Lascars in Greenwich Park 1836

Three lascars of the ‘Viceroy of India’ (1929), standing behind the wheel of one of the ship's tenders. Courtesy of the Waterline Collection, National Maritime Museum, London


With Greenwich Park only a short distance downstream from Deptford, it’s perhaps not surprising that it would have attracted sailors from around the world looking for some green space when their ships were in the Dockyard. Residents of Greenwich would have seen people from many different nations.

In 1836, a group of Lascar (non-European) sailors found themselves stuck in Deptford Dockyard for some months, waiting for their ship to sail. They had first arrived in Portsmouth in early March aboard the ‘Liverpool’, a ship of war that was a gift from the Imaum of Muscat (Oman) to King William IV.

In April, the newspapers reported that the king, in return for the ‘Liverpool’, intended to present the Imaum with the gift of the ‘Prince Regent’, a yacht docked at Deptford. In May, about 100 Lascars arrived in Deptford awaiting the refit of the yacht, but it was not until four months later that it was finally ready to leave Deptford for Portsmouth.

With so much time on their hands, it must have been difficult to fill their days, so Greenwich Park in summer would have been an attractive destination. A writer to the local paper described the scene, saying that the crew was ‘in the habit of meeting in the evening in Greenwich Park and there playing some of their national games, to the great amusement of the inhabitants of the town….’ He ‘found them sitting in groups of 6 or 8 on a lawn just at the back of the keeper’s house where they usually met’. About 200 people had gathered to watch them. However, the sailors were suddenly stopped and ordered out of the park by the park keeper.

Questions were asked about whether the park keeper had the authority to do this and whether they should be allowed to continue their recreations for the short time they were here. It was hoped that HRH Princess Sophia, the Park Ranger, would intervene and take steps to ensure that the men were convinced that ‘England is not such a brutal country’ and ensure that the park was open to them while they were here in this country.

It is not recorded what happened after this. Let’s hope the seemingly officious park keeper saw the error of his ways and our Lascar sailors were allowed to continue their games and music in front of the curious crowds.