William Shuttleworth sailed as a midshipman on Cook’s Third Voyage. He sailed in Resolution until 16 February 1779 when he transferred to Discovery. During the voyage Shuttleworth kept a journal of proceedings.1 On his return to Britain, Shuttleworth changed his surname to Holden as part of the stipulations in his maternal grandfather’s will.
William Shuttleworth was baptised on 26 January 1749, the third son of James and Mary Shuttleworth. The Shuttleworths were rich landowners in the north of England. They had properties at Forcett Hall in North Yorkshire and Gawthorpe Hall, near Burnley in Lancashire. James Shuttleworth, William’s father, had married Mary Holden, heiress to estates at Aston-on-Trent near Derby, thus adding to the family fortunes.
The Shuttleworths had at least six children, of whom Robert Shuttleworth was the oldest. Born in 1743, Robert succeeded to most of the northern properties when his father died in 1773. In anticipation of this, Mary’s father, Robert Holden, stipulated in his will that the estate he was passing on through his daughter should go to the second son, with the proviso that this son would change his name to Holden. James Shuttleworth was the second son and he, therefore, changed his name in 1768 to James Holden. However, James Holden died in 1780 so, when William Shuttleworth returned from Cook’s Third Voyage he discovered he had succeeded to the Holden inheritance.
William’s older brother, Robert Shuttleworth, was an acquaintance of Joseph Banks, both being fellows of the Royal Society, and it was through Banks that William gained a place on the Third Voyage. John Gore wrote to Joseph Banks from Cape Town, early in the Third Voyage, mentioning Shuttleworth as follows:
The only motive of my now writing is to inform you of a Bill for 240 Rix Dollars drawn on your friend Shuttleworth by his brother here, which Bill is accepted here on my indorsing, which I beg you’ll see duly honour’d.
The sailor Shuttleworth has much to recommend him as a sea officer which in my opinion is the only department he is properly qualified for.
Prior to sailing with Cook, Shuttleworth spent a year as a midshipman in HMS Surprize. After the voyage, Shuttleworth does not appear in the records (or, rather, the name Shuttleworth does not appear). William still needed to serve a few more months in order to complete the six years’ service required to become a lieutenant. As William Holden he spent a month in HMS Isis and four months in HMS Nightingale before sitting his examination in April 1781. He received his commission as a lieutenant on 25 May 1781.
Little else is known about him at this time. Holden appears not to have pursued a naval career. Family documents from around 1800 state that he and his widow were both dead and without issue:2
that James and Mary Shuttleworth are dead, that their sons James and William successively assumed the name of Holden and died without issue 3
that William Shuttleworth was dead without issue and his widow dead, that Charles Holden was in possession of the estate 4
William Holden died on 26 January 1791 at Rouen in Normandy. Why he was in France at this dangerous time is a mystery. William’s younger brother, the Reverend Charles Edward Shuttleworth, succeeded him and became the Reverend Charles Holden.
In pursuance of the directions of the Right Honourable the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, signified to us by Mr. Stephen’s letter of the 14 October 1780, We have examined Mr. William Shuttleworth who by certificate appears to be more than thirty three years of age, and find he has gone to sea more than six years in the Ships and qualities under-mentioned (viz)
Midshipman & Master’s mate
Lieutenant’s servant (?)
Journals kept by himself in the Resolution & Discovery to be dispensed [per] Admiralty Order. He produceth Certificates from Captains Linzee, Gore, King, Herbert & Sutton of his diligence and sobriety: He can splice, knot, reef a sail, work a ship in sailing, shift his tides, keep a reckoning of a ship's way by plain sailing and Mercator; observe by sun or star, and find variation of the compass, and is qualified to do the duty of an Able Seaman and Midshipman.
Dated at the Navy Office the 19 April 1781.
Charles Middleton, Edward LeCras, Captain North.
Originally published in Cook's Log, page 33, volume 35, number 2 (2012).
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