1667, John Godsuffe, a surgeon from Kinsale, petitions the Navy for his wages for treating wounded seamen

Transcription from ‘Petitions in the State Papers: 1660s’, in Petitions in the State Papers, 1600-1699, ed. Brodie Waddell, British History Online, John Godsuffe. SP 29/188 f. 49 (1667).

To the right honourable the principall officers and commissioners of his majesties Navy

The humble peticion of John Godsuffe

Humbly sheweth that the peticioner on the one and twentieth day of Aprill 1665 was imployed by Master William Crispin deputy victualler at Kinsale to take care of his majesties sick and wounded seamen at the said port, from which time untill the twenty sixt day of May 1666 the peticioner acted as chief chirurgeon upon the incouragement given said Master Crispin in that affaire, by your honours signifying that the peticioner for his care and paines should be al==lowed tenne shillings per diem, of which allowance your peticioner hath not received one peny which proves a great detriment to the peticioner forasmuch as whilst he was so imployed he was taken off all other wayes of gaining alivelyhood

The premisses tenderly considered may it please your honours to take some speedy care for payment of your peticioner for as much as the peticioners urgent necessity causes him to beseech satisfacion for the said time being 400 dayes and in so doing your honours will oblidge the peticioner ever to pray

John Godsuffe

[Paratext:] These are to certifie that Master John Goodsuffe did act as chiefe chirurgeon at Kinsale and took charge of the cure of all his majesties sick and wounded seamen at Kinsale aforesaid by my appointment for 400 daies according as is sett forth in the above peticion. As witness my hand this fift day of January 1666

William Crispin

Report by Pauline Brown

John Godsuffe, a surgeon living in Kinsale was asked by Master William Crispin to treat some sick and wounded seamen. He claimed that he was promised to be paid 10 shillings per day for his work and spent 400 days doing so. He had not been paid and in this petition he asked the commissioners of the Navy for the amount due. The case was confirmed by William Crispin.[1]

John Godsuffe

John Godsuffe was a surgeon in Kinsale so was presumably living in the town at the time. However, in the Census of Ireland of 1659, a John Godsuffe is listed as a gentleman of the parish of Cullen, about 55 miles to the north-west of Kinsale.[2]  It is of course possible that this is not the surgeon of the petition – he may indeed be his father or another relative. Apart from this reference, few biographical details are known of John Godsuffe other than that he married a widow named Susanna Becher whose husband Lieutenant Colonel Phane Becher had died in 1649.[3]

It was not until 5 January 1667 that John Godsuffe presented his petition, some months after the incident in question which occurred from 21 April 1665 until 26 May 1666. On the same day as the above petition, certificates were recorded in letters to the Navy by ‘John Godsuffe and William Penn, clerk of the cheque, of the number of sick and wounded landed in Kinsale from the Dartmouth and Little Gift, and provided for. Names of those since dead, and of others returned cured, verified by Wm. Broadbeare, surgeon of the said town. Kinsale, 1 July 1665’.[4]  This seems to have been sent as corroborating evidence as to the fact that John Godsuffe had previously worked for the Navy in Kinsale since 1665.

A document dated 25 October 1665 shows that a payment was made to Godsuffe for his work, though in this case, £1 per day appears to have been the sum. It is not clear whether this was the only payment: To the chirurgeon, Mr John “Godsuffe” for attending the Dutch and English wounded for 61 days – 61   0   0’.[5]

John Godsuffe died in 1670 in Cullen.[6]

William Crispin

The deputy victualler of Kinsale, William Crispin, who signed John Godsuffe’s petition, became one of the five commissioners appointed by William Penn to settle the colony of Pennsylvania and it was on his way to the Americas that his ship foundered. He made it to shore but later died in Barbados before he could take up his post in America.

There are conflicting reports of Crispin’s early life before he attained this post. His date of birth is uncertain; some sources give it as c.1610 whilst others tell us that he was born in Kingston-upon Hull in 1627. He originally had a career as a merchant, commanding his own ship and trading internationally. He later became a naval captain sailing under Admiral Penn’s command and then served under him ‘during attacks on the Dutch (1643-44) when he commanded the Assistance (180 men, 40 guns) and then, commanding the “Laurel” (160 seamen, 30 soldiers and 40 guns), on the Spanish in the Caribbean as part of Cromwell’s Western Design’.[7] The 1643/4 date clearly rules out the possibility that he was born in 1627.

On 28 September 1652, William Crispin married Rebecca Bradshaw, the daughter of Ralph Bradshaw and Rachel Penn, the sister of Admiral Sir William Penn.[8] Sadly she had died by 1665 and he married Jane Chudleigh, the daughter of a Captain John Chudleigh, a shipbuilder, of Kinsale.[9] The family connection to William Penn appears to have greatly advanced his career. Although he is reported to have become a soldier during the Commonwealth, he had actually been in favour of the restoration of Charles II. When this came about, he was living in Kinsale in Ireland, which led to his later connection with John Godsuffe.[10]


[1] Summarised in ‘Charles II – volume 188: January 1-18, 1667’, in Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Charles II, 1666-7, ed. Mary Anne Everett Green (London, 1864), pp. 434-460. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/chas2/1666-7/pp434-460.

[2] A Census of Ireland 1659: http://clanmaclochlainn.com/1659cen.htm#Cork.

[3]  Henry Becher and Mary Lyon:http://freepages.rootsweb.com/~becher/genealogy/Henry%20Becher%20and%20Mary%20Lyon.htm.

[4] ‘Charles II – volume 127: July 16-31, 1665’, in Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Charles II, 1664-5, ed. Mary Anne Everett Green (London, 1863), pp. 477-497. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/chas2/1664-5/pp477-497.

[5] Robert Pentland Mahaffy (ed.), Calendar of the state papers relating to Ireland preserved in the Public Record Office, 1625-[1670] (1900-1910), Volume 6, p. 669.

[6] Phillimore’s Indexes to Irish Wills – Volume II: Cork & Ross, Cloyne, p. 47. http://www.corkpastandpresent.ie/genealogy/indextoirishwills-corkrosscloyne/indexes/iiw_corkross_eagar-hynes_pp37-59.pdf

[7] ‘Captain William Crispin’: https://pennsylvaniahistory.wordpress.com/2012/09/16/captain-william-crispin-uncle-of-the-quaker-william-penn/.

[8]  Ancestry William Crispin: https://search.ancestry.co.uk/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=9852&h=15441762&tid=&pid=&usePUB=true&_phsrc=xiH11508&_phstart=successSource.

[9] Ancestry William Crispin: https://search.ancestry.co.uk/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=61710&h=2820&tid=&pid=&usePUB=true&_phsrc=xiH11511&_phstart=successSource.

[10] Captain William Crispin: https://www.jstor.org/stable/20085779?seq=10#metadata_info_tab_contents.

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’.