William Vaughan and New Cambriol

Sir William Vaughan (1575-1641) was a Welsh lawyer, scholar and poet. Deeply concerned about poor economic conditions in Wales, he became interested in overseas colonization. He decided to try and plant a colony in Newfoundland because it was easily accessible and possessed an established fishery.

In 1616 he purchased from the Newfoundland Company the Avalon Peninsula south of a line from Caplin Bay (now Calvert) across to Placentia Bay. He called the area "New Cambriol" – a "little Wales" in the New World.

The following year he sent out a few ill-prepared colonists to the harbour of Aquaforte, where they spent the winter huddled in cabins built by migratory fishermen for summer use. In 1618 Vaughan hired the experienced fishing master Richard Whitbourne to bring colonists and provisions to the precarious settlement, and appointed him governor. Whitbourne did his best to reorganize the colony by moving it to better quarters in Renews. Unfortunately, he had to deal with a piratical attack on one of his ships by deserters from Sir Walter Raleigh's Guiana fleet. In the end only six colonists spent the winter of 1619 at Renews and they abandoned the settlement the following year.

Aquaforte, 1857
Aquaforte, 1857
In 1617 Sir William Vaughan sent a few ill-prepared colonists to Aquaforte.
Drawing by Rev. William Grey. From William Grey, Sketches of Newfoundland and Labrador (Ipswitch, Eng.: S.H. Cowell, Anastatic Press, 1858).

Vaughan retained his property south of Renews, after selling off the Ferryland area to Sir George Calvert and the Fermeuse lot to Henry Cary, Lord Falkland. There is no evidence that he made any further attempts at colonization, though some sources claim he set up a short-lived settlement near Trepassey.

Vaughan promoted Newfoundland settlement in an unusual, fanciful book, The Golden Fleece (1626). He purports to have written it in Newfoundland, but it is doubtful that he was ever actually on the island. In the end the Welsh poet produced more publications than colonies. His governor, Whitbourne, was also a writer, and in 1620 published the useful and detailed Discourse and Discovery of Newfoundland.

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