On This Day in Trinity House History – 2 December


The Elder Brethren draft By-Laws for British shipping

Found in the Trinity House Court Minutes, the By-Laws for ships written by the Elder Brethren:


Whereas the Kings most excellent Majesty Charles the Second, and several former Kings and Queens of England, by their Letters Patents under the Great Seal, have given full Power and Authority to the Master and Brethren of Trinity House, to make by-Laws and Orders for the good Government and preventing Disorders in Navigation; and thereupon we the Persons so Authorized by the said Charter, have in pursuance thereof made certain by-Laws: viz.

Item. It is Ordered, That if at any time hereafter any Mariner or Seaman, having first Shipped himself with any Master of a Ship for a Voyage shall desert and leave the said Master, and ship himself with another Master, that the Master with whom he goeth that Voyage shall upon notice given on the behalf of the Corporation, detain Two Shillings in every Pound of the Wages of the said Mariner or Seaman for the time he serveth in the said Ship, to be paid to the Corporation for the poor thereof.

If any Man shall swear, Curse, Or Blaspheme the name of God, for every such Offence he shall pay to the Poors Box 0. 0. 6d.

If any Man shall lye a-shore, not having the Masters consent, for his first Offence he shall pay to the Poors Box 0. 2s. 6d.
For his Second Offence 0. 5s. 0.
For his Third Offence 0. 7s. 6d.
For his Fourth Offence 0. 10s. 0.
And so to advance according to proportion so often as the said Offence shall be committed.

If any Man shall be Obstinate and Stubborn in not obeying the Masters Commands, or any of his Mates, or the Boatswain, in the Masters absence, he shall pay for every such default to the Poors Box. 0. 2s. 6d.

If any Man shall tell a Lye, and be evicted of the same by proof, be shall pay to the Poors Box. 0. 0. 4d.

If any Man shall absent himself from Prayers, and not make his appearance at ringing of the Bell, he then being in health, for every such Offence he shall pay to the Poors Box. 0. 0. 6d.

If any Man be Drunk, for every such fault he shall pay to the Poors Box. 0. 1s. 0.

If any Man shall be abusive when he is Drunk, for every such Offence he shall pay to the Poors Box. 0. 1s. 0.

Item. It is Ordered, That every Commander or Master of a Ship that ships any Mariner or Seaman to sail with him upon any Voyage to Sea, shall take it in Writing under his Hand upon what Accompt he is Entertained, and also that he doth submit himself to the by-Laws of Trinity House.

Item. Whereas by reason of Powder being taken aboard Ships before their departing out of the River of Thames and by Keeping Powder aboard at their coming home in the time of their unlading: As also by heating Pitch and Tar aboard Ships, there hath often happened great losses to Merchants and Owners, It is Ordered, that no Ships shall receive their store of Powder aboard for the Voyage, above Four and Twenty hours before they do set Sail from Blackwall or Woolwich directly for Gravesend outward bound, upon penalty of £5. 0. 0.

Item. That all Ships homeward Bound do put a-shore their store of Powder within Twenty-four hours after coming to an Anchor in the River, at Blackwall or the usually unlade their Goods, if the Weather shall permit; and they unshot all their Guns, upon penalty of every such Offence to forfeit to the use of the Poor of the Corporation £6. 13s. 4d.

Item. That no manner of Pitch, Tar, or Rozen be heated aboard any Ships, Barks, or Hoys over any Fire, but with a Shot or other Iron, upon penalty of paying to the Poor of the Corporation £3. 0. 0.

Item. That all Masters of Vessels shall cause their Bread Rooms to be dried and appoint able and sufficient Man to take care of the same, and not to keep any Fire in their Bread Rooms in the Night time, upon Penalty of £5. 0. 0.

Item. Whereas by occasion of Dirt-Boats, which carry fruit, Wine, and other Strong-Waters to sell to Ship-Keepers and others aboard Ships, there is much wrong done to the Owners in the purloyning of Cordage and other Materials, It is therefore Ordered, that all Masters of Ships for the preventing of the evil aforesaid, do from henceforth give Orders to their Servants, that no Dirt-Boats be permitted to pass in the River to have recourse to any Ships; and all Commanders of Ships are enjoined once a Week to order the sailors to put the Dirt into their own Boats at seasonable hours in the Day and to lay it on shore, and not to buy or sell any thing with them: And upon such default of notice by the Master or Commander, or if any Dirt or Filth be thrown into the River River, every such Commander shall pay to the use of the Corporation toties quoties £1. 0. 0.

Item. And every Sailor or Servant for every neglect of his Duty therein, upon warning as aforesaid shall receive Corporal punishment from his Commander or in default thereof, the Commander shall pay the sum of £1. 0. 0.

Item. It is Ordered, That all Masters of Ships shall have a particular Copy of the By-laws of the said Corporation, they paying the Clerk for Copies thereof, to the end that they may the better known and observed.

But if any Person or Persons shall be found Offenders against the above mentioned By-laws and Orders, it shall then be left to the Liberty of the Commander of the Ship, with the advice and consent of his Officers, either to inflict Corporal Punishment, or receive and take the penalties aforesaid, for their breach of the said Laws before named: But if it shall happen that the said Persons have not present Money to Satisfie what is Ordered for their Offence, then it may be required, That he or they subscribe their Names to the Pursers Book, that it may be defaulted out of their Wages next Pay Day following.”


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