Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Middleton, Henry (d.1613)

MIDDLETON, Sir HENRY (d. 1613), merchant and sea-captain, was the second son of John Middleton of Chester, sheriff in 1570. Robert Middleton, sheriff of Chester in 1518, was probably his grandfather. In his will, he styles Sir Thomas Myddelton [q. v.], lord mayor in 1613–14, ‘my loving and good friend.’ His elder brother, John, was one of the twenty-four directors of the newly formed East India Company in 1599, and was captain of the Hector when that vessel took part in 1600 under Captain James Lancaster [q. v.] in the first voyage fitted out by the company. He died at Bantam on 10 Feb. 1602–3 (Markham, p. 101). On John's recommendation, 10 Oct. 1600, Henry was appointed purser of the Malice Scourge, afterwards named the Red Dragon, which was engaged in Lancaster's expedition; but before the fleet sailed he was advanced to be a factor for the voyage, 11 Nov., and another purser was appointed, 24 Dec. (Stevens, Dawn of British Trade to the East Indies). At Acheen, in June 1602, Lancaster appointed him to the Susan as ‘captain and chief-merchant,’ and sent him to Priaman (Markham, p. 84). There he obtained a cargo of cloves and pepper, and in December sailed for England (ib. p. 98), where he arrived on 21 June 1603 (Corney, p. vi.)

On Lancaster's return, Middleton was appointed to command the second voyage, and on 25 March 1604 he sailed from Gravesend in the Dragon, having also under his command the Hector, Ascension, and Susan [see Keeling, William]. After touching at Maio, one of the Cape Verde islands, they sailed again on 26 April, but being becalmed in the doldrums, they did not sight the Cape of Good Hope till 13 July. Although in the former voyage Middleton had seen the value of lemon juice, he had taken no measures to provide his ships with it. The men had consequently suffered severely, and, contrary to the company's orders, the fleet was obliged to stop for a month at the Cape. On 19 Dec. they made the coast of Sumatra, and anchored at Bantam on the 23rd, the men being, by this time, again at the last extremity of weakness. On 18 Jan. 1604–5, Middleton, in the Dragon, with the Ascension, went on eastwards, and the Hector and Susan were ordered home with cargoes of pepper. The men were at this time dying fast; twenty-six are named as having died on board the Dragon between leaving Bantam and anchoring at Amboyna on 10 Feb. And just at this time the Dutch seized the island, and so put an end to all chance of trade there. After long debate and with much misgiving, the Ascension and Dragon resolved to separate, the former going to Banda, the latter to the Moluccas. They sailed from Amboyna on 18 Feb., and on 22 March after a tedious voyage the Dragon got off Tidore, where the Portuguese had a settlement, and were supporting the natives in a war with their neighbours at Ternate, who were aided by the Dutch. Middleton's force was too insignificant to permit of his taking any part in the quarrel, which ended in the complete defeat of the Portuguese. The Dutch then threw every possible obstacle in the way of the English trade; and though Middleton managed, here and there, to pick up some cloves, it does not appear that he had anything like a full cargo when, on 24 July, the Dragon anchored again at Bantam. She sailed for England on 6 Oct., and on 19 Dec., standing in for Table Bay, sighted the Hector in the last extremity of distress, almost all her men being dead. Middleton sent men on board to take her into the bay, where they stayed for a month, and where they were joined by the Ascension. They sailed on 16 Jan., and, after touching at St. Helena, anchored in the Downs on 6 May 1606. Middleton's services were promptly recognised. He had pushed his voyage much further than the company had dared to order him, and the profits were very great. He was knighted at Greenwich on 25 May 1606; and ten years later he was still described as ‘the thrice worthy general who laid the true foundation of our long desired Cambaya trade’ (Sir Dudley Digges, The Defence of Trade, p. 23).

In 1610 Middleton was appointed to command the sixth voyage set forth by the East India company, and sailed from the Downs on 4 April in the Trade's Increase, having in company the Peppercorn, commanded by Nicholas Downton [q. v.], and the Darling. The voyage out was comparatively fortunate, and there was no exceptional sickness when, on 7 Nov., they arrived at Aden. Leaving the Peppercorn there, Middleton, with the Darling, went on to Mocha; but in entering the roadstead, in charge of a native pilot, the Trade's Increase was run ashore, and much of her cargo and stores had to be landed before she could be floated off. The governor, or aga, received Middleton and the merchants with every appearance of friendship; but a few days later, 28 Nov. when a large working party was on shore, he suddenly attacked them, killed eight in the scuffle, and made prisoners of Middleton and the others, to the number of fifty-nine. He then attempted to seize the Darling, which was lying close in shore; but in that the Turks were repulsed with heavy loss. For more than three weeks the prisoners were kept at Mocha, heavily ironed; they were then sent to the bashaw at Sinan (Sana), where they were more humanely treated and allowed to communicate freely with the ships. Downton, who had arrived from Aden in the Peppercorn, proposed making reprisals on the Turkish and Indian trading vessels, but Middleton restrained him, fearing that ‘it might prove prejudicial to him and his company.’ The bashaw, he said, had promised that they should all be set free at the coming of the westerly winds; if he suspected any breach of faith, he would make his escape. And when he learnt that a fleet of galleys was expected from Suez, and that the aga was negotiating for the hire of some of the larger country ships which Downton had allowed to come to Mocha, Middleton, on 15 May 1611, with fifteen of his men, did make his escape, got on board the Darling, and sent orders to Downton to join him at once with the other ships.

He then, by a strict blockade of the port, compelled the Turks to send back all the men who remained in captivity, and to restore the goods which had been seized on shore, or to pay compensation for the loss, and after refitting at Socotra, he went to Surat, where he arrived on 26 Sept. He found the place closely blockaded by a Portuguese fleet of eighteen frigates, which made communication with the shore difficult, and prevented fresh victuals or refreshments being sent off for the men who were suffering from scurvy. After some skirmishing the prohibition to trade was partially withdrawn; but the governor was in too great dread of the Portuguese to receive the English with any appearance of friendship. He refused them permission to establish a factory, and after a stay of four months ordered them to leave. The merchants on shore were also ordered away, no time being allowed them to get in their debts. On 11 Feb. 1611–12 they sailed for Dabul, but neither there could any trade be done; and Middleton thought himself poorly recompensed by seizing a Portuguese ship of three hundred tons, and taking out of her what she had of ‘cloves, cinnamon, wax, and bales of raw China silk—but a mite in comparison to the loss inflicted on the venture by the Portuguese.’

From Dabul he went back to the Red Sea, blockaded Aden and the Straits of Bab-el-Mandeb, and seized several Indian ships by way of reprisals; but learning that the company's fleet of the year (the eighth voyage), under the command of John Saris [q. v.], with whom was Gabriel Towerson [q. v.], had passed into the Red Sea, he went in and joined Saris at Assab. He then demanded from the Turks one hundred thousand pieces of eight as compensation for former injuries and insults, and would probably have forced them to pay but for an angry quarrel between him and Saris, partly about the division of the spoil, and still more, it would seem, about their precedence. Finally they accepted something like a third of their demand from the Indian ships; and so with much ill-feeling, and without ‘the usual courtesies,’ they separated in the beginning of August 1612, Middleton, with the Peppercorn in company, going to Tecoa, where he joined the Darling on 19 Oct. From Tecoa they went to Bantam, and Middleton proposed to send Downton home in the Trade's Increase with a cargo of pepper, while he himself, in the Peppercorn, should attempt another voyage to the Moluccas. It was found, however, that the Trade's Increase was in need of a very extensive refit; so in the beginning of February 1612–13, Downton sailed for England in the Peppercorn. After a few months the Trade's Increase, while being careened, fell over on her side, became a total wreck, and was maliciously set on fire by the Javanese (Purchas, i. 526, 533; Cal. State Papers, East Indies, 9 June 1614; 2 Jan. 1615). Most of the men died from their injuries, and with them Middleton himself, 24 May 1613 (Fuller, Worthies, i. 289).

It does not appear that Middleton was married; the entries in the Calendar of State Papers (East Indies) to the contrary effect are certainly erroneous, as is shown by his will (at Somerset House, Lawe, 55), dated on board the Trade's Increase 29 March 1610, and proved by Alice, wife of David Middleton, on 22 June 1614. By this, his brother David, and David's son Henry, are left executors and residuary legatees. Mention is made of his brother Christopher; of his three sisters, Katharine Tetlow, Margaret Burre, who has been erroneously named as his daughter (Corney, p. viii; Markham, p. v), and Ursula Fawcet; his niece and god-daughter, Joan Burre; his cousins, John Haylin, Margaret Radford, Jane Hill, and her sister Sarah Hanmer; ‘my sister, Alice Middleton’ (David's wife), and her daughter Elizabeth; ‘my sister, Margery Middleton’ (?Christopher's wife); also Sir Thomas Myddelton and his son Thomas, Hugh Myddelton, Captain William Myddelton, Captain Roger Middleton, and his brother William, and Robert Middleton. None of these last are described as relations; but in John's will (Bolein, 75), dated 5 March 1600–1, proved by Henry 27 Oct. 1603, Hugh Myddelton is styled cousin; the sisters, Margaret and Ursula, were then unmarried, and two other brothers, Jarrett and Randall, are named, as well as his father, John. David in his will (Meade, 31), mentions Robert Middleton also as a cousin.

[The Voyages of Sir James Lancaster to the East Indies, with Abstracts of Journals of Voyages to the East Indies during the Seventeenth Century, edited by C. R. Markham, C.B., F.R.S., for the Hakluyt Society. This contains, besides other notices, a very full abstract of Downton's Journal of the Sixth Voyage. The Voyage of Sir Henry Middleton to Bantam and the Maluco Islands, being the Second Voyage set forth by the Governor and Company of Merchants of London trading into the East Indies. The original edition of this (1606, 8vo), is extremely rare; there is no copy in the British Museum; it was edited for the Hakluyt Society in 1855 by Bolton Corney. See also Purchas his Pilgrimes, i. 179, 185, 247, 703; and Calendars of State Papers, East Indies, where, however, in some cases, it would seem, by the error of the company's clerks, the brothers Henry and David are confused, and David's wife is assigned to Henry.]

J. K. L.