Coal Trade: Minutes of evidence, Appendix B to 27 February 1830

Pages 1454-1456

Journal of the House of Lords: Volume 62, 1830. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, [n.d.].

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Court of Common Council, 24th January 1822.

REPORT from the COAL and CORN COMMITTEE on the Petition of the COAL WHIPPERS and BASKET MEN.

To The Right Honourable The Lord Mayor, Aldermen and Commons of the City of London, in Common Council assembled.

We, whose Names are hereunto subscribed, your Committee of Control over the Coal and Corn Meters, to whom, on the 2d Day of June last, it was referred to examine the Allegations in the Petition of William Keugh, Thomas Miller and Thomas Roworth, Basket Men, on behalf of themselves and the Coal Whippers and Basket Men employed on the River Thames, and to report our Opinion thereon, do certify, that we referred the same to a SubCommittee, who, having duly proceeded in the Examination, have delivered to us a detailed Report in Writing, with their Opinion thereon, which we have caused to be hereunto annexed, for the Information of this Honourable Court; and we, agreeing with the Sub-Committee in their said Opinion, submit the same to this Honourable Court accordingly, and recommend that a Copy of the Report be laid before the Court of Aldermen for their Information upon the Subject, with a view to enable them to adopt such Regulations as in their Judgment may tend to remedy the Evils complained of. Dated this 30th Day of December 1821.

Wm. Rawlins.
Jos. Howell.
E. Colebatch.
John Jackson.
Jno. Deshons.
John Crowder.
John Saunders.
J. W. Southgate.
Sam. Jerram.
John Cotton.
P. Skipper.
Geo. Stevenson.
Thos. Crook.
J. Hurcombe.
Edw. Hanson.
W. Walton.
Rich. Hoare.
Mich. Gibbs.
Wm. Child.
John Bleaden.

To the Worshipful the Committee of Control over the Coal and Corn Committee.


We, whose Names are hereunto subscribed of your Sub-Committee, to whom on the Thirteenth Day of July last it was referred to take into Consideration the Order of Reference from the Court of Common Council of the Second Day of June last, on the Petition of William Keugh, Thomas Miller and Thomas Roworth, Basket Men, on behalf of themselves and the Coal Whippers and Basket Men employed in unlading Coal Ships on the River Thames, in relation to the Impositions and Abuses practised upon them, contrary to the Intent and Meaning of the several Provisions of the Act of Parliament of the 47th of George 3, "for repealing the several Acts for regulating the Vend and Delivery of Coals within the Cities of London and Westminster and Liberties thereof, and in certain Parts of the Counties of Middlesex, Surrey, Kent and Essex, and for making better Provision for the same;" and praying Relief in the Premises; do certify, that we were attended in the first instance by Two of the Petitioners, with Mr. Ashly their Solicitor, who were severally heard at considerable Length in support of the Allegations contained in their said Petition, and who represented to us, that from the Mode generally adopted by many of the Coal Undertakers in the Port of London, and by the Practice of others connected with Vessels engaged in the Coal Trade acting in concert with Publicans, several Persons who are engaged by and employed under such Publicans procure Licences as Coal Undertakers, and act as Basket Men to the Gang under such Publicans; - that Employment is alone to be obtained by the Coal Whippers through such Publicans who are connected with Vessels in the Coal Trade;- that the Coal Whippers are compelled to purchase Liquor, not only in Quantities sufficient for their necessary Consumption, but to the Extent required by the Publican with whom they are forced to deal in order to procure Work;-that several Publicans procure the Work of Ships by giving Money to the Masters of the Vessels, and attend at the Coal Market to obtain the same;-that the Coal Undertakers acting under such Publicans, when the Whippers apply to them for Work, are in the Practice of referring them to the Public House from which the Ship is worked, and where the Coal Whippers are frequently obliged to wait a considerable Time before they are set to work, and in the Interim to spend a great deal of their Money with the Publican, otherwise they would not be set on any Work;-that those who drink the most have the most Work;-that they are forced to lodge in such Public Houses, and to pay an exorbitant Rent for very inferior Accommodation;-that the Gangs who lodge in those Houses consist chiefly of young Men, who get the Preference of Work, to the Exclusion of married Men, and in all these Cases the Coal Whippers are obliged to pay the Basket Men from One Shilling to Two Shillings and Sixpence each per Ship for the Preference of Work;-that they are charged for Beer and Liquor they never have, and in Cases where the same has been objected to, the Parties have not been able afterwards to procure Work from the Undertakers acting under such Publicans; and that although many Undertakers themselves are not Victuallers, Alehouse-keepers or Innkeepers, yet they are connected with Persons of that Description, or are themselves Keepers of Chandlers and other Shops, where the Coal Whippers are in various Instances compelled to deal, and to pay exorbitant Prices for inferior Articles;-that several of the licensed Coal Undertakers are under the Control of Publicans, who send Lists of Men to them to work their Ships; and that although various salutary Clauses and Enactments, framed evidently with the view to secure to the Coal Whippers the Produce of their Labour, and to prevent their being deprived of their Earnings, are contained in the said Act of Parliament, the same have been found inadequate to protect them, by reason of the various Evasions that are constantly practised, and the Inability of the Coal Whippers, from their scanty Means, to put the Penal Enactments therein contained into execution. The Petitioners therefore suggested, as the best Mode of remedying the above Evil, the Propriety of establishing an Office for the Purpose of setting the respective Gangs at Work in rotation, and of paying them the Amount of their Wages upon the Completion of their Work. And, in corroboration of their aforesaid Statement, they have delivered to us in Writing sundry Cases, as also an Account of Public Houses, and the Number of Gangs working from the same, which we have severally caused to be hereunto annexed for the Information of this Worshipful Committee. (See Appendixes, Nos. 1 & 2.)

That your Sub-Committee requested the Attendance of Mr. George Fox, one of the principal Coal Undertakers, and were subsequently attended by him, and also by Mr. George Moorsom, Mr. William Sharp, Mr. William Waller, Mr. Thomas Stamp Richmond, Mr. John Humble, Mr. John Donaldson and Mr. John Thompson, other Coal Undertakers, who were heard upon the Subject of the said Petition, and several of them were examined by the Petitioners as to their Mode of conducting their Business, and relative to individual Complaints against them; and it is but Justice to Mr. George Fox, as well as to the few other respectable Coal Undertakers, to state, that the Petitioners readily admitted, if the remaining Coal Undertakers were to conduct their Business in the correct Manner practised by him and such other respectable Coal Undertakers, they could have no Ground of Complaint.


We beg leave further to certify, that during the Course of the Investigations we have been attended by Thomas Simmonds, Andrew Keheler, Martin Noland, William Chamberlain, Lawrence Franey, Jeremiah Crowley and Michael Murphy, Coal Whippers and Basket Men, who were examined at length in support of the Allegations of the said Petition, and they fully confirmed the same, so far as relates to the Abuses and Impositions practised upon them.

That your Sub-Committee thereupon inspected the several Provisions of the Act of Parliament, by which it appears that no Person is authorized to carry on the Trade of a Coal Undertaker, or to provide Coalheavers or Whippers for unloading Coals from any Ship or Vessel within the Port of London, unless he or she shall have previously obtained a Licence to carry on such Business from the Court of Aldermen, who are authorized to grant the same to such Persons as shall produce before them a Recommendation of Two Justices of the Peace acting as such for the City, County, Town or Place in which such Person resides; that any Person carrying on the Trade without such Licence shall pay the Sum of Ten Pounds for every Coalheaver or Whipper, the whole thereof to go to the Informer; that on Complaint against any Coal Undertaker, The Lord Mayor, or Sitting Alderman, has the Power, after hearing such Complaint, if the Coal Undertaker has acted corruptly or improperly, or has offended in any Manner against the Provisions of the Act, to suspend such Coal Undertaker from carrying on his said Business 'till the next Court of Aldermen; and if, upon the Complaint being brought and heard before the said Court of Aldermen, it shall appear to them that the said Undertaker has acted corruptly, or has offended in manner aforesaid, the said Court have the Power to cause his Name to be erased from the Book of licensed Coal Undertakers; and any Person, during the Time of such Suspension, or after such Erasure, carrying on the Trade of Coal Undertaker, is to forfeit and pay One hundred Pounds for every Coalheaver provided; the whole thereof to go to the Informer.

That every Coal Undertaker is required to take an Oath prior to providing Coalheavers, under a Penalty of Ten Pounds; the whole to go to the Informer.

That if any Licensed Victualler, Alehouse-keeper or Innkeeper, concerned or interested, directly or indirectly, either in his or her Name, or in the Name or Names of any other Person or Persons whosoever, or by way of Partnership, or Agreement to receive any Part of the Profits of such Trade or Trades, shall, directly or indirectly, exercise the Business or Employ of a Coal Undertaker, or of providing any Coalheaver or Coalheavers, or any Shovels, Baskets or other Implements for unloading any Coals from any Ship or other Vessel within the Port of London, every such Victualler, Alehouse-keeper or Innkeeper, for every such Coalheaver, Shovel, Basket or other Implements provided by him or her, is to forfeit the Sum of Ten Pounds, and the whole of such Penalty to go to the Informer.

That the Master or Owners of Ships are required to provide, at their own Expence, all Shovels, Baskets and other Implements requisite for the Unloading or Delivery of Coals, which are not to be let out for Hire by or to any Person or Persons, except by a licensed Coal Undertaker; and any Person not duly licensed a Coal Undertaker, letting out to Hire any such Implements, except to the Master or Owner of the Ship, or his Agent, is to forfeit Ten Pounds for every Implement so let out.

That the Hire and Wages of the Coalheavers and Whippers are to be paid to the Undertaker when employed, who is to pay and divide the same among them; and when no Undertaker is employed, the Master or Owner is to pay or divide their Wages; and if any Master, Owner or Coal Undertaker shall pay or cause to be paid to any Coalheaver such Wages or Pay, or any Part thereof, by way of Barter or Exchange, in any Coals, Goods, Wares, Merchandize, Meat, Drink, Lodging, or Materials for Wearing Apparel, or with any other Matter or Thing whatsoever, other than current Money, or make any Deduction or Abatement from or out of such Wages or Pay, under Pretence of furnishing Baskets, Shovels, or other Implements used in the unloading of Coals, or for or under any other Pretence whatsoever, every Person so offending for every Offence is to forfeit Ten Pounds; the whole to go to the Informer.


That the Undertaker is to pay the Coalheavers their Wages at his Counting-house, or other convenient Place; and where no Undertaker is employed, the Master or Owner is to pay their Wages on board the Ship or Vessel where they have been employed; and if any Master, Owner or Coal Undertaker pay, or cause to be paid, any such Hire or Wages, or any Part thereof, at any Alehouse, Victualling House or Inn, or in any other Description of Place than as aforesaid, every Person offending is to pay Twenty Pounds for each Offence.

That if any Undertaker, Basket Man, or Publican to whose House Coalheavers may resort, or any Person or Persons on his, her or their Behalf, shall give, grant, or promise to give or grant, any Money or other Gift or Reward to any Master or Masters, Owner or Owners of any Ship or Vessel laden with Coals in the Port of London, for any Permission or Privilege to procure Coalheavers, or for the said Master or Masters, Owner or Owners, to employ any particular Coal Undertaker, or Gang or Gangs of Coalheavers, for the unloading any such Ship or Vessel, or if any such Master or Masters, Owner or Owners, shall take or receive any such Money, or any other Gift or Reward, for any such Purpose, from such Coal Undertaker, Basket Man, Publican, or other Person or Persons on his, her or their Behalf, every such Master, Owner, Undertaker, Basket Man or Publican, or other Person so offending, is for every Offence to forfeit and pay Twenty Pounds.

It further appears, that any Person convicted of any Offence against the Act has a Right to appeal to the General or Quarter Sessions.

That we, your Sub-Committee, having duly considered the several Circumstances, and advised with this City's Solicitor, are decidedly of Opinion, that the Petitioners have fully proved the several Allegations contained therein, and that the Coal Whippers labour under a Variety of Extortions, Impositions and Grievances, which it was the Object of the before-mentioned Enactments to prevent, and which, if duly carried into Execution, your Committee are convinced are fully adequate for the Purpose; but that the chief Difficulty of so doing arises from the Right of Appeal to the Sessions, the Expence of which the Petitioners, (as they represent,) from their Situations, are inadequate to meet, independent of the Difficulty to those who may lay Informations of obtaining any Work in future.

That it appears to your Committee to be highly improper that any Persons, acting as Basket Men for Publicans, should be enabled to procure the Recommendations of the Magistrates to the Court of Aldermen to get licensed as Coal Undertakers, and they submit, that a respectful Representation be made to the said Court to withhold in future any Licence to such Persons.

We, your Sub-Committee, are further of Opinion, that the present Evils would be materially alleviated by the Removal of any Coal Undertaker who should be found offending against any of the Provisions of the Act, against whom a proper Case should be established to the Satisfaction of the Court of Aldermen; and we rather recommend this Course to the Petitioners, as striking immediately at the Root of the Evil, but more especially in all Cases in which Undertakers act as Basket Men to Publicans, or compel the Coalheavers to deal with them for Articles of Consumption, and in default of so doing, refusing them Work.

Your Committee are further of Opinion, that considerable Advantages would be derived to the Coal Whippers if the before-mentioned Clauses in the Act of Parliament were published, and a Copy thereof required to be affixed in a conspicuous Place in the several Public Houses frequented by them, under the Authority of the Magistrates of the District.


That we, your Committee, having maturely considered the Propriety of establishing the Office as suggested by the Petitioners, entertain considerable Doubts whether any permanent Advantage would be derived therefrom, even could the Measure be carried into Effect; but upon reference to the Act of Parliament, we find the same does not authorize such an Establishment, nor the carrying into Effect any Regulations of such a Nature; but your Committee confidently trust the Measures they have already suggested, aided by such further Steps as the Court of Aldermen in their Judgment may see fit to adopt, will greatly tend to alleviate the Condition of the Coal Whippers, and enable them to apply those Earnings for the Comfort and Maintenance of themselves, their Wives and Families, which, under the present System, they are compelled to spend in Public Houses, as an Inducement for Employment.

We, your Committee, have greatly to regret, that, under the Provisions of the Act of Parliament, the Master or Owners of Ships or Vessels engaged in the Coal Trade are authorized to deliver the same without the Intervention of a Coal Undertaker, which we apprehend to be a Source of considerable Evil, and can only be remedied by Legislative Authority; and in the Event of any Application to Parliament for further regulating the Vend and Delivery of Coals in the Port of London, we recommend especial Care to be taken for the Insertion of such Clauses as may tend to remove the said Evil, and give effectual Relief to the Petitioners. All which we submit to this Worshipful Committee, this 13th Day of December 1821.

P. Skipper.
Geo. Stevenson.
W. A. Weguelin.
J. Hurcombe.
Jno. Cotton.
Jno. Southgate.
John Bleaden.
W. Walton.
Jno. Deshons.

(Appendix, No. 1.)

A particular hard Case has just occurred, by a Lady who has within these Three Weeks taken the Public House known by the Sign of the Ship and Bladebone, in New Gravel Lane. Two Gangs of Men, viz. Eighteen Men, who are all nearly married, and have Families, have lost their Work by her insisting on her Lodgers going to work; for as soon as she, Mrs. Croset, took Possession of the House, she got it filled by Coal Whippers as Lodgers, all young Men.-To be proved by William Drable and John Rickets.

Mrs. Blenkinsop, Coal Undertaker, keeps a Chandler's Shop next Door to her Son-in-Law, who keeps a Public House, and Five Gangs of Coal Whippers belonging to it, who go to work by Rotation; all the extra Men are employed by Mr. Publican's Cellar Man, who is a Basket Man, F. Mahoney.

Mr. Puncheon is a Publican and Basket Man, and has a great many young Men, Coal Whippers, his Lodgers, who lodge with him for the sake of Employment, which they get in preference to any other Men who have Families to support. To be proved by John Murphy and others.

Mr. Booth is a Publican, and has a Basket Man, who sets the Men to work. This Publican has a Number of Lodgers, who must be all employed in preference to all others, and, whether his Lodgers or not, they must spend nearly all their Earnings with him, or can get no Employment there. It is the same with the others above, although omitted to be set down. In all these Public Houses they must pay to the Basket Man a Part of their Wages, and spend a great deal more than they can afford

Mr. Oldfield is a Publican, and Brother-in-Law to a Coal Undertaker, Mr. Cummings, and both their Houses are full of Coal Whippers, that lodge with them; here it is next to an Impossibility for any Man who has a Family to get a Day's Work. To be proved by Andrew Kellear and others. In his House they once charged Two Shillings each Man for getting Employment.

Mr. Harbottle is a Publican; he has a Basket Man to employ the Men; both have a House full of Lodgers, and are employed as in the Cases before stated.-To be proved by James Garland and others.


In short, it is the same Thing in all the Public Houses, One solitary House excepted, where the Coal Ships work from, as it is termed, for the Extent of a Mile. In many it is worse than those mentioned before, for in them many of the Publicans Men have a Licence to act as a Coal Undertaker; these are all perjured, for the Purpose of covering the nefarious Practices of Fraud and Imposition of these Publicans and Masters of Coal Ships imposed upon these poor hard-working Men, Coal Whippers, by these perjured Men, several of whose Names are inserted below, as well Undertakers who keep Chandlers Shops, and others who employ Coal Whippers for no other Purpose than compelling the Coal Whippers to deal with them, selling inferior Articles, and charging exorbitant Prices.

It is almost beyond the Power of Comprehension to form an adequate Idea of the Misery and Wretchedness that is caused by the above Imposition in the Families of the married Men; the young Men are no better off, being constantly in a Public House when not at Work; having no Clothes to appear decent in on the Sunday, they must remain in it drinking, and frequently fighting.

A List of Mr. Publican's Men who are Coal Undertakers, and the Public Houses whose Work they manage, besides those mentioned before.

Edward Lovell, the New England Light House, kept by Mr. Blakey the Publican.

Daniel Willis, the Ship, Bell Wharf, kept by Mr. Gouldy the Publican, who is a Basket Man.

William Cutler, the George and Vulture, Lower Shadwell, kept by Mr. Smith the Publican.

Thomas Slack, the Ship and Whale, Wapping Wall, Mrs. Foringill the Publican.

John Potts, the Crown, kept by Mr. Ord, Wapping Wall.

Mr., the Ship and Shears, kept by Mr. Pool, Lower Shadwell.

Thomas Straps, from various Houses.

A List of Basket Men who keep Chandlers Shops.

John Whitwell, at Shadwell Dock, and many others.

And there is no Way left to relieve the Coalheavers from these People's Impositions than by establishing an Office, and by employing the Coalheavers by Rotation, and the Basket Men by Seniority.

(Appendix, No. 2.)


The Yarmouth Town by Mr. Maxwell 5 Gangs.
Bell - Spencer 1 Do.
White Swan - Oven 1 Do.
Ship & Green Dragon - Hughes 1 Do.
Angel - King 1 Do.
Golden Anchor - M'Carthy 5 Do.
Star - Booth 2 Do.
Ship & Bladebone - Crosett 2 Do.
Greenland Fishery - Hutchinson 2 Do.
George & Vulture - Puncheon 2 Do.
Ship & Whale - Fothiringel 2 Do.
Waterman's Arms - Crawford 2 Do.
Wheat Sheaf - Cairns 2 Do.
City of Quebec - Hall 1 Do.
White Swan - Thomas 2 Do.
White Horse 1 Do.
Star - Oldfield 2 Do.
George - Wilsdon 1 Do.
Crown - Oard 2 Do.
Greenland Fishery - Shephard 1 Do.
Whitby Town - Wear 2 Do.
Shadwell Dock, C.H. 1 Do.
Green Dragon - Harbottle 2 Do.
Three Jolly Welshmen - Lee 3 Do.
Half Moon - Chapman 1 Do.
George & Vulture - Smith 3 Do.
Ship & Shears - Poole 4 Do.
Coal Meters Arms - Hilditches 3 Do.
Swan - Bartholmy 1 Do.
Ship - Gouldy 2 Do.
Globe & Pidgeons - Codling 2 Do.
Hall, at Cock Hill 2 Do.
Barnes, Dean Street 1 Do.
Pewter Platter by Mr. Steel 2 Do.
New England Light House - Blakey 3 Do.
Groom, Broad Street, Ratcliff 1 Do.
Turk's Head, Butcher Row 1 Do.
Brown Bear by Mr. Ross 1 Do.
Macintosh, Ratcliff Cross 1 Do.
Dunn, London Street 1 Do.
Total 74 Gangs.

These Seventy-four Gangs of Coal Whippers all belong to Public Houses, and work by Rotation, besides extra Gangs who are employed when they have more Ships than will employ their constant Men; several of these Public Houses have a Coal Undertaker belonging to them, as much so as the Coal Whippers, and he is the Publican's Head Basket Man, employing the Whippers in the Tap Room, and pays them their Wages at the Door of the Public House.

When one of the Publican's Undertakers has no Work for himself, or the Whippers, he then goes to such another Undertaker as himself, who he knows has Work, where he is sure to find Employment for himself and Men, and it is the same by his employing them again when they have no Work; therefore, almost all the Work is obtained by the Publican's Men, who are either his Lodgers or his Basket Men, thus leaving the married Men, who have Families to support, idle, and in the greatest Distress.