February 1646: An Ordinance enabling Saltpeter-men to make Gun-Powder.

Pages 828-830

Acts and Ordinances of the Interregnum, 1642-1660. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1911.

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February, 1645/6

[7 February, 1645/6.]

Power to persons named by Parlt. to dig for Saltpeter in likely places.; Saltpetermen to give satisfaction to Owners for damage.; Persons refusing to allow Saltpeter-men to dig, to be proceeded against.

Whereas the great expence of Gun-powder, occasioned by the present Wars within His Maiesties Dominions, hath well neer consumed the old store, and doth exhaust the Magazines so fast, that without a larger supply the Navy, Forts, and Land Armies cannot be furnished. And whereas foraign Saltpeter is not equal in goodness with that of our own Countrey, and the foraign Gun-powder far worse conditioned, and lesse forceable then that which is made in England. And whereas divers foraign Estates have of late prohibited the exportation of Saltpeter and Gunpowder out of their own Dominions and Countries, so that there can be little hope of future expectation of any Peter or Powder to be brought into this Kingdom as in former times, which wil enforce us to make use of our own materials, It is held most necessary that the digging of Saltpeter, and making of Gunpowder, should by all fitting means be encouraged at this time when it so much concerns the publique safety. Nevertheless to prevent the reviving of those oppressions and vexations exercised upon the people, under the colorable authority of Commissions granted to Saltpeter-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 Lords and Commons, Members of both Houses which are of the Committee of both Kingdoms, or any five of them, their Factors, Workmen and Servants, shall have power and authority by this present Ordinance to search, and dig for Saltpeter 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 Sun-rising in the morning till an hour before Sunsetting, 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 Saltpeter-men at their own cost and charges levelling the ground, repairing any damage which shall be done by them: Wherein if the said Saltpeter do fail to give satisfaction, to the contentment of the owners, upon complaint made by the parties grieved unto the Deputy Lieutenants, Justices of the Peace, Committees of Parliament, or any one or more of them; and they or any of them shall have power to compel the said Saltpeter-men to lay the ground in good order as before the breaking up (working onely excepted) And likewise to give such reasonable satisfaction for the damages, as he or they in his or their discretions shall think fit: Which not being obeyed, the name and offence of such person or persons refusing, shall be returned unto the said Lords and Commons of the said Committee, or any five of them. And forasmuch as the Saltpeter-men for the provision of the State, are to bring in a proportion of Saltpeter weekly, which they can no ways be able to do in case they should be denied to dig and work for Saltpeter, It is therefore Ordered, that in case any person whatsoever shall refuse to suffer Saltpeter-men allowed by the said Lords and Commons of the said Committee or any five of them, to dig and work for Saltpeter, according to the rules and limitations before mentioned; 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 enforce the obedience of the parties so refusing, or to certifie their offence, and names of the offendors, to the said Lords and Commons of the said Committee, or any five of them, to be proceeded against according to their demerits.

Power to saltpeter-men to take carts for carriage of their utensils at rate of 8 pence per mile.; Exemption from taxes and tolls on carriages.; Power to Saltpeter-men to take; outhouses for their utensils, and draw water.; Satisfaction to Owners.; Ord. to continue 3 years.

And it is likewise Ordained, That the said Saltpeter-men, for the carriage of the liquor-vessels, and other Utensils from place to place, and delivering of the Saltpeter where the same shall be made into Gunpowder, it shall be lawful for the said Saltpeter-men to demand and take Carts by the known Officers, so as the lading shall not exceed twenty hundredweight and the journey not exceed ten miles by the common estimation for carriage, whereof the owner shall be paid after the rate of eight pence per mile, and the empty vessels are to be recarried gratis. And the said Saltpeter-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 Saltpeter-men to dig, or do any other thing in pursuance of this Ordinance, according to the limitations and directions hereby given, then the Saltpetermen shall return the names of such persons so refusing to the said Lords and Commons of the said Committee, 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 the time of danger) may be continued and cherished, and the subjects may have the benefit of Powder at far easier rates then otherwise it would be sold for. For which purpose it is lastly Ordained, That the said Lords and Commons of the said Committee shall by vertue of this Ordinance have power and authority to put the Ordinance in execution, and to do and perform all such thing and things as to them shal seem expedient for the better effecting of this service. And it is further Ordained that such Saltpeter-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 for it, to the contentment of the owners thereof: Or if they shall not agree of such satisfaction, that then they appeal to the Deputy-Lieutenants, Justice 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 binde both parties. This Ordinance of Parliament to continue for three yeers, from the six and twentieth day of March, 1646.