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ENCOUNTER HALL


encounter

The story opens with a modern day search for the log of the Constance Rose, a ship wrecked on the coast of Queensland in 1616. The log is found in the ruins of Encounter Hall, a seventeenth-century English mansion destroyed by German bombers in 1944.

The log reveals that, following the wreck of the Constance Rose, the master, Howard Weston, builds a smaller replacement ship from the timber of the wreck and sets out to sail the new vessel back to England.

The nearest British trading post is at Amboyna in the East Indies and there he becomes involved in the struggles between the British and the Dutch for control of the spice trade. The Dutch East India Company is better resourced and is endeavouring to force the British out of the Indies. The only way to redress the balance is to possess a ship that is stronger than the best of the Dutch fleet. To obtain such a ship Howard must return to England. He leaves his master’s mate, Jesse Knockson, to maintain a presence in the Indies.

In 1623, the Dutch execute ten British traders in what becomes known as the Amboyna Massacre. Jesse is not involved but his support for the Sultan of Ternate and his marriage to the Sultan’s daughter, increase the tensions with the Dutch. Howard returns with a new ship to tip the scales in Jesse's favour.

In Store Price: $AU24.95 
Online Price:   $AU23.95

 

ISBN: 978-1-921731-94-5
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 180
Genre: Fiction
 

Cover: Clive Dalkins


Author: John Lambert
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2011
Language: English

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AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY 

John Lambert was a teacher of history who began writing historical fiction when he retired. This is his fifth novel to be published. 

His stories provide the opportunity to show how the past influences the present and how history illustrates the best, and the worst, of human behaviour. While the characters in the stories are mostly fictional, their actions are closely related to the historical context. History is about people; fiction and history combine to make believable and interesting studies of human achievement.

INTRODUCTION

 HISTORICAL CONTEXT

 Torres Strait was discovered in 1606 but there is no recorded landing of Europeans on the east coast of Terra Australis till Captain James Cook in 1770. The stories of ‘Lost and Forgotten’ and ‘Encounter Hall’ fit into this gap.

Raids by nationals of other European states upon Spanish treasure ships and Spanish outposts in the West Indies were regular features of the international scene in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

In the East Indies, the Dutch replaced the Portuguese as the dominant trading power and effectively rebuffed attempts by the British to gain a share of the trade in spices. The British turned their attention to India.

The Amboyna Massacre in 1623 was historical and continued as a source of tension between Britain and Holland for many years. The beheading of the British ‘factor’ in Amboyna, Gabriel Towerson, and other British traders, was largely as described in ‘Encounter Hall’.

THE LINK BETWEEN ‘ENCOUNTER HALL’  AND ‘LOST AND FORGOTTEN’

The Thompson family own a property, the Bunker, on the coast of Queensland. On an island just off the coast, they find the wreck of a ship several hundred years old and this leads to the discovery of a visit to Australia’s eastern shores by English sailors 150 years before Captain Cook.

In the tradition of Francis Drake, Howard Weston plunders the treasure of the Spaniards in the Caribbean in the early seventeenth century. Adventures off Havana, Porto Bello, and Cartegena, lead to a journey through the Straits of Magellan and along the Pacific coast of South America. There the English sack Tumbes and Panama and head across the Pacific to find Terra Australis. Caught in a cyclone, their ship, the Constance Rose, is destroyed on the coast of the new land.

Howard and his crew determine to build a smaller vessel from the timbers of the wreck and return to England. They have to leave some of the guns of the Constance Rose on the island, though Howard vows to come back to claim them. His Bible, carefully wrapped for preservation, is also left. Its discovery by the Thompsons provides much of the evidence for the voyage of the Constance Rose. The Bible also includes a reference to Howard’s return for the guns and the name of his home in England, Encounter Hall.

The ‘Encounter Hall’ story describes the adventures of Howard Weston after the wreck of the Constance Rose. With him are Marianne, his wife, Glenn Masterton, sailing master, Elizabeth, Glenn’s wife, Cliff Williams, master gunner, Will Emerson, bo’sun, and Jesse Knockson, master’s mate.

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

It was twenty years before Brendon was able to take up his grandfather’s challenge and undertake a search for ‘Encounter Hall’ in Devon. By then Grandfather Jim’s ashes had long since been scattered in the gardens at the ‘Bunker’. Grandmother Jillian, however, was still very much alive and continued to host the regular family gatherings at the property on the Queensland coast.

The ocean had quickly filled in the ditch in the beach dug by Grandfather and the bones of the Constance Rose were once again buried under several metres of sand. All the family agreed it was better that way. No one outside the family knew of the wreck or of the history attached to it. Howard Weston’s Bible and John Stroby’s plaque were kept securely locked in the safe. The metre-long piece of carved timber still graced the space above the fireplace, but to all appearances it was just a decorative item of debris washed up on the beach. The fact that it was English oak and four hundred years old was a well-kept secret.

Brendon remembered every detail of that momentous weekend in 1988 when Grandfather had told the family the story of the Constance Rose, and had taken them to the ocean beach of the island to show them the stumps of the ribs of the ship in the excavated trench. He recalled so vividly the cave with the marks in the sand where the guns had rested, the emotion with which they had all watched, back at the Bunker, as Grandfather had unwrapped the Bible and the plaque, and the overwhelming feeling of triumph which they had all experienced as Grandfather read the statement from Howard Weston of Encounter Hall that he had returned in 1625 to reclaim the guns of the Constance Rose left behind in 1617.

The memories, and the emotion, had stayed with him throughout the twenty years, as had the determination, one day, to find Encounter Hall, to discover the records of the journey back to England in 1617, and to uncover the story of the return to Terra Australis in 1625. But it had taken a long time to fulfil this mission.

Success in secondary school had been followed by university degrees in economics and arts with a rather unusual combination of subjects. Although majoring in economics and corporate finance, Brendon had also studied history and archaeology. First class honours in economics had gained him a position with a merchant bank. Five years of recognised achievement brought the opportunity for post-graduate study at the London School of Economics and at last he was within reach of Plymouth.

Even then he had to wait till the vacation break at the end of first term.

He enjoyed the drive once he managed to find his way out of London. Journeying via Salisbury and Exeter to visit the cathedrals, he arrived in Plymouth mid afternoon, marvelling at the relatively short space of time required to travel between cities in England in comparison to Australia.

Much of Plymouth had been rebuilt following bomb damage in the Second World War. As a major naval base within easy flying distance of occupied France, the city had suffered greatly in the ‘Plymouth Blitz’. The rebuilding included the town centre, the civic centre, and the headquarters of the City Council.

Brendon had given considerable thought to the nature and content of the enquiries he would have to make to find Encounter Hall. It was obvious he would have to ask for directions and that process would require a plausible reason for doing so. As the course he was doing involved detailed analytical study of international monetary exchange, it was not difficult to devise a quite genuine course assignment that happened to include an historical component. ‘The monetary exchange arrangements between the English merchants of the Channel ports, Europe, and the Americas since 1600’ was an ideal topic.

Before leaving London, Brendon had arranged accommodation for three nights, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, at a local hotel and he booked in there prior to visiting the City Council. His room contained a district telephone directory several inches thick but, despite its comprehensiveness, there was no entry for Encounter Hall or for Weston Hall. There were five pages of Westons but none had an address that gave any hope of relating to a ‘Hall’ of any type.

At the City Council enquiries counter he asked for information on the whereabouts of Encounter Hall and Weston Hall, owned by the Weston family. The receptionist, a rather bubbly young lady not long out of secondary school, asked rather tartly if he had looked in the street directory. Brendon was pleased to be able to answer truthfully that he had, but without success. He went on to explain briefly the historical nature of the research he was doing, making it sound very important. At this the young lady was inspired to refer him to the Planning Department.

At the Planning Department there was another receptionist who took a note of his request, pointed him to a chair to sit on while he waited, and then disappeared. Ten minutes later she reappeared to say that Mr Sergeant would see him when he finished his meeting.

Fifty minutes later as the clock on the wall approached 4.00pm a gentleman who had to be Mr Sergeant emerged from a side door, full of apologies for keeping him waiting. He was tall and carefully dressed in a pinstripe suit. His dark eyes gave the impression that he was over burdened with duties that could never be surmounted. He showed Brendon into a small interview room and when they were both seated said most politely, ‘Professor Thompson, I’m Allan Sergeant, Senior Planner. I understand you are leading a research team from the London School of Economics examining the international trade of merchants from Plymouth. How can we help you?’

Brendon had experienced the phenomenon of message distortion before but had never had it previously work to his advantage. On this occasion, it had gained him an interview with an official many levels senior to that which he had expected. The professorial accolade, while probably many years premature, was at least welcome. The temptation to embroider his story a little was hard to resist but discretion dictated that he not do so.

‘I’m Brendon Thompson, a post-graduate student at the London School of Economics. I’m not a professor, though one day I would like to be. I’m looking for information about the merchants of Plymouth in the early decades of the seventeenth century, particularly their relations with the Dutch and the American colonies. Your receptionist down on the main counter sent me to your department. Perhaps she made a mistake.’

‘Well, never mind. You’re here, so how can I help?’

‘Specifically, I wish to obtain details of the trading voyages undertaken by the Weston family. The Westons were among the most successful of the independent merchants that operated in competition with the British East India Company. The family established two substantial homes on the outskirts of Plymouth. I would like to find those homes if they are still standing and hopefully talk with the family descendants about early documents. The homes were called Weston Hall and Encounter Hall. Do you know where they might be?’

Allan Sergeant looked completely lost. ‘I’ve not heard of either of them and I’ve been a planner with the city for ten years. There are hundreds of Westons listed in the phone book who may be relations but I don’t know of the homes. Have you any idea of the location?’

Brendon recalled Grandfather Jim’s statement taken from the notes in Howard’s Bible that Weston Hall was to the east of Plymouth, so he answered, ‘Somewhere to the east of the city in farmland, but that was in the 1600s.’

‘All now built out,’ said Allan, ‘with a lot of new housing to replace the bomb damage from the war. That whole area suffered quite extensively. What about the location of Encounter Hall?’

‘All I can offer is the opinion that it might have been somewhere between Plymouth and Salcombe, because at least one of the Weston ships was built at Salcombe.’

‘That’s a huge distance. It could be anywhere.’ Allan clearly thought the interview might now come to an end. ‘I don’t think I can give you much more assistance but, before you go, let me run it past old Harry. Harry Dodds is the oldest member of Council staff and has a long memory.’

Allan left the room and was away about five minutes. When he returned he brought Harry with him. Allan introduced him and then said, ‘Harry thinks he can help.’

Harry pushed his bushy grey hair back over his forehead and a grin spread from ear to ear. ‘The old memory can sometimes be useful. There used to be a country mansion called Encounter Hall a few miles out on the Salcombe Road. A huge place it was, full of turrets and chimneys. In the war it was taken over by the army and was a major centre for the assembling of the forces for D-Day. There were a lot of top brass there. The Luftwaffe took it out on one of their attacks in August 1944. The top brass had gone by then because the Normandy invasion was well underway.

‘The bombs did so much damage that after the war the whole building was bulldozed. The family that lived there constructed a small cottage on another part of the site. Who lives there now I’m not sure but I can find out readily enough.’

‘I might leave you with Harry,’ said Allan, seeing a way to extricate himself politely. ‘Harry will find the name of the owners and give you the address.’

Brendon expressed his thanks and followed Harry down the corridor.

 

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