Sir Christopher Cole: Naval letter book

Scope and Content

The letter book covers Cole's naval service under Sir Edward Pellew and his successor, William O'Brien Drury. Much of the correspondence, including several long memoranda, are concerned with Cole's claim to a senior appointment in Pellew's squadron, which led to a breakdown in relations with his senior commander. His correspondence whilst serving at Penang includes a number of letters to the Governor in Council of an administrative nature. There is also a letter to Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, 11 October 1809, who was then secretary to the Governor, concerning his dual role in charge of the Naval Office, together with related correspondence. The letter book ends after Cole's return to Penang in November 1809. At the back of the volume are handwritten transcripts, ship orders, rules for unmooring, rules in the event of fire, sea duty and regulations of the marines.

Administrative / Biographical History

Sir Christopher Cole (1770-1836) was entered on the books of the Royal Oak as a midshipman in 1780. After serving in the West Indies, Newfoundland and East Indies stations, he was made lieutenant in 1793. He was promoted to the rank of commander (1800) and later post-captain (1802) whilst serving in the West Indies under Lord Hugh Seymour and his successor, Sir John Thomas Duckworth. Cole's frigate, HMS Southampton, was paid off in September 1802, and in June 1804 he was appointed captain of HMS Culloden, the flagship of Sir Edward Pellew, 1st Viscount Exmouth (1757-1833), the newly appointed Commander-in-Chief, East Indies, whose squadron was then preparing to sail to Bombay.

Cole served as Pellew's flag captain at Bombay until March 1807, when, following a disagreement with his commander, he was given temporary command of the frigate Salsette, later renamed the Pitt, and subsequently the Doris. During 1808, Cole made several trips to the Persian Gulf in search of enemy cruisers and to accompany Sir John Malcolm's diplomatic mission to Persia (May 1808). In October 1808 he was sent to Prince Edward Island (Penang) as senior naval officer, where he was employed in cruising the Straits of Malacca and the China Seas.

In June 1809 Cole arrived in the Philippines with despatches from Pellew's successor, William O'Brien Drury (d. 1811), for the Spanish Governor, Mariano Fernandez de Folguera. Subsequently, he distinguished himself as captain of the frigate Caroline at the capture of Neira, the largest of the Banda islands, during August 1810, and again in the expedition against Java in 1811. The Caroline was paid off in 1812. Cole was knighted in May 1812, and finished his career commanding HMS Ripon in the English Channel. Put out of commission in 1814, he was M.P. for Glamorganshire, 1817-1818 and 1820-1830. On 24 April 1815 he married Mary Lucy (d. 1855), daughter of Henry Thomas Fox-Strangways, 2nd Earl of Ilchester. In 1828 he was appointed commander of the yacht Royal Sovereign, and in 1830 he was nominated a colonel of marines. He died at Kilroy near Cardiff on 24 August 1836.

Access Information

Open for consultation by holders of a Reader's Ticket valid for the Manuscripts Reading Room.

Acquisition Information

Purchased at Phillips' sale, 20 March 1998.


Description compiled by Robert Steiner, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives.

Other Finding Aids

There is a detailed description of the volume in the Additional Manuscripts Catalogue, available in the Manuscripts Reading Room.