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William Hillsey (1738-1784)


William Hillsey sailed on Cook’s Third Voyage in Discovery under Captain Charles Clerke.  Hillsey joined the ship on 22 July, 1776, as the sailmaker.1  He joined from HMS Albion by order of Captain Le Cras.  He does not feature in the voyage narrative.  He wrote his will immediately he joined Discovery; it was witnessed by James Burney and Gregory Bentham.  His main beneficiary was his wife, Agnes Hillsey.2 


The muster roll lists Hillsey as being from Portsmouth.  A birth record exists for a William Hillsey born in 1738, at Portsmouth, who would have been 37 in 1776.  William Hillsey, a mariner from Whimerlin in Hampshire married an Elizabeth Cornfield from Portsmouth on 25 April, 1735.  They had a son, William Hillsey, who was baptised on 26 November, 1738, at St. Thomas, Portsmouth. 


Hillsey did not die during the voyage, yet his wife remarried on 18 November, 1781, to Daniel Furze at Holy Trinity, Gosport.  So, probably, Hillsey died shortly after the voyage ended.  Interestingly, his will was not proven until 1784. 


John Robson


  1. Was number 29 on the ship’s muster roll.
  2. PROB 11/1122.  It is held at The National Archives (TNA).

Originally published in Cook's Log, page 32, volume 39, number 3 (2016).

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