Collector to Board Letters Book 1764 - 1769


Note: The Book for 1759 – 1764 is missing.

These extracts are a partial transcription of the book held at the National Archives reference, CUST 61/3, words are shown in italics in case of doubt. Items in blue are additional or background information. I do not accept any responsibility for any inaccuracies.


30 May 1764                 Inclosed we submit an Account of a Seizure of Linen Silk Handkerchiefs and other Goods made by Mr William Godwin Tide Surveyor at this Port on Board the Charlotte Patrick Campbell Master from Rotterdam being found at Clearing Concealed in two Casks of Pease and not Comprised in the Masters Report & as further Proof of an Intended fraud the Mate offered one of the Boatmen who found these Goods by boreing holes in the Casks of Pease Ten Guineas if he would not discover them to Mr Godwin. Inclosed is likewise the Officers Account of this seizure to which we beg leave to refer & to report that this is the Ship your Honours by your letter of 2nd Ult. gave us notice was on an illicit Trade & therefore the Tidesurveyor with his Tidesmen & Boatmen have used their utmost diligence to detect the Clandestine Importation of any Goods by this Ship.


19 June 1764               Robert Porter, Master of the “Polly” from Rotterdam with three hundred Palantine Passengers, made his report here the 18th in order to clear for Philadelphia. This ship, we are informed, was British Plantation built and by the enclosed papers taken in the late war with the French as she was on her voyage from Virginia to London, laden with tobacco and carried into France, where she was condemned and James Crauford, a British subject residing in Rotterdam afterwards bought her for valuable consideration. The present owners are the said Crauford and Robert Porter, the Master, who belongs to this port. He prays your Honours will be pleased to give us leave to grant a Register for the said ship in the room of that lost when she was taken by the French, that the said ship with the three hundred passengers now on board may not be detained.


7 July 1764                    The Wheel of Fortune Burthen 42 Tons was seized and Returned in an Indenture last term, she lyes ashore Bulged at the Back of the Island and we are Obliged to keep a guard on her of Two Men to prevent the Country People from Cutting her to pieces the Charge of which Already comes to Upwards of Twelve pounds at 2d per Day Each. We therefore pray your Honours be pleased to Order her to be Burnt and Destroyed as soon as Possible that the Revenue may not be at any further Expense for keeping a Watch on her.


21 July 1764                  We received your Order of 17th Instant informing us that the Masters of the Unity from N’ Carolina should account for the Deficiency of the Tar & Turpentine and the Master of the Wolff from Georgia for the Deficiency of Rice & beg leave to Acquaint your Honours that we examined the Masters at the time of Making their Reports and they Declared the Quantity Inserted in the Plantation Certificates was designed to be taken on board but clearing before the Ships were quite loaded they found at last they could not take in all the Goods they had Cleared for which was the Real Cause of the Deficiency & we be leave to further Observe that differences between the Masters Report here & Plantation Certificates must often happen when Masters are Suffered in the Plantations to Clear out their Ships before they are fully Laden which we have frequently found by the Masters Declarations to be the case.


6 August 1764               In obedience to your Honours Command directing us to report on the State of the Smuggling Trade carried on between the Islands of Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Sark and other parts of His Majesty’s Dominions, we beg to report that from the best Information we can get the Goods imported into the Islands of Guernsey and Alderney chiefly consist of Wine, Tea, Brandy, Geneva and India Goods with which they are chiefly supply’d by the French and Dutch and small Quantities of Bricks, Flour, Hoops and Staves from hence and the Goods Exported from thence into this Kingdom consists in the aforesaid Wine, Tea, Brandy, Geneva and India Goods beside Corns, Cyder, Pebble Stone and Worsted Manufactured of sundry sorts, but we have little or no trade from the Islands of Jersey and Sark neither can we learn that any Duties are paid on Goods Imported into any of the above Islands and beg leave to observe that we are of the Opinion that unless the Goods taken on board at the Islands by small Vessels were liable to Seizure as soon as they come out of Harbour it will be a most difficult matter to totally suppress Smuggling thence as by the present Laws they are not forfeited unless Hovering within Three Leagues of the Coasts of this Kingdom.


3 November 1764           Having acquainted Mr James Mackenzie a Merchant at this Port with your Order of 26 Ultimo in relation to One hundred Oak Planks lately seized by Mr William Andrew Waiter & Searcher at this Port directing the said Andrew to be paid his expenses of a moderate satisfaction we this day received the Inclosed Letter from Mr Mackenzie whereby it will appear a tender of Five Guineas have been made the said Andrews Viz. Two for his Expenses and three as a Satisfaction and it is in our opinion we thought the same a Sufficient Gratuity as it fully appears to us no fraud was intended and the mistake entirely owing to the Person in London calling the Planks English instead of Foreign in the Coast Coquet we therefore call’d on the said Andrews and advised him to accept Mr Mackenzie’s offer who absolutely refus’d to accept less than Ten Guineas. We therefore pray your Honours will be pleased to settle this affair between them.


21 January 1765            We beg leave to acquaint your Honours that Richard Rogers, Riding Officer on the Establishment of this Port Died the 19th Instant.


28 January 1765            In obedience to your Command we beg leave to report on the enclosed Petition that on 9th October last there came to an Anchor in Cowes Roads a Sloop called the Polly of Padstow about the Berthen of Twenty eight Tons, whereof Walter Gord was Master and upon Mr Godwin the Tide Surveyor going along side of the said Sloop he asked the said Master from whence he came, where bound and what he had in his Sloop. His answer was he came from London / which was not true / bound for Milford to load coals and that he had nothing in his Sloop but Ballast which appeared to be so at first looking into the Hold, but upon Rummaging her very strictly the Tide Surveyor found a false Bulk Head wherein was concealed one Oil Skin Bag containing Twenty four Pounds of Tea, five stone Bottles containing ten Gallons Geneva, two stone Bottles containing six Gallons Brandy, five pieces containing 120 bales of Sheeting Linen of foreign manufacture, 3 pieces containing 86 bales of Hollands Linen, 8 pieces containing 25 yards of French Lawn, 2 pieces containing 11 yards of French Cotton & 1 piece containing 6 yards of Flemish Bedtick all of which Goods the Tide Surveyor seized for being concealed as aforesaid by which concealment the said Goods appeared to him to be Run and after the Goods were discovered by the Tide Surveyor the said Master owned that he came from Dunkirk and as he did not appear to be the least disordered by Liquor, the Tide Surveyor also seized the said Sloop agreeable to your Honours order dated 6th November last, we further observe that in the said Petition no notice is taken of the Tea, Brandy and Geneva seized out of the said Vessel.


9 March 1765                We have sent to Portsmouth to be forwarded by the waggon of George Clark who sets up at the “White Hart” Inn in the Borough, and will be there on Wednesday next a box containing two casks of British Plantation made Indigo entered at this port the 28th ultimo and the 2nd inst in the “Baltick” of Salem, Edward Allen, Master from South Carolina for which the merchants claim bounty. We desire to know if he is intitled thereto. The carriage to be paid is one shilling and sixpence.


7 June 1765     From William Godwin, Tide Surveyor to the Collector

There are at this times in Cowes Harbour eight Ships from South Carolina and Georgia with Rice etc. and one from Norway with Timber and Deals and as there are belonging to this Port but nine Established Tidesmen and Boatmen whereas there are Employed on the Keys to Weigh the Cargoes of the above mentioned ships Eleven Extra Tidesmen and Boatmen whereof two of them are very old and seldom capable of doing any Duty and there are two on the Watch and to row in the Boat and often two to meet Coals out of the Collier, so there frequently happens to be want of Officers Sufficient to guard the Ships of Charge that are in the Port which is the case at present therefore by your application I have boarded four men who are under Oath and Security but have no Deputation from the Commissioners and Consequently have not a proper Authority to Seize Goods that they may see running out of any Ships where they are Boarded therefore it is my humble opinion it would be for the Benefit of the Revenue if their Honours would grant four more Deputations for such persons that are well Qualified for the Office which addition of Officers would not be of any greater Expense than there is at this time, for the Extramen are never employed until all the Established Tidesmen are on Duty & then they are paid but two Shillings per Day & upon an average may amount to fifteen pounds per annum. You have upon occasion applied to the Collector & Comptroller at Portsmouth and at other times to the Collector & Comptroller at Southampton and some times to Both and it has often happened that neither port had any Tidesmen to spare, when they had it was always Extramen which put the Crown to Greater Expense by all the Travelling Charges that was paid to them Officers coming from these ports and returning home.

The four Persons I have usually Employed which are undermentioned are under Oath & Security and who I would humbly Recommend to have a Deputation Viz:

Richard Craddick

Thomas Hollis

Charles Tellen

William Jeffery, Jun.


7 June 1765                   Inclosed we return to your Honours the Applications of Mr Thomas Rawlinson, Messrs Davison and Newman relating to a Box containing 7 lb Tea & the Application of Messrs. Bull & Moody relating to a Chest containing 75 lb Tea and beg leave to observe that an account of the seizure of this Tea for want of a Coast Dispatch from Portsmouth was sent to your Honours on 22nd Ultimo and a further account thereof was given to your Honours by our Letter of 3rd Inst. to which we refer & beg your Honours Directions.


31 July 1765                  We beg leave to acquaint your Honours that the Four Oared Boat at Yarmouth in this Port is worn out and not worth Repairing. Inclosed is copy of an Estimate for another Four Oared Boat to be built in her Room amounting to Eleven Pounds and Eleven Shillings to which we beg leave refer and pray your Honours will be pleased to give us directions to have her built here.

An Estimate of a four Oared Boat for the Boatman at Yarmouth

To be built with ¾ of an Inch Elm Plank                            Feet and Inches

Length from Stem to Stern                                                          16 : 6

Breadth in Midships                                                                     6 : 0

Depth                                                                                          2 : 0

Clinker Built with Foresheats, Sternsheats, Locker Benches, Rudder, Wherry Thales, four thoughts astern for the Mast under the main Thought, Keelson, Bottom Boards, Scarboards, Riseing & Keelband all to be completed in a Handsome Workmanlike manner for the price of £11 – 11 – 0.


14 September 1765        John Clark Master of the Prince of Wales lately arrived from South Carolina with Nine Hundred and thirty seven Barrels of Rice by Certificate from thence, which he reported but when Landed it appeared he had on Board One Barrel of Rice more than was mentioned in his Certificate or Report, upon which he came to the Custom House to add it to his Report and Enter it, which we have refused pursuant to your Honours Order of the 25th June last, and have Secured it in the Warehouse till we receive Orders thereupon.


21 September 1765        John Lemon Waiter and Searcher is very Ill and not able to do his Duty and as there is at Newport a great deal of Coast Business we have sent Robert Armes Tidesman and Boatman to do Duty there in his Room and hope it will meet with your Honours approbation.


23 September 1765        John Lemon Waiter and Searcher at Yarmouth in this Port Died the 21st Instant.


2 November 1765           In Obedience to your Command of the 3rd Ultimo We burnt on 28th the hull of the sloop Polly, 28 tons, seized by William Godwin Tide Surveyor on 8th November 1764, the Officer prays your Honours will be pleased to Order us to pay him fourteen pounds being after the Rate of Ten shillings a Ton as a Reward for seizing the said Sloop.


6 November 1765           We beg leave to acquaint you Honours that we have been informed a great many of the Masters of Vessels belonging to Newport in the Port absolutely refuse to put into this Office the Sufferance they bring from Southampton and Portsmouth for Foreign and British Goods, and the same without any Warrant or Sufferance from us for that purpose, to remedy such pernicious Practice and to put the Coast Trade at this Port under a better regulation, we are humbly of the opinion if one or two of the Masters of the Vessels that refuse to comply with the Laws were to be Prosecuted it would put a Stop, not only to this Neglect of their Duty, but restrain them from bringing Goods without any Sufferance, which is so often the case, and as Edmond Minson Master of the Providence Sloop brought from Portsmouth last week to Newport in this Port two Hogsheads Containing Thirty Hundred weight Sugar, one bag Cotton wick, twelve paper parcels, five boxes Millinery and Haberdashery English Goods, one hamper Spar Water, one pocket containing four hundred weight thirty quarters Wheat, ten bundles one sack English Paper, four half hogs heads Vinegar, one Loaf British Refined Sugar and one quarter barrel containing one hundred weight Sun Raisins by Sufferance dated 30th Ultimo and as he declared to the Officer acting as Coastwaiter at Newport, he woul’d not put his Dispatch into the Office. Inclosed we transmit the Officers Affidavit relating thereto and humbly submit it to your Honours consideration whether Edmond Minson ought not to be Prosecuted for Contempt of the Coast Laws for till an Example or two is made we apprehend it won’t be possible to bring Coast Business at Newport in this Port to any tolerable regulation.


11 December 1765         In the night between 6th and 7th Inst. was stranded near Chale on the Back of this Island a Spanish ship called St Michael from Bilboa laden with Spanish Wooll and bound therewith for London, we have sent Officers to take care of what can be save of the Cargo for the proprietor.


25 March 1766   This day arrived at this port the “Fair American”, John Minshall, Master from Charles Town in South Carolina with eight hundred and forty three barrels of rice by clearances as usual without being stamped, the cause of which appear in the Lieutenant Governor’s Certificate inclosed. We have refused his entry till your Honours pleasure be known.

South Carolina

            By the Honourable William Bull Esqr., Lieutenant Governor and Commander in Chief over the said Province.

To all whom these presents shall come or be seen. Whereas Mr Caleb Lloyd , appointed by the Honourable Commissions of the Stamp Office in Great Britain to be distributor of stamped papers in this Province, has signified to me by letter that he is determined to adhere to his publick declaration not to issue any stamped papers, and accordingly will not issue any, I do therefore certify that now stamped papers are not to be had in this Province.

Given under my hand and seal at Arms at Charlottetown, this eighth day of February 1766

By his Honour’s Command,        Thos. Skottowe, Secretary

[This seemingly resulted from the Passing of the Stamp Act by the British Government in 1765 which required all Colonists to pay a Stamp Duty on every piece of printed paper they used, including Ships Papers and may be considered one of the factors which led to that led to the American War of Independence.]


9 April 1766                   Inclosed we return the Petition of Christopher Ratsey and Excise Officers Certificate relating to two Boxes containing Two Hundred forty five Pounds of Sope made by said Ratsey, and beg leave to observe, that this is the Sope which your Honours were pleased to direct should be Prosecuted for Condemnation in the Exchequer by your Order of 20th Ultimo and by the Officers Account of this Seizure, copy of which is now again transmitted and into which we have Examined and find that what he there says is true, it appears that Ratsey the owner and John White the Master who took into his Vessel the Sope to be carried to the Port of Poole were both Cautioned by the Officer not to attempt shipping it without taking out a proper Sufferance and Dispatch for the same which they refused to do and notwithstanding they were so cautioned yet the Sope was shipped & the Vessel sailed away with it & the Officer followed in a Boat near a mile from this Harbour before he could come up with her to seize it for being shipped contrary to Law.       


19 April 1766                 The Humble Petition of William Matthews the Younger of the Parish of St Hellens in the Isle of Wight in the County of Southampton, Fisherman.

That your Petitioner is a Poor Fisherman with a Wife and three small Children who entirely depend on him for their support and maintenance and hearing a Capias is issued against him for running Prohibited Goods must abscond and leave his Wife and Family who are in great Distress.

That your Petitioner believes he can with the assistance of his Friends / tho with much difficulty / raise the Sum of Ten Pounds together with the Costs the Crown hath been already put to in this affair which your Petitioner humbly hopes your Honours will be pleased to accept as a Composition for his Offence and give orders the Proceedings against him may be stayed. And your Petitioner as is Duty Bound shall ever pray. [Matthews was being prosecuted for a Penalty of £1750 for shipping 700 gallons of Brandy and 4 Hundredweight of Tea, there were similar petitions from James Matthews, John Kingswell of Bembridge and William Hollis of St. Hellens. The Collector recommended acceptance of his offer.]


10 May 1766                 We beg leave to acquaint your Honours that the Lease of the Custom House at this Port which was for Twenty one Years being expired near Twelve Months since. Messrs. Lydiatt and Sons being the owners therof have signified they are ready / agreeable to the Covenant of the previous Lease / to grant your Honours another Lease for the same Term of Years and on the same footing as that Expired as this appearing to us to be the most convenient place beg to know if your Honours approved a new Lease being taken on the Terms offered.


2 June, 1766.                 Gentlemen, I beg leave to acquaint you that in the month of August last Francis Isherwood, one of your officers at St Hellens came into my house & I knowing him to be an officer and having heard that there was a capias out against me, I immediately ran through my house into my garden and he after me, but not being able to get from him, he caught and arrested me on which I told him I hoped that he would not hurt me & he reply'd "get away as fast as you can" which I did, the next morning he came again to my house again and in my presence gave the capias to my wife to read which she did, he then told me the best way was to get clear off otherwise I should be taken, on which I went over to Alderney. [This was written by William Matthews (see 19 April 1766). Isherwood was charged with this offence and subsequently dismissed.]


2 July 1766                    In obedience to your commands of 27th Ult. the present ensign belonging to the Watch House at this Port was provided and sent us by your Honours order of 23rd August 1745, in the room of one then worn out and the use of such an ensign is more than necessary here from the situation of the Port, as the Custom House is at East Cowes and the Watch House at West Cowes near the mouth of the Harbour, the River that runs up to Newport parts the two towns. The distance of a quarter of a mile from Custom House to Watch House and it is necessary for the service to have some of the Tidesmen and Boatmen to live in both places, so it is necessary to have some signal to call the officers residing at East Cowes when wanted on duty at the Watch House at West Cowes and in a like manner we have at East Cowes before the Custom House a flag pole on which we hoist an ensign for a signal whenever the Tidesurveyor or boatmen are wanted for the service at Custom House and we think these ensigns are necessary for the service notwithstanding they are occasionally made use of on particular holidays.


1 September 1766 – From Francis Isherwood.     

This is to inform you I know that Christopher Bullock stole the following articles which I am ready to make oath:

1st That on September 24th 1763 Bullock took a Hogshead of Genevah and one stone jug of Senemin warter which jug or stone bottle of Senemin warter to his own house & their kept for his own Drinking and did not bring it to ye Custom House and at different times gave me a deam.

2nd The very day Bullock & Donet seazed a load of Teay and stone Bottles of Rack and some Chiney from one Mr Palister mate of the Pocock Indeman. I was with Bullock on bord ye said ship & their he brought a parcel which one of the Officers that was borded ye said Ship se them Stick out of his Pockit & reprimanded him for it but did not take the Chiney from him & the said Bullock gave me as much of the Rack as I would Drink along with his self & Donet and all of us get prity Mery.

3rd On the 16th October 1765 Bullock Seazed two half Chests of Fine Green Teay by Information given him & ye person as they was going to Sease them but he would not let me know what he was going about but I staying at St Hellens and sees Bullock bring in a Cart these two Chests of Teay so I went home with him & ye Cart & said G. Teay by his Order into his Chamber & he & I took a good observation of the Chest that was brock open & we both thought it might of being full eight or ten Pounds but when we got ye Exciseman to weigh ye Teay I see that their had been a great deal more taken for the Chest was a great deal emtier & the said Bullock did order his wife to go & I myself along with her & she by his Order took a large Punch Bowl up heap’d out of ye Chest & gave sum to the Exciseman & some to Donet & sum to me & kept ye rest of it for his self so it weighed only Twenty Seven Pounds.

4th is that ye said Bullock hath both kept an Alehouse & Chandlers Shop ever since I came to the Island under ye denomination of his Wife’s Daughter but I have paid his wife Divers of times for Shop goods & likewise for Bear & he ye said Bullock hath Divers of times bought Bachon & Cheefess which they sold out of ye Shop which Gentlemen I am Redy to take my Oath to every artickle as Witness my hand this 1st September 1766

3 September 1766          We received your Commands of the 21st Ultimo to call in the Commission of Francis Isherwood late a Boatman at St Hellens, which we have accordingly done, but Yesterday he brought us the Inclosed Complaint against Christopher Bullock now Chief Boatman there for Embezzling part of Sundry Seizures and for other Misdemeanours in his Office to which we beg to refer and your Honours directions. [It appears little or no action was taken against Bullock as he continued in service for some years.]


22 September 1766        Letter from Wm Tuching                                                                       

I beg leave to acquaint you that on 11th Inst. I went to Portsmouth and bought of a shopkeeper in the fair way of Trading 74 lb of gunpowder to send to Mr Pearse at Portland to blow up rocks with, and on 20th Inst. about half past eleven at Night, as I was carrying it along the street at West Cowes to put on board Mr Davis’s sloop to carry it to Weymouth, a Mr William Mouncher, a Tidesman at your Port took it from me

I beg the Favour of you Gentleman that you will use your Endeavour that I might have it restored to me again, which will very much oblige. [This did not work and he subsequently Petitioned for its return stating he was ‘a poor old man quite ignorant of Permits & Sufferances’.


18 October 1766            The Humble Petition of James Bouzell of Newport in the Isle of Wight, Miller.

That your Petitioner on 7th Inst. sold two sack of fine and one of second Flour, to Loren Juel, Master of the Ship Gromstad of and for Norway (then lying in Cowes Harbour) and the said Master assured me it was for the Ships use while lying in the Harbour, he promised to come to Newport the next Day & pay me for said Flour but the Officers of the Customs hearing it was on board went on board and took it out & brought it to the Warehouse and then the Master would not pay me for it which is a great loss to me as I am a man of low Circumstances. Your Petitioner humbly begs that your Honours will direct your Officers to deliver the Flour by giving them a gratuity to your Petitioner & he will forever pray. 


2 March 1767                Inclosed we transmit to your Honours a Letter this day received from Isaac Pen who has been a Prisoner in Winchester Gaol upwards of two Years and for the particular Circumstances for this poor man’s case we beg leave to refer your Honours to our letter of 4th February last:

Letter from Isaac Pen     My Deplorable Situation in this place of Confinement compels me to trouble you once more in Hopes you may consider my miserable Situation, my long Confinement together with the unhappy Circumstances I daily labour under make me Despair of ever geting my Liberty more without your Goodness with the rest of you Gentlemen of the Custom House making Intercession for me the Honourable Commissioners of the Customs, or otherwise as you think most Expedient.


20 April 1767                 In obedience to your Command of 7th Instant, the St Hellens Boat in this Port which is worn out and not worth repairing is upwards of Ten Years old, has length of 18 Feet 2 Inches, Depth in the Midships 2 Foot 9 Inches, Breadth 6 Foot 2 Inches & Clinker Built, Built with half Inch Plank.

We have Consulted with the Officers stationed their & are humbly of the Opinion that if they have a new Boat of the Present Dimensions she will not be fit in bad Weather to visit Ships which come to Anchor in St Hellens Roads & assist in Guarding the Coast to prevent the Frauds which are frequently attempted by Merchant Ships bound for London from India or other foreign parts & Anchor in St Hellens Roads.


20 May 1767                 Pursuant to your Honours directions we have Sold seventeen gallons of Rum which has lain in the Warehouse at this Port upwards of Six Months for Four Pounds and five Shillings. We pray your Honours will be pleased to inform us if after the Deduction of the Duty of Customs we must pay the remainder to the Collector of Excise to be applyed towards the Duty of Rum on Excise.


18 July 1767                  We beg leave to acquaint your Honours in Obedience to your Order of the 9th Instant that the Collector hath demanded of Mr James Mackenzie, a Merchant at this Port the Sum of Three Hundred ninety four Pounds one Shilling and seven Pence three farthings for the Duty Outwards on Eleven Thousand eight Hundred twenty two Hundred one Quarter and twenty five Pounds weight of Rice Exported in the Earl of Hillsborough, June and Argo which three Ships arrived at this Port after the Commencement of the Act for allowing the Importation of Rice Duty free, the first two mentioned Ships were cleared Outwards the 13th  and the other the 17th Ultimo, and as the Act for laying a Duty on such Rice did not pass until 29th Ultimo the Merchant is of the Opinion from the following words in the said Act and which shall be again Exported thereout, that the Subsidy Outwards for these three cargoes of Rice is not due, because he thinks these Words of the Act carry no Retrospection to those cargoes of Rice now cleared Outwards before the Act passed and therefore he has refused to pay it untill he is better informed, concerning which we pray your Honours further directions. 


1 August 1767                John Grimes of Yafford and Samuel King of Niton in the Isle of Wight in the County of Southampton Riding Officers Jointly and severally voluntarily make Oath that being in company together on the Twenty fifth day of July One Thousand Seven Hundred and Sixty Seven these Deponents found on a Rummage in a Boathouse in Puckaster near Niton in the said Isle and County, occupied by Thomas Blyeth, Thomas Cox and Edward Duckett, Fishermen, One Ullage Half Hogshead of French Clarett, containing about Twenty Six Gallons & on the shore near the said Boathouse, near the stern of a Boat one other Ullage Half Hogshead of French Clarett containing about Twenty Six Gallons which was covered by a Sail, which rested on the stern of the said Boat and from thence was placed over and Covered the said last mentioned Half Hogshead. And these Deponents furher make Oath that they could see over the Door of the said Boathouse and could see a half Hogshead which proved the Half Hogshead of French Clarett above mentioned which he this Deponent John Grimes threw stones at, and finding by the sound that Liquor was contained in it sent the said Samuel King to the aforesaid Thomas Cox and the key was brought by the said Edward Duckett and the said Boathouse Door was unlocked and opened by him the said Edward Duckett and the said Deponent John Grimes for himself maketh Oath that he went into the said Boathouse and seized the said Half Hogshead which proved to contain the said French Clarett after which the said Samuel King returned again. And this said Deponent John Grimes for himself further maketh Oath that he asked the Thomas Blyeth, Thomas Cox and Edward Duckett how the said Half Hogshead came there they made Answer that they knew nothing of the matter nor were they in the least privy thereto but that they supposed the Door was unhung as it had been before unknown to them. And these Deponents John Grimes and Samuel King further Jointly and Severally make Oath and say that no person was with the Good at the time of Making the Aforesaid  seizure to claim or own the same. And as the said Thomas Blyeth, Thomas Cox and Edward Duckett or any or either of them being privey to the said Goods being brought into the said Boathouse or not or whether the said Thomas Blyeth, Thomas Cox and Edward Duckett or any or either of them Knew of its being in the said Boathouse or on the shore these Deponents nor either of them cannot say nor do these Deponents or either of them know of any person that can join them in giving any evidence concerning these premises. And these Deponents Jointly and Severally make Oath and say that they Examined the Locks and Hinges of the said Boathouse and found them so bad that they may be unhung by any person. [This Affidavit was noted as sworn on 29 September 1767, but was submitted to the Board on 1 August 1767.]


24 August 1767             In obedience to your Command of the 6th Instant we prosecuted the two casks of French Wine containing 52 gallons / appraised and under Condemnation before the Justices of the Peace the 22nd Instant / and pray your Honours Order for the Sale thereof and at the same time we Prosecuted Thomas Blyeth, Thomas Cox and Edward Duckett for Harbouring and Concealing the Cask of Wine found in their Boathouse, who now all Summoned and attended the Justices and upon Examination it clearly appear’d to the satisfaction of the Justices that they were not privy to the Concealing or Harbouring of the said Cask of Wine found in their Boathouse, they were Acquitted.


24 August 1767             In obedience to your Command of the 19th Instant we have applied to Francis Arthur to know what sort of Arms are most suitable for defence of himself and People and beg leave to report that the undermentioned Arms are most proper. He also prays that your Honours will be pleased to order a jack to be sent to him at the same time for the use of the Boat.

Two Muskets and one Cartouch Box

Twelve Pistols 8 inches long in the Barrel and two Cartouch Boxes

Six Cutlases with Scabberds


25 August 1767             We beg leave to apply to your Honours on behalf of Isaac Pen who was committed to Winchester Gaol the 10th January 1765 for Obstructing the Boatmen at St Hellens in the Execution of their Duty who on 14th May 1765 and in August 1765 gave Information against sundry Persons concerned in Smugling which Information your Honours were pleased to accept and to Order the same to be carried on under Regulations of the Treasury and as this poor man hath been almost three years in Gaol, given all the Information in his power on which two vessels have been burnt and most of the Persons Sworn against having offered such Compositions as have been accepted by your Honours which is the utmost Restitution he is capable of making the Government pray your Honours will Order his Release and beg leave to observe that detaining the poor Wretch so long on Gaol will be agreed is a discouragement to Informers. Officers in this Case we have been at the Expence of three Shillings and six Pence per week for his Subsistance since 4th May 1765 amounting to near Thirty Pounds which sum we have accrued for carrying on these Prosecutions which if we had not he would have undoubtedly stay’d we therefore humbly pray leave when he is released to lay before your Honours a Bill of these necessary Expenses we have paid the Gaoler on his account.


21 September 1767        Inclosed we transmit to your Honours a letter we received from Francis Arthur appointed Sitter of the Six Oar’d Boat at this Port setting forth that the said Boat during the Winter Season will not be sufficient to Guard this Coast therefore prays your Honours will be pleased to allow him a small Armed Cutter. On which we beg to report that we are of the same Opinion with Mr Arthur this being a very Dangerous and Open Coast (especially on the Back of this Island where Smugling is carried on) very little if any Duty can be performed during the Winter Season in an open Boat and as Smuglers more especially in bad Weather and long Nights carry on their illicit Trade with Decked Vessels. We are humbly of the Opinion a Cutter would be of great Service to detect them therein.


19 October 1767            Robert Hall one of the Boatmen belonging to the Six oared Boat stationed at this Port Commanded by Mr Francis Arthur having relinquished the Service, we in pursuance to your Honours Orders of the 6th Instant with the consent of the said Arthur put Thomas Mead on Board, that on the 16th Instant Captain Arthur sent the Boat a Cruize with the Boatmen only being uncapable of going by sickness. That the next day the Boatmen being in want of necessities put into South Yarmouth (a place distant from Cowes about twelve miles). That on going into the Harbour Mead saw several People on the Wharfe amongst whom he perceived was Charles Nuttkins, Joseph Knell, Joseph Richards and William White / who are all under Prosecution by your Honours Orders on Meads Information / together with Michael White a Smugler of West Cowes and sundry others to him unknown who cried out here comes your Ostend Pilott your Gin Informer on which Mead said to the Boatmen I fear I shall get Mob’d here. That as Mead was attempting to get on shore Nuttkins and Knell endeavour’d to push him down on which Mead retreated and desired the Boatmen hand him a Cutlas to defend himself with which they not doing / giving for reason that they were all strangers and feard they might be knock’d on the head if they did / Mead went on shore on which Michael White cried out Damn You at him strike him under when Nuttkins, Knell and another Person to him unknown fell upon him when Mead having received some Blows ran into a Publick House for shelter when Nuttkins, Knell and the other Person to him unknown follow’d, knocked him down and continued Beating him on the Floor when Richard More the master of the House and one Snow came to his Assistance (the Boatmen having all left him) and took him from them otherwise Mead verily believes he should have been Murdered: that after he was a little recovered he beg’d Mr Moore to send for the Constable and Charge him with them,  on which they all went into a small Boat to Hurst declaring they were going to leave their Country yet they had left them behind that would Murder Mead, the first opportunity all of which we thought it our Duty to acquaint your Honours and we don’t think it advisable for Mead to go any more in the Boat, but shall be agreeable by your Honours Permission employ him on board Ships in the Harbour and on the Watch Boat and to this end he may be Secured from further Insults. We beg leave to acquaint your Honours that Thomas Hollis an Extra Tidesman and Boatman at this Port hath given up his Commission not chusing to continue any longer in the Service in whose Room we pray a Commission be sent for Mead unless your Honours shall think it fit to put him on Board any of the Smacks some distance from this Port he being very capable and thoroughly acquainted with the places the Smuglers Run their Goods on Shore both Eastwards and Westwards of this Isle and as owing to his  Information four Smugling Vessels have been have been seiz’d Tryals in two of which are coming on in November next beside numerous Personal Prosecutions we are humbly of the Opinion something should be done for him as he is determined to give Evidence / notwithstanding that he had overtures made him by the Smuglers to abscond / to the utmost of his Power on your Honours protecting him otherwise he might leave the Country not being able to get the least Employment here.


7 November 1767 Inclosed we beg leave to transmit to your Honours a bill of expenses amounting to twenty seven pounds, eight shillings and fivepence which we have paid to the gaoler of Winchester on account of Isaac Pen, whose information your Honours were pleased to accept, without which substance the poor wretch must have perished having been confin'd almost three years, therefore hope Your Honours will be pleased to order us to be reimbursed.


119 week at 3/6 per week.

£20 16s 6d


Sheriffs and Gaolers fees.

£2   5s 6d


Paid for shirts, stockings and shoes

being in Gaol near 3 years

£4  6s  5d



£27  8s  5d


12 November 1767         It frequently happens when any Ship of Charges arrives from foreign Ports bound to London, Holland &c and only stops here by contrary Winds, that at her Departure the Tide Surveyor in order to prevent the Running of Goods out of her, while she continues upon this Coast to let one or both of the Tidesmen Boarded to proceed as far as St Hellens Roads, where if the Portsmouth Smack is not in the way to Discharge them, they generally come ashore in the Pilots Boat and afterwards proceed to Portsmouth, to receive their Travelling Charges which prevents the Tidesmen from returning for their Duty as soon as they ought: for remedy thereof and as it will be for the benefit of the Service to pay their own Tidesmen Travelling Charges from the East end of the Island as well as from the West end, which we now do by your Honours Orders, we beg to propose Christopher Bullock, chief Boatman at St Hellens should discharge those Tidesmen that Guard Ships to St Hellens Roads, that they may return to their duty directly without going to Portsmouth to receive their Travelling Charges there which have been some time refused them because they have not been Discharged by the Proper Officer at that Port.


17 December 1767         We received your Honours Command of 28th Ultimo directing us to Indict Charles Nuttkins, Joseph Knell, Joseph Richards William and Michael White at the next Assizes for Assaulting Thomas Mead who was Employ’d on board the Six oar’d Boat under the Command of Francis Arthur which we have deffer’d doing, the Smuglers and other People in this Island exclaiming greatly against this Character as being a bad Man saying about six or seven Years since he was Burnt in the Hand for Theft which we knew nothing of at the Time Mead gave Information neither do we now know that it was so but are fully satisfy’d the facts sworn too by Mead are true they all being transacted within twelve Months since, but not being competent Judges whether if what is alleged against him so many years since if true will have the weight so as to set aside the Indictment of his Evidence in future Tryals, we thought it our Duty to acquaint your Honours therewith before we proceeded and have also deffer’d tendering him your Honors Favor of going on Board any Sloop in the Service till we receive your Honors further Directions.


10 February 1768           In Obedience to your Command we have Examined into what is set forth in the Inclosed Letter from Mr Mark Gregory, a Merchant in the Port, in relation to a Pipe of Wine put out of the Wellcome Edward Stephens Master from Portsmouth before the Sufferance was put into this Office and a Sufferance for landing it obtained, and beg leave to Report, it appears that on Examination the Wine was brought from London to Portsmouth in the Mary John Jarvis Master and Edward Stephens brought it to this Port by a Sufferance from thence between one and two o’clock in the afternoon of the 21st Ultimo just as the Tide served to land it and he says this was proved by several Witnesses that his Vessel would have Grounded if he had come to this Office with his Sufferance from Portsmouth for a Landing one before he landed the Wine, which would have prevented his loading Hemp that day as he was engaged to do. At the same time he told Samuel Serrell the Coastwaiter who was present on the Key of the necessity of so doing and that there was a Sufferance for the Wine which Mr Stephens said he desired him to take, as he had done several times before on the like Emergency of not having time immediately to come to Custom House for a Landing Sufference.

Mr Stephens said that Mr Serrell never extracted more than the Fees from him, and he never paid more than six Pence for Attending to Inspect Goods and Endorse Sufferances, and upon Examination we find Mr Gregory has not proved his Assertion at this Point. Upon the whole it appears that there had been some dispute between Mr Stephens and Mr Serrell about the Landing Goods at unreasonable Hours and although Mr Serrell is a very good Officer it caused him to be very exact in the present case notwithstanding there was not the least Appearance of Fraud or Omission in point or Form by the Merchant and therefore we humbly submit it to your Honours consideration as Mr Gregory was not in any way to blame for the Conduct of the Master in Lading the Wine before he put the Sufferance in for it into this Office, if he ought not to have it Restored.


4 June 1768       Letter from William Duke

You have acquainted me that the Commissioners have directed me to pay Five Pounds Three shilling & Six Pence being the Charges of My Prosecution I must therefore beg you’l assure their Honours that I do not have Five Shillings in the whole World & if the small quantity of Household Goods I have were sold they would not fetch half that sum & having a wife & two small children to maintain these hard times & she now ready to lye in that owing to my giving Evidence for the Crown I am almost deprived of getting Bread everyone calling me an Informer & no one careing to employ me & as my Evidence will be further wanted on some Personal Prosecutions now carrying on I asure their Honours I will give all the Evidence in my Power which is the utmost and therefore pray their Honours Compassion of forgiving me otherwise I must go to Gaol and remain not having the least Friend on Earth.


6 June 1768       On communicating your Honours Order of 2nd Instant to him we receiv’d the Inclosed letter from him setting forth his Inability and Poverty which we believe to be very true and beg leave to observe that as Duke was a very material Evidence at a late Tryal for the Crown and his further evidence may still be wanting on some Personal Prosecutions now carrying on humbly submit it to your Honours further Consideration.


6 August 1768       Petition from Charles Fetter Extra Boatman

Whereas this represents unto your Honours that I Charles Fetter one of your Honours Extra men belonging to the Custom House at Cowes did on Friday the twentyninth July last past see a man with a Cagg under his arm which I supposed to be Liquor and followed him into a Neighbours house whose Names I here mention being there Mary Burt and Sarah Summers and finding it to be a five Gallon Cagg of Hollands Gin which Liquor I seized for his Majesty and myself but being interrupted by the above mentioned two woman which held me fast by the arms untill the man which had the Liquor made his Escape out of the house but by my struggling I got clear of the said woman and pursued the man and soon overtook him & Seized the Liquor again but he overpowering me in strength twisted it from me & instantly broke in the Head in which I hope your Honours will look into the affair in order to make the two Assistances pay for the Liquor or else our Debetations to us would be of Little Service and we may have our Brains Beat Out.


14 September 1768        Mr Godwin Tide Surveyor hath representing to us that there is wanted at South Yarmouth for the Service at this Port a new punt in Room of the one that is about seventeen years old and unfit for Service and not worth repairing. Will your Honours be pleased to give us directions to have another Punt Built in he room by Mr Isaac Mitchell agreable to the Inclosed Estimate which we beg leave to refer.

An Estimate for a Punt for South Yarmouth

9 Feet 6 Inches Long, 4 Feet 10 Inches Broad, 1 Foot Deep, to be Built with Elm Plank of half an Inch Thick Clinker Work, with two Thoughts, a Scrag Plate & Stem Band, a Seat Aft & to be compleated in a handsome and workmanlike manner for the price of Three Pounds Three Shillings and Six Pence. (This was completed by February 1769.)


22 December 1768         The Humble Petition of Richard Craddick, George Webb, William Jeffery Jun., William Mouncher, Thomas Bittle, Robert Twyman, Michael Facey, Charles Fetter and Thomas Duke, your Honours Extra Tidesmen and Boatmen at the Port of Cowes. Most Humbly Sheweth

That your Honours Petitioners are under great hardship and very much aggrieved by being taken from their Charge when Boarded upon Ships or Vessels before the Ship sails if a Transient Ship, or Cleared if a Delivering Ship your Petitioners having nothing to Support themselves and family’s but their small pay of two shillings per day when on Duty, and that but seldom.

Therefore your Petitioners most humbly pray your Honours may allow each of your Petitioners five Pounds a year towards Support of themselves and their family’s, it being the same that is allowed to Extra Tidesmen and Boatmen at Portsmouth, And also that your Honours might give Orders that your Petitioners may remain on board such Ships and Vessels they are Boarded upon till the Ship Sails or is Cleared Inwards as aforesaid. [This was supported by the Collector and submitted to the Board.]


15 February 1769                       Mr William Godwin, Tide Surveyor at this Port yesterday delivered up his Deputation to us for reasons contained in the Inclosed Petition to your Honours, which he at the same time praying for his long and faithful Service as he is now grown old and incapable of Duty he may be put on the Superannuation List, which according to the Rules prescribed we humbly think him entitled to; We have ordered Francis Terrell Tidesman and Boatman who has occasionally officiated for him to take care of his Duty ‘till another Tide Surveyor is appointed, and have issued a Certificate under our hands & Seals to him pursuant to your Honours Order dated 10 October 1767 to prevent disputes between the Tide Surveyor of Excise & him. [Godwin was appointed in 1731.


1753 - 1764

1769 - 1774

Customs Cowes Letters Book

© Transcription by Steve Holden, 2008. Original Book held at the National Archives.

2 August 2009