The Portuguese Community in the Port of London
From the Atlantic to the Indian Oceans a series of man-made and natural events in the 18th and early 19th centuries added to the problems in the Portuguese Empire. This was to have an impact on the numbers and types of Portuguese-speaking seamen arriving in London.
Crew lists for East India Company vessels and the Dreadnought Hospital records support the idea that the East India Company employed Indo-Portuguese Lascars in the 18th and early 19th centuries.
In 1837 there were still more than 3000 Portuguese and nearly 5000 Eurasians in Calcutta, compared to just over 3000 Britons. Eventually, the Portuguese and Eurasians could no longer supply crewmen and the East India Company took on Lascars from other Asian communities.
Decline of the Portuguese Empire
The epicentre of the earthquake was off the coast in the Atlantic Ocean. It triggered a tidal wave that raced up the River Tagus and engulfed the city centre.
War and unrest
The country became effectively under British military occupation led by Marshall William Beresford (1768-1854) and the Dukes of Wellington. By the time Dom Miguel took over the government in Lisbon in 1824, a decade of war had used up Portugal’s manpower. A decade of internal political unrest was to follow.
The Dreadnought Hospital records at Greenwich from the early 19th century suggest a gradual decrease in the number of Portuguese seamen from mainland Portugal.
The Azores had long been a regular port of call for the ships of the East India Company. They found a ready source of local Sailors' Grog, produced from sugar cane. By the end of the 18th century the island of Sao Miguel had developed a thriving export trade in oranges to England.
However, the orange groves on Sao Miguel were hit by blight in 1860. This outbreak of disease forced more of the men to join the British merchant navy, on vessels such as the Cutty Sark.
Cape Verde Islands
From the beginning of the 19th century we see a gradual increase in the number of seamen from the Cape Verde islands. This especially included men from the densely populated islands of Brava and Sao Nicolau, seeking attention at the Dreadnought Royal Hospital.
The 18th-century Portuguese community in London
A church was opened in 1793 on Crooms Hill, Greenwich. Our Lady Star of the Sea Church was built to cater for Catholic seamen from the Dreadnought Royal Hospital for seamen at Greenwich. The present building dates from 1851. It is certain that Portuguese seamen worshiped here.
The Portuguese Jewish community
Bristish East India Company ships began to call at Salvador do Bahia on their return to Europe from the Indies in the 18th century. They often outnumbered the returning Portuguese East Indiamen. Very often, Brazilian crews were taken on to replace the British crews lost on the return voyage to disease and desertion.
The Portuguese Jews were heavily involved in:
By the end of the 18th century 20% of Portugal’s re-exports from Brazil came to London. In 1810 Portugal was forced to give Britain the right to trade directly with Brazil, and in 1815 Brazil was declared a separate kingdom to Portugal.
British control of Portuguese resources
After the Napoleonic Wars British companies gained a lot of control over key economic resources of Portugal, especially the Madeira wine industry. Newspaper reports of the board meetings of the Seaman’s Hospital Society in 1860 and 1875 show that hundreds of Portuguese sailors were admitted to the hospital.
The 19th-century London Portuguese community
There was a community of Portuguese people in Deptford and at South Street in Greenwich who had connections with Oporto. These people were most probably associated with the Forester family of wine merchants, who first lived in Lewisham and then moved to Beckenham.
The Forester family was particularly involved in the trade in port wine from Oporto and sherry from Jeres in Spain. Baron Joseph James Forester (d. 1862) mapped the River Douro.
The 'Cutty Sark' and the 'Ferreira'
The man referred to as 'Antonio Joakin', although his name was more accurately Antonio Joaqim, was born in the Cape Verde
Islands in 1846. He served initially as a cook on the Cutty Sark between 1874 and 1876, after which he served as a steward. Antonio Joaqim was discharged at London on 11 October 1877. The other two Portuguese were signed on in London in 1876 and Sydney in 1877.
and steel ones. One of these ships was the Cutty Sark, which was sold in 1895 to Ferreira & Co. of Lisbon. The Portuguese renamed her Ferreira, though they often called her 'El Pequina Camisola'.
For much of the next 26 years the Ferreira sailed between Portugal, Brazil and the Portuguese Atlantic colonies. After calling at the Surrey Commercial Docks in November 1921, the Ferreira made her last voyage to London with a Portuguese crew under a British flag in 1922.
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