Richard Chiverton

Coastwaiter Ryde

This illustrates the attitude of the Board to an Officer who suffered illness, in this case mental problems.

Richard Chiverton was baptised in the Parish of Newchurch (which at that time covered a large area across the Island from Ryde to Ventnor), on the 31st December 1777, the son of Thomas and Mary Chiverton.

In January 1804 he was nominated to be a Riding Officer (as the name suggests a mounted Officer who patrolled the coast on the lookout for Smugglers) and was examined by the Collector (John Ward) who reported:

“He appears sufficiently active and capable of performing the Duties of the Office and from the information we can obtain, he has led a sober discreet life, was never known to be concerned in Smuggling or to have obstructed a Revenue Officer in the Execution of his Duty”

He subsequently took up his post which was described:

“Coast Waiter at Ryde and Riding Officer from Cowes to Sandham” (Sandown)

This shows that in addition to being a Riding Officer, he was also responsible for dealing with goods being moved coastwise. His salary was £50 per annum (although it also appears he received £7 – 10 – 0 for the upkeep of a horse). It was reported to the Board that he did not have any other occupation apart from that as a Customs Officer.

In March 1805 he was recorded as delivering seized good to the Kings Warehouse at Cowes, and submitted an Affidavit giving details of it:

“I Richard Chiverton Riding Officer at Ryde in the Port of Cowes do Swear that on the 5th Day of March 1805 I went on duty and took to my assistance M Lewes, Sergeant Major, Thomas Owen Sergeant, Benjamin Dawes and Thomas Williams Privates belonging to the Cardigan Militia then Lying at Barracks at Sandown and in the red Cliff near Hatch Corner in a Cavity Seized Nineteen casks containing 62 Gallons Foreign Brandy, 15 Casks containing 55 Gallons Foreign Geneva & 1 Cask containing 2 Gallons Foreign Wine for having been illegally imported & that the Assistance given by the said Soldiers was necessary in making & securing the said Seizure and I do further Swear that there was not any collusion or Private agreements between me & the said Soldiers of either of us.”

In February 1806 it appears that he received a reward in respect of this seizure (this was a payment made by the Board to the Officers for the making the seizure, based on the value of the goods) which appears to have been £35 – 5 – 10½ (although it is not known whether he was required to share this with the soldiers.

Details are recorded of a number of seizures made by Chiverton, in July 1807 he seized a Cart & Horse laden with 3 Casks of 62 Gallons Rum & 2 Casks with 42 Gallons Brandy Foreign Spirits from Joseph Wetherick, which was supposed had been run from some illegal Transport. Wetherick was prosecuted before the Justices on Isle Wight and convicted in the penalty of £100 (as he was described as a ‘poor man’ this means he was probably sent to Winchester Gaol in default of payment. His horse & Cart were forfeited and sent to Public Auction. He was given a reward by the Board of £48 –18 – 9 for this seizure.

He appears to have made regular seizures in the next few years, but in February 1810 the first signs of erratic behaviour appeared. He made the seizure of a vessel, the Jubilee of which Robert Williams was the Master, for having Licences signed by your Honors instead of the Commissioners for executing the Office of Lord High Admiralty, the Collector decided the licence was correct and told him to restore the vessel as the detention was illegal. This he refused to do, and also refused to give the Licence to the Collector. The then sent William Robey (Riding Surveyor), his superior Officer, to make a report, which stated:

“I have been to Ryde for Chivertons Commission & Licence for the Jubilee both of which he positively refused to give to me saying he was capable of his Duty & begs me to refer the 35 Psalm (N.V.). The first time I went to Ryde I met him going to Newport on the Coach with his Hat off and a paper cap in his hand, he said he was going to the Barracks for Honor & I have every reason to believe Chiverton is deranged.”

He was then ‘superseded’ (suspended) and the Collector reported the matter to the Board:

“In order therefore to prevent, as much as possible, his committing further errors and violence under the sanction of holding your Honors Commission we have thought it our Duty to direct the Riding Surveyor to proceed to Ryde to deliver the Letter we wrote to Chiverton wherein he was informed that he had acted contrary to Law and refused to obey our direct Orders in the execution of his Duty in the Service of the Revenue, we suspended from his Duty as a Riding Officer as well as Coastwaiter and that he was to deliver to the Riding Surveyor his Commission as well as other papers. Inclosed we beg to the Riding Surveyor’s report thereon to which we respectfully refer & wait your Honors directions thereon.

By the Actions and violent proceedings of this Officer and every other Person threatening those who attempt to oppose or who will not assist him in his current transactions & the threats and fears he puts everyone in, by carrying loaded Pistols in his pocket, leaves no doubt in our minds about his insanity.”

The Board granted Chiverton leave of absence granted to recover his health and ordered that another Officer should be sent to Ryde to act for him.

He appears to have resumed duty on the 1st June following and a report was made to the Board by the Collector stating that they had:

“received the opinion of several respectable Persons of that Neighbourhood and the report of the Landing Surveyor who visited Chiverton at his abode; that there was no longer doubt of his Mind being restored to sanity. We directed him to resume his Office with strict written injunctions to be execute his duty with attention and to refrain from all intemperate living and conduct himself with becoming decorum to Tradesmen and others, requiring his Official attendance.”

Little note is made of his subsequent behaviour or activities, except that in 1811, under the reorganisation of the Land Guard it was proposed that he be appointed Riding Officer for Niton (probably the most active smuggling area on the Island). The Collector wrote to the Board in May stating:

“The village of Ryde being much increased of late years and a number of Warehouses being actually constructed the coasting duties now performed by Mr Chiverton one of the Riding Officers is becoming important and would require the establishment of a new Officer for this duty if Mr Chiverton is directed hereafter to act exclusively as a Riding Officer, which is respectfully submitted.”

This was followed by a further letter in September:

“On the proposition of removing Mr Chiverton to Niton, our Duty prompts us to submit to your Honors consideration that we think Chivertons Qualifications as Coast Waiter, which has derived from several years practice, his good conduct since the restoration of his Health, his firmness of manner to all persons in the execution of his duty on every occasion & his knowledge of the habits of the seafaring people at Ryde recommend him as most suitable to be fixed there as permanent Coast Waiter in preference to any one we can point out. The constant intercourse between Vessels & Boats between Portsmouth, Spithead, & the Motherbank is now become so considerable, as to demand the steady attendance of a Coast Waiter to prevent those Frauds that would be successfully practiced, if your Honors had a less firm Officer that Chiverton.”

Chiverton remained at Ryde as Coast Waiter, it appears that he was replaced as Riding Officer by William Robey.

In April 1813, his medical problem again appeared and the Collector wrote to the Board:

“We have to represent to your Honors that Mr Richard Chiverton the Coast Waiter at Ryde is again in a state of Confirmed Insanity. We have been under the necessity of suspending him from any further attempts to perform the Coast Duty at his Station and have directed James Sammes, one of our most Competent Tide Waiters to act as Coast Waiter in Chivertons Room”

This was confirmed by the Board. He was subsequently ‘confined’ St Georges Work House, London. His wife, Jane, subsequently wrote to the Collector requesting payment of his salary (which had not been stopped because of his suspension), he wrote to this Board stating:

“The Poor Woman and her Children being in much Distress we submit if your Honors may order the money to be paid to her as it was due prior to her husbands Insanity and her receipt to be taken as a legal voucher.”

This was allowed, and she was made a payment of £20, one quarters salary made, this became a regular occurrence.

By July 1813 he was stated to be in ‘a Mad House in Wiltshire, without any prospect of immediate recovery’, although in November it was stated by the Collector that he had:

“found means to escape therefrom Twice by picking his handcuffs and escalating the Walls of the Asylum Inclosures. He is now at Ryde labouring under every symptom of confirmed madness frightening at times his neighbours by the violence of his proxysms and declared Vengeance against ourselves whenever occasion may allow him to execute it.”

He also reported, seemingly for the first time, reported that the problem may have arisen whilst he was working and that he should be retired and paid Superannuation:

“As this man was afflicted by the same Malady four years ago we consider it of that inveterate nature as scarce to admit any prospect of cure and the cause of it we believe in part to arise from a contusion received on the back of his Head from the Kick of his horse which fell with him in the act of bringing in a seizure to the Watchouse about five years ago we humbly submit to your Honors if he may not be a fit object for Superannuation – Assured we feel that the reinstating him in his Office hereafter at any time would not only be disagreeable to the Public, but that it would also be fraught with injurious effects to the Revenue as after his imprudent disclosures”

No action appears to have been taken on this request, and in February 1814 as ‘a lapse of some weeks has now taken place since he has manifested signs of his mental disorder’ the Collector requested that he should be re-instated. This was not accepted by the Board, they instead requested that regular reports be given on the state of his health.

On 21 September a Certificate was submitted to the Board from J B Clarke MD at Ryde:

“Mrs Chiverton of this place, having applied to me this morning for a Certificate of the state of her Husband’s Health, I have just visited him and found him evidently convalescent and apparently well also very anxious to return to his Duty, but as he is liable to be affected by the heat of the weather, I do not deem it safe for him to resume the fatigues of his situation until his recovery is more completely established, as he will certainly incur the possibility of a relapse by doing so prematurely.”

During the time he was absent, he remained on the Establishment list, and whenever any reference to the position of Coastwaiter at Ryde was made, it always named Richard Chiverton, even though it was being carried out by somebody else, his wife received his salary quarterly, although a £5 deduction was made quarterly until his costs of being in the Asylum, £34, were paid.

On the 30th March 1815 the Collector wrote to the Board about his health:

“We have to represent to your Honors that we learn from different sources of information that it is now upwards of Six Months that his mind has been quiet and free from Paroxysm.

In receiving, however, the Effects of his Affliction, whereby Gentlemen & others who have had to pass from Ryde to Portsmouth – or Vice Versa – were much inconvenienced and alarmed, the Disclosures made privately for the Good of the Service – the menace of destruction held against ourselves for having suspended him from Office in pursuit of your Honors Order, coupled with the probability of his again being affected in the Hot Season are circumstances that – imperiously demand a frank confession from us that we consider Richard Chiverton an Improper person to be appointed again to Coast Duty at Ryde. It is nevertheless due to him from us to acknowledge to your Honors that prior to his illness he always did his Duty with propriety and firmness and as we have reason to believe his sanity was principally occasioned by a fall from his Horse, and a violent kick in the head from the animal when conveying a Seizure of Spirit he had made from Ryde to Cowes, we beg earnestly to recommend his case to your Honors humane consideration.

Ryde is well known to some members of the Honorable Board and is becoming a place of some consequence in Population and Trade and it is only by placing and efficient active Coast Officer there that questionable practices and irregularities in the shipping and landing of goods can be checked and prevented. “

A letter from William Pedder, Surgeon at Ryde was attached:

“In reply to your letter respecting the Health of Richard Chiverton, I can only say I believe he has been quite free from Insanity since his last Illness (which I think is about 2 Years since) and at present appears to be fit to resume his Duty, but we all know when a person has had any thing like Insanity they are liable to the return of the malady.”

The Board appear to have continued his leave of absence, and things appear to have been quiet for six months, but on 12 October 1815 the Collector reported:

“As directed by your Order we report that Mr Richard Chivertons Insanity at the present time seems not in our minds to be at all equivocal. Saturday he presented Himself in the Collectors Office while the Collector was conferring with Mr New the Land Guard Inspector on Business and said he came to show that he was as well in health as he ever was in his Life. On the Collector expressing his satisfaction and his hope that the Honorable Board should now feel inclined to reinstate him in his Office that he would go on quietly and execute his Duty in a proper Manner, he replied ‘Yes I will, if I am not offended but if I am ill treated as I have been whoever offends me may expect my anger.’ He then poured forth a Volley of Abuse against Mr Cooper, a respectable person and Mr Lydall the Constable at Ryde, who had represented to the Magistrates the necessity of his first Confinement and arranged with Mr French, Keeper of the Asylum at Laverstock, in very approbatious Language for cruelty against him. The Collector signified to Him that he was wrong in indulging in any Acrimosity against the Persons named.

He proceeded by saying Mr Ward, I don’t know if you are my Enemy, but I have many Enemies, so had Jesus Christ though a good Man, he suffered wrongfully like Myself. His Persecutors were Jews, Mine are my Neighbours. Mr Ward, I am a different Man from what you think me. God sent Jesus into the World for the benefit of Mankind, so he did me and I have done more good than the World knows, let the Admiralty say what they please. He continued with language too ridiculous to trouble your Honors with. As Mr New is a stranger to Chiverton and his Connections, it will be a satisfaction to us for your Honors to receive his opinion on the Manner and Conduct of Chiverton.”

The Collector again wrote to the Board on 7 November, expressing his exasperation with the situation:

“Chiverton has been absent from Duty two years and a half having been suspended from Office on the 9th April 1813. We are willing in compasion to his Wife and four Children to attribute a great deal of Slanderous abuse lately uttered by Chiverton to his mental affliction – but if  we could persuade ourselves as he would have us believe, he is sane we should have no hesitation in pronouncing him to your Honors to be a very vicious character.

We have had unfortunate trouble with this man for upwards of three years besides expressing menaces of destruction &c. – Occurrences that render Official Situations like our own very unpleasant.

We trust your Honors after perusal of his letter of the 26th October will be of the opinion with ourselves that Chiverton is an improper person to be continued any longer in the Service.”

This appears to have produced little reaction from the Board, beyond extending his leave of absence for three months ’on account of his State of Mind’ and requesting a further report on his condition in three months.

In February the Collector again wrote to the Board about his health:

“That it does not appear to us that it would be safe or prudent on the part of your Honors or considerate to the Public to entrust this Officer again with the Performance of Coast Duty at Ryde. We beg to refer your Honors to our former papers on Chivertons case and submit that he may be placed on a Retired Allowance, his Malady having been brought on by a fall from his Horse in the execution of his duty some years ago.”

This was followed by a ‘recommendation Letter’  (dated 28 February) signed by George Player, a Resident Magistrate at Ryde, Admiral Lock, Rev. Mr Pedley and other Principal Inhabitants of the Town:

“We the undersigned Inhabitants of Ryde are of the opinion that Mr Richard Chiverton the Officer of Customs at this place from his General Deportment and Language cannot be in a sane state of mind and that it would be highly injudicious to trust him in a Public Office – Chiverton having a large Family and his Wife in bed with Twins – We recommend him to the beneficial consideration of the Board of Customs for the Continuance of his Salary.

The Board sent the form containing questions for Superannuation, which were completed and returned by the Collector and he was placed on the Superannuation List from the 2 May 1816 with the allowance of £40 per annum. His final salary payment was made to his wife.

Little is known about the subsequent life of Richard Chiverton, In July 1822 the Collector felt it necessary to inform the Board:

“that Mr Chiverton, the Superannuated Coast Waiter who for some years in the past has been quiet and inoffensive in his mental affliction, about 3 weeks ago became so violent and outrageous in manner and language as to render it necessary for the Neighbourhood and Parish Officers to apply to have him confined. He was accordingly conveyed to an apartment in Newport Bridewell where he is now. As it may be a considerable time before his mind returns to sanity so as to qualify him to give a receipt, we humbly submit under these circumstances if your Honors may not think fit to order the Collector to accept his wife’s receipt for the Superannuation now due viz. £10.”

Chiverton died on the 11 February 1853, and this was reported to the Board on 30 March 1853, his retirement lasted 37 years, unfortunately nothing is known about his health or activities during this time.

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15 June 2010