MICHAEL SPINKS (1791-1847), Mariner – TIMELINE of EVENTS
Editor’s Note: The following is currently an incomplete list of life events concerning my ancestor’s
story set in the “age of sail”. The author has made every effort to ensure the accuracy of all facts and dates, and is prepared to say that no ridiculous conclusions have been made (without sufficient evidence to back them up!); all the pieces of evidence together form a joined-up picture of the significant events surrounding my above-named seafaring ancestor’s life. Thomas C.T. Spinks - December 2013
Circa January 1791
- Michael is likely conceived
in 1791 when his father Michael Spinks Snr. is ashore in Portsmouth during a brief gap in his Royal Navy service, having been discharged HMS
on 22nd December 1790. He next joined HMS
, lying at Common Hard, Portsmouth, on 11
January 1791. (Michael Snr., a Bosun’s Mate, was originally from Southwark in South London, though no original parish records exist to confirm this.)
Circa October 1791
– Michael Spinks (Jnr.) is born in Portsmouth, Hampshire – the first child his parents had.
Wed. 9th November 1791
– Baby Michael is baptised at St Thomas’s Church (now Cathedral) in Portsmouth to Michael Spinks & Susannah. No birth date is recorded. (Michael Snr. had been discharged/paid off from the HMS Brunswick on 27th August that year and was probably present at his son’s baptism; however, he had not actually married Susannah yet!)
Tues. 25th June 1793
– Michael’s first brother George is baptised – also in St Thomas’s Church, Portsmouth.
Sat. 30th November 1793
– George dies in infancy (aged around six months) and is buried in Gosport (Holy Trinity Churchyard) under the surname SPHINX, having died presumably of an infant-related illness.
Sun. 25th June 1797
– On the (fourth) anniversary of their late son George’s christening, Michael & Susannah had their next son, John, baptised in Holy Trinity Church, Gosport.
Tues. 13th March 1798
– Michael SPINKS and Susanna(h) ROOM(S) finally get married (after banns) in St Mary’s Parish Church, Alverstoke (near Gosport). Neither could write their own name, both putting a cross. Witnesses who signed on the wedding register were John Shepherd and John Gear (not relatives of the family).
Sun. 18th March 1798
– Baby John ('abbreviated' to Jno) is baptised for the second time (reason unknown) five days after his parents marriage, in the same church.
Fri. 14th September 1798
– Young John becomes the second son to die in infancy as he too is buried at Holy Trinity Churchyard, Gosport.
Wed. 11th December 1799
– A fourth son,
is born during 1799 to Michael & Susannah, and is baptised this day in the same church in Gosport. He is the last (live-born) child the couple ever had.
Fri. 31st December 1802
– Michael Snr. (still rated Boatswain’s Mate) takes his eldest son, Michael Jnr. (a Boy, 3rd Class), to sea with him on-board HMS Loire (a powerful ex-French frigate!), fitting out in Portsmouth Harbour, under Captain Frederick Lewis Maitland. This is the last time Michael will have seen his mother and younger brother, since he would spend over 11½ years of continuous service in the Royal Navy! Both Michaels are recorded on the ship’s books as SPHYNX.
27th June 1803
- Michael Spinks Snr. is flogged with 24 lashes having being charged with theft on or around the 24th June for which he was also demoted (“disrated”) from Boatswain’s Mate to plain Ordinary Seaman.
Early April 1804
– Both Michael Spinkses fall seriously ill after catching typhus fever, probably from French sailors with whom they had fought a ship-to-ship duel and taken prisoners on-board Loire the previous month.
6th April 1804
- Michael Jnr. – along with several others – is discharged sick into HMS Trent (a Hospital Ship) moored off Cork to be treated - whatever that may have involved! - for typhus fever.
9th April 1804
– Michael Snr. joins his son as a patient on-board HMS Trent.
21st April 1804
– Michael Snr. is deemed well enough to re-join the Loire (after spending 12 days in cure).
2nd May 1804
– Michael Snr. returns to the sick deck in HMS Trent, still suffering from a fever.
2nd June 1804
– Michael Snr. is well enough to leave the hospital deck once again and remain aboard Trent as a supernumerary until Loire's arrival.
4th June 1804
– Michael Jnr. finally recovers sufficiently (after spending two whole months fighting typhus fever) to leave
sick deck and wait aboard her as a supernumerary, until his proper ship Loire arrived.
17th July 1804
– The Loire comes into Cork Harbour – having been cruising at sea for several weeks – and picks up her recovered crew
- including both Michael Spinkses otherwise Sphynxes.
2nd May 1805
– Exactly one year after his previous illness, Michael Snr. falls seriously ill again, with Dysentery this time, and is sent once more to the Trent Hospital Ship (still moored in the Cove of Cork).
20th May 1805
- Michael Snr. passes away (“Discharged Dead”) after 18 days aboard said Hospital Ship, and is buried, presumably on shore in Ireland. He was probably aged around forty. (Michael Jnr. avoided catching this disease, so he remained aboard Loire; he would not have learned of his father’s death until Loire returned to Cork Harbour again – with another French prize vessel in tow – some weeks later, on Friday 14th of June.)
17th January 1806
– Michael Jnr. catches “Catarrhal Influenza”, perhaps again from captured French sailors, and is discharged with several dozen others to Plymouth Royal Navy Hospital. He recovers a month later; he and the other recovered men are sent via a small Sloop-of-War across to Cork to await their ship Loire there.
29th April 1806
– Michael Jnr. and numerous other recovered shipmates (having been held as supernumeraries aboard the Trent for over a month) re-join their proper ship, the Loire at Cork.
20th June 1806
– Michael’s mother Susanna (who would have then been 34-years-old) dies, cause unknown, in Hampshire County Hospital and is buried this day in Winchester (St Maurice’s Churchyard). She would probably not have known what had become of her husband & son; and they would have heard nothing from her.
5th Oct 1806
– HMS Loire pays off in Deptford Dockyard on the Thames and her crew are drafted on-board the new HMS Magnificent (Captain George Eyre) lying at Woolwich. Michael is still a lowly “Boy, 3rd Class” on entry to the ship – however, this would soon change for the better.
(See service history of Michael for detailed list of events affecting him while in the Navy.)
5th October 1811 - Michael is mentioned in the Magnificent's logbook for the first time, when he is punished for quarrelling with four lashes from the cat-o'-nine-tails. (Oddly, this is the lowest no. of lashes given at any flogging during the ship's commission! He must have behaved very well up 'til then.)
11th June 1812 - Michael suffers his second (and last) taste of the "cat" when he receives six lashes for fighting (who he fought is unknown) - this time under Captain Lake's command.
9th August 1814
– The war having (temporarily) ended in April 1814 with Napoleon abdicating and going into exile on the Mediterranean island of Elba, Michael and several other long-serving seamen are granted discharge from Magnificent lying at Spithead (prior to her sailing for the West Indies with a convoy), and indeed the "Service" (i.e. Navy) for ever. At the time of his leaving the Navy Michael was rated “Quarter-Master’s Mate” – a junior petty officer role.
11th May 1815
– Michael is in London to prove the will of an ‘old’ shipmate, Joseph Dunn of the Magnificent, who died in Plymouth Naval Hospital in late 1813 and left Michael everything he possessed, calling him his “beloved messmate”! The question is, by what means was Michael summoned to act as executor? How did the legal people know where he was? And how did he get to London – by road or ship?
1st June 1815
– Michael, having been granted admin of Dunn’s effects, receives the outstanding wages of his deceased friend (presumably at the Navy Pay Office in London, Magnificent not
having returned to England).
24th July 1815
– Michael receives the remainder of Dunn’s pay covering July 1813 up to his death in October/November 1813 – very little.
– I have not been able to find Michael on any East India Company ships which sailed out to the Far East and returned to England in time for his first marriage. Was he serving in some other kind of ship? Or did he remain ashore living off his Naval earnings during the two-and-a-half years from leaving the Navy to his getting married for the first time? I doubt it.
Fri. 21st March 1817
– Michael applies for Marriage Licence, which is granted after he pays £200 (equivalent to nearly £20,000 today!) to the Right Reverand Father! He is described as a Mariner, and had allegedly resided in Shadwell for 4 weeks past. This record also features his signature, proving that he was at least (semi) literate.
Saturday 22nd March 1817
– Next day, he marries his sweetheart, Anne Atkins (spinster) at St Paul’s Church, Shadwell in East London. Anne could NOT write her name. Both witnesses who signed the register, George Sawyer and John Bryan, appear to have been parish officials as they saw other weddings too.)
Unless Michael joined an EIC ship almost straight away, he could not possibly have gone to sea on an Indiaman proper that year, since the sailing ‘season’ was virtually over! Two EIC ships were put into commission the day before his wedding – which he may have been in a hurry to join! Maybe he served in a convict ship to Australia instead, or a Guineaman... or some other ship?
3rd July 1818
– It appears Michael’s first wife Ann(e) died in High Street, Gravesend at the young age of 23 (could have been in childbirth), and was buried this day in St George’s churchyard there. We guess that Michael was away at sea when she died – only some fifteen months after they married.
About November 1818
– Michael meets and falls in love with one Ann Allford in London, and they conceive their first child together… Or did they? (Ann had in fact already been married, as a minor aged under 20 years, with permission of her parent, Ann A. Snr. in August 1815 at St Mary’s Church, Newington, to a Charles Francis Claughton, however she
reverts back to her
name as they had apparently split up, and had had no children.)
Tues. 10th August 1819
– Michael marries his heavily pregnant girlfriend Ann Allford – after banns had been published for three Sundays – in the Parish Church of St. George-in-the-East, near Stepney, London. They alleged to be bachelor and spinster. Both signed their names. Witnesses to the wedding were one J Perratt (probably male; he saw other weddings so was probably a church official rather than a friend) and Mary Wade (who could also write).
22nd August 1819
– Michael’s first child (of which a record exists), a girl named Ann after her mother, is born.
15th Sept 1819
– Baby Ann is baptised at St. Mary’s Church, Rotherhithe (on the South side of the Thames). Her parents’ residence is noted as Cherry Garden Street, Bermondsey (neighbouring Rotherhithe).
Late 1819 / early 1820
– Michael Spinks I believe set sail on board one of the East India Company’s ships (possibly for the first time), returning to England probably in 1821.
24th January 1821
– The 17-month-old Ann is for some reason, re-baptised in the Parish Church of St George-in-the-East, this time under the name ANNE SUSAN SPINKS. Her parents were then residing on Vinegar Lane.
13th May 1822
- Did Michael and Ann have a son named Samuel born on this day? If they did, they never had him baptised. He shows up later as a 17-year-old 'Seaman' on the crew list for the Boyne (Indiaman) in 1839, which he joined in Bombay about 2 weeks before Michael Spinks. Yet there is no proof of their relatedness. (This was the only time I believe they served together. Samuel Spinks continued serving as a merchant seaman until at least 1846, having been issued a “ticket” in November 1845 – after which he disappeared completely! Interestingly, his physical description is close to other known related Spinkses, so there may well have been a genetic link.)
23rd May 1823
– Michael and Ann’s second daughter, Cordelia, is born. She is baptised just over a month later on 25th June.
2nd June 1825
– Michael and Ann’s third (and last) daughter Letitia is born. She is baptised several months later on 11th November 1825.
14th February 1827
– The first son of Michael and Ann - at least for whom proof exists - named unsurprisingly Michael, is born. He is baptised on 1st June that year in the same church as his sisters – St George-in-the-East – the family still residing on Vinegar Lane in that parish.
– Michael joined the Honourable E.I. Company’s Ship Abercrombie Robinson – as Boatswain! She sailed from the Downs (Kent) on the 21st of February for Bombay, where she arrived on 5th June, spending over two months there. Just prior to her departure for China on 10th August, the deadly cholera morbus struck down the ship’s company, two boys being the first victims, being buried ashore that day. Michael the Boatswain was eventually struck down with the disease and entered on the “Sick List” on 30th August, but he pulled through after suffering severely for a few days. It killed 24 out of 38 people attacked; by the end of the voyage fifty-seven of the crew of 174 had perished! (Oddly, none of the officers – except the Gunner - died.)
– Michael’s youngest daughter Letitia (spelt “Latichia”) aged 3 years succumbs from some illness or accident (we do not know), while Michael is away serving on the above-named ship. She is buried on 29th June 1828 at All Saints’ Church, Poplar.
1828 (late in year, probably!)
– Michael’s son John Michael is born. His birth date is not noted in his baptismal entry or indeed anywhere, so we cannot say when it actually was! His father’s ship did not dock back at Blackwall until 20th April 1829, and John Michael’s baptism took place at St George, Gravesend on 6th January 1830 (just over eight months later), so for Michael to have been his biological father John must have been conceived by mid-February 1828 - unless he was born extremely premature in late 1829 and was quickly baptised as they thought he would not live long; which seems unlikely since he grew up, worked in various manual jobs, married three times, had several children and died in October 1894, age recorded as 65. Most of his siblings were baptised within a few months of birth, though his brother Henry was not baptised until he was thirteen months old.
19th May 1829
– The Abercrombie Robinson’scommission ends,
all her cargo & stores
having been unloaded
6th January 1830
– John Michael’s baptism takes place at Gravesend (St George’s Church) – his parents were then based at West Street in that town. Was Michael on board an EIC ship soon to sail from that port?
30th May 1831
- Michael is listed in the 1831 Poplar Parish return (i.e. census) taken on that date, as head of household in a dwelling on Grundy Street, consisting of eight persons (4 males & 4 females - all thought to be a single family). Who were the extra male and female who are not accounted for with Michael, his wife Ann, daughters Ann & Cordelia, sons Michael & John? Letitia was already dead & Henry had not yet been born.
13th March 1832
– Michael and Ann’s last (live-born) child, Henry is born. (They had six children for certain, five of whom reached adulthood, and possibly a seventh if the unbaptised Samuel is counted.)
14th April 1833
– Henry is baptised at All Saints’ Church, Poplar (aged thirteen months & 1 day).
31st May 1834
– Michael is discharged from the E. I. Company’s Maritime Service for good, after the Company loses its charter on exclusive trade to the Far East and government forces it to desist from trading completely. Since Michael had been a senior petty officer in the EIC, and would have continued serving in that capacity had the Company done the same, he (together with other officers/petty officers who had served ten years or more in the Company – non-continuous of course) was given “compensation” in the form of a pension of £25 per annum, for life.
Early August 1834
– Michael - clearly not content to live off his pension - soon joins a privately-owned East Indiaman, the Duke of Northumberland under Captain W.L. Pope
(presumably as the Boatswain, no crew list exists)
, on a voyage to the Bay of Bengal/Calcutta.
– the Duke of Northumberland leaves Calcutta to return directly to London.
Circa 15th May 1835
– Michael’s (second) beloved wife Ann (Allford) dies at the age of 37 and is buried (according to a “burial order book” her body was brought from 51 Wells Street in Poplar) two days later in All Saints’ Churchyard, Poplar. The cause of her death is not recorded, though it is unlikely to have been childbirth-related since over nine months had passed since Michael was last at home, and no more children show up anywhere in parish records or later censuses.
Circa 10th July 1835
– the Duke of Northumberland arrives back at the docks in East London (near Michael’s family home in Poplar) and Michael finds out the terribly sad news that his wife Ann has passed away.
12th July 1835
– Michael decides to reaffirm his Christian faith by having himself baptised at All Saints’ Church, Poplar; we cannot say why he did so but he probably felt he needed to thank the Almighty, and maybe wanted to be cleansed of his sins. The register shows his parents’ names as Michael & Susan, of Gosport; and his birth-date (erroneously) as 13th March 1795.
22nd July 1835
– Michael receives his first annual pension payment from the East India Company - presume he went to their HQ in Leadenhall Street to get it.
Thurs. 24th September 1835
– Michael remarries as a widower in the parish church (after banns) of St Mary’s Rotherhithe (where his first daughter Ann had been baptised in 1819) to one Harriet Dyer. She was much younger than Michael, had been born in Rotherhithe in 1808, and had been married before on New Years’ Day 1832 to Edward Lepard, yet reverted to her maiden name when she remarried! The wedding was witnessed by Harriet’s sister Clarissa Hale, brother-in-law William Hale, and one Joseph Wellins. The union did not last however, and they separated at some point in the next 8 years, Michael remarrying with Harriet still alive!
7th December 1835
– Michael petitions the Admiralty (or Greenwich Hospital) for some kind of relief or pension, or even for his children’s admission into the Greenwich Hospital School. His Royal Navy “certificate of service” was drawn up (in fact the first record I ever found relating to his seafaring career), showing his surname as “Sphynx”. Clearly Michael cannot have been physically disabled enough at this time to be admitted as an in-pensioner to the “
Seamen’s Hospital” since this was reserved for those maimed in action.)
7th May 1836
– Michael joins a newly-built “Blackwall Frigate”, the Walmer Castle (Captain William Bourchier) at East India Docks, as Boatswain, for a voyage to Bombay and back - his first time at sea in some ten months.
30th March 1837
– Michael is discharged on the ship’s arrival in London.
6th June 1837
– Michael re-joins Walmer Castle (under the same captain and first mate) for another voyage to Bombay and then on to Whampoa (China).
– Michael is discharged on the ship’s safe arrival back in London.
– Michael joins another ship in London (presumably as the Boatswain – the crew list cannot unfortunately be found!) which takes him to Bombay, where he is apparently discharged & joins another ship.
5th June 1839
- Michael joins the Boyne in Bombay harbour. One Samuel Spinks appears on the crew-list, aged 17 and also a Seaman; he had joined this ship on 24th May (12 days before Michael), having previously served on Golconda. Did they originally sail together from London? Was Samuel Michael’s unbaptised son?
19th October 1839
– Michael and Samuel (and the rest of the crew) are discharged after the ship’s arrival at St Katherine Docks, London.
8th December 1839
– Michael’s eldest daughter Ann marries (after banns) one John Williams (a boilermaker) at St Anne’s Church, Limehouse (East London); Michael is present and signs the marriage certificate as a witness.
20th December 1839
– Michael ships aboard the Inglis (a large 1300+ ton former EIC ship) lying at Gravesend, as Boatswain for a voyage to Bombay and back.
Late October 1840
– The Inglis returns to London and Michael is discharged.
20th March 1841
– After around five months ashore, Michael ships in London as Boatswain of a Convict Ship, the Waverley, before sailing to Dublin to collect her human cargo of 176 male Irish convicts! This would turn out to be a most eventful, exciting and unexpected journey! Indeed, shortly after their arrival at Hobart in Tasmania - the convicts being
20th September - Michael and around half the crew of 27 made their get away from their cruel Master, James Morgan. He brought them to trial at the local law court, sentencing them to thirty days at the treadwheel, but they were finally acquitted after the Surgeon Superintendant, Dr Thomas R. Dunn, spoke on their behalf at the trial about the mistreatment they had suffered on the voyage, speaking of Michael’s worthy character in particular.
Below is an extract from COLONIAL TIMES, published on Tuesday 5th Oct 1841.
Hobart Town Police Report – Wednesday, September 29 .
Michael Spinks [my 4xGreat-Grandfather], Robert Robertson, James McDonald, Thomas Kelly, Henry Stotman, Alex. Martin, Patrick Coleman, George Wyatt and John Adams, seamen to the convict ship Waverley, charged by James Morgan (master) with absenting themselves without leave. The same men were charged by complainant last week, and liberated at the instigation of Doctor Dunn, and were then advised to apply to a professional man for redress, but the foolish fellows not being able to brook the laws' [sic] delay, and frightened at a ruse played off by complainant [i.e. Captain Morgan] of pretending to get the ship under-weigh, they took the first means of getting on shore, which was no doubt the very thing desired by the captain.
It is much to be regretted the poor fellows had no one to defend them in this instance, as there is no doubt from the treatment they have sustained during the voyage the articles have been broken; one individual a poor weather-beaten tar, who has fought and bled for his country, is much to be pitied; he, from his nautical knowledge, acted as an officer during the voyage, taking his regular watch, and, as is stated by our informant, was the means of saving the ship from imminent peril on one particular occasion, which must be well remembered by the captain, and it speaks but little for his gratitude to say nothing of humanity in thus treating the person in question. This poor old tar with his shipmates were [sic] ordered to the tread-wheel for thirty [otherwise 28] days, a most severe punishment for such a trifling offence. Query -- Is there no means of throwing the true light on this picture by a proper investigation of the facts, and liberating the poor fellows from their place of durance[?]
6th June 1841 –
Meanwhile, back in England, the 1841 census is taken, and Michael’s children are in London. His two youngest sons, John and Henry, ages recorded as 12 and 10, were apparently living at the CRABB family’s abode on Hunts Row, Poplar (the head was a Carman). The other son, 14-year-old Michael is living at an address with his married sister Ann Williams (minus her husband) at the LANGDOWN family’s address on Gill Street in Limehouse, whose head was a Shipwright. None had any occupation, so were probably still reliant on Michael for their upkeep/income. The only one of Michael’s children who fails to show is Cordelia – where was she? Also, no sign of Samuel Spinks, so I imagine he was also at sea. And, lastly, where was Michael’s then “wife”, Harriet (nee Dyer) – still alive of course, as she remarries in Poplar 10 years later, but is nowhere to be found on the census!
2nd November 1841
– Michael finds a berth as a Seaman aboard another ship lying in Hobart, the David Clark (which was an old East Indiaman, but had been used to transport convicts on this occasion), which shortly afterwards sailed for Bombay.
1st May 1842
– Michael leaves (discharged from) the David Clark at Bombay.
6th May 1842
– Michael joins the old Larkins Indiaman in Bombay as Boatswain. (Isaac Spinks, a black Steward, is serving on-board her at the same time, having joined ship before her departure from London in April 1841.)
13th February 1843
– Larkins pays off her crew in Blackwall Docks. Michael’s monthly wage as Boatswain was £3 10s. Interestingly, this is the last voyage Michael Spinks ever made – according at least to the Central Register of Seamen, nor does he even appear in the Register of Seamen’s ID Tickets, which,
by a law introduced in
every foreign-going mariner had to carry on his person. Did he somehow go by another name?
14th June 1843
– Michael’s daughter Cordelia marries for the first time, after banns, at St Paul’s Shadwell, to a mariner named John Egram, who subsequently vanishes without trace! They both resided at “14 Farmers Folly” in Shadwell. We cannot say if Michael was present at the wedding (though he was ashore at that time). Interestingly, an entry for Egram is to be found in the Seamen’s Register; his ship had paid off in London just 4 weeks prior to the wedding! Quick-fire marriage or what? I presume they knew each other beforehand.
13th July 1843
- Michael appears before the Magistrate (Mr Ballantyne) for East London charged by several inn-keepers of swindling! However, he is very fortunate to be acquitted on the grounds of irregular accounting methods used by the alleged “dupes”!
Wed. 23rd Oct 1844
– Michael gets married for the fourth (and final!) time to Harriot Robins (widow of another seaman and daughter of one James Clark, labourer), after banns, at the Parish Church of St Nicholas, Deptford, where both were then allegedly living. He alleged to be a widower, described himself as a mariner (and his father, Michael Spinks, as the same, even though he’d been dead nearly forty years!). Harriot was unable to sign her own name, putting a ‘X’. The witnesses were likely parish officials, as they saw other marriages too.
– Michael Spinks, aged 50, shows up on a passenger list of a schooner Brothers of Saint John, N.B. to Boston, Mass. What on Earth was he doing over there? Did he still have an unquenchable thirst for travelling the world? Why did he not take his wife with him? Also, how long was he there?
Sat. 2nd Oct 1847
– Michael petitions the Admiralty (again), probably in order to receive the Naval General Service Medal which had been
that year for all those present at noteworthy actions back to the start of the French Revolutionary Wars in 1793! Another R.N. Certificate of Service is drawn up for him which is titled “Michael Spinks –
as Michael Sphynx
”! (Sadly, Michael never actually received his medal, which was issued from January 1849; only widows could obtain it on behalf of deceased men.)
Mon 1st Nov 1847
– Michael Spinks passes away (aged 56) at 21 Betts Street in the Parish of St George-in-the-East, London having succumbed this time to the dreaded Typhus fever (after ten days). The death certificate was registered by one Ann Fowler (present at the death), who lived on the same street and may not have known much about Michael, stating his occupation as “laborer” [sic] and age as 50 years. It is definitely our man, though, because the East India Company pension record also gives his death date as 1/11/1847. Where was Michael’s wife when he died; had they split up too? (She re-married in late 1848.) Did his children know of his whereabouts and visit him on his deathbed? Did he receive a proper Christian burial? I cannot find any record of one.