28 March 2009

New information about 'Pike' 29 Mar 09

New information has come to light about Bayley Pike and John Brewer Pike. Those who have read RRA will remember that he told the story of a young man called Pike, with whom he had been at school in Jersey, who was 'dismissed the Service' in Sierra Leone and put ashore from the notorious HMS Hound.

RRA remembered that Pike instantly got the job of Mate on an 'Indiaman' which was at Sierra Leone on her way home. Her captain had died, and Pike took her home in something like record time to be thoroughly congratulated and awarded plate by the owners. RRA then says that Pike continued with a very successful career in the Merchant Service.

In the 1841 census for Jersey there is indeed a Pike, born in 1833, the same year as RRA. So far so good. His name was Bayley Pike. And a Bayley Pike turns up in the service records of naval officers in the National Archives - and yes he was dismissed the Service at Sierra Leone in early 1851 from being Master's Assistant in HMS Hound. So clearly, that much of the story is true.

Next I looked for Pikes in the 1851 census, conveniently taken sometime after Pike would have got home in the 'Indiaman'. Lo and behold, there is a Pike, the right age, in Plymouth, at his father's house (a storekeeper at the Devonport dockyard), and describing himself as "Mate of the Talavera".

(All this is covered in much greater detail in the Appendix of RRA)

But (Oh dear) This Pike is called John Brewer Pike, and is recorded as being born in Plymouth, not Jersey like Bayley Pike in the census ten years before.

And the Talavera? Well, coincidence upon coincidence, she was an 'Indiaman', owned by Duncan Dunbar of Blackwall, and yes, she was on her way home from India at exactly the right time in early 1851!

There is no more trace of 'our' Bayley Pike in the England & Wales or Channel Islands censuses after that solitary appearance in 1841. John Brewer Pike, however, went on to have a successful career in the Merchant Marine as a Master Mariner, and appears in several more E&W censuses.

That's the story in a nutshell. When I wrote the appendix to RRA I became convinced, though there was no positive proof, that Bayley Pike had skippered the Talavera home, and for whatever reason, had 'become' John Brewer Pike, son of Anthony Pike of Plymouth. I had not been able to find the Plymouth Pikes in the 1841 census - but now I have.

There is, of course, the same Anthony Pike, naval storekeeper, and among his children is a boy, the right age, simply registered as 'John Pike'. So surely this must be the John Brewer Pike of ten years later? Mustn't it...? That effectively kicks my theory into touch.

And further mystery is provided by the discovery of a perfectly plausible Bayley Pike as a sheep station manager in the South Island of New Zealand in the late 1850s and early 1860s, and then as a 'sheep inspector' in Queensland in the late 1860s.

But wait a minute - the late 1850s and early 60s was exactly when RRA was first in the South Island of New Zealand! Did he bump into his old school friend from Jersey, the friend he hadn't seen for nearly ten years? Did he and the friend yarn about old times on the Slave Coast? Did Bayley Pike tell him about being dismissed the Service? And the other young officer dismissed from HMS Hound at exactly the same time? (There was one according to RRA's story - but so far untraced and unnamed.) Did RRA do his usual trick of muddling stories? Was the other young man John Brewer Pike? A cousin perhaps of Bayley Pike? Sounds fantastic, but fits the facts better than the suggestion that Bayley Pike changed his name to John Brewer... now that we know that the Bayley Pike from Jersey is almost certainly the very same as the sheep run manager in Canterbury.

One problem: there is no John Brewer Pike in RN Service Records. The quest goes on!

19 March 2009

Books about the Royal Navy and the Slave Trade

My favourite three books about the slave trade are as follows. The first is about the whole history of the Atlantic trade; the other two are specifically about the Royal Navy's part in the suppression. The links go to the books in the database at Google Books.

The Slave Trade: The Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade, 1440-1870
By Hugh Thomas
Edition: reprint
Published by Simon & Schuster, 1997
ISBN 0684835657, 9780684835655

The Royal Navy and the slavers: the suppression of the Atlantic slave trade
By William Ernest Frank Ward, Ian T. Morison
Illustrated by Ian T. Morison
Edition: illustrated
Published by Allen & Unwin, 1969

The Navy and the Slave Trade: The Suppression of the African Slave Trade in the Nineteenth Century
By Christopher Lloyd
Edition: illustrated
Published by Routledge, 1968
ISBN 0714618942, 9780714618944

4 March 2009

John Beecroft, British Consul

On page 107, RRA mentions the British Consul for the Bights of Biafra and Benin, one John Beecroft.

Beecroft was a man of some mystery. He was born at Sleights near Whitby on the east coast of Yorkshire in 1790, and his baptismal record is dated 2 May that year. He was the son of John Beecroft of Sleights and his wife Jane, née Carpenter.

There is very little information about his early life, though he seems to have gone to sea as a teenager in a coastal vessel and was captured by the French in either 1804 or 1805 and imprisoned by them until 1814. This ten year episode in his life is widely quoted, but no sources are ever given and it has so far proved impossible to verify. Sometime after his return from captivity he "later travelled to Greenland as part of William Perry's expedition." That from Wikipedia, among others. Presumably they mean Rear-Admiral Sir William Edward Parry, 1790-1855. Parry commanded three expeditions in search of the North-West Passage; 1819-20, 1821-23 and 1824-25. Beecroft could have been on one or all of these, however, apparently not in a senior enough position to rate an entry in the Navy Lists, nor in Parry's own memoirs. However, one source suggests that he was in command of one of the transport vessels on one of the expeditions.

Beecroft’s career on the Coast of Africa began in 1829 when it seems he went to Fernando Po in some sort of business capacity and British Superintendent of Works, when the island was temporarily a British anti-slavery base. He remained there after Britain abandoned the place in 1834 and when Spain took control again in 1843 he was appointed official Spanish governor of the island. He also acted as an unofficial British consul in the mid-1840s, helping the Royal Navy's anti-slavery squadron make treaties and settle disputes. He gained a high reputation and was much respected by chiefs up and down the coast. During the 1830s and 1840s he made a number of exploratory expeditions on the coast and up the rivers:

1835 - River Niger 300 miles in steamer Quorra.
1836 - Cross River 120 miles from Old Calabar.
1840 - Benin River.
1841 - Cross River.
1842 - Cross River.

In 1841 he had assisted with the withdrawal of the Niger expedition in his steamer the Ethiope.

In 1849 came the official British appointment as Consul for the Bights of Biafra and Benin. (Gazette, November 1849: "John Beecroft Esq. to be HM Consul in the territories on the coast of Africa between Cape St. Paul and Cape St.John..." )

The following passage is taken from "Nigeria Under British Rule" By William Nevill Montgomerie Geary:

On the 30th of June 1849 John Beecroft of Fernando Po was appointed British Consul for the Bights of Biafra and Benin without prejudice to his retaining the Spanish Governorship of Fernando Po. So Mr. Beecroft was both Governor and Consul. He was much trusted by the British Foreign Office and rightly. He was an honourable, kindly gentleman, who would fitly represent the interest of England, brave and full of common sense. It is a pleasure to read his terse, shrewd, business-like, right-minded despatches. He knew the Native mind, and he knew the merchant. In his consular duties, he had to travel from Fernando to the Oil Rivers and Lagos and elsewhere in men-of-war, and one can imagine the pleasant dinners on deck in tropical moonlight when the Consul and the Captain were wise and witty. It was Beecroft who was the political officer at the Lagos bombardment, who dealt with the savage king of Dahomey. Mr. Beecroft also made voyages up the Niger on the Ethiope, but alas ! he left no journal and wrote no book. He died at Fernando Po on the 10th of June 1854.

The following account of the work of the good Beecroft, one of those sturdy honest men who do England’s business as it should be done, was written forty years later by Sir Claude Macdonald, the British Commissioner and Consul-General for the Oil Rivers. His despatch of 10 January 1893 says:

"John Beecroft was H.M.’s first consul for Bights of Benin and Biafra. In this capacity he did very good work and was instrumental in making many of the treaties for the suppression of the export slave trade. The naval expedition of 1841 up the Niger under Captain Bird Allen would have suftered even more terribly than it did had it not been for the prompt action taken by Governor Beecroft in going to their rescue. Governor Beecroft was the first to discover and survey the Cross river as far as the rapids. To this day Governor Beecroft’s name is a byword for uprightness and honour in Fernando Po and in the territories known as the Oil Rivers Protectorate. On his death, which took place in 1854, the negroes of Fernando Po, chiefly descendants of liberated slaves erected a monument to his memory, upon which they recorded their gratitude “for his many years fatherly attention to their comforts and interests and upon his unwearying exertions to promote the happiness and welfare of the African race”.

(Geary, William Nevill Montgomerie, NIGERIA UNDER BRITISH RULE, Methuen, 1927.)

John Beecroft died in 1854 while preparing for another expedition up the River Niger: "On June 10 [1854] at Clarence, after 25 years residence in Africa, John Beecroft esq., HBM's consul and Gov. of Fernando Po. (Deaths, The Times, Monday 14 August 1854, page 1.)

The painting of the Ethiope is on display in the International Slavery Museum, on the third floor of the Merseyside Maritime Museum building.