Acts and Ordinances of the Interregnum, 1642-1660. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1911.
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[3 April, 1644.]
Ordinance for making Salt-petre.
Whereas the great Expence of Gunpowder, occasioned by the present War within His Majesty's Dominions, hath well near consumed the old store, and doth exhaust the Magazines so fast, that, without a larger Supply, the Navy, Forts, and the Land Arms, cannot be furnished; and whereas Foreign Salt-petre is not equal in Goodness with that of our own Country, and the Foreign Gunpowder far worse conditioned, and less forceable, than that which is made in England; and whereas divers Foreign Estates have of late prohibited the Exportation of Salt-petre and Gunpowder out of their own Dominions and Countries, so that there can be little Hope of future Expectation of any Petre or Powder to be brought into this Kingdom as in former Times, which will inforce us to make Use of our own Materials; it is held most necessary, that the digging of Salt-petre, and making of Gunpowder, should by all fit means be encouraged at this Time, when it so much concerns the Public Safety: Nevertheless, to prevent the reviving of those Oppressions and Vexations exercised upon the People under the colourable Authority of Commissions granted to Salt-petre-men, which Burthen hath been eased since the Sitting of this Parliament; and to the End that there may not be any Pretence to interrupt the Work: It is Ordained, by the Lords and Commons in Parliament, That such Persons as shall be nominated and allowed by the Committee of Lords and Commons for the Safety of the Kingdom, or any Five of them, their Factors, Workmen, and Servants, shall have Power and Authority, by this present Ordinance, to search and dig for Salt-petre, in all Pigeon-houses, Stables, Cellars, Vaults, empty Ware-houses, and other Out-houses, Yards, and Places likely to afford that Earth, at fit Seasons, from Half an Hour after Sunrising in the Morning, till an Hour before Sun-setting; and in Pigeon-houses likely to afford that Earth, at fit Seasons, from Nine of the Clock in the Morning, till Three of the Clock in the Afternoon; the said Salt-petre-men at their own Cost and Charges leveling the Ground, and repairing any Damage which shall be done by them; wherein if the said Salt-petre-men do fail to give Satisfaction to the Contentment of the Owners, upon Complaint made by the Parties grieved, unto the DeputyLieutenants, Justices of Peace, Committees of Parliament, or any One or more of them, and they, or any One of them, shall have Power to compel the said Salt-petre-men to lay the Ground in as good Order as before the breaking-up (Working only ex cepted), and likewise to give such reasonable Satisfaction for the Damage, as he or they in his or their Discretion shall think fit, which not being obeyed, the name and offence of such Person or Persons refusing shall be returned to the said Committee of Lords and Commons for the Safety of the Kingdom, or any Five of them: And forasmuch as the Salt-petre-men, for the provision of the State, are to bring in a proportion of Salt-petre Weekly, which they can be in no Ways able to do in Case they should be denied to dig and work for Salt-petre, it is therefore Ordered, That in Case any Person whatsoever shall refuse to suffer Salt-petre-men, allowed by the Committee of Lords and Commons for the Safety of the Kingdom, or any Five of them, to dig, and work for Salt-petre, according to the Rules and Limitations beforementioned; upon Complaint thereof made to the Deputy Lieutenants, Justices of Peace, Committees of Parliament, or any One or more of them, then they, or any One of them, shall hereby have Power to inforce the Obedience of the Parties so refusing, or to certify their Offence, and Names of the Offenders, to the Committee of the Lords and Commons for the Safety of the Kingdom, to be proceeded against according to their Demerits: And it is likewise Ordained, That the said Salt-petre-men, for the Carriage of the Liquor, Vessels, and other Utensils, from Place to Place, and delivering of the Salt-petre where the same shall be made into Gunpowder, it shall be lawful for the said Salt-petre-men to demand and take Carts, by the known Officers, so as the Lading shall not exceed Twenty Hundred Weight, and the Journey not exceed Ten Miles by common Estimation; for Carriage whereof, the Owner shall be paid after the Rate of Eight Pence the Mile, and the empty Vessels are to be re-carried gratis; and the said Salt-petre men are likewise to be freed from all Taxes and Tolls demandable for any of their Carriages used about their said Works: and in Case any Person whatsoever shall refuse to suffer the said Saltpetre-men to dig, or to do any other Thing in Pursuance of this Ordinance, according to the Limitations and Directions hereby given, then the Salt-petre-men shall return the Names of such Persons so refusing, to the Committee of Lords and Commons for the Safety of the Kingdom, or any Five of them, to be proceeded against according to their Demerits; by which Means the Work of making Powder in this Kingdom (which else will be let fall in this Time of Danger) may be continued and cherished, and the Subjects may have the Benefit of Powder at far easier Rates than now it is sold for: For which Purpose, it is lastly Ordained, That the said Committee of Lords and Commons for the Safety of the Kingdom shall, by virtue of this Ordinance, have Power and Authority to put this Ordinance in Execution, and to do and perform all such Thing and Things as to them shall seem expedient for the better effecting of this Service.
And it is further Ordained, That such Salt-petre-men as shall be allowed as aforesaid shall take such Out-houses, for their Work-houses, to set their Vessels and Utensils in, as shall be fit, and may be reasonably spared; and to have, take, and draw Water fit for their said Works, they giving Satisfaction to the Contentment of the Owners thereof; or, if they shall not agree of such Satisfaction, that then they appeal to the Deputy Lieutenants, Justices of Peace, or Committees of Parliament, or any One or more of them, who may make such Order therein as to him or them shall seem fit, which Order shall bind both Parties.
This Ordinance of Parliament to continue for Two Years, from the 25th Day of March, 1644.