A rum way to fund a navy

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The person of Sir Cloudesley Shovell – a name to conjure with – came some years ago to the attention of the Sussex Archaeological Society.

Sir Cloudesley, a famous Admiral of the Royal Navy, had a mother who lived in Hastings. It is said he diverted the sea-going route of his Squadron in 1691 to make an impromptu visit to see her at her home.

He went on to have a most distinguished naval career spanning the globe and involving many fierce engagements.

On a more prosaic note, the archaeological society in 1969 recorded the receipt of a document which threw an interesting light on the Government’s method of raising money during the French wars of the 18th century. It was a 1704 Order on the Treasury to repay the sum of £500 loaned by the said Admiral at the rate of six per cent and secured on the duty on malt, rum, cyder and perry.

The loan was repaid in full two years later and received by Elizabeth Shovell in the absence of the Admiral at sea.

It seems a strange way of funding the mightiest Navy that ever was.