Home > John Watts (1755-1801)

John Watts (1755-1801)

 

John Watts, who sailed on Cook’s Third Voyage in Resolution, was baptised on 3 July, 1755, at All Hallows the Great, London. 

 

He was the son of William and Jane Watts.  His oldest surviving sister, Ann Watts married Golding Constable in 1767, and their son was John Constable, the artist.1  

 

Watts joined Resolution from HMS Barfleur on 22 April, 1776.  He began the voyage as a midshipman.  On 1 November, 1777, he became an AB, but on 2 November, 1779, he reverted to being a midshipman.  

 

Watts wrote proceedings during the voyage.2  After the voyage, he was promoted to lieutenant on 14 December, 1781.

 

In 1787, Lieutenant Watts sailed to Australia in Lady Penrhyn, which carried 100 female convicts as part of the First Fleet.  He is listed as a passenger on the voyage.  Lady Penrhyn left Sydney in early 1788, and sailed to Tahiti, becoming the first European ship to visit since Cook in 1778.  Watts has provided a short description of life on the island, including various people remembered from Cook’s time.  From Tahiti, Lady Penrhyn sailed to Macao, passing on the way an island that was named Penrhyn Island after the ship.  That island, Tongareva, is now one of the Cook Islands.

 

Watts was further promoted to commander on 22 December, 1796.  A marriage allegation dated 18 December, 1797, records that John Watts (of All Hallows the Great) married Mary Allen at St. George, Hanover Square, London.

 

Commander Watts took command of Osprey, 18 guns, in 1799, and patrolled in the North Sea.  He died on 4 March 1801 whilst still in command.  In his will he left everything to his “dearly beloved Wife Mary Watts …my true, whole and sole Executrix”.3  They do not appear to have had any children. 

 

The Naval Chronicle of 1801 stated that Watts was, “ tattoo’d all over his body by some Natives of the Islands he visited in the course of the Voyage.”

 

Watts had his portrait painted by Spoilum, a Chinese artist, during a stopover in Guangzhou (Canton).  Another portrait by S. Shelley is in Australia. 

 

Watts described a species of shark at Sydney, which was, for a short time, named Watts shark but is now known as a Wobbegong shark. 

 

John Robson

 

Lieutenant’s certificate for John Watts

 

Ship

Start date

Rank

Y

M

W

D

Barfleur

22 August 1775

AB

0

2

1

0

Barfleur

24 October 1775

Midshipman

0

6

1

6

Resolution

22 April 1776

Midshipman

1

6

3

4

Resolution

1 November 1777

AB

2

0

0

2

Resolution

3 December 1779

Midshipman

0

12

3

0

Conquestador

25 October 1780

AB

0

3

0

5

Conquestador

4 February 1781

Midshipman

0

2

2

3

Santa Margarita

5 April 1781

Midshipman

0

4

3

6

 

 

Total

6

0

0

5

 

In pursuance, etc of the 29 August 1781, we have examined Mr. John Watts who by certificate appears to be more than 20 years of age, & find he has gone to sea more than six years in the Ships and qualities undermentioned (viz)

 

Journals dispensed with from the Resolution by order of 16 October 1780.  He produceth Certificates from Captains Milbanke, Gore, Cook and Salter of his diligence, etc.  He can splice, knot, reef a sail, etc and is qualified to do the duty of an Able Seaman and Midshipman.

 

Dated the 5 September 1781. Charles Middleton,
Edward LeBras, Abraham North.

 

References

  1. Cook’s Log, page 770, vol. 14, no. 1 (1991). 
  2. The National Archives (TNA).  Adm 51/4559/212; 23 April 1776 to 29 November 1779.  See also Cook’s Log, page 1876, vol. 24, no. 3 (2001); page 26, vol. 26, no. 1 (2003); page 29, vol. 26, no. 4 (2003); and page 35, vol. 36, no. 2 (2013).
  3. PROB 11/1361. 

 


Originally published in Cook's Log, page 46, volume 37, number 4 (2014).

No comments

Unsolicited e-mail warning

It has come to our attention that spam mailers (senders of bulk unsolicited e-mail) have been forging their mail with this domain as the point of origin. As a matter of policy, we do not send out e-mail from our domain name. If you have received an email that appears to be from "@CaptainCookSociety.com" it was forged and sent without our consent, knowledge, or the use of our servers.