Pirate Pete's

History of Pirates

From Bristol to America
South Wales

1635 , Henry Morgan was born at Llanrhymny nr. Newport.

The manor had been held by the Kemys family,who were officials in the port of bristol at the time of Cabot's departure in 1497. Morgan was to name his estate in Jamacia after Penkarne, Monmouthshire where his Ancestor was Owen Lord of Caerleon.

In the 12th century, Henry's portrait hangs in Tredegar house, now the National museum for Wales.

As a famous Swashbuckler he wrote " I have been more used to the pike….. than a book " 1635 Descending from the prominent Welsh family of Keymes, the young Henry sought his fortune in Bristol's notorious dockside but although well connected with people such as the young Captain William Penn, was nevertheless Press Ganged into service onto a Slaver, at the notorious Spy Glass Inn , on the corner of Queen's Square. (as featured in the famous novel."Treasure Island")

He eventually arrived in Barbados, the clearing house for slaves bound for the new colonies in the Caribbean.,where they were broken & disciplined. Penn came to his rescue and enlisted him into the army needed to take Jamacia from the Spanish under the direct orders of Oliver Cromwell After many dangerous escapades, including the rape of Panama City in 1671 which he sets on fire,he invests his share of the bullion into buying plantations on the Island,whilst his fellow pirates and swashbucklers drink their share of the gold away.

The plunder, alone, from the sacking of Maracaibo in 1667 was 260,000 pieces of eight.

Soon his Uncle, Sir Edward Morgan arrives as Governor and Henry marries his daughter on his death.

After a lot of political manouvering , he is brought back to London and imprisioned in the Tower only to be let out and Knighted in1680 He returns to Jamacia as the new Governor and dies of drink aged 54


Thomas Wyndham 1510-1553

Wyndham was wealthy and helped lead a syndicate of raiders in the west of England. In 1545 and 1546 he looted a Spanish ship and a Portuguese ship and was prosecuted and fined. In 1551 he started trade with Morocco and later sailed to West Africa looting villages and Portuguese ships. He died there of fever.

Sir Amyas Preston, died 1617

Important wealthy landowner instrumental in founding the disasterous Roanoke Colony, Virginia, in 1585 and later, the Virginia Company that created Jamestown settlement in 1608.He was ordered by the Crown to plunder Spanish and Portuguese ships in Newfoundland in 1585 in retaliation for an attack on the settler expedition. In 1588 he was seriously wounded fighting the Spanish Armada. Subsequently in 1595 he led a piracy venture to Venezuela and the Madiera Islands with 4 warships and 300 men. He raided Cadiz in 1596 and the Azores in 1597. Became a high level Naval officer.

James Skrym (1678-1722)

He sailed from Bristol in the summer of 1720 as First Mate on the Greyhound. Bartholemew Roberts, the Welshman, captured the Greyhound, a Bristol vessel, off Africa in October 1720. James Skrym, from Somerset, was first mate, and he joined the pirates, with enthusiasm. Skrym was put in charge of a ship renamed the Ranger. In the next year, in consort with the Royal Fortune they attacked many ships, including the Phoenix, the York, the Jason and the Mercy from Bristol, and they added crewmembers with every capture.

The Mercy was in Whydah, which is now in Nigeria, in January 1722 when Bartholomew Roberts sailed into the harbor and held to ransom the eleven slavers moored there. The Jason and Mercy Galley paid up. Roberts, a Welshman, had originally sailed from Bristol as a seaman. Richard Harris, D Littlejohn, Cuthbert Goss, Thomas Giles, William Child, John Griffin and Israel Hynde all defected from Bristol ships, some reluctantly. Peter Scudamore, a either a Welshman or a Bristolian and the surgeon on the Mercy, enthusiastically joined the pirates.

In February 1722 they mistakenly attacked HMS Swallow and were beaten and captured. In March 1722, 52 of the 270 people on board the pirate ships were hanged at Cape Corso, Guinea. 7 were from Bristol and Somerset including Mr Skrym. (32 had died, 39 served time, 70 were Africans and 74 were acquitted, having served under severe duress).


Portbury Castle provided Portishead protection from the Vikings taking animals from Sheepscote. It was built 3 miles inland due to the maurading bands of pirates pillaging the coastal hamlets for fresh livestock.

Bridgwater - William Blake

William Blake was the youngest of seven brothers and educated at Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital School in Bristol. When his father, a shipping merchant in Bridgwater died, he returned from his studies in Oxford to look after the family’s interests. He was soon involved on the rebel side in the defence of Bristol in the mid 1640s, against the Royalists, by holding out and Repelling Prince Rupert from Germany, the nephew to King Charles I in a stiff action at Fort Pylle which protected the northern approach to the city, at Kingsdown.

He soon came to the attention of Oliver Cromwell, who needed a rough, tough, military man like himself to sail overseas and establish his new gunboat diplomacy tactics. Blake was a rambunctious middle aged man had never been to sea before, so the experienced young mariner captain, from Redcliffe, William Penn, was to look after him. The first assignment was to chase Rupert out of Ireland where he had fled after the battle of Bristol, and was harassing the local trading fleets with piratical forays.

Blake ensured he fled to Portugal and did not return. Next, he was to get rid of the Arab pirates menace in the Severn estuary (see Lundy Island) so that Bristol ships had safe passage. Here Penn came into his own as he had been brought up there by his father who was the ambassador for the crown and knew the coastline and the right contacts.

They later bombarded Tunis with a squadron of British battleships. This action was the start of Gunboat diplomacy and carved out the British Empire after several successful actions against European nations. The next overseas action was to seize Jamaica from the Spanish in 1655. By then the two men by then had been made up to Admirals.

Bideford and Barnstaple

Samuel Bellamy

He was born in Devon in 1689 and his mother died soon afterwards. He became a sailor in his teens, sailed to Jamaica and probably saw combat there as a privateer. He sailed under Captain Jennings on the sloop Barsheba, based at Port Royal in Jamaica. Samuel Bellamy in 1715 travelled to Cape Cod, on the American Massachusetts coastline. After the war he was a captain of a pirate fleet in 1716 and in two years he captured more than 50 ships. He sailed in the sloop Postillion with Captain Leboose, with Benjamin Hornigold in the sloop Mary Anne. Bellamy later became captain of the Mary Anne. In the West Indies he took the Sultana, an English man-of-war, and then the St. Michael.

He ranged on the eastern seaboard and became a successful pirate plundering the Spanish treasure fleets off Florida as they followed the Gulf stream back to Europe. The Spanish fleets met in Havana, Cuba, for the return home. These huge galleons were loaded with Gold doubloons from Mexico and Silver pieces of eight from the silver mines of Peru. In 1717, in the Caribbean, he took a slaver, the Whydah. He sailed north and following this, he could not resist popping into Wellfleet, Mass, near Cape Cod to see his girlfriend. It became caught in a storm raging along the coast and sank with all hands but two. It is now being recovered by salvage experts. Witheridge

Sir Thomas Stukley (1525-1578) had inherited some of the wild mannerisms of his father King Henry VIII. Being illegitimate, he had been brought up on a remote estate far removed from the Court in London. He nevertheless came to the attention of the court by his piratical activities, off the North Devon coast.

These incidents embarrassed his half sister Queen Elizabeth, who decided to get rid of him once and for all by giving him a fleet of ships and appointing him Governor of Florida on the other side of the dangerous Atlantic Ocean.

Unfortunately for her he did not complete the voyage and ended up in Plymouth, making a further nuisance of himself by plundering French vessels and joining the Spanish in a vain attempt to invade England via Ireland, which failed.

He was to die by the sword, as befitting a pirate at the hands of the Moors, when he was trapped in a skirmish off north Africa. This time he was on the losing side and had his head chopped off. Descendants of the family still reside in the manor.

Henry Every

Henry Every was born in 1665 near Plymouth, the son of a slave trader with Jamaica. In 1671 he witnessed the bombing of Algiers by the Royal Navy. Avery began his career at sea by serving as a midshipman in the Royal Navy.

In 1694 as firstmate, he sailed from Bristol in the Charles, under the command of a drunken captain, part of the fleet of ships led by Sir James Houblon, and destined to attack Spanish colonies. While waiting 4 months in La Coruña, during which time the crew was not paid, the morale of the crew plummeted. Becoming disgusted with the situation. Avery plotted with several crewman of the Charles to steal the ship to go seek their own fortune. On May 7, 1694, while the captain was drunk. Avery & his fellow mutineers took over the Charles. They renamed it the "Fancy" and set sail. After much success off the Guinea coast and in the West Indies they sailed to the pirate haven of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean and then to the Red Sea. They met up with some American pirates led by Thos Tew of Rhode Island and formed a formidable squadron wreaking havoc amongst the Pilgrim fleets returning from Mecca to Surat (the English protectorate).

Tew is killed in the first action where they seize £40,000 of gold and jewels from "The Futteh Mahmood." They then take the heavily armed 80 gun flagship" Gunj Suwai ", belonging to the Grand Mogul, Aurumgzebe himself, with his own daughter aboard, protected by 400 soldiers armed with matchlock guns.

They retired to the island of Bourbon near Madagascar to share out the treasure of £1,000 each and split up, as the Royal Navy is after them, with direct orders from London. In 1696 he was at Boston, where he bribed the governor to allow him and his crew to land and dispose of their plunder.

Every returned to the North Devon coastline under the cover of darkness under the assumed name of Benjamin Bridgman (known as Long Ben). He was stripped of his fortune of uncut diamonds by greedy Bristol merchants, who tracked him down & threatened to expose him. He died in poverty in 1696 and is buried in Bideford Church.

John Rilesden - Born 1560, active 1587-1596

Owned the Prudence and robbed vessels off Spain in 1587. In 1595 he was active in the Caribbean, all working for a London syndicate


Walter Raleigh was born in Budleigh Salterton, Devon in 1552. He came to the attention of qei by gallently covering a muyddy puddle that she was going to step into by placing over it his expensive plush coat. She fancied this tall hansome who was half her age. Her current lover the earl of essex saw him as a threat so he was awarded with the controlling the mines in Cornwall, far away.

He made enough money to finance his own expedition to the eastern coast of the new colonies and returned with some new crops for England. The potatoes he planted on his new estate at youghal in ireland which the queen had just given him for introducing the idea of colonisation to her.

The new weed that the natives of florida smoked and seemed to make them happy and carefree,he planted in gloucestershire.

Sir John Poyntz was at Acton court and wondered if the tobacco would catch on and create a demand amongst the masses. The crown saw this as an opportunity for revenue and banned it being cultivated locally. They wanted it grown in the new colonies and imported through London where it could be controlled and taxed if it caught on. The queen was anxious to have his physical presence in her company. She knighted him but immediately cast him in the tower of london when she heard from one of her other jealous suiters that he was to marry Elizabeth Throgmorton who was younger than her.

She relented and gave him the estate in Dorset of Sherbourne Castle where he died. In the abbey can be seen the stained glass window with the coat of arms of the Keymeys family his friends

His step brother, Sir Humphry Gilbert led an expedition to Maine, sponsored by Fernades Gorge. This prominent Bristol family renovated the derelict great house on the quay so that qei could stay in comfort on her visit to Bristol in 1562 when she rode through the city to St. Mary Redcliffe. On this occasion, she knighted him for his hospitality.

Raleigh's cousin Sir Richards Grenville fought to the death on board his ship therevenge in the invasion by the Spanish armada off Plymouth.

George was constable of the garrison in Plymouth at the time and was related to xxxxxx.

As a dominant military family of portuguese origin his father helped ameryk to take over small holdings in the gordano and clevedon valleys by force. They rode on horses dressed in battle armour for intimidation and they also had the adjoining estates at Wraxall and Long Ashton. As a result of this, they controlled the entire area. Ameryks only heir his daughter Joan held the rich manor of Clifton which became the dowry when she married lawer John Broke (descendant of Lord Cobham of Kent).

It was Fernando and Sir David Broke Lord Mayor (9th son of john) who were to plan the early colonisations from Bristol and financed the Plymouth co that set up the pilgrim fathers sucessful est, of the colony at Plymouth, USA.


Sir Thomas Modyford - Governor of Jamaica 1620-1679 & William Cooke (Exmouth) 1540s

Sir Thomas Modyford 1620-1679

Thomas Modyford was the son of the Mayor of Exeter and was related to the Duke of Albemarle. Modyford had landed on Barbados as a young man with other family members in 1647 with money and connections after losing the fight in the civil war. He had £1,000 for a down payment on a plantation and £6,000 to commit in the next three years. Modyford soon was dominant in Barbados island politics.

Unsatisfied with other supply lines Thomas Modyford and Richard Ligon went looking for “Negroes, horses and cattle”. Their ship went to Africa where they bartered for their own slaves.

England captured Jamaica in 1655.

In 1660 Thomas Modyford negotiated with the Commonwealth to be appointed as governor of Barbados, but as he took office, Charles II was restored. Modyford reverted to royalism, only to later lose his governorship of Barbados.

Subsequently Thomas Modyford moved to Jamaica. In November 1664 the King granted a licence for Sir James Modyford to ship felons from England to his brother on Jamaica, Sir Thomas Modyford.

On June 14, 1669, Governor Sir Thomas Modyford unhappily announced peace with Spain, but small Spanish reprisal raids soon gave him an excuse to continue aggression. Despite the recent treaty, Modyford sent Morgan to wreak havoc on the Spanish. The Spanish protested at the treaty violations. He was notoriously corrupt and made a fortune from pirate kick-backs.

He was removed as Governor in 1670 and was returned to London for trial and was imprisoned in the tower for two years. However he was not charged and returned to Jamaica.

William Cooke 1540s

Took a Spanish ship in 1545 and sold the goods in Topsham.

Powderham Castle

Powderham Castle was the ancestral home of the Courtneys for 600 years and was originally a guard tower in its prominent position overlooking the River Exe, and the entrance to Exeter. It was a lookout for the Danish Viking raiders in the 900's

In the Domesday book William d'Hou, a Norman knight established a fortress and by 1325 John of Powderham, who married Elizabeth Plantagenet, daughter of King Edward I, built the original castle.

Budleigh Salterton - Sir Walter Raleigh

Sir Walter Raleigh was born in Budleigh Salterton, Devon in 1552. He came to the attention of Queen Elizabeth by gallantly covering a muddy puddle that she was going to step into by placing over it his expensive plush coat. She fancied this tall handsome man who was half her age. Her current lover, the Earl of Essex, saw him as a threat so he was awarded with the controlling the mines in Cornwall, far away.

Raleigh made enough money to finance his own expedition to the eastern coast of the new colonies and returned with some new crops for England. The potatoes he planted on his new estate at Youghal in Ireland which the Queen had just given him for introducing the idea of colonisation to her. The new weed that the natives of Florida smoked and seemed to make them happy and carefree, he planted in Gloucestershire.

Sir John Poyntz at Acton Court wondered if the tobacco would catch on and create a demand amongst the masses. The Crown saw this as an opportunity for revenue and banned it being cultivated locally. They wanted it grown in the new colonies and imported through London where it could be controlled and taxed if it caught on.

The Queen, anxious to have his physical presence in her company, knighted him, but immediately cast him in the Tower of London when she heard from one of her other jealous suiters that he was to marry Elizabeth Throgmorton who was younger than her. She relented and gave him the estate in Dorset of Sherbourne Castle where he died. In the abbey can be seen the stained glass window with the coat of arms of the Keymeys family, his friends.

His step brother, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, led an expedition to Maine sponsored by Fernandes Gorge. This prominent Bristol family renovated the derelict Great House on the Quay so that Queen Elizabeth could stay in comfort on her visit to Bristol in 1562, when she rode through the city to St Mary Redcliffe Church. On this occasion she knighted him for his hospitality. Raleigh's cousin, Sir Richards Grenville fought to the death on board his ship the Revenge, in the invasion by the Spanish Armada off Plymouth. DORSET

Lyme Regis

Sir Bernard Drake

Probably related to Sir Francis Drake. Was with Sir Amyas Preston’s expedition and plundered in Newfoundland and Azores. Was involved in the Roanoke settlement in 1585. He died in 1586.

Founder of Bermuda. Born in 1554, in an expedition in 1595 against the Spanish Main led by Sir Amyas Preston (see Somerset).

In 1600, commanded HMS Vanguard and captured a Spanish treasure ship. In 1601 captain of HMS Swiftsure in attack of the Spanish fleet off Kinsale. In 1602, captain of HMS Warspite in the Azores. A friend of Sir Walter Raleigh and knighted in 1603 by King James I . M P for Lyme Regis from 1603.

In 1606, helped form the Virginia Company. In 1609 he was Admiral of the Virginia Company's nine vessel fleet to Virginia, to serve the Jamestown Virginia Colony. He died in 1610 in Bermuda.


In 1636 the Turks took 80 men in 5 boats. Robert Culliford sailed out of Looe and joined the famous Captain Kidd.

Robert Culliford met up with Kidd whilst he was careening his new ship, built by King William III and licenced him with a letter of marque for 10% of the take. It was called the “Adventure Galley”….280 tons oak at deptford 1695 with 34 cannons at St. Marie Island...called. Pirate Island full of tunnels off Madagascar. Kidd had an all New York crew on a ..no pay ..no prey ..deal... 152 of them.

Yet Culliford outwitted him and made off with a fortune after the Pilgrims fleet returning from Mecca were taken. He had the bullion on board, comprising a hoard of 300 year old gold coins from the Oottoman Empire. 30 of the crew died of disease on the return journey back to Cornwall.

Twice he sailed off with Kidd’s pirate ships and returned to his Cornish cove where he buried his treasure chest. Captain Kidd’s treasure chest was held in the Customs House, Queen’s Square, Bristol, for many years but vanished 100 years ago.

Kidd returned via the West Indies and was seized by Benbow in Boston Harbour and was taken to the Tower of London and hung a year later aged 56. His body was put into an iron gibbet and hung at Wapping, as a warning to others, sailing up the River Thames.

Sir Francis Drake - "A hero to the English, a pirate to the Spanish"

Francis Drake was born in 1543 in a two-room cottage on the banks of the River Tamar in Devon: the family lived in one room and their farm beasts in the other. His grandparents were farmers. He was the eldest of twelve. When he was a boy the family moved from Devon to the East Coast of England, where they lived in extreme poverty in the hulk of a ship. It was there that the uneducated Drake learned the elements of seamanship before joining his cousin John Hawkins in seafaring adventures. He married Mary Newman in 1569, and she died twelve years later.

Determined to escape poverty, for ten years Drake engaged in piracy on the Spanish Main, ransacking the enemy's ships and acquiring vast amounts of treasure. On one occasion alone he returned home with half a million gold ducats. For these exploits Drake had been due to be hung for piracy, but when Queen Elizabeth I found that he had brought back more money than was in the whole of the English exchequer, she encouraged him in his ventures.

A ruthless man of action and a formidable leader, in 1572 Drake attacked Spanish ships in the Caribbean, but as he was about to capture a huge pile of silver bars he was badly wounded and he and his seventy men had to withdraw. After recovering, he landed at Panama, plundered a bullion convoy then continued across the Isthmus, where he saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time. Determined to sail that sea, between 1577 and 1580 he circumnavigated the world, the first Englishman to do so.

On his return to London Drake was knighted aboard his ship by his grateful sovereign. People who had invested in that expedition received a 4,700% return on their investment! They and others, fired up by this astonishing good fortune, poured money into another expedition but lost it: sailing the oceans in small wooden ships was a chancy business.

In 1585 Drake married the heiress Elizabeth Sydenham of Somerset and the couple moved into the recently purchased estate they had bought from Sir Richard Grenville. In 1587 Drake raided Cadiz harbour and destroyed more than thirty Spanish ships, in so doing delayed the departure of the Armada for a year. Then played a major part in its destruction. Drake became a Member of Parliament and Lord Mayor of Plymouth. From hovel to mansion, from insignificant beginnings to a knighthood, from penury to great wealth. Sir Francis Drake died of dysentery on board his flagship Defiance. He was buried at sea off Puerto Bello, Panama, in January 1596 in a lead coffin.

"Drake he's in his hammock. Captain art thou sleepin' there below?"

A Spanish treasure ship with 1 million silver coins was taken into Plymouth in the 1500's by Drake. The cargo was taken to London by mule train...half plundered en route by the time it reached Exeter.

Sir John Hawkins - 1532-1595

"One man's pirate is another man's patriot, depending on your loyalties."

John Hawkins was born to a wealthy Plymouth trading family. He went to sea at an early age and began slave trading. He bought slaves in west Africa and sold them to Spanish settlers in the West Indies. He made four voyages from 1562 through 1568. He was the first English slaver and the first to invade the Spanish Caribbean possessions.

Sir John Hawkins' father was much troubled that King Henry 8th, was being distracted with his marital problems and building prestigious, top-heavy ships such as The Mary Rose. This allowed the Spanish to expand their influence in the new Colonies. By selling slaves to the Spanish, Hawkins was able to finance the building of a fleet of fast, 500-ton ships that could support the inadequate British navy in time of war - and outmanoeuver the sluggish Spanish galleons. During Hawkin's first expedition he descended upon some of these ships that were returning to Spain full of Peruvian silver and gold. Hawkins took slaves from West Africa to the Caribbean, illegally, to sell to Spanish settlers. In October 1562, he took 3 small ships to West Africa to raid villages for slaves and loot Portuguese ships. With crown backing Hawkins set sail in the the 700-ton “Jesus of Lubeck” and 3 other smaller ships in October 1564. Hearing of this fantastic prize Queen Elizabeth I ordered her Privy Council to buy shares in this voyage and on his return knighted him and made him Treasurer of the Navy. Hawkins had brought back from his voyage a new vegetable called 'potato' and a dry herb that was smoked by Red Indians in Florida. Both were to have a great effect on the lives, and deaths, of people in years to come.

He sailed to Venezuela, pirating along the way and accumulating around 400 slaves. After Venezuela, Hawkins sailed to Rio de la Hacha. The Spanish officials tried to prevent Hawkins' sale of the slaves but he threatened to burn the towns. The Spanish backed down, he sold the slaves and returned to England in September 1655 with a 60% profit. Hawkins next left England in October 1567 with two royal warships and 4 smaller ships. Hawkins took his younger cousin, Francis Drake, with him on this voyage, this time in The Judith. By good fortune they managed to escape capture by the Spanish in a Mexican port but left behind Hawkins followed the same route as before and burned part of a town to make the Spanish allow him to sell slaves. However, on the return voyage, Hawkins ran into a storm and he put into a Mexican port. He took several hostages but a Spanish fleet commanded by the viceroy of Mexico attacked them. Hawkins lost 4 of the 6 ships as well as three-fourths of the crew along with large sums of oney. Only two ships escaped one with Hawkins on board and the other with his cousin, Francis Drake. However, Hawkins had the treasure. Four hundred Devon sailors were taken to Spain and some burnt at the stake in Seville. One of these unfortunate men was another cousin by the name of Robert Barrett. The result of this atrocity was that both Hawkins and Drake became fanatically anti-Catholic and anti-Spaniard, and plotted revenge. The remainder of Hawkins' force arrived in England several months later.

In the 1570s he became shipbuilder, an MP and Treasurer of the Navy, which he modernized.

He fought in the 1588 the attack of the Spanish in his ship, the Victory. In 1589, he sailed to try and intercept the Spanish treasure fleet off Portugal. In 1595 he tried again with Drake and died of sickness on the voyage as the fleet was reaching Puerto Rico.

Sir Richard Hawkins c. 1562-1622

Richard Hawkins, the son of John Hawkins, continued the family tradition of piracy. In 1585 he sailed with Drake to the Caribbean and Florida to attack Spanish settlements as part of the Virginia, Roanoke colony, sponsored by Sir Walter Raleigh.

Hawkins commanded the Swallow in the 1588 Spanish Armada battle. In 1560 with his father, he sailed to Portugal to try and seize the Spanish treasure fleet for England.

In 1593 he left England in the Dainty to sail round the world on a voyage of piracy and scientific exploration. He crossed the Atlantic, south and through the Strait of Magellan. He raided Valparaiso, Chile. However, the Dainty was attacked by six Spanish ships

Hawkins surrendered after 3 days and was imprisoned in Peru for three years, then transferred to Spain. In 1602, he was freed for a £3,000 ransom. Knighted in 1603 and made vice-admiral of Devon, he became mayor of Plymouth and an MP. In 1620 he led an expedition to the Mediterranean against the Barbary pirates.

Sir Humphrey Gilbert 1539-1583

Humphrey Gilbert was born in Devon and was Sir Walter Raleigh’s half-brother. He fought in Ireland as a young man and founded a colony in Munster. In the 1570s he became a Plymouth MP.

In 1578, he led a trip to the New World with Sir Walter Raleigh, in which only one ship survived. In 1583, Gilbert sailed with five ships and 260 men to settle in Newfoundland. He died at sea on the return voyage.

William Parker, died 1617

Born near Plymouth. He raided off the Spanish coast and was very active in the West Indies from 1590-1605. He died in Java in 1617.

William Pierce

He raided three vessels in the Mediterranean in 1602-3.

Edmund Condent 1718-1720

Chris or William Condent sailed in 1718 in the “Fiery Dragon”, and was known as Billy One Arm.

In the Bahamas in 1718, he did not accept Woodes Rogers’ pardon. He raided ships off Brazil, Africa, Madagascar, the Red Sea and India. He married the daughter of the French island of Reunion, got a pardon, moved to Brittany and became very wealthy.

Sir Robert and John Crosse Sailed with Sir Francis Drake

John Garrett - 1567-1572

With Hawkins, captain of the Minion. He later raided Central America as captain of the Castle of Comfort

Gilbert Horseley 1574-1575

Raided off Morocco and Panama and Nicaragua. He returned to England a very wealthy man.

William Jackson - 1637-1645

He had a long 6 year career, looting Spanish ships.

John Oxenham - 1580

First Englishman to sail the Pacific. He crossed overland at Panama. He was with Drake for much of the time and later raided the Pearl islands on the Pacific side of the Isthmus. He was caught by the Spanish and executed in Lima in 1580. Wealthy landowner. With others he took a Spanish ship, was arrested, but never made restitution.

Thomas White – 1708

He emigrated to Barbados. Captain of a vessel taken by French pirates. He finished up in the Red Sea looting ships. Was abandoned by fellow pirates near Madagascar. He later took another cruise in the Red Sea and retired to Madagascar where he died of alcoholism in 1708.


John Piers Born: ca 1560. He robbed ships and sold the goods off the south coast. He brought a prize into Studland Bay and was captured. He escaped but was caught again and hanged in 1581.

Moorish pirates were also active along the north Devon coast and ransacked Padstow on a regular basis, the aim being to take white-skinned women, much sought after by the Arabs, away to their base at Lundy ....Ooh Aarh


In the 1400s Fowey was the most flourishing centre of piracy in Europe. In Edward III’s time, the pirate nest at Fowey were called the Fowey gallants and they frequently raided the Normandy coastline. In the 1420s Mark Mixtow was a legal privateer and owned three ships. However he attacked more than just enemy shipping. The Crown eventually put a stop to him.

His son John, in 1429, captured a Genoese ship off Portugal and brought it back to Fowey, where the cargo was sold to the local population.

In 1442 Hankyn Seelander, a Dutchman or German, moved there to patrol the area for the Crown. However, he seized a ship off Brittany, selling the cargo in Fowey. Then he took a Dartmouth ship and then a Spanish ship with an enormous quantity of cloth. For the next thirty years the situation got really bad and the whole community was involved in piracy. In 1449 two Fowey ships owned by John Trevelyan, Thomas Tregarthen, Nicholas Carminow and Sir Hugh Courtenay seized a big Spanish vessel. All were influential merchants and land-owners. Courtenay continued to rob several ships.

Other merchant pirates of Fowey were Thomas Bodulgate, Arundell, Treffry and John Wilcock. Wilcock, in the Barbara, in May and June 1469, seized 15 ships off Brittany.

Richard Pempous 1450s

Peter Bruiton In 1472 ships of Fowey were plundering off Portugal.

Penzance and Falmouth

In 1636 the Turks took a thousand Cornish Mariners. In 1640 there were sixty Turkish men-of-war on the coast. Sixty men, women and children were taken from around Penzance.

In 1656 seven boats and forty two fishermen were taken by Turks (actually Algerian pirates) between Falmouth and the Lizard.

About 1659 Sir John Pennington was cruising off the Lizard when he saw five Algerian men of war. Pennington's fleet gave chase but they escaped.

A contingent of Moors met their match when they invaded Mounts Bay with a fleet of thirty ships and took the congregation of the church who were at prayers as hostages. The local taverns emptied and the Pirates of Penzance joined with the men of Newlyn in fierce hand-to-hand fighting with cutlasses on the beach. The invaders were repelled with great loss of life.

The “Admiral Benbow Inn” is famous worldwide and featured in Treasure Island, actually based on the pirate haunt of the Llandoger Trow in Bristol. Author Robert Louis Stephenson, resided in the Smugglers Chine, Bournemouth.

Admiral John Benbow (1651-1702) served under Admiral Whetstone (father in law to Woodes Rogers) and they both saw service in the West Indies. His eldest son, John, 1681-1708 was captured by pirates in Madagascar and held to ransom for 7 years, by the west country pirates who lived there, who realized his importance. He was held in bad conditions and died on his return to England from the experience. Another son Colonel Benbow was executed as a traitor by Cromwell’s Roundheads when he helped King Charles Stuart to escape their ambush.

John Mixtow (see Fowey) 1429

The mayors that controlled commerce in the south western towns were dependant on income from their local pirate and took a percentage from the sale of smuggled goods sold to their townsfolk. The mayor of Penzance received £40 in his year of office in 1776.


Falmouth harbour was guarded by forts at St. Mawes and Pendennis. However Pendennis was occupied by the Killigrew family, notorious pirates.

The Killigrews of Falmouth

In 1464 Thomas Killigrew and two other ships attacked a Breton ship.

Lady Killigrew (active 1530-1570) was the daughter of a Suffolk pirate. She should have known better. But then she was the daughter of a Suffolk pirate and it was in her blood. Her husband, Sir Henry, had long been the friend of pirates, had made a lot of money, had built a big mansion and then became the Vice-Admiral tasked with ridding the south west of England of pirates - poacher turned gamekeeper.

While the Admiral was at sea Lady K decided to engage in a little piracy herself. She press-ganged her household staff into becoming sailors, ordered them to capture a German ship sheltering off Falmouth, enticed the captain to accompany her ashore, took him to a tavern, got him drunk, provided a couple of loose women to keep him amused then went back and ransacked his ship.

Her servants sailed it to Ireland to sell it but the secret came out. Despite her husband's best endeavours she was brought to trial at Launceston assizes and sentenced to death. At the eleventh hour she was reprieved, acquitted by a bribed jury and Sir Henry was allowed to take her back to Falmouth. With mixed feelings, no doubt. She was a fence until she died. "Was she a fireship or a flash packet?"

Peter Killigrew (active 1550-1563)

Peter Killigrew, charged with piracy in Ireland in 1555. He was a pirate in the Irish Sea and off France.

Sir John and Lady Elizabeth Killigrew

The family were well connected politically and lived in Pendennis Castle at Falmouth Harbour’s entrance. John Killigrew, Captain of Pendennis Castle. In 1577 he purchased stolen French wine from a pirate named Hix, but avoided punishment by paying the real owners.

Sir John was ordered to make restitution but Killigrew and the ship both disappeared. Later a Danish ship was plundered.

In 1582 Lady Killigrew led an attack on a Spanish ship in the harbour. She was sentenced to death but pardoned.

Sir John Killigrew

Their son Sir John Killigrew continued the family tradition. He was above the law, taking Spanish bribes and selling ammunition to pirates that was to be used against the Spanish. He was in league with many pirates who freely used Falmouth harbour with his protection. A Captain Elliott captured a Dieppe ship and took it into Helford.Sir John Killigrew, instead of arresting the pirate, he warned them of the approach of H.M.S. Crane, and bribed the Navy Captain with £100. He was suitably rewarded by Elliott.

The Lizard

St Ives

A small French pirate flotilla assembled in St Ives Bay when the tide came in, flooding the Hayle estuary, sailed up to the small trading port to plunder the town. They were repelled by a local who as a result was granted a coat of arms for his brave action.

Land’s End

Off Land’s End, in 1641 the "Merchant Royal" ran aground with 36 bronze cannon and £500,000 in silver bullion on board.

By 1860 over 692 shipwrecks were recorded off the south west's dangerous coastline

The Scilly Isles

Piracy flourished on the Scilly Islands in the Middle Ages. In 1209, 112 captured pirates were beheaded on Tresco in a single day. In Charles I reign in the 1640s many pirates based themselves there.

Sir Cloudsley Shovell (1650-1707)

He was in joint command of the fleet, with Admiral Killigrew of Falmouth. He was returning from an assault on the French port of Toulon, when his flagship the “Association” hit rocks off the Scilly's and sank with all 600 hands in 4 minutes. Four other Navy ships ran aground and it was England’s worst Naval accident at that time. He was the only survivor and struggled ashore at Porthellick Cove to be greeted by a local woman who promptly slit his throat and cut his fingers off to take the gold rings. His treasure was found by divers from Penzance in recent years and recovered. He was previously involved in the bombardment of the Arab pirate enclave of Tripoli, and many west country men made up his crew.

The Channel Islands

Eustace the Monk held Sark in 1214. Originally locked away in a monastery he turned to piracy, and with the French King Louis VII in 1217 attempted to invade England with 900 ships. Unfortunately for him, The Bayonne, his flagship, was captured and he was hung from the yard arm at sea, although offering a 10,000 mark bribe for his life...a fortune for a simple monk. His daughter was brought up in Salisbury as an English lady..educated at the fashionable Wilton Abbey.

Robert Hicks - Died 1578

Sailed with Welshman John Callice took 3 ships off Cornwall in 1577 and then a large Danish ship which was taken in to Weymouth. He was hanged for piracy.

John Downes - 1606-1631

Marauded from harbours in Southern Cornwall.

Sir Richard Grenville 1541-1591

He was eventually Sheriff of Cornwall and well connected. Grenville was born into a famous naval family in Cornwall. In his early career he fought in Hungary and Ireland and then became an MP for Cornwall in 1571. In 1574 he joined an expedition to the South Pacific and was knighted by Elizabeth in 1577.

In 1585 he sailed to Virginia with 300 settlers to help found the Roanoke Island colony. He was at the founding of the Virginia colony, but was more interested in piracy. He attacked a Spanish ship on the return voyage and the following year he attacked the Azores. In 1588, Grenville served under Drake during the Spanish Armada and then he guarded Ireland.

In 1591 he sailed back to the Azores to try and capture a Spanish treasure fleet but they were beaten off by a squadron of Spanish war ships. Grenville was trapped in the harbour and was surrounded. After a battle the crew surrendered. Grenville died of his wounds a few days later.

William Rous 1631-1643

He was initially a lieutenant in the military and was stationed in the Bahamas. He became a privateer in 1636 as captain of the ship Blessing. He was almost immediately captured and imprisoned by the Spaniards at Cartagena and was later taken to in Spain and freed. In 1642 he sailed from England under the command of the privateer William Jackson with 900 men. They were in the West Indies for three years.

Ambrose Sayer 1600- 1620

A pirate in the Mediterranean Sea from 1600 to 1613. He ranged off Tuscany and was captured He spent four years in a jail in Florence, and three years in Rome. In 1620 he escaped.

Pirate Island

Such a place the like of witch I never saw Lundy Island (Lundy means 'puffin' in Norwegian) is a great isolated rock in the middle of the Bristol Channel, an ideal base for piracy. Not only the English used it.

Lundy Island was invaded by various groups of pirates to be used as a stronghold and base for operations against the heavily laden merchant ships passing by; en route to and from Bristol, Barnstaple, South Wales, Chepstow, and Bridgwater; and also against the Irish fleets bringing pilgrims to the North Devon coastline.

In 1067 Danish pirates invaded Barnstaple from Lundy

Sir William de Marisco

He married into the Archbishop of Dublin’s family and inherited Irish estates. He held an important position at the Court of King Henry 111 and for his services to the Crown was awarded estates along the North Devon and Somerset coastline. From his Manor at Portishead in 1235 he was outlawed from the Court at Westminster for slitting the throat of the King’s messenger and so fled to the remote island of Lundy where he felt safe, using the steep village of Clovelly on the mainland as his port of supplies. He built an almost inaccessible castle on top of the high cliffs and from there sallied out to intercept passing ships; not only to plunder them of gold and silver but to take victuals, since the island was barren and could not sustain life.

He soon found it profitable to capture the many passing Bristol merchant ships bringing back valuable goods from overseas. Because of the dangerous shingle banks in the fast flowing River Severn and Bristol Channel, with its 32 ft tide, they had to navigate close to his big rock 12 miles out. He was soon into piracy and ransomed the more wealthy passengers, including the brother of the Mayor of Bristol. His menace infuriated the King even more and when de Marisco sent some of his brigands to Woodstock to murder the King, for seizing his Irish estates he provoked retaliation by an angry Henry who sent in the dragoons one misty night. They scaled the steep cliffs and captured him alive in his castle (which is now a pub) and at Clovelly, dragged him up the steep cobbled high street by tying his legs to two separate horses to be taken back to the King. Most of his corpse became detached at Glastonbury and only his ankles and feet were left by the time the dragoons reached Woodstock.

Lundy was the haunt of pirates. Many skeletons have been dug up on the island, including one measuring eight feet two inches in length. Could this be Long John Silver's? The island abounds with strange names such as Puffin Gully, Rat Island, Hell's Gate, Devil's Slide and Mouse Island. There are many unexplored caves where pirate's treasure could be lying mouldering in the dark.

In 1345 the French there planned a raid on Bristol to burn it down.

Colyn Dolphin

In the 1440s Colyn Dolphin, a Frenchman, was based there. Edward Stradling of Coity Castle married a daughter of Henry VI's great uncle, Cardinal Beaufort, and became Chamberlain of South Wales in 1423. His son Harry was captured by the pirate Colyn Dolphyn a native of BrittanY.

Operating out of Lundy Island, Dolphyn captured of Sir Harry Stradling in 1449 while sailing back to Wales from Minehead in Somerset, where he had stayed for a month. Sir Harry Stradling, his faithful man Dewryn, and the crew of the St. Barbe, were kept close prisoners by Colyn Dolphyn, on board his barque the Sea Swallow for about 2 years. Stradling was ransomed for a price of 2200 marks and forced to sell his manors of Bassaleg and Rogerstone and other estates to regain his freedom.

According to the old chroniclers, Colyn Dolphyn was a tall, athletic, and mighty man, "like Saul in Israel." He "towered head and shoulders" over the Welsh and English alike. Colyn Dolphyn's name was a terror in South Wales.

Some time later Dolphyn was caught in a storm and ran aground on Colhugh Beach and the Nash rocks in Glamorgan. Sir Harry Stradling and his men met them and captured Dolphyn and his men. They were hung the next day.

The Arabs and Lundy Island.

In the early 16th Century Moslems from the north coast of Africa, known as Moors, having been expelled from Spain and still smarting from their defeats by the Crusaders decided upon revenge. In fleets of light-weight, fast, lateen-rigged ships they raided ports in the south-west of England. Because of the threat posed by these raiders, villages were built away from the coast. The tower of the village church was used as a look-out.

The raiding ships were armed with a cannon mounted in the bow with which, using chain shot, they could bring down the rigging of the slower, English ships and then board them and capture them intact with all their crew. These men and women were then taken back to the Barbary Coast as slaves. Between the 16th and 17th Centuries corsairs from the Barbary Coast of Africa descended from Lundy to intercept ships going to and from Ireland and the Americas. In all, they seized some four hundred and sixty-six vessels. Some of their women captives were taken back to Algiers or Tunis or Morocco: DNA testing today would reveal some unusual ancestors.

At one time more than twenty thousand were being held as slaves and hostages in the dungeons of the fort. They included prominent men that were passengers bound for Bristol, including the brother of the lord mayor and held for ransom.

In 1520 King James I decided that enough was enough and sent a Royal Navy battle squadron to blockade the Sultans ports and demand the release of the captives. It was to take Oliver Cromwell in the 1640s to sort them out. He found the sailors along the south west coast ports were frightened to venture out. When they caught an Arab they were brought back to the gibtaylor in Bristol to be drowned.

Murat Reis, the Arab pirate captain, was on Lundy in about 1645. He had taken 310 prisoners off the southwest coastline to Salee Castle, Algiers, to be fattened up for sale. Cromwell got fed up with the Arab menace and insurance prices rising on Bristol merchant ships, that he commissioned two brave west country men to clear the Arabs off Lundy and chase them back to Tunis. Robert Blake from farming stock in the North Devon hills and William Penn from Redcliffe, Somerset took the fight to the enemy and bombarded their stronghold till they surrendered. They released 20,000 people. Penn had been paid privately by Bristol merchants to clear the Severn. He could speak Arabic as his father Giles senior had been ambassador in Africa on behalf of the King Charles.

The 2 Penn brothers from Malmesbury came to Redcliffe (Giles and William) and were not allowed to trade by the Bristol cartel. So they traded with the Arabs instead, and had to become ruthless pirates themselves to survive. As a result, when the Mayor of Bristol, who had his own brother held to ransom... put up a reward to clear the Arab menace, lying in wait off Denny Island, Portishead..(they were waiting for the trading ships full of young white boys to be chained to their oars ,sold as slaves at the Horsefayre since 1242, and bound for Ireland with its Viking origins).

Insurance rates were escalating. So it was worth some reward to be paid to a mercenary..so this is how Captain Penn, son of Giles, the English ambassador to Tunis, became famous and eventually an admiral.

As a result both men were made up to Admirals and Penn was sent to capture the Jamaica and the sugar islands in the Caribbean from the Spanish in 1655. Henry Morgan, who later became governor of Jamacia (he died of drinking too much rum) was with him. The Penns eventually colonised Pennsylvania USA and lived on Portland Bill, Dorset complete with its pirate graveyard.

Even plunderers and modern pirates used the island as a base in World War II ...U-boats used to lurk there in the shelter of the steep cliffs to avoid detection from radar.