In October 1647 the East India Company decided to send two ships
to the East Indies. One of these was called the Aleppo Merchant, the Master being one John Millett, with some of the crew being West Countrymen. John Millett was born in 1601, probably in Smithfield, but of his parentage there is no knowledge. His name first appears in the Company’s Minute Books in 1641 (19th
November): “Messrs. Keveridge and Methwold are desired to meet Mr. Millett,
a member of the Exchange, at the Exchange this afternoon, to endeavour to settle with him about freighting his ship, the Aleppo Merchant for Surat”. Between
1642 and 1652 John Millett made at least three voyages as Master (by 1651 he is described as “Captain”). Bales of cloth, chests of silver, pepper, indigo, saltpetre and coral were amongst
the various goods he carried, the value of the cargo, on arrival in England, being sometimes as much as £70,000. On 20th August 1647 John Millett was elected a Freeman of the East India Company, together with
“ancient servants”, each paying 40/- into the poor box.
In August 1652 news was received in London of his safe arrival in Plymouth harbour, and
this was probably for the last time as he seems to have retired from active life at sea, and settled down at his home in Wandsworth,
Surrey: for in May 1654 we find his son Nicholas (Capt. Millett Jnr) setting
forth as Master of the Aleppo Merchant in his place. On 12th October 1659 John Millett informed the Company that if they would “give some encouragement
for the employment or freighting of a ship of 500/600 tons, there are some men who have undertaken to build such a ship for
his son”; the Courts’ decision was to be “inclined to encourage
the building of three good three-decked vessels of about 450/500 tons”, and promises that if a ship suitable for the
Company’s service is built, she shall be employed in preference to any other.
The ship was duly built and named the Loyal Merchant, and on 2nd
November 1660 we find the following recorded: “The new ship built by Captain
Millett is entertained for the South Seas, to be ready by 1st February next, and to return to England by 20th
January 1662”. But John Millett never lived to see his new vessel start
out, as he died on 12th December 1658 and was buried in the Parish Church of St. Bartholomew (Smithfield). Above the epitaph is carved a pierced cinquefoil, apparently the Arms of the Milletts
mentioned by Papworth: Gules a Cinquefoil
pierced Argent (on a red shield a silver five-petalled flower with a hole in the centre).
John Millett’s wife was Judith, who died at Wandsworth in 1662. In her Will she asked to be buried in St. Bartholomew beside her husband.
John and Judith had had five other children, three of them christened John. There
is also recorded a burial of yet another John Millett, somewhat earlier, in 1626, most probably Capt. John Millett’s
father, and possibly the John Millett in Smithfield and his wife Jane, and Anne,
their daughter, mentioned in the Will of Alice Millett, widow of Trinity the Less, dated 8th March 1624. John Millett had an elder brother, Robert Millett, but nothing is known about him except that he was still
living in 1660; and a sister Anne, who married a William Ocher.
A younger brother of John was (Captain) Richard Millett of St. Sepulchre’s, Citizen
and Pewterer of London, who died in 1668. There is a mention of Richard Millett
during the Plague year: “The City companies with the greatest difficulties
carried out their duties: Mr. Richard Millett, elected Upper Warden of the Pewterer’s
Company, begged to forego service from the Court, September 5th, his house being visited by the Plague.” Despite this, Richard’s two sons, John and Samuel, both survived, being
mentioned in their father’s Will of 1661. Samuel, born in 1647, must have
been a son of his father’s second wife Margaret Wilkin (they were married at Hanwell in 1646). Samuel married on 20th December 1677 to Catherine Salter, aged 22, of St. Mary Somerset, and
had at least nine children (Registers of St. Mary Somerset): Matthew (June 1680),
Sarah (June 1682), Samuel (January 1683), Judith (May 1685), John (July 1686), William (August 1688), Dorothy (November 1689),
Daniel (November 1690), Anne (July 1693).
Richard’s other son, John Millett, went to sea in the Loyal Merchant, serving under his cousin Captain Nicholas Millett, and is described as “having died at sea”. His Will dated 4th February 1668 was witnessed by his brother Samuel. There is no mention of a wife or children.
To return to Captain John Millett’s son, Nicholas Millett: Peter Mundy, the celebrated Cornish traveller (born at Penryn, Cornwall), went with Captain Nicholas Millett
in the Aleppo Merchant on one of the voyages already mentioned, boarding the ship
at Woolwich on 8th March 1654. The account of this voyage is found
in volume 5 of The Travels of Peter Mundy in Europe and Asia, 1608-1667, published
by the Hakluyt Society in 1936. The voyage that Nicholas Millett made as Captain
of his new ship Loyal Merchant in 1661 ended in July 1662, and we learn from the
East India Company Minute Books that he had brought back with him a letter and a present for King Charles II from the King
of Bantam. “July 7th 1662: The
Company to Captain Millett: to congratulate him upon his safe arrival into the
Downs. They take it as a respect that he craves their advice as to the delivery
of the letter from the ‘Sultan of Bantam’ to the King, and desire him, as soon as his ship is moored in the river,
to hasten to the East India House with the said letter, when the Governor will take care ‘to have the letter and yourself
accompanied to the King with that respect of theirs as may not lessen your esteem’.” To receive the present, the King himself went aboard the Loyal Merchant,
and Captain Millett is later allowed £40 in reimbursement of his expenses in entertaining the King: and in addition was presented with a piece of silver plate “to the value of £30”, and allowed
his own goods delivered “free of fine or tax” as a mark of special favour “for the good service and honour
he hath done the Company and the Kingdom by his deportment”. There must
have been more to this than stated, to explain the wide regard that this aroused – for instance a William Millett of
Harrow, having no issue of his own, sat down and wrote into his Will “To Captain Nicholas Millett, the sum of £100”. This William Millett’s father, William Millett, of Sudbury, gentleman, had received
a grant of Arms in 1634 “under the hand of Sir Henry St. George”: Argent a fess wavy Gules between three dragon’s heads erased Vert (on a silver
shield a wavy red bar between three green dragon’s heads torn off with a ragged edge).
He was the son of Richard Millett and Joan Lyon (sister of John Lyon, the founder of Harrow School), and related to
the Millett family of Perivale.
On his return from his next voyage in the Loyal
Merchant on 17th May 1664, Captain Nicholas Millett was again congratulated upon his safe arrival, and gratuities
were bestowed upon the officers and men who had served on board and on shore at Surat (during an attack on Surat by the Sultan
Sivaji); Nicholas himself received another piece of silver plate “to the
value of £30”, and again in April 1665 we find that upon consideration “of the good services done at Surat by
the owners of the Loyal Merchant a gratuity of £300 is given to them”; and that Captain Millett is also given £100 ‘”for his good services”. Two years later, on 20th February 1666/67 “Nicholas Myllet, of Battersea,
Surrey” was knighted by King Charles II (see William A. Shaw’s The Knights
of England (1906) vol. II p. 242). On 12th November 1667 Nicholas
married Dame Martha Smyth, of London, at St. Martin-in-the-Fields. She was the
widow of Sir George Smyth, of London (who had been mentioned in the Will of Judith Millett).
The only Sir George Smyth, Knight, who has been traced, was “of Madworth, Deven”; he had a daughter, Elizabeth, who married Sir Thomas Monke of Powderich, Devon, Knight, in 1603.
“October 21st 1668: Sir
Nicholas Millett to be paid 14/- for bedding put on board the Constantinople Merchant
for William Scudamore, entertained as a soldier for Bombay, to whose a/c the said sum be charged.”
“June 11th 1669: Sir Nicholas Millett
to receive free of fine (tax) some mangoes and rice which came in the Constantinople
“June 23rd 1669: Sir Nicholas
Millett, having served the Company many years, is admitted to the Freedom (of the Company), and order is given for the diamonds
belonging to him to be delivered free.”
Returning from one of his voyages to the Far East, Captain Nicholas Millett brought back with him a dusky
complexioned servant, who however died during the Plague. Sir Nicholas Millett
died in 1674, letters of administration being granted to his widow Martha. There
seems to be no record of any children.