PIRATES!A collection in Wonersh to pay a ransom demand by Turking pirates doesn’t sound very likely but, according to the Parish Register, that’s exactly what happened on 8 November 1671.The BackgroundIn the 1600s, with the approval of their governments, pirates from the Barbary Coast of North Africa attacked Christian ships and took their crews into slavery. Admiralty records show that during this time the pirates plundered British shipping pretty much at will, taking no fewer than 466 vessels between 1609 and 1616, and a further 27 vessels from near Plymouth in 1625. Joseph Morgan, an 18th Century historian, noted that he had a 1682 list of 160 British ships captured by Algerians between 1677 and 1680. Based on the likely number of sailors on each ship, this probably equates to some 7,000 to 9,000 British men (and women) taken into slavery in those years.Coastal villages were also at risk - Devon and Cornwall in particular - with people snatched from their homes during the night. Countries closer to Africa such as Italy and Spain suffered far worse with thousands being taken during raids along the coasts of Valencia, Andalusia, Calabria and Sicily.Wonersh to the RescueOn 8 November 1671 a collection was taken at Wonersh Church. Lady Duncombe of Great Tangley, her daughter Miss Margaret Carryll, the Reverend Thomas Quincie and one Henry Chennell all gave generously. Another 109 names are listed in the Register with donations ranging from half a crown to one penny. Of those, Richard Doleing of The Street gave six pence, twice the annual rent of his house.So it was that the Reverend Thomas Quincie handed £6.7.10 to Archdeacon John Holland of Guildford. It then started a journey which at its end may well have led through tall Arab doors into a room with little furniture but many carpets where the Bey of Tunis sat smoking a Hookah!
John Fairburn (1793–1832) - Royal Museums Greenwich