Charles Teft Laurence, Merchant Mariner: Liverpool Years (Extract)

Charles Teft Laurence was my first cousin, four times removed.
He was born 20 March 1845, in a district of Louth, Lincolnshire called Riverhead. His father was Charles Laurence (1813-1853) who had a Grocers shop at the Riverhead.

Over the period of his life Charles was a mariner on 16 ships, and 25 voyages. 

He began his career in Liverpool, moved to London where he married and emigrated to Australia, eventually returning to England, via La Plata, Argentina. This article looks at his childhood in Louth and his time in Liverpool.

Charles Teft was born at the time of the greatest expansion in the population and prosperity of Louth.
The Riverhead as an inland port. Corn and wool were exported from the farms of Lincolnshire to the industrial towns of West Yorkshire.

Coal was imported on the return journey. As the railway did not come to Louth until 1848, the canal was the main means of transport, especially for bulky or heavy goods over long distances.

Thomas Laurence, Charles Tefts grandfather was a coal merchant, who at the time of his grandsons birth owned shares in a sloop called ‘Alpha’, that carried corn to Hull, returning with coal.

Charles Teft had a maritime ancestral precedence in that in the fifteenth century he had an ancestor Thomas Lawrens of Nocton, whose will speaks of ‘a great botte’. And in the Seventeenth Century his ancestor William was a waterman on the River Witham.

At the Riverhead Charles father, Charles Laurence describes himself as a grocer in 1845, then from 1846 to 1849 he describes himself as an Assessor of Taxes. The following newspaper notice provides some explanation:

Stamford Mercury Friday 07 October 1836 Wednesday & Thursday’s Posts.

Assignees. CHARLES LAURENCE’S ASSIGNMENT. THE Creditors of CHARLES LAURENCE, of Louth, in the County of Lincoln, druggist, who have executed the Deed of Assignment (dated 28th March last) made by him for their benefit.
In the 1851 census Charles is a Chemist & Druggist at 6, Stanhope Street, Toxteth Park.

His eldest son John Booth is also in Liverpool as pawnbrokers apprentice for Charles BATTEN, 28, married Pawn Broker Employing 1 Man & 1 App from London, Middlesex.

John lived on the premises at 61, Hill Street, Toxteth Park  with Martha, Charles wife, Mary Holmes, Charles 8 year old Yorkshire niece and a servant George Moore, PawnBrokers Assistant from Liverpool and another servant 17 year old , Eliza Sulivan, house servant.
There is no mention of Charles Laurence with his wife together in the censuses from 1851 onwards. She, with her eldest daughter is a schoolmistress at a Boarding and Day school for Young Ladies, originally in Westgate, in 1851, then Lee Street Louth in 1853:

1851 census
LAWRENCE, Mary Elizth Head Married F 33 1818 Schoolmistress, Leatherhead, Surrey.
LAWRENCE, Elizabeth Mary Daughter Unmarried F 15 1836 Teacher In A Day School, Louth, Lincolnshire. LAWRENCE, Fanny Maria Daughter Unmarried F 11 1840 Scholars At House, Louth, Lincolnshire. LAWRENCE, Caroline Ann Daughter F 7 1844 Scholars At House, Louth, Lincolnshire. LAWRENCE, Charles Teft Son M 6 1845 Scholars At House, Louth, Lincolnshire LAWRENCE, Thomas William Son M 4 1847 Scholars At House, Louth, Lincolnshire LAWRENCE, Jane Suter Daughter F 2 1849 Scholars At House, Louth, Lincolnshire, LAWRENCE, George Suter Son M 0 (9 MOS) 1851 , Louth, Lincolnshire , PARSONS, Ann Servant F 15 1836 House Servant, Theddlethorpe, Lincolnshire, BOOTH, Elizabeth Lodger Married F 76 1775 Proprietor Of Houses, Retford, Nottinghamshire.

In the Lincolnshire Chronicle there is a notice of the death in Demerara, modern day Guyana, of Charles eldest son John Booth.
The notice states :

His untimely fate is deeply deplored by his friends, and his loss is keenly felt by his captain and owners as deceased was a most promising and intelligent young seaman.

He died whilst the ship the Mahaica of which he was an apprentice merchant seaman was at anchor. The Maritime Register of his death shows he was not the only one. He was fourteen years of age. Charles Teft is seven at this time.

1861 census

LAWRENCE, Mary E, Head, Widow, F, 42, 1819, Dressmaker, Leatherhead, Surrey, LAWRENCE, Caroline, Daughter, Unmarried, F, , M, 1843, Dressmaker, Louth, Lincolnshire, LAWRENCE, Charles T, Son, Unmarried, 16, M, 1845, Attorneys Clerk, Louth, Lincolnshire, LAWRENCE, Thomas F, Son, M, 14, 1847, Manufacturers Clerk, Louth, Lincolnshire, LAWRENCE, Jane S, Daughter, Unmarried, F,12, 1849, Scholar, Louth, Lincolnshire, LAWRENCE, John M, Son,M,8, 1853, Scholar,Louth, Lincolnshire.

Charles Laurence (1813-1853?) married Mary Elizabeth Booth (1817-1899) in York in 1834. They had 10 children of whom 2 died in infancy. All the children were born in Louth. We have already spoken of John Booth.

Elizabeth Mary (1836-1920) m John Dixon (1828-?) in Louth in 1855. They had three children- lived mostly in Huddersfield area. She died in Hexham.
Fanny Maria (1839- 1920/30) m Robert Smethurst in Manchester in 1858 and shortly thereafter moved to Philadelphia. They had seven children (the youngest b Manchester died age 6). Robert d in 1896 and in the 1920 census Fanny was living in Philadelphia.
Caroline Laurence (1841-42)

Caroline Anne Laurence (1843-1915) m Alfred Robinson (1851- 1933) in Manchester (Chorlton). They had four children and adopted another(!). Alfred was a grocer’s assistant and the family lived in the greater Manchester area. Caroline died in Barton on Irwell.
Thomas William (1846-1880??) m Emmeline Chadwick in Manchester in 1875. They had one child Enos b 1877 in Saddleworth. Emmeline remarried in 1882 so either Thomas had died or had left.

Jane Suter (1849-1930) never married. In 1891 living with mother in North Wales:
LAWRENCE, Mary E Head Widow F 74 1817 Living On Her Own Means, Leatherhead, Surrey, BEADOROS, Anne Boarder Single F 30 1861 Lives On Her Own Means, Macclesfield, CheshireDIXON, Elizabeth M Daughter Single F 56 1835 , Lincoln, LAURENCE, Jane S Daughter Single F 34 1857 General Fey Dealer, Lincoln. Died in Barton on Irwell. George Suter (1850-54), John Michael (1853-1917). Likely a posthumous child. Same Christian name as John(1837-52) which makes me think that older brother had died before 1853. He married Margaret Ann Whatmough in 1888 in Salford. Margaret had several children with first husband but none with John. He was a stoker in a gas works in Salford and died there.
On 6 June 1861, aged,16, Charles, still living with his mother was an Attorneys Clerk in Broughton, Lancashire. Most attorneys in the 19th century learned law through the English apprenticeship approach.

A considerable number of office clerks appear in nineteenth century British literature. The literary characterisations of the working conditions of these clerical workers is quite often unfavourable.

On 3 March 1862 he was indentured as an apprentice Merchant Navy Seaman on his first ship, the Mutlah.


It was a growing metropolis. Immigration and trade were the keys.
A contemporary writer described looking at the docks with the vast array of wooden masts as like looking at a forest.

1817, Mary Elizabeth Booth, born1834, both married in York.
1836, Elizabeth Mary, born
1837, John Booth, born
1845 20 March, CLT born, Riverhead, Louth
1851 family have moved to Westgate, Louth, according to 1851 census.
1855, EM married John Dixon in Louth
1861, CLT Attorneys Clerk in Broughton, Salford, Lancashire
In 1861 census he lives with his mother in Broughton, Salford.

In the 19th century, the effects of the industrial revolution on Salford was phenomenal. Factories replaced homeworkers and the resident population, which was just 12000 in 1812, increased by 1840 to 70244, and by the end of the century to 220000. This rapid increase, probably the greatest in the whole of Britain, was reflected in the vast areas of poor quality housing that were built throughout the Victorian period when overcrowding created real social problems.

Houses were crowded together at as many as 80 to the acre.


Mutlah Voyage

1862 5 March, Indenture as Merchant Navy Apprentice begins on Mutlah

1862 11 March- 1863 2 January, Mutlah, ON 17775, Route: Liverpool, Calcutta, Liverpool, Sailor submitted to House of Correction

1863 12 February – 1864 13 February Mutlah, Route: Liverpool, Calcutta, Liverpool

Fate of the Mutlah

The Mutlah was a full rigged iron London barque of 714 tons. The ship was sold by George Kendall in May 1864 to Blyths and Green who reduced the vessel to barque rig and registered her in London. On 17/4/1877  it was owned by T J Henderson. It was laden coal when it was wrecked at Glynn Point, Poulshone, on the Liverpool for Bombay run. April 16th 1877 laden with coal it stranded at North Cahore County Wexford and became a total wreck. Five of the crew were saved after the intoxicated master, Captain Farquahar was killed by a falling mast. Eleven others drowned.

Lightning Voyage

1864 7 May – 1866 28 January Lightning, ON 48506,

Logbook Summary: Gonorrhoea, Catholic who would not pray, the flooded decks, soundings, Greasing the masts, Syphilis, Death of the Cook, Thomas Blake, Sailor submitted to House of Correction,

Heavy Seas On Return Journey. Route: London, Liverpool, Calcutta, Bombay, Calcutta, Liverpool

At this time there were a number of ships with this name, including an American clipper that held the speed record for a voyage from America to England. Charles ship was not that one.
Its official number and call signature was ON 48506, V.T.C.P, its tonnage1248 tonnage, and owner John Morison, 59, Fenchurch Street, London.
The Captain who would have become Charles mentor for his apprenticeship was James Bruce HUSBAND: His father, John, was in the Royal Marines and involved in many skirmishes during the Napoleonic conflict. John was often away during James’s early years, and finally passed away in 1832 in Lincoln where he was Captain of Marines. His family were still living in Devon – so I guess that James Bruce probably saw very little of his father.

Logbook Detail

London Towards Bombay

16th May 1862, Monday, Noon, Abraham Johnson complaining of having Gonorrhoea. Treated him as described in the Seamens Medical Guide. 17th Testicles swelled and off duty sent him to his bed and gave him a lotion of Goulard water to bathe it with. 18th Same treatment 19th Still off duty gave him a purgative powder as directed. 20th Patient well and resumes his duty.

The book he used would most likely have been ‘The Seaman’s Medical Guide in Preserving the Health of a Ship’s Crew: Containing Plain Directions for the Use of the Medicines in the Cure of Diseases,’ Published by Phillips & Son, George. According to the 1873 edition, ‘ Goulard’s Extract For external use only. One small teaspoonful in half a pint of rain or distilled water makes a useful cooling lotion for bruises, sprains, and inflamed skin. Cloths kept wet with it should be laid on the part affected. During the use of this lotion the bowels should be kept slightly open with small doses of Epsom Salts.’ The ‘purgative powder would most likely have been Epsom Salts. Wikipedia states: Goulard’s Extract (also known as subacetate of lead) is a solution of lead(II) acetate[1] and lead oxide used as an astringent[2] during the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. It was named after its introducer, Thomas Goulard. Lead poisoning and the development of more effective astringents led doctors to abandon its use.

21st May 1862 Saturday, Noon, Served Lime Juice and vinegar this day at Noon. Thirteen days out and nine on Salt provisions.

Ships on long voyages were known as ‘lime-juicers’.
Of course, in reality the reasoning behind the issue of ‘limers’ was not necessarily understood, or followed. Or, as in the case of Captain Husband, it was.

BOMBAY (Mumbai)

The harbour and the city of Mumbai acquired its international status since the British established their settlement during the last quarter of the seventeenth century. Mumbai is a natural harbour.

24 May, Tuesday, Noon. John Green, Jon Pettonsen and Israel Berghini who all ? shipped as Able Seamen. Not being able either of them Chock a Block, make a mat or splice a rope. I disrate them all.

June 5th Sunday 9 AM Chief Mate J Hill Second Mate as usual ordered the watch on Deck to come aft in the Cabin to Prayers. When Charles Huss told the Mate in an insolent manner that he would not go that he was not going to have religion crammed down his throat and that he was a Catholic. Now this man having been insolent on previous occasions and made use of very bad language I ordered him to be sent to grease the masts down. When he let the grease pot fall from aloft in my opinion intentionally which of course he denied. He was then ordered down sent up again where he remained an hour only greasing the Royal Mast in that time. He’s not obeying orders in a proper manner I put him in irons until noon when I spoke to him of his bad behaviour liberated and sent him to his ?

Greasing the masts,

In the early 19th century, however, Danish butter was considered to be inferior in quality to that of its European neighbors, who often referred to it as “mast butter”, that is, its best use was for greasing the masts on sailing ships.

June 11th Sunday AM Part of the crew on watch employed cleaning the Cabin Deck one of them James Milom A.B. having his cap on. I ordered him to take it off he told me in an insolent manner he got a cold and he would not take it off. I repeated the order when he again said he could not take it off. I then knocked it off with my Solar Topee he instantly put it on again and accused me of having struck him and made use of very bad language at the same time. I then ordered him to be put in Irons when he threatened me saying he would not always be in irons that I could not knock him about while he was in irons But I would not do it when he was out in his stile persisting to abuse me. I ordered the irons to be put behind his back until 10 o clock when I ordered them to be put before him again and to be placed in lead and water. Now this man not being able to do his duty as an Able Seaman for as such he shipped he not being able to make a mat or serve a rope in a proper manner or the right way. I disrate Him. On asking him what he had to say to the log he ? after it had been read over to him in presence of both mates and those of the watch who saw the occurence. He said he had done his duty on board other ships and could do it here. That there was Dam sight more than him in the ship that could not make a mat besides him. I told him not to swear when he was talking to me. He said in a most insolent manner that he would do whatever he pleased making use of oaths at the same time. I then gave him a good shaking until he did hold his tongue put leg irons on him. Telling him at the same time that I would like him pay me that respect which was my due as Captain of this ship and that I would teach him better manners before I had done with him.

June 14th Tuesday 1 PM James Milom. Having acknowledged that he was sorry for behaving himself in the manner he had I allowed him to go to his duty.
Sailors drilled shells and threaded them to create mats similar to how beads are often used in needlework today.


A rope block heaved to its full extent. Full up, no room for any more. When the two blocks of a tackle meet, it prevents any more purchase being gained. The tackle is then said to be ‘two blocks’, or ‘chock-a-block’
Richard H. Dana Jr’s Two years before the mast, 1840:
“Hauling the reef-tackles chock-a-block.”

Greasing the Masts

Evils & Abuses in Naval & Merchant Service, 1839:
The sailors in the navy are allowed salt beef. From this provision, when cooked nearly all the fat boils off; this is carefully skimmed and put into empty beef or pork barrels, and sold, and the money so received is called the slush fund.

July 12th Tuesday 8 PM Thomas B. James AB at 7.30 PM went up to loose the Fore Top Gallant sail and he’s being a long time about it the Mate called to him four times to know what was the matter but he would not answer him. Obliging the Mate to send another hand up. On his coming down ? ? the mate ordered him to grease the masts which he refused to do so saying it was his watch below. Which being a refusal of duty I ordered him to be put in irons telling him at the same time he should have nothing to eat or drink until he did grease the masts. This entry made and read over to the offender at Noon of the above date in presence of both Mates when I asked him what he had to say he answered that he was not a long time over it that the gear was foul. I then told him to grease the masts when he said he would after he had something to eat. I said he should do it before he had something to eat. He said he could not until he had something to eat. I then ordered the irons to be put behind his back.

3 thoughts on “Charles Teft Laurence, Merchant Mariner: Liverpool Years (Extract)

  1. Pingback: My 2010s Decade (Ongoing) | The Wombwell Rainbow

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