national maritime museum, greenwich

The Account of the Phoenix, A Slave Ship Stopped by Africans from Trading in the Bonny River, 1757.

[This is the ship from the last post.]

[Photo: “Paquito de Cabo Verdo Portuguese Slave Brig captured by the Boats of HMS Scout on the 11th Jany 1837 in the Bonny River. She had mounted 2 18 Prs with a Crew of 35 men and 576 slaves on board.” – National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London.]

“Captain Bailie, commander of the slave-ship Carter, writing to his owners in Liverpool from the River Bonny, Africa, on January 31st, 1757, reveals the method sometimes resorted to by slave-captains to compel the native chiefs to trade with them. He says:—

"We arrived here the 6th of December, and found the Hector, with about 100 slaves on board, also the Marquis of Lothian, of Bristol, Capt. Jones (by whom I now write), who was half slaved, and then paying 50 Barrs, notwithstanding he had been there 3 months before our arrival. I have only yet purchased 15 slaves at 30 and 35 Barrs; but as soon as the bearer sails, I propose giving more; for at present there is a dozen of our people sick, besides the two mates, some of whom are very bad, and I have been for these last 8 days in a strong fever, and frequently insensible. Yesterday morning I buried Thomas Hodge, and on the 13th James Barton. Capt. Nobler of the Phoenix arrived here the 3d, and on the 19th our trade was stopt (as it had often been before) ; upon which we all marched on shore to know the reason and applied to the King thrice, though he constantly ordered himself to be denied, and wou’d not admit us. However, we heard his voice in doors, and as he used us so ill, we went on board, and determined (after having held a Council), to fire upon the town next morning, which we accordingly did, in order to bring them to reason, but found that our shot had little effect from the river, upon which we agreed that the Phoenix and the Hector shou’d go into the Creek, it being nigher the town, whilst Captain Jones and I fired from the river. The Phoenix being the head-most vessel went in, and the Hector followed about a cable’s length astern. The Phoenix had scarce entered the Creek before they received a volley of small arms from the bushes, which were about 20 yards distant from the ship, and at the same time several shot from the town went through him, upon which they came to anchor, and plied their carriage guns for some time ; but finding there was no possibility of standing the decks, or saving the ship, he struck his colours, but that did not avail, for they kept a continued fire upon him, both of great and small arms. His people were thrown into the utmost confusion, some went down below, whilst others jumpt into the yaul which lay under the ship’s quarter, who (on seeing a number of canoes coming down to board them) desired Capt. Nobler to come down to them, which he at last did, as he found the vessel in such a shattered condition, and that it was impossible for him to get her out of the Creek before the next ebb tide, in case he cou’d keep the canoes from boarding him. With much difficulty they got on board the Hector, but not without receiving a number of shot into the boat. The natives soon after boarded the Phoenix, cut her cables, and let her drive opposite the town, when they began to cut her up, and get out her loading, which they accomplished in a very short time. But at night in drawing off some brandy, they set her on fire, by which accident a great many of them perished in the flames. The Phoenix’s hands are distributed amongst the other three ships, and all things are made up, and trade open, but very slow, and provisions scarce and dear.” The Marquis of Lothian was afterwards taken and carried into Martinico.“

– Gomer Williams (1897). History of the Liverpool privateers and letters of marque with an account of the Liverpool slave trade. pp. 481–482.

The Battle of Trafalgar

by J.M.W. Turner.


210 years ago today the Royal Navy under the command of Viscount Horatio Nelson defeated the combined fleets of Spain and France, thus destroying the hopes of Napoleon Bonaparte to gain control of the seas.

The painting by Turner displays several events of the battle occurring simultaneously. Nelson’s famous signal “England expects everyman to do his duty” can be see flying from HMS Victory (11:50); the top-mizzenmast of Victory falls (13:00); the HMS Achille is on fire in the background (late afternoon) and the French ship Redoutable sinks in the foreground (following day).

The above painting can be seen on display at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London.

Jan Baptist Bonnecroy - View of Brussels - 1664-5, 

oil, 169 x 301,5 cm

Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels, Belgium

Jan Baptist Bonnecroy is best known for his large-scale panoramic views of cities. In addition, he also painted a number of marine views of sailing ships.
He painted at least 4 views of Antwerp. The view dated 1658 was ordered for the Antwerp City Hall. He also made views of Amsterdam and Brussels. These views all show the cities from a distance and with a bird’s eye perspective. Bonnecroy relied on drawings of the principal buildings and city maps and his knowledge of perspective to create this illusion of looking at the cities from above. The View of Brussels now part of the collection of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium was originally the property of the Dukes of Arenberg who kept it in their castle in Heverlee.
Jan Baptist Bonnecroy also painted marine views. The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich holds two of his marine paintings, both showing views of Dutch ships sailing in front of a Dutch harbour. The paintings are in the Flemish Baroque tradition, and executed with liquid and ornamental rendering of the brushstrokes. The influence of Hendrik van Minderhout is apparent.
Bonnecroy was also a skilled etcher. The British Museum holds seven of his etches which were formerly attributed to his master Lucas van Uden. The prints all depict landscapes with figures and were published by the Antwerp publisher Frans van den Wyngaerde, together with an eight print by Lucas van Uden.

HMS Implacable (1805) was a 74-gun ship of the line launched 24 March 1800 at Rochfort, France as Duguay-Trouin. She was one of just four French ships that escaped capture during the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805. However, two weeks later at the Battle of Cape Ortegal, Duguay-Trouin was less successful in her second attempted escape, this time chased down by HMS Hero & HMS Caesar, being battered & captured. French Captain Claude Touffet was killed during the fight with 154 men. In December 1805 she was commissioned into the Royal Navy and renamed HMS Implacable. Through 1808 and 1809 the ship spent time in the Baltic, besting the Imperial Russian Navy 74-gun ship of the line Vsevolod. In September 1810 she made a year long voyage from Cadiz, Spain to Havana, Cuba, returning with 6,000,000 dollars on board. From August to November 1840 Implacable participated in the bombardment and capture of Acre, and operations on the coast of Syria. 

In 1844 HMS Implacable began a new career as a training ship, eventually becoming the second oldest ship in the Royal Navy, after HMS Victory. In 1908 King Edward VII intervened to save the ship from scrapping and in 1920 funds were raised and she underwent several restorations. Ten years later there were large-scale protests against her disposal after the government consigned her to the scrapheap. An offer was made in 1947 to the French who also declined to spend the required money to turn her into a museum ship. On 2 December 1949 she was towed out east of the Isle of Wight and scuttled with full honours, flying the ensigns of the French and Royal Navy. She was 149 years old.

Her figurehead and stern galleries are on display in the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich, while her capstan is on display at the maritime museum at Rochefort. Public reaction to the ‘criminal action against the maritime history of Britain’ forced the government to support the preservation of Cutty Sark.