Between 1652 and 1654 England was at war with the Dutch Republic as a result of a dispute about trade rights. The war took place at sea so many sailors and soldiers were called up to serve, including keelmen who worked on coal ships [keels were the large boats used to carry coal from the river bank to waiting collier ships].
Mr Taylor hath all the assistance the Mayor or myself can afford him in this raising of men. It is sad to think what an unwillingness we find in mariners (how they hide themselves). None is gotten but as they are taken out of their beds at midnight. After, about 30 or 40 are gotten and as they are taken, and impressed money [money paid after men have entered service] given, they run away. So now we are constrained to send them down to Tynmouth Castle and there shall be kept until the first ships that call here and then shall be sent on board. Some were so refractory [stubborn or unmanageable] that the mayor was constrained to send them to prison and from thence will be sent down to Tynmouth Castle and so onboard.« Return to Christmas is cancelled!
Letter to the Admiralty Committee, May 1652
- How did the keelmen feel towards naval service? How might you explain this?
- How did they try to avoid being put on board ships?