1676, Sir John Shorter and other merchants request compensation for the loss of their ships

Transcription from ‘Petitions in the State Papers: 1670s’, in Petitions in the State Papers, 1600-1699, ed. Brodie Waddell, British History Online, Sir John Shorter and others concerned in the four ships destroyed by the Dutch in the Elve near Hambourg. SP 29/378 f. 127 (1676).

To the Kings most excellent majestie

The humle petion of Sir John Shorter knight and others owners and [concer…?] in the four shipps taken and destroyed by the Dutch in the Elve neer Hambourg

Most humbly sheweth that by your majesties grace and favour interposeing in your petitioners behalfe with the senate and republick of Hambourg for releife towards the great losses by your majesties petitioners susteined therin a complyance hath bin made by the Hamburgers to the just payment of £35000 into the hands of Sir Thomas Player to be distributed by warrant from Sir Phillip Lloyd, Sir William Holcroft knights Thomas [Tyte?], Thomas Farrington [illegible] Deering, Richard Thomson, and John Banckes esquires (commissioners imployed by your majesties authority for distributeing the same according to a report made therin by Sir Lyonell Jenkins judge of your majesties High Court of Admiralty (and confirmed by your majestie in councell) the coppy wher=of is ready to be produced, in which there is allowed towards the freight of your petitioners said four ships the summe of £1340 9 49 to be divided to each owner and partners a due proportion

And in as much as many differences might have arisen in the quantum due to each ship considering the length of time the ships lay on that voyadge, and diversity of goods aboard each of them. Your petitioners being the only parties concerned in them, resolved equally to devide the same to each ship and owner a fourth part. And in pursuance thereunto, your peticioners have demanded their severall parts and proportions which is refused them

And in as much as your petitioners are well assured it is your royall pleasure that soe much as was paid by the Hamburgers for your petitioners being £1340 9 4 pence they shall receive towards their loss (which was more then four times that many) and in that your petitioners are noe way releiveable but by your majesties royall comands, some of the said commissioners refuzeing to give their warrants for payment thereof, contrary to the authority and directions given them by your majesties command and information

Your petitioners therefore doe most humbly pray that it may please your most sacred majestie to give your express commands that they forthwith deliver to your petitioners sufficient warrant to the chamberlaine of London to pay the said summe of £1340 9 4 pence or to shew cause why they should refuse soe to doe

And as in duty bound they shall ever pray etc

Report by Nicola Baker and David Moffatt

This petition was presented by Sir John Shorter and the other owners of four ships which were destroyed by the Dutch fleet when they sought safe harbour at the City of Hamburg. This brought into question the neutrality of the City. Compensation of £35,000 was paid by the city of which £1,340 was due to the owners but was not paid.

The Incident

The incident referred to in this petition occurred in 1666, during the Second Anglo-Dutch War, when two Dutch men-of-war and other associated vessels captured seven ships, including four that belonged to English merchants at Neumühlen. Three of the ships were burned and one was kept as a prize, increasing suspicions in England that the city of Hamburg was no longer a neutral party in the conflict. Though envoys from Hamburg insisted that they had protected other ships as far as their stated neutrality would allow, ‘the English remained distrustful’, and relations between the powers were tense. Nevertheless, reparations of £35,000 were paid in the mid-1670s.[1]

The Petition

There are numerous references to this petition in the State Papers.[2]

April 7.
Sir John Shorter and others concerned in the four ships destroyed by the Dutch in the Elbe to the King and Council. Petition to be allowed a copy of the answer of some of the commissioners appointed to distribute the compensation paid by Hamburg for ships burnt in the Elbe given in without due notice to the rest, whereby they are prevented from obtaining 1,340l. 9s. 4d. ordered them in lieu of their loss of freight for the said four ships amounting to 5,000l., and also for the appointment of a day of hearing. [S.P. Dom., Car. II. 380, No. 149.]
[April 7 ?] Answer of Sir William Holcroft and others addressed to the King, to the petition of Sir John Shorter; showing that the balance in the hands of the Commissioners is only 766l. 14s., and that it should be distributed amongst all the parties concerned, by way of interest, rather than to a few by way of freight, the Judge of the Court of Admiralty not having allowed the 1340l. 9s. 4d. to the petitioners, as alleged, but craving time to consider as to the proportioning of freight or whether any freight be due at all. [Ibid. No. 150.]


April 26
[Received and read].

Replication of Sir John Shorter and others, owners concerned in the 4 ships taken and destroyed by the Dutch in the Elbe, to the answer of Sir William Holcroft, Thomas Tyte, Thomas Farrington and Edward Deering. They believe Sir W. Holcroft, Sir Philip Lloyd and Mr. Thomson have acted only as commissioners and not as proprietors, and it is likewise confessed that Tyte, Dering, Farrington and Banckes were interested in the said loss and Banckes is a petitioner with Sir J. Shorter. But the repliants deny that the four respondents have signed all just warrants, and say that, instead of reserving the sums allotted to the just claimants, they have assumed a power to give large sums as particular gratuities, viz., 500l. to the said Tyte and 250l. to Samuel Missenden, and they deny that they say in their petition that the Judge of the Admiralty had allowed 1,340l. 9s. 4d., whereas they do apply that sum to the order and instructions of his Majesty in Council, ordering that as to the freight provision should be made for the satisfaction thereof in such moderate proportion as may all come within the said sum. As to the error pretended in the account, though the repliants have no reason to apprehend there was one, they take themselves not to be concerned therein, being only owners of the ships, and their sum of 1,340l. 9s. 4d. being particularly mentioned to be distributed for the freights with equality to each owner. As to their pretending no interest or satisfaction for loss of market is considered to them, the repliants would think it very happy for their loss to receive but one-third of their principal freight, whereas all other interessants have received their full satisfaction, which had the repliants received, they had received a great deal more than the sums allotted them. Whereas they pretend the ships never performed their voyage, and therefore would debar them of their freight, the repliants cannot imagine they should be so unreasonable as to let the repliants be losers of that little freight allowed, they having received all their demands in full.[3]
The repliants therefore again beg his Majesty to reinforce his instructions for their relief in the payment of the said 1,340l. 9s. 4d. so due to them for freight, and that a day may be appointed for them to be heard and relieved. [Ibid. No. 16.]
April 28. Order in Council that a copy of the replication of Sir John Shorter and others concerned in the four ships taken and destroyed by the Dutch in the Elbe to the answer of Sir William Holcroft, Thomas Tyte, Thomas Farrington and Edward Deering, read at the Board that day, be sent to the said Sir W. Holcroft and the rest, and that all parties attend the Board 3 May, when his Majesty has appointed to hear that business. [Draft. S.P. Dom., Car. II. 381, No. 26.]
May 8.
Order in Council. Referring to the Committee for Plantations, &c., the business of Sir John Shorter and Sir W. Holcroft. [S.P. Dom., Car. II. 381, No. 76.]
[Before May 31.] Sir John Shorter’s case. The Committee for Trade reported, 24 May, that 1,340l. 9s. 4d. not only appeared due for the freight of the 4 ships lost, but it was by his Majesty’s order to be paid, and that not only in this point but in others the instructions to the Commissioners have been broken by them, so that they have been ordered on 31 May to show cause why they have not satisfied the said freight, and by what authority they have varied from their instructions.
Account of the 35,000l. received from the Hamburgers by Sir T. Player: —
Paid out by him by virtue of several warrants from the Commissioners 31,658l. 10s. 9d., so that 3,341l. 9s. 3d. remains in cash, out of which the Commissioners pretend that warrants are signed for 2,419l. 4s. 6d. including 500l. to Mr. Sandford, treasurer to the Hamburg Company, said to be bequest moneys borrowed of the Company to carry on the suit, and the Commissioners say that but 922l. 4s. 9d. will remain, which can be for freight against the 1,340l. 9s. 4d. ordered to be paid.

The Petitioners

Several of the petitioners have been identified, providing further insights into this petition.

Sir John Shorter (1625-88)

Sir John Shorter was born in 1625, the second son of John Shorter of Staines in Middlesex.[4] He was a goldsmith in London, married Isabella Birkett in or around 1656, and they had two sons named John and Thomas. A Whig Alderman for Cripplegate Ward, Shorter was nominated Lord Mayor of London by James II in 1687/88.[5] He ‘owned the great dock in Southwark, and was variously described as an Anabaptist, a great Presbyterian, and a member of an Independent conventicle’.[6]

Shorter’s granddaughter, Catherine (1682-1737) married Robert Walpole on 30 July 1700. She was Lady Walpole, first wife of the British Prime Minister Robert Walpole and mother of Horace Walpole. There is a statue of Lady Walpole in Westminster Abbey.[7]

Thomas Tyte

Thomas Tyte was a London merchant who traded with his cousin George Tyte, who lived in Spain, as well as with the East India Company, where he was a committee member. Tyte married Elizabeth Lowther in September 1655. He resided in Coleman Street ward and had 12 hearths.[8] In 1670, Tyte was one of several Londoners to donate books to replenish the library of St Pauls School which had been destroyed in the Great Fire. 

Sir Thomas Player (d. 1686)

Sir Thomas Player’s father was a hosier in Hackney. He was a captain and later became colonel of the Yellow Regiment of the Trained Bands for Parliament.[9] His father became Chamberlain of London for life in 1651. He was also head of the Honourable Artillery Company and became leader in 1649. He married Joyce Kendall in 1641.

Father and son were both knighted by Charles II in 1660 for collected loans granted by the City to the King.[10] However, Sir Thomas Player Jr soon fell out of favour with the King because of his attempts to reduce the amounts paid by the City to the Crown. He was called before the Privy Council to explain his position and ask for forgiveness. In the mid-1670s, Player incurred heavy debts following the bankruptcy of two dissenting ministers, Thompson and Nelthorpe, and he himself went bankrupt. He became an enemy of the Duke of York who prevented him being re-elected to various positions. Yet, he did maintain several offices in the Exclusion Parliament and served with distinction. He continued to be in conflict with the Duke throughout his life. During James II’s reign he was accused of a deficiency of £3,246 from £13,895. His lands were forfeited until the deficiency was made up. His political career ended in 1682. He died in 1686 and was buried in Hackney.

Sir Philip Lloyd

Between 1672 and 1685, Sir Philip Lloyd was one of four clerks to the Privy Council.[11] He was also collector of rents and was sufficiently wealthy to be able to purchase art from Europe.[12] The King sent him to Haslemere in Surrey to purchase votes to affect the election of 7 June 1675. Hearrived with ‘great provisions of wine’ and offered £5 to each voter to influence their decision. However, he met with little success. He was asked why he took on a task which had little hope of success and he admitted it was to advance his position. The successful candidate More printed a summary of the charges against Lloyd for presentation to Parliament, but this seems to have been dropped.[13]

Sir William Holcroft (1661-1688)

There was a William Holcroft born in London in 1648 whose father had the same name. Holcroft was a Tax Commissioner for Essex and a Militia Officer. He owned a Mansion in Walthamstow with 17 hearths.[14]

Thomas Farrington

Thomas Farrington of St Andrew Undershaft, London and Chislehurst, was married to Mary Smith, daughter of John Smith of St Mary Aldermanbury, London and South Tidworth, Hampshire. He was a merchant and adventurer.[15]

He had a son of the same name and was knighted and made Lieutenant General in the army and a member of the House of Commons. In 1650, a Thomas Farrington was Mayor of Chichester.[16]

Sir Lionel (Leoline) Jenkins (1625-1685)

Sir Lionel Jenkins was born in South Wales, the son of a small landowner of the same name. He was schooled locally and then went to Jesus College, Oxford. On his return to Wales he set up a local school, but Parliament closed it in 1651 due to his Royalist connections during the Civil War. He moved some of the students to Oxford to continued his school. This in turn was closed and he fled to the Continent until the Restoration.

He was a clerical lawyer and due to his close friendship with Archbishop Gilbert Sheldon he was created a Judge firstly at Westminster, then at Court of Arches and finally at the High Court of Admiralty from 1668 to 1685 where he played a major and influential role in developing the law. He had a reputation for integrity and was appointed Secretary of State from 1680 to 1684. He was continually active internationally negotiating International Treaties. He was awarded a knighthood when he successfully won the argument that Charles II should inherit the estate of the Queen Mother Henrietta Maria of Colombes. In 1684, he retired to live quietly in Hammersmith due to failing health and died the following year.[17]


[1] K. Zickermann, Across the German Sea: Early Modern Scottish Connections with the Wider Elbe-Weser Region (Leiden, 2013), p. 48. Many thanks to Colin Greenstreet, creator of Marine Lives for his help locating this source.

[2] ‘Charles II: April 1676’, in Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Charles II, 1676-7, ed. F H Blackburne Daniell (London, 1909), pp. 55-95. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/chas2/1676-7/pp55-95.

[3] ‘Charles II: April 1676’, in Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Charles II, 1676-7, ed. F H Blackburne Daniell (London, 1909), pp. 55-95. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/chas2/1676-7/pp55-95; ‘Charles II: May 1676’, in Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Charles II, 1676-7, ed. F H Blackburne Daniell (London, 1909), pp. 95-139. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/chas2/1676-7/pp95-139.

[4] Edward Hasted. “Parishes: Kennington,” in The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 7, (Canterbury: W Bristow, 1798), 545-557. British History Online, http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-kent/vol7/pp545-557.

[5] ‘Sir John Shorter’: http://www.thepeerage.com/p15821.htm#i158202.

[6] Parishes of Kennington, Shorter Sir John of Southwark (1625-1688): https://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1660-1690/constituencies/southwark.

[7] ‘Catherine, Lady Walpole’: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catherine,_Lady_Walpole; Westminster Abbey Commemoration of Catherine, Lady Walpole: https://www.westminster-abbey.org/abbey-commemorations/commemorations/catherine-lady-walpole.

[8] ‘MRP: 10th March 1665/66, Letter from Thomas Tyte to Sir GO, London’: http://www.marinelives.org/wiki/MRP:_10th_March_1665/66,_Letter_from_Thomas_Tyte_to_Sir_GO,_London.

[9] ‘Thomas Player’: https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Dictionary_of_National_Biography,_1885-1900/Player,_Thomas.

[10] PLAYER, Sir Thomas(d1686) of Hackney, Mdx, and Basinghall Street, London: http://www.histparl.ac.uk/volume/1660-1690/member/player-sir-thomas-1686.

[11] ‘Clerk of the Privy Council’: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clerk_of_the_Privy_Council_(United_Kingdom).

[12] H. Jacobsen, Luxury and Power: The Material World of the Stuart Diplomat, 1660-1714 (Oxford, 2012), p. 87. https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Ifi1OgAOShMC&pg=PA87&lpg=PA87&dq=%22sir+philip+lloyd%22+1660&source=bl&ots=61rek56puj&sig=ACfU3U3sfh0ugKvwtQRXuDT5gAwEmMH7Ew&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwi_1KujorLmAhUBTBUIHVl1AzIQ6AEwEXoECAoQAQ#v=onepage&q=%22sir%20philip%20lloyd%22%201660&f=false.

[13] Haslemere Borough: http://www.histparl.ac.uk/volume/1660-1690/constituencies/haslemere.

[14] Hearth Tax: https://www.roehampton.ac.uk/globalassets/documents/hearth-tax/essex-and-the-hearth-tax-in-the-late-seventeenth-century-by-henry-french.pdf

[15] Bromley Historic Collections 247/2, Assignment of lease for 99 yrs for £220 of messuage and land at Redhill, formerly occ. Thomas Hoggsflesh schedule of deeds 1650 – 60, 3 Feb 1675/6: https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/d7735c95-ed7c-411d-9a4d-3d4bf0728166.

[16] List of Mayors of Chichester: https://chichestercity.gov.uk/abd/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/List-of-Mayors-updated-May-2019.pdf

[17] ‘Leoline Jenkins’: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leoline_Jenkins

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’.