Bristol Town Duties A Collection of Original and Interesting Documents [Etc.]. Originally published by [s.n.], Bristol, 1828.
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Chapter IV. Wharfage, Cranage and Pilotage.
And here, before we refer to the creation of the present Wharfage Toll, and to prevent any misunderstanding, in supposing it the same as the Murage, Keyage and Pavage, granted in the 1st of Edward the 4th, and of which we have before treated, let us suppose for a moment their original identity, and the following inconsistencies would naturally present themselves. In the first place, the Burgesses of Bristol, by Charter, would be exempted from the payment, as also the Burgesses of most of the sea-port towns of Ireland; whereas, burgesses, as well as strangers, have always paid the Wharfage Toll. In the second place, there would be no toll on Exports; the Keyage being confined to goods coming for sale. Again, the Wharfage is a Package Rate, but the Keyage is an ad valorem duty; any surplus, likewise, after repairing the Key, would be handed over to the Paving Commissioners, towards repairing the Paving; but when we come to prove the origin of the present Wharfage Toll, the impossibility of the Corporation taking such a course will be easily conceived, so that any farther enlargement on the point would be idle and superfluous.
We proceed, therefore, to observe, that about the year 1600, upon the Key Walls and Wharfs getting out of order, the question of repairs was agitated; and at a Meeting of the Common Council, (fn. 1) in 1606, a new toll for the purpose was agreed upon; of which the following is a copy of the Minute, viz.
"February, 1606,—At a Meeting of the Common Council, it was agreed, that an application should be made to the King in Council, for a confirmation of a Tax on all Merchandize brought to or exported from the city, as well by Strangers, as by Burgesses, towards repairing (fn. 2) the Back, Key, and Bridges."
The words of this Resolution are too clear to be misunderstood, and clearly prove the toll, therein referred to, is the same as the present Wharfage; the one was on Imports and Exports, for the repairs of Keys and Wharfs, to be paid by Strangers as well as Burgesses, in which they entirely correspond with our present description of Wharfage; and from whence arises the following important question. Have the Corporation any such power to create Bye-Laws to tax Strangers? If we examine the words of the Charter, on which this right is presumed, we find it was not only limited to the Burgesses of the town, but that two honest men were to be appointed to receive the money, and to give an account of its expenditure. Indeed it might have been easily predicted, that if strangers had been made liable, the city of Bristol would have been but little inconvenienced by them.
"And that the said Mayor, Sheriff, and forty men, and their successors, according to the necessities and profits touching the said town of Bristol, its suburbs and precincts, by their common consent, shall be empowered to assess taxes upon the goods of all men of the town of Bristol, its suburbs and precincts aforesaid, of every one according to his estate, as well upon his rents, as according to his mysteries and merchandizes and otherwise, as they shall see best to be done, and to levy them without impeachment of us or our heirs, the Justices or other officers of us or our heirs whatever; so that the monies thence arising may remain in the custody of two honest men of the same town, suburbs and precincts of Bristol, to be chosen to this office by common consent, and shall be expended out of the custody of the said two men for the necessities and profits of the said town of Bristol, its suburbs and precincts, when there shall be occasion: which two men shall be accountable for the same before the Mayor of Bristol, for the time being, and others to be deputed for the purpose by the Commonalty of the said town of Bristol."
From the precautions above recited, it must be evident, that the Corporation had not the power in their own hands to levy a tax on the merchandize of strangers at all, and therefore the Wharfage Duty, which includes strangers, is in itself an illegal imposition. (fn. 3) Another objection, however, arises, both to the management and design of this new Toll under Bye-Law; for at the time it was started, there was actually a Toll, and which is collected to the present day, expressly granted for the repairs of the Keys; so that, at all events, the Toll connected with the Bye-Law alluded to, could never have been legally applied to any other purposes than to making up certain deficiencies, to which the former Toll, for repairs, might be casually subject. But to proceed.
Upon passing the Bye-Law, the Corporation appointed the Water Bailiff, Wharfage Collector, and they continued to receive the toll till the year 1660; when they proposed to make a large outlay, by extending the Key-wall on the Broad Quay. For this purpose the Society of Merchants surrendered a Lease, of Anchorage, Moorage and Canage, which they then held, and engaged with the Corporation to build a new Key-wall. Upon which a new lease was granted them, for 99 years, with the addition of Wharfage to the former Anchorage, Moorage and Canage. And here it may not be uninteresting to some of our readers to introduce a copy of the Letters Patent by which this ancient Society of Merchant Venturers were first incorporated, viz.—
The King, to all, to whom, &c. greeting. We have inspected the Letters Patent of Lord Edward the 6th, late King of England, made in these words:—Edward the 6th, by the grace of God, King of England, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, and on earth the supreme head of the English and Irish Church. To all to whom these present letters shall come, greeting. Know ye, that we are informed, from the lamentable representation of Edward Pryn, Thomas Hicks, and Robert Butler, our faithful subjects of our city of Bristol, and of others, merchant adventurers of the city aforesaid, called Merchant Venturers, putting their factors, servants, goods, and merchandizes in danger on the sea, to divers foreign parts, for exporting merchandize out of this our kingdom of England, and for importing into the same kingdom, that divers artificers and handicraftmen, dwelling in the same city, and having occupations, for obtaining their support, who never have been apprentices, nor instructed for, or in the proper course of the art of merchandize aforesaid, nor have any good knowledge in the same art, which they commonly exercise, use and occupy, in the said course of merchandize, to and from foreign parts, commonly in foreign ships and vessels, on account of which divers kinds of commodities of this our kingdom of England, secretly are exported and carried away, in contempt of good order, and of our laws, and in great defraud of our customs, by such persons using and exercising such evil ways and irregularities as are, and do exist, to the great scandal of the said merchants, and decay of ships and mariners, and of the port of the city aforesaid, and chiefly of the said merchants, to and in the said way of exporting merchandize, and to the great restraint of those employed in the same way; Wherefore, they have besought us to provide a suitable remedy for them, We, for our safety in this behalf, and for the benefit and good ordering of the aforesaid merchants in future to be had, wishing them to prosper, as we are bound of our especial grace, we have granted and given licence, and by these presents, do grant and give licence, for us, our heirs and successors, as much as in us lies, to the aforesaid Edward Pryn, Thomas Hicks, and Robert Butler, and others, the Merchants' Adventurers, called Merchant Venturers, of our said city of Bristol, that from henceforth they shall have one Master of the art or mistery of Merchant Venturers, of the city aforesaid; and we do make, ordain, and constitute by these presents, the same Edward Pryn, Master of the art or mistery aforesaid; and that they shall have two Wardens of the art or mistery aforesaid; and we do make, ordain, and constitute by these presents, the same Thomas Hicks and Robert Butler, Wardens of the art or mistery aforesaid; and we do nominate, assign, appoint, and declare, by these presents, the said Edward, Master of the art or mistery aforesaid; and the aforesaid Thomas and Robert, Wardens of the art or mistery aforesaid; and that, as well the aforesaid Edward, Thomas and Robert, as others, free men of the said city, being of the art or mistery of Merchant Venturers aforesaid, who now are, and who shall be, from time to time, for ever of the city aforesaid, from henceforth shall be in fact, deed, and name, one body and one commonalty corporate, for ever, by the name of the Master, Wardens, and Commonalty of Merchant Venturers, of the city of Bristol, and that they shall have perpetual succession; and that the said Master, Wardens, and Commonalty, and their successors, for ever, every year, and as often as it shall be necessary, may elect, and make of themselves, one Master and two Wardens, or Guardians, to assist in the business of the same, to inspect, rule, and govern the mistery and Commonalty aforesaid, and all the men, and their occupations, services, servants, stuffs and labor, wares and merchandize of the same mistery and commonalty, in the city and suburbs aforesaid, for ever; and the Master and Wardens of the preceding year, to remove, and the defects of the same concerning the said mistery, duly to correct, and cause to be corrected, and that the said Master Wardens and Commonalty aforesaid, shall have perpetual succession as aforesaid, and a common seal, to serve for the business of the said art or mistery and commonalty aforesaid, for ever. And that the same Master, Wardens, and Commonalty, and their successors, by the name of the Master, Wardens, and Commonalty of the mistery or art of Merchant Venturers of the city of Bristol, shall be able and capable in law, and may plead and be impleaded, answer and be answered, defend and be defended, before whatsoever Judges and Justices, temporal or spiritual, or temporal, or other persons whomsoever, in whatsoever courts, and in all other actions, real, personal, and mixt, and pleas of novel dissire; also in pleas, suits, plaints, business and demands whatsoever, concerning the art or mistery aforesaid, and the business of the same only; and that every such Master and Warden of the mistery or art aforesaid, elected for each year, as is premised, shall take a corporal oath before the Mayor and Aldermen for the time being of the city aforesaid, well and faithfully to do and execute that office to which he shall be so elected. And we do give licence, by these presents, to the said Mayor and Aldermen for the time being, to administer such oath. And moreover, that the same Master, Wardens, and commonalty of the said mistery or art, and their successors, shall have full power and authority to make and ordain, as often as, and when there shall be need, statutes and ordinances, only for the good and wholesome governance, overseeing, inspection, and connection of the mistery or art aforesaid, and of the men of the same mistery or art, touching and concerning only that mistery and art, according to the necessity and exigency of the matter, and all and singular those things, they shall have power to perform lawfully and fearlessly, without let, hinderance, or impediment of us, our heirs or successors, the Justiciaries, Escheators, Sheriffs, Coroners, or others, our Bailiffs and Officers of us, our heirs, or successors whomsoever, so that the same statutes and ordinances be not against our prerogative, or the laws and customs of our kingdom of England, nor in prejudice of the Mayor of our city aforesaid. And moreover we will, and by these presents, do grant for us, our heirs and successors, to the aforesaid Master, Wardens, and Commonalty, that no artificer of the city aforesaid, for the time being, shall exercise the traffic of merchandize in foreign parts, or in this kingdom or dominion, unless he is admitted into the society and incorporation aforesaid, by the said Master and Wardens, nor any other person, unless only such as are, or hereafter shall be, apprentices to the said mistery, or art of merchants aforesaid; or shall have served the same mistery for the space of seven years, provided always, that the statutes and ordinances hereafter to be made and ordained by the said Master, Wardens, and Commonalty, only shall concern the Master, Wardens, and Commonalty aforesaid, or the men of that commonalty, and not others, who are not, nor shall be, of that commonalty, and so that they be not against our prerogative, or the laws and customs of our kingdom of England, nor in prejudice of the Mayor of our city aforesaid, nor in prejudice of any person, or persons of any body politic, or body corporate, or incorporate, having, or that may have, any claim or claims, liberties, franchises, privileges, rights, or pre-eminence, by virtue, color or pretext of any grant, gift, or letters patent, of us, or any of our progenitors, heretofore given, granted, or made. And so that those statutes and ordinances be not, nor any of them be not, to the prejudice of our beloved subjects the governors, assistants, and Society of Merchants, putting themselves, their goods, affairs, and merchandize in danger, commonly called Merchant Adventurers, to the parts of Holland, Zealand, Brabant, and Flanders, and other regions of land and dominions, to the same parts adjoining, going to, and frequenting those places with their wares, and merchandize, nor of any statute, ordinance, or constitution by the said governor or governors of the same society, heretofore made, done, or ordained, or hereafter to be made, done, established, or ordained, by the same governor or governors, and assistants, or their successors, although express mention (of the true yearly value, or of any other value, or of the certainty of the premises, or any of them, or of any gifts or grants heretofore made by us, or by any of our progenitors, to the aforesaid Master, Wardens, and Commonalty of the said mistery or art of Merchant Venturers of the city of Bristol, or their predecessors) is not made in these presents, or any statute, act, ordinance, provision, or restraint thereof to the contrary, had, made, ordained, or provided, or any other thing, cause, or matter whatsover, in anywise notwithstanding. In witness whereof we have caused these our letters to be made patent. Witness ourself, at Westminster, the 18th day of December, in the sixth year of our reign. And whereas, the Lady Elizabeth, late Queen of England, hath ratified and confirmed, by her letters patent, made under her great seal of England, bearing date at Westminster, the 8th day of July, in the 8th year of her reign, the same letters patent of the aforesaid King Edward the 6th, before recited, and all and singular in the same contained, to the then Master and Wardens, and Commonalty of the art or mistery of Merchant Venturers of the city of Bristol, and their successors, as by the same letters patent of the said late Queen, more fully it doth appear—know ye, that at the humble request of the aforesaid Master, Wardens, and Commonalty of the mistery of Merchant Venturers aforesaid, we do ratify and confirm the same several Letters Patent of the aforesaid late King Edward the 6th, and late Queen Elizabeth, and all and singular donations, gifts, and other things in the same contained, with the additions, enlargements, and alterations below, in these presents expressed; and do confirm, by these presents, all and singular those things, to the aforesaid Master, Wardens, and Commonalty, and their successors, for us, our heirs and successors. And moreover, for the better governing of the aforesaid art or mistery of Merchant Venturers of the city aforesaid, and for the augmentation and increase of the same, we, of our more ample and especial grace, and of our certain knowledge and mere motion, have given and granted, and by these presents for us, our heirs and successors, do give and grant to the aforesaid Master, Wardens, and Commonalty, and their successors, that from henceforth, for ever, they may, and shall, have ten of the more honest and discreet men of the art aforesaid, in the city aforesaid, to be chosen in the form below mentioned in these presents, who shall be, and shall be named Assistants of the same mistery of merchant Venturers, who from time to time shall be assisting and aiding the Master and Wardens of the same mistery for the time being, in all causes and matters of the mistery aforesaid, and touching or concerning the good government of the same. And moreover, we will, and by these presents for us, our heirs, and successors, we do grant to the aforesaid Master, Wardens, and Commonalty, and their successors, that the same Master, Wardens, and Assistants, for the time being, or the greater part of them (of whom the Master and one of the Wardens we will to be two) shall, and may have, full power and authority of establishing, constituting, ordaining, and making, from time to time, such laws, statutes, and reasonable ordinances whatsoever, which shall appear to them good, salutary, useful, honest, and necessary to be, according to their sound discretion, for the good rule and government, ordering, overseeing, examining, and correction of the mistery or art aforesaid; and of all works, wares, — goods and merchandizes to be exported or imported by the same Master, Wardens, and Commonalty, and their successors, or other merchants, or other persons whomsoever, of the city aforesaid, hazarding the same beyond sea, out or into this our kingdom of England, or dominion of Wales. And also of all men and merchants of the said city, and of their factors, apprentices, servants and agents, using or exercising the art or mistery aforesaid, as well in the city aforesaid, as in foreign parts, and for declaring in what way and order the aforesaid Masters, Wardens, and Assistants for the time being shall manage, conduct, and employ themselves in their offices and business, and how else, for the ulterior good and public utility, and government of the mistery aforesaid, and of all free men of the same mistery. And also for the preservation, disposition, letting and dismissing of the goods, chattels, lands, tenements, reversions, and hereditaments of the aforesaid Master, Wardens, and Commonalty, and their successors, given, granted, assigned or confirmed, or hereafter to be given, granted, or assigned, and whatsoever other things, matters, business, suits and causes, of the mistery aforesaid, and touching, or in any way concerning the estate, right, and interest of the same. And that they, the aforesaid Master, Wardens, and Assistants, or the greater part of them, as aforesaid, when, and as often as they shall have established, made, ordained or constituted such laws, statutes and ordinances, in the form aforesaid, they shall, and may be able to impose and assess such reasonable pains, penalties and punishments, by fines or amerciaments, or by either of them, against and upon all delinquents offending against such laws, statutes and ordinances, or any one or more of them, as and how, to the same Master, Wardens, and Assistants, for the time being, or to the major part of them, as aforesaid, it shall appear to be reasonable and requisite. And the same penalties, punishments, fines and amerciaments may levy and have, by distress, or other lawful means (by such and the like servants, officers and persons as and whom the aforesaid Master, Wardens and Commonalty, and their successors, shall name under their common seal, to the use of the same Master, Wardens, and Commonalty, and their successors,) without hinderance of us, our heirs or successors, or the Justices, Escheators, Sheriffs, Coroners, or other Bailiffs, or Officers of us, our heirs or successors, whomsoever, or without any account, or any other thing, therefore, to be rendered, paid or done to us, our heirs and successors. All and singular which laws, statutes, and ordinances so as aforesaid to be made, we will to be observed by all and singular, whatsoever persons of the Commonalty aforesaid, and all other merchants and other persons whatsoever, and their servants, factors, apprentices, and agents of the city aforesaid, adventuring beyond sea, using or exercising the art and mistery aforesaid, as well in the city aforesaid, as in foreign parts, under the pains in the same contained, so that, nevertheless, the aforesaid laws, statutes, ordinances, constitutions, fines and amerciaments, be reasonable, and be not repugnant, nor contrary to our prerogative, or to the laws and customs of this our kingdom of England, nor to the prejudice of the Mayor of the city aforesaid, and so that the said statutes or or dinances be not, nor any one of them be, to the prejudice of our well beloved subjects the Governors, Assistants, and Society of Merchants, putting themselves, their goods, things and merchandize in danger, commonly called the Merchant Adventurers to the parts of Holland, Zealand, Brabant, and Flanders, and other regions of land and dominions, to the same parts adjacent, going to and frequenting the same places for traffic and merchandize; nor of any statutes, ordinances, or constitutions by the said Governor or Governors of the same Society, heretofore made, declared or ordained, or hereafter by the same Governor or Governors, and Assistants, or their successors, to be made, declared, established or ordained. And for the better execution of this our grant and confirmation, we have assigned, nominated, constituted and made, by these presents, for us, our heirs and successors, do assign, nominate, constitute, and make our well beloved Humphrey Hook, to be the first and present Master of the art or mistery aforesaid, wishing that the same Humphrey Hook shall continue and be in the same office of Master, from the making of these presents, unto the 11th day of November next following, and from that same day until he, or some other one of the Wardens or Assistants of the mistery aforesaid, for the time being, shall be admitted and sworn, according to the ordinances and constitutions in these presents expressed and declared, if the same Humphrey Hook shall so long live, the aforesaid Humphrey first taking his oath before the Mayor and Aldermen of the city aforesaid, for the time being, well and faithfully to perform and execute that office, to which same Mayor and Aldermen for the time being, by these presents, we do give licence and power to administer such oath. Also, we have assigned, nominated and appointed, and by these presents, for us, our heirs, and successors, we do assign, nominate and appoint our well beloved Giles Elbridge and Thomas Colestone, to be the first and present Wardens of the art or mistery aforesaid, to continue in the same office of Wardens from the making of these presents to the 11th day of November next following, and from that day, until they, or two or three others of the Assistants of the art or mistery aforesaid, for the time being, shall be admitted and sworn to these offices or places, according to the ordinances and constitutions in these presents mentioned, if the same Giles Elbridge and Thomas Colestone shall so long live, unless they, or either of them shall be removed, in the mean time, for bad governing, or misconducting themselves in those places, or for any other lawful cause, shall be removed from that office by the Master, Wardens and Assistants, or the major part of them, for the time being, by first taking their oaths well and faithfully to execute those offices upon the Holy Evangelists of God, before the aforesaid Humphrey Hook, to which said Humphrey Hook we grant power and authority, by these presents, to administer and receive the same oath. Also, we have assigned, nominated, appointed, and made, and by these presents, for us, our heirs and successors, do assign, nominate, appoint and make our well beloved John Tomlinson, Andrew Charlton, Richard Long, Wm. Jones, Richard Aldworth, Alexander James, Francis Creswick, Milo Jackson, Gabriel Sherman, and William Cam, to be the first and present Assist ants of the art or mistery aforesaid, to continue in the same places or offices from the making of these presents unto the aforesaid 11th day of November next coming, when, and from that time, until they, or ten others of the Commonalty aforesaid, shall be admitted and sworn to these offices or places, according to the ordinances and constitutions in these presents mentioned, if the same Assistants shall so long live (unless in the mean time they, or any of them, shall be removed from those offices for bad government, or for misconducting themselves in the offices aforesaid, or for any other lawful cause) by their oaths on the Holy Evangelists being first taken before the aforesaid Master and Wardens, are admitted fully and faithfully to execute the offices and places aforesaid, to whom, the said Humphrey Hooke, Giles Elbridge, and Thomas Colstone, we do grant, by these presents, power and authority to receive and administer such oaths. And moreover we will, and by these presents, for us, our heirs, and successors, we do grant to the aforesaid Master, Wardens, and Commonalty, and their successors, that the Master, Wardens, Assistants and Commonalty, of the art or mistery aforesaid, for the time being, for ever in future times shall, and may have power and authority annually, and every year, on the 10th day of November, in the Common Hall, in the city aforesaid, called the Merchants' Hall, or other convenient place within the city aforesaid, that they, themselves, or the greater part of them, to assemble and there to continue until they, or the greater part of them there assembled, shall, at that time choose or nominate one of the Commonalty of the art or mistery aforesaid, who shall exercise the first office of the Master, Wardens, or Assistants of the art or mistery aforesaid, as Master of the Commonalty aforesaid, for one whole year then next following; and that then they shall nominate and choose two of the Assistants of the art or mistery aforesaid, as Wardens of the art or mistery aforesaid, for one whole year, next following; and that then and there they shall nominate and choose ten of the more discreet men of the Society aforesaid, as Assistants of the Commonalty aforesaid, to the same places, for one whole year's continuance, then next following, as aforesaid. And further, we will, and by these presents, for us, our heirs and successors, we do ordain and declare that every person or persons who hereafter shall be elected to the several offices and places of Master and Wardens of the Society aforesaid, shall make and take their corporal oath upon the Holy Evangelists of God, before the last preceding Master and Wardens, or any two of them respectively, of the Society aforesaid, for the time being, well and faithfully to execute those offices before that they shall be admitted to the same offices, to whom the said last preceding Master and Wardens, and any two of them, for the time being, by these presents, we do grant power and authority to administer such oaths; and after such oaths shall be so taken, they and every of them shall be admitted to the offices of Master and Wardens of the art or mistery aforesaid, for one whole year then next following, and from thence until others shall be in due form and manner elected, admitted and sworn, according to the ordinances and constitutions in these presents mentioned. And moreover we will, and by these presents, for us, our heirs and successors, do grant to the aforesaid Master, Wardens, and Commonalty of the art or mistery aforesaid, and their successors, that if it shall happen that the Master of the art or mistery aforesaid, at any time hereafter shall die within one year after that he is admitted and sworn to that office of Master of the art or mistery as aforesaid, that there, and so often well it shall and may be lawful for the aforesaid Wardens, Assistants, and Commonalty for the time being, themselves, or the greater part of the same, within one month after the death of the same Master, to assemble in the aforesaid place, called the Merchants' Hall, or other convenient place, in the city aforesaid, and there to choose, nominate, and admit one honest and fit person, of the aforesaid Commonalty of the art or mistery aforesaid, who shall exercise the first office of the Master, Wardens, and Assistants, of the art or mistery aforesaid, in the place of him, the Master so deceased, and that he being so elected to the office of Master as aforesaid, shall take his corporal oath, before the Wardens of the aforesaid mistery, in the aforesaid place called Merchants' Hall, or other convement place, in the city aforesaid, before he shall be admitted to that office of Master, and shall hold and exercise the same during the residue of the same year, and until another of the Society aforesaid, to that office as aforesaid, shall be duly elected and sworn, and so as often as the case shall happen. And if the aforesaid Wardens of the art or mistery aforesaid, shall die, or either of them shall die, or they, or either of them shall be removed from their office for lawful cause, as aforesaid, that then the Master, Wardens, and Assistants, and Commonalty, or the greater part of them, shall assemble in the aforesaid Hall, called the Merchants' Hall, or any other convenient place, within the city aforesaid, and shall, and may be able to elect and admit one or more of the Assistants aforesaid, into the place or places of such Warden or Wardens aforesaid, so dead or removed; and that he or they so elected and admitted, shall take his corporal oath rightly, well and faithfully to execute that office before the Master, Wardens, and Assistants, or the greater part of them, before being admitted, to whom we give authority, by these presents, to administer such oath, who shall hold and execute that office, or those offices, for which he or they shall be so elected, admitted, and sworn, until the 11th day of November then next following, and from that time until some one or more shall be elected and admitted in due form aforesaid, into the said office of Warden; and if any one or more of the Assistants of the art or mistery aforesaid, for the time being, shall die, or be removed from his or their office, which same Assistants, or any one or more of them, not conducting himself or themselves well in the said office, we will to be removed at the good pleasure of the Master, Wardens, Assistants, and Commonalty, or the greater part of them, for the time being, that then, and so often well it shall be lawfnl for the aforesaid Master, Wardens, Assistants, and Commonalty of the same Society for the time being, or the greater part of them, to assemble in the aforesaid place called Merchants' Hall, as aforesaid, or any other convenient place, within the city aforesaid, to elect and admit one other or more of the more discreet persons of the Commonalty aforesaid, into the place or places of him, the Assistant or Assistants so dead or removed from office, to supply the aforesaid number of ten Assistants of the Society aforesaid; and that he or they so elected and chosen, shall take their corporal oath before the Master and Wardens of the art or mistery aforesaid, for the time being, or any two of them, well and faithfully to execute that office in all things, before he or they shall be admitted to the office or place of Assistant, and so as often as the case shall so happen. And that the aforesaid Master, Wardens, and Commonalty, shall be able, more speedily, to proceed and enter into the art of merchandize, we will, and by these presents, for us, our heirs and successors, do ordain that all and singular fees payable, or to be paid by the said Master, Wardens, and Commonalty, or any Member of the same Society, to the Officers and Servants of us, our heirs or successors, in the port of the city of Bristol, or member of the same from time to time for exercising their office, shall be appointed, limited, and prescribed by our High Treasurer of England, and Sub-Treasurer for the time being, for which same fee to be so limited, appointed, and prescribed, we do grant by these presents, power and authority to our High Treasurer of England, and Sub-Treasurer for the time, being willing, and by these presents for us, our heirs, and successors, commanding and making known to all and singular the Officers and Servants of us, our heirs, and successors, in the same port, and members of the same, for the time being, that in executing their offices there, or by color thereof, they shall not cause to be taken or exacted a large fee from the same Society, or any member of the same, under pain of contempt of our royal command, and of incumbent danger. And whereas, the Lady Elizabeth, late Queen of England, by her Letters Patent, under her Great Seal of England made, bearing date at Westminster, the 12th day of April, in the 5th year of her reign, reciting that whereas, in a Parliament holden at Westminster, the 23rd day of January, in the first year of her reign, it was enacted that it should not be lawful for any person or persons, after the 1st day of September next after the said Parliament, to load or unload, or cause to be put off from any Wharf, Key, or Port, or in any place upon the land, from any Ship or Vessel, any Goods, Merchandize, or Wares whatsoever (Fish and Salt only excepted) to be transported to any foreign place, or in or to the kingdom of Scotland, or to raise up, discharge, and put on the land, from any Vessel or Ship (not being a leak or wreck) and to put on land any Goods, Wares, or Merchandize whatsoever, (Fish and Salt only excepted) imported from any foreign parts, or from the kingdom of Scotland, by way of merchandize, but only in the day time (to wit) from the 1st day of March unto the last day of September, within the rising and setting of the sun, and from the last day of September unto the first day of March, between the hours of seven in the morning and four in the afternoon, under penalty of forfeiting the same Goods, Wares, and Merchandize, or the value of the same, so laden and unladen, contrary to the tenor and intent of the same statute.— And whereas, the same Lady, the Queen, being then informed that the port of her city of Bristol (unless at spring tides) was very dangerous, and deficient in depth of water, and that no great Ship or Vessel, being laden with Wares and Merchandize, was able to approach that city within four miles, that the sea there quickly ebbed and flowed, and that each flowing did not continue above five or six hours, and not more than six in days of spring tides, to accommodate Ships and Vessels there to load and unload. The same late Lady, the Queen Elizabeth, for herself, her heirs and successors, by the aforesaid Letters Patent, gave and granted licence to the Mayor, Burgesses, and Commonalty of the city of Bristol, and to the inhabitants and residents within the same, that they, and all other persons coming to the said city, town, and port of Bristol, with Ships and other Vessels laden or unladen, from thenceforth (without incurring the penalty of the statute aforesaid) might load and unload their ships and vessels from, or with Goods, Wares and Merchandize, and put the same on shore or land; also to put the same from the land or shore there, in any Ships or Vessels to be transported to foreign parts, or to the kingdom of Scotland, at any time between the hours of four in the morning and eight in the evening, the statute aforesaid, or any thing in the same contained to the contrary thereof notwithstanding, the Customs and Subsidiary of Tonnage aud Poundage to the same late Queen, her heirs and successors thereon due, always excepted, as by the same Letters Patent more fully it doth appear, and is apparent, know ye, that we, on account of our especial favour towards the merchants of the same city, and for the accommodation and ease of the business of the same merchants in the port aforesaid, of our especial grace, and of our certain knowledge, and mere motion, we will and ordain, and by these presents, for us, our heirs, and successors, do grant licence to the aforesaid Master, Wardens, and Commonalty of Merchant Venturers of the city aforesaid, and their successors, that they and their successors, and every member of the same Society for the time being, coming or arriving at the city or port of Bristol aforesaid, or members of the same with Ships and other Vessels, laden or unladen, from henceforth, for ever (without incurring the penalties of the statutes aforesaid) may load and unload their Ships or Vessels from or with Goods, Wares, and Merchandize, and put the same upon the shore or land, also to put the same from the land or shore there, into any their Ships or Vessels, to be transported to foreign parts, or to our kingdom of Scotland, at any time between the hours of four in the morning and eight in the evening, it shall and may be lawful, at any time of the year, the statute aforesaid, or any thing in the same contained to the contrary thereof, notwithstanding, and this, without hinderance, suit, molestation, or disturbance of us, our heirs or successors, or of the Officers of us, our heirs and successors, in the port aforesaid, or members to the same belonging, or for the time being, saving always to us, our heirs, and successors, all Customs, Subsidies, and other Payments and Sums of Money due and payable for the same Goods, Wares, and Merchandize. Also we will, and by these presents, for us, our heirs, and successors, we do ordain and declare, that such loading and unloading of Goods and Merchandize aforesaid, in the port aforesaid, or member of the same, within any hour before mentioned, which shall be contrary to the form of the statute aforesaid, shall and may be done in the presence of the Officers and Servants of us, or of our successors, in the port aforesaid, or members of the same for the time being, or of any one or more to whom it shall belong, and not otherwise, therefore, we command, all and singular, the Officers and Servants of us, our heirs, and successors, in the port aforesaid, or members of the same, for the time being, that at the reasonable request of the same Society, or of any member of the same, they shall be present and prepared for such loading and unloading, under penalty of contempt of our royal command, and the incumbent danger thereof. So that express mention, &c.—In witness whereof, &c, witness, &c.—And these our Letters, shall be to you a sufficient warrant and discharge in this behalf.—Given under our Seal, at our Palace at Westminster, the 9th day of December, in the 14th year of our reign. P. WARWICK.
We now observe, that on the expiration of the before-mentioned term, a new Lease was granted the Society by the Corporation, for 99 years, at a nominal rent. And here we consider it but justice to the Society of Merchants to observe, that whilst the Articles in the Lease had only bound them to keep the Key Walls, and Wharfs in repair, we find them, at an early period, expending considerable sums of money in excavating the New and Old Mud Docks, and thereby enlarging the Keys. The following is an extract of the Lease:—
1st Sept. 1764.: Lease under the Corporation Seal of Bristol, between the Mayor, &c. of the first part; Samuel Smith, Master of the Society of Merchants, and others, of the second part; and the Master, Wardens, and Commonalty of Merchant Venturers, of the third part. In consideration of a surrender of a former lease, and of the rents and covenants therein contained, the said Mayor, &c. did demise and grant unto Samuel Smith and others, Trustees for the Society,—
A Quay, or Wharf, beginning at a place called the Head of the Quay, situate in the parish of St. Leonard, in Bristol, and adjoining a Messuage in the possession of Wm. Crosby, above a new-erected stone Bridge.
Also, a Quay, or Wharf, ranging along the south-east side of the River Froome, and adjoining, on the south-west part of the houses and warehouses there, being of various and different breadths, and ending at the part where the River Froome runs into the River Avon; and all those five Slips and eight Cranes built on the said Quay or Wharf.
Also, all that Quay, or Wharf, and void Ground, ranging from the said point where the River Froome runs into the River Avon, along the north-east side of the said river, to the southeastermost wall of the Dung Wharf, lately made use of by the parishes of St. Nicholas and St. Stephen, including the said Dung Wharf, and for 50 feet in length beyond the said Dung Wharf, and extending in breadth from the said River to the River Avon, to the several messuages and other edifices and buildings now erected and built on the north-east side of the said Wharf, and contains in the whole 1064 feet in length, exclusive of 24 feet on the south-eastermost side of the said Slip or Passage, lying at the lower end of Prince's street, called the Gib Slip, and claimed by Nathaniel Day, Lessee of the said Passage, under the Dean and Chapter, and also exclusive of 10 feet from the Slip or Passage, called Trim Mill Passage; and also the Great Crane, and four smaller Cranes, and Duties of Wharfage, Plankage, Cranage, Anchorage, and Moorage.
And the said Master, Wardens, &c. covenant at all times hereafter, during the term thereby granted, at their proper costs and charges, well and sufficiently to repair, amend, uphold, maintain, sustain, cleanse, and keep all and singular the said thereby demised Quays and Wharfs, Slips, Cranes, Messuages or Tenements, the Wharfs called the Back of Bristol, and the Wharf called the New Back.
Under this Lease the Society continued to collect the Wharfage Duty, upon no other authority than the Bye-Law of 1606; but in the year 1807, while the Dock Company were engaged in bringing their important Bill into Parliament, and suffering such unmerited opposition, both from the Municipal Corporation and the Merchants' Society, the opportunity was taken, and the Corporation applied to Parliament to confirm their title to the Wharfage Toll, by an express Act for the purpose. It was called the Wharfage Act, and this was the commencement of its legal claim, which had it been resented by the Company, might have excited the Corporation to retaliate with greater violence, and have totally defeated the grand improvement of our Harbour. The Preamble to this Bill asserts, that the Rates were not exactly defined, which they stated as the only reason for the necessity of a new Act, which was notoriously incorrect, as the tables remain as they were then calculated, to the present time.
In 1825, we find a question was raised, whether Ireland should be now rated as a foreign trade? Application was made to the Privy Council, who replied in the negative, according to their view of the subject, the Society, however, differed in their opinion, and agreed to put it to the legal test, and try the case with some individual: and in the mean time, that an account should be kept, so that in the event of a verdict being found for the Defendant, the Irish Dues should be refunded; but the parties being subsequently advised not to proceed, the trial of the question was relinquished. Soon after this, the Chamber of Commerce applied to the Society for a copy of the Receipt and Expenditure, since the passing of the Act in 1806, with a view of ascertaining the amount of their disbursements, as compared with the receipts; but this was refused; and the Chamber then proposed to the Society, as a matter of favor, that the tables should be revised, with a view to making a reduction in the rates, which produced a long discussion. In which it was contended, on the part of the Society of Merchants, that the lease of the Wharfage Toll was altogether, to them, a matter of speculation; (fn. 4) observing, that should the trade of the port completely vanish, they would be still bound, by the lease, to repair the Wharfs; and, therefore, if it turned out to be a very profitable undertaking, it could not be expected that they should relinquish any of its profits for the benefit of the trade of the port. A strong argument assuredly to be adopted by a Society of Merchant Venturers. The Members of the Town Dues Committee having presented the Board of Directors of the Chamber of Commerce with copies of the various Documents relating to Wharfage, a Committee has been appointed by the Board to examine them, and it is hoped the Corporation will give the subject their serious consideration, when the result of the inquiry is laid before them; especially as it is well kuown, that the collection is not only ten times more than is required for repairing the Wharfs; but that the balance is not available to any public purpose. And here we must not omit the mention of two or three notorious hardships, to which the Wharfage Bill has been subject, viz. that whilst timber (fn. 5) and naval stores are not allowed to be placed on the Wharf, they are included in the general description of all goods imported from foreign parts, which shall be subject to a toll of Wharfage. Again, that merchandize from Ireland is considered as an import from a foreign country, from which every other part of the united kingdom is exempted; and thirdly, that the Society of Merchants, as Lessees, exempt themselves, by no authority but their own, from the payment of this toll upon goods exported. The Corporation have secured by this Bill a perpetual tax for Wharfage, for Cranage, Anchorage and Moorage; suffice it at present, that a few trifling repairs excepted, no money has been expended on the Wharfs. Here follows a copy of the receipts:
In referring to an old Plan of the City of Bristol, which was published in the year 1671, by Jacob Millerd, we find the only Crane therein noticed, is said to have been situated near the City Gate, on the Back. It is believed, that the ingenious Mr. Padmore was the first who erected Cranes on the Key; Bristol being, at that time, only a Tide Harbour, in which the position of the vessels was continually altered; the introduction of Cranes very much facilitated their discharging; so that in the year 1764, when the Corporation granted the present Lease, of Wharfage, Anchorage, Moorage and Cranage, to the Society of Merchants, we find the number of Cranes had increased to thirteen; and all vessels making use of them were subject to a certain rate; nor does any dispute appear on record. Under pretension, however, that the Dues upon Wharfage, Cranage, Anchorage, and Moorage, were not exactly ascertained and defined, a Bill was introduced for that purpose; but we question whether the object were so much to introduce a system of regulation, as by that means to obtain a Parliamentary title. The Bill, however, was passed, and it was enacted, that all goods shipped or landed at the present or any future Crane or Cranes, should be subject to a toll of Cranage.
In the year 1823, the Renter of the Cranes refusing to allow men to assist in heaving up the cargo on deck, one of the principal West India Houses gave orders, that their ships should be moored at berths where there were no Cranes, and discharge their cargoes by the ships' companies, which not only produced a considerable saving in expence, but in time. The Renter finding by the Act that the Cranage toll could only be demanded of vessels which were moored at Crane Berths, became alarmed at the example set the public, and fearing the infection would spread still farther, made a communication to the Merchants' Society, when it was agreed to erect an additional number of Cranes, which has been done. The Wharfs are now so f tified with Cranes, that the Merchants' Society have rendered it impossible to obtain a berth for a ship of any draft of water, without coming to a Crane Berth, by which, Ship Owners are obliged to submit to the imposition of Cranage; putting them to the expence of from 12 to £15. in discharging their cargo, when, without a Crane, it would not cost them half that sum. Surely this could not have been the design, or it must have been very unfair; and instead of stating, as we read in the Bill, that Cranes were to be erected for the greater accommodation of trade, and that persons who wished to use them might so do, on certain terms, (evidently implying, that they need not, if they did not wish it,) it would have been more justly described as an enactment from that time, that all vessels, exceeding 300 tons, shall pay a certain tax, for Cranage, whenever they enter the port. Again, vessels, with particular cargoes, are very much retarded by the Cranes, which are productive of another injury to the port; whilst at Liverpool, and the other out-ports, the vessel having paid the Dock Dues, is immediately provided with a berth; you employ your own people, and either expedite or not, as suits your own convenience. However, should any thing like a plea be suggested, upon the injustice of making the Society of Merchants suffer, because of the improvements of the Harbour, after they had expended a considerable capital in the erection of Cranes, we have only to observe, that if any thing like a loss could be proved, we should be the last to press the point; whereas we subjoin the following account, to prove, the contrary, and that the expences of the Cranes have been re-paid over and over again.
|Neat money received.||Taxes, (fn. 6) &c.||Repairs.||Profits.|
It was suggested, by the Promoters of the Dock Bill, to reconcile the Ship Owners to the measure, that although their rates would be heavy, the improvement of the Harbour would produce considerable savings in other expences, especially in the discharging of vessels; this proved correct, as vessels which took from 15 to 20 days, before the Harbour was afloat, are now discharged in less than ten. But let it be remembered, that the Crane Lessees have alone received the advantage for more than 20 years; it was not till within the last two years that any reduction of toll was made to the Ship Owner. We would, therefore suggest, from the present state of things, that at four or five of these berths, where the Cranes are old and out of order, be entirely removed, and the berths made free; and should such a reasonable demand be objected to, that from time to time Appeals should be made to the Quarter Sessions, to reduce the rate.
The Act of Parliament expressly states, that the erection of Cranes should never be made a matter of profit; (fn. 7) but that after the repairs which they may need are paid, and all the expences for labour, in landing and shipping, are settled for, should any thing remain in hand, the Magistrates are bound to reduce the rates in that proportion.
The regulation of the Pilot being vested by the Wharfage Act, in the Corporation, the Society of Merchants, as their Lessees, inspect, regulate and appoint the Pilots; but we have no intention of going into the question of Pilotage and River Charges, only, having found a Document on the subject, we think its insertion may be useful. It was agreed to at a meeting of the Merchants' Society, in 1752, and afterwards confirmed by the signatures of the body of Ship Owners and Merchants.
At a Meeting of the Incorporated Society of Merchants' Adventurers within this City, held in their Common Hall, on Monday, the 10th day of August last, it was represented that several Accidents had happened to Ships and Vessels belonging to this Port, through the unskilfulness of Persons calling themselves Combe or Channel Pilots, taking charge of Ships or Vessels coming up this Channel, and a motion was made, and unanimously agreed to, that a Gratuity ought to be given to the Pilots of this Port, to encourage them to meet Ships and Vessels coming from sea as far to the westward as possible; which would make them better acquainted with the Bristol Channel below the Holmes, and also very much conduce to the safety of our Navigation. The settlement of which Rates was referred to the Standing Committee, who having maturely considered the same, reported it was their opinion, that the several Fees or Gratuities hereinafter mentioned, are reasonable, to be given to such Pilots for their extraordinary care and diligence, as well in meeting inward-bound ships as in piloting ships outward bound.
We, whose names are hereunto subscribed, Members of the said Society, together with the Merchants and Traders to and from this City of Bristol, do approve of such Fees to be paid to the Pilots, as a reasonable and proper encouragement for a diligent look out after ships and vessels coming from the sea, and also for conducting ships and vessels bound out as far to the westward as possible; and do hereby promise and agree, that the Purser or Person having the management of ships or vessels belonging or consigned to us, shall pay to the present or any future Pilots within this Port, who shall board any inwardbound ship or vessel, or conduct any outward-bound ship or vessel, as far to the sea within the above-mentioned limits (over and above the present established fees, payable to Pilots navigating ships to and from this Port to Kingroad), the several fees above-mentioned provided no Pilot do presume to force onboard any ship or vessel coming coastways, or from the sea, by virtues of this agreement, but shall offer himself to be taken in by consent of the Master or Person having command of such ship or vessel, who is to give a writing, purporting where such Pilot came on board him, if inwards, or where such Pilot was discharged by the Master, if outwards, in order to his being paid his fee accordingly.
We have now come to the termination of our present design, which we should never have attempted but under a full conviction of its importance, in reviving the attention of our FellowCitizens to the practicability, as well as the necessitv of continuing their exertion to a further increase of commercial prosperity. We have also been encouraged in these investigations by no less an authority than a declaration from the Chief Magistrate of the City, to which we feel it the duty of every Citizen to bow; as it includes a profession that the Corporation are willing to unite with their Fellow-Citizens in every laudable endeavour to promote such a desirable object, it is certainly entitled to our warmest acknowledgments: to assist these endeavours has been one of our motives in pursuing these inquiries further than we first intended; which, however short in the rehearsal, must be admitted as the fruit of some laborious attention. We have endeavoured to convince the Corporation that our Commercial Interests cannot be more effectively promoted than by taking into their serious consideration the illegality of many of our local taxes. (fn. 8) Should our humble endeavours in any degree further the investigation we are recommending, their publication must be so far considered to have been a fortunate attempt; but if, unluckily, it should be viewed in any other light, we can only observe, that the very handsome and liberal manner in which a Body of Merchants came forward upon the important question of the legality of Town Dues, we have felt ourselves called upon to lay before them the ground on which the claim has been resisted; and in connexion with the Sub-Committee appointed for that purpose, with whom the detail of the defence was entrusted, we should feel ourselves to be grossly abusing their confidence in withholding facts, which our intimacy with the subject would so far authorize us to publish. At the same time we trust, that whatever course subsequent proceedings may take, either as respects Town Dues, Pavage, or Wharfage, the good feeling which at present subsists between the Corporation and their Fellow-Citizens may not be disturbed; but that whatever questions may be started, they may be canvassed on the broad principle of the public benefit, so that if the Corporation have any funds in hand that are applicable to particular purposes, or tolls illegally created, any respectful explanation and exposure of the same should never be interpreted into an attack on their rights and priveleges. Upon the whole, should any expression have accidentally crept into these pages, which may hastily be conceived to be personal, it would be the cause of regret; as we declare that every thing of the kind is entirely foreign to our wishes and intention.