Halley’s maritime experience, part 1: Hally a Sayling

We looked at how Halley came to be given command of a Royal Navy ship during his first voyage and I said we’d examine the experience he had for that commission during his second, which we’ll do now in the first post of a two-part special.

In fact he had minimal maritime experience, though perhaps rather more than your average seventeenth-century natural philosopher, but the experience he did have was of 3 types: as a passenger, as a surveyor, and as a diver.

Halley was a passenger on three voyages as a young man, the first, as we have seen, when he abandoned his degree in 1676 to sail to St Helena to map the southern stars. The two-way voyage on an East Indiaman would have taken about 5 months, and as Halley seems to have had a life-long interest in maritime matters, it seems reasonable to assume he took the opportunity to observe how the ship was sailed, how the crew operated, and to pick up a smattering of nautical terminology.

One year after his return from St Helena, he was at sea again en route to visit the great astronomer, Johannes Hevelius, at Dantzick (Gdańsk) on the Baltic coast, and at the end of the following year, 1680, he crossed from Dover to Calais (and was apparently seasick) to begin his Grand Tour, returning to England from Holland in January 1682. [1] Again, it seems fair to expect that he paid at least some attention to the handling of the ships.

At the end of the decade, Halley progressed from maritime passenger to coastal surveyor, although his work as a surveyor is rather obscure, being largely inferred from his presentation of two charts to the Royal Society, the first of which appeared in the minutes for 3 July 1689:

Halley produced his Sea-draught of the Mouth of the River of Thames, wherein he saith, that He hath corrected severall very great, and considerable faults in all our Sea-Carts [sic] hitherto published. [2]

It isn’t known for sure when he undertook his survey of the Thames approaches but Robert Hooke recorded two entries in his diary – “Hally a Sayling” on 22 March 1689, and “Hally Returnd” on 3 April – which may relate to his surveying, although the previous summer Halley had made several references to towns near the Thames estuary which may indicate he had been surveying in the area at that time. [3]

His second survey, “of the West coast of Sussex between Selsey and Arundell”, was presented to the Society on 15 November 1693, [4] and this time we have rather more idea about the circumstances behind its production, as this chart was linked to his diving activities.

Halley first wrote about diving in a paper of 6 March 1689, perhaps prompted by his work on the Thames survey undertaken around that time. [5] Halley proposed a mobile diving bell built on four wheels, and while he didn’t build that particular bell, he did build another as part of his salvage work on the wreck of the Guynie frigate.

The Guynie was owned by the Royal African Company (RAC) and in early 1691 she returned from Africa to English waters, having collected “Bees Wax & Elephants Teeth” from Gambia and “Elephants Teeth & Redwood” from “Sereleon” (Sierra Leone). [6] On 23 February her commander, William Chantrell, wrote to the RAC from Falmouth requesting a convoy to accompany him back to London. The RAC instructed three of their most senior officers to “waite on the Lords of the Admiralty to gett a Man of Warr to Convoy the Guynie Friggott up from Falmouth”, which might seem a little excessive for beeswax and ivory, but the Guynie was carrying something much more valuable on board. [7]

Captain Chantrell had undertaken to deliver a large quantity of gold on behalf of the Portuguese in Africa, and it was on this account (presumably) that a convoy ship had been requested. [8] The Guynie sailed from Falmouth on 26 March, but on 4 April Captain Chantrell wrote from Chichester to advise the RAC that the ship had foundered. [9] It isn’t clear what happened to the ship, but there’s no mention of any lost men and the gold seems to have been saved as on 8 April the RAC ordered that “a Guard of Tenn Soldjers & an Officer be sent from hence to fetch the Gold (saved out of that Shipp) from Chichester”. [10]

The ivory, however, went down with the ship, and it’s in this regard that Halley now appears in the affair. The Deputy Governor of the RAC was Royal Society fellow, Abraham Hill, and it may have been he who brought Halley in to try to salvage the elephants’ tusks. Halley’s initial plan was certainly ambitious as on 13 May 1691 the Royal Society minutes record that “Halley shewed the Method he intended to use in raising the Ship”, but this plan was evidently modified as on 12 August, he was relating “the Success of his Experiments of going under water in his diving bell”.

Halley believed his diving bell had limitless possibilities, and on 15 September a government warrant was issued to prepare a bill granting Halley and three partners “sole use of their invention of a new engine never yet known”, and Letters Patent were issued on 15 October. On 17 November, the four patent-holders formed a joint-stock company with two other men, John Carter and Thomas Jett, who was a friend of Halley’s. [11]

Halley's signature on the agreement forming the joint-stock company (© National Archives, C 111/192)

Halley’s signature on the agreement forming the joint-stock company (© National Archives, C 111/192)

Thomas Jett, incidentally, is interesting because he is the “Jed” in Hooke’s Diary entry for 24 March 1693, “Hally & Jed Spys”, which offers a hint (there are one or two others) that Halley may have undertaken coastal surveys on behalf of the government. [12]

Halley and Jett appear periodically in the RAC minutes until about spring 1694, though their level of success in salvaging the tusks is unclear – and by that time Halley had become involved in the scheme with Benjamin Middleton to obtain a ship to sail around the world, which, when a scaled-down version finally got underway in late 1698, would see Halley drawing on all his modest maritime experience to serve as the Paramore‘s commander.

In part 2 of this post about Halley’s nautical experience, we’ll take a much closer look at his diving bell – and at my favourite thing about him!

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[1] Hooke to Halley, 1 March 1681, Royal Society, EL/H3/62; Hooke, Diary, 24 Jan 1682, London Metropolitan Archives.

[2] Royal Society, Journal Book Original, JBO/8 p 268.

[3] Hooke, Diary, 22 March 1689 and 3 April 1689, British Library, Sloane MS 4024; references to towns in RS, JBO/8.

[4] RS, JBO/9 p 141.

[5] For a fair copy of Halley’s paper, see RS, RBO/7/24.

[6] RAC Instructions to Captains, National Archives, T 70/61 ff87r-88v.

[7] RAC Minutes, NA, T 70/83.

[8] RAC Black Book, NA, T 70/1433 p 104.

[9] NA, T 70/83 f8r.

[10] Ibid.

[11] CSP, D, 1690-91; NA C111/192.

[12] BL, Sloane MS 4024. Many thanks to Hooke’s editor Dr Felicity Henderson for confirming this entry as it has hitherto appeared mistranscribed.

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?

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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]

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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.

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

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[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).

Mr Hally has gott a ship: the origins of Halley’s voyage

“Mr Hally has gott a ship from the government, in which he has sett sail to goe round the globe on new discoverys, and the rectifying of geography…”, so wrote James Gregory to the Reverend Colin Campbell in May 1699, when Halley was by then on his way back to England. [1] But how had Halley, a natural philosopher and Clerk to the Royal Society, “gott” his ship and why had he been made her Master and Commander?

Halley’s voyage began on 20 October 1698, but it was first discussed nearly six years earlier and then suffered a number of false starts before Halley finally weighed anchor. The earliest references date from 1693, and the proposed voyage was rather different from that which eventually took place.

At a meeting of the Royal Society on 12 April 1693 it was minuted that:

The President was pleased to propose to the Society a Paper lately offered him by Mr. Bengamin Middleton, requesting the Assistence of this Society to procure for him a small Vessell of about 60. Tuns to be fitted out by the Government, but to be victualled, and manned at his own proper charges. And this in order to compass the Globe to make observations in the Magneticall Needle &c. The President in the name of the Society promised to use his endeavours towards the obtaining such a Vessell. [2]

Benjamin Middleton was a Fellow of the Royal Society, elected in 1687, and appears periodically in the minutes, usually reporting on matters relating to Barbados, where he owned property. He was probably the son of Colonel Thomas Middleton, a Navy Commissioner and colleague of Pepys, and may have been the Benjamin Middleton who attended Emmanuel College, Cambridge and had been admitted to Gray’s Inn.

Although Halley isn’t mentioned in the minute, he seems to have been involved in the project from the outset as Robert Hooke noted “Hally [talking] of Going in Middletō[n’s] ship to Disc[over]” in his diary some three months before the Royal Society minute; while Middleton’s proposal to the Society, dated March 1693, stated:

… It is therefore most humbly prayed that this Honble: Company would please to Lend their Assistence … to Obtaine of their Matys: a vessell … for a voyage to be undertaken by Benjamin Middleton Esqr. and Edmond Halley … the designe being to compass the Globe from East to West through the great South Sea. And the said Benj: Middleton … does oblige himselfe to goe the Voyage and to Victuall and Man the said Vessell at his owne proper Costs and Charges … And the Care of Making the Necessary Observations is undertaken by the sd. Edmund Halley, whose Capacity for Such Purposes is Supposed to be Sufficiently knowne to this Honble: Company. [3]

So the plan was that Middleton would finance the voyage if the government would provide the ship, and Halley would perform the observations – and their original intention was nothing less than to sail round the world!

In July 1693, the Admiralty informed the Navy Board that Middleton’s petition had been presented to the Queen, who was “graciously pleased to incourage the said undertakeing”, and directed the Board to give instructions for a vessel to be built. [4]

The vessel – Paramore – was ready for launching in April 1694 but the records then fall silent and nothing seems to happen till 11 February 1696 when the Admiralty communicated their intention to have Paramore fitted out as an Advice Boat – the Halley-Middleton voyage was off.

But just one week later the Admiralty wrote again, countermanding the order to refit her as she will now “proceed on ye. Service for which shee was built.” [5]

There are several suggestions why nothing happened after her launch and why the project was almost abandoned in February 1696: it may have been because of Queen Mary’s death in December 1694, or because of events in the Nine Years’ War, or because of the personal circumstances of either Halley or Middleton: given what happened next, I’d guess that something had changed in the affairs of Benjamin Middleton.

At this point, Halley, a man who got things done, took over the project and all correspondence was either addressed to Halley or refers to him, unlike the first phase when all documentation referred almost exclusively to Middleton.

Middleton makes just one more appearance, in a letter of June 1696 in which Halley advised the Admiralty of the number and quality of men he intended taking as crew. Middleton is mentioned as still going on the voyage, but it is now Sir John Hoskins who is named as providing security for the crew’s wages, though I suppose this could have been a precaution against Middleton dying on the voyage.

Sir John gave the required bond of £600, and on 4 June 1696 Halley received his commission as ‘Master and Commander without Instructions’. What experience Halley had to justify receiving this command of a Royal Navy ship will be looked at during his second voyage.

Twelve months’ stores were ordered and warrants for three officers issued, but then in August 1696 the Admiralty ordered that Paramore be laid up in the wet dock at Deptford until further notice – the voyage was off again.

This time we know the reason for the postponement, it was because Halley had accepted Newton’s offer to become Deputy Comptroller at the regional Mint at Chester during the Great Recoinage, and Halley was there from about autumn 1696 until spring 1698.

Once back in London he revived his plans for the voyage, and during this phase its status seems to have changed from a private to a government-funded project. There doesn’t seem to be a request for security to cover the crew’s wages, Halley has £100 imprest to him by the Admiralty for expenses – and unlike his first commission, his second, dated 19 August 1698, included a set of instructions.

Yet there was another delay during this third phase of preparations, for although Paramore was purposely built for Halley’s voyage and finally set sail on 20 October 1698 under his command, Halley was not the first man to command her – but that interesting person is a subject for a future post …

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[1] The Correspondence of Isaac Newton, Vol IV, Letter 611

[2] Royal Society, Journal Book Original, JBO/9, p 118

[3] British Library, Sloane MS 4024; Royal Society, Collectanea Newtoniana, Vol IV

[4] National Maritime Museum, ADM/A/1797

[5] National Archives, ADM 2/176, p 459

What’s in a name 2: Paramour or Paramore?

We’re back on the spelling theme here at Halley’s Log, and today we’re considering the name of Halley’s ship: is it Paramour or Paramore?

As usual in the seventeenth century, there are a number of variant spellings. Besides Paramour and Paramore, I’ve seen Parramour, Parrimour, Paramor and Parramore – but the official name of the ship can be easily settled because the Admiralty’s order that names her is extant in the National Archives at Kew:

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Admiralty order to name the Pink (© National Archives (£) ADM 2/174 p 189)

You having acquainted Me that the New Pink Ordd. to be built at Deptfd for Colonel Middleton* may be Launched this Spring; We do hereby desire & direct you to cause her to be Launched accordingly and that she be Named the Paramour & Entd. on the List of the Royll. Navy by the same Name.

So it’s Paramour! Why, then, am I using the default spelling Paramore?

Well, the reason is that the logs of Halley’s three voyages each begin with a heading that states the basic details of the voyage – ship’s name, commander, year – and in all three the ship is named as “Paramore”.  The third log, which is in Halley’s hand, also has a title page on which Halley has written “Paramore Pinks Journal” – and so the ship is named four times in the logs and each time she is spelt Paramore.

Paramore is the spelling adopted by Professor Norman Thrower in his definitive version of the logs (1981), and also by Halley’s principal biographer, Alan Cook (1998), along with other recent writers on Halley, such as Lisa Jardine (1999) and John Gribbin (2005).

As my project is to tweet the logs of Halley’s voyages, I decided that I too should use the spelling that appears in the logs – hence my standard spelling is Paramore.

Halley generally seems to have favoured this spelling. In his letters to the Admiralty (ADM 1/1871), he writes the name of the ship nine times, five times he spells it Paramour and four times, Paramore – and while that’s not a majority, compared with usage in other Admiralty documents, where I’d guesstimate that Paramour is used about 90% of the time, Paramore about 8% and other spellings about 2%, Halley’s use of Paramore is notably high.

Even so, I do find myself asking if I’m right to use Paramore as my standard spelling. When I began, it seemed entirely sensible to use the spelling that appears in the logs, but as the number of Admiralty documents I’ve read has increased – where the ship’s name is overwhelmingly Paramour – I’ve become more uncertain about that decision and also more curious as to why French-speaking Halley favoured that spelling.

Did I make the right decision? What do you think?

* Colonel Middleton will be explained in a future post.

UPDATE: Since writing this post I’ve read another batch of Halley’s letters to the Admiralty and his usage in those was Paramore 8, Paramour 0 – so a clear majority for Paramore.