Richard Parker and the Nore Mutiny
Having served as an apprentice navigator in seventeen seventy nine he went on to serve on the Mediterranean in the Royal Navy from seventeen eighty two until seventeen ninety three. In that same year, after another case of insubordination, Richard Parker was court-martialled. Following his discharge from duties Parker left the navy and returned home to Exeter. For a while he, along with his wife Anne, tried to live an ordinary life as a teacher but he soon fell into debt and ended up in jail. He was offered the opportunity to re-enlist in the navy which would in turn alleviate his financial problems. The thought was so despairing that he tried to kill himself by jumping from the ship. His attempt failed and he was assigned to serve upon HMS Sandwich. It was a ship with a reputation that was as murky as the Thames. The Sandwich was overcrowded with appalling living conditions. Unfortunately for Parker, with his record for outspokenness, it was to be his downfall.
On the twelfth of May seventeen ninety seven a mutiny broke out but without any part being played by Parker. The North Sea fleet which lay based at the Nore took umbrage with the treatment they received from the Royal Navy and refused to obey any orders given them. Parker was persuaded to join the mutinous delegates who then elected him President of the Floating Republic. His obvious intelligence and ability to converse with other officers on equal terms made him the perfect choice for such a role and he performed his duties well. No ships were allowed to pass HMS Sandwich without a pass being signed by Parker. For the briefest of moments Parker had absolute power if only on the Nore.
On June 6th Parker arranged for a meeting with Lord Northesk at which point he, Parker, handed over a petition to the Lord which itemised the crew’s grievances. He backed this petition up with an ultimatum that gave the Royal Navy fifty four hours to address or, said Parker, “such steps by the Fleet will be taken as will astonish their dear countrymen.” His message was clear and increased the existing tension ten times over. Many of the mutineers then deserted their own cause betraying Parker while fleeing abroad. A five hundred pound reward was placed upon Parker’s head.
The deadline passed without reply from the Royal Navy. King George III and head of the Navy, wanted Parker hanged then gibbeted as this was not the first mutiny in the Royal Navy’s history with the more famous Bounty and Fletcher Christian being the other. On the 13th June, Parker was arrested and taken to Sheerness where, after a brief court martial, he was returned to HMS Sandwich where he was hanged. King George’s desire to have the corpse placed in the gibbet failed but the body was buried in un-consecrated ground . However that is not the end to the story nor does it explain Parker’s connection with Whitechapel. His wife, Anne, so upset and incensed by her husband’s treatment had the body dug up and taken in secret to Whitechapel where it was buried in the grounds of St. Mary’s Matfelon. Another name of infamy also buried at St. Mary Matfelon was the reputed executioner of Charles I, Richard Brandon.
Born in Whitechapel was Damon Albarn of Blur and Gorillaz fame as was Bud Flanagan the music hall comedian and one half of the Flanagan and Allen double act. And of course that still unnamed world famous serial killer who will remain forever more, unless someone can prove otherwise, Jack the Ripper, patrolled this region but as there will be more on him later I will leave it there for now.
Whitechapel today has none of the dark underbelly that was associated with its Victorian past. There is still poverty here but the horrors of that era have long gone.
all words and art are copyright © of C.J. Duffy.