Charles was born on 7th Jun 1767 in Henstead, Suffolk, the second son of John Clarke and Elizabeth Welham and was baptised on the 8th day of that month.
Like his eldest brother Welham, Charles Clarke became a merchant seaman. Unfortunately, none of Charles' log books has survived in the family archives, so less is known about his voyages than those of Welham. However, there is, at the British Library, a log from the Ann detailing a voyage to Australia. Another log is found in the National Archives. By 1794 he was in command of the Pomona , a South Sea trader and whaling vessel berthed at Wapping in London.
Charles hired the medic Robert Thomas Crossfield MD to fill the position of ship's surgeon on an ill-fated voyage in February. Crossfield was arrested in August 1795 and put on trial for treason against King George III.
Charles later appeared to become further involved in the radical politics of his time. The activist William Cobbett records in his journal for 21st December 1821 -
The day before yesterday I set out for Bergh Apton with Mr. [Samuel] Clarke, to come hither by the way of Beccles in Suffolk. We stopped at Mr. Charles Clarke's at Beccles, where we saw some good and sensible men, who see clearly into all the parts of the works of the 'Thunderers,'01 and whose anticipations, as to the : 'general working of events,' are such as they ought to be. ...
Cobbett's Complete Collection of State Trials published from 1809 onwards contains a transcript of Crossfield's trial. One of the prosecutors was the famous barrister William Garrow. In 1805 Garrow became MP for Gatton: a rotten borough attracting some of Cobbett's heaviest scorn.
In 1809 Charles Clarke commanded a convict transport: the Ann. An entry in the diary of his son Charles states that in 1812 he received word that his father was at Dirk Hartogs Islands at the Western tip of Australia. It was an area that saw friction between Britain and the Dutch.
Charles was married 6 Aug 1792 in Burgh Castle in Norfolk, to Anne Knights, daughter of John Knights. Anne died in Newmarket Street, Beccles, Suffolk 13th Jan 1848, aged 79 and was buried at Henstead.
Charles Clarke died on 11th May 1835, and was buried at Henstead. Originally, the Clarke graves were enclosed by palings but, at some point in the 1930's, the churchyard was 'tidied up' (to the displeasure of Charles' great grandson: A.S.Clarke) and no trace now remains.
- 01: Thunderers
- It's unclear who Cobbett refers to here. The term was used in connection with the Times newspaper early in the nineteenth century.