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Historic England Research Records

Charity

Hob Uid: 1228626
Location :
Cornwall, Outside English Territorial Waters
Cornwall
Grid Ref : SX0894201976
Summary : 1652 wreck of English fireship which was expended to rescue the BONAVENTURE, and to cover the English retreat to Plymouth during an action of the First Anglo-Dutch War, the Battle of Plymouth (1573415). She seems subsequently to have exploded as the crew got away, and is likely to have foundered as she burnt out. Formerly a French vessel which had been captured two years previously as a prize, she was a wooden sailing vessel.
More information : Primary Sources:

For ease of reference, the following documents retain the numbers assigned to them as reprinted in source (6):

'352. August 20/30, 1652. A Letter from Plymouth. [Printed in Several Proceedings, p.2384. BM Press Mark E, 796, 26.]

'Sir . . . Sir George Ayscue deserves much honour for his gallantry in the late engagement on Monday last with the Dutch fleet; had some of the merchants' ships in the fleet done the like, he had banged the Dutch fleet to the purpose.

'There is no certainty what hurt we have done the Dutch, more than sinking their Rear-Admiral and another ship; but they have doubtless many men slain in their fleet. We shot altogether low at them, and they received many shot in their hulls. They shot high at us, aiming thereby to spoil our masts, sails and tackles, in which most of our ships received the greatest loss, and yet our Admiral had many shot in her hull.

'I cannot learn of above 15 men of ours slain in all the fleet, and about 60 wounded, and most of them were hurt by an accident of powder, which was blown up . . . Plymouth, 20 August, 1652.' (6)

357. August 22/Sept. 1, 1652. ? - to the Council of State. [Printed in Mercurius Politicus, p1827. BM Press Mark E, 674, 17]

'On the [16th] instant, Sir George receiving intelligence that there was a fleet of the Dutch bound westward, immediately called a council of war, being about 7 leagues off Plymouth; whereupon a resolution was taken to stand over toward the coast of France as the most probable course to meet with them; and so it fell out, for the same day, being the 16 instant, between one and two in the afternoon, they got sight of the enemy's fleet, and presantly [sic] made sail towards them, to discover their number, which by all computations were accounted 90 sail, 30 of them merchantmen, who left their fleet upon the first beginning of the engagement, and kept their course to the southward.

'Sir George being but 38 sail, besides 4 fire-ships and 4 small vessels for scouts, came up with the enemy about 4 in the afternoon, and began the fight with great resolution, himself and six more charging through the whole body of the enemy's fleet, received very many shots in their hulls, but more in their masts, sails, and rigging, the enemy's main design being to spoil them, in hope thereby to make the better use of their fire-ships upon us. Nevertheless, Sir George tacked about and weathered them, and charged them all again, and so continued still engaged in the body of their fleet, till it was dark night.

' . . . Our shot took most place in their hulls, as theirs did in our masts and rigging. Sundry great shot went through our Admiral's cabin, but in his sails and rigging he had exceeding many; the PELICAN the like, with each of her masts - main, fore and mizen - where the balls still remain. Divers others were rent and torn, so that they might have been endangered had they met with any ordinary blowing weather.

'We have not lost one ship in the fight unless it be a fire-ship, which, being surrounded by five or six of the enemy, and ready to sink by reason of some shot she had received in bulk, and much water in hold, was forced, as well for this cause as to relieve the BONAVENTURE (which otherwise had been carried off by the enemy), to set herself on fire, which was resolutely performed by Captain Smithson, her commander, who turned her among the enemy, and escaped himself and his company in his boat, though divers of them were hurt by an accidental blowing up of some of their powder.' (6)

Secondary Sources:

Ex. CHARITE. Previously a French vessel taken as a prize in 1650. She was part of a fleet of 40 ships that attacked a Dutch fleet, during the first major action of the first Dutch war. The CHARITY was set on fire and expended as a fireship, when the BONADVENTURE was captured. (1)(2)

Fireship, perhaps the French prize "CHARITE", taken 1650. (3)

CHARITY fireship; French CHARITE, captured 1650, expended 1652. (4)

The named location for the Battle of Plymouth is a set of arbitrary co-ordinates for representational purposes only, based on research among the primary sources which indicates that the battle west of Plymouth, ending up in relation to Dodman Point. (5)

Captured: 1650 (1)(2)(3)(4)
Commanding Officer: Smithson (6)
Owner: Royal Navy [all sources]

Date of Loss Qualifier: Actual date of loss

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Shipwreck index of the British Isles, volume 1 : Isles of Scilly, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset
Source details : Section 5, South Devon (AH)
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 2
Source : British warship losses in the age of sail, 1650-1859
Source details :
Page(s) : 1
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 3
Source : Lists of men-of-war 1650-1700, part 1 : English ships 1649-1702
Source details : No.167
Page(s) : 15
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : No.5
Source Number : 4
Source : Ships of the Royal Navy, volume 1
Source details :
Page(s) : 116
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 5
Source : Oral information, correspondence (not archived) or staff comments
Source details : Compiler's comments: 26-MAR-2013
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :

Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : Captured 1650
Monument End Date : 1650
Monument Start Date : 1650
Monument Type : Warship
Evidence : Documentary Evidence
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : Expended 1652
Monument End Date : 1652
Monument Start Date : 1652
Monument Type : Warship, Fireship
Evidence : Documentary Evidence

Components and Objects:
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External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
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External Cross Reference Notes :

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