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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

A View of the Blandford Frigate, c.1760


A View of the Blandford Frigate, Nicholas Pocock, c.1760, Bristol City Museums.

I am indebted to follower Drew Godzik for help in researching today's post.

Like the other two slave ships that Captain John Brackenridge commanded on the slave trade, the Blandford hailed from Bristol. The artist, a soon to be expert in maritime art named Nicholas Pocock, certainly did not sail aboard her, as he was only three years old when she made her only voyage to the African coast.

Launched on February 13, 1719/20, the Blandford was a sixth rate twenty gun frigate. She had an unremarkable career in the Royal Navy, and may not have seen any action. Blandford served in home waters and on the North American station for a little over twenty years, suffering occasional issues with her main and foremasts. Condemned as unfit for the navy in 1741, Blandford was sold and replaced by another sixth rate Blandford that same year.

Late in 1743, her owner, James Pearce, decided to try Blandford in the transatlantic slave trade. Perhaps in the year between her being sold out of the navy and sailing for West Africa was used to refit her. Certainly, Blandford, received a notable addition, worth mention in the London newspaper Daily Advertiser.


Daily Advertiser, December 10, 1743, page 1

These ventilators make no appearance on Pocock's illustration, but then they might not have stood tall enough to be seen from the shore in any case. Whether or not they were effective is up for debate. Of the 468 enslaved people forced aboard from an unknown African shore, around four hundred survived the Middle Passage to be sold at Kingston, Jamaica.


It appears that Pocock was familiar with the Blandford. Her figurehead very neatly matches that of the ship's plans, as described and illustrated in Peter Godwin's book The 20 Gun Ship Blandford:
The main feature at the head of the ship was the figurehead which in Blandford's case probably consisted of the heraldric rampant 'Lyon' wearing the royal crown...This form of figurehead was common to all vessels with the exception of First and Second Rates which boreindividual figureheads. It was to be another eight years before this privilege was extended to the lesser rates (by the Navy Board Order of 1727), and even then it was quite a number of years before the practice became general in the smallest rates of men-of-war. The figurehead was supported by a number of head rails leading aft in a serpentine curve to the ship's side adjacent to the catheads. [Page 12]
Had Pocock actually seen the Blandford in person, some fifteen years after her voyage, and nearly twenty since the navy had sold her as unfit?


Pocock, as with his other depictions of Brackenridge's slave ships, populates the vessel with her crew. These two tars wear cocked hats, jackets that end below the waist, and trousers.


The men crowded on the foc'sle are similarly dressed in single breasted jackets and trousers. At least one of them wears a barge cap.


Further astern, their mates work to the sound of a speaking trumpet.


Ashore, a gentleman (probably Captain Brackenridge) gestures to a smal boat where enslaved men are being loaded. The sailors carry sticks and wear jackets and trousers, save for the sailor ashore who wears a smock.



Another boat, or perhaps the same as above but in a different view, is manned by four sailors with barge caps, one of whom holds a pipe.

The Blandford did not last long as a slave ship. On her return in 1745, she was sold.

Daily Advertiser, July 25, 1745, page 3


Monday, March 27, 2017

A View of ye Jason Privateer, c.1760


A View of ye Jason Privateer, Nicholas Pocock, c1760, Bristol City Museums.

The Jason was a Bristol slaver, and an old one by the time she began the slave trade. Built in 1716, she made at least five voyages to various ports along the West African coast, embarking approximately 1,500 Africans. Of these, a little under 200 died in the Middle Passage.

She was commanded by a different captain on almost every voyage, and her last voyage was commanded, at least in part, by Captain John Brackenridge.

Years later, Nicholas Pocock was commissioned to depict a series of Bristol slavers, all of whom were captained by Brackenridge at some point. It is likely that Brackenridge was the one who paid to have his various commands laid down on paper by Pocock.

It is possible that, unlike the Blandford and Southwell, Pocock might have sailed on the Jason's voyage to Africa, as he was thirteen years old when Brackenridge took command. I am inclined to think he did not sail on the Jason because his depiction does not appear to be that of a Bristol slaver, but rather a warship. Jason is positively bristling with cannon. This makes sense for a privateer, as the title suggests, but means there is limited space for taking on the hundreds of enslaved people they intend to sell. There is also no barricado, a distinctive feature of slave ships.


Pocock shows the Jason flying the white ensign, a flag that is supposed to represent a Royal Navy vessel. This is not necessarily an error. Merchant vessels are sometimes depicted flying naval ensigns, including slave ships. This could be, as often was the case in the eighteenth century, a ruse to scare off enemy vessels. It could also be a mistake on the part of an artist who is not familiar with the meaning of the various ensigns (red, white, and blue).


Gathered at the foc'sle head are a number of tars. They are clad in a mix of barge caps and cocked hats, some of which are reversed.


One of the sailors holds either a sword or a stick. He wears a cocked hat, single breasted jacket that appears to have slit cuffs, and a pair of trousers.


Further aft, more sailors in cocked hats and barge caps work to the sound of a trumpet, while an officer standing larboard of the mainmast shouts commands through a speaking trumpet. One man working beside the mizzen might be wearing a scotch bonnet.


One of the small boats is populate with a few tars. One of them sits astride a cask. He wears a cocked hat with the point forward, a single breasted jacket with mariners cuffs that ends about the top of the thigh, and a pair of trousers that end at the bottom of the calf. His neckcloth is short and plain.

The coxswain wears a cocked hat, jacket, and bob wig. The two sailors wrestling with the disobedient sail in the bow are wearing a round hat with very narrow and upturned brim, and a barge cap, respectively.


An officer, presumably the captain, sits in the stern of the Jason's barge. His hand is tucked into his jacket, and another two gentlemen sit with him. The coxswain and oarsmen all wear shirt sleeves and barge caps.


Ashore, a gentleman with a cane stands under the shade of a parasol. He may be the slave dealer who secured the unwilling Africans for the dreadful Middle Passage.


The coxswain of the boat onto which their captives are to be rowed to the Jason is wearing a cocked hat, smock, and trousers. The two men pulling an African over their bow wear trousers and jackets, with a barge cape and what might be a scotch bonnet. Interestingly, the man standing on the shore appears to be barefoot. This would be one of remarkably few images to show sailors working without shoes.


In the final detail, we see a man (possibly the captain, given his mariners cuffs and reversed cocked hat) speaking with an African armed with a spear. The man gestures toward the enslaved men who are bound together and under the watchful gaze of an armed guard.

As I've said in the past, what strikes me about depictions of slave ships and their crews are that the sailors are entirely indistinguishable from naval and merchant sailors. Even as a laboring class, common tars were just as culpable in the sin of transatlantic slavery as anyone else.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Drawing, c1745


Drawing, Paul Sandby, c1745, British Museum.

Thanks to Adam Hodges-LeClaire for pointing out this piece to me.

This drawing is one of a series done by Sandby in and around Edinburgh in the immediate wake of the Jacobite rising of 1745. Sandby's study shows a few people walking bout two, and a woman with what appears to be a broom. The British Museum's catalog states that she is a beggar woman, but I confess I'm not entirely sure why.

In the foreground, a man with a bob wig and cocked hat with short brim (possibly a sea captain) converses with a common sailor who walks beside.


Our sailor wears a hat or cap with a broad brim. At first I thought this must be a wide brimmed round hat, but Adam argues that it may be a Peter the Great cap, or a high crowned knit cap that was mean to appear like a felt hat. Obviously, a sketch is not enough to tell us whether this is a knit or felt. Atop his head and beneath the cap or hat is a bob wig.  a jacket with scalloped mariners' cuffs buttoned closed, and a pair of flap pockets at the waist. His petticoat trousers run down to just below the knee, so we can see his white stockings and pointed toe shoes.

Monday, March 13, 2017

A Man of War's Boat, date unknown


A Man of War's Boat, Paul Sandby, date unknown, British Museum.

This sketch by Paul Sandby is a simple piece. Officers are gathered in the stern of a barge, and the oarsmen (uniform in appearance) pull away.


The officers appear to be dressed in the 1748-1767 pattern uniforms of the Royal Navy, but I wouldn't swear to it. Going by those regulations, the coxswain may be a Lieutenant in an undress uniform. Officers are not my forte, so I will leave this to more capable eyes.


The bargemen are uniformly dressed in shirtsleeves and barge caps.


At least a couple of them, as you can see in this detail, wear bob wigs. The barge caps have pointed brims at the front which are mostly worn upright, but are not fixed to the crown of the cap. They look remarkably like the caps worn by the men of the Pallas as painted by Gabriel Bray.

Seamen relaxing on the Pallas, Gabriel Bray, 1774, National Maritime Museum

Friday, March 10, 2017

Jemmy's Farewell and Jemmy's Return, 1781-1785

Jemmy's Farewell, John Hodges Benwell, 1781-1785, British Museum.

Jemmy's Return, John Hodges Benwell, 1780's, British Museum.

These illustrations were meant to accompany the ballad 'Auld Robin Gray,' which was originally published in 1772. The artist, John Hodges Benwell, died in 1785 at the age of 21. Benwell was first recognized as an unusually gifted artist at 16, so that restricts the dates during which these drawings could have been made to 1781-1785.


Scots are rarely addressed on this blog. This is largely because a glance at a common sailor will tell you little or nothing about their regional identity. Sailor's slop clothes served to merge them into a transatlantic (and, indeed, worldwide) clique. Clothing blurred the boundaries within the British Empire, and made all of its wearers Jack Tar.

This is also true of commanders. Even when it is Scottishness itself that an artist objects to, a sea captain like James Lowry will still look more like a sea captain than a highlander.

The Scotch Triumvirate, artist unknown, 1752, British Museum
Figures of less renown (or notoriety) are also portrayed as indistinguishable from their fellow seafarers.

Etched from the Life on Board a Scotch Ship: Cook, Captain, and Mait, 
artist unknown (John Kay?), c.1750, National Maritime Museum.
I can think of only one other case in which a Scotsman was portrayed wearing regional dress in a primary source image. John Paul Jones, being an American rebel and Scotsman to boot, is portrayed wearing a tam.

Paul Jones shooting a Sailor who had attempted to strike his Colours in an
Engagement
, Carington Bowles from John Collet, 1779, British Museum.

Mara Riley, of The Appin Regiment reenactment organization, pointed me to this runaway advertisement found by Dan Rosenburg. Three runaway highland sailors are mentioned as running away 'from on Board the Ship Donald...in their own Country Garb.'

Virginia Gazette (Purdie & Dixon), April 15, 1773, page 3
Colonial Williamsburg
Over at the blog Fishy Fashion and Maritime Modes, Adam Hodges-LeClaire mentions the occasional appearance of Scotch bonnets, a finding echoed by Matthew Brenckle. Adam dug up this piece from the early nineteenth century, in which a sailor's dress is a more subtle mix of highland style and sailor's slops.
Detail from Makeing a Compass at Sea or the Use of a Scotch Louse,
Thomas Tegg, date unknown, National Maritime Museum
Benwell is not the first to portray Jemmy in the Sailor's Farewell and Sailor's Return from Auld Robin Gray. The printer Robert Sayer twice portrayed Jemmy, but in neither did he include even a hint to Jemmy's Scottish heritage.


In the Farewell, Jemmy is portrayed wearing a floppy cocked hat with a blue bow. His jacket is a double breasted pale blue with white metal buttons. A black neckcloth is bound tightly, draping over his white shirt and an oddly placed brown leather belt is buckled around his waist. Jemmy sports sideburns and a queue bound in a black bow.


At first, I thought Jemmy was wearing a small kilt (called a fèileadh beag), which hangs down to just above the knee. Bill Johnson, more knowledgeable than I in highland dress, offered this observation:
A closer examination of the backside of the garment suggests Jemmy is in fact wearing slop or petticoat trousers, possibly made of tartan.  There does not appear to be any pleats (hand-thrown or stitched in).  Early small kilts were usually made from 3-4 yards of single-width fabric, with the pleats roughly hand-thrown as it was put on; with a light stitching to hold them in place (usually in a box pleat); or with a drawstring to bring them together.  It is not a garment easily donned in the crowded confines of a ship.
This different cut and lack of fabric suggests that these are plaid petticoat trousers. Bill continues:
Two early 18th century portraits of the Laird of Grant's piper (1714) and Champion (1715) show a colored tape being worn around the border of their respective kilts.  A tapestry on the Isle of Mull show the same type of trim, again being worn by the chief's retainers.  My question on the Benwell paintings is whether this was meant to be trimming, or an easy way for the artist to finish off the hem.
Beneath this puzzling garment is revealed brown breeches held by a knee buckle over white stockings, pointed toe shoes, and large rectangular white metal buckles.

The presence of breeches is exceptional. In the eighteenth century, kilts were never worn over breeches. What were worn over breeches, as we've seen time and time again in this blog, were petticoat trousers. This is where we run into a problem with these drawings. As follower Phil Hosea points out: petticoat trousers are intended to be cheap, easily replaced, and protect the breeches beneath. None of these apply to kilts.

My best guess is that this is a nod to the combination of highland dress and slop clothes. The breeches are worn underneath the kilt-like-petticoat-trousers, and the two garments share a passing similarity in the way they are worn.

Was Benwell basing Jemmy on Scottish sailors he had actually seen or met? Or was this a fanciful imagination of the two worlds colliding? While I'm inclined toward the latter, it's impossible to say for certain without further research on Benwell himself.


On his return, Jemmy wears the same clothes as when he bid adieu to Robin. His jacket is town and tattered, and he now has the sailor's trusty stick, but otherwise his dress is the same. We do get a better look at his ragged queue.


In this image, he still wears breeches beneath his kilt, proving that their inclusion was no fluke on the part of Benwell.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Dissolution of P___t, c1774


The Dissolution of P___t, artist unknown, c1774, American Antiquarian Society.

Members of Parliament are making haste on a special coach designed explicitly to carry them to their 'Corrupted Boroughs' in this satirical piece. Scattered in the street are papers representing their offensive acts against America: the 'Boston Port Bill,' 'General Warrants,' and 'Quebec' (undoubtedly referring to the Quebec Act).

The scattered commoners about the street speak derisively of the failed public servants. Among them is a sailor turned beggar, who tries his hand at a groan inducing pun. 'Ah, rot such Members, my Members are better,' meaning his wooden legs, one of which is broken.


He wears a reversed cocked hat, bob wig, a single breasted jacket, and torn breeches fitted tight to his wooden legs.

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Whale Fishery and Killing the Bears, 1744


The Whale Fishery and Killing the Bears, engraving from "Navigantium atque itinirantium bibliotheca," Volume 2, T. Woodward, 1744, John Carter Brown Library.

Whalers are only rarely featured on this blog. I would like to change that. Today's print depicts a number of ships all harpooning whales and killing bears in the Arctic.


The sailors all wear jackets which end about the top of the thigh. Their hats are a mixture of round and cocked, with a couple of caps thrown in for good measure.


These tars attack a bear with harpoons and a comically oversized club. These men wear very small cocked hats, jacket that match the fellows afloat, and a mix of breeches and trousers.