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Aldersey, Laurence (1546–1597/8), sea captain, was born at Aldersey Hall, Spurstow, Cheshire, the son of Thomas Aldersey (d. 1557), sheriff of Chester in 1539 and mayor in 1549, and his wife, Cecilia Garnet (fl. 1513–1594), also of Chester. As the sixth in a family of at least eight children, in the mid-1560s he looked to ...

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Baker, Matthew (1529/30–1613), shipwright, was the son of James Baker [see below], shipwright to Henry VIII. In 1550 Baker sailed to the Levant in the bark Aucher commanded by Roger Bodenham. Though only a young man, his was an inquisitive role during the voyage, and he acquired valuable knowledge of Venetian boat-building techniques. Following his return to ...

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Baker, Robert (fl. c. 1563), mariner and poet, is known only through his one published writing. Possibly a relative of the Bakers of Sissinghurst who had connections with the London overseas trading community, Robert Baker composed a poem about two English voyages to ...

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Balleny, John (b. c. 1770, d. in or after 1842), merchant navy officer and Antarctic discoverer, was born c.1770 but nothing is known about his early life and education. He may have been a Londoner, brought up in the Newcastle coal trade. From 1798, when he was living in the parish of ...

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Barlow, Edward (1642–1706?), mariner, was born at Prestwich, Manchester, on 6 March 1642, one of the six children of George Barlow (c.1599–c.1686), husbandman, and his wife, Ann (d. 1692). Disliking his apprenticeship as a ‘whitester’ (that is, in the bleaching trade), he went to ...

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Bates, Sir Percy Elly, fourth baronet (1879–1946), merchant and shipowner, was born at Beechenhurst, Wavertree, Liverpool, on 12 May 1879, the second of seven sons of Edward Percy Bates (1845–1899), who became second baronet, and his wife, Constance Elisabeth, daughter of Samuel Robert Graves...

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Sir Percy Elly Bates, fourth baronet (1879–1946) by George Charles Beresford, 1913 © National Portrait Gallery, London

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See Bates, Sir Percy Elly, fourth baronet

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Berthon, Edward Lyon (1813–1899), inventor of nautical aids and Church of England clergyman, was born in Finsbury Square, London, on 20 February 1813, the tenth child of Peter Berthon, an army contractor, who was reduced to comparative poverty by the wreck of a number of his ships and the end of the war in 1814. In 1828 ...

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Best, Thomas (1570–1639), sea captain and master of Trinity House, was baptized on 8 June 1570 at Merstham, Surrey, the youngest son of Robert Best, an interpreter for the Muscovy Company, and Anne, formerly Bowman. Later, in 1623, Best told Sir William Conway...

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A. G. E. Jones

Reviser Elizabeth Baigent

Biscoe, John (bap. 1794, d. 1843), merchant navy officer and explorer, was baptized in Enfield on 28 June 1794, the third son and youngest child of Thomas Biscoe of Waltham Abbey and his wife, Ann Tibbs. Nothing is known of his early years, but on leaving school he became a clerk. On 11 March 1812 he volunteered for the ...

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Robert C. Ritchie

Bonnet, Stede (d. 1718), pirate, may have been a soldier as he was given the title of major during his trial, where he was also treated as an educated gentleman by the officers of the court. The most that can at present be said about his family is that he is probably the ...

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Borough, John (c. 1494–1570), seaman, son of Stephen Borough (c.1474–1548), was born at Northam Burrows, Northam, Devon, the eldest of four brothers brought up there. Early seagoing experience off the treacherous north Devon and Cornish shores prepared him well for more challenging tasks with the vice-admiral ...

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Browne, Sir Benjamin Chapman (1839–1917), engineer and shipbuilder, was born on 26 August 1839 at Stouts Hill, Uley, Gloucestershire, the youngest of the three sons of Colonel Benjamin Chapman Browne (d. c.1853) of the 9th lancers and later of the Gloucestershire yeomanry...

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Bullen, Frank Thomas (1857–1915), merchant seaman and writer, was born at 40 Alfred Road, Paddington, London, on 5 April 1857, the son of Frank Robert Bullen, journeyman stonemason of Crewkerne, Dorset, and his wife, Margaret, née Brown. When he was eighteen months old the family broke up, his upbringing passing to a maiden aunt. An elder sister disappeared, and he saw his mother only once again, though he re-established contact with his father later in life. Existence depended on his aunt's ability at home sewing, yet two foundations of his later development were laid down: an awareness of literature and familiarity with religion. A natural pre-school reader, he attended dame- and junior schools and a Sunday school chapel in ...

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Butterworth, William (1769–1834), slave-ship sailor and engraver, was born on 2 October 1769 at 55 Kirkgate, Leeds, Yorkshire, the second of five children of the Leeds engraver and copperplate printer John Butterworth, who had set up in business in Leeds in 1758. William...

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William Butterworth (1769–1834) self-portrait, pubd 1823 © reserved

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Caird, Sir James, of Glenfarquhar, baronet (1864–1954), shipowner, was born in Glasgow on 2 January 1864, the elder son in a family of six of James Caird, lawyer, and his wife, Mary Ann Hutcheson. Educated at Glasgow Academy, he joined the firm of ...

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Carder, Peter (fl. 1577–1625), mariner, is known only from his supposedly self-penned narrative, published by Samuel Purchas in Purchas his Pilgrimes in 1625. He was said to be from St Veryan, Cornwall, although the lack of relevant parish registers prevents a verification. According to his narrative, ...

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Chance, Sir James Timmins, first baronet (1814–1902), glass manufacturer and lighthouse engineer, was born in Birmingham on 22 March 1814, the eldest of the six sons of William Chance (1788–1856), merchant and glass manufacturer, of Spring Grove, Birmingham, and his wife, Phoebe (...