1660, John Cramp and other shipowners ask for help about a ship lost to the Spanish in 1642

Transcription from ‘Petitions in the State Papers: 1660s’, in Petitions in the State Papers, 1600-1699, ed. Brodie Waddell, British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/petitions/state-papers/1660s

Captain John Cramp, James Sadler and others, the late owners of the ship Consent of London. SP 18/219 f. 103 (1660)

To the right honourable the counsell of state

The humble peticion of Captain John Cramp James Sadler and others the late owners of the ship Consent of London

Sheweth that your petitioners having formerly represented to the late Protector and his councell the great losses they had susteyned by the subjects of the King of Spaine by the surprizall of the said ship and her ladeing in the yeare 1642 in her lawfull [way?] of tradeing amounting to the value of about 15200 pounds as had been made out by severall depositions taken in the High Court of Admiraltye to the petitioneres further great charge, a warrant to the judges of the Admiraltye was issued, for graunting a commission of reprizall for reparacion of the petitioneres said great losses in the yeare 1655. But by reason of the petitioner Cramp his being at sea in the states service in whose name the said commission should have been sued forth the same was never put in execucion, the trueth of the premisses appering by the annexed a coppy of the said warrant attested by the register of the said Court of Admiraltye

In consideracion wherof the petitioners humbly pray the lyke favour from this honourable councell for your warrant to the said judges to graunt them a commission for repayring their said great losses, or in case an accomodacion for peace bee prosecuted to effect betwixt this commonwealth and the crowne of Spaine, that the petitioneres interest may bee secured in such a way as to your great wisdomes (to which they shall humbly submit themselves) shalbe thought expedient.

And they shall pray etc

Report by Sally O’Donnell

In their petition, John Cramp, James Sadler and other owners of the Consent recounted how in 1642 they had lost cargo worth £15,200 when the ship was waylaid by ‘subjects of the King of Spain’. In 1655 letters of reprisal to secure reparation for their great losses were granted but never executed because Cramp was away at sea. They asked that the letters be executed now or that their interests be secured as part of any accommodation that might be reached between the Commonwealth and Spain. According to a Calendar of State Papers entry, this petition was likely received by the Council of State in February 1660, just a few months before Charles II returned to England in May.


There is a mention in Letters and Papers relating to the Navy, for 26 March 1653, of a contract between William Swyer and the Navy Commissioners ‘for hire of the Consent of London, 280 tons, for six months at 110/-’.[1]  In April 1653 Jonathan Taylor of Shadwell recommends the Admiralty Commissioners to appoint Roger Read as lieutenant of the Consent of London.[2]

However, in the absence of other evidence, these entries may not refer to the Consent of London mentioned in the petition as it would seem that this ship was captured by the Spanish in 1642.

There is a reference to this incident and the letters of reprisal referred to in the petition, in the State Papers for 13 November 1655:

‘Like order for letters of reprisal to Capt. John Cramp, Jas. Sadler, and other owners of the Consent of London, value 2,200l., her lading value 8,000l., and the estimated profit of her voyage 5,000l.; but in 1642, when near Alicante, she was seized by the Spanish armada going for Cartagena, her company severely imprisoned, and the ship and goods condemned at Alicante, in spite of the protests of the English consul there.’[3]

A letter of reprisal (sometimes a letter of marque and reprisal) was issued by Government and authorised a private person (a privateer or corsair) to attack the vessels of a nation with whom the country was at war.  The privateer could apply to have any prize so obtained transferred to their ownership. [4]

John Cramp (or Crampe) 

John Cramp was a British naval sailor serving from 1645 to 1652.  He was Captain and Commanding Officer of the George Bonaventure from 1645-1646 and then again in 1652 when the ship was in the Battle of Plymouth.  George Swanley took over from him as Captain in 1646. The George Bonaventure had 20 guns and 243 men.[5]  In Letters and Papers relating to the Navy for 1 March 1651 there is a contract for the hire of the George Bonadventure as ‘a private man-of-war, 239 tons, 20 guns, for six months, at 235l. a month’, with John Cramp as Captain.[6] [5].

The George Bonaventure, 243 tuns, commanded by John Cramp, also appears, on 31 March 1645, in A List of such of the Navy Royal, as also of the Merchants Ships as are set forth to Sea for this Summers Expedition 1645, in the Service of the King and Parliament’.[7]

However, the State Papers for March 1650 record that a licence ‘was granted to Capt. John Leveret, to export to Boston, in New England, in the George Bonadventure, John Cramp, master, 120 barrels of powder, 10 tons of shot and lead, and 100 muskets and fowling pieces, upon giving the security required above’.[8] This is at odds with other evidence above that that at this time Cramp was not the Captain.


The Battle of Plymouth

The Battle of Plymouth was the 2nd fleet engagement of the First Anglo-Dutch war between the Commonwealth and Netherlands:

‘On 13 August 1652, the Dutch admiral Michiel de Ruyter set sail from Calais with 32 (or 36) men-of-war to escort a merchant fleet of 60 ships through the Channel to the Mediterranean. General-at-Sea George Ayscue was patrolling, with forty men-of-war and armed merchantmen and five fireships, in search of prizes. He sighted the Dutch convoy off Plymouth on 15 August. de Ruyter altered course to fend off Ayscue’s attack.

‘Although the English ships were in the majority, and were better armed, many of them failed to keep their station in the line of attack, and Ayscue lost the advantage, the battle continued all afternoon. As evening fell Ayscue broke off the engagement and sailed back to Plymouth. He was pursued by de Ruyter, who intended to attack the English ships in their anchorage until a change of wind forced him to withdraw. No ships were lost, but both sides suffered heavy casualties among their crews. The Dutch merchant convoy succeeded in escaping through the Channel.’[9]

In August 1654 John Paige advised William Clerke that financially it was better to freight rather than buy a ship and that he has ‘freighted part of the Matthew’ which it appears was owned by John Crampe:

‘I perceive by yours you desire to have me buy a ship of about 160 ts and to put in her 14 guns, sheeted and completely victualled for 12 months. Though there have been many prizes taken of late, that trade [of buying prize ships] is now over, and at this present most ships are taken up for vintage and other voyages. So, it’s the worst time of year to buy that can be. Besides, a ship of those dimensions as you writ of, etc., will cost at least £1,400 set to sea. I doubt I shall not be able to get one to my mind till the vintage ships return. I have been all the Thames over and set friends to give me notice, but cannot find any. I would wish you to consider that in my opinion it’s better to freight [rather than buy] a ship and ditto money [equal to the purchase price] employed in goods will turn you far better to account. I have freighted part of [the Matthew] John Crampe for Malaga, who is now at Gravesend, I suppose may be home 1 Dec. He tells me will build a new frigate at his return and dispose of the Matthew which is a pretty-conditioned vessel but now begins to be old, yet will not be set to sea under £1,000 sheeted and victualled as you desire. And a hired ship per month will be as much at your command. as one of your own, being well tied in charter-party. Besides, to have the whole ship and her cargo, it will be a great interest in one bottom. But you best know your own business.’[10]

There is a will for a John Crampe of Shenfield, Essex dated 22 April 1658.[11] If this did belong to Captain Cramp then there are several entries in genealogy sites for John Crampe of Shenfield.



[1] ‘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.

[2] ‘Letters and Papers relating to the Navy, &c.: April 1653’, in Mary Anne Everett Green (ed.), Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Interregnum, 1652-3 (1878), pp. 557-576. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/interregnum/1652-3/pp557-576.

[3] ‘Volume 101: November 1655’, in Mary Anne Everett Green (ed.), Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Interregnum, 1655-6 (1882), pp. 1-45. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/interregnum/1655-6/pp1-45.

[4] ‘Letter of marque’, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Letter_of_marque.

[5] ‘British hired ship George Bonaventure (1642)’ Three Decks – Warships in the Age of Sail, https://threedecks.org/index.php?display_type=show_ship&id=11386.

[6] ‘Letters and Papers relating to the Navy.’, in Mary Anne Everett Green (ed.), Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Interregnum, 1651-2 (1877), pp. 517-541. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/interregnum/1651-2/pp517-541.

[7] John Rushworth, ‘Historical Collections: Parliamentary and civil occurrences, 1645’, in Historical Collections of Private Passages of State: Volume 6, 1645-47 (London, 1722), pp. 141-228. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/rushworth-papers/vol6/pp141-228.

[8] ‘America and West Indies: March 1650’, in W Noel Sainsbury (ed.), Calendar of State Papers Colonial, America and West Indies: Volume 1, 1574-1660 (1860), pp. 334-337. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/colonial/america-west-indies/vol1/pp334-337.

[9] ‘Battle of Plymouth, 16th  August 1652’, Three Decks – Warships in the Age of Sail, https://threedecks.org/index.php?display_type=show_battle&id=5.

[10] ‘Letters: 1654’, in G F Steckley (ed.), The Letters of John Paige, London Merchant, 1648-58 (1984), pp. 99-119. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/london-record-soc/vol21/pp99-119.

[11] ‘Will of John Crampe of Shenfield, Essex’, The National Archives, http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/results/r?_q=PROB+11%2F276%2F110&_sd=&_ed=&_hb=.


This report is part of a series on ‘Petitioners in the reign of Charles II , 1660-1685’, created through a U3A Shared Learning Project on ‘Investigating the Lives of Seventeenth-Century Petitioners’.