BULLEY, SAMUEL, ship’s captain and merchant; b. probably 1737, son of John Bulley of Abbotskerswell, England; m. 1766 Joanna Wood, and they had four sons and four daughters; d. between 1806 and 1809 in Teignmouth, England.
The firm of Bulley and Job was one of a dozen which arose in and around the town of Teignmouth between 1770 and 1820, all owing their existence to the Newfoundland fishery, and especially the deep-sea fishery on the Grand Banks. The Bulleys, together with almost every other family in the region, had been connected with the Newfoundland fishery for generations, but few had ever derived wealth or status from the trade, particularly when compared with the merchants of Poole, Topsham, or Dartmouth. Their opportunity came with the end of the Seven Years’ War, which signalled an expansion in the Newfoundland fishery lasting for nearly 30 years and allowed many servants, ship’s captains, bye-boat keepers, and planters to rise in the world. The men from the villages around Teignmouth chose as their vehicle the bank fishery, which expanded rapidly after 1763. Entry was easy because the vessels were small and cheap, whilst the profit from fishing was enlarged by that which came from transporting the horde of servants and bye-boat keepers who migrated annually between the British Isles and Newfoundland.
The early career of Samuel Bulley is uncertain, mainly because there were three persons of this name operating from Devon to Newfoundland between 1750 and 1780. He probably began as an apprentice to one of the Devon bye-boat keepers or shipowners, but in 1770 he obtained a vessel of his own, which he commanded for five years in the bank fishery. He was probably in partnership with the Wilking family, owners of a plantation in St John’s. The War of American Independence must have caused great problems for Bulley since between 1775 and 1783 his name disappears both as a shipowner and as a visitor to Newfoundland. He probably became a junior partner in the firm of Samuel Cocking and Company. However, with the end of the war Bulley formed a new partnership with Daniel Codner of Kingskerswell and Elias Rendell of Combeinteignhead. In 1788 John Job, who seems to have been brought up by Bulley after he was orphaned in 1766 and had served his apprenticeship as a cooper, was sent to St John’s to manage the Newfoundland end of the trade. Soon afterwards Job married one of Bulley’s daughters and became a partner in the company. By 1796 Codner and Rendell had dropped out and the firm took on the title of Bulley and Job. Bulley’s two eldest sons, Samuel and Thomas, were now in their teens and in 1797 Samuel Jr was sent to Newfoundland as agent under the tutelage of John Job. A year later Thomas, at the age of 18, became commander of the firm’s brig Flora. In 1799 the Flora, with Job and the two boys on board, was taken by a French privateer on the voyage out to Newfoundland. They returned to England only after an uncomfortable captivity of six months. This set-back must have sorely tried Samuel Bulley, who was left with no one to organize the trade in St John’s. Despite it, and despite other wartime losses, the firm seems to have flourished, for whilst the Dartmouth and Poole merchants were reducing their trade under the impact of the war, Bulley and Job steadily increased in size. Their shipping fleet, for example, averaged but one vessel a year between 1786 and 1793; between 1798 and 1806 they averaged four.
When the Treaty of Amiens was signed in 1802, Samuel Bulley could look back with relief, if not pleasure, upon the survival of his business during the long war years. However, times were changing: the bank fishery, seriously hit by enemy attacks and by the depredations of naval press-gangs, which pressed many of the most experienced seamen, was declining rapidly. At the same time the whole of the west-of-England-Newfoundland connection was weakening as the resident population in Newfoundland increased and the Industrial Revolution was expanding the manufactories of northern and central England at the expense of those established in the West Country. As a result the trade to Newfoundland was increasingly being organized from Liverpool and London rather than from Dartmouth, Exeter, or Poole. In 1805 the firm made a decision which was to prove its salvation: John Job and Bulley’s youngest son, William Wilking, opened a branch in Liverpool. Samuel Sr probably had little to do with the decision for by now he was seriously ill. He died soon after, leaving Job and his sons with a modest fortune and a secure base for the future.
Devon Record Office, 53/6, box 34, will of Daniel Codner of Kingskerswell, 1798; 2954A; 3119A; 3289S/1–2; 3419A; 3420A; Exeter City Arch., town customs accounts, 1750–1806. Maritime Hist. Group Arch., Keith Matthews, “Profiles of Water Street merchants” (typescript, 1980). PANL, GN 2/1; P5/11. PRO, ADM 7/154–55; 7/363–400; BT 98/3–17; CO 194. St James Anglican Church (Teignmouth, Eng.), West Teignmouth, parish records. Lloyd’s List. London Evening-Post. Public Advertiser (London). Trewman’s Exeter Flying Post, or Plymouth and Cornish Advertiser (Exeter). Whitehall Evening-Post or London Intelligencer (London). Keith Matthews, A “who was who” of families engaged in the fisheries and settlement of Newfoundland, 1660–1840 ([St John’s], 1971). Reg. of shipping. C. G. Head, Eighteenth century Newfoundland: a geographer’s perspective (Toronto, 1976). Keith Matthews, “A history of the west of England-Newfoundland fishery” (phd thesis, Univ. of Oxford, 1968); Lectures on the history of Newfoundland: 1500–1830 (St John’s, 1973).