At the age of 12 John boarded a ship for the first time. And that’s when the sea became his home.
John Wimble was born in 1797 in Maidstone, Kent, England. His first voyage at sea was probably at age 12 or 13 and, by 1823, aged 26, he had gained sufficient skill and experience to meet the criteria laid down by the Honourable East India Company for captains of ships contracted to carry goods to and from India.
At the time, he was in charge of an “extra” ship for the East India Company, contracted to carry goods such as dye, silk, cotton, tea and opium between India and England. The captain of a so-called extra ship had to be at least 23 years old and made at least three return voyages to India, serving as chief mate on one of them. Although the EIC had its own clippers, this did not provide suffici- ent capacity for the lucrative trade and ‘extra’ ships were contracted at an agreed rate per ton of freight.
In his 34 years long maritime career, Captain John Wimble served on several different ships. Sea voyages at the time could last over a year, so his wife Mary Ann often accompanied him, sharing some of his adventures and, apparently, he didn’t worry about the old superstition that it’s unlucky to have a woman on board.
It was 1819 when John Wimble retired and, together with his friend Franklin Allport, set up a ship and insurance broking business in the City of London. By 1851 he was living in Maidstone Cottage, Upper Tulse Hill along with his wife and two servants.
John Wimble died in July 1851 of heart disease and was buried in London’s West Norwood Cemetery.
In his will he wrote: “I direct that my body may be decently and plainly interred at the discretion of my beloved wife. She alone shall have the ordering and regulation.”
As a result Mary Ann, a very self-willed woman, did not order a simple plain tomb for her husband but she chose to mark his interesting and eventful life with a fitting memorial.
To honor John’s profession, there is a dedication on the epitaph that reads:
– Sacred to the memory of Mr John Wimble, thirty four years of whose eventful life was passed on the seas. Died 23rd July 1851. Aged 54 years. “They that go down to the seas in ships and occupy their business in great waters; these men shall see the works of the Lord and his wonders in the deep”. Also of Mary Ann, his wife, who shared in some of his perils. Died at Exeter, 22nd March 1886, aged 94 years. –
On the top, of the grave there is a sailing ship’s hull, unfortunately without masts and riggings that were originally there, while the base features decorative molding of a ship’s rope and on the sides of the tomb there are three bas-reliefs, depicting three of the many ships he captained.
The relief of the ship Florentia on the south side of the tomb is particularly dramatic. Dated 24 June 1825, it shows the ship in stormy weather along the Cape of South Africa, and it was also the first ship John ever captained.
Another of his ships was the London, which he took to India five times in the 1830s. It is depicted on the west side of the tomb in heavy waters with a broken mast. The inscription reads “off Gangam in October 1832” and is likely to refer to Ganjam, a coastal district of Orissa in India.
On the east side is a three masted ship named Maidstone, displayed in calm waters with her topsails furled. It is dated 24 June 1840. John captained this ship on a round the world journey in 1840. It travelled to Calcutta, then New Zealand, onto New Jersey and then finally New York.
Images from Web – Google Research