During the seventeenth century, Deptford was the King’s premier ship-building yard. The Master Shipwright who built Lenox was John Shish, succeeding his father, Old Jonas, and they are commemorated with other family members where they are buried in St Nicholas’s Church, Deptford.
Most of the population of the town was also involved in building the ship, including such characters as Susanna Beckford who supplied much of the ship’s ironwork. Forthright and sometimes difficult, she more than held her own in dealing with her male colleagues.
Another was Ambrose Fellows, a 38-year-old experienced shipwright who had two apprentices. He worked on the Lenox, hewing her timbers and helping construct her in record time. His wife and children all lived in the town and on completion of the ship he was appointed her carpenter, for which a warrant was made out and signed by the King and Samuel Pepys.
Fellows stayed with the ship for nearly 20 years and such was his association, his name was first in the paybook, even before that of the captain.
These hard-working folk lived alongside Mrs Bagwell, the pretty daughter-in-law to foreman Owen Bagwell. With the connivance of her family and William, her husband, she seduced Samuel Pepys with sexual favours for the advancement of her family. Their arrangement was still going on during the time Lenox was being built.
Today, the distant successors of these colourful people of Deptford have an opportunity to recreate a small part of their history before the opportunity is lost forever under the tower blocks of modern development.