1653, George Reade seeks a position as a ship’s clerk after financial losses and injury at sea

Transcription from ‘Petitions in the State Papers: 1650s’, in Petitions in the State Papers, 1600-1699, ed. Brodie Waddell, British History Online, George Reade of London, merchant. SP 46/114 f. 98 (1653).

The peticion of George Reade of London merchant

To the right honourable the commissioners of Parliament for ordering and manageing the affaires of the Admiralty and Navy:

The humble peticion of George Reade of London merchant

Sheweth that he formerly by his tradeing beyond seas brought in [500?] pounds custome yearely into England, but by reason of the King of Portugalls stay and squestration in the yeare 1650 sustained such losse that he and his family hath endured much since that tyme.

That your petitioner served as purser of the Charity a fire ship wherein he behaved himselfe faithfully, and gott such hurt in the states service as hath maimed him, as may appeare by the certificate annexed.

Your petitioner most humbly prayes your honours favour in conferring upon him a cleark of the cheques places in such, ship or friggot your honours shall thinke fitt in the present expedition.

And your petitioner shall pray etc.

[Paratext:] The peticion of George Read for clerke of the checquer. January 24 1652

Report by Sally O’Donnell

George Reade states in the petition that he was maimed while serving as purser on the Charity, a fireship.

The Charity was originally a French ship, the Charité, but was captured by the Commonwealth in 1650.  She took part in the Battle of Plymouth in 1652, during the First Anglo-Dutch War. In the early afternoon of 16 August, Sir George Ayscue (or Ayscough) commander of the Rainbow, the fleet’s flagship, intercepted a Dutch convoy off Plymouth.[1] De Ruyter, a Dutch Admiral, who was escorting the convoy, altered course to fend off Ayscue’s attack. The English ship the Bonaventure, led by Captain John Cramp, was almost overwhelmed in the fighting and was only saved when the fireship, Charity, led by Commander Simon Orton or Captain Smithson, was set ablaze among the Dutch ships to rescue the Bonaventure and cover the English retreat.[2] The Charity ‘exploded as the crew got away and is likely to have foundered as she burnt out’.[3]

The Battle of Plymouth
The Battle of Plymouth in 1652, Dutch. © The Trustees of the British Museum, 1859,0709.1571

George Reade also states he had suffered loss of trade due to the King of Portugal’s ‘stay and sequestration’ in 1650. It is likely that this is linked with the Royalist Prince Rupert’s arrival in Lisbon having fled from Ireland in 1649.  Although King John of Portugal was sympathetic to Rupert, his chief minister the Count de Miro supported by the mercantile community feared that open support for the English Royalists might have a detrimental effect on Portuguese trade and also encourage the Commonwealth into an alliance with Portugal’s enemy Spain.  Early in 1650, the Council of State denounced Rupert as a pirate and commissioned General-at-Sea Robert Blake to destroy the Royalist squadron.  Blake sailed from Portsmouth in March 1650 with a powerful fleet of fifteen ships, which included the Bonaventure (see above).  Charles Vane accompanied the expedition with responsibility for conducting diplomatic negotiations with the Portuguese government, which at the time did not recognise the Commonwealth of England. Blake blockaded Lisbon and engaged with Rupert’s naval forces. When Blake extended his actions to include a Portuguese trading fleet returning from Brazil, the consequent losses to the Portuguese economy persuaded King John to insist that Rupert leave Lisbon.[4]

In the meantime, many merchants had had ‘their goods and effects seized upon, and divers have been imprisoned by the King of Portugal and his Ministers, for their duty and faithfulness to this Commonwealth’. The Government agreed that some of the assets seized from Portugal should be used as reparations for those affected.[5] It is likely that George Reade was amongst those who were affected, whether he received any reparations is not known.

George Reade

 The petition states that he and his family ‘hath endured much since that tyme’. George Reade married Christian Hill on 16 June 1635 in St Gregory by St Paul.  They had two children, Richard baptized 2 November 1637 and John baptized 10 August 1640. George was described as a merchant haberdasher living in St Nicholas Acons.[6]

In his petition George sought an on-board position in ‘the present expedition’. This was most likely a reference to the soon-to-be resumed naval campaign in the Anglo-Dutch War, following repairs to the English fleet over the winter of 1652/53.[7] Whether George was successful is not known.


[1] For a petition from Ayscue, see ‘Petitions in the State Papers: 1660s’, in Petitions in the State Papers, 1600-1699, ed. Brodie Waddell, British History Online, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/petitions/state-papers/1660s#h2-0003.

[2] For a petition from Cramp, see ‘Petitions in the State Papers: 1660s’, in Petitions in the State Papers, 1600-1699, ed. Brodie Waddell, British History Online, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/petitions/state-papers/1660s#h2-0002.

[3] ‘Charity’, Historic England: PastScape, https://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1228626; ‘British fireship Charity (1650)’, Three Decks – Warships in the Age of Sail, https://threedecks.org/index.php?display_type=show_ship&id=3551; ‘The Anglo-Dutch War: First Actions, 1652’, BCW Project, http://bcw-project.org/military/first-anglo-dutch-war/first-actions.

[4] ‘Prince Rupert at Lisbon, 1649-50’, BCW Project, http://bcw-project.org/military/third-civil-war/prince-ruperts-voyages/lisbon.

[5] ‘November 1650: An Act for making Ships and Merchandizes taken or to be taken from the King of Portugal or any of His subjects, To be Prize.’, in C H Firth and R S Rait (eds.), Acts and Ordinances of the Interregnum, 1642-1660 (1911), pp. 449-451. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/no-series/acts-ordinances-interregnum/pp449-451.

[6] ‘George Reade/Christian Hill, 1635’, Find My Past, https://www.findmypast.co.uk/transcript?id=GBPRS%2FM%2F752520967%2F2; ‘Richarde Reed, 1637’, Find My Past, https://www.findmypast.co.uk/transcript?id=R_955057488; ‘John Reed, 1640’, Find My Past, https://www.findmypast.co.uk/transcript?id=R_955056662.

[7] ‘First Anglo-Dutch War’, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Anglo-Dutch_War.