The Elder Brethren Required as Nautical Assessors at Admiralty Court
“A Clerk belonging to the Court of Common Pleas attends with the Crier of the said Court, with three rules from the Judges, and served three of the Brethren with notice to appear at Westminster on the 5th February next and give their opinion in a case depending, the business wholly relating to the sea.”
One of the many duties of the Elder Brethren is sitting, when summoned, to assist the Judge of the Admiralty Court as nautical assessors on the bench of that court when questions of seamanship, navigation and nautical knowledge arise, and when the High Court sits as a prize court. The two Brethren best acquainted with the issues raised by the case in question attend the Judge as Assessors.
The first reported case of assessors assisting the High Court of Admiralty is in 1541, and the Charter of James II prescribes that the Master, Wardens and Assistants, and their Deputies, being always at the king’s call, are exempted from all manner of land service except Admiralty Sessions, “which they and every one of them shall be tied and bound to attend, upon their Perils, being lawfully summoned.”
Trinity House on Water Lane Burns Down
The Board minute for 14 January 1715 recorded
“A terrible Fire hap’ning last night at Bear Key in Thames Street which burnt with such violence that about two this morning it took the houses in Water Lane and entirely consum’d the Trinity House belonging to this Corporation. The Deputy Master, Wardens, and Elder Brethren… mett together to consider what was proper to be immediately done on this dismal occasion, and Resolved that the business of the Ballast Office, and other affairs of the Corporation be for the present transacted at the Mitre Tavern in Fenchurch Street…”
The Corporation’s Clerk John Whormby’s 1746 account of the Corporation recalls a number of invaluable archives lost through fire and the chaos of moving from site to site: the Book of By-Laws; various charters and grants, Court minutes, reports, letters; ancient records of ballastage, buoyage and beaconage, several in Latin; “a small venerable vellum book of great antiquity” containing translations of the charters of Henry and Elizabeth, the By-Laws of 1514, the form of oaths in Elizabeth’s reign; a book of Proceedings in the Courts of Exchequer and Chancery and the House of Peers and copies of books lost to Trinity House but found in Pepys Library at Magdalene College, Cambridge.
The house, which Trinity House had occupied since 1660, was rebuilt after the fire and the Corporation continued to use it as a headquarters until 1796, at which time the current headquarters was built and opened on Tower Hill.