Descended from an old Wickwar family, renowned for their soldierly skills, de la Warre prevented Jamestown’s abandonment and subsequently had the Delaware tribe, river and state all named after him.
The fledgling colony of Jamestown was founded in 1607, when famous people such as Captain John Smith and Pocahontas helped with its formation.
Early struggles with tribal conflict, crop failure and starvation led to a proposed abandonment, before de la Warr sailed to their rescue in 1610, helping to turn the colonies fortunes round with the introduction of tobacco.
De la Warre died on his return journey to Virginia in 1618 and the Virginias went on to prove a valuable asset for the British until American Independence in 1776. Many West Country families settled in the area to make a comfortable living, if not a huge fortune.
The first shipments of African slaves arrived in 1619 and by 1638 the first slave market was established. In 1661 the Virginia Assembly formerly recognised slavery as a practise.
The pernicious weed took off so well that tobacco plants were even being cultivated in Gloucestershire, and who knows what the future may of held if Bristol’s Merchant Venturer’s hadn’t petitioned the king for its suppression in 1662.
In 1664 an extensive raid was carried out by the then sheriff of Bristol (costing the society £302) and three years later it was reported that “tobacco was grown throughout Gloucestershire”, forcing the King’s guards to march on Winchcombe to cut down plantations.
This wasn’t the end of the matter though, and in 1692 it was reported that “nine plantations of tobacco (1,300 roods in area) were discovered near Bristol” and these were finally suppressed by “the superior machinery of the revolution government”.
For nearly forty years the Bristol merchants “engaged in a truceless warfare as champions of free trade with Africa against the would-be monopolists of London…… the chartered African Company…..” and had their privileges abolished by Parliament in 1698.
Within about ten years Bristol’s African fleet numbered nearly sixty vessels.
Although tobacco processing was mostly confined to the port cities, Wickwar still maintained an interest in the trade with a number of successful pipe makers.
Thanks to David Hardill (Heritage Centre Office)