1643, Stiles Sowgate of Harwich complains that his cargo of grain was seized by tumultuous local people

Stiles Sowgate of Harwich, merchant. SP 16/497 f. 9 (1643)

To the honourable committee appointed by this present Parliament for the affaires of his majesties Navy

The humble peticion of Stiles Sowgate of Harwich merchant

Sheweth unto your honours that your petitioner having fraighted asmale vessell called the [Wig of London master?] [illegible] burthen of about 25 tonns with wheat and ry is bound for Apsum in the west part of this kingedome, hath taken out his cockquit att the customehowse of Ipswich according to order, and also entred into sufficient bond not to transport it; neverthelesse divers rude and tumultuous persons of Harwich came abourd the said vessell and have taken away her sayle without order from any magistrat and have stayed the vessell 15 daies to the greate charges losse and damage of your petitioner as by a certificat under the handes of the maior and others of the towne of Harwich appeareth

Wherefore he most humblie beseecheth your honoures to be favourablie pleased to order that the said vessell may forthwith be discharged and proceed on her said voyage

And he shall praie etc.

Stiles Sowgate

Report by Terry Newman

Stiles Sowgate transported wheat and rye by ship, and bonded the cargo at the Customs House, promising not to export it. However, some people from Harwich came aboard and took the ships sails, thus preventing the ship’s departure and these have not been returned. The petitioner is seeking release of the sails so he can leave port.

In addition to the transcription above, the Calendar of State Papers records two additional pages annexed to the petition: ‘The Committee think fit and do [order as desired?] 13 Jan. 1642–3’ and ‘Certificate of Edmond Seaman, mayor, and others of Harwich. To the same effect as above. Harwich, E Stiles Sowgate ex.’.[1]


Stiles Sowgate is an elusive character.  Other than the petition itself, internet searches have only identified three possible references to Stiles Southgate, as discussed below.  None of these link to his role as a ship owner, transporting food stuffs around Britain. Internet searches have not found any reference to Sowgate’s ship which would seem to be called ‘Wig of London’, according to a more literal transcription of his petition.

In 1616 a Sowgate married Bridget Death in Bury St Edmunds, St Mary, Suffolk.[2]  Bury St Edmunds is 26 miles from Ipswich, where Sowgate obtained a cocket (a custom house seal given to a shipper who has paid duty[3]) from the Customs House.  The date of the marriage is 26 years before petition.  So, it is possible that this is the Stiles Sowgate.

St Mary’s church Washbrook, burial records, record the baptism of Jefferey Sowgate, son of Stiles and Bridget Sowgate, on 22 Oct 1610,[4] and the burial of Jefferey Sowgate, son of Stiles, on 30 January 1610/11.[5] Washgate is only 3 miles from Ipswich.  It would seem likely that Stiles Sowgate and Jefferey Sowgate were related.  Stiles’s petition was in January 1642/43, 32 years after Jefferey’s burial.  If Jefferey died in childhood, it is possible that he is the son of Stiles.

If  references to marriage (1616) and death of a son (1610) both refer to Stiles Sowgate, then that would suggest Stiles married prior to 1610 and the 1616 married a second time, though both seem to be named ‘Bridget’.

Roger Colchester was born in about 1548, and buried on 1 Sep 1629 in Barking, Suffolk. In his will his nephew Robert of Barking received a tenement and lands previously owned by Stiles Sowgate.[6] Barking is about 10 miles from Washbrook, so it is possible that Sowgate was a previous owner of the lands. The date of Colchester’s death in 1629 is commensurate with Sowgate’s adult lifetime.

Outcome of the petition

The British History Online record suggests both the Committee of the Navy and Edmond Seaman, the Mayor of Harwich, are minded to grant the petition. No information has been found on whether this was implemented.


[1] ‘Charles I – volume 497: January 1643’, in Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Charles I, 1641-3, ed. William Douglas Hamilton (London, 1887), pp. 436-441. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/chas1/1641-3/pp436-441

[2] FindMyPast: Stiles Sowgate https://www.findmypast.co.uk/transcript?id=GBPRS%2FM%2F753706521%2F2

[3] Wikipedia, ‘Crocket’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cocket)

[4] Essex and Suffolk surnames https://essexandsuffolksurnames.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/washbrook-baptisms-1559-1728.pdf

[5] Essex and Suffolk names https://essexandsuffolksurnames.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/washbrook-burials-1559-1728.pdf

[6] Colchester Family History http://www.thirzah.co.uk/colchesters/A/a26.html

This report is part of a series on ‘Petitioners in the reign of Charles I and the Civil Wars’, created through a U3A Shared Learning Project on ‘Investigating the Lives of Seventeenth-Century Petitioners’.