Ellis Brand

Ellis Brand was a subscriber to Kirby’s Historical Account. He is a somewhat obscure figure and I know nothing about his background, although he was presumably related to the Brands of Suffolk. Brand was career naval officer and I have a certain sympathy with the author of the Biographia Navalis who recorded Brand’s entry thusly “on the 19th of October 1715, appointed captain of the Garland, and, extraordinary as it may appear, is not ever afterwards noticed.” We can do a little better. At the time Kirby’s book appeared, Ellis Brand was settled into quiet retirement and it seems most of the excitement of his life came at an earlier age.

He was born around 1681, and we first hear of him at sea in 1708 when he had a bit-part in “Wager’s Action.” Charles Wager commanded a small force of three warships and a fire-ship in the Caribbean when they came across a Spanish fleet of fourteen merchant ships and escorting warships, laden with silver. In the ensuing action, the leading Spanish warship was blown up, a second captured with its booty, and the third slipped away. Wager ordered the captains of his other two ships to give chase, but it escaped into the port at Cartagena. For their failure, the two captains were court-martialed and dismissed from the Navy. Ellis Brand, as a young 1st Lieutenant, was called upon to give a deposition against his captain. Wager returned home a rich man, and a Rear-Admiral.

Returning to England, he married (Mary) about 1710, got a first small command in 1711, bought his house at Wherstead just outside Ipswich in Suffolk in 1714 and was commissioned Captain in 1715. After the Garland, he had command of the Lyme, a 32-gun frigate that had just been refitted. Back across the Atlantic, in 1718 he led his ship and a group of soldiers in a sloop under Lt. Maynard to the capture of the notorious pirate Blackbeard. Maynard returned to Virginia with Blackbeard’s head hanging from his bowsprit, and Brand returned to a great deal of wrangling about who got the pirates’ treasure (the government of North Carolina felt it should receive the spoils). Brand was played by Paul Brightwell in the made-for-tv movie Blackbeard.

After these adventures, Brand held a series of commands, working his way up to Third Rate Ships of the Line with 70 guns and a complement of 440 souls. He was Superannuated as a commander in July 1747, shortly before his wife died in August. He passed his retirement as a Rear-Admiral on Half Pay (of 17s 6d a day, or 319l 7s 6d a year), living until 1759 aged 78. The Brands had buried five children (including young Wager Brand), but two sons outlived him. Of his eldest, Ellis, I know little, but he may be the one apprenticed to Job Wilks, Haberdasher of London in 1728, who in turn may be the same Ellis Brand who died in London in 1760. In his will, Ellis Brand gives property to his son Ellis, but is most concerned with provisioning for his son John, and grandson John, giving bequests for his education and to be held in trust. The son John died in 1764, but the young grandson did inherit and lived until 1803, to be succeeded by his own son John. Brand named two trustees, Jonathan Burward of Woodbridge (he had land in Woodbridge), and Rev. William Cornwallis of Ipswich. Interestingly, both these men were subscribers to Kirby’s book, as was Brand’s local vicar, George Drury.

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  1. Pingback: 18th century interlude « dual personalities

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