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Joseph Hamar - Captain of Cook's First Navy Ship


During the early 1740s, Captain Joseph Hamar was in command of HMS Flamborough in South Carolina and Georgia waters, helping protect communities there from the Spanish. (The Flamborough was a 6th rate, built at Woolwich in 1707 and rebuilt at Portsmouth in 1727). There are references to Hamar having built a wharf at Port Royal Island, South Carolina. His will refers to a silver cup and cover given to him by the merchants of Carolina, presumably in thanks. He must also have had dealings with the Bahamas as the will refers to assets connected with Providence Island in the Bahamas. There is a Hamar Street in Beaufort, South Carolina, named after Joseph Hamar, who in 1748 was assigned two lots of land on the street.

Joseph Hamar had become a lieutenant on 5 May 1735 and a commander on 10 June 1740. He was given command of the Royal Escape on 11 June 1740, based at The Nore at the mouth of the River Thames, and remained with the ship until 22 October 1741 when he was promoted to captain. A few days later, on 27 October, Hamar was appointed to the Flamborough.

It is not known when and where Hamar was born. In 1753, on 5 July, he married Elizabeth Limeburner at St. Dunstan’s church in East London. Elizabeth's father was Captain Thomas Limeburner, who had command of the Seahorse in American waters during the War of Austrian Succession (1739-1748) so was a colleague of Joseph Hamar. The following year a daughter, Margaret Elizabeth was born at Greenwich on 4 June 1754.

On 7 May 1755, Hamar was appointed as captain of, and re-commissioned, the ship HMS Eagle at Portsmouth. It was then that the paths of Hamar and James Cook crossed. However, it is unlikely that they had much actual contact. Cook, who joined the ship at Spithead in late June of that year as an able seaman, would only have spoken to his captain if and when he was spoken to by Hamar. In early August, Hamar took the Eagle out to patrol off southern Ireland. A gale damaged the ship and Hamar, believing the main mast was broken, took the ship into Plymouth. Inspection proved that the mast was not broken and Hamar left the ship in September, apparently relieved of his duties by an unhappy Admiralty.

Hamar became a Superannuated Rear Admiral in October 1758. The Superannuated Flag Officer scheme had been introduced in 1747 as a means of removing incompetent officers. As they would never be given an active command again, they were given the opportunity to retire on the half pay of a rear admiral instead. Hamar was still recorded as such on the Navy List for 1766.

His wife Elizabeth died and Hamar remarried. His second wife, Ann(e), was the widow of William Berry and she already had a son, also called William. Hamar’s will, written in late 1773 in Manchester, refers to his house in Hampstead, North London. His wife Ann(e), daughter Margaret Elizabeth and stepson William are all mentioned in the will. Hamar must already have been ill as he died in early 1774, the will being proved in March of that year. Some records incorrectly state he died on 14 January 1773.

Hamar’s daughter, Margaret Elizabeth, married the Reverend John Arden on 15 May 1775 in Wellesbourne, Warwickshire and died in Yoxall, Staffordshire in May 1842. The Ardens had a son, Francis Edward, who became the vicar of Gresham in Norfolk. Francis Edward married Rachel Pinkard about 1802 and they in turn had a son called Humphrey Hamar in 1815. Humphrey Hamar Arden emigrated to New Zealand with his family in 1853 and settled in Taranaki. He and his two sons, Francis Hamar (1841-1899) and Francis (1851-?) were all painters, and examples of their work survive. Among them is a painting by Francis Hamar Arden of the nearby volcanic mountain, Mount Egmont, named in 1770 by a man who had been their great, great grandfather’s colleague on the Eagle, James Cook.

Joseph Hamar’s Will

John Robson


Originally published in Cook's Log, page 19, volume 29, number 3 (2006).

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I am the great grandson of Francis Hamar Arden, through his daughter Hilda Katherine Alice Arden who married my grandfather Lionel Ottley Leefe, whose son Lionel Cuthbert Arden Leefe was my father. I am very happy and proud to say I am also the owner of the painting of Mount Egmont by Francis Hamar Arden to which you refer in this article. I also have another painting of his depicting Milford Sound. Would this be of interest to the Society? I would also appreciate any help from whatever quarter to get these historic paintings valued correctly as I am very concerned they may be under-insured. I hope to hear from you in due course. Yours faithfully, John Leefe

By John Hamilton Arden Leefe on 11/15/2016 9:14:42 PM Like:0 DisLike:0

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