Collector to Board Letters Book 1796 - 1798


These extracts are a partial transcription of the book held at the National Archives reference, CUST 61/13, 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.


3 May 1796                   We herewith send a sample of Nutts which with other Articles are Advertized for Sale in this Port on the 6th Inst. under the description of Brazil Nutts and the same not appearing to be a rated Article, and the Waterside Officers not being conversant in the value humbly pray to be informed for their Government at what value they are usually entered & pass’d in the Port of London.

We also beg leave to transmit a Sample of Cotton Advertized to be sold at the same time under the denomination of Para-Cotton, and submit the same is not liable to Duty at 1d per lb as not been imported in a British Built Ship.

The above mentioned Articles are part of the Cargo of a Portuguese Ship the Alice which put into this Port in Distress on a Voyage from Brazil to Lisbon and intended to be sold to defray Expenses under the Sanction of your Order of the 22nd Ult.


9 May 1796                   Inclosed we transmit an Application from Mr Francis Sarmon praying to be allowed a Moiety of the Appraised Value of the Nancy & Dundas Cutters which were seized by him & have been condemned & taken to be Employed in the Service.      

We beg leave to report that the Nancy Cutter was returned into the Exchequer in Easter Term 1794 Appraised at £150 & the Dundas Cutter in Easter Term 1795 Appraised at £220, both Vessels were condemned and are now Employed in the Service pursuant to your Special Order to the Collector of the 26th September last.


19 May 1796                 As requested by Mr Gely in the Letter we hereby transmit we have surveyed two new Cutters which are now Building by him for the Service of this Revenue and beg leave to report that the Deck of the Swan Cutter is Laid, and with the upper Works and Plank thereon all caulk’d, the bottom is Plank’d and Mr Gely expects she will be launched in six weeks from this Time.

Of the Swallow Cutter the Deck from Stem & Stern Post are upon the Blocks. [Interim payments of £200 for the Swan and £250 for the Swallow were requested.]


20 May 1796                 In obedience to your Order of the 26th Ult. we have called upon Mr Francis Sarmon Late Commander of the Swan Revenue Cutter to explain the several Points mentioned in your said Order and inclosed we transmit his Answer thereto.

We beg leave to further report that upon re-examination of Thomas Lane, it appears that upon his calling out from the Mast Head that he saw 3 Large Ships upon the Larboard Bow, Captain Sarmon and the Mate immediately came upon Deck that they both took their glasses to look at them and to endeavour to make them out, and continued so to do until they found they were Enemies Ships and the Mate says he went forward with his Glass and that the Captain was on the Weather Quarter looking at them also, that he frequently called out to know if he could make them out, that the Mate occasionally went aft and the Commander forward to talk to each other, and both sup­posed that they must either be English Ships coming to Ireland or the Cruizing ships which had been enquired after in the Morning.

The mate further says he did not advise the Captain to alter his course but ask’d him what he meant to do, that the Captain replied he thought there was no Danger of their being Enemies Ships and should therefore keep his Course as he wanted to deliver his Dispatches.

That the reason / he the Mate / did not propose altering his Course was because nobody supposed they were French Ships.

The Mate and Deputed Mariner on being ask’d by Mr Sarmon, if they thought him at the time the Strange Ships were discovered, or when the Cutter was taken, any way disguised with Liquor or incapable of giving the Necessary Directions, all answered no, but that in their Opinion he was capable of his Duty as at any time in his life, and one of them said he never saw him more anxious when chasing a Smugler to come up with her than he appeared to be to make out what the Ships were or more vexed than he was when they showed their Colours and it was found they were Enemies and they added that the Captain was not off the Deck more than 2 or 3 minutes after the Ships were first seen til after the Cutter had Struck that he went down for the Dispatches to sink them.

Since making our report we have had an Opportunity of examining two others of the Mariners whose testimony was in substance the same as has before been stated by the other Witnesses.


23 May 1796                 Inclosed we transmit the Answers to the several Queries respecting the Qualification of William Gregory a Boatman at this Port for admission to the List of Superannuated Officers.


25 May 1796                 Inclosed we transmit an Account of Charges incurred in the Carriage of a Seizure to the Warehouse which has since been condemn’d and we pray your Orders for paying the Bill amounting to £1 – 7 – 0.


Seizing Officer



Distance Carried

25 Oct. 1795

Stephen Saunders

3 Chaldons Coal

£1 – 7

8 miles from Newtown the place of seizure to the Watch House Cowes

The Weather would not admit the Seizure being brought to the Warehouse in a lighter into which the Coals had been discharged and it therefore became it therefore became necessary for him to hire a Vessel for the purpose which the Officer could not procure for less than is charg’d & has been paid.


15 June 1796                 The Swan Cutter now building for the Service at this Port by Mr John Gely being in such a state of forwardness as to be nearly ready for Launching. We beg leave to submit if it will not be proper that Mr Sarmon the Commander should have Orders to enter Men for the Service to be employed in fitting out the Cutter, that she may be ready to go to Sea with the loss of as little time as possible, respecting which we pray your directions.


22 June 1796                 In return to your Order of the 20th Inst. we beg leave to report that the Windows of the Custom House, Tide Surveyors Office & Watch House having suffered considerably from high Gales of Wind in the Winter when the Glazier was to replace the broken Squares, the Lead of several of the Casements was found so much out of Repair as to be incapable of holding new Glass, and a general repair was found necessary. We find also that in the Charge for Glass is included the Charge of several Squares put in at different times when the Windows have been accidentally broken and the Expence not thought sufficient to make out and send in a Bill.


22 June 1796                 A new Boat having been provided for the Service in this Port in pursuance of your Order of the 5th April last, we hereby transmit the Tradesman’s Bill for the same & duplicate thereof attested by the Tide Surveyor amounting to £7 – 7 – 0 in part payment of which the Collector has in his Hands £4 – 4 – 0 received from the Proprietor of a Ship by which the Boat was disabled, and there will remain to be paid by the Crown of this Bill Three Pound three shillings, for which we pray to receive your Orders.


11 August 1796             Having been informed that the Cutter Two Brothers belonging to this Port of which Mr William Finimore the Elder was Owner and who had obtained a Licence for navigating the said Cutter has been detected in Smugling and seized by the Falcon Revenue Cutter of Chichester on or about the 7th Ult. 

We beg leave to transmit the Bond entered into by the said Finimore when the Licence was delivered to him, and submit it may be proper that he should be prosecuted thereon.

PS The Certificate of Registry granted for the above Vessel has been returned to us but the Person who deliver’d it would not assign any Reason for delivering it up.


17 August 1796              Since we communicated your Order of the 10th March last to Mr Robert Willis Commander of the Nancy Temporary Cruizer Stationed at this Port, we think the Cutter has kept a diligent look out, and has sent in upwards of 400 casks of Spirit & Tobacco with a large Lugsail Boat which the Commander seized, and we are humbly of the opinion that it may be for the Benefit of the Service to continue the Cutter in the Employ some time longer on a further Tryal especially as we have reason to believe that there is much Smugling on this Coast in small Vessels & large open Boats.  

And the Services of Thomas Lean who is a Deputed Mariner belonging to the Swan Cutter and who was acting as Mate in the Nancy Cutter being much wanted by Captain Sarmon in fitting out & rigging out the new swan Cutter which is now getting ready for Sea – we have thought for the benefit of the Service to keep the Nancy Cutter properly mann’d to direct Luke Lidiard the Younger who has been a Deputed Mariner in the Service on board the Roebuck Revenue Cutter to act as Mate on board the Nancy Cutter on the Cruize she is now upon & humbly pray your Honors to grant him your deputation as Mate of the Cutter, provided you judge it expedient as we humbly submit it may be to continue the Cutter upon the Station for 3 Months longer on further Tryal.


31 August 1796             On the 22nd Instant Mr Henry Cox acting Coastwaiter at this Port stopp’d two Bags which he saw landing from a Vessel just arrived from Southampton on examining the bags which were in possession of a Jew of the name Hornaman, he found them to contain base Copper Coin in weight fifty one Pounds but by the sale as Halfpence amounting to eight Pounds fifteen Shillings the Jew says he took them in a fair way by way of Trade for Goods sold & produced an advertisement to take all sorts of Halfpence for the Goods he sold, he had no Goods with him at the time, but intended to take the Money with him to London but had occasion first to come to the Isle of Wight.

The circulation of counterfeit Half pence has much increased here of late, and it has been suspected that the Jews sell them to the Paymaster Serjeants of the Army & other Persons under their nominal value as Halfpence in order to get the circulated. 

About a fortnight ago a large quantity were stopp’d by a Tradesman of this Place who applied to a Magistrate but as the Man in whose possession they were found was not detected in passing or offering them for Sale the Magistrates doubted their Authority to proceed against him. 

The Practice of circulating such counterfeit Coin being greatly injurious to Trade and highly necessary to be check’d we beg leave to submit to your Honors if it may not be proper to prosecute the Copper Metal in question for having been shipp’d & brought Coastwise without Security being first given as directed by the 33rd of Henry 8 Ch 7 Sect 4 unless your Honors are of the opinion that Act is repealed by any subsequent one, in which case we submit if they may not be prosecuted under the Act of 13 &14 Ch 2 Sect 11 as Goods, Wares & Merchandize shipp’d & brought Coastwise without a Sufferance or other proper Dispatches.


3 September 1796          Mr Gely having compleated the Building of the Swan Cutter for the service at this Port, we at his request transmit his Bill for the same on the Balance of which there appears due to him £548 – 3 – 0 and we pray your directions thereon.


30 November 1796         In return to your Order of Yesterdays Date we beg leave to report that the Ship Brothers of New York J Williams Master appears by the Tide Surveyors daily return of Shipping to have to have arrived here from New York of the 15th of September last on which day the Master came to the Custom House & made Report of which we herewith transmit a copy.

It further appears by the Tide Surveyors daily List that the Vessel sailed from hence on the 21st September for London in consequence as we are informed of Orders received by the Master to proceed to that Port with his Cargo.

PS The Comptroller being engaged in superintending the salvage of a derelict Vessel which has been drawn on Shore at the Back of the Isle of Wight is the reason his Signature is not on this Letter. [Letters were normally signed by both the Collector & Comptroller.]


6 December 1796           Your Deputation granted to Richard Comben Mate of the Swan Cutter in Service at this Port having by frequently being Wet with Salt Water become much defaced, he humbly prays your Honors to grant him a new one in lieu thereof. The Deputation has been shown to us and we think a new one necessary.


30 December 1796         There being little or doubt of the Swan Cutter having been taken by the Enemy altho’ we have not yet received a Confirmation of it from any Person on board at the Time of the Capture.

We beg to submit to your consideration if it may not be expedient to give directions for a new Cutter to be forthwith built to supply her place on this Station and as there is considerable Smugling Trade upon the Coast and which is likely to increase when it is known there is a Cruizer less to guard the Coast. We beg also to submit to you if it may not be to the benefit of the Service to employ in the mean time under the Command of Richard Comben Mate of the Swan Cutter & who was sent in with a recaptured Vessel, a condemned Smugling Cutter lately seized by the Swan, and which being the Burthen of 46 Tons and a fast sailing Cutter well found, would we apprehend be fitted out in a very short time at a moderate Expence, and if navigated by the Mate, a Deputed Mariner & twelve Men, would we are of the opinion be able to man occasionally a six Oar’d Boat & sail the Cutter at the same time to the benefit of the Service & Revenue.


6 February 1797 The vacancies occasioned by the Death of John Chiverton & John Taylor a Landing Waiter at this Port not having been filled up and Francis Terrell Coast Waiter at Newport being subpoen’d to attend a Tryal in the Court of the Exchequer at the Sittings after Term, we have no Officer to send to take care of Coast Business at Newport during his absence, but propose with your Honors approbation that either Mr John Pain or Mr Thomas Thorold who are Collectors Clerks should attend that Duty to which they are very competent, the one having been in the Office 15 years the other 11.

And we further beg leave to represent to your Honors, that on account of foreign Ships which frequently put in during the Winter Season in distress and apply to Land either the whole or part of their Cargoes to be secured under the Kings Locks while the Ships are under Repair, the two Landing Waiters now remaining are not at all times able to give that attendance to the Business which we think necessary & if there was more of the Import & Export Business at the Port than there is now at this time they would by no means be equal to their Duty.

We therefore submit to your Honors if upon such occasion we may not be permitted to employ one of the Collectors Clerks when he can be spared from the Office Duty as an Assistant to the Landing Waiters, and if it meet your approbation that they may be furnished with Deputations as Occasional or Extra Officers of Customs & be under Oath and Security for the due execution of their Duty entrusted to their Care.


8 February 1797 Mr Robert Comben Commander of the Dundas Temporary Cruizer at this Port having represented to us that John Harris who has sailed in the Diligence Lugger and Excise Cutters as a Mariner about seven Years and is a very proper Person to act as Mate of the Dundas Cutter.

We beg leave to recommend him to your Honors for that Station and pray that a Deputation may be issued authorizing him to make Seizures.


21 February 1797           Mr Robert Comben Commander of the Dundas Cutter a temporary Cruizer at this Port having represented that the several Articles particularized on the back hereof are necessary for the Service, we humbly pray we may receive your Directions for providing such of the Articles as can be furnished here & that the Arms, Ammunition, Suit of Colours and Spy Glass may be sent from London.

Mr Brown your Inspector of Sloops having lately had an opportunity of examining the state of the Cutter will be enabled to inform your Honors respecting the propriety of the crave.

1 small Jibb

1 Ledge Anchor

1 Cable

1 Hawser

1 Compass

1 Spy Glass

1 Suit of Colours

Some small Arms

Some Powder

A Cabouse


24 February 1797           In return to your Order of the 16th Inst. we beg leave to report that since the death of John Cheverton Coast Waiter, the Duty has been executed principally by H Cox Landing Waiter / occasionally assisted by the Waiter and Searcher / Mr Cox’s residence at West Cowes where the greatest part of the Coast Business is transacted making it convenient for him to attend that part of the Duty. We are not aware of any particular objections to the Surveyor being appointed to the Coast Duty during the Vacancy excepting that his residence being at East Cowes he is no so conveniently situated for attending to it as the Land Waiter who lives on the other side of the Water.

And having also considered the Surveyor as the Principal Water Side Officer whose Duty it is to Superintend and Survey the other Officers and from time to time to report to us their Conduct & competency to their Duty, it did not occur to us as proper to call upon him to act in the subordinate situation of Coast Waiter especially as in Cowes where Cargoes of distressed Ships are Landed under the Inspection of proper Officers to be secured under the Kings Locks, he as a press of Business acts as Landing Waiter at his own request, which with the general superintendance’d charge of all the Warehouses where such Cargoes are lodged, added to the other parts of his Duty we have considered it full employment for him

The Coast Waiters who were last week subpoen’d to attend a Tryal in London being now returned & the hurry of Business occasioned by the arrival of several distress’d Ships being nearly over, and the regular Importations at this time but few the Surveyor informs us that the Landing Waiters have not now more Business than they can attend to themselves with the assistance he gives them.


27 February 1797           We transmit the inclosed Incidental Bill amounting to £5 – 11 – 0 for Expences incurred by Francis Terrell Coast Waiter at Newport between the 5th January 1796 & 5th January 1797 in attending his Duty as a Coast Waiter at the Shipping & Landing of Corn & Flour at Places situated at a Distance from his residence.

Mr Terrells Salary is but £30 per Annum, his personal attendance we think necessary at places the where Corn & Flour are Shipped or Landed Coastwise & allowing him his extra Expences we are humbly of the opinion will be an Encouragement to his properly attending that part of his Duty.


14 March 1797               The Capture of the Swan Cutter by the French and the Death of Mr Sarmon the Commander having been confirmed by various Letters from the Mariners in Prison to their Friends, and by one from Thomas Lane, a deputed Mariner who was wounded when the Cutter was taken & has written to his Wife from Hospital.

We beg leave to submit to your consideration if it may not be proper that Directions should be given for Building a new Cutter with the loss of as little time as possible to replace on the Swans Station the one which has been taken, and we would humbly propose that the new Cutter should not be of less Burthen than 140 or 150 Tons.


27 April 1797                 Extract of a Letter from Mr. William Arnold, Collector of His Majesty's Customs at Cowes, to Evan Nepean (probably of the Admiralty). This is not from the Letters Book, but rather from the London Gazette.

I have the Honor to inform you, that a French Privateer the Daphne of Cherbourg, Bar Corpa Master, of the Burthen of 33 Tons, with 25 Men,Two Carriage Guns and Two Swivels, has been taken and brought in here Yesterday by the Nancy Cutter, a small Revenue Cruizer belonging to this Port, Robert Willis Commander, 32 Ton Admeasurement, with Ten Men and One Swivel Gun only.

The Privateer is marked on the Stern, Vigilant, of Guernsey, a Deception often made use of, I am informed, to decoy English Trading Vessels within Reach of the Guns of the Enemy's Cruizer.


5 May 1797                   A new Boat having been provided for the Nancy Cutter in the Service of this Port we beg leave to inclose the Tradesmens Bills for the same amounting to £30 – 8 – 9. The Price charged for the Boat does not exceed the Estimate & the Commander reports she is properly finished & fit for the Service.

Boat Builders                 23 – 5 – 9

Sail Makers                    7 – 3 – 0

                                    30 – 8 – 9


10 May 1797                 In return to your Order of the 5th Inst. we beg leave to acquaint you that Letters have been received from Thomas Lane a Deputed Mariner on board the late Swan Cutter at the time it was taken by the French stating his being in a Hospital near Havre on account of having his Arm broken in the Action, but that he was in a fair way of recovery, he also acknowledges having received five Guineas which the Collector had sent him by the Master of an American Ship.that sailed from hence to Havre and stated the death of John Torin & of Joseph Scott, both of whom were killed in action.

Besides the seizure Mentioned in your Letter we are informed another Seizure was taken by the Boats of the Swan when Cruizing carried into the Port of Arundel and returned with the name of John Torin which also remains to be accounted for when sold.

And Mrs Sarmon having now administered to the effects of her Husband and competent to receive and give Receipts for such Sums of Money which may be due to her Husband from Seizures or otherwise, we beg to submit to your Honors if it may not be advisable that the proceeds of the Seizure made by the Swan Cutter & carried into Arundel or any other Port should be remitted to this Port, to be paid & divided with the Produce of Seizures here, according to the Rules laid down in your Order of the 18th February 1790 to Mrs Sarmon, the Mate and such of the Mariners or their Families as may reside here, by many of whom the same is much wanted, and as it is probable that after the Payments shall have been made to those on the Spot, several Sums will remain due to others who may not for some time have opportunities of applying for their respective Shares of Seizures, we further bag leave to propose that all Monies unclaimed at the expiration of three Months should be remitted by the Collector to the Superannuation Fund to go in aid of that Fund until the same is claimed by the Mariners or their Representatives, and paid by the Collector who should be authorised to draw on the said Receiver for his reimbursement on transmitting proper Receipts for the payments he may so make.


15 May 1797                 Having at the request of Mr John Gely survey’d the three Cutters building by him at this Port for the Service of the Revenue, we beg leave to report that of the Eagle Cutter the Deck is laid, and of the Speedwell & Swan Cutters the Keel, Stem & Stern post are on the Blocks.

And Mr Gely humbly prays your Honors will be pleased to Order him to be paid Payment of £250 on account of the Eagle Cutter with the first payment of £300 for the Speedwell Cutter & £200 for the Swan Cutter making together £750.


26 May 1797                 Inclosed we transmit an Application we have received from William Robey and Francis Terrell Officers at this Port praying to be allowed a Moiety of a Seizure of Beads which were sent from hence for Sale at the Port of London and of which in the account of Sale received in your Orders of the 11th Inst. they have been allowed only one third.

The Seizure in question was made on 30th December 1795 & by your Order of the 9th January following directed to be prosecuted to Condemnation, Phillip Riddett the Person on whose Premises it was found has also been prosecuted to Conviction for the treble value thereof.

The One third already allowed amounts to £19 – 11 – 11 the difference between that Sum and a Moiety will be £9 – 15 – 11½ which if your Honors are pleased to allow to the Seizing Officers, we submit that we may receive your directions accordingly and the Collector be permitted to take Credit when paid in his Quarterly Cash Account of condemned Goods. (Moiety  = half.)


29 May 1797                 At the request of Mr Robert Willis Commander of the Temporary Cruizer the Nancy in the Service at this Port, we beg to lay before you an Account for his disbursements for Victualling the said Cutter for one Year Viz. from the 5th January 1796 to the 5th January 1797 together with the Allowance made him by your Honors for the same, by which it will appear that he has sustained a loss of Thirty four Pounds 10s/5d in the year by Victualling the Cutter.

When Willis first took Command of the Cutter he expressed his doubts of the Allowance of One shilling per Day per Man being sufficient for Victualling the Cutter properly on Account of the very high price of Provisions. We then recommended him to make the tryal for a Year & to keep an exact Account of his Disbursements for Victualling the Cutter separate from other Accounts, to take care to purchase the Provisions on the best Terms he could & to be as economical as possible in his expenditure, promising him that if it should appear at the expiration of that time by Voucher accompanying his Account that the Allowance he had received was not sufficient for the purpose we would represent the same to your Honors for your Consideration.

With the Account we transmit the particular Disbursements in each Quarter & Vouchers, and having no reason to doubt the truth thereof & that the loss stated has been incurred. We beg leave to submit the same.


3 June 1797                   We hereby transmit a Bill & Duplicate amounting to £10 –2 – 4 for work done & Articles supplied by Mr R B Willkins on account of the late Swan Cutter Francis Sarmon Commander which was not delivered in time to be transmitted with other Bills.

The Collector having called upon the Tradesman for an explanation of some of the Charges in the Bill first deliver’d in, and to account for the reason of its being so long withheld received in Answer the Letter which we also herewith transmit.

On calling upon the Mate to certify the Bill he says he cannot at this distance of time recollect particulars, but remembers a quantity of Arms much out of repair were sent to Mr Wilkins by Captain Sarmons Order and he has no doubt of their being repaired by him. Mr Wilkins is a Tradesman of fair Character.


7 June 1797                   We hereby transmit an Account of the Patent Fees taken & Deposited in the Kings Chest here on account of Patent Offices now vacant at the Port, the amount of which being £142 – 18 – 2, the Collector has this day remitted to the Recd Gentleman in obedience to the directions contained in your Order of the 2nd Inst.


24 June 1797                 In return to your Order of the 20th Inst. we beg leave to report that in the Holidays in the List on the back of the above Order it has not been the practice here to consider either London Burnt or London Mayor’s Day or of keeping on Monday any Holiday that falls on a Sunday.

We have not considered ourselves bound to give any attendance at the Office on a Holiday, but living on the Spot it has not been usual to keep the Office close shut excepting on the Festival of Easter, Whitsuntide and Christmas & the Holidays in the Christmas Week with the Kings Birth Day, and on other Holidays if we are in the Way, we now refuse doing any Business that may occur without receiving any Fees ourselves for such attendance, but it is customary for Clerks to receive a small Fee for writing a Sufferance Report, Entry or any other Documentation which passes on a Holiday.

The Water Side Officers never refuse to attend upon the Quays on a Holiday at the request of the Merchants if Notice is given them the Day before and for their attendance at such times they, the Landing Surveyor and Landing Waiters appointed to the Ship are paid an Extra Fee of 5/- per Day.

An application to the Landing Surveyor for the Officers attendance on the Quays upon a Holiday has always been considered sufficient without applying to us for permission.

No alteration has been made to our knowledge in the Hours of attendance by any of the Officers at this Port since the Year 1785.


24 July 1797                  The Instructions for the Commanders and Mates of the Cruizers employed in the Service of this Revenue which accompanied your Order of the 19th Inst. have been duly delivered to the Commanders of the Nancy & Dundas Cutters stationed here, and also to Luke Lidiard acting as Mate of the Nancy Cutter and to John Harris acting Mate of the Dundas, the Persons for whom we applied for Deputations by our Letters of the 17th August & 8th February last, but which have not yet been received.

The Commanders of the Cutters represent the inconvenience they are put to by being frequently obliged to send away their Boats without an Officer authorized to make Seizures, and we are humbly of the opinion it will be for the benefit of the Service that they should be furnished with Deputations.


26 July 1797                  The Colours which have been several Years in use at the Custom House and Watch House at this Port are nearly worn out & unserviceable, we humbly pray your Honors will be pleased to order two new Ensigns to be sent for the Service here.


4 August 1797               Since the 1st Instant several Tradesmen at this Port have applied to have their stock of Cambricks stamped in pursuance of an Act of the last session of Parliament, alledging they know nothing of the Act being passed which was the reason of their not making earlier application.

Apprehending that by the Words of the Act the Cambricks should have been should have been brought to the Custom House for the purpose of being stamped before the 1st August, we have not thought ourselves warranted in causing to be stamped such as has been brought to us subsequent to that Day without your special permission & directions which if your Honors are pleased to grant under the Circumstances of the Act having so lately passed, that it is probably they were not appraised of it and the Stamps only having been received a few days before the 1st Instant, we submit if it may not be proper to add to the Oath required by the Act that the Cambricks now offered to be stamped were in the possession of the Person producing them on or before the 1st August and were not since purchased by them. [Cambrick  - A fine white linen fabric in plain weave, named for the French town of Cambray where it was produced.]


9 August 1797               In return of your Order of the 5th Inst we beg leave to report that it has been the practice here for the Clerk who collects the Fees due to the Indoor Officers to give an Account to the Collector at the end of each Quarter, and after the same has been examined, the several Officers are paid their respective Proportions, and sign the initials of their Name at the foot of the Account to what they receive.

Exclusive of which an Account is made out Quarterly of the Fees on Account of vacant Patent Officers / the Customer is the only one at this Port / the amount is entered in a Book and kept in the King’s Chest under our joint Locks as are the Quarterly Vouchers containing the several Items forming the Quarter’s Accounts.

The amount of Patent Customer Fees which had accumulated between Lady Day Quarter 1794 & Lady Day Quarter last was £142 – 18 – 2 & which was remitted on the 7th June to the Receiver General in obedience to your Order of the 2nd of the same Month, the last Quarters Amount being    £11 – 12 – 5 was also remitted on the 7 Inst. under the same Order directing the Remittance to be made Quarterly in future.


17 August 1797             In return to your Order of the 14th Inst we beg leave to acquaint you that the Law Charges on the Seizure of the Nancy Cutter and the Spirits seized on board amounted to         £33 – 14 – 8 which with the Charges of condemnation were applied to the Account of the Spirits when the same were sold, and the Charges of condemnation which were incurred on the Seizure of the Dundas Cutter & Cargo together with £4 – 0 – 7 Law Charges have been applied to the Produce of the Goods.

No Certificate of the condemnation of either Vessel has been transmitted to us, but both are employed in the Service at this Port as temporary Cruizers by your Honors Special Orders.


25 August 1797             In return to your Order we transmit inclosed a Copy of the Registry of Baptism of John Pain nominated to be a Landing Waiter in the room of John Taylor resigned, and we beg leave to report that we think Mr Pain is in all respects a proper Person for the Office to which he is nominated having been fifteen Years in the Collectors Office at this Port, a very sober Man and sufficiently active & capable of performing the Duties of a Landing Waiter. The Salary & Emoluments of a Landing Waiter at this Port amount to more than £50 per annum but we have no reason to suppose they exceed one Hundred Pounds.

Baptized 26th September 1768 at Newport. [Details of the Baptism of  James Sammes appointed Tide Waiter in the room of Richard Craddick deceased were submitted on the same day.]


5 September 1797          Mr Robert Willis Commander of the Nancy temporary Cruizer at this Port has represented to us by Letter that the Cutter is become very leaky not only in her bottom but upper Works and Deck, that the Men cannot be dry in their Cabbins, nor the Cutter kept at Sea without great hazard unless she undergoes a thorough repair, and he add that the Sails are in such a state as to require being replaced with a new set.

Under the Circumstances of the case, the Cutter being a Seized Vessel condemned and represented as being twelve Years old and originally a slight built Vessel, we are humbly of the Opinion that she cannot be worth the Expence of thorough Repair.

But Willis being an active Officer, having kept a good look out against the Smuglers, and made some considerable Seizures since he has cruised in the Nancy Cutter and Smugling also we have reason to believe being now carried out to a considerable degree on the Coast.

We beg leave to propose to your Honors that he be allowed to make use of the Eagle Cutter which was left at this Port when the new Cutter of that name was delivered for the Service at Newcastle as we are informed she would answer the purpose of a temporary Cruizer without much Expence and if it meet your approbation we would propose that in addition to his present Crew of nine Men should be added Thomas Lane the Deputed Mariner of the late Swan Cutter recently returned form a French Prison / no Mate or Deputed Mariner having been appointed by your Honors to the Nancy Cutter / and five of the Mariners belonging to the Swan who we think might be usefully employed for the Service in the Eagle Cutter ‘til the Swan now building is ready for the Seas.


8 September 1797  (extract)        Temporary Cutters

Nancy Cutter     Robert Willis, Commander          Salary £30 per annum    Commenced March 10 1796

                        Luke Lidiard, Mate

                        8 Mariners                                 1/- per day

Dundas Cutter   William Ferris, Commander         Salary £50 per annum    Commenced Aug. 10 1797

                        Richard Comben, Mate               Salary £30 per annum    Commenced Jan. 26 1797

                        31 Men                                     1/- per day


8 September 1797          The Tide Surveyor has represented to us that the Officers Blue Houses on the Wharfs are very much out of Repair, we have caused an Estimate to be made of the Expence that will attend Repairing them & transmit the same amounting to £14 – 7 – 0 and pray your directions thereon. The last Repairs done to the same were in the Year 1793.


12 September 1797        Having transmitted to the Collector & Comptroller of Arundel a Receipt signed by Thomas Lane a Deputed Mariner of the late Swan Cutter & who is lately released from a French Prison for £157 – 2 – 1 the amount of the Seizing Officers share of a Seizure made by one of the Boats belonging to the Swan Cutter and returned at the Port of Arundel for condemnation in the name of Lane, the Collector at that Port has informed us that the Money has been remitted to the Receiver of Fines & Forfeitures together with £12 – 1 – 1 the officers share of another Seizure returned at that Port by John Torin who was also a Deputed Mariner belonging to the Swan Cutter.

As Lane has represented that Captain Sarmon and the Crew of the Swan are entitled to share in the said Seizures, the Boats having been on the look out by Captain Sarmon’s Orders at the time he was Cruizing on the Coast to protect his Boats, and that it was owing to a contrary Winds that they could not join the Cutter or bring the Seizure to this Port, we submit if the Collector may not be allowed to draw on the Receiver of Fines and Forfeitures for the Money that has been remitted to him on account of those Seizures to enable him to pay Mr Sarmon’s Widow and the other Persons entitled thereto their respective Shares with the Produce of other Seizures sold since the Death of Captain Sarmon.

John Torin in whose name one of the Seizures was returned at the Port of Arundel having unfortunately been killed in the Action with the French Privateer at the time the Cutter was taken, his Receipt cannot be obtained as a Voucher to the Account for the Officers share, and as his Widow can ill afford the Expence of taking out Letters of Administration we submit whether under your approbation the Receipt of Mrs Sarmon who has administered to the Effects of her Husband or that of Richard Comben Mate of the Cutter may not be substituted in the room of Torins Receipt as a sufficient Voucher under the Circumstances of the Case.    


17 October 1797            We herewith transmit an Account of Seizures made by the Officers at this Port since our last Account on the 15th July for the Prosecution of which we pray your directions.  

We beg to submit to you an Affidavit made by the Officers of Assistance given by two Soldiers in making the Seizure in Article No. 8 on the 1st Instant and without which they state they should not have been able to secure the Goods.

We have also received a Letter from Mr Willis Commander of the Nancy Cutter saying that the two mariners who were not present when making Seizure No. 2 on the 30th July were necessarily absent on Duty and praying that they may not be excluded from sharing the Seizure.

Mr Ferris Commander of the Dundas Cutter prays that the 4 Mariners who were left on Shore sick a few days before the Seizure No. 2 12th October was made may be permitted to share in the Seizure as he believes they were incapacitated from attending their Duty by actual indisposition.


17 October 1797            In return to your Order of the 13th Instant, we beg leave to report that there in no Officer who does Duty at this Port or within the Limits thereof or who is paid at any other Port, unless your Honors should consider as comming within the intent & meaning of the Order Mr John Stiles Commander of the Roebuck Cutter stationed at Wootton Creek for the purpose of Superintending the Quarantine Duty on the Mother Bank which as well as Wootton Creek we apprehend to be within the Limits of this Port, although Mr Stiles is paid his Salary at Portsmouth through which Port all Orders are communicated to him under the Authority of your Honorable Board.


20 October 1797            Inclosed we transmit a Charge which we have been under the necessity of giving to William Gregory a Tidewaiter & Boatman at this Port grounded on a Complaint by the Tide Surveyor of his being intoxicated with Liquor and neglecting his Duty. We transmit also Gregory’s Answer to the same, in which he admits the Charge and throwing himself on your Honors Clemency for forgiveness promising not to transgress in the like manner in future.

We believe he is very sincere in his present intention of keeping sober & very sorry for what he has done, but we doubt if he will be able to resist the temptation of Liquor when thrown in his way as it has frequently fallen to our lot to have occasion to admonish & reprimand him for the same Offence.

We have no other cause of Complaint against him and believe him to be a very honest Man, he has been more than 20 years in the Service and is about 53½ Years of Age, was fully within the Rules laid down by your Honors for admission to the Superannuated Pension we should be inclined to commend him to be placed on the Superannuated List. If Dismissed your Service we fear he will be incapable of earning a Livelihood any other way.

Should your Honors be pleased to pass over his Offence this time and make a little further trial of him, we will desire the Tide Surveyor strictly to watch his conduct, and to place him when possible on board Ships where there is least likelyhood of his being exposed to the temptation of Strong Liquor and do our endeavours by frequent admonitions to keep him to his Duty till be can certify his qualifications for the Superannuated Pension under the Rules prescribed.

Charge              Mr Chapman the Landing Surveyor having reported to us that on visiting the Ship Johanna discharging a Cargo of Coffee Cotton &c on Thursday Morning last on which Ship you were placed as a Tidesman with Charge of the Book to take Account of Goods delivered.

That you had omitted to take account of Goods delivered that Day, and that he found you so much intoxicated as to render it necessary to have another Officer put on board to supply your place.

We hereby charge you with the above neglect of your Duty and with being Disguised with Liquor when upon Duty notwithstanding the frequent admonitions given you to keep yourself sober.

To the above Charge you are hereby required to give a plain and distinct Answer in Writing on or before Thursday the 12th Instant returning this Charge with your Answer.

Answer             This is to acquaint you that I am very sorry for what I have done in getting in Liquor when on board the Ship & I will take care for the future, and I hope your Honors will be so good as to forgive a poor Creature as I am for I have no Friend on Earth but your Honors & if you would be kind you never shall have no more Complaint against me for I loose my place I must starve & hope your Honors will take it into Consideration this time & I hope Mr Chapman will be so good as to forgive me this Time & I will ask his Pardon for being in Liquor when on board & your Honors will try me once more. If not I don’t know what to do, for I am most Crazey to think I should affront such Friends as your Honors have been to me since my Mother Died & I hope God will bless your Honors with long life.


23 October 1797            We shall this Day send to Southampton to be forwarded by Mail Coach to London Sundry Accounts as particularized in the inclosed Schedule for the freight & carriage of which is 2/6.

1.       Collectors Letter Book

2.       Comptrollers Letter Book

3.       State of Bonds

4.       Merchants Bonds in Process

5.       Personal Prosecutions

6.       Ships discharging from the Plantations

7.       Wool brought Coastwise for Mr Alder

8.       Wool sent Coastwise for Mr Alder

9.       Uncertified Bonds for Lead, Tin & Coals

10.   Masters Reports Inwards

11.   Masters Reports Outwards

12.   Ships Inwards, Outwards & Coastwise

13.   List of Registers granted & Examinations made

14.   Tobacco Warehoused

15.   Goods Reweighed

16.   List of Bonds for Arms

17.   Wort brought Coastwise

18.   Wort sent Coastwise

19.   List of Extra Tidesmen Employed

20.   Surveyors Jerque Account of Imports & Exports

21.   Surveyors Coals Coastwise

22.   Official Letters sent & received.

23.   Account of Ships Registers for the Year

24.   Journals of the Riding Surveyor & Officers under his Survey with the Quarterly Abstract of Seizures

25.   Journal of Thomas Francis Tide Surveyor & Officers under his Survey also the Journals of the Commander of the Nancy Cutter for Samuel Brown Esq.


26 October 1797 In return to your order of the 23rd Instant we beg leave to report that William Gregory Tide Waiter & Boatman at this Port was on the 12th of November 1789 charged with neglect of Duty, which Charge and his Answer we transmitted to you in our letter of the 20th November and by your Order of the 3rd of December following you were pleased to Order him to be reprimanded for the Offence and to be deducted Ten Shillings, which Circumstances we are sorry to have omitted stating in our Letter of the 20th Inst.


21 November 1797         At the request of Mr John Gely we have surveyed the Swan Cutter now building by him at this Port for the Service of the Revenue and beg leave to report that the Deck is Laid & Caulked which entitling him to a Payment of Two Hundred Pounds he humbly prays your Honors will Order the same to be made to him.


12 December 1797         Since forwarding to you on the 28th Ultimo the Petition of Richard Comben Mate & Thomas Lane a Deputed Mariner belonging to the Swan Cutter at the time she was taken by the French praying your Honors to take into Consideration the Loss they had sustained in the Loss of Clothes and Sundry other Articles as stated in the Account transmitted.

We have received the inclosed Account from the Widow Torin particularizing the amount of her Husbands Loss by the Capture of the Cutter at the Time he lost his Life humbly praying you will take the same into your consideration and be pleased to make her such Compensation as you may think her unfortunate Case & Situation may entitle her to.

PS Amount of Account inclosed is £28 –4 – 2


16 December 1797         By an Act of the 37 of his present Majesty Ch 97 Sect 17 a Tonnage Duty of Two shillings per Ton is imposed to commence from the 5th January next on all American Vessels arriving within the Limits of any Port in Great Britain.

We humbly beg to be informed whether under the Words coming or arriving within the Limits of any Port it is meant to subject to the Tonnage Duty transient American Ships putting in for Orders by contrary Winds or any other Cause except that of entering and importing or exporting a Cargo or whether in case of any Ship arriving at this Port for Orders, and afterwards proceeding to any other Port of the Kingdom to Discharge a Cargo, the Duty is to be demanded and Paid at the first Port within the Limits of which the Ship shall arrive & Anchor, or to be Paid at the Port where the Cargo shall be entered and discharged. (A reminder was sent by the Collector on the 14th February 1798.)


18 January 1798 (extract)           It has at all times been our wish and desire to pay due attendance and obedience to your Orders and if we have in any instance neglected so to do it has not been intentionally.

In the printed Minute which accompanied your Order of the 19th July last the one which we presume was meant to be referred to in your Order of this 6th Inst. As we have no Order relative to Seizures made by Cruizers of the Date of 19th October, we are directed to insert in the present Account of Seizures sent to the Board the names of all the Officers actually on Board at the Time of making a Seizure – and although your Order which came with the printed Minute directed that a List containing the names of Officers & Mariners not on actually on board at the time should be transmitted with the printed Account of the Seizure – we suppose it was an error in Copying the Letter, and inserted in our Returns the Names of all the Persons actually on Board until we received your Order of the 18th of November last saying it was unnecessary.


25 January 1798            In return to your Order of the 20th Inst. we beg leave to report that we were not aware of any that any Officer employed on the Waterside or without Doors at this Port was omitted in our Return to your Order of the 15 November last – but in further Explanation of the Account we transmitted for loss of the amount of Fees received by William Holloway Waiter and Searcher as well in that Capacity, in his Office of Deputy to the Patent Searcher – the Patentee himself receiving no Part of the Fees Collected here.

And as part of the Patent Searchers Fees claimed at this Port arise from Documents which issue from the Custom House with the Signature of Collector, Customer & Comptroller and not from any Duty done at the Waterside we have to distinguish the amount shared in the Year 1796 and inclose a Schedule of fees from which that sum arises.

We further beg leave to add that in the Amount of Fees received by the Collector, Customer & Comptroller in the Years 1794, 5 & 6 an account of which has been transmitted – a Fee is included for Attendance at Newport Quay with the Limits of this Port but 5 Miles distant from the Custom House on the Weighing and Shipping of Wool sent Coastwise, which extra Duty it has been the practice here in Consequence of your Order of the 4th June 1741 to which we beg to refer for two out of three of the Principal Officers to Superintend – and the Fee paid for the same which was settled at the Time between the Officers and Traders and not since been altered is 13/4 for Weighing any number of Bags under 40 and four Pence per Bag exceeding that Number and it has been usual to divide the Fee after deduction the Expence of the Horse Hire between Collector, Customer & Comptroller tho’ only the two who attended at a Time, when the 3 Offices were executed by three Persons, but now the Officer of Customer is executed by the Collector he receives 2/3 of the Fees and the Comptroller 1/3.

The Gross sum received for that Service in the Years 1794, 1795 & 1796 is stated below.

Gross Sum received in 1794 was

   £7 –16 – 6

1795 was

   £11 –9 – 8

   1796 was 

   £9 – 8 – 1


29 January 1798            In return to your Order of the 16th Instant we beg leave to report that it has been found by experience that Store Houses or other buildings covered with Weather Boarding will not stand long against the Winds and Sun, to which they are exposed even though well painted, and that the covering of the tops of the Officer Blue Houses with Canvas over the Boards well tarred has been the most effectual of keeping them tight and dry.

We can however have no objection to make trial of the other mode if your Honors think it preferable, but should rather recommend it to be done at some future time when it may be necessary to build new Houses, as by the Estimate now given in and which we inclose, it appears that if the old Houses are repaired with new Weather Boarding painted, the Expence will be greater than by the mode proposed because in one case it will be necessary to have entire new Roofs whereas if only a new Tarpaulin is put up, the Rafters and present Roof will last a considerable time longer.


6 February 1798 As directed by your Order of the 18th November last we have called on the Mariners belonging to the Dundas Cutter who were reported absent at the Time the Seizures of the 12th October & 12 November were made by the said Cutter for proof of their being ill on Shore at the Time.

Three of them have produced Certificates from Medical Men which we transmit, and also Certificates from the Commander and Mate respecting the others to whom we have also examined personally and it appears by the Account given by James Hardy that he was ill with a Fever at a Village about 5 Miles from Wareham and that William Bore had met with an Accident and scalded his Leg which rendered him incapable of Duty for the time specified in the Certificate.

We have no reason to doubt the truth of their declarations.


9 February 1798 In return to your Order we beg leave to report that William Gregory Tidewaiter & Boatman at this Port was absent from his Duty on account of illness One hundred and sixty nine days within the last twelve months as reported by the Tide Surveyor.

We see little prospect of his ever being capable of active and permanent Duty his constitution appearing to be much broken and he is at this Time confined from a Fever having settled on his Leg.

We understand he has kept himself perfectly sober since he received the Reprimand directed to be given to him by your Order of the 2nd November last.


14 February 1798           The Tide Surveyor having represented to us that the Boat used by the Boatmen at St Hellens and Bembridge for the purpose of Boarding Vessels arriving or sailing from St Hellens Harbour is nearly worn out and unserviceable having been nine years in use.

We beg leave to transmit an Estimate of the Expence of a new Boat fit for the Service amounting to Nine Pounds fifteen Shillings and pray your Directions for causing the same to be built. [Boat was supplied and a request for payment of the Bill made on 1st May.]


2 March 1798                In return to your Order of the 20th December last we be beg leave to acquaint you that from Enquiries we have made we learn that William Maurer a Mariner belonging to the Swan Cutter and who was wounded at the time the Cutter was taken now resides at a place called Fleet near Weymouth, he is represented to us as being still too lame and unfit for Service but not having had an opportunity of examining personally we submit if it may not be that the Collector & Comptroller of Weymouth should be called upon to report thereon.


7 March 1798                In return to your Order of the 27th Ult. we beg leave to acquaint you that it is not in our power to distinguish what part of the Rent paid for the Store House hired by the Week was for drying Tobacco. It has been used since it was first hired for storing seized Spirits, Vessels Materials, Sails, Rigging and other Articles which we could not otherwise find Storage for and when seizures of Tobacco taken up afloat have been brought in Wet, it has been found necessary to open and spread the Tobacco on the Floor to dry which has been the means at different Time of saving considerable Quantities which if suffered to remain in a Wet state till sold would not have produced the Duties and must have been burnt. There has been no period since it was first taken that an Extra Warehouse has not been needed for the Service.

The Length of the one in Question is 69 feet 3 inches, Breadth 24 feet 8 inches and Height to the First Beam of 7 Foot 9 Inches and we have in it at present 600 – 6 Gallon Casks of Spirit with the Sails and Materials of three Seized Vessels, besides Sails and Sundry Articles belonging to the Swan Cutter exclusive of a number of empty Casks a Seizure started into large Casks to be preserved having been some time in light Casks and only very lately condemned.

When the Store House was hired at the Rent of 15/- per Week it was not supposed that it would have been so long wanted the Collector therefore to whom it belongs in consideration of the length of time it has been used has no objection to lowering the Rent to 10/- per Week from March last and if your Honors think proper to engage it for a Year certain from Christmas he is willing to let it for 20 Guineas per Annum as proposed in our Letter of 30th October last and which we are of the humble opinion will be more for the Advantage of the Crown than continuing to hire it by the Week, as it is very seldom that we can do for any long time without having Extra Warehouses.

PS Mr Brown your Surveyor of Sloops having been to the Warehouse, knows the situation & how conveniently it is situated for the purpose it is used & if your Honors think proper may be called upon to report his opinion of the Propriety of engaging it for a Time Certain at the rent it is offered.


14 March 1798               At the request of Mr Gely Shipbuilder we herewith transmit his Bill for Building & Launching the Swan Cutter for the Service of this Port amounting to one Thousand two Hundred and thirty four Pounds of which has been paid by your Orders of the 1 of June & 29 November Four Hundred Pounds which leaves a balance due to him of eight Hundred and thirty four Pounds the payment of which we pray your Directions.


March (undated) We beg leave to acquaint you in return to your Order of the 23rd Ult. that by the Tide Surveyors report to us William Gregory Tide waiter & Boatman at this Port has been able to attend his duty since the 21st Instant having recovered of his Lameness occasioned by Fever settling in his Leg and if he continues to keep sober as he promises faithfully to do, we think he may be capable of Duty some time.


1794- 1796

1798 - 1800

Customs Cowes Letters Book

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

2 August 2009