1653, three Yarmouth ships’ masters request 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, ‘William Starke, Richard Lewis and Matthew Arnold. SP 18/32 f. 89 (1653)’:

To the right honourable the Councell of State

The humble petition of William Starke, Richard Lewis, and Mathew Arnold maisters of severall shipps of Yarmouth [illegible]

Humbly sheweth that your petitioners being imployed from Yarmouth to London, with coales for the use of the citty of London lie here at very great charges

Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honors wilbe pleased to grant your warrantes for your peti tioners to retourne home againe with theire vessels and men without lett or molestation videlicet.

William Starke master of the Frendshipp burthen about 100 tunn with 7 men and one boy

Richard Lewis master of the Supply burthen about 80 tunns with 6 men and 1 boy

Mathew Arnold master of the Society burthen about 140 tunns with 8 men and 2 boyes

And your petitioners shall pray.

[paratext:] 6 January 1652 Recomended Commissioners Admiralty to consider whether these men may goe.

Report by Terry Newman

The petition is from the masters of three ships from Yarmouth that have been detained in London after bringing coal to London. It was one of three similar petitions received on 19 January 1653, including one from Joseph Ames, all referred to the Admiralty Committee for consideration.[1]

The background

During the 17th century, sources of wood were becoming scarcer and London was increasingly dependent on coal. Large numbers of ships were employed to bring coal to London. As Raymond Turner noted in his 1921 paper on the coal industry in the 17th and 18th centuries noted: ‘Somewhat earlier [than 1643] the author of a pamphlet declares that 200 ships carry coal from Newcastle to London, while as many more serve the other seacoast towns, great and small’.[2]

The petitioners’ grievance occurred during the First Anglo-Dutch War (1652–1654), which was a conflict fought entirely at sea between the navies of the Commonwealth of England and the United Provinces of the Netherlands.[3]

Coal was now a strategically important resource, as was recognised by the Navy providing escort protection to convoys of coal ships, as seen in a letter of 16 March 1653 reporting ‘200 coal ships at Newcastle, who will be in danger if they sail without convoy’.[4] The need to protect coal ships continued later into the 17th century. The need to protect coal ships continued later into the 17th century. There is a record in 1672 of ‘upwards of 200 laden colliers, convoyed by four frigates’.[5] As coal was so important to London, and the Admiralty was tasked to protect the coal supply ships, it would seem appropriate for the petition to be directed to the Admiralty Commissioners for resolution.

The ships

There are three ships mentioned in the petition: Frendshipp (doubtless a misspelling of Friendship), Supply and Society. There is no further reference to these three ships as a group in the State Papers, though there is a mention of a Supply of Hull about three months before the petition is made.[6]

It would seem ship names are commonly re-used for ships from different ports, so this may be a different Supply, however it is quite a coincidence if a ship called Supply is bringing  freight to Yarmouth in November 1652 and a different Supply is detained in London in January 1653, after bringing  freight from Yarmouth.

The petitioners

The petitioners are only identified by name and that they are masters of ships from Yarmouth. It is possible (even likely) that they originate from Yarmouth or that part of England. In addition, as they are ship masters 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, there are a number of possible candidates for each of the three petitioners, though without further details it is not possible to be specific. It is also possible that, as the coal trade operated all along the east coast of England from Newcastle to London, any one of the three petitioners could have originated further afield.

Some possible candidates for each petitioner are summarised below:

William Starke

  • Baptism 4 June 1603, Colton, Norfolk (34 miles from Great Yarmouth)[7] 
  • Baptism 12 October 1610, Saint Mary, Woodbridge, Suffolk (46 miles from Great Yarmouth)[8]
  • Baptism 5 August 1624, Saint Mary, Woodbridge, Suffolk[9]
  • Baptism 5 June 1625, Saint Mary, Woodbridge, Suffolk[10]

The Suffolk Archives hold a will in 1603 by William Starke, a Husbandman of Pettistree, which is five miles from Woodbridge.[11]  This cannot be the petitioner, but could be the father or grandfather of the petitioner, if he is a William Starke of Woodbridge.  Maybe William Starke the petitioner was a first-generation mariner, instead of following the family tradition in farming?

There is also a reference to a William Starke, as owner of the William of Yarmouth, in 1651. If this is the petitioner William Starke, it suggests he may have been the owner of more than one ship.[12]

Richard Lewis (or Lewes)

  • Baptism 5 February 1610, Stoke By Nayland, Suffolk (70 miles from Great Yarmouth)[13]
  • Baptism 15 October 1626, Haddenham, Cambridge (80 miles from Great Yarmouth)[14]

(There are several more records of a Richard Lewis in the early 1600s, in Essex and further afield.)

Mathew (or Matthew) Arnold

  • Baptism 10 August 1600, Norwich, Norfolk (37 miles from Great Yarmouth)[15]
  • Baptism 14 June 1607, Lowestoft, Suffolk (10 miles from Great Yarmouth)[16]

Outcome of the petition

No information has been found on the outcome of the petition, beyond its referral to the Admiralty Committee.


[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] Raymond Turner, ‘English Coal Industry in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries’, The American Historical Review, Vol. 27, No. 1, pp. 1-23 (Oct., 1921), p. 3, https://www.jstor.org/stable/1836917?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents.

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

[4] ‘Letters and Papers relating to the Navy, &c.: March 1653’, in Mary Anne Everett Green (ed.), Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Interregnum, 1652-3 (1878), pp. 538-557. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/interregnum/1652-3/pp538-557.

[5] ‘Charles II: October 1672’, in F H Blackburne Daniell (ed.), Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Charles II, 1672-3 (1901), pp. 1-110. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/chas2/1672-3/pp1-110.

[6] ‘Volume 25: November 1652’, in Mary Anne Everett Green (ed.), Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Interregnum, 1651-2 (1877), pp. 463-516. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/interregnum/1651-2/pp463-516.

[7] ‘William Starke, 1603’, Ancestry, https://search.ancestry.co.uk/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=61045&h=180441&tid=&pid=&usePUB=true&_phsrc=Pke3&_phstart=successSource.

[8] ‘William Starke, 1610’, Ancestry, https://search.ancestry.co.uk/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=9841&h=76580344&tid=&pid=&usePUB=true&_phsrc=Pke6&_phstart=successSource.

[9] ‘William Starke, 1624’, Ancestry, https://search.ancestry.co.uk/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=9841&h=76580907&tid=&pid=&usePUB=true&_phsrc=Pke8&_phstart=successSource.

[10] ‘William Starke, 1625’, Ancestry, https://search.ancestry.co.uk/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=9841&h=94563769&tid=&pid=&usePUB=true&_phsrc=Pke10&_phstart=successSource.

[11] ‘Original will of William Starke of Pettistree’, Suffolk Archives, https://www.suffolkarchives.co.uk/collections/getrecord/GB173_IC_AA1_39_19.

[12] ‘Warrants of the Council of State for the Payment of Money’, in Mary Anne Everett Green (ed.), Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Interregnum, 1651 (1877), pp. 536-588. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/interregnum/1651/pp536-588.

[13] ‘Richard Lewes, 1610’, Ancestry, https://search.ancestry.co.uk/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=9841&h=1685404&tid=&pid=&usePUB=true&_phsrc=Pke12&_phstart=successSource.

[14] ‘Richard Lewis, 1626’, Ancestry, https://search.ancestry.co.uk/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=9841&h=90570315&tid=&pid=&usePUB=true&_phsrc=Pke14&_phstart=successSource.

[15] ‘Matthew Arnold, 1600’, Ancestry, https://search.ancestry.co.uk/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=9841&h=152616960&tid=&pid=&usePUB=true&_phsrc=Pke16&_phstart=successSource.

[16] ‘Matthew Arnold, 1607’, Ancestry, https://search.ancestry.co.uk/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=9841&h=92730141&tid=&pid=&usePUB=true&_phsrc=Pke18&_phstart=successSource.