Merchants and Mariners of the 18th Century

Merchants and Mariners of the 18th Century

Merchants and Mariners of the 18th Century

Merchants and Mariners of the 18th Century

Excerpt

In St. Leonard's Church, Bengeo, near Hertford, are two mural tablets commemorating several members of the Hall family, who lived at Goldings, about a mile away. One tablet, with a medallion portrait, is a memorial to Humphry Hall, who died in 1685; another, unfortunately without a portrait, was set up in memory of Thomas and Mary Hall, of a later generation, and four of their children. Thomas Hall (1692-1748), a ship's captain, shipowner and merchant, is remembered by students of Anglo-Indian history as a leading contractor for shipping to the East India Company. I first became acquainted with the events and developments described in this volume through reading documents left by him; and my knowledge of his correspondence was due to advice given me by Mr. Charles Johnson, of the Public Record Office. Mr. Johnson suggested that some of the material in the Chancery Masters' Exhibits might be useful in connexion with the work that I was doing on the economic and social history of the early eighteenth century. This great collection is not normally open to the public, but through the kindness of Sir Cyril Flower and Lord Greene, who were at that time respectively Deputy Keeper of the Public Records and Master of the Rolls, I was allowed to use about two dozen parcels containing a selection of the Exhibits. It happened that in six of these parcels there were letters and accounts relating to Thomas Hall and to many of his friends and associates. There were in all about ten thousand documents.

These papers had been deposited in the Court of Chancery to provide evidence in three cases relating to Hall's will. Much of their contents would be of little value for this purpose, but is of value today for the light which it throws on several aspects of eighteenth century life. The documents had been bundled together with very little attempt at arrangement, and it was an interesting task to build up from scattered scraps of information a more or less connected account of an important group in the society of that period. The evidence of the documents has been helped out, of course, from supplementary sources, which have served to make clear many matters left unexplained in Hall's papers.

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