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Hearts of Oak

 

The Life, Times and Influences

of

CAPTAIN STEPHEN HUTCHENS

of PAUL, nr Penzance, Cornwall

 

 

THE WILL

Will & Correspondence

Amongst the manuscripts for the Stephen Hutchens' Almshouse Charity at Paul is Stephen Hutchens' will. The following is extracted and edited from that will, held in the Registry of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury. There are other names mentioned in Stephen Hutchens Will, including that of Charles Wager, and I will set out these on another page, along with other members of Stephen Hutchens family whom I have researched.

 

Jamaica. In the name of God, Amen. This 16th day of August 1709 and in the 8th year of the reign of our Sovereign Lady Ann, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France and Ireland, Queen, Defender of the Faith, &c.

I, Stephen Hutchens of Port Royal in the Island abovesaid, Gentleman Commander of Her Majestys Ship in the Portland now residing in Port Royal Harbour, being sick and weak in body, but of sound and perfect mind and memory (Praise be therefore given to Almighty God for the same) But calling to mind the uncertain state of this transitory life on earth, And being desirous of settling things in order to make, constitute, ordain and declare this my last Will and testament in manner and form following (that is to say)...

Itim. I give devise and bequeath unto my worthy good friend Henry Pendarves, Minister of the Parish of Paul in the County of Cornwall, the sum of 20 Sterling to buy him a Suit of Mourning to wear in memory of me.

Itim. I give devise and bequeath unto the said Henry Pendarves, Arthur Hutchens and Martin Budiner, the sum of 600 Sterling to be them laid and employed in the erecting and building of a college and put for alms Houses in Paul Church Town in the County of Cornwall aforesaid for the being maintenance and provision of 6 of the poorest men and 6 of the poorest women who are or shall be born in the said Parish of Paul for ever. And who by the said Henry Pendarves, Arhur Hutchens and Martin Budiner, shall be deemed the fittest object of charity. And I do hereby humbly request my said loving friends H. Pendarves, A. Hutchens, And M. Budiner, to be trustees to and for the said Charitable gift and dispose of the said sum of 600 as near as may be to this my will and intention, as soon as they shall receive the same without perverting or abusing the design thereof as they shall answer the same in the world to come.

Itim. I give devise and bequeath unto the Parish of Paul in the County of Cornwall aforesaid the sum of 100 Sterling for the repairing ammending and beautifying to the Parish Church of Paul to be paid by my Executors hereinafter named.

Signed sealed published and declared by the said Stephen Hutchens to be his last will and testament in the presence of us

Stephen Hutchens

D. Crawford John Beswick H. Vernon

 

The vast sum of money (approximately 18,000 - that is, in present day terms, 9 million) left by Stephen Hutchens and the area of the world from whence the Will was despatched, had given rise to some wild speculation. Whilst it is to be admitted that Captain Henry Avery (of Plymouth) served in the English Navy in 1690, becoming a privateer for the King of Spain in 1694 and ending up as a pirate in 1695, the same is not true of Captain Stephen Hutchens. He was a man of courage and exemplary action, serving the King to the last.


 

THE TIMES

Stephen Hutchens is noted in "Commissioned Sea Officers of the Royal Navy 1660 - 1815" as "Stephen Hutchings". To place Stephen Hutchens in the proper timescale, Europe was in turmoil, architectural and garden style was changing, human thought was aspiring to the new self-education and awareness of the world, but it was also a time when exploitation of resources and native labour was to become a scourge of European terror.

 

Stephen Hutchens was born of a time when there was much to be desired in improving conditions in the Navy. It was also a time of warring between England & France and the Dutch. The seas were full of privateers. A number of smaller battles had taken place off the Cornish coast, yet, as a sea-bound county, Cornwall was lacking in comparison with other counties. There were 200 men available for duty in Cornwall in 1664, yet Devon mustered 700. The press system was expensive and time-consuming. At the end of 1666 Charles stood back the fleet in preference for coastal defence. The Dutch took advantage. 1688 saw the landing of William of Orange in Torbay and 1689 the proclamation of William and Mary, with a Bill of Rights published. In 1690 the Dutch and English fleets were defeated by the French; in 1702, upon the proclamation of Anne, England declared war on France and Spain.

 

The rule of William III led to wars, largely naval, dockyard capabilities were expanded. The Navy had a dislike for all ports in Cornwall, and Plymouth was the only port they favoured in the area. Since 1675, The Mariner's Calendar had been published, yet no harbour in Cornwall was accurately directed, least of all the Scillies, most all sailors avoided them by some 20 miles; it was not until 1784 that The Calendar offered directions to Cornish ports. Plymouth had for a long time been considered permanent and was chosen for a yard. In 1693 there were sufficient numbers of men-of-war in Plymouth to make it necessary for an agent (Daniel Gwin) to report the movements to the Admiralty.

 

The building of Plymouth Dock was authorised by William III and had made good progress by 1698. The site was owned by Nicholas Morice (son of the Secretary of State Sir William Morice), whose trustees would not sell the land. By 1700 the dockyards were second to those at Portsmouth, a suitable response to Louis XIV's new docks at Brest.

 

Life and Travel in Cornwall

Travel in Cornwall was not as easy as may be imagined. People travelled within a radius of a days ride, 30 miles or so, generally limiting their contact to this circle. In fact, it was more likely that a gentleman of good and healthful disposition, would travel by sea, rather than subject himself to the dangers of the 'road'. Merchandise was carried in mule-back teams, 500 or so being a not uncommon sight. A few bridges had been built at the expense of a few pious men of property. The main roads between London and Bath were merely strips of hard earth between morasses and coverts. Roads which did exist from 1670 were maintained by the local farmers, as directed by Parliament; naturally there was little labour to spare for this unpaid work and roads fell into total collapse, much beleaguered by 'men-of-the-road'. It was not uncommon for a man setting off on a journey to make out his Will, assuming that he may not return. It was not until 1754 that the first Turnpike road was formed in Cornwall (Falmouth to Grampound).

 

St. Paul, as it used to be known, was the senior port of Mount's Bay, [ the change taking place in the late 18th Century, can only be noticed in the population figures for 1801 where Paul is noted as having 611 homes, 19 empty, with 652 families and a population of 2937 compared with Penzance at 667 homes, 27 empty, with 773 families and a population of 3382 ] Paul was a centre of many important family names, not just a fishing and farming community, but considering the isolation of the town from the rest of England, it is remarkable that Stephen Hutchens aspired to joining the Navy and that he was promoted through the ranks to become a Captain. Lysons notes that "Captain Stephen Hitchins, of the Royal Navy, who acquired a considerable fortune by cruising on the Jamaica station, and died at Jamaica in 1709, bequeathed the sum of 600 for the purpose of building and endowing an almshouse for six poor men, and the same number of women: the lands then purchased, after defraying the expense of building, now produce nearly 70 per annum: the management of this charity is vested in 14 trustees."

 

THE SHIPS

 

Charles I ordered 2 ships per year to be built for a term of 5 years. It was said, however, that "foul weather, naked bodies and empty bellies made the seamen voice the King's Service worse than galley slavery."

 

For an idea as to the general appearance of the ships, the Scarborough and the Portland, some reference can be made to the Sovereign of the Seas. She was built at Woolwich and launched 13th October 1637, representing a great advance in naval design and size. She had three masts instead of the usual four, and three decks, another first; rebuilt in 1651, 1659 and 1685 she was armed with 102 brass guns including four stern chasers (each 2700kg).

 

In 1650 came the Navigation Act which set out to enhance the Navy and the working conditions of the men; this was slow to take effect, however, particularly with regard to working the ships.

 

This list describes the ships contained in the following narratives.....

 

The Expedition was a 3rd Rate, 70 gun, 1116bm, 152 41ft, built Portsmouth 1679, rebuilt at Chatham 1699, 1111bm, renamed Prince Frederick on 21st Jan 1715, rebuilt 1740, 1739bm, 64 guns; sold 1784.

 

The Kingston was a 4th Rate, 60 gun, 924bm, 145 40ft, 2424pdr, 299pdr,106pdr, built at Hull 13th March 1697, rebuilt at Portsmouth 1719, rebuilt at Plymouth 1740, 1068bm; sold 14th Jan 1762.

 

The Coventry was a 4th Rate, 48 gun ship, 670bm built at Deptford in 1695, captured by the French on 24th July 1704, off the Isles of Scilly, re-captured (by Captain Stephen Hutchens); broken up 1709.

 

The Portland was a 4th Rate, 48 gun ship, 636bm, 125ft/6ins 34ft, built at Woolwich DY, completed 28th March 1693, rebuilt at Portsmouth in 1723 as 772bm; broken up 1743.

 

The Scarborough was a 5th Rate, 32 gun ship, 391bm, 108 28ft/6ins, built Parker, Southampton, 1696. Captured 21st Oct 1710 by the French off the coast of Guinea, re-captured 31st March 1712 and re-named Garland and foundered 10th November 1716 near Anholt in the Baltic.

 

Woolwich Dockyard opened in 1520 and operated until 1869. Portsmouth has been operating since 1540. Deptford was opened by Henry VIII and closed in 1823.

 

bm (builder's measurement) is the tonnage rate of the ship, as determined by the number of "tuns" of wine the ship was capable of carrying. After 1873 the actual ton weight was used, followed in 1926 by the actual displacement "weight".

 

Rating of ships was so called for it's fire capacity and the figure affected the "Rate" of pay for its officers, hence the expression 3rd Rate, etc...


LOG BOOKS

 

Stephen Hutchens left Paul to train in the Navy as an officer, joining the Scarborough in 1695, when she docked to take on crew at Plymouth, as a Midshipman later to become the Master's Mate, becoming Captain of the Scarborough on 25th April 1704 after promotion through Lieutenant and Commander.

 

According to the ship's muster of 20th February 1700, Stephen Hutchens was ship's number 86 and pay number 15476 ( with a crew mustered to 115 complement ). The Scarborough went to sea from Portsmouth on 13th March, sailing to Spithead and then out to sea on 21st April 1701 under Captain Joseph Griffin, arriving at Kinsale April 29th. She returned to Portsmouth on May 30th preparing for her main journey. She again sailed on 29th January 1702 for Jamaica under Captain Stephen Elliot.

 

18th Century Ship's Logs were kept in varying degrees of detail. The true log gave details of the course held, anchorages, etc. and the weather, together with "Events and Accidents" as the Captain saw fit to record. Distances were given in leagues, courses in rhumbs of the compass, time was set by local sun with the nautical day commencing at noon (12 hours ahead of British time). The calendar was 11 days behind the Gregorian calendar with New Year on Lady Day.

 

The Scarborough was first captained by Richard Short and, as he noted at his page head, the Scarborough was not yet launched in January 1695 and she set sail first on 29th November 1695, from Southampton to Portsmouth and Torbay, landing at Plymouth to take on crew, including Stephen Hutchens, 26 years old and a masterman; she then returned to Deptford for a refit after her sea trials and then sailed to the Channel Islands and on to Barbados, arriving in April 1697.

 

The Scarborough toured Anguila, Porto Rico, Port Royal and Cartagena, suffering many storms, gales and "dirty weather", cruising off Jamaica in June of 1697 and on to Florida, Virginia and back to England via Baltimore and Kinsale, arriving in Portsmouth for repairs and a refit. It is noted in the log that the Fleet was held up in Portsmouth by severe gales, until the end of 1698.

 

Clearly, Stephen Hutchens was given a thorough introduction to seamanship and the Caribbean right from the start.

 

Setting sail, later, in early 1701, the Scarborough had a new lieutenant by the name of Stephen Hutchens, being raised from Master's Mate from 1698. The Scarborough arrived back in Port Royal on 28th February 1701, under the command of Captain Thomas Hudson, where more crew were mustered from Jamaica. When Captain Henry Foulis took over in March 1702, Stephen Hutchens was promoted to Commander; the Scarborough returned to Woolwich for more adjustments on 30th October 1702 and immediately Captain Thomas Hudson returned her to Port Royal, arriving in June 1703.


Port Royal

Port Royal is on a long arm of land to the south of Kingston, called the Palisadoes Peninsula, Jamaica. The island was called Xamayca (land of wood and water) by the native Arawaks when Columbus landed in 1494.

 

The Spanish settled in 1510 and the British arrived in 1655, followed by the rule of buccaneers in Port Royal, "brethren of the coast" - freebooters and pirates, but were a sound fighting ally in times of war. It became a land of sugar and slaves, one ale house per 10 inhabitants - "A sink of all filthiness and a mere Sodom". Between 1660 and 1700, England's imports and exports rose by 50%, Customs Revenues trebled and its merchant marine fleet doubled. Louis XIV had also spread his posts across the world. High store was set by both nations on the Caribbean Islands, as trading posts and footholds of their respective expanding empires, exploitation of vast untapped reserves of food and labour was essential for this expansion. The Caribbean became the site of marine battles between these two powers.

 

It was on 25th April 1704 that Stephen Hutchens (now 35 years of age) was to become the Captain of the Scarborough, following the Courts Marshall of Captain Bridges and Windsor.

 

Captain Stephen Hutchens' own Log is written in a very small neat hand, entries are more detailed than most, meticulously recording various events other than those directly nautical. This was a man very much aware of the world he lived in.The Scarborough had been in Portsmouth during April of 1705 for further trim on the hull. She was ordered in August 1706 to proceed towards Russia as part of a six Man-of-War group, convoying a fleet of 16 merchant ships on their way to Archangel, off the Arctic. The Scarborough sailed with the Bonaventure, Ruby, Shambolo, Trevesham and Queensborough; they passed the German coast, anchoring at Heligoland; then on to the Norway Sound arriving at Gothenburg 28th November 1706. The Dreadnought joined the merchant fleet, continuing on to Archangel and the Scarborough returned to Grimsby in December 1706.

 

Captain Stephen Hutchens then sailed (with Sir Charles Wager's 9 ships-of-war) to Madeira, Barbados and Montserrat; thence to Port Royal, Jamaica 21st June 1707, accompanied by the Kingston, to cruise the Jamaica Sea.


 

SIR CHARLES WAGER

 

Before continuing with the events of the Stephen Hutchens' career, it will do well to recount some details of the man who was instrumental in his promotion.....

 

Sir Charles Wager was born in 1666 at West Looe in Cornwall. He became the Captain of the Ruzee fire ship 7th June 1692; Commodore of the French Coast Squadron 1703; Commander of the West Indian Squadron 1707-1709; Fought the Spanish at Cartagena 28th May 1708; Rear Admiral 1707; Vice-Admiral 1716; Admiral 1731; Knighted 8th December 1709; going on through many stages of promotion to MP, First Commissioner of The Admiralty, Privy Councillor, Master of Trinity House, Treasurer of the Navy. He died at Chelsea, 24th May 1743 and was buried in Westminster Abbey. His illustrious career is well documented ( including many of his letters ).

 

Sir Charles Wager was born of Charles & Prudence (married 1663), in 1666, grandson of John Wager, mariner (d1656) and William Goodsonn, parliamentary vice-admiral. The younger Charles Wager was first noted in 1690, when he was second lieutenant of the Foresight under Basil Beaumont, whilst raising men for the fleet. In 1692 he served on the Britannia, flag ship of Edward Russel, in the battle of Barfleur; promoted , he commanded the "Samuel & Henry" and convoyed the merchant fleet to New England. 1695 saw him on the "Mary" and then the Woolwich, and on to the Greenwich from 1696 to 1699.

 

In June of 1700 he was reported to be living with his family at Killingworth (Looe, Cornwall), "ten miles from his majesty's yard at Plymouth, whence I could be at London in four or five days, if required." The Medway was his next ship.

 

On 13th January 1702, he was given command of the "Hampton Court", one of 51 ships commissioned on that day. In this ship he accompanied Rear Admiral George Byng on a mission in the Mediterranean, returning from which the ship was all but lost due to considerable damage in "the great storm". In 1705 he accompanied Sir Cloudesly Shovell, again to the Mediterranean, but was detached at Lisbon, returning to England early in 1706, before Sir Cloudesly Shovell's sad demise on the Scillies in 1707, due to naval chartage of rocks being incorrect by some 40 miles.

 

In January of 1707 he was appointed to the Expedition of 70 guns, as commander-in-chief at Jamaica and commodore of the first class with a captain under him. He had sailed from Plymouth in April with nine ships of war and a large fleet of merchant-men.

 

Wager received information that M de Casse was under way to the West Indies with a powerful French squadron, intending to attack Jamaica. Wager was also convinced of the squadron's second purpose in convoying the Spanish treasure ships from Havana. He formed a plan to intercept the French on their way from Porto Bello. However, the Spanish had heard that Wager was at sea in the area and so delayed their sailing. Wager sighted Spanish sail near Cartagena on 28th May 1708. The Spanish immediately considered themselves the superior force, having seventeen ships, twelve large and heavily armed, three carrying pennants as admiral ( on the San Josef - a 64 gun ship ), vice-admiral and rear-admiral, totalling some 500 guns in all. The treasure was on board the San Josef and the second largest ship ( of 44 guns ), totalling perhaps up to 10 million pounds sterling ( at the time). Besides the Expedition, of 70 guns, Wager had the Kingston of 60 guns and the Portland of 50 guns.

 

At sunset, the Expedition prepared to engage the Spanish admiral; his signals to Kingston and the Portland for them to engage the other two ships were disobeyed and Wager was exposed to fire from all three Spanish ships. After half an hour of canon exchange, suddenly the Spanish admiral's ship blew up and sank; survivors amounted to just 11 of the 700 crew. The Expedition was hit by the violence of the explosion, buried under a shower of falling timbers and swamped below decks by the insurge of water through the ports. Having cleared the debris from her decks, Wager pushed on to attack one of the other two ships, barely discernible in the growing darkness. His broadsides were overpowering and the fire from the guns, guided the Kingston and the Portland to the fight. The Spanish rear-admiral surrendered. Wager sent orders for the Kingston and the Portland to chase the vice-admiral, now some 12 miles off, which they did, but with such extreme caution, that the Spaniards escaped.

 

Captains Timothy Bridge and Edward Windsor were tried by courts-marshal and found wanting of judgement and dismissed of their ships.

 

Wager went on to make more prize of Spanish ships, "a greater number of prizes were taken by the ships of his command than at any former period of the same length". When Wager returned to England in November 1709 he was an extremely wealthy man, but went on to other promotion and service including the Baltic and Gibraltar.


 

CAPTAIN STEPHEN HUTCHENS

 

Naval records refer to him as being of no note until 25th April 1704, when he was appointed Captain of the Scarborough and remained so until July 1708, under the command of Commodore Wager. Captain Stephen Hutchens served as a member of the court-martial of Captains Bridges and Windsor, on the ship Expedition, in Port Royal Harbour. Upon the dismissal of Captain Windsor from the command of the Portland, Captain Hutchens was promoted to the command of that ship.

 

In January of 1709, being ordered by the commander-in-chief to convoy some merchant ships (bound for England through the windward passage), on his return to Jamaica from this duty, he took a French ship, near Cape St. Nicholas, making a prize of 6,000.

 

He was then instructed in April of 1709 to cruise off the coast of Hispaniola, in order to protect the trading sloops, set sail with 230 persons on board, including servants and negro slaves, and having arrived at Bastimentos on the 15th, he was given word that four large ships were at anchor there.

 

Bastimentos Isle is to the East of Porto Bello, near the border with Costa Rica, in the mouth of a bay; this stretch of land was to become Panama. Porto Bello or Puerta Bello was a seaport on the North side of the Isthmus of Darien, which was to become the site of the War of Jenkin's Ear in 1739.

 

Early on the 16th, he closed in to observe. The ships then formed into a line and raised the French colours. Noting that they had a total of over 150 guns, ( but not wishing to forgo the opportunity of making prize, distinguishing himself and rendering service to his country ), he ordered a reconnaissance group to be sent by canoe. The Portland, stood well back from the superior force of guns, hoping that the four ships might pull out to attack, offering the Portland some advantage. The group returned on 22nd April, from the anchorage in the port of Porto Bello. Two ships, a French merchant ship and a large Dutch ship which had been captured off Bastimentos, had fled upon the arrival of the Portland. The remaining captor ships were the Coventry, taken from the English fleet, and the Mignon, having just arrived from Guinea. Captain Hutchens then retired to his former position, anchoring off the Bastimentos on 27th April, sending his canoe again. It returned on 1st May, with the information that the Coventry and the Mignon had sailed the previous night.

 

He then weighed anchor and stood to the north, until the 3rd, when at 8 in the morning, the enemy were seen from the masthead and could be seen from the deck at midday.

 

The two ships advanced with resolution, confident in the knowledge of their superior fire-power, bearing down on the Portland; they passed and fired, a little too distant to make contact, however, and came about as if resolved to engage. They kept at full sail, however, not closing. Captain Hutchens was determined that they should not escape and tacked at six o'clock, keeping sight of them all night, attempting to get more windward and closer.

 

Before eight in the morning Captain Hutchens had got within a "half-pistol shot" of the Mignon and opened fire, engaging to the Leeward, his ports so close to the water that it was only just possible to use the lower deck guns. The enemy ships were lighter and higher built. The Coventry then opened upon the Portland, guns aimed high so as to dismast, from the lee-bow, firing briskly, but to no effect.

 

The firing of the Mignon slackened. Captain Hutchens was determined to continue with his first object of disabling the Mignon and ignored the attack from the Coventry, doubling the attack. However, a shot from the Coventry carried away his main tops'l yard, allowing the enemy to get ahead of him. This did not discourage Captain Hutchens and he pursued them in all speed allowable by this crippled condition, splicing rigging, bending new sails and making other quick repairs.

 

Around three of next morning, boats were seen passing between the Mignon and the Coventry, continually for the whole day. Captain Hutchens concluded that the Mignon had received so much damage that it was prudent to shift the valuable cargo to the Coventry, being little damaged. A continuing calm prevented the Portland from coming in closer, so Captain Hutchens secured the masts and repaired rigging.

 

By seven the next morning, after attempting to do so for nine hours (due to the continuing calm), on 6th May, he neared the ships so close as the Coventry could not avoid action any longer, raised her main sail and brought-to, the Mignon firing from a distance as the opportunity arose. The Portland had sustained no material damage.

 

Captain Hutchens had wished to board the Coventry, but on a close pass, he observed that she was too well manned to attempt this, and continued firing cannon with great spirit and briskness until noon, at which time the mast of the Coventry was taken down to the deck, and, an hour later, the Coventry stopped her fire and surrendered.

 

It was found that the Coventry's first Captain had been killed, the second wounded, the first Captain of the Mignon was severely wounded (then taken to the Coventry ) and over 70 men killed in both enemy ships. The Mignon attempted to escape in the confusion, with only twenty men aboard, in a shattered condition, having removed all their treasure to the Coventry as Captain Hutchens had supposed. The Portland was too much damaged herself, from the exchange with the Coventry, to attend to the Mignon and proceeded to receive the Coventry into his custody. On Captain Hutchens' ship twelve men had been injured and nine had been killed. Besides the recovery of the ship, the capture of the crews and the treasure which was found, money was taken to the sum of 20,000 pieces of eight.

 

Captain Stephen Hutchens did not survive for the honour, rewards and position gained in this protracted and unevenly matched engagement, dying on 24th August 1709 in Jamaica, on board the ship which had served his gallant command so well.


MEMORIAL

On the main face of the Almshouse, built by Stephen Hutchens benefaction there is a simple slate tablet

 

Ex Bono Ducis

Stephani Hutchens

 

1709

 

Arma Virum qe Cano

r

Vigil

 

The stone mason, being unfamiliar with the text and the meaning,

had to correct the name of Virgil by adding the 'r' as a superscript.

 

These are the first words of the Aeneid, by Virgil (70 - 19 BC)...

Arma virumque cano, Troiae qui primus ab oris

Italiam fato profugas Lavinaque venit

Litora - multum ille et terris factatus et alto

Vi superum, savae memorem Iuonis ob iram.

That is...

Arms I sing, and the man, who first from the shores of Troy came

Fate-exiled, to Italy and her Lavinian strand

Much buffeted he on flood and field by constraint

Of heaven and fell Juno's unslumbering fire.

 

Stephen Hutchens had been embroiled in wars in a far off sea, longing for his homeland, yet dying, in his 40th year, by Fate's cruel hands,

before he could return to see his beloved Cornwall.

 

 

All Researched by Raymond Forward

at The Public Record Office, Kew

 

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