1644, Richard Vickris of Bristol, merchant, petitions about debts unpaid and losses to the Royalists

Richard Vickris of Bristol, merchant. SP 16/501 f. 128 (1644)

[To the?] honourable Comittee for the Navy

The humble peticion of Richard Vickris of Bristoll merchant.


Whereas there is due from the state to your petitioner (for part of the freight for the service of the Fellowshipp and Mary of Bristoll upon the Irish coastes) the some of about 480 pounds as by your honnours severall orders appeares.

Now your petitioner having att present come over 9 tunnes 1/2 of French wines the impost whereof is above 40 pounds.

Hee most humbly prayeth your honnours (and the rather in regard of [his?] former great losses susteined by the enemy to bee pleased to allow him ditto impost (out of the money due to him as aforesaid) for his said wines.

And the petitioner will pray etc.

[For the response, see the full transcription here.]

Report by Wendy Lewis

Richard Vickris petitioned the Parliamentary Committee of the Navy for payment of £520 for the cost of fright, wine and services provided to the Navy or lost in conflict. He was successful in his claim, and the committee ordered that some he receive a portion of this money.[1]

Richard Vickris and the Royalists in Bristol

Until the first Civil War broke out, Richard Vickris had done very well for himself.  Originally from Bewdley in Worcestershire, by the 1630s he was a member of the Society of Merchant Venturers.[2] In 1634 he was wealthy enough to donate land for an extension to the public library (one of the first such libraries in the country).[3]  He became sheriff in 1636.

All this changed in 1643, when Prince Rupert’s troops took control of Bristol, which had been held by Parliamentary forces until then.  The Royalist occupation was a harsh one.  Merchants and other prominent citizens had their premises looted repeatedly and were forced to make substantial “gifts” to Rupert as well as to Charles I during his stay in Bristol.  Vickris, a Puritan, was expelled from the Council.

Vickris’s Whereabouts

This was the situation in 1644, when Vickris made this petition.  But just where was Vickris in 1644? Latimer suggests that he and the other Puritans expelled from the Council may have been imprisoned.  But would it have been wise, or even possible, for a prisoner in a Royalist-held town to get a petition to Parliament in the midst of hostilities?  Could Vickris have been one of the “many distressed and plundered people of Bristol” mentioned in a Parliamentary order of 1645, who had made their way to London during the Royalist occupation?[4]

The ship ‘Fellowship’ mentioned in the petition may be the same ‘Fellowship’ which was one of the armed merchantmen first incorporated into the Parliamentary Navy, then captured by the Royalists when they seized Bristol, and subsequently recaptured by Parliament. [5]

The Outcome

At any rate, matters ended well for Vickris.  In 1645 when Parliamentary forces retook Bristol, he was reinstated to the Council, and was one of the signatories to a proclamation of support for the cause of Parliament.[6]  In the same year he was appointed to a Parliamentary Commission charged with removing “delinquents” (Royalist supporters) from Bristol’s government.[7] In 1646 he became mayor of Bristol, and in 1648 Master of the Merchant Venturers. In 1656 he had a manor house built for himself in Chew Magna, in Somerset.[8] This house is still standing and was on the market for £2m as recently as 2008.[9]

Vickris preserved his position after the Restoration and carried on trading.  He was given permission in 1665 to export 100 horses to the Caribbean,[10] while it was illegal to export horses from England at that time without special approval.[11]  These may have been draft horses intended for use in the rapidly expanding sugar industry: hundreds of horses were exported annually from England to Barbados to replace those that succumbed to disease or overwork.[12] Vickris died in 1668.


[1] ‘Charles I – volume 501: April 1644’, in Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Charles I, 1644, ed. William Douglas Hamilton (London, 1888), pp. 86-140. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/chas1/1644/pp86-140

[2] Seccombe, Thomas. “Vickris, Richard (d 1700).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. https://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/odnb/9780192683120.001.0001/odnb-9780192683120-e-28270.

[3] John Latimer, The Annals of Bristol in the seventeenth century. Bristol: (1900), p. 52. See also J F Nicholls and John Taylor, Bristol past and present (1882), p.19.

[4] ‘House of Commons Journal Volume 4: 17 September 1645’, in Journal of the House of Commons: Volume 4, 1644-1646 (London, 1802), pp. 276-278. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/commons-jrnl/vol4/pp276-278

[5] John Lynch, For King and Parliament: Bristol and the Civil War (1999), p.115

[6] Patrick McGrath, (ed.). Merchants and Merchandise in Seventeenth-century Bristol (1955) pages 147-148

[7] David H Sacks, The Widening gate: Bristol and the Atlantic economy, 1450-1700 (1991) p. 245

[8] Historic England website, https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1129609

[9] Holly Kirkwood, ‘Gothic manor near Bath for sale’, in Country Life (May 20, 2008), https://www.countrylife.co.uk/articles/gothic-manor-near-bath-for-sale-33721

[10] Patrick McGrath, (ed.). Merchants and Merchandise in Seventeenth-century Bristol (1955). Page 256

[11] Lawrence A Harper, The English Navigation Acts: a seventeenth-century experiment in social engineering (1939) p. 100

[12] John F Richards, The unending frontier: an environmental history of the early modern world (2003), p. 424.


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’.