Halley’s ship, the Paramore Pink

Since my last post, Halley made the decision to sail to the West Indies in the hope of finding a flag officer who could permit him to change those officers who had been giving him trouble, including mate and lieutenant, Edward Harrison, and boatswain, John Dodson. But when he reached the West Indies he found he was unable to do this without returning to England and so decided to abandon his voyage and return to London to petition “their Lopps” (lordships) to allow him to sail on a new voyage with different officers. He set sail north towards “Bermudas”, and is now crossing the Atlantic on a north-east course towards England, which he should reach in about a month’s time.

But before Halley arrives back in English waters I thought we should take a closer look at his ship, Paramore, which has been his home since leaving London last October.

I’ve written before about why I’m using the spelling Paramore, but what type of ship was she? how large? and what did she look like?


Fisher Harding, Master Shipwright (© National Maritime Museum)

Paramore was a type of ship known as a pink, a square-rigged vessel with a narrow stern. She was built at Deptford dockyard by Fisher Harding, who had been Master Shipwright at Deptford since 1686. I don’t know why this type of ship was chosen, as pinks were apparently most suited to coastal and shallow waters and Halley’s original plan had been to sail round the world, but the most likely explanation is that pinks were capacious, providing proportionally large storage space, which would have been useful for a small ship that was expected to spend lengthy periods on the high seas.

The Admiralty ordered her construction on 12 July 1693 and she was completed by April 1694. Two entries in the Deptford Letter Book give specific information about her size and appearance. One tells us that she measured:

Length by the Keell                             52 ft: 00 ins

Breadth from out to out Side            18 ft: 00 ins

Burthen                                              89 Tuns

while the other entry details the dimensions of her yards and 3 masts (see below). [1]


Extract from Deptford Letter Book (© National Archives (£), ADM 106/3291)

Paramore was an unrated vessel but she was listed with the 6th Rates in the monthly Disposition of Ships (a record of the whereabouts of the King’s ships at the 1st of each month).

Benjamin Middleton, the intended financier when the voyage was first proposed, was to be “consulted with about the conveniencies to be made in her for Men and Provisions” and there are several references to discussions with Middleton about the ship before he disappears from the project, though I haven’t come across anything specific in terms of, say, the number and layout of cabins.

When Paramore was being fitted out for Halley’s eventual departure in October 1698, she was mounted with “Six three Pounders of about four hundred Weight Each” and “Two Pattereroes” (small guns in swivels) and allowed a complement of 20 men.

In his log and letters from the early part of his voyage, Halley wrote that Paramore “proves an excellent Sea boat in bad Weather” but that she is “very Leewardly” and “goes to windward but indifferently”. The bad weather “opened some leaks which are considerable for a new shipp”, and Halley had to have these repaired and the sand ballast, which choked the pumps, changed for shingle before he could depart from the English coast.

Yet despite these problems, I’ve become rather fond of Paramore, and my favourite mental image is of the little ship sailing in company with Admiral Benbow’s squadron from Portsmouth to Madeira and being towed along by the Falmouth (“took a small Pink in Tow”).

I mentioned before that although Paramore was built specifically for Halley’s voyage, he was not her first captain – and that remarkable person will be the subject of my next post.


Drawing reconstructing HMS Paramore from sources (© Hakluyt Society (£), from Thrower, The Three Voyages of Edmond Halley)


[1] National Archives, Deptford Letter Book, ADM 106/3291 11 Apr 1694 and 13 Oct 1693. By comparison, Benbow’s flag ship, Gloucester, measured 120 ft 4 ins (keel), 37 ft 5 ins (beam), 896 tons burthen, was mounted with 60 guns and had a complement of 278 men. (Sam Willis, The Admiral Benbow (2010) and NA ADM 8/6).


5 thoughts on “Halley’s ship, the Paramore Pink

  1. In J.J.Colledge’s; ‘Ships of Royal Navy’; Vol 1, ‘Paramour’ is described as;- Pink. 89tons, 64x18ft; built Deptford 4.1694 & sold 22.8.1706.. ‘In the late seventeenth century the term ‘pink’ was sometimes used almost as a synonym for ‘flyboat’ – as when the Council of Trade in 1672 directed that encouragement should be given to the ‘Building of Pinks’, Flutes and other Great ships, for the more convenient carryage of Masts, Timber and other Bulky Commodities’ A ‘Pink’ was simply a pink-sterned ship, and a pink stern was one, very narrow at the top and broadening below, whose description tallies quite closely with the typical flyboat stern. There are large numbers described as ‘pinks’ in the ship’s passes from the 1680’s onwards’. (Ralph Davis, Rise of English Shipping 17th & 18th Centuries) These ships were very handy little sea boats and with a good trade wind could make very fast passages with small crews; their speed made them hard to intercept or capture and were favoured over other larger war ships for special service.

    • Thanks very much, Bob, this tallies with what Alexi Baker (Cambridge HPS post-doc) told me on twitter (@AlexiBaker). It was annoying I didn’t have time to get to the Caird Library to look at Colledge, so thanks for the info.

  2. Having just discovered and read this blog/project; it is fascinating to follow Halley’s adventures. I have an extensive library of English Naval History and the comment – Edmund Halley, Pirate? Of 4th April brings a smile.17/18th century seamen were often engaged in high sea thieving, legal or otherwise. In ‘Adventures by Sea of Edward Coxere’ (Oxford University Press. 1946) Coxere, (who became a devout Quaker), recounts: p14 -15 “Then I began to plunder. The first was on serges, of which I got some and sent home to England”. And Edward Barlow was not averse to some sharp ‘trading’! Seafaring was dangerous but could be financially rewarding for individuals as well as Governments whose motives were often unclear as England spread its naval power over the globe. But great men and sailors they remain. Best Wises. Bob.

    • Yes, I’ve come across numerous references to legitimate seamen making ‘a good voyage’ and the word ‘pirate’ often seems like a pejorative term for those ‘entrepreneurs’ who were not on your side. Without wishing to trivialise the unpleasantness of being captured by a pirate ship, it does sound quite comical that almost every lone ship seems to have been suspected of being a pirate and often – as in that post – you have two ships each suspecting the other!

      I’m glad you’re finding Halley’s voyage interesting, though it’s a pity he wasn’t more informative about the places he visited and the people he met – if only he could have foreseen that he would one day have a twitter account and blog! 😉 Kate

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