English Indenture for 13 Ships, Including “The Mayflowere”

By: Peter Hills

Collection ID





December 8, 1610






Ink on Vellum


12.6 × 21.4 in. (32 × 54.5 cm)

Exhibit Location

On View in The Impact of the Bible, Bible in America

This manuscript is an indenture, which is a legal agreement, between Peter Hills of Redriffe and his nephew, Robert Bell of Redriffe. Here, Hills sells his 13 ships, one of which is “The Mayflowere” in 1610. Bell’s home, Redriffe, is the same area where Christopher Jones, a known ship master and part-owner of the well-known Mayflower, lived. A Robert Bell also used Jones’s Mayflower to ship French wine to England the year before the Pilgrims set sail to America on the ship. This Mayflower listed in the indenture is likely the Mayflower that brought the Pilgrims to New England in 1620.

Created December 8, 1610, for Robert Bell (d. ca. 1637) or Peter Hills (d. 1614), England.[1] Acquired before 1872 by Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792–1872), collector, England;[2] By descent in 1872 to Katharine Fenwick (1823–1913), Phillipps’s youngest daughter, England;[3] By descent in 1913 to Thomas Fitzroy Fenwick (1856–1938), England;[4] By descent in 1938 to Alan George Fenwick (b. 1890), Thomas FitzRoy Fenwick’s nephew, England;[5] Purchased in 1945 by Phillip and Lionel Robinson, booksellers in London, England;[6] Transferred before 1969 to The Robinson Trust; Auctioned in October 1969 by Parke-Bernet Galleries (the predecessor to Sotheby’s) to an unknown buyer. Consigned in 1988 to Swann Auction House in New York, New York, by Douglas Seville of Spink & Son of London.[7] Consigned in 1992 to Sotheby’s, New York, New York. Purchased via private treaty sale, unnamed private collector, Calabasas, California;[8] Purchased on January 12, 2010, by Andrew J. Stimer, California; Purchased in March 2018 by Green Collection, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Donated in 2019 to The Signatry, Overland Park, Kansas, under the curatorial care of Museum of the Bible, Washington, DC.

Notes: [1] Robert Bell and Peter Hills are both identified as “mariners of Redriffe,” in the manuscript. In Admiralty court documents, Christopher Jones, the known ship master ( “master” denoted captains of merchant ships, while the title “captain” denoted the person in charge of a military ship) of the Mayflower, is recognized as a mariner from Redriffe as well. At St. Mary’s Church in Rotherhithe (previously named Redriffe), a brass plate was on display commemorating “Peter Hills, mariner, one of the elder Brother and Assistants of the Company of the Trinity,” who died six years before the sailing of the Mayflower and, together with Robert Bell, “gave the Free School £3 per annum to the master to teach eight children, sons of seafaring men.” The Peter Hills School, rebuilt in 1797, stands across the road from St. Mary’s Church. Robert Bell is listed in the logs of the Mayflower of London, Xpofer (Christopher) Jones, on January 28, 1619 (1619/1620), where Bell used the Mayflower to transport eleven tons of French wines to London. Museum of the Bible purchased and transcribed the digital scan of Robert Bell’s last will and testament (UK National Archives, PROB-11-175-269). This dated last will and testament submitted to the court references his part ownership of shipping operations but does not list specific names of ships. [2] Sir Thomas Phillipps, 1st Baronet, was an English antiquary and book collector who amassed an extensive collection of manuscript materials in the 1800s. His collection was so extensive it took over 100 years to disperse all the holdings. Phillips did not acquire this manuscript with the knowledge that it references the Mayflower of American fame. This manuscript is not listed in The Phillipps manuscripts: Catalogus librorum manuscriptorum in bibliotheca D. Thomae Phillipps, bt., impressum Typis Medio-Montanis, 1837–1871 (London: Holland Press, 1968). Phillipps wrote around 1828 that he purchased everything that lay within his reach and searched for charters or deeds written on vellum to save them from their destruction by glue-makers or tailors. In an extensive search of his manuscript catalog, there are multiple references to “Deeds and Wills” and various “Deeds.” In his will, Phillipps required that his books should remain at Thirlestaine House, that no bookseller may rearrange them, and that no Catholic should be permitted to view them. The Court of Chancery declared this too restrictive in 1885 and made it possible to sell portions of the collection. Museum of the Bible contacted Cheltenham College (owners of Thirlestaine House, Sir Thomas Phillipps last residence) on May 13, 2019, to inquire after any information regarding the dispersal of Phillipps’s collection after his death. Cheltenham College provided the information that one of the three daughters inherited the collection after Phillipps’s death. [3] Phillips was estranged from his eldest daughter, Harriett, and her husband, James Orchard Halliwell, and maintained a lifelong vendetta against them. Phillips’s second daughter, Sophia, died before Phillips, leaving Katharine to inherit as a trust. [4] Fenwick supervised the library and sales for fifty years, and the proceeds of many of the sales were invested as capital trust funds. [5] Alan Fenwick became the tenant for life under a Deed of Resettlement of the trust property. He continued to farm his estate in Buckinghamshire, leaving the management of Thirlestaine House and the library to his wife. On September 3, 1939, the United Kingdom entered World War II. The British government requisitioned Thirlestaine House for the Ministry of Aircraft Production. Instructions to clear out the library resulted in the collection records, literature, and remaining books and manuscripts to be crated and stored in the cellars. During this time, Mr. Alan Fenwick remained the life-tenant of the collection. [6] The Robinsons purchased what was known as the “residue” on February 19, 1945, for £100,000 from the life-tenant, Mr. Alan Fenwick. They raised £20,000 and secured a loan for £80,000 from an investment bank. To secure the loan, the Robinsons pledged their homes, business, entire stock, and half the proceeds of any sale from the collection. In December 1956, the Robinsons closed their store. In their retirement, the brothers now had time to carefully examine the many thousands of manuscripts and documents still left from the residue of the Phillips Collection. [7] Museum of the Bible contacted Swann Galleries on April 3, 2019. Swann Galleries replied that there were two Mayflower-related lots in the October 6, 1988, auction. This artifact was offered as Lot 138 and contained the indenture and the port entry abstract. Lot 138 and the other Mayflower-related lot, Lot 139, both went unsold. Swann Galleries was unable to share the names of the consigners, but they did state that the two lots came from different consigners. [8] An email from Andrew Stimer to Museum of the Bible on October 17, 2019, states that the manuscript’s prior owner to himself purchased it at a Sotheby’s private treaty sale in December 1992. Stimer purchased this manuscript through an agent, never knowing the owner’s identity, only his location: Calabasas, California. Stimer signed a contract that keeps the agent’s name confidential.

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