The earliest mention of a Wouldhave family in London is at Wapping, Middlesex; this is the baptism of Robert Wouldhave in 1674 and his burial later that year. His parents, Robert and Margaret Wouldhave already had a daughter Elizabeth who was born in about 1671 and a son Joseph who died in 1677. It is possible that Robert was living in North Shields before moving to Wapping. There is a baptism of Elizabeth in 1669 at Christchurch, Tynemouth which may correspond.
Robert and Margaret had six further children baptised in Wapping, of which only three survived childhood, John b 1675, Mary b 1679 and Margaret b 1684. Robert was described as a mariner in parish records; in a letter (which can be viewed at the British Library) from the East India Company dated 20th February 1683 Robert was commissioned as Captain of the Syam Merchant which set sail for the Bay of Bengal.
|East India Company Arms 1600 - 1709|
By DiegoAma - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0
The letter warned of the danger of pirates in the region of the Cape Verde Islands and that on the journey back the ship should try to keep company with other ships for defence. The letter also stated “We desire you to keep up the worship of God on Board your ship and good order among your men and take care of their health”. Captain Wouldhave was also warned not to trust anyone from other European nations since at that time they did not know how England would stand in terms of relations with other countries when the ship eventually returned to England. William Hedges Esq, agent and governor for the East India Company noted meeting the Syam Merchant in his diary while on his journey out to Bengal on February 26th 1684.
Robert died at sea in 1685 while on the voyage. He was succeeded in the captaincy by the mate Francis Burrel, who brought the ship safely back to London, presumably bearing the news of Robert’s death to his widow Margaret. Margaret was granted Administration on 13th April 1686. Margaret was left with a young family to care for. Elizabeth, the eldest was 15 years, John 11 years, Mary 7 years and Margaret, the youngest, was 2 years old. There were sufficient funds for Margaret to continue to live in the area and take care of her children.
In 1687 Elizabeth married James Jenifer (b 1661 approx), with permission from her mother, Margaret. James was a mariner and son of James Jenifer snr who had been a naval captain who commanded the Queen’s yacht from 1671 until his death in 1677. Many naval captains were relatively poor; few could make a living from their pay alone and a financially successful naval career depended on prize-taking. The Jenifers lived in a modest house in Deptford. For most naval sea captains, life was a constant struggle to fend off creditors and claim the monies due to them from the state. Information from Margaret Wouldhave’s will (1695) indicted that she had already provided financial support to the couple since it stated “in consideration of what I have already advanced and given unto my daughter Elizabeth Jenifer wife of James Jenifer Mariner”
Margaret’s will showed her to be a wealthy widow. Her son John inherited the family house. Her two unmarried daughters, Mary and Margaret, were left the sum of seven hundred pounds to be shared among them equally when they came of age or married. Elizabeth was also living in her mother’s household or renting rooms from her since in Margaret’s will she was left “the bed whereon she now lodgeth and all the furniture to the same appertaining with the needlework looking glass now standing in the best chamber”
After Margaret’s death, James and Elizabeth Jenifer lived in Whitechapel and they had a daughter called Sarah. James was also a mariner with the East India Company. He was Commander of the ship Katherine on its voyage to the East Indies when he died in 1706, at the age of about 47 years. In his will he left everything to his wife Elizabeth who was also his sole Executor.
|East India ship about 1690|
Mary (1679 – 1749) married John Denn in 1701. They had eight children Margaret b 1704, Mary b 1705, John b 1708, Elizabeth 1709, Wouldhave b 1710, Peter b 1711, Sarah b 1717 and Edward b1721. John Denn was a mariner and the family lived in Rotherhithe, Surrey. At some point later the family moved to Lewisham in Kent. Mary lost both her husband and one of her sons in 1747. Wouldhave Denn died at sea and Captain John Denn was buried in Lewisham.
|Signature of Wouldhave Denn from his will 1747|
Wouldhave left his estate to his parents during their lifetimes but his father died before probate was granted. Mary was the beneficiary and executor of her husband’s will and obtained the probate of her son’s will also. Wouldhave Denn’s will only mentioned his brothers John and Edward in his will as well as his siters without mentioning how many had survived by this date.
Mary Denn died in 1749. In her will she left houses in Wapping and Rotherhithe and as well as bonds in the East India Company. Her son John was the major beneficiary together with her daughters Mary, whose married name was Green, and Elizabeth, whose married name was Drayton.
Margaret Wouldhave, the daughter of Margaret and Robert, died in 1705. She had not yet come of age so did not inherit from her mother’s will of 1605. Margaret left small bequests to each of her sisters and some of her friends with “the residue to my niece and goddaughter Margaret Denn daughter of my sister Mary at marriage or 21”
John Wouldhave may have also been a mariner. A Letter of Marque, dated 1697, for the ship Richardson Galley, captained by Richard Ryder, lists John Wouldhave as Master. This ship, with forty crew, was described as having food for 6 months and carried twenty guns, twenty barrels of powder, sixteen rounds of great shot, 300 rounds of small shot and forty small arms. The ship was sailing to South Barbary, i.e. the coastal regions of North Africa. Letters of Marque were not to give permission to carry weapons on a ship since that could be done without needing any special permission. However, a Letter of Marque allowed a ship to take a prize if the opportunity arose, without it being labelled piracy. Unfortunately we have no further information on the Richardson Galley and whether it was involved in any incidents of prize taking.