Ancestral Families and the English-Colonial Trade (1612-1632)

[WHB notes: In a previous post, Saunders in Gloucestershire and Bristol in Late Medieval Times, I presented, among alternative hypotheses, the possibility that the offices awarded to Thomas Saunders, heir to the large Charlwood Estate in Surrey, by King Henry IV (Bolingbroke), in 1400, and subsequently, led to the establishment of a branch of the Saunders family in Bristol.

The following timeline of activities of the Saunders’ and other ancestral families in the kind of mercantile trade that involved high levels of capital formation. I think that that patterns can be discerned that suggest that branches of the Saunders family, rather likely in concert with one another, were engaged in shipping between England the Continent, and, with the opening of the English colonies in the 17th century, in transatlantic trade.

Ultimately, this focused on the often lucrative tobacco trade and was impacted by the events that led up to the English Civil War and its aftermath.

I will continue this timeline in later posts.]

The following organizes genealogical information about ancestral families in Virginia and North Carolina. Among other sources, it relies importantly on the work of the Virginia Family Records Project, in particular the information published by Rod Sanders on 8 July 2007.

Rod Sanders’ citations are interspersed with selected quotations from Dr Gary M. Pecquet’s important article “BRITISH MERCANTILISM AND CROP CONTROLS IN THE TOBACCO COLONIES: A STUDY OF RENT-SEEKING COSTS”,  from information posted elsewhere on the website  and by other information available through on-line research.


“The initial boom that resulted from the introduction of tobacco in 1612 was followed by an increase in immigration and a tobacco depression by 1629–33.”  Pequet, Cato Institute.


Lieutenant Saunders, 18 June 1609, Lieutenant Saunders is coming over to England – if he is given command of men in the Virginia voyage he will venture himself and L50 in the venture. Sidney papers.


In 1619, a London merchant with Gloucestershire ties, John Stratford, bought land around Winchcombe in Gloucestershire to plant tobacco. In the same year, Parliament passed a law prohibiting the cultivation of tobacco in England.


“The king [WHB- King James I of England] captured monopoly revenues in the form of customs duties imposed on the tobacco trade, and English merchants gained exclusive access to most of the world tobacco crop. All colonial tobacco was to be shipped to England, and after paying customs the English merchants acquired the exclusive use of the crop. The scheme also prohibited tobacco cultivation in England (to prevent tax-free chiseling). . .

Despite royal proclamations, as early as 1620, prohibiting the cultivation of tobacco in England, Englishmen widely evaded the ban. Many considered the prohibition of raising tobacco to be an unwarranted restriction on personal liberty, and the crown lacked the administrative machinery to enforce the tobacco-growing ban in England.

Pecquet, p. 469.


Patrick Sanders, 15 January 1624/5, deposition on behalf of John Woodall vs. Sir Thomas Merry. Involving cargo of the Lions Claw alias Merchant Bonaventure and Hopewell.

[WHB – The following note notes are from a Wikipedia article]:

John Woodall (1570–1643) was an English military surgeonParacelsian chemist, businessman, linguist and diplomat. He made a fortune through the stocking of medical chests for the East India Company and later the armed forces of England. He is remembered for his authorship of The Surgeon’s Mate which was the standard text to advise ships surgeons on medical treatments while at sea and contains an advanced view on the treatment of scurvy. . .

Woodall’s career then progressed rapidly with election as a surgeon at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in 1616 where he was a colleague of Sir William Harvey. He was promoted to examiner in the Barber-Surgeons Company in 1626, to warden in 1627 and then master in 1633.

He suffered a setback, however, in 1625 when he served a writ on Sir Thomas Merry, a servant of the King who owed Woodall money. For his effrontery to royal privilege, the Lord Steward had Woodall imprisoned. He was briefly released to supervise surgeon’s chests for the next fleet at the request of the East India Company, but was then jailed once more. He was only freed when he issued a contrite apology.

The cover of Woodall’s medical treatise

The following year of 1626 the Privy Council decided to pay the Barber-Surgeons Company fixed allowances to furnish medical chests for both the army and navy, and Woodall was appointed to supervise this scheme in addition to his long-standing similar commitment to the East India Company.

He was eventually dismissed by the East India Company in 1635 for financial reasons, but retained a monopoly on supplying the Company’s medical chests until he died in 1643, aged 73.


An illicit tobacco growing trade evolved in Gloucestershire, which sometimes was apparently sold as “Virginia tobacco”. In 1631, Charles I’s administration moved against the Gloucestershire tobacco crop, the King’s privy council demanding that the sheriffs of Gloucestershire and Worcestershire take action, creating a backlash of support for Parliament in its battle against the monarchy.


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