On This Day in Trinity House History – 26 May

1621

The Admiralty Court rules on behalf of Trinity House and compulsory pilotage on the Thames

Trinity House Court Minute:

“None take on himself to be Master or Pilot of any ship or vessel to go forth or return to the Thames without certificate by the Trinity House. From my Chamber in the Doctors Commons– Sir Henry Marten to the Master, etc.”

Sir Henry Marten was a judge of the Admiralty Court and a member of the Court of High Commission.

Greenwich Hospital from the north bank of the Thames, Canaletto, 1750-52; National Maritime Museum, London

Greenwich Hospital from the north bank of the Thames, Canaletto, 1750-52; National Maritime Museum, London

 



1662

Samuel Pepys records the election of the new Master

Samuel Pepys’ diary:

“To the Trinity House; where the Brethren have been at Deptford choosing a new Master; which is Sir J Minnes*; notwithstanding Sir W Batten did contend highly for it; at which I am not a little pleased, because of his proud lady.”

*Admiral Sir John Mennes Kt was elected Master; I hope Pepys was not too dismayed that a year later Admiral Sir William Batten Kt was elected Master!

On This Day in Trinity House History – 10 February

1721

Elder Brethren as Nautical Assessors at the Admiralty

Trinity House Board Minute:

An Order from the Court of Admiralty for two Brothers to attend next Tuesday morning, and Captain John Smith and Captain John Frost appointed.”

One of the Brethren’s duties includes 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.”

A further note on this service, as detailed in Deputy Master Captain Joseph Cotton’s Memoir on the Origin and Incorporation of the Trinity House of Deptford Strond (1818) (Available as a PDF at Google Books):

“The Master, Wardens, and Assistants, and their Deputies, being always at the King’s call, are therefore, with their servants and apprentices, being maritime or seafaring men, exempted from all manner of land service and contributions thereto, and from all assizes, juries, inquests, &c., except on Admiralty Sessions, which they are bound to attend (upon their peril) being lawfully summoned, which exemptions are nevertheless revocable  by an order of council, the Lord High Admiral being present. Sea causes were formerly tried by the Brethren, instead of at the Common Pleas, as were all maritime causes, referred by the Admiralty, which were to be reported to that Board, for judgment, This is asserted to have been the case by Stowe in 1598.”

“Independent of the permanent employment, as has been described, the casual duties of the Brethren are many. The charter prescribes their attendance on all maritime causes, when the Judge of the Admiralty may think it necessary to require it; hence there are constant applications, when that court sits, for two of the Brethren to attend the Judge, as Assessors; and selection is made from the Brethren of those who are best acquainted with that part of the seacoast that the litigation refers to; and this particular, the present most intelligent Judge, Sir William Scott, has expressly directed the summons to notice.”

On This Day in Trinity House History – 13 January

1663

The Elder Brethren Required as Nautical Assessors at Admiralty Court

Court Minute:

“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.”


1715

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.

Trinity House Water Lane

Trinity House Water Lane