St Mary’s Man Busts Myths About Dutch War With Scilly

Star Castle fired on Dutch fleet in 1667

Star Castle fired on Dutch fleet in 1667

A St Mary’s man has uncovered National Archive documents that will end an historic Scilly myth.

Scilly and The Netherlands had officially been at war for 335 years when the late Council Chairman Roy Duncan brokered a peace treaty in 1986.

The conflict came about because the Dutch decided to join the English Civil War on the side of the Parliamentarians, even though they were long time allies of the Royalists.

The Royalists decided to punish their former friends by launching raids on Dutch ships in the English Channel.

When the war started going badly, Charles’ ships were pushed back to Scilly, where the Dutch were said to have carried out a blockade.

But within three months, the Civil War was over, and the Dutch left, without declaring peace.

It’s been widely reported that not one single shot was fired during the war, which was declared by Admiral Maarten Tromp on the 30th March 1651.

Now Scilly Shipwreck hunter Todd Stevens says he can prove that’s not true.

He’s searched the National Archive and found that the Calendar of State Papers for King Charles II reveals that in 1667, 16 years after war was declared, the Star Castle fired on boats during a raid on the islands by a 50-strong Dutch fleet.

Two Dutch ships were damaged and four struggled to get out of St Mary’s pool. And during that week of conflict, the Dutch landed on St Agnes.

At the time, British officials wrote: “Scilly is besieged by the Dutch and it is reported that they are possessed of one of its outward islands, and have sent their boats and sounded the chief harbour, in spite of all our great guns. People there are in some trouble about it.”

It seems that bad weather may have encouraged the Dutch retreat. Contemporary accounts refer to “a great storm,” which “cleared the island of them.”

An entry on August 15th says they were “blown into the channel” but not before stealing 200 sheep and 20 cattle. And Todd’s found evidence that British military bosses expected a “further attempt” to take Scilly.

He’s also found an interesting Star Castle connection – the official who wrote about the enemy fleet retreating from Scilly had the same name as the current castle owner, Robert Francis.

Todd’s presenting the documentation from the time for inclusion in the next edition of the Scillonian Magazine.