Henry Timberlake, Sr., Merchant-Adventurer

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Henry Timberlake, Sr., Merchant-Adventurer's Geni Profile

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Henry Timberlake, Sr., Merchant-Adventurer

Birthplace: Titchfield, Hampshire, England (United Kingdom)
Death: August 1626 (51-60)
Hampshire, United Kingdom
Immediate Family:

Husband of Margaret Timberlake
Father of Henry Timberlake, Jr. and Katherine Burruss

Occupation: Ship captain
Managed by: Glen Woodford Balzer
Last Updated:

About Henry Timberlake, Sr., Merchant-Adventurer



Merchant Adventurer

Henry Timberlake (1570 – 1625) was a prosperous London ship captain and merchant adventurer who travelled to the Mediterranean in his ship the Trojan early in 1601. After calling at Algiers (where he took on board Muslim passengers bound for Mecca) and Tunis, he reached Alexandria. Here he and his assistant Waldred took his Levant Company stock and went overland and then up the Nile to Cairo. Finding it impossible to sell his goods in Cairo, he went with another Englishman, John Burrell, to visit Jerusalem. This was a very hazardous journey to make, given the perils of any travel by land in an area rife with highway robbery. After his return, he wrote a letter about his adventures to friends in London that was published in 1603 as A True and Strange Discourse on the travailes of two English Pilgrims. It was a popular account and went through numerous editions.

The popularity of the account was due to the vivid narration and the surprising friendship it presented between an English Protestant (Timberlake) and an unnamed Muslim from Fes, Morocco. This man had been one of the passengers Timberlake had taken on board in Algiers. Encountering Timberlake at Mamre, near Hebron, as part of a large Syrian caravan, the Moor promised to help the captain in a strange land. Timberlake - unwisely declaring himself a Protestant and an Englishman at Jaffa Gate - was arrested and accused of being a spy, the guards not knowing the country of England or Queen Elizabeth. He was released from prison only through the intercession of the Moor, who pleaded with the Ottoman Pasha for Timberlake's freedom. This Moor saved Timberlake's life on a second occasion when the two men hired racing camels at Gaza to return to Cairo, and were set upon by Bedouin, who wanted to take Timberlake to sell as a slave.

Timberlake's account is also a vivid glimpse into the history of Palestine and the situation of Christians there in the Ottoman period. The Protestant Timberlake is forced by the Pasha to stay in the Franciscan hospice, against his will, but in fact Timberlake appears to develop a grudging respect for the friars, who greet him there by washing his feet despite his fear of being made to participate in Catholic mass.

Given this, Timberlake's account shocked certain sectors of the English public in the Jacobean period by appearing to be pro-Catholic and pro-Muslim, and he was ridiculed in a caricature printed in an unauthorised version of his account. [picture]

Timberlake published nothing else, but continued his travels as a merchant adventurer, journeying to Virginia, where he owned land in Smith's Hundred, and also to Bermuda, where he also owned land. He died in September 1625, in Titchfield, near Fareham, Hampshire, where he had been closely associated with Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton, and was buried in the chancel of St. Peter's Church there.

His grandson, also called Henry Timberlake, emigrated to Newport, Rhode Island.


  • Henry Timberlake, A True and Strange discourse on the travailes of two English Pilgrims London: Thomas Archer, 1603
  • Joan Taylor, The Englishman, the Moor and the Holy City: The True Adventures of an Elizabethan Traveller Stroud: Tempus, 2006 ISBN 0-7524-4009-8

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Henry Timberlake, Sr., Merchant-Adventurer's Timeline

Titchfield, Hampshire, England (United Kingdom)
Titchfield, Chillinge, Southampton, England
London, UK
August 1626
Age 56
Hampshire, United Kingdom