Professional Research & Maritime Historian, Author, & Conservator

Jasper and Leigh Ashworth of Liverpool and Jamaica

Pirate Biographies– Ashworths of Liverpool and Jamaica

The preceding passage and other genealogies of various pirates will be explored in similar depth in Brooks’ Dictionary of Pyrate Biography, currently in the planning stages.

Brooks has over 35 years of experience in genealogical research, has worked as a professional genealogist, and lately studied in the Maritime Studies Program at East Carolina University as a professional historian.

His peer-reviewed article, “ ‘Born in Jamaica of Very Creditable Parents’ or ‘A Bristol Man Born’? Excavating the Real Edward Thache, ‘Blackbeard the Pirate’ “ in the July issue of North Carolina Historical Review includes the genealogy of the most famous pirate of them all! It’s expanded upon in Quest.

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The Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, Volume 152, on page 62, states that “At Smithy Croft, Rakehead, on the left bank of the Irwell, there stood some years ago the remains of an ‘old smithy and forge,’ which, according to an old and well-founded tradition, belonged for many generations in succession, to a family of the name Of Ashworth, who carried on there the trade of working cutlers.”












John Ashworth of Crosby (1638-1689) broke with this long family tradition and, on 11 December 1676, became headmaster at the “King’s School” in the inland Cheshire town of Macclesfield, famous as a producer of finished silk. From February 1862, he lived at Hallefields and became curate of St. Michael’s, Macclesfield from 1684 until 1689 at his death there. He was buried at Macclesfield 21 June 1689. Incidentally, a son, Abel, a clerk at Macclesfield died in the same place and year.




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From 1673 to 1718, St. Nicholas Cathedral in Liverpool, England underwent expansion as the port town’s population increased. By 1699, the population reached 5,000 and the old parish was split in two, with two churches: St. Nicholas (the “Old Church” or “St. Nick’s”) and St. Peter’s.

John Ashworth II, baptized 20 Aug 1666, probably moved to Liverpool, a port that would soon gain prominence in the slave trade. He also broke with tradition and served that port town as a “landwaiter,” or customs inspector from 1696 until his death in 1707:

Petition of John Ashworth, of Liverpool, gent., to be made the fourth landwaiter in that port.— “12 May '96. To be considered when there is a vacancy, or when ye Comrs of ye Customes shall think it for His Mats service to have another ld wtr in yt port.”

His three sons: Jasper (bap. 29 December 1688), John (7 March 1691), and Leigh (bap. 4 April 1693) were baptized at St. Nicholas in Liverpool, seen in the recent photo at upper right.

By 1708, Jasper attempted to follow his father’s footsteps as landwaiter:

Petition of Jasper Ashworth to the Lord High Treasurer for the place of land waiter in the port of Liverpool, lately held by his father.

Certificate in his favour. Dated 16 July 1708.

Minuted:—“To be considered at London.” 2 pages.

London, however, may have denied his request, since Treasurer Godolphin provided the place to Charles Wise, chosen as John Ashworth’s replacement. It may be at that point that Jasper and his younger brother, Leigh, sailed for Jamaica.

As merchants of Port Royal, Jamaica, Jasper Ashworth and his partner Daniel Axtell, both future assemblymen, loaned vessels and fitted them out for use as privateers, commissioned by Gov. Lord Archibald Hamilton. One of these vessels was Mary, commanded by Jasper’s brother, Leigh. Another was Barsheba, under command of Henry Jennings. In early spring of 1716, four privateers in all, Ashworth, Jennings, James Carnegie in Discovery, and Samuel Liddel in Cocoa Nut, joined forces, some from Bluefield’s in western Jamaica and some along the way to the Cuban coast. There, they intercepted two French vessels, Marianne and Mary of Rochelle. This incident became notorious as the confrontation between the allegedly arrogant and wealthy privateer, Henry Jennings of Bermuda and Jamaica and the common pirate Benjamin Hornigold of Harbour Island, Eleuthera, the Bahamas. Hornigold first took Mary of Rochelle and Jennings followed him to Nassau, New Providence to take it back.

Monsieur Michon, the French intendant of Hispaniola wrote to Gov. Archibald Hamilton to complain:

We are not surprized to see the Spaniards under ye pretext of defending their coast from all forreign commerce to take vessels att sea going on their lawfull occasions; they are rogues by profession, but these are English fitted out at Jamaica, who without your privity, and without doubt contrary to your express commands, plunder indifferently both French and Spaniards, they have four sloops commanded by Henry Jennings, Legs Ashworth, James Carnique, Saml. Liddell, and acknowledge Jennings for their chief, 'tis these that have taken the Mary of Rochell, Capt. Escoubes, and ye Marianne, Capt. le Gardew, at ye Bay of Hondo, worth abt. 50,000 crowns.

Leigh Ashworth appears to have remained in the Bahamas as a pirate, while brother Jasper and Axtell fenced the pirated French goods in Port Royal and Kingston. President of the Council Peter Heywood wrote to the Board of Trade on 3 December 1716:

… enclosed deposition of Joseph Eels, taken before myself and Council to whom we gave an assurance that he should be secured of his life by a noli prosequi provided he made a full discovery of what he knew of the late piracys committed in the Bay of Hondo, upon this information and deposition we ordered Daniel Axtell and Jasper Ashworth to be apprehended, and committed by a warrant from the Chief Justice as correspondents with and accessorys to pirates and piracys. Upon taking up of these persons a great many are fled, that a warrant was issued to apprehend both as principles and accessarys, and what to do with these men, we know not as yett, not having a Commission under the Broad Seal of England as the statute of the 11th of King William directs, nor Admiral Vice Admiral a deputy to whom to direct a Commission pursuant to the statute of the 28th of Hen. VIII. We are likewise necessitated to keep under confinement the said Joseph Eels for want of sufficient security designing to make use of him as evidence for the King in this behalf which he has promised upon being secured himself to become. I farther advise you that the said sloop Mary which was commanded by the said Leigh Ashworth was condemned as the goods of pirates in the Court of Admiralty here, she being concerned in the piracys committed on the French ship in the Bay of Hondo at which time the said Eels was quartermaster on board her under the command of the said Leigh Ashworth etc. Signed, Peter Heywood.

This caused an international incident that resulted in the demotion of Admiralty Judge John Warner to the position of naval officer in the Crown-resumed colony of the Bahamas after the pardon and surrender of pirates—a surrender of 209 pirates on New Providence to which Leigh Ashworth belonged.










After surrendering, William Gibbons and Andrew Allen of South Carolina contracted their possible family friend, Leigh Ashworth, to bring their 10-ton schooner Success back from the Bahamas to Charles Town in May 1718, with a load of cordage, bottled liquor, Madeira wine, and bad pork that was being returned unsold. Ashworth, leaving Success there in Charles Town with her owners, took command of his brother’s sloop Ann, already there in Charles Town Harbor, and sailed her back to Jamaica, loaded with 19 barrels of rice and hundreds of barrels of various naval stores from South Carolina. 

He departed just after former pirate Josiah Burgess in sloop Providence of Carolina and less than a week before Edward Thache showed up in Charles Town harbor with a flotilla to blockade the port for the last week in May. By 14 June, he arrived in Jamaica.

Another power of attorney dated 19 November 1718, just three days before Edward Thache was killed, appeared in South Carolina records concerning Jasper Ashworth’s mother-in-law, Mary Hewett/Hawett of Port Royal, widow, and her daughter Mary, married then to Arthur Foster of South Carolina. This note concerned the settlement of her £500 dower to be paid from the estate of her deceased uncle William Hewett’s estate in Jamaica and any measure to convey land in Carolina to satisfy that agreement. The attorneys in this matter were also William Gibbons and Andrew Allen, the same owners of the schooner Success, returned to Charles Town for them by Leigh Ashworth. Note: 1670 census for Clarendon Parish shows “John Hewett” with 980 acres. In 1672, Gov. Thomas Lynch sent Robert Hewett on a voyage to “demand satisfaction [against Spanish pirates] at Campeachy for 3,000l. taken out of the Pink [Lilly].” An inventory was taken 7 December 1693 for Thomas Hewett, resident of Port Royal (Vol. 3, Fol. 502).

When war again resumed with Spain and France in December 1718, Leigh Ashworth was again commissioned as a privateer from Jamaica. By May, William South, master of Endeavor, a sloop of New Providence, taken from the Spanish and condemned, owned by former pirate Thomas Terrill, deposed that Leigh Ashworth pretended to take him for a Spaniard,” probably not difficult in a captured Spanish sloop. Charles Walker, son of Bahamian former Admiralty Judge and later Chief Justice Thomas Walker, was aboard for that voyage and Ashworth forced him to work as pilot for his vessel.


(continued in part 2)

From Capt. Vincent Pearse’s List of 209 pirates who surrendered at New Providence

South Carolina Shipping Records for May 1718

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Hang out with old Rock n’ Rollers at

Nags Head Pub & Hotel in Macclesfield

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Church of Our Lady and Saint Nicholas

St Nick's or The Sailors' Church