‘Make habitation, plantation and to deduce a colony
of sundry of our people in that part of America commonly called “Virginia”.
states the Charters to the two Virginia Companies and because of its geographical position in the far west of England
the Plymouth Company being 250 miles ‘nearer’ America than the London one in the south-east it is able to reach
Virginia more easily and, vitally, sail from Plymouth’s glorious harbour at any state of the tide.
The driving force in Plymouth is Sir Francis Popham, Virginia Council member and Sir John’s
only son. He’s been in Plymouth for the last two years organising the affairs of the Company and preparing ships and
supplies for the forthcoming voyages. Activity is centred on Sutton harbour in the Barbican area of the town. ‘Barbican’
means the gateway defence of a castle and Plymouth’s fortification dominates the harbour where the Company’s three
ships are being victualed. They are: the Richard, the Mary and the Gift.
The local merchants supplying the ships from the warehouses include Josias Calmady (1584 panel) and Abraham Jennings
who are often only paid for their provisioning by the owners when their vessel returns with booty or a saleable cargo –
hence the phrase ‘when my ship comes in’. This can be this year, next year, sometime, never. In the case of the
Richard’s owner, it is never.
Captain Christopher Challons
is the master of the Richard. Another Devonian in these early colonisation attempts, his home is at Leigh Mill near
Plymouth. He is given orders by the company to take his ship on a mission to the coast of Maine and, joining in with Captain
Thomas Hanham’s vessel, survey the area for the possible landing and settlement sites for the next year’s proper
attempt. However, Challons’ luck runs out on November 10th when his ship is captured by the Spanish and he and his crew
taken to Spain and imprisoned, as is pictured here. Only Challons and his officers face a future. They are treated reasonably
well because they can expect to be ransomed. However, the crew’s fate, being worthless money-wise, is dire. As for the
Company itself, it is a tremendous loss but only the first of the disasters to befall them.