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Robert Molineux


"In the name of God Amen, I Robert Molineux Master of His Majesty's Ship the Endeavour, Capt. James Cooke, being of a Sound and Disposing Mind, Memory and understanding, God be praised, Do by Divine Permission make, publish and Declare these presents to be and contain my last Will and Testament in manner following,
First I commend my Soul to God who gave it hoping in and through the alone merits and Intercession of my blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ to obtain pardon and remission of all my Sins and to Inherit Eternal life and my body I commit to the Earth or Sea as it shall please God to order and touching the Disposal of all such Temporal Estate as I shall be possessed of Interested in or Intitled unto at the time of my Decease I do hereby Order, Give, Devise and bequeath the same as followeth, that is to say

First I do hereby name, make Order Constitute and appoint my friends Thomas Frons of Woolwich in the County of Kent Shipwright, and Edward Clement Carpenter of his Majesty's Ship the Newark now in Ordinary at Chatham to be Joint Executors of this my last Will, and I do hereby Order, Direct and Appoint that all my Just Debts and funeral Expenses shall by my said Executors or either of them be first fully paid and satisfied, And then all the rest, residue and remainder of my Goods, Chattels, Credits, ready Money, Wages, Prize Money, Short allowance money, Wearing Apparel, Wares, Merchandizes and all other of my Estate whatsoever both Real and Personal, I do hereby Give, Devise and bequeath the same unto my Sister Ellen Molineux of Liverpool in Lancashire, maiden, To hold the same and every part and parcel thereof unto my said Sister Ellen Molineux her Executors, Admors. And Assigns forever, And I do hereby revoke Disannul and make void all other Wills, Testaments and Deeds of Gift by me at any time herebefore made, Published or declared.

In witness whereof I the said Robert Molineux have to this my last Will and Testament set my hand and Seal the Eighteenth Day of July in the Year of our Lord One thousand Seven hundred and Sixty Eight.

Robert Molineux.

Signed, Sealed, Published and Declared by the said Robert Molineux the Testator as and for his only last Will and Testament in the presence of John Scarlett, Robt. Campbell in the folly near Rotherhithe.

This Will was proved at London before the Worshipful Thomas Bewer Doctor of Laws, Surrogate of the Right Worshipful George Lay also Doctor of Laws, Master Keeper or Commissary of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury lawfully constituted on the Seventh Day of July in the year of our Lord One thousand Seven hundred and Seventy one by the Oaths of Thomas Frons and Edward Clement the Executors named in the said Will to whom Administration was Granted of all and Singular the Goods, Chattels and Credits of the Deceased they having been first sworn Duly to Administer."


(Transcribed from the copy at the Family Records Centre, London. Microfilm Reference Prob. 11 - 969 - 310.)

Cliff Thornton



  1. Molineux had served under Wallis as Master's Mate and returned to the UK in May 1768 from his circumnavigation in Dolphin. A month later on 17 June, after a period of leave (?) Molineux was appointed as Master of Endeavour. He made out his will a month later on 18 July 1768, just before the ship left Deptford and sailed down the River Thames to continue its preparations at Gallions Reach.
  2. Research has failed to reveal Molineux's connections with his two Executors, apart from the obvious fact that they all had strong Naval connections. Reference to Edward Clement of HMS Newark "now in Ordinary" indicates that his ship had been taken out of service and was in the dockland reserve at Chatham.
  3. No trace has been found of the two witnesses to Molineux's Will. Unusually the document contains reference to a location where it appears that the Will was signed and witnessed "in the folly near Rotherhithe."
    Rotherhithe had had a close relationship with the sea for centuries. Throughout history it was a favourite home for many seafarers, and had a fine tradition of shipbuilding. By the early 19th century the location had passed its peak and was showing all the signs of urban decay, as described in 1838 …..
    "In such a neighbourhood, beyond Dockhead in the Borough of Southwark, stands Jacob's Island, surrounded by a muddy ditch, six or eight feet deep and fifteen or twenty wide when the tide is in, once called Mill Pond, but known in the days of this story as Folly Ditch. It is a creek or inlet from the Thames,
    In Jacob's Island, the warehouses are roofless and empty; the walls are crumbling down; the windows are windows no more; the doors are falling into the streets; the chimneys are blackened, but they yield no smoke. Thirty or forty years ago, before losses and chancery suits came upon it, it was a thriving place…."
    "Oliver Twist" by Charles Dickens
  4. This Will is unusually detailed in listing the potential of the Testator's personal estate. The inclusion of "prize money" "wares" and "merchandizes" probably reflects Molineux's aspirations for the voyage that he was to embark upon. His post as Master may have enabled him to bring back some personal goods for subsequent sale.
  5. Sister Ellen of Liverpool is the only family member referred to in the Will. Can we conclude from this that Robert, like many other crew members, was not married?
  6. Molineux had died on 16 April shortly after Endeavour had left Cape Town.
    His Will was proved at London on 7 July 1771. How could this be when on this date Endeavour was still at sea and approaching Lands End? The answer may lie in Cook's journal, as shortly after leaving St Helena with a fleet of vessels all bound for the U.K., Cook's entry for 10 May 1771 reads…
    "…Capt. Elliot (of HMS Portland) came on board to whom I delivered a letter for the Admiralty and a box containing the Ship's common Log books and some of the Officers Journals etc. I did this because it seem'd probable that the Portland would get home before us as we sail heavier than any of the fleet."
    Beaglehole annotated this entry with the statement that
    "The Portland got home only three days before the Endeavour." so the discrepancy in dates remains to be explained.

Originally published in Cook's Log, page 11, volume 26, number 3 (2003).

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