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Journal kept by Major Kirkham, seaman, on board the ROYAL GEORGE, PROVIDENCE, SAN JOSEF, CASTOR and ABERCROMBIE.


Object connections:

Collection Archive
Gallery locationNot on display

Record details:

Biographical details This journal covers the career of Major Kirkham, seamen in both the Royal Navy and Merchant service. Chronologically, he begins his career in 1798; leaving his home in Crayford, he boards the Providence of London on a voyage to the Baltic Sea. The journal contains meteorological data, as expected in a maritime log, but also contains a variety of other events and especially detailed descriptions of towns and cities visited, with statistics concerning population, distances, number of churches and other features of interest. Whilst sailing past Denmark, Kirkham produces a watercolour of Elsinor (Elsinore). The illustration includes Kronborg castle, known as the setting for Shakespeare’s Hamlet. His next journey, in 1800, follows the Brig MARTHA on her voyage from London to Kent to Somerset and then back to Kent again. Illustrations from this part of the journal include Canterbury, Dover and Reading. The MARTHA is taken by privateers at Deal but is subsequently freed. Kirkham served on the ROYAL GEORGE between 1806 and 1809 as a seamen and his career included visiting the Mediterranean, the Dardanelles, Gallipoli and Constantinople. Of the events that took place, he witnessed a court martial off Cadiz, whilst part of Lord Collingwood’s fleet, observed the burning of the AJAX near the Dardanelles, where only 350 men and women were saved and witnessed an execution on board ship of Lt. Barry, whilst at harbour in Plymouth, Devon, for committing sodomy. On 20 July 1807, off the coast of Devon, he writes that a woman on board was found dead. There is no context provided or anything more reported and many of the comments in the journal are as various as they are brief. Other interesting details in the journal include a very detailed index of his major voyages between 1798 and 1809 and a series of street maps of various English towns and cities. Towards the end, are letters to Government from Sir S J Duckworth off Constantinople, 21 February 1807 and astronomical notes, 1814-5, separated into the four seasons of the year. Battles mentioned include the Dardanelles campaign, action against the Turkish Fleet and the bombardment of Constantinople.
Description This richly illustrated journal was written by Major Kirkham. The journal contains 58 separate watercolours, alongside detailed information about his voyages and the places and customs of the people he met along the way. The ROYAL GEORGE was previously named the UMPIRE and renamed in September 1782, after the famous loss of the ROYAL GEORGE at Spithead a month earlier. The journal contains information about Napoleon and a section about cities and places around the world. Ships mentioned include HMS ROYAL GEORGE, HMS SAN JOSEF, HMS PROVIDENCE, ROYAL WILLIAM, CASTOR TRANSPORT and the Brig MARTHA.

Kirkham also mentions Cadiz and the Spanish prison hulks, discussing the way in which dead prisoners were disposed of overboard- over 100 a week, which resulting in many floating bodies in the water, a sight he could not get used to.

This item requires specialist conservation treatment and is currently unfit for production. Please contact staff for further information.
Date made 1798-1817

Finding Reference JOD/277
Access conditions Unfit for production
Catalogue section Manuscript volumes acquired singly by the Museum
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Extent 1 book
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