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Henry Roberts, Painter of Resolution


In March, 1983 at a small stamp show in Davis, CA (near Sacramento), I had a chance encounter with a collector, Mr. Val A. Luck, who when he learned of my interest in Cook and that my name is Roberts, sent me an article about Henry Roberts, who sailed with Cook on his second and third voyages, and painted a beautiful picture of the Resolution.

He said that Capt. Henry Roberts (1725 - 1796) was the son of his great (x 5) grandfather Bartholomew Roberts born in 1694. [As the comment at the bottom of this article shows, these dates are wrong and should be 1756 - 1796.]

The article was from the Sussex County Magazine. By George Godwin it was entitled "A Shoreham link with Captain Cook". Here is part of it:-

While the name of Captain James Cook is a household word few people could tell you, off-hand, anything of Captain Henry Roberts.

One might go even further, and suggest that few Shoreham folk and fewer Sussex men could place the name. Yet Roberts was a Sussex man and a native of Shoreham, in which town he raised his six children.

A strange fate seems to have been the lot of those who served with Cook. Mostly to a man they have disappeared in the mists of time and are known to-day only to the few. There are several reasons for this. First, many of the great seamen who were associated with Cook in his three historic voyages, are very badly documented indeed. They were men of action, lived most of their lives at sea, died and were forgotten.

Such a man was Captain Henry Roberts, of Shoreham.

Roberts's claim to be remembered by his county and his country rests on his contribution to cartography. He sailed with Cook on the second and third of the great voyages. On the former he served on Resolution as mate, with Joseph Gilbert as master. On the third and ill-fated voyage he served on the same ship, and in the same capacity.

But although Roberts appears on the Muster Tables in each case as mate, he also acted in another and far more important capacity.

All Cook's voyages were scientific expeditions to add to our knowledge of the earth. They depended for their success upon the precision and thoroughness with which the hydrographic work was carried out. More: they depended for success also upon the skill and competence with which the new charts were drawn.

Captain Henry Roberts, then, played a vital part in those historic voyages, since it was his clever hand that made the maps associated with Cook's name.

Roberts was not only a fine seaman, then, but a man of genius in a highly specialised field. His charts are very beautiful. They are also very accurate. They are, indeed, works of art.

Very little is known of Roberts's life aside from his sea service. But recently there came to light an historical document of the greatest interest. As one might have expected in a man clever with his pencil, Roberts also used his quill. He kept a log in his own hand, and if you have a matter of £2,000 lying idle, why then you might do worse than acquire this historical document for Sussex.

The log is a document of some 114 closely-written pages. The script is very beautiful, long and slanting. The style is the formal style of the day, dignified, perhaps a little pompous - but what was expected, apparently, since most contemporary naval writings bear a quite astonishing family resemblance.

Lee Roberts

Originally published in Cook's Log, page 315, volume 7, number 4 (1984).

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I am Valentine Lucks Grandson and my second name is in remembrance of Cpt Henry Roberts I
can trace my Ancestry back to Bartholomew Roberts 1694.
By Ian Robert Powell on 8/13/2018 9:59:37 PM Like:0 DisLike:0
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Vicky, Henry Robert's log book is now in the collection of the Dixson Library, part of the New South Wales State Library. They hold quite a few items relating to H.R. go to
click on the manuscript catalogue, and then enter Henry Roberts in the search box.
You will be amazed!
By Cliff Thornton on 4/23/2015 9:03:46 AM Like:0 DisLike:0
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I'm probably way tooooo late but I'm very interested in Capt Henry Roberts's log book. His mother Susanna Stow was my 5th great grand aunt and my mother has a painting of Henry Roberts's daughter Maria who married James Childs Whitcomb and we have a lovely piece of furniture that's been handed down allegedly from Capt Henry Roberts. I live in England. Do you know where the log book is now.

All the best
Vicky Nash
By Vicky Nash on 4/22/2015 3:32:28 PM Like:0 DisLike:0
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I am a grandson x5 I lost l of my information about my family in a fire about 7 years ago. and now trying to put it to get the info again. most of the onfo I had came to me from my great grandfather John Roberts of N.S.W. son of Arthur John Roberts, son of Howard H. Roberts I may have some of the names in the wrong order as this is from my memory if any one has more please contact me vadmjroberts@gmail.com
By james henry roberts on 7/25/2014 5:13:29 AM Like:1 DisLike:1
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I am a descendent of one of Henry Roberts' brothers, and have done quite a bit of research on the family. The birth and death dates listed in this article are actually a combination of his father (Henry Roberts, Sr.) abt 1726 to 1776, and himself (Henry Jr.) 1756-1796. Birth and death dates are documented for his father, including a will proved in 1776, and for his son, about whom this article is written -- he was baptised in 1757. The younger Henry died in the British West Indies of Yellow Fever in 1796, within days of one of his own sons who also caught the Fever.

I added this comment because it took me a long time to straighten out my confusion about these dates BECAUSE of this article and I wanted to save time for the next person who might be interested.
Henry Roberts' birth date is wrong in this article
By Marie Clausen on 11/22/2012 2:13:52 AM Like:3 DisLike:2

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