The Queen’s message of support was obviously a very welcome one for Gilbert because by it she had
changed her mind again as to his departure. Firstly in 1571 she had granted him what was called a Patent for the Discovery
of New Lands. Then earlier this year, his plans having come to fruition and ships and supplies being made available, assembled
and stationed in Plymouth she had got cold feet and hadn’t wanted him to risk his own life in the forthcoming venture.
came too late, for on 7 February from his house in Redcross Street in London Gilbert had written to Walsingham stating his
reasons why “I cannot comply with her Majesty’s solicitude for me to stay at home from the personal execution
of my intended discovery. I am sanguine of success and willing to be opposed by all the best navigators and cosmographers
of the realm. Only the extreme weather during the winter alone has delayed me.”
Gilbert’s fleet, now victualled and ready
in Plymouth comprises of five ships. The Delight of 120 tons, Barke Raleigh 200, Squirrel 10, Swallow
and the Golden Hinde both 40. A ‘ton’ in this context does not signify weight.
It means a big ton barrel used as a unit capacity measure. Thus the Squirrel for example is estimated at being able
to accommodate 10 ton barrels.
On 12 June, at Gilbert’s signal from his flagship, the fleet weighs anchor. The great adventure
The first stitch on this panel was made at Compton by Mrs Joan Gilbert on 20 June 1983 – 300 years
to the month after Sir Humphrey Gilbert’s expedition left Plymouth. Mrs Gilbert was the widow of Commander Walter Raleigh
Gilbert RN and she still lived in the castle. The Commander should rank high in the roll call of England’s heritage
protection heroes, for in 1930 he brought back at auction what was the half ruined Gilbert property, then over the next 20
years spent much of his own money on restoring it. So Mrs Gilbert was delighted to do the honours on 20th and made her stitch
on the shield of the family coat-of-arms when Tom Mor, Tom Maddock, and Freda Simpson had taken the panel over for the ceremony.
Today all their signatures can still be seen in the Castle’s Visitors’ Book. The current head of the Gilbert family
still lives in part of the property which is now in the care of the National Trust. Times of opening are to be found on their website.