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The Drake Exploration Society

Bill of Lading for the Ships Returning from the Drake's Last voyage

Susan Jackson

[David Gerstel from Canada contacted the society, requesting that this $5,000 document be transcribed to ascertain its authenticity. Susan has kindly and most competently obliged. The symbol like a letter h, tilted to the right with two cross bars, cannot be replicated on computer. The most similar has been substituted.]


Ship's cannon from the Spanish ship, Girona (1588)

The ships in question are: Drake's Defiance, Hawkins's Garland, the Foresight, the Elizabeth Bonadventure, the Hope and the Adventure. This four-page document has been one of the most fascinating, yet frustrating "Drake Documents" with which I have ever dealt.

This fascinating 16th century inventory gives us an insight into the stores and equipment taken out and brought back by six of the Queen's ships present during the 1595/6 West Indies voyage. It was an excellent experience for a historian to see the lists of the galleons' stores. Although they were as I expected them to be, the recorded diversity of items ranging from brass guns to needles was most revealing.

The frustration is because two or more folios are missing. The lists on the second and third pages tally exactly, which lead me to the following contention. The document ought to comprise six pages. Pages 1, 2 and the missing page 3, list the goods left aboard the six ships. Pages 4, 5 being the existing pages 3 and 4 and a missing page 6, tabulate with the symbols, the stores that were consumed. The third and fourth pages have modified columns.


Coins from the Spanish ship, Girona

It is impossible to differentiate between what was taken out and what was brought back; also it is not possible to distinguish between the ships. For instance, I had hoped to gauge from the document, just how much of what was used, especially from the sheet lead that might have been used to envelop Drake's body. The items are poorly invoiced due to shoddy accounting that would not have been acceptable to Sir John Hawkins or Benjamin Gonson, master of the Amnity.

The inventories become confusing because the accounting is not numerical and is somewhat ad-hoc. The tabulated list of amounts of stores and equipment, have no numeric notations: neither in Roman nor Arabic, rather a line and a symbol. At first, I thought that µ meant two, but upon reflection, I feel that it is some sort of Elizabethan accountancy symbol denoting what remains, safely aboard and is going into storage. The lists seem to apply to all six ships; hence we do not know what came back with each ship. A teacher friend, states that the tally symbols are probably medieval tally. However, an accountant friend considers them as absolute sloppy accountancy, whose precise meanings are unknown. We can also discern amidst the less than meticulous accounting, the initial decline that the navy experienced after 1600.

The inventory begins with a short preamble. Basically, they are stating that there are stores and equipment aboard these six ships that belong to the crown. These goods were issued to Drake and Hawkins either free of charge: as a crown investment, or at a nominal charge, which could mean they were rented. Hence, they were not to be removed from the ships. A Mr. Connrab was to take charge until the ships and their contents were delivered into the hands of the keeper of the stores.

The whole remayne of all her Ma ordenanance, powdwr shotte and other munnitions reformed [taken / transported] from the stores and given to her highnesses shippes under the charge of Sir fraunces Drake and Sir John Hawkins knightes without pticlar [particular] charge eunot [enough] must therefore be left abourde and delivered into the anthorite of the twall [I think this is thrall or powder] Mr Connrab [either a JP or an official of the Navy Board] for the guarde of the saide shippes in harborought and not so murhy [move] or thak [take] off beinge all the resiour [residule] of the remayned in nowst [now] also deliviered again into the charge and authoritie of the keeper of her Ma Stores


The names of the shippes viz The Defiance
   The Gaurlande [Garland]
   The Hoppe [Hope]
   The Eliz Bonaventure
   The Adventure
   The Fforesight


The Item The Remayne Abourde The Stoor
Brasse ordennce mounted µ µ µ
Casteyro Ordennc mounted µ µ µ
Rounnde Shotte of yron.         
Crosbarde shotts of yron         
Joynted shotte of yron         
Cheyne Shotte of yron         
Harst [half] Shotte of yron         
Stone Shotte II ---------- II ----- II -------
Ladells for yours faithfully ordennce furm [measures of gunpowder]      
Corne Powder [very fine gunpowder]      
Saltpeter fo fireworks         
Muskette furnished         
Calybine furnished [a type of gun]      
Longe Pikes         
Shorte Pikes         
Blarse Bills [blaze of fire]      
Longe Bowes         
Bowe Strings         
Crosbowes for firebaules         
Baules for firing to them         
Shorte bowes         
Longbowe shotte f no firewourks         
Shorte bowe shotte f no firewourks         
Muskett Shotte         
Tampions fo them [gun stands]      
Mastet [matches]      
Ladell spares II ---------- II ----- II -----
Muskett spares extree         


The Item The Remain Aboard The Stoore
Gralloppe [grappling irons?]      
fforsorse of wood [four score]      
Bristhinge reddye ruff [bristles or brushes for cleaning cannons - some made up, others ready to be made up]      
Bowstring Tarslled [to add to powder of shot]      
Rope of finnd tye for the fo bristhinge bonessing tackle to halberd [fine good quality rope, possibly a type of cord for tying up bristles and rope to halberd]      
Arrows with ffirewourkes         
Baules with ffirewourkes         
Pikes with ffirewoukes         
Cinntset with ffirewourkes [crescent]      
Slimbowe Arro for Leade         
Covers of Leade         
Lead for shotte II ---------- II ---- II -----
Arrowros for Longbowes II ---------- II ---- II -----
Covers of yron         
Sledges [sledge hammers]      
Culling hooke fo boarts [boat hooks]      
Laddell hooked         
Hirshamers [type of hammer]      
Limyst pins [lynch pins or nails]      
Melting Ladells [Greater small         
Sstor forkeys [key store]      
Spikes of yron         
Nayles of all siszes         
Carsts of plate of all siszes         
Ssimnelle of plate         
Camannders II ---------- II ---- II -----
Tampions II ---------- II ---- II -----
pulleys double α single         
Heddes of armers [helmets]      
armers for varsowtes of all sorttes [various pieces of armour]      
Chesstes for bowes and Arrows         
Rope for Brisrhnige         
Boweye Barrells [refers to shape, not barrells for storing bows]      
Leather Bags [stowing treasure]      

(Page 4)

The Item Ffurniture Balance Remayne
Shepskins ∞ wii doz δ II ---------- II ------ II ------
Small Basketts χ doz         
Candhlydes [candles] II ------ II ------
Canwis for oars [canvas pads on oars to protect hands]      
Paper Foyall II------xx nz quire [silver paper?] II ------ II ------
Oyle II------ gallons         
Clouts [cloths]      
Needles II------y doz    II ------ II ------
Lanthornes [lanterns]      
Grand Barrells to parke in [to pack things in]      
Copper Nayles         
Comphyre [camphor]      
Fospahyte [phosphate]      
saltrmon [form of saltpetre]      
Lynseed Olye II------ v gallons    II ------ II ------
Pozen [rat poison?]      
Marlynes [marling]      
Pytch II------ I barrels    II ------ II ------
Timber for ffirewourkes         

Shot from the Armada ship, Girona


Candlesticks from the Spanish ship, Girona

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