Trinity House of Deptford Transactions, 1609-35 London Record Society 19. Originally published by London Record Society, London, 1983.
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The king referred their petition about lighthouses to the privy council, who concluded that Trinity House as persons trusted by the statute should have the sole right of providing all seamarks. But when Sir William Erskine pressed his suit, the king referred the case to Sir Francis Bacon, then attorney general, who certified that there was authority 'mixed with a trust' settled in Trinity House to provide lighthouses and other marks, and that this authority could not be transferred from them by law . When this opinion was read on 26 March 1617, the privy council confirmed their former opinion, saving the king's pleasure. Nevertheless Erskine has pressed his suit and obtained the king's hand and the grant is ready for the seal. The ensuing inconveniences [see 116] are for the privy council to consider.
The inconveniences of the king's grant if Erskine erects lights: (a) The grantees are unskilled and those whom they employ are less qualified than the masters of Trinity House to place lighthouses. (b) There are sufficient lighthouses already erected at or near Winterton Ness. (c) Multiplicity of lighthouses and seamarks confounds pilots, thereby endangering ships, goods and lives. (d) The contribution offered by traders to Trinity House to erect and maintain lights at Winterton Ness is only 6d per 20 chaldrons and no collections have yet been made. But the imposition approved by the king is believed to be 3s 4d on 20 chaldrons. (e) The discontent caused by so great a levy on so poor a trade is left for consideration. (f) Many ships will cease trading, thereby diminishing coal supplies and raising prices in the city and the country.
118. [After 7 Jan 1618. (fn. 1) Trinity House] to the lord chancellor
He has been a father to the country and to their house in love and in his opinion to the privy council when the king referred the cause to him . They seek his continued support in the matter of lights both in their own interest and in that of the seamen of the kingdom.
By reason of the king's proclamation [on 17 Apr. 1615] against the use of strangers' ships, the petitioners have been forced, sundry times within these 2 years, after the sale of goods exported from Newcastle to the Seventeen Provinces, to make over money from thence to France and to other countries, causing losses to themselves and to the king's customs, because there were no English ships to transport back such goods as they could buy. Also by reason of the proclamation they are unable to export as much coarse cloth as formerly because they dare not venture loading a whole ship in case of miscarriage for then they would be undone. The king loses customs both ways, the petitioners lose their trade, coarse cloth is unsold, and the return on such sales is lost. They do not believe that this was the meaning of the proclamation, and hope that Trinity House will confess as much. They seek permission to export in strangers' ships to the United Provinces and to Germany up to 6 small fardels of cloth in any one stranger's ship, as they used to do, and to bring back up to 20 tons of commodities, the master bringing a certificate under the seal of the port where the cargo was laden stating that no English ship was available. They hope that Trinity House will agree that this will not prejudice navigation but will advance customs and help the poor town of Newcastle.
Their opinion and that of the merchant adventurers [of London] was sought on the petition [120–1]. They do not know the extent of the trade and the inconveniences which might be caused to the merchant adventurers [of London]. The Newcastle merchant adventurers might however load small ships of their own town without wrong to themselves by filling the rest of the cargo space with coal, the profit from which will pay for the freight and employ their ships and poor seamen. Besides there is at Newcastle a Trinity House whose care it is to maintain their own navigation and who pretend to have in that river as much privilege as Trinity House [of Deptford] in this but no certificate of toleration seems to have been made by them.
Because of the dangerous entrance to the river Humber, where there is continual loss of ships, men and merchandise, the Trinity House of Hull asked Sir Martin Frobisher to obtain from the late queen a grant for the erection of a watchhouse at Ravenspur or Kilnsea. Sir Martin died before it was fully effected. The petitioner, being asked to do so, is willing to forward so charitable a work which will benefit the king's subjects and strangers trading to northern parts, who are now cast away for want of a light. Subject to a certificate from the principal masters and owners trading to those parts concerning the need for a light, and the approval of the lord high admiral, he seeks letters patent for a watchlight at Ravenspur or Kilnsea. He would pay an annual rent of £6 13s 4d to the exchequer and seeks an imposition on shipping which is similar to that for the lights at Dungeness and Winterton.
In 36 Elizabeth letters patent were granted to Trinity House conferring upon them, among other things, the office of lastage* and ballastage of all ships entering or leaving the Thames or elsewhere between London Bridge and the main sea [C 66/1410, mm. 11–12]. The king is asked to confirm the grant. They use the revenue to support 200 poor, aged and distressed seamen, their wives and children.
|London, St Katherine's, etc.||25||1||10||6|
This amounts to £209 12s 6d a year [i.e. 13 four week periods]. In addition, between £50 and £70 is given annually to English, French, and Dutchmen who have suffered shipwreck and to many more poor, lame and impotent men, women and fatherless children.
In reply to 124, they have consulted the Trinity House of Hull whose answer they have received . Both Houses consider the proposal for a light at Ravenspur is impossible, while a light at Kilnsea, 3 or 4 miles away, would be dangerous for shipping, the reasons for which can be given if desired. If nevertheless the king decides that a light shall be erected, the allowances for the 2 earlier lights [at Dungeness and Winterton] would suffice for it and for many more lights, if needed.
Since doubts have been expressed concerning the wording of the letters patent of 36 Elizabeth [C 66/1410, mm. 11–12], and others may thereby be enabled to provide beacons, buoys and landmarks, thus imperilling navigation, the king is asked to confirm the letters patent and, subject to the advice of counsel, to add a prohibition against others exercising these rights.
In accordance with the chancery order of 12 June last, they summoned both parties and are of opinion that £23 10s is due to the widow Lawson. They are informed that John Kinge, half-owner of the ship, has already paid half, and John Harvye, a quarter-owner, should pay a quarter. The other quarter-owner died in the time of the voyage, leaving as executor a brother who is also dead. A third brother then became owner 'by executorship' long after the end of the voyage. Whether he is liable for a quarter is for the court to decide.
At the request of the bearers, the bailiffs, burgesses and citizens of Dunwich, Southwold and Walberswick in Suffolk, they certify that the haven belonging to those towns is much decayed and unless action is taken will be 'darved up' and become irrecoverable to the ruin of the inhabitants and to the prejudice of the shipping and seamen of the kingdom.
Their letter of 1 Aug.  was received on the 18th. It is true that 26 or 27 years ago their predecessors (none of whom is now alive) petitioned Sir Martin Frobisher to secure the queen's permission to build a lighthouse at Ravenspur. 'Kelsey' by 'which we rather suppose is meant …Kilnsey' [Kilnsea] was not, however, mentioned in the petition, nor is it, or any other place near the river Humber, fitting for a lighthouse, apart from Ravenspur. At the time of the petition, Ravenspur was on very firm ground and was a good site, containing as it did at least 300 acres of dry ground. But, contrary to the expectations of their predecessors and of themselves, it is now utterly worn away and surrounded [by water]. Although their predecessors meant well in trying to provide a lighthouse, the imposition would have been an intolerable burden; 6d per 20 chaldrons would have been quite enough. Year by year, they have seen the ruin of Ravenspur and have not moved the petitioner, Mr. Frobisher. Although he has shown them today proposals for a light which are signed by a number of neighbours and younger brethren of the guild among others, those who have put their hands to it were ill advised to do so and the reasons quoted were insufficient and tend more to the procuring of shipwreck than preventing it.
John Preston, mayor; Thomas Ferres, John Woodmansey, wardens; William Smorthwaite, Cuthbert Thompson, John Brighouse, Andrew Rakes, George Carlill, elder brethren; Thomas Woodmansey, Martin Jefferson, John Helmster, Robert Raykes, assistants.