Warwick Castle’s Colonial Links: Part One

Boardwage payments 1640-1641.
Warwickshire County Record Office reference CR1886/TN11/2

The owners of Warwick Castle have always aspired for connection, and involvement, with the wider world – from the earliest Anglo-Norman earls patronage of the Knights Templar, to Thomas Beauchamp, 11th Earl of Warwick’s kidnapping a pagan child during a Lithuanian crusade.

From the late 16th century, however, England’s eyes were cast further east and west as ‘New Worlds’ in the Americas and trading routes directly to India and China emerged. An analysis of the household and estate accounts archived at Warwickshire County Record Office provides a window into the involvement the castle’s owners in the kingdom’s colonial expansion between 1640 and 1740.

Fulke Greville, 1st Lord Brooke

As treasurer of the Navy, Fulke Greville was at the epicentre of Elizabethan exploration. Surviving documents in the record office reveal the extent of prized Islamic, Persian, and other world goods pouring into England at the end of the 16th century.1 An inventory taken at the end of Fulke’s life also reveals that Warwick castle was decorated with Middle Eastern treasures.2

Fulke’s eyes also turned towards the Americas too, and he even attempted to emigrate onboard Francis Drake’s ship in 1585. His objective was to join the ‘Protestant cause’ and disrupt Catholic Spain’s interests in the region. He wrote years later that he dreamed of leading an army of indigenous Americans (who he described as ‘so dispeopled and displeased’) ‘to redeem their liberty and take revenge on the Spanish conquistadors.’3

Robert Greville, 2nd Lord Brooke

Robert Greville shared the interests of likeminded Puritan aristocrats during the 1630s, who aspired to form ‘godly’ settlements in the American colonies for Protestantism to thrive. He was the largest investor in the ill-fated Providence Island Company that settled on a small volcanic island in the Caribbean. Later in the 1630s, he likewise invested in the Saybrooke colony (that was named after him) that was established in modern-day Connecticut.

His interests were not merely in sending cash to the colonies though. By 1640, Warwick Castle had an ‘Indian Boy’ working in the kitchens under the tutelage of Thomas Hinde the master cook.4 The Indian Boy received boardwage only, which suggests he was more likely a slave than a servant. He may have been of African origin, or possibly an indigenous American from New England or the Caribbean. Had nord Brooke imported an indigenous slave to promote the values of a Protestant education?

A major transformation

In 1640, Warwick Castle was undergoing a major transformation into a parliamentary fortification in preparation for the coming civil war. While Brooke and his family moved to London, the Indian boy remained in service at the castle. Military accounts at the National Archives record him as ‘Jack the Indian’, although his boardwage and livery continued to be paid by the family directly.5

A mid-17th Century portrait hanging at Warwick Castle represents one of the castle’s owners, possible Robert Lord Brooke or his namesake son, with a black servant. Could this young boy, subserviently holding a bowl of fruit, be Jack the Indian?

This was by no means the end of the Earls of Warwick and their involvement in such matters, as I uncover in part two.

References

1 See Warwickshire County Record Office reference CR1886/Cup4-Third Shelf-BB832 for confiscated goods taken from the Portuguese ship St Valentine in 1602.

2 Warwickshire County Record Office reference CR1886/Box313/6796. The inventory is transcribed in The Transcripts of the papers of Fulke Greville, ed. P. Sands, (Studley, 2016), pp57-104

3 F. Greville, The Life of Sir Philip Sidney, p125

4 Warwickshire County Record Office reference CR1886/TN11/2

5 Warwickshire County Record Office reference CR1886/TN12-TN14

More from Warwick