Sir Ferdinando Wainman arrived at James Fort in June 1610 with his relative—the governor, Lord De La Warr—and another kinsman, Captain William West. He was a high-ranking officer who was appointed master of the ordnance (artillery) and placed in charge of the colony’s horse troops. However, he died soon after arriving and was buried in the chancel in an anthropomorphic, or human-shaped, coffin, as was West who would die several months later. Wainman was the first English knight buried in America.

Who was Ferdinando Wainman?

Sir Ferdinando Wainman was a captain and knight who served in a high military position, being responsible for Jamestown's defenses and horse troops. He was born in 1576 in Oxfordshire, England, to an aristocratic family and was the cousin of Sir Thomas West, Lord De La Warr, the governor of Virginia. Wainman arrived at Jamestown with Lord De La Warr in June 1610. Shortly after his arrival he was appointed to the position as master of the ordnance (artillery) and named to the governing council. He did not survive long in the colony and died sometime between July and early August 1610.

How was Ferdinando Wainman buried?

Sir Ferdinando Wainman was buried in a human-shaped, or anthropomorphic, coffin with his head to the west, a typical orientation for Anglican burials. Although only stains from the original wood remained, the coffin’s original shape could be determined by the positions of the 48 large wrought nails and nail fragments that once held it together. The nails used to make this coffin were larger than those found in previous coffin excavations from early 17th-century contexts at Jamestown. Wainman’s coffin was similar to that used in the southernmost of the chancel burials for William West, also a relative of Lord De La Warr. The shapes, sizes, construction styles, and nails were nearly identical, suggesting both coffins were made by the same individual. The care put into their construction implies they were used for high status individuals. The coffins may also reflect a period of greater stability at Jamestown when a carpenter would have had the time, resources, and skills to complete them.

What evidence suggests this is Ferdinando Wainman?

Forensic evidence helps to support the identification of this burial as belonging to Wainman. The teeth appeared to be heavily worn and some were missing. That, along with other characteristics of the skeleton, led forensic anthropologists from the Smithsonian Institution to conclude these remains belonged to a male who died between 35 and 39 years, which is close to Wainman’s age of death around 34. Chemical testing of Wainman’s bones revealed a higher than normal lead exposure, suggesting he was high-born, further supporting the identification of the remains. Lead was present in pewter and glazed wares, items more accessible to the wealthy in the late 16th and early 17th centuries.

Explore the Interactive 3D Model of Ferdinando Wainman's Burial


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