Category Archives: Exploration

Clothing Colonies Exploration Family Food Household Travel

One large frying pan & three paires of Irish stockings

From John Smith’s The Generall Histories of Virginia (1624)


This post comes from a text published in 1622, advising prospective pilgrims travelling to the New World on the provisions they needed to take with them; ‘such necessaries as either private families or single persons shall have cause to furnish themselves’ to prevent the hindrance of the ‘Progresse of that noble Plantation.’ What’s particularly interesting is that the text sheds light not only on what may have been a typical family’s belongings, but also on the costs involved in purchasing everyday items such as shirts and wooden spoons. I’ve used the National Archives to gather the modern price equivalents: a penny in 1620 was worth about 40p, a shilling about £4.80, and a pound about £96.


Apparrell. Apparrell for one man, and so after the rate for more.

One Monmouth Cap — 00 li. 01 s. 10 d.
Three falling bands [collars] — li. 01 s. 03 d.
Three shirts — li. 07 s. 06 d.
One waste-coate — li. 02 s. 02 d.
One suite of Canvase — li. 07 s. 06 d.
One suite of Frize [woollen cloth] — li. 10 s. 00 d.
One suite of Cloth — li. 15 s. 00 d.
Three paire of Irish stockings — li. 04 s. — d.
Foure paire of shooes — li. 08 s. 08 d.
One paire of garters — li. 00 s. 10 d.
One doozen of points [laces] — li. 00 s. 03 d.
One paire of Canvase sheets — li. 08 s. 00 d.
Seven ells [one ell was c.45 inches] of Canvase, to make a bed and boulster, to be filled in Virginia 8. s.—
One Rug for a bed 8. s. which with the bed serving for two men, halfe is—li. 08 s. 00 d.
Five ells coorse Canvase, to make a bed at Sea for two men, to be filled with straw, iiij. s.—
One coorse Rug at Sea for two men, will cost vj. s. is for one—— li. 05 s. 00 d.

[sub-total] 04 li. 00 s. 00 d.


Victuall. For a whole yeere for one man, and so for more after the rate.

Eight bushels of Meale —02 li. 00 s. 00 d.
Two bushels of pease at 3. s.— li. 06 s. 00 d.
Two bushels of Oatemeale 4. s. 6. d. — li. 09 s. 00 d.
One gallon of Aquavitae — li. 02 s. 06 d.
One gallon of Oyle — li. 03 s. 06 d.
Two gallons of Vineger 1. s. — li. 02 s. 00 d.
[sub-total] 03 li. 03 s. 00 d.


Armes. For one man, but if halfe of your men have armour it is sufficient so that all have Peeces and swords.

One Armour compleat, light — li. 17 s. 00 d.
One long Peece, five foot or five and a halfe, neere Musket bore — 01 li. 02 s. — d.
One sword — li. 05 s. — d.
One belt — li. 01 s. — d.
One bandaleere [a broad belt to support a musket] — li. 01 s. 06 d.
Twenty pound of powder — li. 18 s. 00 d.
Sixty pound of shot or lead, Pistoll and Goose shot — li. 05 s. 00 d.
[sub total] 03 li. 09 s. 06 d.


Tooles. For a family of 6 persons and so after the rate for more.

Five broad howes [hoes] at 2. s. a piece — li. 10 s. — d.
Five narrow howes at 16. d. a piece — li. 06 s. 08 d.
Two broad Axes at 3. s. 8. d. a piece — li. 07 s. 04 d.
Five felling Axes at 18. d. a piece — li. 07 s. 06 d.
Two steele hand sawes at 16. d. a piece — li. 02 s. 08 d.
Two two-hand-sawes at 5. s. a piece — li. 10 s. — d.
One whip-saw, set and filed with box, file, and wrest — li. 10 s. — d.
Two hammers 12. d. a piece — li. 2 s. 00 d.
Three shovels 18. d. a piece — li. 04 s. 06 d.
Two spades at 18. d. a piece — li. 03 s. — d.
Two augers [tool to bore holes in wood] 6. d. a piece — li. 01 s. 00 d.
Sixe chissels 6. d. a piece — li. 03 s. 00 d.
Two percers [tool for boring holes] stocked 4. d. a piece — li. 00 s. 08 d.
Three gimlets [ditto] 2. d. a piece — li. 00 s. 06 d.
Two hatchets 21. d a piece — li. 03 s. 06 d.
Two froves to cleave pale [?] 18. d.— li. 03 s. 00 d.
Two hand-bills 20. a piece — li. 03 s. 04 d.
One grindlestone 4. s. — li. 04 s. 00 d.
Nailes of all sorts to the value of 02 li. 00 s. — d.
Two Pickaxes — li. 03 s. — d.
[sub-total] 06 li. 02 s. 08 d.


Household Implements. For a family of 6 persons, and so for more or lesse after the rate.

One Iron Pot 00 li. 07 s. — d.
One kettle — li. 06 s. — d.
One large frying-pan — li. 02 s. 06 d.
One gridiron — li. 01 s. 06 d.
Two skillets — li. 05 s. — d.
One spit — li. 02 s. — d.
Platters, dishes, spoones of wood — li. 04 s. — d.
[sub-total] 01 li. 08 s. 00 d.


For Suger, Spice, and fruit, and at Sea for 6 men —00 li. 12 s. 06 d. So the full charge of Apparrell, Victuall, Armes, Tooles, and houshold stuffe, and after this rate for each person, will amount unto about the summe of 12 li. 10 s. — d.

The passage of each man is 06 li. 00 s. — d.
The fraight of these provisions for a man, will bee about halfe a Tun, which is 01 li. 10 s. — d.

So the whole charge will amount to about 20 li. 00 s. 00 d [c.£1920 today]

Nets, hookes, lines, and a tent must be added, if the number of people be gretter, as also some kine. And this is the usuall proportion that the Virginia Company doe bestow upon their Tenants which they send. Whosoever transports himselfe or any other at his owne charge vnto Virginia, shall for each person so transported before Midsummer 1625, have to him and his heires for ever fifty Acres of Land upon a first, and fifty Acres upon a second division.


From Thomas Hariot’s A Brief Report of the New Found Land of Virginia (1590)



Curiosities Exploration Shakespeare Stage

For keeping two white bears

While reading Ian Donaldson’s splendid new biography of Ben Jonson, Ben Jonson: A Life (OUP, 2011), I was fascinated to note his reference to two potential white polar bears on Bankside supposedly brought back from the Arctic by Jonas Poole in 1609. Donaldson cites an article by Tessa Grant (1) in which Grant poses the view that these bears could perhaps have been used on the London stage. While reading the Calendar of State Papers last autumn, I came across a reference to Henslowe being awarded a license to keep two white bears, prompting further investigations (which also led to Simon Leake’s guest blog post on the little known sport of Horse-Baiting on Bankside). The CSPD contains the following entry:

Warrant to pay to Phil.Henslow and Ed.Allen, Musters of the Game at Paris Garden, 42I.10s and 12d per diem, in future for keeping two white bears and a young lion (2)

Ultimately intrigued by the idea of polar bears appearing on the Jacobean stage, I decided to investigate a little of the life of Jonas Poole. Poole (bap.1566-d.1612) was an English sea captain who volunteered to travel to the arctic circle and beyond in order to further English understanding of exploration and commercial whaling. On 10th April 1603, he set sail for Archangel in the Grace under the leadership of Stephen Bennet, the Grace having been refitted for the journey at the expense of Sir Thomas Cherry, governor of the Muscovy Company. The ship returned in September of the same year, and Poole subsequently travelled to the arctic five more times before 1609. In fact, so successful were Poole’s trips, that he sailed with the first American colonists to Jamestown in 1607. Between 1603 and 1612, Poole sailed to walrus and whaling grounds in the waters of the arctic every single year bar 1607. His accounts of his travels were given to Richard Hakluyt in 1610, and were subsequently published in 1625 by Samuel Purchas (3).

The following is an early 17th Century polar explorer’s description of an encounter with a polar bear:

There came a great bear towards our house, which made us all goe in, and wee levelled at her with our Muskets, and as shee came right before our door, we shot her into the breast, clean through the heart, the bullet passing through her body, and went out againe at her tail, and was as flatted as a Counter, the Beare feeling the blow, leapt backwards, and ran twentie or thirty foot from the house, and there lay down, wherewith wee leapt all out of the house, and ran to her, and found her still alive, and when she saw us, shee rear’d up her head, as if she would gladly have done us some mischief, but we trusted her not, for that we had thread their strength sufficiently before, and therefore we shot her twice into the body again, and therewith shee dyed. Then we rip’d up her belly, and taking out her guttes, drew her home to the House where we flayed her, and took at least one hundred pounds of fat out of her belly, which wee molt’d and burned in our Lampe. This Grease did us great good service, for by that meanes we still kept a Lampe burning all night long, which before wee could not doe, for want of Grease, and eery man had meanes to burned a Lampe in his Cabbin, for such necessaries as he had to doe. The Beares skin was nine foot long, and seven foot broad (4)

Hair-raising stuff. Poole himself speaks of numerous encounters with polar bears while on Cherry Island (Svalbard) in 1609. His account contains references to the killing of bears, foxes, seals, and other wildlife. In one entry, he describes seeing a mother bear with her cubs and yet is unable to kill the cubs because they are only ‘of a month old: they skipped about their dams neck, and played with one another very wantonly’ (5). On 30th May he and his party

slue 26. Seales, and espied three white Beares: wee went aboard for Shot and Powder, and coming to the Ice again, we should see a shee-Beare and two young ones: Master Thomas Welden shot and killed her: after shee was slyane, wee got the young ones, and brought them home into England, where they are still alive in Paris Garden (6).

It’s shocking to imagine explorers like Poole surviving in the hostile environment of the arctic without GPS, modern protective clothing, and access to a plane and medical supplies, but it’s simply astonishing that he should risk bringing two live polar bears, albeit cubs, back to England. Of course, exotic animals were par for the course at court and at the Tower, but nevertheless, Poole’s decision does seem to modern sensibilities either slightly fool-hardy or quite mad.

In 1611, Poole suffered a broken skull and collar bone on Cherry Island while handling his cargo of walrus ivory and whale fat. He was brought home by a rival whaler and recovered sufficiently from his injuries to return to the arctic the following year. However, Poole’s career as a whaler was cut short in September 1612 when he was murdered in Wapping in August, having returned home from what became his final voyage. Poole was survived by his wife and two sons, and his grandson, Jonas, went on to have a successful naval career from 1652 to 1665 (7).

In an interesting addendum, Tessa Grant comments that the water poet John Taylor provides a list of the names of the bears at the Paris Garden (8). Taylor refers specifically to two white bears named Mad Bess and Will Tookey (9). Could they be the Jonas bears? A quick delve into the FAQ at Polar Bear International reveals that in the wild, polar bears live on average 15-18 years. However in captivity they may live well into their late thirties. If the Paris Garden bears are the Cherry Island bears brought back by Jonas, then in 1638 they would have been 29 years old. Grant suggest the Jonas bears retired from the stage in 1612 (9), but it is of course entirely possible they may have lived on as part of the spectacle at the bear gardens for many years to come. And most intriguingly, Simon Foreman records seeing The Winter’s Talein May 1611, just weeks after Henslowe and Allen were granted their warrant to keep ‘two white bears’. It’s a fanciful notion, but perhaps it was the Jonas bears that inspired Shakespeare to write his famous stage direction, ‘Exit, pursued by a bear.’

It is worth noting that there is a second scholarly article on the white bears; Barbara Ravelhofer, “Beasts of Recreation”: Henslowe’s White Bears, English Literary Renaissance, 32 (2002), 287-323
Unfortunately I have been unable to access the article due to the vagaries of the university server. I hope to read it soon, and perhaps update this post.

For more on bears on Bankside see Drunken Cocks and Bear-Baiting

1) Teresa Grant, Notes & Queries, 246 (2001), 311-13
2) CSPD, entry dated March 20th 1611
3) DNB, R C D Baldwin
4) cited in Samuel Purchas, His pilgrimes In fiue bookes (Vol 3), London (1625), 502
5) Ibid 560
6) Ibid 562
7) Baldwin
8) Grant, 312
9) John Taylor, Bull, beare, and horse, cut, curtaile, and longtaile. VVith tales, and tales of buls, clenches, and flashes. As also here and there a touch of our beare-garden-sport; with the second part of the merry conceits of wit and mirth. Together with the names of all the bulls and beares, London (1638),  E.v
10) Grant, 312

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Colonies Exploration

Her men came amongst us with their Bowes and Arrowes

These fragments come from a description of Sir Walter’s Raleigh’s discovery of Virginia in 1584.

Queene Elizabeth, granted her Letters Patents to Sir Walter Raleigh for the discovering and planting new Lands & Countries, not actually possessed by any Christians. Sir Richard Grenvell the valiant, Mr William Sanderson a great friend, and divers other Gentlemen and Merchants, with all speede provided two small Barkes well furnished with all necessaries, under the command of Captaine Philip Amidas and Captaine Barlow. The 27. of Aprill 1584 they set sayle from the Thames, the tenth of May passed the Canaries, and the tenth of June the West Indies: which unneedfull Southerly course, (but then no better was knowne) occasioned them in that season much sicknesse.

The second of July they fell with the coast of Florida in shallow water, where they felt a most delicate sweete smell, though they saw no land, which ere long they espied, thinking it the Continent: an hundred and twenty myles they sayled not finding any harbor. The first that appeared, with much difficulty they entered, and anchored, and after thankes to God they went to view the next Land adjoyning to take possession of it for the Queenes most excellent Majestie. Which done, they found their first landing place very sandy and low, but so full of grapes that the very surge of the Sea sometimes over-flowed them: of which they found such plenty in all places, both on the sand, the greene soyle and hills, as in the plaines as well on every little shrub, as also climbing towardes the tops of high Cedars, that they did thinke in the world were not the like abundance.

We passed by the Sea-side towards the tops of the next hills being not high: from whence we might see the Sea on both sides, and found it an Isle of twentie myles in length, and six in breadth, the vallyes replenished with goodly tall Cedars. Discharging our Muskets, such a flocke of Cranes, the most white, arose by us, with such a cry as if an Army of men had shouted altogether. This Isle hath many goodly Woods, and Deere, Conies, and Foule in incredible abundance. Till the third day we saw not any of the people, then in a little Boat three of them appeared, one of them went on shore, to whom we rowed, and he attended us without any signe of feare; after he had spoke much though we understood not a word, of his owne accord he came boldly aboard us, we gave him a shirt, a hat, wine and meate, which he liked well, and after he had well viewed the barkes and us, he went away in his owne Boat, and within a quarter of a myle of us in halfe an houre, had loaden his Boat with fish, with which he came againe to the poynt of land, and there divided it in two parts, and so departed.

The next day came divers Boats, and in one of them the Kings Brother, with forty or fifty men, proper people, and their behaviour very civil; his name was Granganamco, the King is called Wingina, the Country Wingandacoa. Leaving his Boats a little from our Ships, he came with his trayne to the poynt: where spreading a Matte he sat downe. Though we came to him well armed, he made signes to us to sit downe without any shew of feare, stroking his head and brest, and also ours, to expresse his love. After he had made a long speech unto us, we presented him with divers toyes, which he kindly accepted. He was greatly regarded by his people, for none of them did sit, nor speake a word, but foure, on whom we bestowed presents also, but he tooke all from them, making signes all things did belong to him.

A day or two after shewing them what we had, Granganamco taking most liking to a Pewter dish, made a hole in it, hung it about his necke for a brest-plate: for which he gave us twenty Deere skins, worth twenty Crownes; and for a Copper Kettell, fiftie skins, worth fiftie Crownes. Much other trucke we had, and after two dayes he came aboord, and did eate and drinke with us very merrily. Not long after he brought his wife and children, they were but of meane stature, but well favoured and very bashfull; she had a long coat of Leather, and about her privities a peece of the same, about her forehead a band of white Corrall, and so had her husband, in her eares were bracelets of pearle, hanging downe to her middle, the bignesse of great Pease; the rest of the women had Pendants of Copper, and the Noblemen five or sixe in an eare; the apparrell as the wives, onely the women weare their haire long on both sides, and the men but on one; they are of colour yellow, but their hayre is blacke, yet we saw children that had very fayre Chesnut coloured hayre.

After that these women had beene here with us, there came downe from all parts great store of people, with Leather, Corrall, and divers kinde of dyes, but when Granganamco was present, none durst trade but himselfe, and them that wore red Copper on their heads, as he did. When ever he came, he would signifie by so many fires he came with so many boats, that we might know his strength. Their Boats are but one great tree, which is but burnt in the forme of a trough with gins and fire, till it be as they would have it. For an armour he would have engaged us a bagge of pearle, but we refused, as not regarding it, that wee might the better learn where it grew. He was very just of his promise, for oft we trusted him, and he would come within his day to keepe his word. He sent us commonly every day a brace of Bucks, Conies, Hares, and fish, sometimes Mellons, Walnuts,Cucumbers. Pease, and divers rootes.

After this acquaintance, my selfe with seaven more went twenty myle into the River Occam, that runneth toward the Cittie Skicoack, and the evening following we came to an Isle called Roanoak from the harbour where we entred 7. leagues. At the North end was 9 houses, builded with Cedar, fortified round with sharpe trees, and the entrance like a Turnpik. When we came towards it, the wife of Granganamco came running out to meete us, (her husband was absent) commanding her people to draw our Boat ashore for beating on the billowes. Others she appoynted to carry us on their backes a land, others to bring our Oars into the house. When we came into the other roome, (for there was five in the house) she caused us to sit downe by a great fire; after tooke off our clothes and washed them, of some our stockings, and some our feete in warme water, and she her selfe tooke much paines to see all things well ordered, and to provide us victuall.

After we had thus dryed our selves, she brought us into an Inner roome, where she set on the bord standing sodden venison, and rosted fish; in like manner mellons raw, boyled rootes and fruites of divers kindes. There drinke is commonly water boyled with Ginger, sometimes with Saxefras, and wholsome herbes, but whilest the grape lasteth they drinke wine. More love she could not expresse to entertaine us; they care but onely to defend themseles from the short winter, and feede on what they finde naturall in sommer. When we were at meate two or three of her men came amongst us with their Bowes and Arrowes, which caused us to take our armes in hand. She perceiving our distrust, caused their Bowes and Arrowes to be broken, and they beaten out of the gate: but the evening approaching we returned to our boate, where at she much grieving brought our supper halfe boyled, pots and all, but when she saw us but put our boat a little off from the shoar and lye at Anchor, perceiving our jelousie, she sent divers men & 30 women to sit all night on the shoare side against us, and sent us five Mats to cover us from the raine, doing all she could to perswade us to her house. Though there was no cause of doubt, we would not adventure: for on our safety depended the voyage: but a more kinde loving people cannot be found.

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