|Full hull model of a Portuguese caravel (mid-15th century), a cargo and sailing vessel. © NMM|
Little is known about the earliest Portuguese people in London. But it is well known that Portuguese trading vessels visited Britain in the 15th century.
One such vessel was uncovered from the banks of the River Usk in South Wales in 2002. More than 300 objects, including Portuguese pottery, and leather shoes have been recovered from this site. The ship was dated to around 1465.
|Map of Portuguese-speaking islands, Azores, Madeira and Cape Verde Islands. © NMM|
Between 1574 and 1576 Portuguese exports to London included a mixture of re-exports such as:
The Portuguese learnt from the Arabs that oranges and marmalade were important in fighting off scurvy during long ocean voyages.
|Pepper Vine, Kerela, India. © NMM|
However, the Anglo-French Wars increased the demand for Portuguese and Madeira wine. This became even more important after the restoration of Portuguese independence from Spain in 1640.
The importance of this trade by the mid-17th century is clear from the 1651 Navigation Act passed by Oliver Cromwell. This prohibited the import of all non-English wares from Britain to the colonies, except for Madeira wine.
Eventually, by the 1670s, Brazilian sugar would also decline because of competition from British sources in the West Indies.
The Methuen Treaty of 1705 opened the English markets to Portuguese wines. British merchants and shippers flocked to Oporto where they formed a Shippers' Association in 1727.