A note from the Namur

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The Namur at Lagos. Image: National Maritime Museum, GreenwichIn CA 273 we shared the story of HMS  Namur, the 18th century  Royal Navy warship found beneath the floorboards of the Wheelwrights Shop at The Historic Dockyard, Chatham, and how her identity was revealed.

We were very excited to subsequently receive the following message from two of our readers,  Eunice and Ron Shanahan, all the way from Queensland, Australia:

The front of the letter - courtesy Eunice and Ron Shanahan. Click twice to enlarge.

G’day over there! I was amazed to see your article about the HMS Namur (CA 273), as we are collectors of British postal history and we have a letter written from that ship in 1812. The contents of the letter, written by one of the seamen on board are quite fascinating – you can read more about it on our website.

Eunice and Ron Shanahan
Queensland, Australia
[email protected]

The back of the letter - courtesy Eunice and Ron Shanahan. Click twice to enlarge.

We were thrilled to hear about this glimpse of life aboard the Namur, and Eunice and Ron have kindly sent us these images of the letter to share with you (click twice to enlarge).

It was written on August 3, 1812, by an outspoken seaman called John Manning — at this time the Namur   was moored near the Nore sandbank in the Thames Estuary, guarding against smugglers and spies from the Continent. Writing to his brother in Colchester, John has plenty to say about the quality of beer and tobacco available on board, as well as the frequent absence of the Namur‘s captain, Charles Austen — brother of the 18th century novelist Jane Austen, and thought to be her inspiration for the character of Captain Wentworth in Persuasion.

 The letter reads as follows:

Dear Brother,

I have wrote to my mother to informe her where I am but can get no answer I should of wrote to you befor but I have been employd ever since they got me on board painting the Captin’s cabin and all round the sides of her I directed my letter to no 4 Greens Place I don’t know wether that was right or not. I should of wrote to Betsy but I did not know where she lived neither Mary. I will take it as a favour if you will informe me where either of them live as I want to write to them for some writing paper and pens likewise a little ink as I can get none hear I don’t want for them to pay for it out of their pockit for I can pay them again when I come ashore.

I rather expect they mean to keep me on board of this Ship if they do I expect I shall be on Shore again in about six months I have been on board of this ship going on of 6 weeks now and the Captin has only been on board once since, that was when I first came or else they would of spoke to him about my being on this Ships books the Lieutenant and all the officers are very much pleased with my work and very much respect me if I should be fortunate enough to belong to the Ship I shall be as happy as if I was on Shore for it is very good living we have nothing to drink but grog and wine.

There is beer in the Ship but they sell it very dear seven pence pr pot and when you get it is not so good as table beer you get ashore. They sell the tobacco at five pence pr ounce which you can get better ashore for 2 pence and you know I like to smoke a pipe of tobacco very well, more so now I have nothing to do with watching nor any other work but my own. I can go to bed any time I like after 8 O Clock at night and lay till 6 or 7 in the morning and I don’t know what it is in a seagoing Ship but I am told it is better so I don’t know what fault our brother Robert could find I have been to all the receiving ships the same as he was and I found them all very good.

I am informd he was on board of the  Princess Caroline  she was laying at Portsmouth the 22nd July I don’t now rightly know wether she is there or not now I did not know myself until this last week as I happend to catch hold of the above paper. I hear by different people there is great talk of peace in London but it is no such a thing for they have sent several small vessels out to different of HMS to tell them to stop all the Americans.

When you write you might let me know a little how things go on. Please to give my kind love to my Mother when you write likewise to my brother and Sister and except the same yourself so I conclude and remain your affectionat brother John Manning.

Direct for me John Manning Seaman on Board H.M.S. Namur at the Noar please to pay one penny and it will come the same as this to you Excuse hast J.M. For I am in Hast

Many thanks to Eunice and Ron Shanahan for sharing this historical gem with us – you can find more information about the text on their website,  http://www.earsathome.com/letters/Previctorian/namur.html

1 Comment

  1. This is a delightful- albeit fleeting- glimpse into the world of a man who clearly hadn’t gone to sea let alone experienced the horrific nature of cannon based nautical conflict!
    The Grog and Tobacco may have been both expensive (so the Navy were clearly not adverse to a spot of profiteering during this period in history) and pants, but at least our chap was only decorating the Skipper’s cabin as opposed to decorating the interior of a gun deck with various parts of his anatomy.
    One cannot but wonder if Mr Manning ultimately had better luck making contact with his brother than he seemingly did with his Mother and ‘Betsy’?

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