Latitude 50° 21' 50.59 N
Longitude 004° 11' 10.86 W
Depth 0m
Accuracy 500m
Location Description Hamoaze
Reference NMR 1062427
Date built 1621
Date of loss 1653
Manner of loss Stranded
Outcome Refloated
Construction Wood
Propulsion Sail
Nationality United Kingdom
Hull length 92ft (Keel Length)
Hull beam 32ft
Hull draft 12ft 6 inches
Hull displacement 410-500 tonnes
Armament 34 Gun
Built Burrell, Deptford
Master Thomas Rabenett
Owner Royal Navy

(HMS) Bonaventure

At the commission in 1618 the Navy saw the requirement for six 'middling ships' (3rd Rates) in the fleet. As it stood the three already in service were identified as suitable for keeping; this lead to three more being ordered, the Bonaventure, Happy Entrance and Garland

The Bonaventure was built by Andrew Burrell at the Deptford Dockyard in 1621, her length of keel was 92ft, breadth 32ft and depth in hold was 12.6ft (1). Estimates of her crew vary from 200 in 1633 down to 180 in 1651 (10). Her armament consisted of Four culverins, 14 demi-culverins, 10 sakers, two minions and four fowlers. She is listed as being lost on the 4th December 1627 according to Larn (2) this date, however, refers to a point during which she was stranded in the Hamoaze, Bonaventure was eventually blown up in action in 1653 during the Battle of Leghorn.

Her stranding and eventual rescue is well documented in the Calendar Rolls. The first we hear of this is on the 28th November when the Earl of Denbigh, aboard the Victory, writes to the, George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham stating that on the night of the 26th 'arose so great a storm, that in Hamoaze, which is held for one of the most secure harbours in the kingdom, and where never ship was heard to have been lost, 15 or 16 of the fleet were driven on the rocks, among which the Bonaventure and Esperance are, it is to be feared, not to be recovered' (3). At the time Buckingham was a commander in the Anglo-French conflict (1627-29) aiding the Huguenot rebellion, he had just suffered defeat at Ile de Ré and the further loss of ships could only add insult to his problem.

By the 29th, Sir James Bagg; Mayor of Plymouth, had made efforts to survey the ships stranded, appointing carpenters and seamen. In his opinion the event had occurred due to the lack of good moorings there. He had placed Capt. John Harvey in charge of the operation, but was asking Buckingham to send shipwrights to help with the repairs (3). Early next month the Capt John Weddell reported to Buckingham that he had endeavored to recover 26 pieces of ordnance from the Rainbow who had also stranded in the storm over in the Cattewater. At this point he asked for the assistance of 'Jacob, the diver' in reference to the dutchman John Jacop Johnson who had a reputation for recovering cannon in the period (5). However it does not look as though he was sent by Buckingham. At the same time James Bagg sent a warrant to press for sixty seamen in the hundreds of Coleridge, Stanbrough and Hayton, to be employed in rescuing the Rainbow and Bonaventure in fear that they were likely to be lost. Though on the 7th of December Bagg wrote to Buckingham; claiming that most of the ordnance was out of the Bonaventure and Rainbow and that they were waiting for the next to spring tide in order that they may commence work upon them (4).

Later on the 12th of December; in answer to complaints made to the Duke of Buckingham regarding the Shipwrights sent to Plymouth, the Commissioners of the Navy defended themselves over the instructions given to the shipwrights and that also they would require 'crabs, crab-bars, launching-tails, and blocks, for which the Duke should give warrant; also a warrant for the St. Claude to transport provisions from Portsmouth to Plymouth for the use of the ships there' (4). The operations were hampered by the sickness rife on board the ships, noted by Sir Henry Palmer, who reported on the 21st that Capt Edward Porter and Capt Williams had died two days before. The Rainbow by that time had been brought upright and closer to the shore. He doubted that much could be done with her until next spring (6).

As new year began Capt. John Harvey, of the Rainbow reported that his ship was the first to be got off with only the loss of her bowsprit and some of her upper works. He complained that the carpenters sent down to aid the recovery of the Bonaventure, had not 'advanced the service' and that also Thomas Rabenett, master of the Bonaventure, had been found to have cause to be dismissed by Bagg and Sir John Chudleigh (7). When Sir Henry Mervyn later reviewed the evidence of negligence against Rabenett, he declared him to be free from fault despite the greatest objections against him (8). This suggested some kind of collusion between Bagg and Chudleigh in the dismissal.

The Bonaventure was brought to Saltash on the 12th of January, with James Bagg reporting 'God be thanked, they are now safe, and in place to be repaired'. Yet again the carpenters were vilified of their duties on the Bonaventure as just prior to this Sir Thomas Button had been apologizing for his delay in proceeding to Ireland as ordered, stating he could not leave until the carpenters began repairs on his ships. Possibly though Button was merely in a complaining mood, as he also noted that Bagg could not be spoken to regarding provisions and that no-one had been addressing him recently as Admiral. Although days later Sir Henry Mervyn was also complaining about the Mayor's behaviour, seeking warrant for Bagg to refresh his men with fresh meat. The situation aboard the ships was so bad that he had lost 40 men since he last wrote and the men were so in want of clothes that in the exposure 'their toes and feet miserably rot and fall away piecemeal' (7).

By the 25th of January Rainbow was reported to be ready for sail within 10 weeks, according to a missive sent to Buckingham by John Cawse; subject to money and a mainmast being sent down. Yet as late as the 3rd of March Capt John Weddell was reporting that the Rainbow and the Bonaventure must be brought aground and that they are going to aboard to view the defects (9). Later reports suggest she was repaired at Chatham (10). The Bonaventure was eventually lost during the Battle of Leghorn in 1653 after taking a shot from the Dutch flagship De Zeven Provincien in her powder magazine. There were only five survivors from a crew of 180 (11).

email If you have any more information about this ship then please contact us.


The Battle of Leghorn 1653

Bonaventure being destroyed after taking a hit in the powder magazine


(1) Lavery, Brian. 1983, The Ship of the Line, Volume 1: The Development of the Battlefleet, 1650–1850. Annapolis, Md, Naval Institute Press, pg 161
(2) Larn R. & Larn B., 1995, Shipwreck Index of the British Isles Vol. 1, Lloyds Register of Shipping
(3) 'Charles I - volume 85: November 19-30, 1627', Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Charles I, 1627-28 (1858), pp. 440-455. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk
(4) 'Charles I - volume 86: December 1-17, 1627', Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Charles I, 1627-28 (1858), pp. 455-471. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/
(5) Roddie, Alan "Jacob, the Diver." The Mariner's Mirror 62.3 (1976): 253-269
(6) 'Charles I - volume 87: December 18-31, 1627', Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Charles I, 1627-28 (1858), pp. 472-484. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/
(7) 'Charles I - volume 90: January 1-18, 1628', Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Charles I, 1627-28 (1858), pp. 501-521
(8) 'Charles I - volume 91: January 19-31, 1628', Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Charles I, 1627-28 (1858), pp. 521-539. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk
(9) 'Charles I - volume 95: March 1-14, 1628', Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Charles I, 1628-29 (1859), pp. 1-18. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk
(10) Winfield R., 2009, British Warships in the Age of Sail 1603-1714: Design, Construction, Careers and Fates. Seaforth Publishing
(11) Hepper D., 1994, British Warship Losses in the Age of Sail, Jean Boudriot Publication, pg 2