done about his life, in particular the start of the voyage of the Worcester that ended in his death.

While searching for information about John Madder I came across a book, written in 1930, by Lieut. Colonel Sir Richard Carnac Temple Bt. It was called “New Light on the Mysterious Tragedy of the Worcester 1704-1705” and was based on the papers of Thomas Bowrey, one of the owners of the Worcester. After reading this, it occurred to me that, if these papers had been available in 1930, they must still be today. I eventually tracked down the ones I needed to the Guildhall Library – they are now to be found in the London Metropolitan Archives. I see that the reference is now CLC/427, but when I looked at them, the list of over 1000 documents was on microfilm MS 24177, and images of the documents on MS 24178. The first 227 are about the Worcester and I obtained copies of a large proportion of them. The image below is number 84.

First though, a brief account of the start of the voyage. The Charter party was signed on 16th December 1701 and the ship arrived at the Downs, near Deal on 2nd February, to await a favourable wind. For the next month there was an almost daily exchange of letters between Thomas Bowrey and the ship. There were letters from Robert Callant, the Supercargo (the person in charge of the trading), Thomas Green, the Captain and John Madder, the Chief Mate, as well as copies of the letters sent to them by Bowrey. Bowrey’s letters are full of last minute instructions: what to buy, or not to buy (“no trading in slaves”,  “Bring ginger if pepper scarce“), where to go etc.

In a letter of 25th February 1701/2, Bowrey tells Callant and Green to get back on board – apparently they were still staying in Deal! Of course this meant that John Madder was on board the ship, dealing with all the problems. On 5th February he reports a storm which “blew Tuesday night until Wednesday afternoon”. They survived although ” Ships Drove by us on both sides as we ware forsed to port ower helm for some and starboard for others”. On 12th February he was building cabins for two harpooners (Bowrey had decided they should try a bit of whaling during the voyage).

Ten days later their Bowsprit was carried away by a passing ship and had to be replaced. Callant asked Bowrey to try to find the ships owners “ whereby to gett satisfaction, the Master & Compy I beleive where in drinke for if it be the same Master as I am informed it was, noe longer than Saterday last was by the Mayr of this place put into the stocks for Swearing & Drunkenness”

The Worcester eventually sailed on 8th March. A final letter from Thomas Bowrey followed them stating ” The very day you sailed out of ye Downs King William Dyed The same day ye Princess Anne was Proclaimed Queene. all things seem to be well settled” They must have been glad to get away.

This is a letter written by John Madder on 23rd February, reporting the loss of the bowsprit.  Bowrey must have heard rumours that there was a woman on board and asked about it. You can see that he has written his report and then it appears that he doodled the date underneath his signature, while he decided what to say about the woman.

Letter from John Madder 23 Feb 1701/2 (LMA - MS 24178/84)

Letter from John Madder 23 Feb 1701/2 (LMA – MS 24178/84)

Sr / Yesterday in ye afternoon, a ship came / on board of us, and broake ower boult- / spreete, thoueght to a sailed ye day / ye wind yn at ye no no wt. Ye Capn makes / whate heart he cane to gett us / a nother, when it comes on board, will make / what heart I can in setting of (word crossed out) / have not seen Mr Callant since I / Recd yur last, no more to add at / Present, yor humble servant: Concludes / to serve yow – / Jno Madder / 1701/2
as for a woman / being aboard ye ship / yow have been / wrong informed – / for yr is nun nor have / not bene ys 10 dayes – / when she was aboard, she was see sicke / & we could not gett her into aboat  / Feeb ye 23d 1701/2 / Downs

The Worcester arrived in Leith on its way home from India over two years later, in August 1704. In December the crew was arrested. On April 11th 1705 John Madder, together with Captain Thomas Green and gunner James Simson were executed.   R.I.P.


  1. […] anniversary of the death in 1705 of John Madder. I have written about this event before here and here. I am finding it even more relevant this year, in the run up to the vote on Scottish […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: