Collector to Board Letters Book 1798 - 1800


These extracts are a partial transcription of the book held at the National Archives reference, CUST 61/14, 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 April 1798                 In return to your Order of the 12th Inst. we beg leave to report that Mr John Pain was full sixteen Years the Collectors Clerk at this Port and during great part of that Time acted as Assistant Warehouse Keeper – and from the opportunity the situation afforded of attaining a general Knowledge of the Business added to his Father having been several Years of that Time the Landing Surveyor here, and his since been several Months under instruction at Portsmouth we are humbly of the Opinion that his Knowledge of the Duty of the Office of Landing Waiter to which he is nominated is sufficient to qualify him for it.


23 April 1798                 The Tide Surveyor having represented to us that a new Boat is wanted for the Service to supply the place of one which has been in use Nine Years, and now nearly unserviceable has had delivered to us an Estimate for a new one of the Dimensions he wishes the Boat to be built, the amount is fourteen Pounds seventeen Shillings and sixpence. [No location was mentioned, but the request was approved..]


24 April 1798                 We have forwarded under the Seals of Office addressed to the Kings Warehousekeeper at Custom House London two large Trunks said to contain Passengers Baggage they belong to a Mr Nisbett Purser of the Rockingham East Indiaman who came home as a Passenger in an American Ship Ocean Alexander Coffin Master from China for Hamburgh laden with Sugar, Cotton, Tea, Pepper & China which put in here for Provisions & to land Passengers as reported by the Master on the 20th Inst.

They will be forwarded from Southampton of Asletts Waggon and the Charge for Freight and Carriage to be paid on delivering of the Goods is One pound four shillings and Eight Pence.


23 May 1798                 We pray that you will be pleased to order Six New Coal Bushels to be provided & sent for the Service at this Port to supply the Place of that number of old ones worn out and which are returned addressed to the Warehouse Keeper Custom House London in the Coasting Vessel Friendship William Oak Master who has been paid Six Shillings for the Freight and the Warehouse Keeper advised thereof.


8 June 1798       We hereby transmit Tradesmens Bills with Duplicates amounting to One Thousand Pounds Nineteen Shillings & four pence for Work done & Articles supplied for the use of the Swan Cutter lately Built & fitted at this Port for the Service of the Revenue.

The Bills have been attested by the Commander & Mate and are respectfully submitted for your further Orders thereon. 


8 June 1798       Newport Brinewood a Tidewaiter & Boatman upon the Establishment of this Port died this Day.


18 June 1798                 On the 15th Instant Mr John Pain was admitted a Landing Waiter at the Port in the room of Mr John Taylor resigned in obedience to your Order of the 14th.


18 June 1798                 The Tide Surveyor having reported to us the Boatmen at Yarmouth at this Port are much in want of a small Boat to supply the Place of the old one which has been Seven Years in use and is nearly unserviceable, has recommended the purchase of a new 14 foot Boat built for sale by Mr Gely which he represents as fit for the Service the price of it is Seven Pounds twelve shillings and sixpence at the rate of 10/6 per Foot including Stem & Keel Boards and complete with two Coats of Paint and ready for immediate Service. (Boat was provided by Order 10th July.)


16 July 1798                  In return to your Order of the 5th April we beg leave to acquaint you that from the report of the Tide Surveyor it would appear that William Gregory Tide Waiter and Boatman at this Port has been employed several Times in the course of the last three Months and has conducted himself well & performed his Duty satisfactorily.


13 August 1798             In return to your Order of the 3rd Inst. we beg to report that the Collector had in his Hands on the 5th July last Twenty Pounds Nine Shillings and Eleven pence on account of Patent Fees received here for the Vacant Office of Patent Customer after deducting one Third the usual allowance for the Acting Customer which sum was remitted to the Receiver General previous to receiving your Order above mentioned.

And inclosed we transmit an Account of the Money received since the 5th July as Patent Customers Fees but which in future cease to be received in pursuance of your Order of the 3rd Instant.


4 September 1798          Having found it necessary to Charge Stephen Sanders Coal Meter with insobriety and Misconduct in the Execution of his Duty we beg to lay before you the Charge with his Answer & the following observations thereon.

He does not admit that he was incapable of his Duty from intoxication but it was proved before him by the Evidence of Mr Warder acting as Coastwaiter at Yarmouth & whose Duty it was to inspect the Coal Meters Books & Conduct when discharging Coals there that after the first Days work he was seen much in Liquor when cautioned against it he denied his having any Right to interfere with him.

Warder attributes the irregularity in tallying in his Book & errors to being intoxicated at the Time, and his Book itself confirms it to a great Degree by the different Appearances of the score at the first and latter part of the Delivery, and says that the disputes & abuse between Sanders & the Men employed in discharging the Cargo were in his Opinion owing principally to his being Drunk & abusive & that as long as he kept himself sober the Men conducted themselves properly. We have only further to add in proof that the Charge is well founded, that the Mate of the Collier the Time he came to Custom House to clear complained of his being in Liquor & impeding the Business.

He brought no Evidence to confirm the assertion in his Answer that he was sober tho’ desired to.

He has before been Charged as will appear by our reports of the 24 April 1788 & 24 March 1794 to which we beg to refer.

He promises if your Honours will pass over this Offence the he will give no cause of future Complaint.

If he had resolution enough to keep himself sober, he might do his Duty satisfactorily and avoid the frequent Complaints against him both by Merchants & Masters of Colliers.

He is upwards of 60 Years of Age and if dismissed your Service will have much difficulty in getting a Livelihood, that we humbly beg leave to submit if your Honors should be inclined to give Credit once more to his Assurances of better Conduct whether a temporary Suspension with Loss of his Emoluments by appointing an Extra Meter to supply his Place for such Time as you may think proper may not have a good Effect upon his future Conduct. 

He receives no Salary, but is paid 2d per Chaldron by the Crown & 3d by the Merchant for all the Coals he Delivers & is appointed in Turn with two other Meters as Ships arrive & enter.

Charge                          Notwithstanding the frequent admonishments give you to sobriety & proper discharge of your Duty we find ourselves under the necessity of reporting your Conduct to the Honorable Board and hereby Charge you.

With not having kept yourself sober at the Time you were delivering the Coals from the Burton Collier to which you were appointed a Meter by Warrant from us dated the 18th Inst. & thereby rendering yourself incapable of keeping the Books and tallying the Coals delivered in the regular and proper manner which Your Duty and Instructions Require. And having returned the Books in so blotted and dirty state as to render Examination thereof very difficult whereby the Revenue or Merchant are liable to suffer.

To the above Charge you are required to return a Plain and distinct Answer in writing on ort before Friday the 31st Instant taking care to avoid all scurrilous or abusive expressions and returning this Charge with your Answer.

Answer                         I beg leave agreeable to your request of the 28th Instant to make this reply to the Charge now alledged against me relative to my delivering Coals from the Burton Collier to which you appointed me Meter by Warrant dated the 18th Instant. In which Duty I conducted myself with sobriety the whole Time of the Delivery which can be proved by many Creditable Inhabitants of Yarmouth.

The Errors in my Book were not committed through my not being sober but quite the reverse – several of the Surrey Militia were employed in carrying Coals out of the Ship it being in Time of the Harvest no other People could be procured. Their Behaviour on Board was very abusive to me in Making Use of Bad Language. Not only that but in Order to annoy me in my Duty upset my Ink on the Score Book, which with their continual abuse was the Chief and only means of the Errors you find in my Book. I beg further to say that I made use of every exertion to Conduct the Business of Discharging the Cargo accordingly and that the Errors committed were not done in intoxication but entirely owing to the ill treatment of the Soldiers who were employed in carrying the Coals on Shore. I therefore hope Good Sirs you will be pleased to Pardon the Offence & You may rely that the greatest of Care shall be paid in my future Conduct whither you please to appoint me. I beg to submit myself your obedient humble servant. [A marginal note states he was Dismiss’d 16 October.]


14 September 1798        The Officers Blue Houses at this Port having been repaired in pursuance to your Orders of the 20th February we transmit the Tradesmans Bill with the same Duplicate thereof amounting to fifteen Pounds Eleven shillings & eight Pence agreeable to the Estimate laid before you in our Letter of 29 January and the Landing Surveyor having certified the same.


8 October 1798              We beg leave to acquaint you that upon the Assessment to the Land Tax for the present Year the Commander, Mate & Mariners of the Swan Revenue Cutter stationed at this Port have been rated the full 4/- in the Pound for their Salaries and amounting to One Hundred and Twenty five Pounds 10/-.

The Salaries of the said Officers not having been rated any thing to Land Tax in any former Year since the Cutter has been upon the Incidental Establishment of the Port the Collector who had occasion to attend the Commission of Land Tax on account of his own Land Tax having been advanced from between 9 & 10 Pounds per Annum which he has been accustomed to pay for the 20 years he has been in the Office to £30 being the full 4/- in the Pound on his salary of £150 per Annum thought it his Duty to appeal against the Charge now made upon the salaries of the Commander, Mate & Mariners of the Swan Cutter, but the Commissioners were of the opinion that if their salaries were not charged to the Land Tax in any other place they would be liable to be assessed and ought to pay in the Parish where the Custom House was situated and where they are paid their salaries, and therefore did not allow the appeal.

The Collector informed them that he should represent the case to your Honors previous to his paying the same for the Officers their salaries being under £60 per Annum and humbly prays to receive your Orders thereon for our government.


24 October 1798            Having communicated to Mr Robert Willis Commander of the Nancy Temporary Cruizer at this Port on coming into the Road Yesterday your Order of the 17th Instant for discontinuing the said Cutter, we have since received from him the inclosed Letter which he has requested us to transmit praying for the reason therein stated that he may continue his Cruize until the end of the present Quarter.

We beg leave to represent to your Honors that Mr Willis has shown great Activity since he has Command of this Cutter, has made many Seizures as the enclosed Account thereof will show and we have no cause to be dissatisfied with his Conduct. [A marginal note states that he was allowed to Cruize until the end of the Quarter and the Cutter was then to be laid aside, broken up & the pieces sold.]


10 November 1798         In return to your Order of the 24th July we beg leave to report that William Gregory a Tide Waiter & Boatman at this Port has conducted himself properly when on Duty during the last three Months as Certified by the Tide Surveyor. 


16 November 1798         We have received the inclosed application with a Request that it may be forwarded to your Honours praying the Delivery of a Quantity of Beef & Pork under Seizure at this Port. It has been referred to the Seizing Officer whose report is subjoined.

The Goods applied for together with a Quantity of Cheese seized at the same Time are returned in our Seizure Account of the 12th Inst. Article No. 1. We beg leave to observe that the Vessel had previously cleared out at Southampton for Guernsey & was waiting in this Road for Convoy, the Agent to the Person making this application has been informed that no Goods could be shipped on board the Vessel without Entry, the pretence for doing it which the Agent & Master made after the Goods were seized was that they were for the use of the Troops that he was taking to Guernsey but that assertion was afterwards contradicted by the Officer Commanding the Troops who voluntarily came to the Office on hearing what the Master has asserted.

We have no proof that the Petitioner was privy to the Irregularity of the Transaction. (A marginal note states that the Petition was rejected.)


19 November 1798         Your General Order of the 6th Instant signifying the abolition of the Office of Customer and direction that the Duties of that Office to be executed by the Collector in future has been duly received & communicated to all the proper Officers at this Port and will be regularly entered in the Book of General Orders.


14 December 1798         The Henry Addington Outward Bound East Indiaman Captain Wakefield Commander was stranded on the 8th Inst. upon Bembridge Ledge within the Limits of this Port and has since bulged as we are informed and no probability of being got off.

The Deputy Comptroller has now been to the Spot where the Accident happened and given Directions to the Boatmen stationed at St Hellens & other Officers upon the Coast to render what assistance they can in saving such Goods as may float or be brought on Shore and to exert their utmost endeavour to prevent embezzlements and to secure for the Owners as much of the Property as possible.

The Comptroller was informed that some part of the Goods on board had been shipped upon Debenture but it does not appear that any Part thereof has been saved when he was there. [Mew in ‘Back of the Wight’ states that the Vessel was ‘loaded with bale goods, and a large quantity of dollars on board. The dollars and part of the cargo saved, but ten or fourteen of the men were drowned’.]


31 December 1798         We have received the inclosed Letter from Mr Richard Comben Mate of the Swan Cutter in the Service at this Port requesting us to apply to your Honours on his behalf that you would be pleased to make him the same Additional Allowance of Salary as has been lately made to Mr Green Mate of the Antelope & to other Mates in the Service.

We beg leave to represent that Mr Comben has been employed as Mate of the Swan Cutter since 26 June 1787 and has shown himself to be Active & Diligent nor have we at any Time received Complaint against his Conduct from the Commander of the Cutter and the salary he at present receives is Thirty Pounds per Annum.


5 January 1799              I beg leave to represent to your Honours that after the Death of Mr Sarmon late Commander of the Swan Cutter, at the request of his Widow & Mate of the Cutter I undertook to divide & pay them to the respective Persons entitled thereto, the Officers Shares of such Seizures as had been made by the Cutter previous to Mr Sarmons Death.

Mr Sarmons Books and Accounts having been lost at the Time the Cutter was taken I had no way of ascertaining with accuracy the Mariners entitled to Shares of the different Seizures unresold at the Time and therefore directed us to divide the whole Sum into 30 Shares the full compliment of the Cutter Crew and after paying the Different Claimants as they have applied and been Certified to me by the Mate as having belonged to the Cutter I have Surplus in my Hands Fifty four Pounds eight Shillings and four Pence which has not yet been called for owing probably to many of the Men after they were released from Prison having entered into other Service and not yet had the opportunity of applying for what may be due to them.

Under the Circumstances I beg to submit to your Honours consideration if you may not think it proper to Order the Money in my Hands to be applied to the aid of the Superannuation Fund subject to the future claims from those who may appear entitled to receive any part thereof, and I further beg leave to submit as the Mariners entitled to shares of Seizures frequently from various causes quit the Cutters to which they belong before the produce of Seizures become payable whether it may not be advisable that in all such cases the unclaimed share should at the expiration of 3 of 6 months be paid into the Account of the Collector & Comptroller of the Port by the Commander of the Cutter accompanied with a list of the Persons names entitled thereto, to be appropriated to the Superannuation Fund subject to such Regulations for the Subsequent Payment of any Part thereof when claimed as you may think proper to adopt.

It has often occurred to me that such a Regulation would be for the Benefit of the Service.


25 January 1799            As directed by your Order of the 11th Inst. we have called upon the Commander of the Swan Revenue Cutter in the Service at this Port to report on the conversation the passed between the Commander of His Majesty’s Armed Cutter the Fox and him at the Time of making a Seizure on the 2nd July last & inclosed you have Mr Ferris’s Account thereof.

Mr Ferris’s Letter           Agreeable to you request I acquaint you for the Information of the Honorable Commissioners that no conversation passed between me and the Commander of H M Armed Cutter the Fox on the 2nd July last when she came in from Sea after I had secured the Seizure, more than that some Person from the Fox who I supposed to be the Commander said it is a fine Diversion this Morning to which I answered yes & we separated.


4 February 1799 On the 31st January the Ship Three Sisters of and from London on her voyage to the West Indies was driven on Shore at the south part of the Isle of Wight and immediately on being informed of the Accident we sent a Landing Waiter and six Tidesmen to cooperate with the Riding Officer in the Salvage of the Goods and we find from their report received this morning that the Cargo partly consisted of a variety of Debenture Goods some of which are just brought round to Cowes in a Sloop & that the Officers were using their endeavours to save the Cargo which has drifted along the Coast and to prevent Embezzlement. [Mew in ‘Back of the Wight’ states ‘ She was loaded with all sorts of bale goods, Irish Cotton, Calico, dowlais canvas, soldiers’ coats and shirts, all sorts of cotton stockings, gounspie checks, Hollands shoes and other things. Three or four men were drowned.]


4 February 1799 In return to your Order of the 24th Ult. we transmit a Certificate of the Age of James Alford nominated to be a Coal Meter at this Port. He appears to be sufficiently Capable of performing the Duties of the said Office, is by Trade a Carpenter & not known or suspected to be concerned in Smugling or have obstructed the Officers of the Revenue in the Execution of their Duty.

These are to certify during the Time of the Revd William Dickenson was at Wootton Church it appears no Register of Baptism was kept by him. Signed Revd Walton.

We John Alford and Mary Alford Parents of John Alford of West Cowes maketh Oath that he was born September 11 1775 and was baptised by Revd William Dickenson Curate of Wootton Church on or about the 20th October 1775. Sworn before me this 6th Day of February 1799 Richard Bassell.


14 February 1799           Your Honours in your Letter of the 11th December in Answer to ours of the 8th October signified that no ground having been stated upon which the Salaries of the Commander, Mate & Mariners of the Cutter were supposed not to be liable to be assessed for their Salaries to the Land Tax, there appeared to be no objection to the amount of the Assessments is any other property is assessed at the same Rate according to its real value.

We beg leave to submit to your Consideration whether the Act of Parliament imposing the land Tax of 4/- in the Pound on Offices and Employments under the Crown meant to render liable to the Tax the Wages or Day Pay of Mariners employed in the Revenue Cutters who do not hold Commissions under your Honors but are entered and dismissed as the Commander sees occasion & are at liberty to quit the Service on giving a Months Notice.

We entertain no doubt but in strictness of Law the Commander & Mate holding Commissions & receiving fixed annual Salaries are liable to be assessed for the Land Tax for the same. But we very much doubt whether the wages or Day Pay of the Mariners is liable and no insistence before the present Year of the Wages of the Cutter Crew or even the Salaries of the Commander & Mate of the Cutter stationed here having been assessed to the Land Tax and observing that in the 3rd Section of the Land Tax Act of 38 Geo. 3 Chap 5 Wages are not specified as liable to the Tax, the Collector has thought it his Duty this morning to refuse payment of One Hundred and twenty five Pounds ten Shillings demanded of him for Land Tax at the rate of 4/- upon the full Salary and Wages of the Commander, Mate and 30 Mariners of the Swan Cutter until he received further directions thereon – conceiving as he does that the Assessment of such an Additional sum and also the Advance made against his particular Salary of £150 allowed to himself and Clerks, and which is rated £30 instead of about £9 per Annum which for 20 Years he has been accustomed to being charged to the Land Tax is unjust and oppressive and being made at this particular Time is greatly prejudicial & iniquitous of Government in the sale of the Land Tax.

And we humbly submit whether it could possibly be the intention of the Legislature that Salaries many of which are also subject to the payment of a tax of one Shilling in the Pound by 31 Geo. & sixpence in the Pound to the Civil List should pay likewise 4 Shillings in the Pound on their full Amounts which Personal Estates &c which by the same Clause in the same Act are liable to the same Tax, are not assessed or rated anything and the Landholder in the Parish who did not pay more than five Shillings or half a Crown in the Pound upon two thirds of his Rack Rent will now have his Land Tax reduced to less than a Shilling by the Great additional sum charged upon Salaries.


16 February 1799           As directed by your Order of the 3rd Ult. we have called upon Mrs. Sarmon Widow of the late Mr Francis Sarmon Commander of the Swan Revenue Cutter in the Service of the Revenue at this Port for Certificates of her Marriage and the ages of her Children now living which we herewith transmit.


1 March 1799                Inclosed we transmit an Application from Mr Robert Willis late Commander of the Nancy Cutter a temporary Cruizer at this Port praying that his Salary of £30 per Annum which he has received as a Boatman upon the Establishment at this Port may be equal to the Salary of other Commanders of Cutters in your Service during the Time he Commanded the said Nancy Cutter.

We beg leave to report that Mr Willis under your Order of the 30th October 1795 commanded the Nancy Cutter from the 3rd November to the 5th January last being a period of 3 Years and 64 Days, that the Difference between his Salary of 30£ per Annum and that of 50 usually paid to a Commander of a Cutter in the Service in that Time amounts to Sixty four Pounds five Shillings & eight Pence. [A marginal note states that this was paid.]


5 March 1799                Thomas Love has this day been admitted as a Tide Waiter & Boatman at this Port in the room of Newport Brinewood deceased in obedience to you Order of the 2nd Inst.


19 April 1799                 The Brigantine Thomas & Sarah of Arundel Thomas Iremonger Owner and acting Master put into this Port on a voyage from Embden to Guernsey laden with Geneva, Tobacco, Leather and other Goods.

On examining the Register we find the Vessel to be navigated without a proper Master, William Hind who by an endorsement of the Certificate of Registry made at Liverpool the 16th July last stands Master of the Vessel not being on Board, having as the Owner says quitted the Vessel at Embden, which does not appear to be the Fact as by the Charter Party produced to us dated at Guernsey the 23rd September last when a contract was made for the Vessel to take a loading of empty Casks from Guernsey to Embden & return with them filled to Guernsey Thomas Iremonger appears to have been Master of the Vessel and as such has signed the Charter party.

His Vessel is also furnished with a Licence from the Lords of the Admiralty to go armed and as the owner reports has on board her Carriage Guns Swivels & small Arms / accepting only a few of the latter / as mentioned in the Licence which particularly specifies that the Vessel is intended to be employed in the Coasting Trade of Great Britain.

And appearing to be employed in a Trade very different from that for which she is Licenced we consider that the Vessel id liable to forfeiture under the 12 Sect of the Act of the 38th of his present Majesty Ch 33 and have thought it our Duty to direct the Tide Surveyor to stop the Vessel, submitting our proceedings to your Honours and humbly pray your Directions for our further Government. [A marginal note authorised Prosecution.]


20 April 1799                 Mr Chapman Landing Surveyor at this Port having represented to us that a pair of Cross Callipers are much wanted for the Service in this Port in gauging irregular shaped Casks and praying they be supplied.


26 April 1799                 I beg to acquaint you that I have been appointed Overseer of the Poor for the Parish of Whippingham in the Isle of Wight.

I was absent on my private affairs by your Honours permission when the Nominations took place, but as soon as I heard of it I desired the Justices might be applied to not to confirm the Nomination but to appoint some other Person, conceiving myself not liable to serve the Office on account of my being already Officially engaged in the Public Service and that I had known no instances of any Revenue Officer serving as Parish Official.

Before the Application could be made the Justices had confirmed the Nomination by signing a Warrant appointing me one of the Overseers but acknowledged they had thought me an improper Person to be called upon had they known it at the Time they signed it or I had been there to object they would have appointed some one else but doubted their Power of rescinding what they had done.

Upon this Communication of their sentiments being made to me I desired a Gentleman of the Law to attend at the Quarter Sessions and if necessary to appear for me against the Appointment and being then in London I acquired a Copy of the 19th Clause of your Honours Patent which exempts all Officers from serving other Offices.

My Attorney on consulting Council and talking with several of the Magistrates upon the Business found the general inclination of Opinion was that I was not by Law exempted and if I appealed then the exempting Clause in the Patent was not likely to avail me anything and that the appointment would in all probability be confirmed, upon which he thought it advisable not to prosecute it further without asking other advice.

On my return home I waited on the Justices remonstrated with them against my Appointment as unusual & unprecedented and submitted to them that as they expressed they had been taken by surprize when they signed it, that they had acknowledged they had thought me an improper Person and would not have appointed me had they been aware of it or had I been shewn to object at the Time I hoped they would make another Appointment which I conceived that they might because it was within a Month after Easter as I apprehended they were vested with discretionary Powers of appointing whoever they thought might be proper for the Office when admitting that I had no legal exemption to claim which I did not admit.

There were five Justices present when I made the Application and so convinced did they appear that I ought not to have been appointed that they agreed to rescind the Appointment made of me and appoint another Person in my stead which they accordingly did and all signed the new appointment.

To my great astonishment and dismay I find that they have since without giving any intimation of what they intended to do sent again for the Parish Books cancelled the Warrant by which they appointed another Person to serve the Office and have reappointed me assigning I understand as their reason for so doing and which they have since confirmed personally to me that they had seen in the Public Papers an account of a Decision in the Kings Bench upon a case brought before them that Revenue Officers were not exempt by Law from serving the Office and that therefore they did not think they should be justified in excusing me after they had appointed me.

Under the circumstances I have thought it my Duty to submit the case to your Honors and humbly pray I may receive your Directions for my Government. [A marginal note stated that by an Order of 5th May he was not to accept the Office.]


24 May 1799                 The Water Cistern in the Custom House Court having foundered in & become greatly out of Repair we have provided an Estimate of repairing the same which we herewith transmit, it amounts to the Sum of Six Pounds thirteen Shillings and six Pence and we submit the same to your Honors praying your Directions thereon. [Repair was approved and carried out for the cost of £5 – 6 – 9 .]


31 May 1799                 To the Seizing Officers report and list of Goods herewith transmitted and the report of the Coast Waiter at Cowes on the inclosed Petition of Mr Clarke we beg leave to add that the Sufferance granted at Southampton on which the Goods in Question are said to be included does not specify any foreign Goods only 60 Trussels of Linen and Woollen Drapery and 12 Boxes of Wearing Apparel English Goods.

The packages by the Officers Account appear to contain more articles of Foreign Goods that the Affidavits Specify and the Marks and Numbers in many Instances do not correspond therewith.

Landing the Goods at 11 ‘Clock at Night and in the District of another Officer that the one to whom the Sufferance had been delivered appears to have been improper and irregular, but it may have been occasioned as stating by his supposing that the Master of the Vessel had done all that was necessary regarding the Sufferance by his not being able to obtain conveyance for the Goods by Land from Cowes to Newport and by the Tide not serving so to go up the River sooner.

And if your Honors should be of the Opinion that the Affidavit and payment of Duty is satisfactory and no Fraud was intended the Petitioners Application to have the Goods restored is respectfully submitted to your Consideration, but what is said by the Officer with respect to many of the Goods being ship wrecked Goods and many of the Articles have been washed is a Circumstance which we are humbly of the opinion requires investigation and explanation on the Part of the Petitioner.

Plundering to a considerable Amount we have reason to believe was practised on the Cargo of the 3 Sisters from London to the West Indies wrecked on this Coast in January last and that many of the Articles saved were then secreted and not delivered to the Agents or Officers of the Revenue.

The Petitioner is a Licenced Hawker travelling from Place to Place with considerable quantities of Goods, he was in the Isle of Wight 2 or 3 Months ago and left it on the 6th April when a Sufferance was granted him for 34 Packages and 7 Trunks of English Hosiery, Haberdashery and Linen Drapery Goods, but the Officer not having at that time any suspicion of an improper traffick by the Petitioner we do not find that such an Examination of Goods then shipped took Place as was likely to discover any improper concealments of any such there were but several of the Articles now found in the Packages give Cause for suspicion that more of the same kind of Goods may have clandestinely been carried from hence and that those now brought back are the remaining undisposed part thereof.

We have cautioned the Officers to be more circumspect in their future Examination of such packages going Coastwise as the neglect of it may afford opportunities of Frauds on the Revenue. [A marginal note states the British Goods were to be returned and the Foreign Goods prosecuted.]


31 May 1799                 In return to your Order of the 30th Ult. accompanying a Copy of a motion of the Committee of the House of Commons. We beg leave to report that the Import Trade at this Port being confined to a few articles we cannot from experience form a Judgment of all the different Articles which it may be proper to allow to be warehoused on Importation.

But we are humbly of the Opinion if so the several Articles of Tobacco, Rice, Coffee etc. now permitted to be warehoused under certain Regulations, Wine was added more particularly such as is intended for immediate Exportation to Canada or any British Colony or Plantation and which in may Instances received a drawback of the whole Customs Duty it would afford great accommodation to the Merchant Importers.

Sugar also and many Articles of Grocery and in general all Goods which pay high Duties on Importation and receive large Drawbacks on Exportation we think it may be proper to Warehouse under the Kings Locks.


15 June 1799                 The Swan Cutter in the Service at this Port being Ordered on Special Service / as we are informed / with several other Revenue Cutters the Smuglers will be left to carry on their without any Checks which induces us to submit to your Honors the propriety of Employing a Temporary Cruizer on the Swan station.

If the Speedwell Seized Cutter of the Burthen of 41 Tons which was returned into the Court of the Exchequer from this Port in the Easter Term last has been condemned we submit that a more proper Vessel for the purpose cannot be had she would be ready for the Sea immediately & fitted with little Expence.

If this Cutter cannot be so employed and your Honors have no other proper Vessel ready to Order we are humbly of the Opinion it might be for the benefit of the Service to hire a fast Sailing Cutter or Pilot Vessel of which there are several at this Port and Hire it by the Month on the best terms it can be procured and to be a Master and sufficient number of Men we are humbly of the Opinion would answer to the Revenue if carried into execution immediately and if approved by your Honors we humbly beg leave to recommend Robert Willis a Boatman at Yarmouth in this Port to be Commander, he acted in that capacity with good success & advantage to the Revenue during the Time the Nancy Cutter was employed as a temporary Cruizer, and that the 6 Oar’d Boat belonging to that Cutter and now remaining in this Isle should be used on the present occasion if the proposals meet your Honors approbation.


25 July 1799                  In return to your Order of the 20th Inst. we transmit an Account the best we can furnish of Goods saved out of the Ship Three Sisters sometimes since stranded and totally lost within the limits of this Port.

The Ship having gone to pieces soon after the Accident happened the Goods drifted on Shore loose the Packages be broke & washed to pieces by the Violence of the Sea, many were plundered & pillaged as is supposed by the People, the Coast for a considerable Distance being lined with various Articles forced on Shore by every surge, that it was impossible for Agents & Officers to take and keep an Account of the Marks and the Goods saved being wet and in a perishing State were sold by the Agents as soon as they could collect them together.


3 August 1799               We beg leave to transmit the inclosed Letter which we have received from Mr Ferris Commander of the Swan Cutter in Service at this Port representing that he has had detached John Harris one of the Deputed Mariners belonging to the Cutter and four other Mariners to take Charge of the temporary Cruizer directed to be employed on the Service and we submit that we may Receive your Directions respecting the Payment of the additional Mariners that you may have directed to be shipped to man the said Cruizer.


3 August 1799               We transmit an Application from Mr Ferris Commander of the Swan Revenue Cutter praying to be supplied with new Sails for the use of his Cutter.

PS The Swan with twelve other Revenue Cutters sail’d from this Port Yesterday afternoon for the Downs having on board the 85 Regiment & their baggage embarked from here.


3 August 1799               In return to your Order of the 29th Ult. directing us to examine the accompanying Papers and report as to their accuracy thereof. We beg leave to represent that from the Severity of the weather and the place where the Ship was stranded it was not practicable to give effectual Assistance in saving the Cargo that it often is. The Ship so soon broke to pieces after the Accident happened that very few if any of the Packages as we are informed by the Officers who attended on the Spot came on Shore whole. The Beach was strewed with Linen and other Goods for a Considerable Distance and all the Efforts & exertions of the Officers assisted by Sir Richard Worsley a Magistrate near the Spot and the Agents and Persons employed by them could not prevent the populace assembled in great Numbers on the Shore from Plundering & Pillaging.

We have no Reason to doubt the Accuracy of the Accounts of Sales rendered nor do we know of any Goods saved remaining unsold except a small quantity of Lead which the Agents say has been brought in since the Account was furnished by them.

With regard to the Charges Deducted from the Gross Produce we beg leave to observe that they do not appear to contain any part of the Actual Charges of Salvage such as the Labour Officers Attendance & Conveying the Goods salved to a place of Safety but appear to relate only to the Expence of the Sale of Goods salved. Messrs. Days Agents gave Security by Bond to pay all the Demands for salvage they have paid the Charges of the Revenue Officers which amounts to £66 – 17 – 6 and inform us they have discharged almost all other Demands, they say they did not think it necessary to furnish us with any Account of the Salvage Charges as they made no application to sell the Goods free of Duty to defray their Charges.


4 September 1799          In return to your Order of the 19th July we beg leave to acquaint you that on receiving the Order we did not fail to inforce in the Strongest Manner we could to the Officers of the Water – Guard and also the Riding and preventing Officers the necessity of Active and Vigilant lookout particularly at this Time when the Coast was left open to the Smuglers by the absence of the Revenue Cutter and having in the Store House a Boat belonging to the Crown we thought it would be for the benefit of the Service to fit it out and Man it with five of the Established and Extra Boatmen who were willing to Cruize under the Direction of Robert Willis one of the Established Boatmen at Yarmouth as Sitter thereof to intercept any small Smugling Vessels or Boats carrying on their illicit Trade between Yarmouth, Hurst Castle & the Needles and the West End of the Isle of Wight and to ask in Conjunction with the Riding Officers stationed on that Coast in discerning Goods sunk by the Smuglers at the Back of the Island reported to us to be very much the practice.

Success has not hitherto attended them but we do not think it owing to any want of Activity on their Part.

And we are humbly of the Opinion that Yarmouth is so proper a Station for a Boat Crew and Mr Robert Willis so fit a man to act as Sitter of a Boat to cruize against the Smuglers that we cannot but recommend a further Tryal of it as necessary for the Service.


16 September 1799        Mr William Ferris Commander of the Swan Revenue Cutter in the Service at this Port and lately returned from the Coast of Holland having represented to us that the Cutter wants Refitting, the Sails, Boats & Anchor repaired, the Cutter & Boats Caulked & Painted and the six oar’d Boat sometime since craved by him absolutely necessary for the Service on account of the Damage & Injury done the Boat when employed in the Expedition.

We herewith transmit an Estimate of the price at which the Rope Maker is willing to supply the necessary Cordage respecting and causing the repairs wanted done – we pray we may receive your directions with the loss of as little time as possible, the Commanding Officer states that the Cutter is not in a state to go to Sea without being refitted & repaired.


23 October 1799            We beg leave to acquaint you that the Swan Cutter in the Service of the Revenue at this Port has been refitted pursuant to your Order of the 26th Ult. and the Commander has reported to us that he should be back at Sea in the course of the present Week.

The Pelican Cutter which has been employed as a Temporary Cruizer under the Command of John Harris a Deputed Mariner of the Swan Cutter during the Time that Cutter was engaged on other Service being now reported as very leaky and unfit to proceed to Sea without considerable Repair we submit to your Honors if it may not be expedient to discontinue the same and the Deputed Mariner and such other of the Mariners as were taken from the Swan should return to their Duty on board that Cutter as proposed by Mr Ferris the Commander.


23 October 1799            In our Letter of the 4th Ult. we acquainted your Honors that we had thought it necessary for the Service to employ a Boat with a Sitter and five Men to be stationed at Yarmouth within this Port during the Time the Swan Cutter was absent from the Station on Special Service.

That we had directed Robert Willis a Boatman at Yarmouth on a salary per Establishment of £30 per Annum to act as Sitter and to form his Boat Crew from such of the Established & Extra Boatmen as were willing to cruize under his direction till your further pleasure respecting it should be known.

That no seizures have hitherto been made by this Boats Crew are attributable to the very bad weather we have lately had and to several Vessels belonging to Yarmouth & that Neighbourhood and suspected of following the Smugling Trade not having gone to Sea for some Time part considering this Boat only a temporary thing.

But we are humbly of the Opinion that Yarmouth is a proper Station for a Boat Crew not only for the purpose of checking the Smugling Trade carried on in that Neighbourhood and near Hurst Castle as well as other parts of the Isle of Wight where the Smugglers are in the practice of landing their Goods but also to assist in enforcing the Orders of Quarantine and to Examine Vessels from Ireland arriving with Passengers to see that they are furnished with proper papers that we think it our Duty to recommend to your Honors a further Tryal of the Boat for Six Months that the Crew should consist of a Sitter & Six Men with such allowance for their Service as your Honors may think fit to fix. 


24 October 1799            The Lead Gutter at the top of the Custom House being on examination worn out and not worth repairing we transmit an Estimate of the price at which the Plumber agrees to replace it with new Lead and to allow for the old return Viz. new Lead @ 28/- per cwt. and to take the old Lead in return @ 20/- per cwt. [The cost was £2 – 10 – 4.]


26 October 1799            We hereby return the printed sheet of the Establishment and Incidents at this Port filled up as directed by your as directed by your Order of the 18th Inst.


Officers Name

Annual Salaries Establishments

Annual Salaries  Incidents


Mr W Arnold for himself & Clerk

For Another Clerk










Deputy Customer

Office Abolished, Business transacted by the Collector.







Deputy Comptroller

John Ward








Isham Chapman







Waiter and Searcher

Mr Holloway for the Patent Searchers Fees £20 per Month from the King in Lieu of all Salaries & Allowances







Land Waiter

John Pain








Vacant by the death of John Chiverton 20 Dec 1795







Riding Surv. from Atherfield to the Needles.

John Grimes







Riding Officer Crab Niton to Sandham Fort & Atherfield Rocks

Edward Dixon







Tide Surveyor

Thomas Francis







Tide Waiters



Daniel Dore

William Warder

William Cooper

William Rimer

John Gilbert

William Ralph

Robert Flux

James Sammes

Thomas Love































Extra Tidesmen & Boatmen having Commissions:

Henry Twyman

Robert Scriven &

William Davies

NB There are 19 Extra Tidesmen & Boatmen who are occasionally employed at 2/- per Day. Each one of them named in the Margin have a Commission and the others Certificates from the Collector & Comptroller.















Coast Waiter

Francis Terrell







Coast Waiter Newtown & Riding Officer Cowes to the Needles

John Miller















Coast Waiter & Boatman

Charles Leigh








Robert Willis
















George Granger

William Gregory


















Chief Boatman

Vacant by the Death of John Mew on 4th February 1783 & not since renewed







Coast Waiter & Riding Officer Cowes to Sandham

William Robey
















William Ferris








Richard Comben







Deputed Mariners

Thomas Lane

John Harris

Paid as the other Mariners 1/- per Day

First Establishment



20 Mariners by Order 3 January 1788

9 Mariners by Order 28 February 1793

1 Boy allowed by Order 9 January 1798

£15 per Annum until the 4th October 1793 then all were allowed 1/- per Day

£8 – 0 – 0 per Annum


14 November 1799         Robert Scriven an Extra Tidesman at this Port and Commissioned as such by your Honors having been grossly Assaulted & Obstructed in the Execution of his Duty by William Corke of West Cowes who forcibly rescued from him a Seizure of two Casks of Foreign Spirit, we have caused an Affidavit to be taken before a Commissioner in the Kings Bench & hereby submit the same that your Honors may be enabled to Order such proceedings against the Offender as you may judge proper.

Had the Officers been able to have secured Corke at the time of the obstruction we should have thought it our Duty to have proceeded against him under the 15th Sect of the Act of the 24th of the King Ch 47.

But being in doubt whether we should now be warranted in taking him up without a Warrant & carrying him before a Justice or whether a Justice would grant a Warrant for apprehending him, we have thought it right to submit the Affidavit to your Consideration.


27 January 1800            In obedience to your Order of the 23rd October last we directed the Tide Surveyor to take care that all Ships arriving at this Port from Charlestown should be guarded under the strictest of Rules of Quarantine and all communication therewith prevented until we reported such arrivals to your Honors and received your Orders on each case.

As no Order in Council has since been received to subject Ships arriving from Charlestown to the Performance of Quarantine and from the Information we have received by the Vessels arriving from Carolina we have no reason to think that any Fever or Infectious Disorder is now prevalent there. We humbly submit if it will be necessary any longer to put Vessels from Charlestown under any restraint of Quarantine.


19 February 1800           The Tide Surveyor has represented to us that he finds much difficulty in procuring Extra Tide Waiters to row the Boats occasionally or to go on board Ships of Charge at the Customary Pay of Two Shillings per Day and that several have left the Service for insufficiency of the Pay.

We beg to submit to your Consideration the Price of Labour is now very considerably advanced here as well as every necessity of Life and we find on Enquiry that the Extra men employed under the Board of Excise at this Port are all paid half a Crown per Day, and having no Extra Men belonging to this Port who are paid an Allowance of Five Pounds per Annum which we are informed is paid to Officers of that Class at some Ports.

We are humbly of the Opinion that it will send to the benefit of the Service and be a necessary and proper Encouragement to a faithful Discharge of Duty if your Honors will allow them in future to be paid Half a Crown per Day when employed and we further be leave to propose as an Encouragement to the Nine Extra Tide Waiters and Boatmen employed here they be paid a Salary of Five Pounds per Annum and that they should be paid and Additional Allowance of 1/- per Day for provisions when boarded in Consideration of the present advanced Price of every necessity and as some compensation for the Loss they make on not receiving on very many occasions the Ships provisions from the Master of Vessels on which they are boarded since the allowance of portage heretofore made to them has been discontinued.


20 February 1800           Mr Robert Willis Sitter of the Six Oar’d Boat directed by your Order of the 19th December to be stationed at Yarmouth at this Port for a Trial of Six Months have represented to us that his Boat now in Use and which is above Ten Years old in nearly worn out and unsafe to go to Sea in and that in order to Cruize with Effect on his Station a new Boat is necessary for the Service.

We have caused an Estimate of the Expence of building a new Six Oar’d Boat & also for a suit of sails for the same should those belonging to his present Boat being old and nearly unserviceable to be given in and transmit the Sum amounting to £43 – 15 – 10 and pray your Order for providing the same.


25 February 1800           Having in pursuance to your Order of the 19th inst. called upon Mr Ferris Commander of the Swan Cutter for a return to your Order of the 4th December last we have received from him the inclosed Letter which we have observed states that prior to the 10th October last he had sustained no Loss by Victualling the Cutter since he had Commanded her except a small Loss by the allowance for Coals & Candles owing to the great Advance of Price for those Articles.

And we have recommended him to keep an accurate Account of the expence of Victualling the Cutter in the present Year that he may be able to lay before you such Vouchers as are necessary to ascertain how much the Expenses may exceed the Allowance made to him. [In his Letter he also states that he where possible avoids obtaining provisions at Cowes because of their expence.]


14 March 1800               Having communicated to Mr Ferris, Commander of the Swan Cutter in the Service at this Port the contents of your Order of the 11th inst.

He has represented to us that the three undermentioned Mariners belonging to the Cutter are willing to serve on board the Lazarette at Standgate Creek and that he begs leave to recommend them for that Service having conducted themselves to his satisfaction during the Time they have been under him..

William Ladden, John Hitch, John Wallis

[A Lazarette was apparently a Quarantine Ship / Station at Standgate Creek near Sheerness, Kent.]


7 May 1800                   On the 20th February last we transmitted an Estimate of the Expence of building a New Boat for the Station and Boats Crew at Yarmouth in this Port on a Tryal for 6 Months by your Order of 19th December.

We have not yet received your Orders for the said Boat which we humbly submit is necessary for the Service to enable the Crew to Cruize without the Needles and round the Coast of the Island & the Boat at present in use being above ten Years old & unfit to go to Sea in.

To the want of a new Boat for the Service we attribute in a great Degree no seizures having been made by the Boats Crew during the last three Months.

And the season now coming when in all probability Smugling in small Craft will increase more especially as several of the Revenue Cruizers are order from their Stations for other Public Service, we humbly pray that we may receive your Orders respecting the said Boats as soon as conveniently may be that we may expedite the Building thereof.


24 May 1800                 We beg to submit the enclosed Affidavit to your Honors stating the particulars of an Assault & Obstruction in the course of his Duty of Edward Dixon one of the preventing and Riding Officers at this Port.

We have Reason to suspect from what we have since heard that the Obstruction & Assault of the Officer was a preconceived Plan and that an Opinion prevails amongst the Smuglers that an Officer has no rights on suspicion however strong to stop and search any Person he may meet on the Road and that having so done and not found the Casks to contain prohibited Goods the Person obstructing & assaulting him is not liable to any punishment for what he has done.

If the Circumstances stated will warrant a prosecution against the Offender we hope your Honors will think it right to order one to be commenced against him to deter similar Conduct.


28 May 1800                 At the request of Captain Ferris Commander of the Swan Cutter in the Service at this Port we transmit sundry Bills of Disbursement by him for Victualling the Cutter for the past Quarter from 5 January to the 5th April with the statement of the loss sustained by him on that Account in that Period amounting to 15 – 4 – 9 ¾ which he begs to submit to your Honors Consideration.

Considering the present high price of provisions of every kind the Loss does not appear to exceed the stated allowance so much as might be have been expected at this Time. Captain Ferris failure to trouble your Honors with any application for Loss sustained in the former Quarter not having kept accurate Accounts of his Disbursements in that particular Period as to enable him to lay the necessary Vouchers before you. [A marginal note states he was paid  £10 – 0 – 9.]


14 June 1800                 As desired by your Order of the 12th Inst. we have called upon Mr Gely the Builder to state positively by what Time he will complete the Cutter for which he has been given his Terms of Building and he says he will engage to complete the Cutter in six Months from the time of Signing the Contract of your Honors are disposed to accept his Offer.

Mr Gely has desired us to represent to your Honors that it was owing to a very severe illness which prevented his attending to Business for some Months last Winter, that the Falcon Cutter was not completed within the Time specified in the Contract as he was unwilling to allow his Men to proceed in the building without his Superintendence and Directions lest the Cutter should not be compleated to your Honors satisfaction.

Mr Gely was certainly very dangerously ill for a considerable Time.


1796 - 1798

1800 - 1801

Customs Cowes Letters Book

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

2 August 2009