1653, Joseph Ames, shipmaster, requests leave to depart from London during the Anglo-Dutch War

Transcription from ‘Petitions in the State Papers: 1650s’, in Petitions in the State Papers, 1600-1699, ed. Brodie Waddell, British History Online, Joseph Ames. SP 18/32 f. 89a (1653)

To the right honourable the Councell of State

The humble petition of Joseph Ames master of the Hart frigate of Yarmouth of the burthen of 70 tonns

Humbly sheweth that he is lately come from the Barbadoes laden with suger and haveing bene forth 14 monthes, lieing here at very great charges.

The petitioner therefore humbly pray that [your?] honors wilbe pleased to grant your [wave?] for your petitioner to retourne home againe with the vessell and six men and one boy without lett or molestation.

And your petitioner shall pray etc.

Likewise Joseph Waters master of the [Mayflower?] of Yarmouth burthen 60 tonns who came [to?] London with fish, butter and cheese may retourne againe with 6 men and 1 boy and William Waters master of the Sarah of Yarmouth burthen 40 tunns who brought up the like vituall; may retourne againe without lett or molestation, with 4 men and 1 boy

And they shall pray etc

10 January 1652

Report by Terry Newman

The petition

The petition is from Joseph Ames the master of a ship from Yarmouth, and two other masters of ships from Yarmouth, Joseph Waters and William Waters.  All three ships have been detained after bringing foodstuffs to an unspecified port. It was one of three similar petitions received on 19 January 1653, including one from three other Yarmouth shipmasters, all referred to the Admiralty Committee for consideration.[1]

Joseph Ames’ life is chronicled in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, where it states ‘in January 1653 he returned to Plymouth from Barbados with a large consignment of sugar’.[2]  It would therefore seem likely that his ship the Hart had been detained in Plymouth and he was seeking authority to return to his home port of Yarmouth.

The background

Joseph Ames would seem to be the most entrepreneurial of the three petitioners, having undertaken a fourteen-month journey bringing the cargo of sugar from Barbados.  Sugar cane production began in Barbados in the 1640s so in the early 1650s Joseph Ames must have been an early pioneer in the transatlantic sugar trade.[3] The other two petitioners were transporting more traditional foodstuffs such as fish, butter and cheese, which most probably were produced in England.

The ships 

The three ships referred to in the petition are the Hart, Mayflower and Sarah, all of Yarmouth.  All three were common names in the 1600s, and in particular, as noted by Marsden in his 1904, article on the Mayflower: ‘there were Mayflowers belonging to practically every port in England.[4]

The Hart is described as a frigate, which in the mid-1600s, was a fast sailing warship,[5] which is perhaps more interesting than the name itself.  Prior to the formation of the Royal Navy in the 1660s, the term frigate was used to describe numerous types of fast sailing ships, but all references found suggest frigates were always warships.

Although no further information has been found on ships having dual roles as cargo and naval ships, this seems to be the case for the Hart. Taking a broader look at the situation at the time this would make sense.  This voyage of the Hart seems to be one of the first missions to bring sugar from Barbados to England. It necessitated sailing into waters contested by other nations and privateers, and so it would seem prudent for such a ship to be armed, hence the use of a naval frigate.  Further investigation might shed greater light on these issues.

The petitioners

The petitioners are only identified by name and that they are masters of ships from Yarmouth. Joseph Ames is from Yarmouth and is readily traceable as he was, and continued to be, a successful commander in the English Navy.  As noted in Joseph Ames’ entry in the ODNB, ‘he was one of the commanders of a small channel fleet, watching the Dutch coast in 1641’, eleven years before the petition was submitted.[6]  He is discussed in more detail below.

It is probable that the other petitioners, Joseph Waters and William Waters, also originate from Yarmouth or that part of England. As they are shipmasters it can be assumed that they have some years of experience as mariners, and are of a working age. So, at the time of their petition (January 1653), they might be expected to be between 25 and 60 years of age.

Using these criteria to search baptism records, one possible candidate has been found for Joseph Waters and four for William Waters, though without further details it is not possible to be sure which, if any refer to the petitioners.

Possible candidates for each petitioner are summarised below:

Joseph Waters

Only one possible candidate for Joseph Waters in the Yarmouth area in the period 1600–1630 has been found, a Joseph Waters, son of Gilbert and Sara Waters, baptised on 6 July 1623, at Great Yarmouth, Norfolk.[7]  This date would make him four years younger than Joseph Ames, which supports the supposition that Joseph Ames was the most senior master and hence submitted the petition.

William Waters

Three possible candidates have been found for William Waters, using the same criteria as for Joseph Waters.   None of the identified William Waters have the same father as Joseph Waters, so it is unlikely that they were brothers.  Nor has it been possible to establish whether William and Joseph might be more distant relatives, such as cousins.  The three possible William Waters are:

  • William Waters, son of Edmund Waters, baptised 30 June 1616[8]
  • William Waters, son of Robert Waters, baptised 17 March 1621[9]
  • William Waters, son of Francys Waters, baptised 16 December 1621[10]

Joseph Ames

Joseph Ames (1619-1695) was an English naval commander of some repute.  His life is chronicled in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB).

According to the ODNB, he was born in Great Yarmouth on 5 March 1619, and brought up as a sailor from his youth, and by the age of 22 he was ‘one of the commanders of a small Channel fleet watching the Dutch coast’. In January 1653 he returned to Plymouth from Barbados, with a large consignment of sugar, and in July of the same year he was present at the engagement with the Dutch off the Texel in which Maarten Tromp was killed.  On that occasion, a gold medal was awarded to him by parliament.  In succeeding years Ames was in command of several ships of war, and made repeated voyages to America and the West Indies. Notably, on 8 October 1655 he brought   a young deer from the president of the Providence Plantation in New England as a present to Cromwell.  He withdrew from active service in about 1673, and retired to Yarmouth, where he died in December 1695.[11]

His grandson, also Joseph Ames (1689–1759), a bibliographer and antiquary, also appears in the ODNB, and his entry provides further insights into his grandfather’s life.  According to the ODNB the elder Joseph Ames’ sixth son was called John, who was the father of the younger Joseph Ames.[12]  The records from Ancestry suggest, however, that John was the sixth child  of the elder Joseph Ames. Ancestry.co.uk shows Joseph married Margaret on 5 May 1641.[13] (Margaret was born 4 July 1617, and died 19 July 1657).  Joseph and Margaret (or Margret) Ames (or Amis or Amiss) appear to have had ten children:  Hannah (1643);[14] Joseph (1644, died 1646);[15] Benjamin (1646/47);[16] Joseph (1647);[17] Abigail (1648/49);[18] John (1651, died Wapping, 1700);[19] Nathaniel (1652);[20] Samuel (1653);[21] Mary (1654)[22] and Hester (1655/56).[23]   Following the death of Margaret in 1657, Joseph married for a second time in 1661 to a Ruth Hardingham.

According to the ODNB Joseph was a member of the Presbyterian congregation of his native town.  Most of Joseph’s and Margaret’s children are recorded as being baptised at the Independent Church, Great Yarmouth.  This would be consistent with Joseph’s Presbyterian links.

Captain Joseph Ames’ naval career

The ODNB and numerous references in the State Papers, indicate Joseph Ames had a long and successful career as a naval captain. As noted above, he was already a commander in 1641 at the age of 22 years old, and continued on active service until 1673 when he would have been 54 years old.

The State Papers provide an extensive and fascinating insights into his day-to-day naval activities, such as: ensuring his crew have sufficient and edible victuals;[24] concerns over illness among the crew;[25] concerns over crew shortages, including recruitment using press gangs;[26] maintaining the material state of his ship[27] and protecting English fishing boats against interference from the French.[28]

These are just some of the records pertaining to Captain Joseph Ames, during the years 1655 and 1656.  Undoubtedly other records from the State Papers would add further detail to this rich picture.

Outcome of the petition

No information has been found on the outcome of the petition, though given Joseph Ames’ very active role as a naval Captain in subsequent months and years, the dispute must have had a timely and satisfactory resolution.


[1] ‘Volume 32: January 1653’, in Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Interregnum, 1652-3, ed. Mary Anne Everett Green (London, 1878), pp. 75-136. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/interregnum/1652-3/pp75-136.

[2] ‘Ames, Joseph (1619-1695)’, in Leslie Stephen (ed.), Dictionary of National Biography, Vol. 1 (1885), pp. 352–53, https://archive.org/details/dictionarynatio43stepgoog/page/n366/mode/2up?q=ames.

[3] ‘History of Barbados/Sugar cane and slavery’, Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Barbados#Sugar_cane_and_slavery.

[4] R G Marsden, ‘The Mayflower’, The English Historical Review, Volume XIX, Issue LXXVI, pp. 669-680 (1904), p. 669, https://academic.oup.com/ehr/issue/XIX/LXXVI.

[5] ‘List of frigate classes of the Royal Navy’, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_frigate_classes_of_the_Royal_Navy.

[6] ‘Ames, Joseph (1619-1695), DNB

[7] ‘Joseph Waters, 1623’, Ancestry, https://search.ancestry.co.uk/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=61045&h=3917550&tid=&pid=&usePUB=true&_phsrc=wbL2&_phstart=successSource.

[8] ‘William Waters, 1616’, Ancestry, https://search.ancestry.co.uk/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=9841&h=189290785&tid=&pid=&usePUB=true&_phsrc=wbL4&_phstart=successSource.

[9] ‘William Waters, 1621’, Ancestry, https://search.ancestry.co.uk/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=61045&h=2860457&tid=&pid=&usePUB=true&_phsrc=wbL6&_phstart=successSource.

[10] ‘William Waters, 1621’, Ancestry, https://search.ancestry.co.uk/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=61045&h=2860398&tid=&pid=&usePUB=true&_phsrc=wbL7&_phstart=successSource.

[11] ‘Ames, Joseph (1619-1695)’, DNB

[12] ‘Ames, Joseph (1689-1759), in Leslie Stephen (ed.), Dictionary of National Biography, Vol. 1 (1885), pp. 353-355, https://archive.org/details/dictionarynatio43stepgoog/page/n366/mode/2up?q=ames.

[13] ‘Joseph Amis and Margaret, 1640’, https://search.ancestry.co.uk/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=9852&h=34818669&tid=&pid=&usePUB=true&_phsrc=cDb14&_phstart=successSource.

[14] ‘Hannah Amis, 1643’, https://search.ancestry.co.uk/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=9841&h=160839044&tid=&pid=&usePUB=true&_phsrc=cDb16&_phstart=successSource.

[15] ‘Joseph Ames 1644’ https://search.ancestry.co.uk/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=61045&h=3478409&tid=&pid=&usePUB=true&_phsrc=cDb10&_phstart=successSource.

[16] ‘Benjamin Ames, 1646’, https://search.ancestry.co.uk/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=9841&h=66746403&tid=&pid=&usePUB=true&_phsrc=cDb20&_phstart=successSource.

[17] ‘Joseph Ames 1647’, https://search.ancestry.co.uk/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=9841&h=66744557&tid=&pid=&usePUB=true&_phsrc=cDb22&_phstart=successSource.

[18] ‘Abigail Ames, 1648’, https://search.ancestry.co.uk/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=9841&h=37996930&tid=&pid=&usePUB=true&_phsrc=cDb24&_phstart=successSource.

[19] ‘John Ames, 1651’, https://search.ancestry.co.uk/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=9841&h=134652228&tid=&pid=&usePUB=true&_phsrc=cDb29&_phstart=successSource.

[20] ‘Nathaniel Amiss, 1651’, https://search.ancestry.co.uk/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=9841&h=26093592&tid=&pid=&usePUB=true&_phsrc=cDb32&_phstart=successSource.

[21] ‘Sam Amis, 1653’, https://search.ancestry.co.uk/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=9841&h=124001247&tid=&pid=&usePUB=true&_phsrc=cDb34&_phstart=successSource.

[22] ‘Mary Amis, 1654’, https://search.ancestry.co.uk/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=9841&h=119582432&tid=&pid=&usePUB=true&_phsrc=cDb37&_phstart=successSource.

[23] ‘Hester Amiss, 1654’, https://search.ancestry.co.uk/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=9841&h=81048906&tid=&pid=&usePUB=true&_phsrc=cDb40&_phstart=successSource.

[24] ‘Letters and Papers relating to the Navy, &c.: November 1654’, in Mary Anne Everett Green (ed.), Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Interregnum, 1654 (1880), pp. 566-579. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/interregnum/1654/pp566-579.

[25] ‘Letters and Papers relating to the Navy, &c.: December 1654’, in Mary Anne Everett Green (ed.), Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Interregnum, 1654 (1880), pp. 579-590. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/interregnum/1654/pp579-590.

[26] ‘Letters and Papers relating to the Navy: February 1656’, in Mary Anne Everett Green (ed.), Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Interregnum, 1655-6 (1882), pp. 455-495. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/interregnum/1655-6/pp455-495.

[27] ‘Letters and Papers relating to the Navy, &c.: February 1655’, in Mary Anne Everett Green (ed.), Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Interregnum, 1655 (1881), pp. 423-437. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/interregnum/1655/pp423-437.

[28] ‘Letters and Papers relating to the Navy, &c.: October 1655’, in Mary Anne Everett Green (ed.), Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Interregnum, 1655 (1881), pp. 544-574. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/interregnum/1655/pp544-574.