Lt. John Lindsay of HMS Trent (1759-1763), the father of Dido Belle

Home Forums Nautical Research: 1500 – 1830 Lt. John Lindsay of HMS Trent (1759-1763), the father of Dido Belle

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  • #20781
    Ian Trackman
    Participant

      Hello everyone,

      I’m trying to find the birth date of Dido Belle, the mixed-race daughter of John Lindsay, commanding officer of HMS Trent between 1759 and 1763 and Maria Belle, a slave. Almost nothing is known of Dido’s early life. She was baptised in London in 1766, when the church record states that she was aged “5 y”. Shortly afterwards, she was taken into care by Lord and Lady Mansfield at Kenwood House, their country home in north London. The Kenwood household accounts show regular payments “To Dido on her Birthday by Ld M’s order”. Unfortunately, there is no specific payment date. However, in 1792, the payment appears between two dated entries for 3rd and 5th July. So, assuming that Dido’s birthday was correctly known at the time, it can be deduced as 3rd, 4th or 5th July 1761.

      To corroborate this, I’m now trying to establish from naval records whether – and, if so, where – she could have been conceived about nine months earlier, that is, in the spring of 1760. I’ve located the log of HMS Trent at the National Maritime Museum, from which it appears that Lieutenant (later Captain and Admiral) Lindsay was in or near Charles Town (present-day Charleston), South Carolina. However, I’m having difficulty in reading the handwriting and abbreviations in the log and would appreciate assistance from an expert.

      There is also some supplementary evidence about the circumstances of Dido’s birth and Lindsay’s ongoing relationship with Maria Belle. If anyone can please help me, I would be happy to supply more detailed notes of my research so far.

      Ian

      #20784
      Nicholas Blake
      Participant

        If you post the pictures of the log we can help decipher it.

        #20785
        Ian Trackman
        Participant

          There are 174 pages, 83 of which are for Lt. Lindsay, so too big at 126MB for an attachment to my original posting. How can I make it available ?

          #20786
          Sam Willis
          Keymaster

            HI Ian – can you attach a few sample pages as individual pictures that we can look at on the Forum and then plot a way forward. Each page can be 512 KB so should be enough resolution to view.
            Sam

            #20787
            Ian Trackman
            Participant

              Here are three samples pages. I’ve had to drop the original resolution from the PDF to fit under 512KB.

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              #20791
              David Hepper
              Participant

                The logs kept by Captain (not Lieutenant) Lindsay as Commanding Officer of the Trent may be found in the National Archives:
                ADM 51/3994

                Also the ship’s Master’s log is in the NA:
                ADM 52/1481

                They should tell you where Trent was on any day

                If Dido Belle was born in July 1761 then surely conception would be October/November 1760, rather than the Spring of that year?

                Trent reported in contemporary newspapers as sailing in July 1760 “for the coast of Guiney” and in September off Senegal and then by December was in Jamaica

                #20792
                Nicholas Blake
                Participant

                  Photo 1 confirms the ship was moored in Charles Town Harbour on Monday 3rd March but as David says, nine months earlier is October or November. Incidentally, if you’re photographing logs etc. colour photos are much easier to read, even if the writing is only in black ink.

                  #20793
                  Ian Trackman
                  Participant

                    David Hepper emailed :

                    [begins]
                    The logs kept by Captain (not Lieutenant) Lindsay as Commanding Officer of the Trent may be found in the National Archives:
                    ADM 51/3994

                    Also the ship’s Master’s log is in the NA:
                    ADM 52/1481

                    They should tell you where Trent was on any day

                    If Dido Belle was born in July 1761 then surely conception would be October/November 1760, rather than the Spring of that year?

                    Trent reported in contemporary newspapers as sailing in July 1760 “for the coast of Guiney” and in September off Senegal and then by December was in Jamaica
                    [ends]

                    Of course, my dates were wrong. Here are three more sample pages from October 1760. David, can you please give me references for the contemporary newspapers ?

                    In reply to Nicholas, the original three samples were in colour as supplied to me by the National Maritime Museum. I’ve had to convert the October pages to black and white to get them under the 512KB limit.

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                    #20798
                    Nicholas Blake
                    Participant

                      His latitude and longitude are N and W of Greenwich and he is on passage from Guinea to the Leeward Islands.

                      6 October is Cape St Magnus
                      18 October is Nevis
                      19 October is Old Road, St Christopher
                      23 October is St Eustatia 5 leagues away
                      24 October is St Bartholomew bearing E, 5 miles

                      The entries that show him possibly leaving the ship are:
                      20 and 21 October, moored in Old Road St Christopher, watering the ship (ie filling the barrels with fresh drinking water)

                      If you would like to supply the complete set for those two months we can see where he goes.

                      N.

                      #20800
                      Ian Trackman
                      Participant

                        Here are the copies of the logs for September, October and December 1760.

                        David Hepper refers to Captain’s and Master’s logs at National Archives. My understanding is that Lt. Lindsay was the commanding officer of HMS Trent. Would the TNA logs have any more information ? I can’t access them pending Covid.

                        How Lindsay met Maria Belle is an open question. Lord Mansfield tells a guest (Thomas Hutchinson) : “Sir John Lindsay having taken her mother prisoner in a Spanish vessel, brought her to England where she was delivered of this girl, of which she was then with child”. But Mansfield might only be repeating what Lindsay had told him, rather than having first-hand knowledge. Is there any possibility that Lindsay would have been able to keep Maria on board his ship rather than meeting her in port ?

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                        #20804
                        Ian Trackman
                        Participant

                          More files

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                          #20808
                          Ian Trackman
                          Participant

                            More files (November 1760)

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                            #20812
                            Ian Trackman
                            Participant

                              Correction : Here are the copies of the logs for September, October and November 1760.

                              #20813
                              William Lindsay
                              Participant

                                I note that Lindsay signed himself Lindesay in his log book.
                                Obviously names had a habit of being spelt differently in those days but I surprised he spelt it that way himself.
                                Bill Lindsay (no relation).

                                #20814
                                Ian Trackman
                                Participant

                                  Yes, particularly as his father was Sir Alexander Lindsay, 3rd Baronet of Evelick. An affectation ?

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