Sir Francis Samuel Drake (d.1789) received his first command in 1756 when promoted to the sloop Viper; subsequently he succeeded his brother Francis William as commander of the 50-gun Falkland for five years. Over the ensuing twenty years his service career was wide-ranging, over the West Indies, St. Helena, Bretagne, along the coast of North America and in the St Lawrence seaway in Canada, in the Leeward Islands, and at Plymouth.
In 1779 he sailed for America and shuttled several times between that coast and the West Indies, where on 26 September 1780 he received a commission as rear-admiral. He was detached under Sir Samuel Hood in the Gibraltar to blockade Martinique, and further engaged in action off the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. He afterwards returned with Hood to the West Indies and in the Princessa took part in the defense of St Christopher's in January 1782. On 12 April of that year he commanded the fleet of the van under Sir George Rodney in the battle of Dominica. His conduct upon this occasion earned him a baronetcy, on 28 May 1782, and shortly thereafter the present freedom-box was created in commemoration. London's Roll of Fame 1757-1884, London, 1884 records that
'At a Court of Common Council, 22nd June, 1782', a motion was made, and question put:-
'That the Freedom of this City be presented in Gold Boxes of One Hundred Guineas value each, to the Right Honourable LORD HOOD, Rear-Admiral of the Blue, and Rear-Admiral SIR FRANCIS SAMUEL DRAKE as a testimony of the high opinion which the members of this Court entertain of their judicious, brave, and able conduct in the various engagements with the enemy's fleets in the West Indies'
The same was unanimously Resolved in the affirmative, and ordered accordingly.'
The value of the freedom-box, at 100 guineas, was the usual reward for victorious seamen. The Common Council was informed on 21 November 1782 that Drake was then abroad on His Majesty's service and it was ordered that the freedom-box be deposited with the Chamberlain until Drake's arrival back in England. The Chamberlain was also ordered on that date to pay Messrs Aldridge and Green the sum of £109 for the box and a blue case (Corporation of London Records Office, Journal 68, f.281r) which payment was duly recorded in the City's Cash Accounts, vol., f.256v.
Rear-Admiral Drake continued in the West Indies until the peace, whereupon he returned to England and was elected MP for Plymouth in 1789; he was further appointed a junior lord of the admiralty, but died shortly afterwards, on 19 October 1789. He was twice married, but left no issue, and the baronetcy became extinct.
The goldsmith Charles Aldridge, a freeman of the City in the Goldsmiths' Company, was a member of the Common Council for the ward of Aldersgate from circa 1775-1810; the Corporation Pocket Books of 1788 and 1807-8 list his address as 18 Aldersgate Street. His partnership with Henry Green dates from possibly as early as 1772, but their first mark together was entered in 1775; both partners acquired the freedom of the company within two days of one another.