Clapham and New England

Most of the Clapham merchants traded with North America and had close connections with the puritan communities there, including owning land with their relations were sent there to promote business. Sherley and Beauchamp had financed the Mayflower; four had invested in one or other of the New England Companies; Edward Winslow, three times Governor of New Plymouth and one of the people with whom Sherley corresponded about various Mayflower related issues, returned to England for the last time in 1646 and came to Clapham in the late 1640s. Another page gives details of Clapham’s involvement in the protestant missionary activity in New England.

Francis Bridges was one of the investors in the Massachusetts Bay Company which supported the first migration to that area and his brother, Captain Robert Bridges, emigrated to Massachusetts. He was the first person after John Harvard himself to leave the college a legacy, in his case £50, which he directed to ‘the enlargement of a college in New England for students there’ together with another £20 ‘to be disposed towards the clothinge of the poore of New England’.

Joshua Foote (younger brother of Sir Thomas Foote later Lord Mayor) had a house in Clapham from before 1638 until 1653 when he emigrated first to Boston and then to Providence, Rhode island, where he died in 1655. He was an Ironmonger and a leading exporter to Massachusetts. His brother Nathaniel had emigrated earlier and he sent his son Caleb over to Massachusetts and branched out into general merchandise. He was one of the merchants who refused to pay the Forced Loan in 1626 and, with another Clapham resident, Joshua Woolnough, was a leader of All Hallows Lombard Street where yet another Clapham resident, Thomas Aymes, was a parishioner.

Foote’s shop at the Golden Cock in Gracechurch Street was a meeting point for settlers returning to London to pick up gossip. He contributed to a fund to transport poor children to New England, intending thereby to secure them a godly upbringing. He helped to open, with others, the famous ironworks on the Saugus at Braintreee, Massachusetts. The Saugus ironworks were manned by Scots soldiers who had been captured at the Battle of Dunbar in 1650. Joshua Foote, together with his partner John Becx, applied to the Council of State to transport 900 of them, ‘well and sound and free from wounds’, to North America as indentured servants. It was a good commercial deal for Foote since it cost about five pounds to ship the men over but they could be sold for twenty to thirty pounds as indentured servants for a period of seven years. The deal was facilitated by the Secretary of the Council, Gualter Frost, himself a partner in the Iron Works and who leased one of the larger houses in Clapham from 1649 until his death in 1652.

Edmund White was a strong puritan who had invested in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He married the daughter of Rowland Wilson, one of the leading City merchants both financially and politically and sometime member of the Council of State. Edmund was an active trader in New England and his daughter Mary married his agent Humphrey Davy who had moved to Boston in 1662.  Davy did business with another Clapham resident John Doggett who also traded with one of his wife’s cousins in Virginia.

White’s puritan credentials are indicated by being chosen by one relative to distribute a legacy to silenced Ministers of his choice. His son, also Edmund, became a member of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel to New England in 1668 and it was through his account that the Society transmitted funds to New England.  The father died in 1674 and the son kept the house for another fifteen years. He was succeeded briefly by his wife Eleanor and then by his daughter Elizabeth who had married Thomas Hunt, a merchant dealing with North America who invested £1000 in creating a ship building industry in Taunton, near Boston, through Thomas Coram. It was this Thomas Coram who returned to England eventually to found the Foundlings Hospital.