The Voyage

Eliza’s husband, Daniel Draper, was a director of the East India Company. In 1767 he recalled his wife from England and arrangements were made for her to travel on the newly built Earl of Chatham.

Built by John Perry at Blackwall and launched in 1766 it had 3 decks, 3in bottom, 26 guns and was 676 tons (builder’s measurements). The ship’s husband (owner) was Richard Crabb.

For the voyage to India the crew included: Captain Arthur Morris and First mate Robert Sedgley. Other crew members were Robert Watson, Robert Eccles and Frederick Vincent. Robert Bamby was ship’s surgeon and Evan Evans the purser. The vessel was a troop ship carrying (it is thought) a full complement of men – perhaps up to 500 in total.

The ship waited for some days in Downs, a sheltered area of water off the coast of Deal in Kent. It was during this time that Sterne sent his letters to Eliza who was probably in lodging in the town. On 3 April 1767 the ship set sail for India.

Eliza travelled to Bombay with Hester Light (1748 -1834) as her travelling companion. Hester was to marry George Stratton (b. Madras 1733; d. Great Tew, 1800) a future Governor of Madras.

Having arrived on 20th October 1768 the Earl of Chatham was detained by the Governor of Madras, Charles Bouchier, contrary to the Company’s instructions, which forbade ships from anchoring in Madras Roads from 11th October to 11th December, because it was hurricane season. The vessel was torn from her moorings in a monsoon hurricane on 30th October, driven out to sea by the gales and foundered with almost the loss of all her complement. Captain Morris and the ship’s purser were the only survivors, having gone ashore to make a protest to the Governor.

There is no painting or engraving of the Earl of Chatham. One voyage and then – lost.