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Skeleton may be Suffolk's US settler

PUBLISHED: 20:40 11 February 2003 | UPDATED: 16:17 24 February 2010

ARCHAEOLOGISTS may have discovered the skeleton of a Suffolk man considered the main force behind the first permanent English settlement in America.

Remains found in a 17thCentury Jamestown fort may be those of sea captain Bartholomew Gosnold, a former resident of Otley Hall.

ARCHAEOLOGISTS may have discovered the skeleton of a Suffolk man considered the main force behind the first permanent English settlement in America.

Remains found in a 17thCentury Jamestown fort may be those of sea captain Bartholomew Gosnold, a former resident of Bury St Edmunds.

William Kelso, archaeology director of the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities, believes the location and estimated date of the grave, together with ceremonial artefacts found with the body, confirms the identification.

Mr Kelso's team, which has been excavating the area since 1994, is now hoping to compare the remains with DNA from Gosnold's descendants. Mr Kelso described the skeleton - buried alone in about two feet into the ground - as "remarkably well-preserved".

One of Gosnold's descendent 70-year-old Daphne Storey, (nee Gosnold), of Bradwell, near Great Yarmouth, who may well be asked for DNA samples, hopes the discovery will earn her ancestor his rightful place in history as a founding father of America.

Mrs Storey is directly related to the captain's uncle Robert Gosnold, of Otley Hall.

She said: "I do hope the remains are Bartholomew. It will help to make him more prominent in history. He should be left where he is. He was a great navigator who was responsible for English being spoken in America. We are very proud of our family history."

Gosnold, born in 1571 into a powerful family, which owned manors at Grundisburgh, Clopton and Otley, was the driving force behind the 1607 expedition, which led to the establishment of Jamestown, Virginia.

He was second-in-command in the three-ship fleet that landed 107 Virginia Company settlers – 40 of whom came from villages around Otley. Gosnold, captain of the Godspeed, also helped design the triangular fort where they lived.

Previous attempts at colonisation by Frobisher, on Baffin Island, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, in Newfoundland and Sir Walter Raleigh, in Roanoke, had all failed.

Overall command for the 1607 expedition rested with Captain Christopher Newport, master of the Susan Constant.

But Captain John Smith (of Pocohontas fame), credited with leading and ultimately saving the Jamestown colony, described Gosnold as "the prime mover behind the settlement".

Gosnold died in August 1607, after three weeks of illness. Had he lived longer it is very likely that his would have been the name associated with Jamestown.

Don Black, local historian and EADT correspondent, said: "The DNA may be able to tell whether he died from fever as was suggested or if he was poisoned by the Spanish, jealous of his incursion into Spanish territory. This is, indeed, an important historical find for Suffolk."

Between 1607 and 1610 - the approximate date given for the grave - four high-ranking settlers died but archaeologists believe Gosnold is the most likely occupant.

Gosnold had also led a previous expedition to the Maine and Massachusetts coasts in 1602, where he discovered and named Cape Cod, after the fish found there, and Martha's Vineyard, for his infant daughter who died aged just 19 months at his Bury St Edmunds home.

Jamestown will celebrate the 400th anniversary of Gosnold's settlers' arrival in 2007.


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