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Bartholomew Gosnold

The Suffolk explorer, Bartholomew Gosnold, was a ‘prime mover’ in founding the first permanent English settlement in North America, established at Jamestown in 1607.

Bartholomew Gosnold was born about 1571 near the family home at Otley Hall. In 1587, he was admitted to Jesus College, Cambridge then studied law first at New Inn, then at Middle Temple.

On 19th June 1595 at Latton in Essex, he married Mary Golding and by April 1597 they were living in Bury St Edmunds. The baptisms of their children can be found in the Parish Registers of St James, now Bury Cathedral.

Deed showing Bartholomew Gosnold’s signature, 1596-1598 (E18/152/20/6)

As to why he gave up law for a maritime career is uncertain but by 1599 he was in charge of the DIAMOND on a privateering voyage which netted loot to the value of £1625 17s.

Three years later, on 26th March 1602, he embarked upon a voyage of exploration as joint captain of the CONCORD which sailed from Falmouth. They reached the Maine coast on 14th May 1602 but only stayed for a few weeks – during this time they named Cape Cod, Gosnold’s Hope (now Buzzards Bay), Elizabeth Isle (now Cuttyhunk) and Martha’s Vineyard (named after either his mother-in-law or his daughter). However, they lacked sufficient provisions to remain there over the winter and on 18th June 1602 they began the voyage home with a cargo of furs, cedarwood and sassafras.

Map of Jamestown by Herman Moll, 1654-1732 (Moll’s Atlas, Cullum Collection)

In 1606, Bartholomew commanded the GODSPEED, part of a 3-ship fleet financed by the newly formed Virginia company. Under the charter granted to the company by James I, their aim was to “make habitation, plantation and … deduce a colony of sundry of our people” between the French occupied lands in what is now Canada and the Spanish territories in Florida. Sealed orders were opened on arrival and named Gosnold as one of the seven ruling Council of the colony. Unfortunately, conditions were harsh in the new settlement and Bartholomew Gosnold died from disease and malnutrition on the 22nd August 1607. He was buried with some ceremony, including “having all the Ordnance in the Fort shot off, with many vollies of small shot” but no record has survived of where he was buried.