Charges Against Benjamin Brown, Coal Meter

1st Charge


5 September 1821   To Benjamin Brown, Sworn Coal Meter

Complaint having been made against you by Mr Robert Rayner, Coal Merchant of Ryde of very gross misconduct in the dealing of some coals from the Desire Collier whose Cargo you were appointed by our Warrant dated 31 August 1821 to meter and discharge.

We hereby charge you with the following Offences:

First – That you were so drunk early in the Morning of the 3rd inst. as to be incapable of your duty.

Secondly – That in meting 2 District Chaldrons that Morning from the Desire Collier you only delivered to the Merchant 25 Bushels as one chaldron and 30 Bushels as another altho you scored both in your books as 36 Bushels each.

To which several Charges you are to make a plain and Distinct in writing on or before Saturday 8 September next taking care to avoid all scurrilous and abusive language.


Desire Collier – Masters Affidavit of the Meters Intoxication

I, Stephen Rowntree, Master of the  Desire Collier Brig of Sunderland do make oath that the Sworn Coal Meter, Benj. Brown who had come on board the brig on Monday Morning 3 Sept. 1821 at Ryde was in a complete state of intoxication and incapable of doing his duty and that the said Brown notwithstanding proceeded in discharging the coals for about 3 hours meting in the said space about 16 Chaldrons instead of 30 as might have been done had he been in a sober state - when Mr Rayner, the Merchant sent on board to discontinue the discharge alleging that Mr Brown had made very short delivery which was accordingly done. We gave nothing to the said Meter Brown except a moderate glass of grog at about 8 o’clock in the morning when he had been at work 2 hours

Sworn at the Custom House, Cowes 6 September 1821 before John Ward, Collector.

Signed  Mr Stephen Rowntree.

Captain Rowntree having cleared his Vessel for Sunderland and meaning immediately to proceed on his Voyage home, it was thought right to receive the Masters Affidavit previous to proceeding in the examination of witnesses in support of the charge if necessary.


Complaint from the Merchant

Ryde, 3 Sept. 1821       


This is to certify that Benj. Brown, Meter of the Desire was in liquor and not fit for Duty and I was obliged to stop the ship with 2 loads of coal on stood on shore in two Chaldrons, 1 was 25 Bushels and the other 30 Bushels which were 17 Bushels short of measure.

Witnessed in his hand, Robert Rayner, Merchant



Ryde, Port of Cowes, 3 September 1821


One application being made to me to visit the Desire Collier delivering here on the account of Brown the Meter who was reported to me to be not to be able to do his Duty not being sober and by the desire of the Merchant and Captain the ship is stopped and I am bound in duty to say he is at present unfit to keep on. [Note: The author of this is not given, but it appears likely to be Robert Lydall, Coastwaiter at Ryde]




I acknowledge the Charge made against me in the delivery of the Collier Desire at Ryde on Monday Morning previous to my going on board I met with an acquaintance who invited me to take a glass of Beer and Spirits which I readily accepted and having been in a very weak state of health for a long time with jaundice it had such an effect on me as if I was lost and as no such charge has been made against me before I hope that you will take into consideration my Wife and large family as without the situation I now hold I would not be able to support them and I Pledge myself never to be guilty of the like offence.

I am, Gentlemen, your humble Servant,

B Brown


Report to Board

10 September 1821   Benjamin Brown one of the Sworn Meters having been found very much intoxicated on the Morning of the 3rd Instant so as to be incapable of discharging the Desire’s Cargo of Coals to which we had appointed him. We felt it incumbent on us to give him the within Charge and he having pleaded Guilty thereto his case is submitted for your Honors Information and Judgement. He was admitted a Sworn Meter the 28 March 1805 and has never before been charged.


Reply from Board

Custom House, London

15 September 1821


Having read your report of 10th inst. on the charge given by you to Benjamin Brown, Coal Meter at your Port, viz. With being on the 3rd inst. much intoxicated whilst in execution of his Duty and having read his Answer thereto and the Evidence of the Persons examined on this occasion; we have found Brown guilty of the Charge and direct that he be severely reprimanded and enjoined to sobriety in future and also to the attentive discharge of his Duty.

 (Signed by four Board members)


2nd Charge


To Benjamin Brown, Coal Meter

Complaint having been preferred against you by Mr John Eames, Coal Merchant, for misconduct on board the Halcyon Collier at his wharf at East Cowes.

You are hereby charged with being intoxicated with liquor on Monday Afternoon 25 May last while the Cargo was delivered consequently in such a state as to be incapable of Meting Coals with due Justice to the Revenue and to the Parties interested in the sale and purchase thereof – To which matters you are hereby required to make a plain and distinct answer in writing on or before Tuesday 31 May next taking care to avoid all scurrilous and abusive expressions.

Dated at Customs Cowes 28 May 1825

J Ward, Collector   I Chapman, Comptroller




In compliance with your Commands, I beg to refer you to the Certificate of the Master of the Halcyon also to Mr Eames letter which I hope will convince you that I was capable of performing my Duty on Wednesday last.

I beg to state, that owing to a severe Bronchial attack which I have laboured under for several days, I was obliged to take a small quantity of Brandy and Water after Dinner, which from my weak state slightly affected me but not so as to prevent my doing my Duty as it will appear that I have meted 33¾ Chaldrons of Coals between 8 in the morning and 4 in the afternoon.

Trusted to your merciful consideration and with an assurance of the strictest attention to my duty and sobriety in future.

I am, Gentlemen, B Brown


Letter from Vessel Master

I hereby certify that during the time Benjamin Brown was discharging the Brig Halcyon of Sunderland under my Command, I believe he measured coal with Justice to all Parties concerned.

Edward Robinson, Cowes, May 28, 1825


Letter from Complainant

3 June 1825


I object to being examined on or of making a Charge against B Brown as I have no complaint to make about his conduct on board the Halcyon. My reason for stopping the work on Wednesday Afternoon last was certainly under the impression that he had taken too much liquor but not for his making too much measure. He had then delivered a quantity equal to a fair days work and I since find that he was labouring under a severe Bowel complaint. It is and has been the last 20 years my opinion that he is one of the most honest Meters in this Port and I shall be perfectly satisfied with his measuring any cargoes of coals I may purchase in future.

Yours respectfully,

J Eames.

Examination of Mr Stephen, Tide Surveyor, on Oath



By Collector



Did you visit the Halcyon Collier on Wednesday 25 March last?

I Did.

At what hour?

Four o’clock.

Was the Cargo at that time discharging?

No it was just stopped.

From what cause did you understand the discharging was stopped?

The Merchant, Mr Eames having given orders to Benj. Brown, the Meter, to leave work as he considered him in a drunken state.

Did you see Benj. Brown, the Meter, at the time yourself?

I did, and ordered him to quit the Brig.

Why did you order him to quit the Brig?

Being of the opinion he was worse for Liquor.

Did the Master or Mate of the Halcyon complain to you that the Meter was not in a fit state to meter the Coals?

No, but the Mate said (the Master being absent) the Meter was ill from a Bowel complaint and that he had been taking some Spirits to check it which had effected his head but he believed he had not taken much.

Did you examine the Meter book at that time?

I did which appeared to be very fairly kept. I observed him working the Brig while standing on a neighbouring wharf for half an hour and he appeared to fairly top his Bushel and give just measure.

Did Mr Eames make any complaint to you against Brown when you were on board the Halcyon?

He said he was Drunk and had stopped him from working to prevent his being robbed. I then asked Mr Eames if the Meter had not given fair measure to which he replied yes but he was fearful to let him go on but he said that when Brown was sober he was one of the fairest Meters in the Port.

Sworn before us, 2 June 1825, J W, Collector, I C, Comptroller

R Stephens, Tidesurveyor, Surveyor of Coal Meters.

Examination of Mr Thomas Thorold, Landing Surveyor, on Oath

By Collector


Is it your Duty to examine the Coal Meters Book and Warrant after the discharge of the Collier?

It is. I do it under special Order of the Board.

Did you examine the Book of B Brown, the Meter appointed to Discharge the Halcyon last month?

I did on the 28th May and found the scoring good and the Book well kept.

What Quantity of the Coals was delivered from the Halcyon?

By the 2 Meters Brown and Miller, 198 Chaldrons 27 Bushels, making 4 Chaldrons 27 Bushels above that docketed in Sunderland.

Do you consider the quantity just stated a fair delivery?

I do.

Sworn 2 June 1825, J W, Collector, I C, Comptroller

Thomas Thorold, Examiner of Coal Meter Accounts


Report to the Board (from Letters Book)

3 June 1825   Mr John Eames, Coal Merchant of this Port having on Wednesday 25 ult. made a verbal complaint to the Collector against B Brown the Sworn Meter appointed to discharge the cargo of the Halcyon for being in a state of intoxication and incapable of performing his duty. We felt it incumbent on us to charge Brown with the said offence and herein transmit to your Honors the papers and evidence relating thereto. That the Meter was intoxicated when the merchant objected to his working later in the afternoon there can be no doubt, at the same time he is right we should state to your Honors that it does appear that Brown was weak from illness on the day in question and that his book was fairly kept. Brown was admitted a Sworn Meter 26 March 1808 and was charged once before on 10 September 1821 for similar misconduct when your Honors found him guilty and we were directed to severely reprimand him and to enjoin him to sobriety, and which we did not fail to do.


Reply by Board

Custom House, London, 9 June 1825


Having read your letter of the 4 inst. together with the papers therein referred to on the following Charge given by you on a complaint by Mr. John Eames to B Brown, a Coal Meter at your Port viz. With being intoxicated with Liquor on Wednesday afternoon the 25 May last while the Cargo of the Halcyon was discharging and consequently in such a state as to be incapable of meting Coals.

We deem Brown guilty of the Charge and direct that he be suspended from duty of one Month.

Signed by 4 Board Members  


3rd Charge


Custom House, Cowes, 2 July 1827

To Benjamin Brown, Coal Meter

The Coast Waiter at Ryde having represented to us that on a complaint of Mr Rayner, Coal Merchant, of your being so Drunk on 29th ult. as to be totally unfit to discharge your Duty, by which it was necessary to appoint another Meter to the ship. You are hereby on the Honorable Boards Order charged with being guilty of the offence, to which Charge you are to make a distinct answer in writing before 5th inst. taking care to avoid all scurrilous and abusive expressions.

J W, Coll., I C, Comp.


E Cowes, 3rd July 1827


In reply to the Charge made against me in consequent of Mr Rayners Complaint of 29th ult. whilst discharging a cargo of coal at Ryde – I admit the Charge but humbly trust you will be pleased to recommend to the mercy of the Honorable Commissioners – having suffered considerably in my head and eyesight for the last three years – that the least quantity of Spirit will take effect on my head which will render me incapable of Duty

Benj. Brown     

Examination of Mr Lydall, Coast Waiter, on Oath



By the Collector


When was Brown first employed for the discharge of the Cargo of the Mediator?

28 June last, Thursday.

The time of his commencing the Duty?

I was absent, but believe it was about 7 o’clock pm.

Did you see him next morning?


Did he appear in Liquor?


Did you visit him during the day on board?


When did you see his Book?

About 8 o’clock in the morning at Mr Rayners House.

In what state did you find his book?

In a very bad state so that I could not make out his Tallies and the making out of the full Tallies was so incomplete that I remarked to Brown that I would not sign the account.

Have you anything to say as the Complaint of Brown meting short?

I have no reason to say that in this instance short measure was given by Brown.

Did you hear that short measure had been given in this instance been given?


From whom?

From Benjamin Groves and Joseph Barcomb of Binstead, near Ryde.

When did you see Brown after this?

On Friday afternoon about 3 o’clock.

Did Brown appear Drunk?

He appeared stupid, but not Drunk, he about this time left Ryde for Cowes.

Examination of Mr Thos. Rayner, Coal Merchant of Ryde, on Oath

What have you to say relative to the complaint you have thought fit to prefer against Brown the Coal Meter?

Benjamin Groves first stated to me that Brown had not given him his full measure and when I looked into the cart in which the coals had been put – it was quite evident that the Chaldron of Coals which ought to have been there was not – by a full four bushels which afterwards were put in the cart and which then did not yield the required quantity.

Were the Coals measured?

No, but the cart in question was constantly watched before coming into my Yard, I can safely swear that when I saw the cart it did not contain the quantity of a Chaldron by at least 4 Bushels.

Do you imagine there was any likelihood or possibility of Benj. Groves having got rid of any of the Coals metered to him from the ship’s side, to the place where you saw the cart with the Coals.

No because the place was quite open from the ships side and if this had been the case, it must have been known, besides I have to observe that my Brother, who kept check of the Tallies, must have seen it even if he being on the Pier Head.

Have you anything to allege of short measure having been metered in this case.

Yes, in one of the carts in charge of one of my carters, I swear there were at least 2 Bushels short and there was no possibility of any coals having been got rid of after the coals had been loaded from the ship’s side – to the time of my discovery as the distance was not more than 20 or 25 yards and the place was quite open. The carter could not from the locality have disposed of any of the coals clandestinely without detection.

Have you any reason to think that Brown the Coal Meter had been tampered with by the Master of the Mediator or that he had been bribed to make his Coals run well?

I cannot say exactly, but Brown was very Drunk and all I can say that the Captain is a very unfair man in his dealings and that is my opinion that if Brown had had a fair man to have asked for and he, Brown, had kept Sober it would have turned out not so bad as it did.

Question by Comptroller


In your opinion Brown was Drunk, did you stop the ship from working?

Yes, and then I made complaint to Mr Lydall and the case appearing to my conviction that I felt compelled to wait personally at the Custom House at E Cowes.

Benjamin Groves, on oath

In whose employ are you?

John Young of Binstead.

Are you in the habit of attending the Measuring and Delivery of Coals for your Master?


Did it appear to you that when Brown told you,  that you had a quantity of Coals, a Chaldron – in order that you may take your cart away from the ships side, that the quantity was not so much as was usually put in for a Chaldron.

I did not at that instant remark it but I did before I proceeded 10 yards. I told Mr Rayner of my suspicion and asked him to look and judge if he were right in thinking so – I then said to Mr Rayner that I could not think of taking the Coals so short home to my Master on which Mr Rayner begged that the cart may be taken to his yard and have four more Bushels put into it.

Benjamin Brown being asked what he had to say to the above which was read and explained to him – said he had nothing to remark further than what he had stated in his reply to the charge preferred against him.

Mr Lydall begs to remark that John Ralph began to work the Coals instead of B Brown – the Master of the ‘Mediator’ watching the method of Ralph’s meting appeared very dissatisfied as if Ralph had been inclined to give more than he ought and visibly interfered in the meting and this lead Mr Lydall to conclude that it was only because John Ralph was doing his Duty strictly. Mr Lydall was aware of the interference and prevented the Master from further annoying the Meter. Mr Lydall believes the Master took advantage of Brown and plied him with drink for his own purposes.

Mr Rayner begs to say that in consequence of the meting and unfair dealings he has lost considerably in this concern, but is ready to overlook and forgive. 


Report to Board

6 July 1827                   Herewith we forward for your Honors consideration our charge against Benjamin Brown, Established Coal Meter at this Port, also his answer in which you will see that he admits to having been drunk on Duty. We have to report agreeable to your commands of 4th March 1814 that Benjamin Brown was appointed 26th May 1805 – He is now 60 years of age. We have also to state – in pursuance of your order of 27th March 1814 that the said Benjamin Brown has been charged 3 times for similar offences.

We have further to state that in consequence of Mr Rayner, the Coal Merchant, having declared in this Office he could prove Brown guilty of metering short – we thought it fit to request his attendance to give answers to such questions as may be necessary on the matter – one Benjamin Groves together with Mr Lydall, the Coast Waiter at Ryde, also desired to attend. Their several examinations under oath are also transmitted for your Honors consideration.


Reply from Board

12 July 1827 No. 252 – B Brown was dismissed.


1 July 2010