Enter the Trinity House 500th anniversary quiz for great prizes

Enter the Trinity House 500th anniversary quiz for great prizes

As part of its 500th anniversary celebrations, the Corporation of Trinity House is offering the chance to win a copy of the new Trinity House photography book Light Through A Lens and a Trinity House-themed print by renowned illustrator Peter Kent.

We’ll post more about the book on this blog closer to its publication on 11 September 2014. In the meantime, you can read about it on the Bloomsbury website.

To find out more, please visit the Trinity House website. Good luck!

On This Day in Trinity House History – 18 June


Samuel Pepys has a good night with the Elder Brethren

Samuel Pepys’ diary:

“By barge to Stepney with my Lord (Sandwich), where at Trinity House we had great entertainment; with my Lord there went Sir W Pen, Sir H Wright, Hetley, Creed, Pierce Hill, I and other servants.”



The Elder Brethren attend to the discord among the almspeople at Deptford

Trinity House Court Minute:

“The Elder Brethren then present were desired by the Master that everyone of them would betwixt this and Saturday next consider what was requisite to add to the By lawes of the Corporacon, The Master Wardens and Brethren having been informed that there is not that love and good agreement amongst theire Almswomen at Deptford as ought to bee.

And the reason to be in regard five of the said Almespeople have but five shillings per month and the other seaven hath ten shillings per month wch. hath caused animosities and undervalluing one another.

To prevent wch. and that they may live as they ought to doe in love and peace, It is thought fit and ordered, That those five new Almeswomen who recd, formerly five shillings a Month shall for the future tyme receive ten shillings a Month as the other seaven doe, and soe in all gifts and payments according to custome or otherwise, there be an equall proporcon amongst them,

Ordered, That they have notice thereof and be admonished to live together in love and peace as is meett they should least the offenders doe incurre the displeasure of this House.”

Trinity House almshouses at Deptford

Trinity House almshouses at Deptford



On This Day in Trinity House History – 3 June


Samuel Pepys dines (eventually) at Deptford with the Brethren

Samuel Pepys’ diary entry:

“Thence down by water to Deptford, it being Trinity Monday, when the Master is chosen, and there, finding them all at church, and thinking they dined, as usual, at Stepny, I turned back, having a good book in my hand, the Life of Cardinal Wolsey, wrote by his own servant, and to Ratcliffe; and so walked to Stepny, and spent, my time in the churchyard, looking over the gravestones, expecting when the company would come by.

Finding no company stirring, I sent to the house to see; and, it seems, they dine not there, but at Deptford: so I back again to Deptford, and there find them just sat down. And so I down with them; and we had a good dinner of plain meat, and good company at our table: among others, my good Mr. Evelyn, with whom, after dinner, I stepped aside, and talked upon the present posture of our affairs.”


On This Day in Trinity House History – 2 June


Almswoman Ms. Barman is asked to cease her ‘irregular’ behaviour

Trinity House Board Minute:

“Complaints being made to the Board by the Deputy Master and other brethren who have lately visited our Almshouses at Deptford, that Anne Barman, one of our almswomen there is addicted to drinking and behaves Irregularly, and she having been ordered to attend the board thereon, she attended accordingly, and being severely reprimanded for the same with threats of dismission in case of farther misbehaviour, four shillings a month was ordered to be stopped from her pay till farther orders and her better behaviour.”

Trinity House almshouses at Deptford

Trinity House almshouses at Deptford

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


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



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.”



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.” 

Today in Trinity House history: 19 March 1513 – the Masters and Mariners of the Thames petition Henry VIII

Five hundred years ago today, on 19 March 1513, a guild of mariners—troubled by the inexperience and poor conduct of unregulated pilots on the Thames endangering life and cargo—petitioned the King for license to set up a fraternity enabled to regulate pilotage on the Thames. This fraternity was already in ownership of a great hall and 21 almshouses for the benefit of distressed seamen and their dependants, suggesting an already well-established body.
The petitioners put forward the following case:


To the king our sou(er)aigne lord.

In the moste lowly wise shewen unto your excellent highnes yor humble subgiects and true liegemen the maisters rulers and maryners of yor navye within your Ryver of Thamys and other places that wher moste mercifull redoubted prince that of tyme owte of man is mynde as long as due order good rule and guyding were sufficed to be had in yor said Ryver and other places by auncient Englissh maisters and lodesmen of the same the said rivers and places and the daungers of the same were then by theym thrughly serched so surely that fewe shippes or noon were perisshed in defaulte of lodemanage now it is so moste gracious sovereign lord that dyvers and many yongmen namyng theym self mariners beyng owte of all good order and rule not havyng the perfyte knowlege ne experience in shipmens crafte neither of sufficiency experience approved ne of age in the same to knowe the surance and saufconduyte of shippes by the connyng of lodemanage dailly unseytly medlen therwith to great and hurte and losse of moche of the said Navye  And also not willeng to entre into the actuell aventure and paynes of saillyng in the mayn see wherby experience and knowledge of sailleng from Realme to Realme might clerely growe and be lerned and also by the same your navye and marchaunts shulde be the more in nombre and your custumers greatly encreased whiche can not be had but by the connyng and science of shipmans crafte by greate laboure and aventure of the see sailleng from land to land taken in yowth but the said yongmen not intendyng to learne the said science and crafte ne to aventure for the obteyning of the same ne for the weale nor for the avauntage aforsaid dailly applye their myndes to easier labor to be pilotts and lodesmen in yor said Ryver of Thamys oonly whiche was somtyme the lyveng of auncient maryners whan they myght no lenger for bruseys and maymes had upon the see in the Kings warres or for pure age labor any more in the crafte and aventure aforsaid  

And so by reason of the said yongmen wull no ferther lern but pilotship oonly in yor river aforsaid whan auncient maisters and maryners of this yor realme that now ben whiche am very feble and many ben expended and goon  Then ffewer maryners of science and connyng to saille by sees shall then be·lefte behynde theym  

And so this yor Realme whiche here tofore hath florisshed with navye·to alle other lands dredfull and connyng maisters and maryners in the same yor Realme to guyde the said navy through all Cristendom is sees shall then be utterly destitute and unpurveyd of suche sure and connyng maisters and maryners at tyme of nede That God defend  

And howbeit soueraign lord that among yor said subgietts there ben many and dyvers conyng men aswell maisters as lodismen that be of great age and perfyte connyng to convey and bring into the said Ryver and owte of the same any carrak gayly or vessell of what burden however it be yete for all that for lak of good ordre and due correccion amongest us as well Scotts Flemmyngs Frenshmen as other straungers borne not beyng yor naturell subgiects take upon theym to be lodismen in yor said river and other places of this yor roialme  

And to enserche and knowe yor stremes and the daungers and secrets of the same contrary to yor olde lawes and customes  And all the good policye of this yor roialme By reason wherof thissame yor Realme myght be put in great jeoperdy as experience of olde tyme hath shewed in so muche that fewe yeres sens it hath ben seen within yor said river and other places of this yor reelme in tyme of werre Frenshmen and other then beyng enemyes By knowlege of the secrets of yor said Ryver have comen as fer as Gravesende and fette owte Englissh shippes to the great rebuk of this realme 

And if the auncient maisters and maryners therof that now been had the rule or ordryng of the premisses as their predecessours in dayes paste have had There shuld noon suche straungers have the rule of lodemanage nor take any charge upon theyme in yor said ryver as they now have and fewer shippes or noon shuld perisshe in defaulte of lodemanage as now of late have doon But many moo shippes shulde come in to yor said river and other places then of a greate season have doon to the great avauntage of yor custumers and also sufficient maisters and maryners of connyng wolde every day encrease more and more so that in tyme of nede soueraign lord it shuld not requyre to seke straungers to do yor grace service at yor high pleasure ne to serve yor marchaunts in any besynes  

And so in conclusion moste rightwis and our moste drad soueraign lord yor said subgiects must nede shortly perisshe and yor said Navye utterly mynyssh and decay to all straungers most greatly rejoysyng and to all true Englishmen moste pitiously lamentyng withoute yor moste tendir pitye and mercy to theym in this case be shewed  

WHEREFORE the recontinuaunce and reencreasing aswell of yor said maisters & maryners as of yor Roiall whiche ben greatly abated and decayed over that they were and have ben of late tyme  And in consideracion gracious leige lord that all princes and kings cristenys have speciale favor & preferment to the Marchaunts maisters &maryners of their regions contreyes & lands for the encrease and mayntenyng of their Navye for the greate perfitt and custumers that come therby to the said kings and princes and for the great honor and comonweale of their said regions contreys & lands  

IT MAY pleas therfor you most mercifull soueraign lord syns ye be the moste noble cristen king and have the moste noble region in comodities with merchaunts maisters maryners and navie of the worlde if they be maynteyned and cherisshed as other nacions ben now at this tyme for Godds sake and in wey of charite calling to yor gracious remembraunce how that it were a blissid dede to breke all the forsaid ill rules and mysguydings and to reforme and bryng to good use and ordir every thing towchyng the premysses and to helpe to set it in good wey to the pleasure of God honor and worship to you soueraign lord and of this yor Roialme  

And to the great joy and comfort of all trew English merchaunts maisters lodismen and maryners  And for the speciall encreas of yor navie and custumes to graunt to yor said subgietts yor gracious letters patents in due and ample form to be made and enseelid under the greate seale after the tenor ensuyng  And they shall every pray to God for the preservacon of your most noble and roiall estate long to endure in as moche joy and felicite as ever did Cristen prynce.

As Henry was engaged in his first war with the French at the time of petition, it was 14 months before the charter could be finally signed, incorporating that body of mariners as The Master, Wardens and Assistants of the Guild or Fraternity of the most glorious and undividable Trinity and St. Clement in the Parish Church of Deptford Strond, although this name would be slightly altered in a later charter 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, in the County of Kent.

So that’s how it all got started; now follow the Trinity House History blog for more on what happened next!

A Little Light Reading

Although it’s not the easiest book to find—only 475 copies were printed—The Trinity House of Deptford Strond by C R B Barrett (Lawrence & Bullen 1893) is a fantastic illustrated biography of Trinity House and well worth a read for anyone interested in the origins, quirks and responsibilities of the corporation. The beautiful frontispiece, illustrated by the author, is presented below. [Worldcat description]

Similarly, interesting biographies were also written in-house by some of our Elder Brethren and are thankfully more readily available, notably 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) and Deputy Master Captain Sir Frederick Arrow’s The Corporation of the Trinity House: A Memoir of its Origin, History and Functions (1868). (Available as a PDF at Google Books)

Frontispiece from Barrett's The Trinity House of Deptford Strond (1893)

Frontispiece from Barrett’s The Trinity House of Deptford Strond (1893)