William Burrough Of Limehouse
In the time of Queen Elizabeth the first, there was a little village by the River Thames called ‘Limehouse’. To get there you had to walk out into the countryside, past the Tower of London. Although it was small, it was well known as a place where famous ship were built.
In those days, the Limehouse Folk had no church of their own. The villagers had to walk through open fields to the church of St. Dunstan in Stepney.
First they walked out into the country and along a narrow track beside a field. Then they took a sharp left turn, and went on until they came to a little road going north from the next village of Ratcliffe. That track through the fields came to be known as “the Sermon’s Lane”, became it was the quickest way to get to church.
One of the people who used to walk along the Sermons Lane in those days was an old gentleman called William Burrough. He was quite an important person in the village and was well known at the church. Nowadays, we call that way “Salmon Lane”. Just at the place where Mr Burrough used to turn left on his way to church through the fields, there is now a school. The school is called “Sir William Burrough School”. In his own time he was known simply as Mr William Burrough.
Not many people have heard of Sir William Burrough. He and his brother Steven, set up a Company called “The Merchant Adventurers” and they were the first people to sail to Russia to trade with them.
He could have been as famous as Sir Francis Drake, but Sir Francis Drake took a disliking to him, and as Sir Francis Drake was the favourite of the Queen Elizabeth I, it nearly destroyed his career. This is the story of what happened:
The Argument with Drake
On April 19th in 1587 it was a very warm morning on the sea near Cadiz in Spain.
William Burrough was there in his Ship called “Lion” with the famous sailor, Sir Francis Drake.
For a long time now the people in England had been getting ready to fight the Spanish. The people of Spain were Catholics again. (They called their ships “the Armada”. This means “ships with weapons”)
In Cadiz harbour the Spanish had been getting the Armada ready to sail to England and England and attack it. The English now set fire to one hundreds big Spanish Ships. They sailed in and took control of lots of the ships to sail them back to England. Drake said “Now we have burnt the king of Spain’s beard.”
Everything was going well in the sea battle, so Drake wanted to sent soldiers to the beach and carry on fighting in the town. When William Burrough heard about this, he quickly went into his cabin and scribbled a note to Drake.
It said “Don’t do that, or we all lose all our men.”
Drake was very angry when he read this note. He wrote a message back to the “Lion”.
It said “Lock William Burrough up in his cabin. Keep him there for a few days. Don’t do anything he tells you,”
Then everything began to go wrong, just as he said it would. The soldiers got into their boats and rowed across to the beach. But the Spanish soldiers got into their boats and rowed across to the beach. But the Spanish soldiers came out to meet them and fired cannons at them. There was a terrible fight and most of the English soldiers were killed.
The whole thing was a dreadful mistake. Drake was very embarrassed, but he told the gunners to start shooting the cannons at the town. However, his ship was too far aout to sea and could not go near because the Spanish soldiers were firing their big guns. All the noise and shooting of Drake’s cannon did not do much damage to the Spanish town.
When the sailors in Burrough’s ship saw what was happening, they refused to do anything they were told. Burrough quickly sat down and made a list of all the complaints made by drake and tried to show that they were all wrong and sent them to the Queen’s Advisors.
In the end, everyone believed Burrough. But people remembered the story and this did not help him in his career afterwards.