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Charles Clerke (2nd will)


"In the name of God, Amen, I Charles Clerke, of His Majesty's Sloop Resolution, having been long in a state of straiten and not knowing how soon it may please God to remove me from this life, I hereby make this my last will and testament that all my just and lawful debts be paid, and which are as follows -

Mr James Sykes of Crutched Friars, my agent, who hath my credentials in his hands having settled my accounts to acquit himself of the sum I now stand indebted to him, and from the remainder pay

  • to my honoured friend Sir Robert Ainslie, one hundred pounds with interest due to the same thereof.
  • to my honoured friend Doctor Maty, or his sons, the sum of fifty pounds, with the lawful interest to date thereof.
  • to Mr Henry Wyate of Panton Street, hosier, seven pounds eleven shillings and eight pence.
  • to Mr John Ramsden of Piccadilly, optician, one pound sixteen shillings.
  • to my dear and honoured father one Guinea and my Gold watch with a second hand to it.
  • to my dear brother and friend Sir John Clerke, Captain in his Majesty's Navy, ten Guineas.
  • and to my dear brother Joseph Clerke of Ipswich, Attorney at Law, five Guineas.
  • to my dearest sisters Hannah and Ann Clerke, five Guineas each.
  • to my dearest friend Lady Clerke, wife of my brother Sir John Clerke, five Guineas.
  • to my honoured friend Joseph Banks esquire of New Burlington Street, all my Curiosities Natural and Artificial which I have collected in the course of this voyage, in token of my gratitude and respect for his friendship.
  • to my good friend Gawler Rickman ten Guineas.
  • to Gregory Bentham, my late clerk of the Discovery, the sum which his pay of clerk shall make at the rate of fifty pounds a year during the time he was my clerk in that ship according to my agreement, provided his accounts are ever as I have reason to expect they will be.
  • to William Goulston, cooper of the Discovery, the sum of [?] being the agreement I made with him to come on the voyage in that capacity.
  • to Richard Collett, the sum of thirty pounds for his faithful services.
  • to John Fisher and Jan Arno De Becker, five Guineas each.

And after the above debts and legacies are discharged, all the rest and residue of my Effects whatsoever or wheresoever, real or personal that at this time or at any time hereafter shall belong to me, I give and bequeath to my loving sister Sarah Clerke.

And I do hereby appoint Edward Thompson of Bow, Captain in His Majesty's Navy, to whom I bequeath my second gold watch as a memorial of my friendship, and James Sykes of Crutched Friars, London, to whom I bequeath the sum of ten Guineas, as my executors.

As witness whereof and hereunto I set my hand and seal this seventeenth day of August one thousand seven hundred and seventy nine... Chas. Clerke.

Signed and sealed in the presence of James King, Alexander Dewar."



Cliff Thornton




  1. Clerke made his first will (see Cook's Log, page 13, vol. 26, no. 1 (2003)) on 29 July 1776, before embarking in Discovery and before realising that he had caught consumption during his stay in the debtors prison. He made his second will on 17th August 1779 whilst at sea, and just five days before he passed away. The witnesses were Lieutenant James King and Alexander Dewar, the clerk of Resolution.
  2. All of the legatees in his first will appear in his second will, although sometimes the amount of their bequests had changed. However there are a significant number of new legatees in his second will.
  3. Henry Wyate of Panton Street was left an unusually precise amount of money. It is known that Clerke once resided in Panton Street, and it is possible that this bequest is to cover some unpaid rent as Clerke left London in such haste to reach Discovery.
  4. John Ramsden is described as an optician, but his Piccadilly address suggests that he may have been the son of the famous Jesse Ramsden, who developed various navigational instruments.
  5. Clerke left small bequests to five of his crew, three from Discovery and two who served under him during the short time that he commanded Resolution.
  6. News of Captain Clerke's death reached England via HMS Sybil in summer 1780. On learning of Clerke's death, his executors obtained Administration of his will in July 1780. But after Resolution had returned to the Thames in October 1779, Clerke's second will was found and his first will was revoked.
  7. The Executors appear to have taken some time in administering the will for, as late as December 1781, they were advertising in the London Gazette for any of Clerke's debtors or creditors to come forward (London Gazette No. 12253, dated 18 December 1781).


Originally published in Cook's Log, page 13, volume 26, number 1 (2003).

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