On This Day in Trinity House History – 23 May

1796

The first Court is held at the new Trinity House at Tower Hill

The first Court of the Elder Brethren is held at the newly-built corporate headquarters at Tower Hill.

By 1793 the house in Water Lane was in need of extensive repair. The Corporation sold the property to the Commissioners of Customs, and took over a vacant site on Tower Hill. Master carpenter-turned architect and engineer Samuel Wyatt, appointed Surveyor to Trinity House in 1792, drew up plans for a new house, which he can be seen presenting to the Elder Brethren in Gainsborough Dupont’s immense group portrait of 1794. William Pitt, Prime Minister, laid the foundation stone on 12 September 1793.

Trinity House 1795

Trinity House 1795


1910

HRH Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn is elected Master of Trinity House

Trinity Monday: HRH Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn KG KT KP GMB GCSI GCMG GCIE GCVO GBE VD TD is elected Master of Trinity House.

HRH Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn (1 May 1850 – 16 January 1942) was the seventh child and third son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. He was commissioned as a lieutenant in the British Army, where he served for some 40 years, seeing service in various parts of the British Empire. During this time he was also created as a royal duke, becoming the Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, as well as the Earl of Sussex. Though he retired from public life in 1928, he continued to make his presence known in the army well into the Second World War, just before his death in 1942; at the time of his death, he was Queen Victoria’s last surviving son. He sat as Master for the consecutive years until 1942.

On This Day in Trinity House History – 22 May

1676

Samuel Pepys is elected Master of Trinity House

Trinity Monday: Samuel Pepys is elected Master of Trinity House for the first time.

Samuel Pepys FRS MP JP (23 February 1633 – 26 May 1703) was an English naval administrator and Member of Parliament (for Harwich) who is now most famous for the diary he kept for a decade while still a relatively young man. Although Pepys had no maritime experience, he rose by patronage, hard work and his talent for administration, to be the Chief Secretary to the Admiralty under both King Charles II and subsequently King James II. His influence and reforms at the Admiralty were important in the early rise of the Royal Navy.

 


1736

The Dudgeon Lightvessel is laid in its Assigned Position for the first time

Trinity House Board Minute:

“Captain Major, Captain Merriman and Mr. Avery attended with a letter of the 16th. from Captain John Kitchingman on board the vessel intended for the Floating Light at Dudgeon Shoal, that she was then near the shoal, but the weather being calm the moorings were not laid, but would be in a day or two, they farther acquainted the Board that Mr. John Walker, Mr. Geo. Widget, Mr. Grey, and a great many other Masters of ships in the Coal Trade who came by since, said that the vessel was actually moored there, and that they intended to kindle the light on the 1st. June next and desiring that public notice thereof might be given and of the commencement of the Duties from that time, which was ordered accordingly, and that the Clerk write to our Collectors at the several ports to take care of the Duties accordingly.”

The Dudgeon Lightvessel was only the second lightvessel position to be laid, after that at the Nore was laid in 1732.


1742

The Admiralty requires the use of Trinity House’s Ballastage Wharf for the shipping of horses abroad

Trinity House Board Minute:

“Thos. Corbett, Esq. Secretary to the Admiralty, requesting permission for the shipping of horses to the Army in Flanders, from their ballast wharf at Woolwich, which was reported to be very suitable for the purpose. The Corporation’s officer there ordered to give every possible assistance.”


1837

The Duke of Wellington is elected Master of Trinity House

Trinity Monday: Arthur, first Duke of Wellington KG GCB GCH is elected Master of Trinity House.

Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (1 May 1769 – 14 September 1852) sat as Master from 1837 until 1852. He was a British soldier and statesman, a native of Ireland from the Anglo-Irish Ascendancy and one of the leading military and political figures of the 19th century.

He was twice Prime Minister, from 1828–30 and briefly in 1834. He remained Commander-in-Chief of the British Army until his death.

Arthur, first Duke of Wellington Master of Trinity House copyright Trinity House

Arthur, first Duke of Wellington Master of Trinity House copyright Trinity House

On This Day in Trinity House History – 21 May

1894

HRH Prince George (later George V) is elected Master of Trinity House

Trinity Monday: HRH Prince George, Duke of York KG KT (later George V) is elected Master of Trinity House. He sat as Master for 15 consecutive years until 1910, and was an Elder Brother until his death in 1936.

George V (3 June 1865 – 20 January 1936) was King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, and Emperor of India, from 6 May 1910 through the First World War (1914–18) until his death. George was a grandson of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. From 1877 to 1891, he served in the Royal Navy.

The second son of Edward VII, George became his father’s heir when his elder brother Edward unexpectedly died in 1892. He came to the throne in 1910 in the middle of a constitutional crisis caused by the House of Commons’ attempt to limit the powers of the Lords, and within four years was leading a country fighting for its survival during the First World War. The post-war years were equally turbulent, with war in Ireland, a general strike, world depression and the formation of a national government, all requiring steady leadership from the King. Throughout these difficult years, George maintained the dignity of the monarchy, and saw its popularity rise when he celebrated his Silver Jubilee in 1935.

HRH Prince George (later George V) Master of Trinity House (1900) copyright Trinity House

HRH Prince George (later George V) Master of Trinity House (1900) copyright Trinity House

On This Day in Trinity House History – 20 May – The Big One!

1514

The Corporation of Trinity House of Deptford Strond is incorporated by Henry VIII

Henry VIII grants a Royal Charter to The Master, Wardens and Assistants of the Guild or Fraternity of the most glorious and undividible Trinity and St. Clement in the Parish Church of Deptford Strond*.

The Royal Charter came as a result of a petition made by a guild of mariners, troubled by the inexperience and poor conduct of unregulated pilots on the Thames. This already well-established benevolent fraternity, in ownership of a great hall and 21 almshouses for the benefit of distressed seamen and their dependants, petitioned the king for license to set up a fraternity enabled to regulate pilotage on the capital’s river:

“The practise of pilotship in rivers, by young men who are unwilling to take the labour and adventure of learning the shipman’s craft on the high seas, is likely to cause scarcity of mariners; ‘and so this your realm which heretofore hath flourished with a navy to all other lands dreadful’ shall be left destitute of cunning masters and mariners; also that Scots, Flemings and Frenchmen have been suffered to learn as loadsmen [pilots] the secrets of the King’s streams, and in time of war have come as far as Gravesende ‘and sette owte English shippes to the great rebuke of the realm.’”

This new corporation was to be governed by a Master, four Wardens and eight Assistants, who were to be elected annually, and were empowered, for the general improvement of the science of navigation, to elect and expel any of their number; by-laws could be created, and transgressors punished by forfeit or expulsion. A seal served as the legal mark, and the Corporation was authorised to hold property to conduct its charitable affairs and meetings, with a chaplain appointed to pray for the kings, queens and brethren living and deceased.

To this day, the Corporation is headed by the Master, whose extensive powers and jurisdiction are deferred to the Deputy Master. Sir Thomas Spert, Master of the Mary Rose and the Henri Grâce à Dieu, was “Sometyme Comptroller of the Navy to K. Henry VIII and both the first Founder and Master of the Worthie Society or Corporation called the Trinity House”, as inscribed on his monument.

For more of the history of Trinity House, the best place to start would be with Richard Woodman’s recently published history, Light Upon The Waters, available from our website, and more information can be found on this blog and on our main website.

*This name would be slightly altered in the charter of 1604 to The Master Wardens and Assistants of the Guild Fraternity or Brotherhood of the most glorious and undivided Trinity and of St. Clement in the Parish of Deptford Strond

Trinity House petitions Henry VIII 1513

Trinity House petitions Henry VIII 1513 copyright Trinity House

 


1663

Trinity House is concerned about the sale of dirty fruit and alocohol on the Thames

Trinity House Court Minute:

“The Trinity House apply to the Company of Watermen to suppress those who sell fruit and strong waters from dirty boats not licensed to row on the River.”

 


1914

A warm testimonial to 400 years of Trinity House 

On the occasion of Trinity House’s 400th Anniversary, Lloyds List wrote the following:

“As a matter of history the record of Trinity House is fascinating. In its time it has been many sided. It has served the nation in this capacity and that, and all the while it has somehow managed to make itself so indispensable that, in an age of scant reverence for ancient institutions, it stands not only unassailed, but, we might also add, unassailable.” 

No.53: The Quincentenary of Trinity House

Many thanks to English Heritage’s Wreck of the Week blog!

“We look today at the first mention of Trinity House in the wreck records of English Heritage. Since its earliest days, Trinity House has been concerned with the safety of mariners in all respects, including responsibility for licensing ship pilots as guides into harbour…”

Wreck of the Week

Trinity House, the General Lighthouse Authority for England, Wales, the Channel Islands and Gibraltar, will celebrate its 500th anniversary on Tuesday 20th May, commemorating the granting of a Royal Charter by Henry VIII on 20th May 1514.

We look today at the first mention of Trinity House in the wreck records of English Heritage. Since its earliest days, Trinity House has been concerned with the safety of mariners in all respects, including responsibility for licensing ship pilots as guides into harbour.

In the 16th century pilots with intimate knowledge of the Thames Estuary were required to assist ships to pick their way between the parallel diagonal sandbanks that bar the way to the Thames: the Maplin, the Barrow, the Sunk, the Long Sand, and the Kentish Knock. (Between them they have accounted for nearly 600 recorded wrecks.) Over the centuries many a ship has gone aground in navigating a previously safe channel between these banks.

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London Slant: Flashing lights and City buoys at Trinity House

“Yesterday was a quite an occasion: a rare Open Day to celebrate 500 years since Trinity House’s foundation in 1514…”

London Slant

“Excuse me, what is a lighthouse?” I overheard a foreign visitor enquire.

Trinity House, London A fanfare welcome to Trinity House.

It was easy to point to an answer since there were two right there: either side of the door. While some of London’s grand old buildings illuminate their entrances with coach lamps, and others blazing torchères, Trinity House offers the beams of twin model lighthouses. You’d expect no less of the flagship headquarters of an organisation in charge of the safety of shipping since it was granted a charter by King Henry VIII.

Trinity House One of the twin lighthouses that illuminate the entrance at Trinity House

Yesterday was a quite an occasion: a rare Open Day to celebrate 500 years since Trinity House’s foundation in 1514. Since then the corporation has set up beacons all around Britain. It now operates some 600 lighthouses and lightships—the former mainly on the rocky west coast and the latter largely off the lower-lying and…

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Happy 500th birthday to Trinity House

To mark tomorrow’s big 500th anniversary, the blog of the History of Parliament’s House of Commons looks at Aaron Chapman (1771-1850), a nineteenth-century MP and Elder Brother of the Trinity House, described as being of ‘pleasing and unassuming manners and exterior, accompanied with sound sense and judgment’…

The Victorian Commons

This week sees the 500th anniversary of the presentation of a royal charter (on 20 May 1514) to ‘the Master Wardens and Assistants of the Guild Fraternity or Brotherhood of the Most Glorious and Undivided Trinity and of Saint Clement in the Parish of Deptford Strond in the County of Kent’, now usually known by its shorter title as Trinity House. This body has long held responsibilities for lighthouses and also for pilotage.

To mark this anniversary, our blog looks at a nineteenth-century MP who had a strong connection to Trinity House, serving as one of the elder brethren who governed its affairs. Aaron Chapman (1771-1850), described as being of ‘pleasing and unassuming manners and exterior, accompanied with sound sense and judgment’, was elected as the first MP for the newly enfranchised borough of Whitby in 1832. He represented this port as a Conservative until 1847, when he retired from…

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