Collector to Board Letters Book 1779 - 1783


Note: The Book for 1774 – 1779 is missing.

These extracts are a partial transcription of the book held at the National Archives reference, CUST 61/5, 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.


16 January 1779            By your Order of 3rd December 1776 an Allowance of 50 Shillings per Quarter was granted Mr Andrew Mouncher Waiter & Searcher for the hire of a Boat to assist him in the execution of his Duty, a continuance of which allowance has been since caused in the preparatory Account of Incidents, untill we received your Honors Order of the 1st September last directing us in future to make a separate crave for it at the end of every 6 Months and in pursuit of the said Order we beg to report that Newport where the said Officer is stationed being 5 Miles from hence, Vessels cannot at all times get up to the Quays there & the Officer has frequent occasion to go near half a Mile down River to attend the Shipping of Goods and discharging them into Lighters, that he is enjoined frequently to inspect the Coal Meters when they at work in Newport River that the said Allowance of 50 Shillings per Quarter was at first made to inable Mr Mouncher the better to pay obedience to the Order in Council laying an embargo on Black Cattle, nevertheless we are humbly of the opinion that it is necessary for the reasons we have given to continue it. Mr Mouncher we beg leave also to add, is a diligent Officer & exclusive of the said allowance has only a Salary of £30 per annum, that if your Honors are pleased to continue it we think it will be an encouragement for him to persevere in the proper discharge of his Duty; he has been paid only to Lady Day last and we would therefore humbly pray your Order for paying him to Christmas last, with a direction to include it in future in the Account of Incidental Allowances made to Officers, which we transmit and report upon half yearly.


2 February 1779            In return to your Order of 15th December relative to the sundry Persons who had been on board a Ship liable to Quarantine & refused to return on board again upon Notice given them for that purpose, we beg leave to acquaint you, that we were not aware that the Law required the Notice to be given in writing but we sent the Tidesurveyor & one of his Boatmen personally to give Notice which they accordingly did, as appears by their Affidavit submitted in our letter of 3rd December that if such Notice is not sufficient a ground a Prosecution upon, we are sorry to observe that the offending parties must in this instant escape punishment which we wish’d would not be the case, lest it should in future encourage others to disregard the Order respecting the performance of quarantine.


6 February 1779             In return to your order of 26th ult. We beg leave to report that the boat therein mentioned is not fit to be employed or used in the service. She is 43½ feet in length & in breadth 7½ feet, rows with 14 oars and carries 4 masts & was evidently built for the purpose of smuggling only, and will if sold, no doubt be bought to use again in that trade.

Your Honors having been pleased to compromise the Action brought against the Officer who seized her and ordered the proprietor to be paid the value of the Boat, we submit it to your consideration whether it will not be best to have her cut up & sold as Fire Wood, and the produce of the Mast & Sails may be applied in such manner as you may think proper to direct.


8 February 1779              William Masters one of the Coal Meters at this Port having been absent a considerable time, your Honors by an Order dated 31st December were pleased to allow him a month longer to return to Duty, directing us at the expiration of that period to make a further report thereon; in obedience thereto we now beg leave to acquaint you, that Masters is not returned & his wife has delivered us his Deputation saying that her husband intends to settle in Guernsey. In our letter of 8th December we recommended John Jolliffe one of the extraordinary Tidesmen as a proper person to succeed Masters as Coal Meter, but since that time Mr Holmes a Gentleman of Property in this Island, and Mr Dickinson the Mayor of Newport having applied to us on behalf of Tobias Derrick, desiring we would recommend him to your Honors as a successor to Masters, we beg leave, if agreeable to your Honors, to give a preference on this occasion to the said Gentlemens recommendation.


3 March 1779                There is now building at Cowes a boat between 60 & 70 feet long, & about 12 feet wide, intended to row with 20 oars and to carry sail also occasionally. She is evidently intended for the purpose of smuggling only, and belongs, as we are informed, to a reputed smuggler. Several of these kind of boats have been seen lately on these coasts, and they are so adapted for Smugling and have so much the advantage of fast rowing & sailing that we apprehend that but few of the Revenue Cruizers can come up with them; we would therefore humbly beg leave to submit it to your Honors’ consideration whether it may not be proper to apply to the Legislature that the Acts by which all Boats or Barges etc for rowing, or built to row with more than four Oars, found within the counties of Middlesex, Surrey, Kent and Essex are forfeited, may not in a likemanner be extended to other counties & places within the limits of any Port.


9 March 1779                In answer to the several Charges contained in your letter of 27 Ult. We beg leave to acquaint you that custom of making it one of the conditions of our sales for the purchaser to pay six pence per Lot for Lot Money has been a custom many a year at this Port, in consequence of a similar practice at other neighbouring Ports, nevertheless we beg leave to observe that the payment of it is left to the Purchaser and has never been insisted on if any individual has objected to the payment of it, which indeed has seldom happened, the Buyers in general thinking it is a reasonable gratuity for the Trouble of attendance out of office hours  to deliver the Lots, we further beg leave to add that it does not in the least affect Buyers of small Lots, as the condition of Sale is that it be paid only such Lot as amount to  five Pounds or upwards that the amount of the perquisite is consequently very trifling; nor have we ever conceived that we did wrong in taking it, being well inform’d that at the sales at the General Excise Office in London, which are now directly under the directions of the Commissioners of that Board, it is also the practice to do so.

With regard to the Collectors Clerk making a demand of a Shilling from each Officer at the time he receives his Salary, we have enquired particularly into that article of the Charge and find it is not founded on truth, no demand is ever made by the Clerk on any occasion, he was by the Collector on his first coming cautioned not to do it, and offers to make oath he never has, and the Deputy Customer and other Officers who are usually in the Offices when Monies are paid assure us that they have not known any instance of his doing it, some of the Officers for whom he may have done a little business have sometimes on receiving their Salary made him a trifling Present, as the Tidesurveyor and other Officers say they have done of receiving their Shares of Seizures but that it has always been voluntary on their part, and was never made a demand of, and there are instances of inferior Officers to whom he has frequently advanced Money Monthly, even when there has been no Money in the King’s Chest who have never given him anything, and two of the Tidesmen in particular say that he has even refused to accept a Shilling of them on Account as they have large Families & but a small income, so that we cannot help observing that the charge against him appears to be totally groundless & must have sprung from envy or ill nature nor is the next article of accusation less false & malicious namely That a Favourite Officer has been accused of Frauds & excused by us. What is here meant by a favourite Officer we know not, no man is a favourite with us but he who discharges his Duty diligently, faithfully & honestly; the Collector for himself begs leave to say that he values so much his character & reputation to risque the loss of them by concealing or conniving at fraudulent practices, which he is convinced could not fail to injure him in the estimation which he hopes ever to be held by your Honors and those Friends through whose recommendations he has lately been appointed to his present Station; nor is the Deputy Comptroller who has served your Honors more than Fifty Years at this Port conscious that at any time of his Life he has deserved to be stigmatised with concealing or conniving at Fraud upon the Revenue and we assure your Honors we should have been totally at a loss even to have guess’d at what this article of Charge alluded, did we not recollect some Months ago to have received an Anonymous Letter which we now inclose and to which we conclude this article of Charge refers, not doubting but the present accusations proceed also from the same Quarter; respecting the letter we desire to observe that at the time we received it Mr Gill was asked if he could prove the assertions, or chose to make any charge in writing as we found he was the Author of the letter, but he had never done it and only said he had been told so, it is almost five years ago since the Ship mentioned in the Anonymous Letter was at the Port, and as Mr Gill’s Brother was Collector at that time & long afterwards, if there had been any proof of peculation on the part of this Officer, we have no doubt he would have been then charged with it; besides that part of the Letter respecting his holding 3 or 4 places being entirely false, and the charge of his being a drunkard appearing to proceed from ill nature for whatever might have been his failing in that respect heretofore, we had not then, or have since then had any reason to accuse him with it, we therefore thought it totally unnecessary to trouble your Honors in the matter, the accusations appearing as they now do to be the effects of prejudice & malice, in which light we trust they will also appear to you.


11 May 1779                 In return to your order of the 5th Instant we beg leave to acquaint you that the Tide Surveyor and his Boat Crew by their activity and diligence have seized under Viz:

Brandy etc.                   1011 Gallons

Wine                             33 Gallons

Tea & Coffee                  345 lbs

Tobacco                        400 lbs

Besides sundry articles of China and two Vessels, that exclusive of the above services performed, the Tide Surveyor is enjoin’d to Survey twice in every Month the Officers at Yarmouth and St Hellens, who are stationed to the Eastwards & Westwards of his Residence a considerable distance, added to which that the many Ships in the Road, which it is his Duty to visit & board, often lie at the distance of two Miles from the Shore, that we are humbly of the opinion it is necessary for the Service to continue the Boats Crew as we do not think the Tide Surveyor could properly discharge the several parts of his Duty with a lesser number of Boatmen.


31 May 1779                 Mr John Budden Coastwaiter at this Port being much addicted to drinking, and having frequently neglected his business, we found ourselves under the necessity of giving him a charge which with his answers thereto we now transmit to your Honors. We humbly beg to acquaint you that we have thought it necessary for the Service to suspend Mr Budden, and appoint another Officer to take care of his business until we receive your Honors orders concerning him. Mr Budden expresses a sorrow for his faults & promises in future to be more attentive to his business, if your Honors will be pleased to pardon his past neglect of Duty. He is a young man, has been in the employ but little more than a year & a half & has not before had any charges given against him, that if your Honors think proper to order him to be employed again, we are willing to hope that this temporary suspension will have a good effect on him & induce him to be more diligent & sober in the future.


9 July 1779                    Inclosed we transmit an account of Seizures made by the Officers at this Port between the 9th Ultimo and this date; we beg leave to observe that the Goods return’d in no. 14 of the inclosed were only part of the seizure made by the Officers, upwards of 150 Casks having been rescued from them after Seizure by 14 or 15 men, who came on board the Vessel in 3 Boats & took it from them by force, that is was with very great difficulty the Officers could bring away what they did, which having secured they return’d next Morning on board the Vessel then lying in Southampton River, and finding her to be under 100 Tons burthen they Seized her & on a further rummage found concealed the Goods specified in Articles 4 & 15, which together with the Vessel we humbly pray may be prosecuted to Condemnation. As several of the persons concern’d in obstruction the Officers and rescuing the Goods are known; as soon as proper Affidavits of the Facts can be procured, we shall take care to transmit them to your Honors, that the parties concerned may be prosecuted. We beg leave to observe that the before mention’d Vessel is a Brigantine, laden with stones for London.


16 August 1779             Inclosed is a copy of a Writ with which I have been served at the Suit of William Sewell on account of my having Seized & detained his Ship called the Active. I beg leave to observe that the said Ship was Seized & detained in consequence of the Orders of the Privy Council and the Lords Commissioners of His Majesty’s Treasury transmitted in your order of 17th November last; and your Honors having by Letter dated 8th Ultimo acquainted me, that the Judge of the High Court of the Admiralty, before whom the matter had been tried, had pronounced that I had done right in seizing the said Ship; I humbly pray your Honors will be pleased to give directions to your Solicitor to defend me in this action.

Writ – William Sewell against William Arnold dated the 23rd June 1779 returnable into the Kings Bench the 6th November 1779.


6 September 1779          By your Order of 3rd June last John Budden Coastwaiter, who had been suspended on account of drunkenness & neglect of Duty was reprimanded & restored on a tryal of his good behaviour; we have frequently excited and admonished to attend his Duty without any effect, he gives himself up so entirely to drinking that he renders himself incapable of performing his Business, he often neglects to attend at the Custom House for several days, to the great inconvenience of Merchants and Traders who have occasion to Ship of Land Goods Coastwise – No Entries having been made in the Books appointed to be kept by him for entering Sufferances Inwards & Outwards for a considerable time past, we sent for him on the 20th Ulto. Pointed out those neglects & acquainted him that unless he immediately applied himself to his Business & attended it more punctually, we should be under the necessity of suspending him & reporting his misconduct again to your Honors.

On 26th Ulto. Finding our admonition had no effect on him & that he had not once since attended the Office we sent him a Charge, of which is enclosed a copy, & to which he has not thought fit to return any answer. We therefore humbly conceive it to be our Duty to report to your Honors that we think him an improper person to be continued in the Station he is in and have directed one of the Landwaiters to take care of the Coast Business until your Honors further pleasure respecting Budden is signified.


29 November 1779            In pursuance of your order we have caused a seal of office to be made for the purpose of stamping such foreign thread lace as may be imported at the port and inclosed we transmit your honours an impression of the said seal.

5 January 1780              These are to certify to the Honble Commr. of His Majesty's Customs that Mr John Chiverton has by their order of 26th October last attended the Keys at the Waterside in this port for two months & having been instructed for two months in the business of the waterside and having learned to gauge, we humbly consider that he is qualified in every branch of his Duty on all sorts of ships & stations

Dated at Custom House Cowes, the 5th January, 1780

W. A. Collector

J. G. Deputy Comptr.

J. Pain, Surveyor

W. Andrews, Ld. Wr.


1 April 1780       In return to your Order of 20th Ulto. directing us in pursuance of an order from the House of Commons to transmit an account showing by what method we are officially satisfied of the average price of Corn or Grain exported. We beg leave to acquaint you, that we receive from the Clerk of the Market at Newport, being the nearest Market to us, a weekly account, one of which is now inclosed to your Honors of the price of Corn at that Market, which account we cause to be regularly filed in the Custom House & serves as our guide upon any applications being made to Enter Corn for Export or Coastwise, to be shipt for the Bounty is pass’d, the Merchant, Exporter or some Person conversant with the Price of Corn is required to make oath that the average price of British Wheat (or Corn as the case may happen to be) at the last Market day in the Public Market in the Port of Cowes, was under ----- per Quarter Winchester measure, the rate fixed by the Act of 13 George 3rd Chapter 43. We beg leave to observe to your Honors that the Clerk of the Market from whom we receive the before mentioned Weekly Account is appointed by the Justices of the Peace at their Quarter Sessions under the Directions of a Act of 10 George 3rd Chapter 39 for registering the prices at which Corn is sold in the several Counties of Great Britain and although we are not officially authorised to call upon him for a duplicate of the report transmitted by him weekly to the Person appointed by the Treasury to receive the Returns from the different Market Towns, yet having been appointed to the Offices by the Justices partly on the recommendations of the Collector he is at that time engaged to furnish the Customs with the Account, which he has continued to do very regularly ever since and we humbly submit it to your Honors as the best method that has occurr’d to us of procuring the true average price of Corn. [The Clerk of the market subsequently, 13 February 1781, requested an allowance for sending the report, the Collector suggested half a crown a week, it is not known whether the Board accepted this recommendation.]


1st April 1780                Inclosed we beg to transmit to your Honors the Copy of a Letter received by the Collector from Messrs. Mure Son & Atkinson Proprietors of the Ship Howe lately stranded within this Port, whereof we acquainted you by our Letter of 24th Ulto.

The method proposed my Messrs Mure Son & Atkinson of sending immediately to London such part of the sugar as may be saved, we humbly apprehend to be the only likely means of preserving it, for the sugar already being in perishing state from having been under water must be entirely lost from leakage of the Cask unless they are conveyed with much expedition to the place they are to be boiled. We therefore under the circumstances of the case most humbly apprehend we should not be justified in refusing to suffer the Proprietor to ship the goods on board such Vessels. We designed for the security of the duties to have sent officers to London with each vessel to prevent embezzlement but Messrs Mure intending that the vessels should run without waiting for convoy, we find that the tidesmen object to run the risque of the voyage, fearing they should be take & carried to France, by which their families would be greatly distressed.


1 May 1780                   We have duly received two sets of the Law of the Customs, each set comprised in two Volumes for the use of Officers at this Port & have added the same to the list of Official Books belonging to this Port as directed in your Order of 13th Ultim.


3 May 1780       Having received the inclosed Letter, mark’d No. 1, containing a complaint against Tobias Derrick, one of the Coal Meters at this Port, we considered it our duty to give him a Charge, mark’d No. 2, which together with his Answer, No. 3, & our observations & Report thereon, we beg to leave to transmit herewith, submitting the whole to your Honors consideration & determination.

No. 1 – Letter – 14th April 1780                On the 3rd of this Inst. I had 18¾ Cha. Coal measured out of a Collier by Mr Derrick into a Sloop. I afterwards had same measured by Mr Powis another Meter & there was found a deficiency by him of 42 Bushels. This is not the first Instance of the same Person being guilty of the same Fraud, as the undermentioned Persons will testify.

(Signed) Christopher Ratsey

Perry Ballard

James Davis

John Jacob & Co.

Francis Pike

John Odell

William Slader

PS The Captain of the Collier rather than submit to my coming to Custom House, gave me a Guinea in part of my loss, which convinces me that the Captain & Meter were both agreed.

No. 2 – Charge to Tobias Derrick (undated)          A complaint having lodg’d against you by Mr Christopher Ratsey & other Coal Merchants of fraudulent practices in the discharge of your Duty as a Coal Meter at this Port, particularly in the delivery of 18¾ Chalders Coals measured by you the 3rd Inst., and which on being remeasured by Mr Powis another Sworn Coal Meter were found deficient 42 Bushels.

We hereby call on you to answer the said complaint, and to return it to us in writing, on or before Saturday next the 22nd instant, a plain and distinct answer to the Charge against you, taking care to avoid all scurrilous and abusive expressions.

No. 3 – Answer by Tobias Derrick – 22 April 1780 In reply to your Charge I can only say I measured the Coals delivered to Mr Christopher Ratsey the 1st Inst. in a just Manner as I thought, but as the Bushels at the Custom House so different in the Diameter at Top & Mr Powis on the 3rd not measuring with the same Bushel as I measured with, I cannot be answerable for the deficiency because who can answer what Mr Ratsey might have done with part of his Coals from the 1st to the 3rd. As to the Charge of scurrilous language I am not guilty of it unless first insulted.

Report by William Arnold, Collector and James Gill Comptroller 3 May 1780         We have Examin’d into this Complaint as minutely as possible & beg leave to observe that the deficiency stated to have been on the remeasurement of the Coals is proved by the Meter who remeasured them & the Master of the Sloop in whose possession they were from the time of being admeasured by Derrick on the 1st Apr. to the 3rd Apr. by Powis offers to make oath that none of the Coals were embezzled or taken away during that time, but remain’d in his Sloop under the Hatches till they were remeasured, and the Sunday intervening appears to be the reason it was not immediately done.

With respect to the different Diameters of the Bushels which the Meter mentioned in his Answer to the Charge, the Fact is not so, the Bushels have been tried in our presence, and agree with the Standard Bushel, both the Bushel used by Derrick & the Bushel by which they were remeasured. The circumstances stated in the Original Letter of Complaint, that the Captain of the Collier gave the Merchant a Guinea in part of his loss & to prevent his coming to Custom House, we think it has a suspicious appearance, the Captain of the Collier having left the Port we had no opportunity of examining relative thereto but Derrick the Meter says the Captain told him that the Guinea he gave the Merchant was only by way of a customary one to the Merchant who bought his Coals; but Mr Odell another Coal Merchant who was present at the time the Money was paid confirms what Mr Ratsey the Complainant says, namely it was given in part of his loss, and adds that exclusive of the Guinea paid, the Captain spent what is customary on paying for a Cargo.

To that part of Mr Ratsey’s complaint where he says “this is not the first instance of the same Person being guilty of the same Frauds as the Several Persons whose Names are subscribed are willing to testify” we have examined and enquired of all the Parties and do not find they can address any particular incident to prove so heavy a charge but they say generally since Derrick has been a Meter, their Coals have often turned out short of Measure & some of them have observed that when he was measuring he often did not top the Bushel which they had frequently told him of, the Tide Surveyor some time ago on surveying him made the same observation & cautioned him, but as that happen’d soon after he was appointed a Coal Meter, we think it more likely proceeded from inexperience, especially since the Tide Surveyor has not observed any similar instance of neglect. We beg leave to observe that to have proceeded regularly in this complaint we are humbly of the opinion that the Coals should have been brought before the Custom House as soon as taken from the side of the ship, we could then have had them measured in our presence & that of the Person accused – it does not appear that the remeasuring of the Coals arose from any suspicion of the Meters Honesty in this particular instance but was occasioned by them being retailed out to different purchasers to satisfy whom a second Meter was employed, and upon finding the deficiency mentioned in the complaint, and receiving a Guinea from the Master of the Collier to prevent their coming to the Custom House to complain, it was that they first suspected the Meter of Collusion jointly with the Captain of the Collier. We have only further to observe that Derrick in the most solemn manner declares his innocence, that he has never defrauded any man & that he has discharged his Duty justly and faithfully to the best of his power, he has been employed as a Coal Meter only since 1 March 1779 & has not before has any Charge given him.


 7 August 1780              The Boat built at this Port for the use of the Collector & Comptroller & Officers having to cross the Harbour to attend the Landing & Shipping of Goods at various Keys being found unfit for the purpose for which it was designed, was by the direction of Mr Brown, Inspector of Sloops delivered to Captain Bishop for use at Weymouth; and a Boat being want here in the room of it, we have Procured an Estimate of the Expense amounting to £6 – 13 – 0 of building one of Proper Dimensions & inclosed we beg leave to transmit the same humbly praying your directions for having it built.

From William Richardson            Estimate for a new Boat to be 14 feet long 6 feet wide & 2 foot 3 inches deep to be built with ½ inch Elm board, Ash timbers, 3 thwarts with Stern Sheets, Rudder for 9s 6d per foot.


12 August 1780             Annexed we transmit an account of a seizure of 11 gallons Foreign Brandy together with a Horse, Bridle & Saddle by Stephen Squire an officer of this Port. As the expense of keeping the horse if not soon condemned & sold will exceed the value of it, we pray your honours orders for prosecuting the same before the justices.


18 January 1781            The small two oar’d Boat for the use of the Boatmen stationed at Yarmouth in this Port having been Nineteen Years in service & now worn out & totally unfit for use, inclosed we transmit an Estimate amounting to £5 – 2 being the expenses which will attend the building a new one, for which we pray your directions.

Copy of the Estimate referred to in the above Letter:

Port of Cowes. An Estimate for a new Boat for the use of Customs at Yarmouth, 12 feet long, 5 feet wide & 2 feet deep, to be build of season'd ½ Inch Elm Board - £5 – 2. W Richardson, Builder


6 February 1781 The Searcher & Tide Surveyor at this Port have represented to us that there are two Ships in the Harbour on which a considerable amount of Flour & Pease have been shipped without any Entry thereof, or the presence of an Officer, and upon enquiring of the Masters of the Ships the reason thereof, the allege they are Transport in Government Service & not obliged to come to the Custom House & the persons under whose directions the Goods are shipped, say they conceive that Customs Officers have nothing to do therewith. We humbly apprehend that it could not be the intent of the Treasury Order of 6th March 1780 transmitted in your Order of the 9th of the same Month; that Stores and Provisions shipp’d for the use of His Majesty’s Forces abroad, should be shipt without the knowledge of, or presence of, the Revenue Officers or without any proof whatever being made to us that the Ships in which such Provisions are laden are actually retain’d in Government Service. We consider that Order as intended only to allow ships laden under that direction of Navy & Victualling Boards, to take on board Stores & Provisions not withstanding any embargo or prohibition on the Exportation of the several Articles with which it may be necessary to load them, and to exempt the Masters of such Vessels from the Bonds normally entered into by Masters of Merchant & Trading Vessels, but it was nevertheless incumbent on the Person or Persons under whose directions the Goods were Shipt not only to deliver in at the Custom House the names of the Ships to be employed in the Service, but also to enter and have a free Cocket agreeable to the form sent us with your said Order of 9th March for the quantity & quality of Goods to be shipt & having shipt the same under the inspection of the Proper Officers the Agent should endorse on the Cocket the amount actually shipt; and are humbly of the opinion, that before any Ship sails from this Port, the Master should come to the Custom House & report the quantity of Goods he has taken on board, and be required to makest oath that the whole of the Cargo is on account of the Government and that he will take in any Goods on his own or other persons account without first duly entering & adding the same to his report because as Masters of Transports often take on board sundry articles on their own accounts unless these or some such regulations are observ’d we conceive that very great Frauds may be committed particularly at times when an Embargo on provisions subsists & the price of Corn prohibits the exportation of Flour. We beg leave further to observe, that whenever the Price of Corn has been such as to allow a Bounty on Exportation, ships laden on Government Authority have hitherto been regularly entered & all requisites of Law perform’d, in order to obtain the Bounty, consequently it cannot now be urged with any propriety that complying with the regulations propos’d can be any delay or hindrance to the service. As there is an apparent probability that much of the business of Shipping Provisions for the Army Abroad will be transacted at this Port in the ensuing Spring, as we understand several ships are already arriv’d for that purpose, we beg leave to submit the above for your Honors consideration.


16 April 1781     That Smuglers in general are becoming more daring than ever, more frequently assemble in numbers, carrying arms and in disguise and that instances very often occur of officers being wounded, beaten, opposed & obstructed is a fact I fear Your Honours are but too well acquainted with. I humbly apprehend this is in some measure owing to the leniency of the Legislature who in passing the Act of the 19th of His present Majesty, chap 69 only subjected persons convicted of obstructing officers or rescuing goods, after seizure, to punishment of the House of Correction or to serve His Majesty at sea or land for a limited time, which there is reason to believe has frequently proved an encouragement to Smuglers and ill disposed persons to obstruct, oppose & ill treat officers of the revenue, rather than the means of deterring them from such attrocious offences.


17 May 1781     Pursuant to your Order we have called in the Deputations of the Tide Surveyors Boat Crew, your Honors having thought proper to no longer continue them, but before we cancel the Deputations & return them, we beg leave to represent to you that Thomas Duke, William Jeffery, Henry Twyman & Robert Scriven who made part of the said Boat Crew were taken from the Extra Men employed at this Port & held your Deputations as such before they were appointed for the service of the Tide Surveyors Boat. We therefore humbly presume your Honors will not object to them resuming their Stations upon the Extra List under the Deputation they already have as Tidesmen & Boatmen, the present number of Extra men being not more than nine which with the Established Tidesmen are not sufficient for the business of the Port without employing Certificated men who at this time cannot be procured without difficulty insomuch that upon any particular emergency the Tidesurveyor is often oblig’d to leave the Ship to the care of a Single Officer, which we think ought not to be done; we therefore humbly propose as occasion requires, to employ the above mentioned 4 persons as Extra men, which we think will be better for the Service & not put the Crown to any extra expense.


15 September 1781        We yesterday forwarded from hence to Southampton in order to be sent from thence by Astlet’s Waggon a Hogshead Cask containing 16 Bags of Condemned Tea directed to the Warehouse Keeper at the King’s Warehouse, the agreement made for carriage, including also freight from hence to Southampton was 17s 6d. Inclosed we transmit an Account of said Tea agreeable to the direction in your Order of 21st Ultimo.


17 September 1781        Pursuant to your Order of 7th July last, John New, John Hayden and Richard Taylor have been prosecuted before the Justices for the treble value of Goods Seiz’d in their Custody. New has been fined in the Penalty of £6 –16 & Hayden & Cooper in the Penalty of £7 – 7 which we humbly apprehend will entitle the Seizing Officer a net Moiety of the Goods seiz’d; and we propose to pay them accordingly unless we receive your direction to the contrary.


5 November 1781           On the 30th Ult. having received information that some Guns had been put on board a Cutter berthen 130 Tons which was sailing out of this Harbour, I went on board and found in the Hold of the Cutter 8 Iron Guns, four pounds, 67 Cross-bar Shott & 73 Round Shot, which the Master of the Cutter said were for the Cutters use, and that she had a Commission as a Privateer, upon my asking to see the Commission, he said he had not got it with him, but that it was at Folkestone where the owner of the Cutter lived, whereupon I told him he had no authority to take the Guns, and that their being in the Hold of the Cutter gave strong room for suspicion that they were intended for some other purpose than the Cutters use and as they had been shipp’d without any Warrant or the presence of an Officer that I should seize them which I accordingly have done, and humbly submit my proceedings to your Honors for further directions, begging to observe that the Earl of Hillsborough’s Letter which accompanied your Order of the 30th Ultimo that has since been received at this Port in some measure confirms the suspicion I had entertained, that the Guns & Ammunition before mentioned were design’d for other purposes that the Vessels use. The Cutter out of which I took the Guns was called the Lurcher and belongs as I am informed to some people at Folkestone for which place she is now sail’d & is one of many Cutters that have been built her evidently for the purpose of Smuggling as the conveniences made in them for stowing Goods plainly shew for which trade they are intended, tho’ under the pretence of cruizing as Privateers they obtain Commissions, and are authoriz’d to carry Guns, which they afterwards make use of to protect themselves in the illicit trade & oppose the Officers of the Revenue.


17 November 1781         Henry Haddon an Extraordinary Tidesman at this Port, having been repeatedly negligent in his Duty, we found it necessary to give him a Charge, which with his answer thereto, & our remarks thereon, we transmit enclos’d & beg leave to submit the same to your Honors consideration.

Charge              Article 1st  Why when on the Sloop Two Brothers James Shepherd Master for London laden with Prize Brandy for Exportation, you went on shore without leave of your Superior Officer & before the Hatches were sealed down, which gave the opportunity to the Master of the Sloop to sail before the Brandy was secured under the Seals of Office, notwithstanding you had been particularly told that the same was to be done & that you was not to quit the Vessel ‘till the Hatches were sealed down.

                        Article 2nd Why when boarded on the Frederick Wilhelm with Timber & discharging at this Port you neglected to return all the Notes you received from the Landwaiter, being directed by him to send on these Notes with every raft of Timber put out of the Ship, taking care to insert upon each note the Quantity of Timber which accompanied it.

Answer             I, at the time I was boarded by Mr Miller, Tidesurveyor on the Sloop the 2 Brothers James Shepherd Master for London with Prize Brandy, Mr Miller told me that when the Vessel sail’d I should quit her, & agreeable to his Order I came on shore at the time of her departure. As to the Hatches not being seal’d down before she left the Port, it cannot be brought against me as any neglect of Duty – I having given Mr Miller & other Officer timely notice that the vessel was loaded & that she would sail with the first convoy.

I, when boarded on the Frederick Wilhelm laden with Timber & discharging the same at this Port did agreeable to the Landwaiters Order send a Note with each raft of Timber, with the quantity it contain’d inserted on the back of that Note until every note that was delivered to me by the Landwaiter was expended & the remainder of the Cargo was landed in my sight it being near to where the ship was laid.

Remarks by the Collector & Comptroller               When the Officer was 1st boarded, he was told that it was probably that he might be sent to London in the Vessel – but samples of the Brandy having by your Order been sent to the Warehousekeeper in London, we judged it unnecessary to put the Merchant to the Expense of the Officers attendance & directed that when the Brandy was on board, the Hatches should be sealed under the Seals of Office & the Officer was told when that was done & the Vessel ready to sail he might come on shore.

He certainly ought not to have quitted the Vessel before the Hatches were secured; but it appears that he went on shore Sunday Morning at 9 oClock, and did not go on board again, tho’ the Vessel did not sail until the Afternoon, nor did he go to the Watch House ‘till the next day to acquaint the Tide Surveyor the Vessel was sail’d without the Hatches being seal’d down.

He acknowledges to have received 30 Notes & the Landwaiter has prov’d in his presence he only returned 25 & when asked why he did not continue to return the Notes he reply’d he should have them all together – he now says he lost them which contradicts what he asserts in his answer, that he regularly sent a Note with each raft, till every Note delivered to him was expended.

Further Remarks by the Collector & Comptroller               To the above remarks we beg leave to add that Haddon expresses himself sorry for his faults & promises that he will in future attend punctually to his Duty, we would be inclined to recommend him to you clemency as he certainly, would he keep himself sober, is as capable of doing his Duty as any Tidesman in the Port, but he is a young man so addicted to drinking, that neither admonition or reprimand have hitherto deter’d him from it, nor can we place any dependence on his promises – he was not long on the Establishment or upon Incidents but holds your Honors Deputation as a Ex Tidesman & is paid 2d per day when employ’d.


24 January 1782            Wm. Wall, who in our letter of 11th inst we acquainted you Honours had been committed to the County Gaol for obstructing Stephen Squire, one of the Officers at this Port in the execution of his Duty, was tried for his offence at the quarter sessions held at Winchester, the 17th inst & being convicted thereof, was sentenced to suffer eighteen months imprisonment & to be kept during that time to hard labour, he not appearing to be a fit person to serve His Majesty either in the sea or land service.


3 April 1782                   It being much the practice of smugglers in this country to conceal their goods under the shingles on the beach or bury it in the sand on the shore or cellars underground. The officers are in want of stout strong tucks to enable them to find such concealments. We therefore humbly pray your Honours will be pleased to direct a dozen tucks of about four feet in length be sent to us.


4 April 1782                   A considerable quantity of Oatmeal having been Exported from this Port on which a Bounty is demanded by the Exporter, a doubt has arisen whether the Bounty payable on Oatmeal Exported is governed by the price of Oats at the nearest Market to the Port of Exportation or the price of Oatmeal at such Market, the Acts of the 13th of His present Majesty Chapter 43, Section 11 & the 14 of His present Majesty Chapter 64 not agreeing in that particular; and if that Exportation of Oatmeal is regulated by the average price of that Article at the nearest Market to the place of Exportation under the directions of the last mentioned Act, we humbly beg to be inform’d whether the average Price of Oatmeal to obtain the Bounty must be (as for Oats) under 14 shillings the Qtr computed at 276 lbs to the Qtr.


20 June 1782                 Having received a Subpoena to attend a Tryal in the Exchequer on Monday 24th Instant, I propose going from hence tomorrow & shall leave my Clerk to take care of Business in my absence jointly with the Comptroller, which I humbly hope your Honors will approve.


20 June 1782                 Isaac Byerley one of our Boatmen stationed at Yarmouth in this Port being dead, whereof we have acquainted your Honors in a letter of yesterdays date, we think it necessary for the Service to send another Officer to supply his place untill the vacancy is regularly fill’d up & have accordingly directed Henry Twyman who holds your Honors Deputation as an Extra Tidesman & Boatman to repair to Yarmouth & assist the other Boatman there Till such time as an Established Tidesman many of whom are at present ill can be spared for that service, or a proper successor to Byerley is appointed, which we humbly submit to your Honors hoping our proceedings will be approved. [Byerley was on the Establishment at Bewley, but had been directed to work at Yarmouth.]


18 July 1782      We beg leave to recommend John Powis one of the Coal Meters belonging to this Port as a Proper person to be an Extraordinary Tidesman & Boatman in the room of James Jolliffe lately deceased whose Deputation we shall return with our next accounts by the Carrier; inclosed we transmit a Certificate of Powis’s Age & Qualifications.

These are to certify John Powis who is recommended to be and Extraordinary Tidesman & Boatman at this Port is about Forty two Years of Age; and that he is actively capable of performing the Duty of the Employment to which he is recommended.


7 August 1782               Inclosed is a letter which the Collector has received from Mr Roberts, Steward to the Right Honble Lord Mount Edgecombe desiring your Honours might be informed that he cannot consistent with the Lordship’s interest, avoid asking an increase of rent for the Watch House & Tide Surveyors Office at this Port now rented by the Crown at sixteen pounds per annum.

We beg leave to observe, that the above rent has been paid for the premises since October, 1756.That since the estate fell into Lord Mount Edgecombe's hands and within the two last years we believe the Sum of One hundred and fifty pounds has actually been laid out on repairs, in extending the look-out before the Watch House and in making the Boat House underneath, larger and more commodious for sheltering the boats on which account and considering that repairs to the amount we are informed of Four or Five Pounds are wanted we cannot say we think it unreasonable to expect some increase in rent and we humbly submit the difference between the yearly Rent required Viz. Twenty Pounds and that for which a Lease for Fourteen years is offer’d; namely Eighteen Guineas is only One Pound two Shillings per annum whether it will be more for the interest of the Crown to pay the additional rent of Four Pounds per annum & have nothing to do with the Repairs unless Lord Edgecombe will consent to grant a Lease at Eighteen Pounds per annum after the Repairs now wanted are made, in which case it may be advisable for the Crown to take a Lease as the repairs that can be necessary for some years to come we apprehend must be very trifling and we know of no place that could be procured as a Watch House & Tide Surveyors Office so commodious or conveniently situated for the Service as are the premises in question.


17 August 1782             Charles Leigh who by your letter of 15 Ultimo appear’d to have been nominated as a Boatman at this Port & a Certificate of whose Qualifications we were directed to transmit, not having bred up to the Sea, we could not certify agreeably to the Order of 21 June 1743, that he was a Sea-faring Man, nevertheless having directed the Tide Surveyor to take him upon tryal in the Watch Boat & to examine is qualified for the management of a Boat & he having so done & made his report thereon we beg leave to transmit inclosed the said report with our Certificate. 

Report from the Tide Surveyor                 In answer to your letter directing me to examine into the Qualifications of Charles Leigh, nominated to be Boatman at Yarmouth, I have to acquaint you the Charles Leigh is not a Sea-faring Man having been bred up to the Farming Business, but he has lived upon the Sea Coast all his life & knows how to manage a Boat, he has been out on Tryal in the Watch Boat, handles an Oar very well & I think him well qualified to act as a Boatman.


26 November 1782         In return to your Order of 23rd Inst. Referring us to several Letters relative to the Exportation of Flour to Quebec on board His Majesty’s hired Victuallers, we beg leave to acquaint you that in pursuance of the Orders of the Right Honorable the Lords Commissioners of His Majesty’s Treasury dated 17th July 1778, the Bounty has been allow’d for Flour Exported from this Port in His Majesty’s hired Victuallers, whenever Flour has been entitled to a Bounty on Exportation & the regulation of Law have duly been perform’d, consequently the Masters of Transports entering their Ships at Custom House we humbly apprehend was part of the regulations of Law necessary to be perform’d.

We beg leave further to observe that your Order of 26th October 1781 directing us to facilitate the Transport service carried on here under the superintendance of Mr Cherry, Agent to the Navy Board, and to grant free Cockets in the Form provided by your General Order of 9th March 1780, enjoins us also to see that the Goods are shipp’d in the presence & under the care of the Searcher & other proper examining Officers; we humbly submit to your Honors, that it is at all time necessary whether Bounty is obtainable or not, that the Masters of Transports should come to the Custom House & enter their Ships having taken in their Ships, report upon oath the contents of their Lading, which may be the means of preventing any other Goods being taken of board than Government stores or such as have been regularly entered & shipp’d.


21 December 1782         As directed by your Order of the 17th Instant we transmit enclosed an account of the Bounty paid on flour exported last year in Transports to Quebec from this Port & beg leave to report, that no Bounty has been paid to a Mr Callendar or any other person on his behalf, as the Agents to the Contractors inform us.

An Account of Bounty paid on Flour exported from this Port in 1781 in Transports to Quebec

By Whom Shipped

Ships Name

Masters Name




Jas Mackenzie for the Contractor


Wm. Tinker

900 – 7

£222 4s 4½d

An Account of Flour exported from this Port in 1782 in Transports for Quebec for which debentures are not yet passed but are preparing to be pass’d & delivered in pursuance of the Treasury Order of 29 Nov. last

By Whom Shipped

Ships Name

Masters Name




Wm Chessel for the Contractors


John Roxby

1230 - 6

£307 13s 9d

Jas Mackenzie for the Contractor


W Henderson


£244 16s 10½d

Wm Chessel for the Contractors


Thos Cook


£210 11s 3d

Jas Mackenzie for the Contractor


Jos Clarke



Jas Mackenzie for the Contractor


Jas Thompson


£176 1s 3d

Jas Mackenzie for the Contractor


Chr Wilson


£296 12s 6d


4 January 1783              Captain Urry, against whom the inclosed anonymous information is given, is a Gentlemen of Character and Fortune and in our opinion not likely to be concern'd in smuggling to such an extent or degree as is pointed out. As a captain of a Man of War he possibly may sometimes smugle or receive a present of a hamper or two of wine or some such trifle; and we suppose it owing to a Seizure of some Cases of Wine and Casks of Spirit having about a month ago, having been made of the Cruiser Cutter on her Arrival from Guernsey, that the present information has been given, as we are informed the said Cutter anchor’d in Yarmouth Road the morning before the Seizure was made, but whether at this distance of time and under all the circumstances of the case, your Honors will think it advisable that a Warrant to search Mr Urry’s House should be applied for, we beg to submit to your consideration; if you are of the opinion it is necessary we shall take care implicitly to follow such directions as you may think proper to give, and in the mean time we shall give to the Officers stationed at Yarmouth to keep a good look out in future and to use utmost Diligence to seize any goods that may be attempted to be landed in that Neighbourhood out of any Cutter or Vessel arriving from Guernsey.


5 January 1783              George Granger and John Mews, Boatmen in this Port, having in the evening of the 30th Ult. been assaulted and beat in the execution of their Duty by five Persons who rescued from them three Casks of Foreign Spirits which they had seized. William Wallis one of the Persons concerned in the Assault & Rescue and from whom the Goods had been seized has been apprehended and carried before on of His Majesty’s Justices of the Peace, who has taken Bail in the sum of £300 for his appearance at the next Quarter Sessions at Winchester which commence on the 14th Instant, there to answer for the Offence & hath bound over the Officer to prosecute under the 19th of His present Majesty Chap. 69 Sect. 11.

Diligent search is making after the other Offenders, particularly Thomas Serle who being principally concern’d in the Rescue & Assault and if taken most probably committed for Tryal.

As the Sessions is near at hand the Collector proposes to attend and employ an Attorney of Character to conduct the Prosecution, unless your Honors think proper to give directions to your to do it.


25 January 1783            Pursuant to your Order of the 11th Instant the Collector attended the Quarter Session at Winchester on the 14th Inst. to prosecute William Wallis for assaulting & obstruction the Officers in the execution of their Duty and rescuing three Casks of Foreign Spirits after Seizure, and the said Wallis having been found guilty of the Offence, the Court have sentenc’d him to Eighteen Months Imprisonment in the House of Correction there to be kept to hard Labour. 


27 January 1783            On the 24th Instant died William Rimer one of the Established Tidesmen & Boatmen belonging this Port.


10 February 1783           John Mews one of the Boatmen upon Incidents stationed at St Hellens in this Port, having been missing since the 4th Instant is suppos’d to have been drown’d, several Circumstances concurring, to confirm the suspicion of his having attempted to walk across St Hellens Harbour at a time he was much intoxicated with liquor – we beg leave to acquaint you that we have thought it for the good of the Service to send Richard Craddick one of the Extraordinary Tidesmen & Boatmen to St Hellens to assist the other Officers station’d there in their Duty until a Proper Person is appointed to supply the vacancy.


10 March 1783               Peter Banister who stands upon the Establishment at this Port as a Riding Officer at Chine executes his Duty at Warsash within the Port of Portsmouth & John Jeram who executes the Duty of a Riding Officer at this Port, is paid his salary at Portsmouth.

We humbly apprehend that it would not only save the Officers much Expense but be of benefit to the Revenue; by keeping them constantly in their respective Districts, if each Officer was paid at the Port where he does his Business which we beg leave to submit for your consideration. 


1769 - 1774

1783 - 1785

Customs Cowes Letters Book

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

2 August 2009