Collector to Board Letters Book 1753 - 1764


These extracts are a partial transcription of the book held at the National Archives reference, CUST 61/2, 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.


18 July 1753   A List of all Officers belonging to the Port to whom annual allowance are made by incident distinguished under the following heads together with the Services each Officer has performed on account of such allowances and the Collector and Comptrollers Opinion if it be necessary for the Service of the Revenue to continue the same.

Officers Name and Service

Annual Allowance by Establishment

Annual Allowances by Incidents

What Service each Officer has performed on account of such allowance or one made by Incidences

The Coll. and Comp. Opinion if it be necessary for the Service of the Revenue to continue the same

Establishment Officers

John Read, Collector, his salary


Ditto for a Clerk




£10 – 0 – 0




£20 – 0 – 0

The Business of this Port is increased more than double what it was formerly and many new accounts are kept so that the Collector is at a much greater expense for Clerks that the allowance made to him by the allowance and incidents added together.

We have duly considered the several services each Officer has performed on account of such allowances as are made by incidents & are humbly of the Opinion that it is very necessary for the Services of the Revenue at this Port to continue the same to each Officer respectively.

Benjamin Winter, Waiter and Searcher

£20 – 0 – 0

£10 – 0 – 0

This Officer does Duty as Landwaiter and has been appointed to take account of Goods and Merchandise imported besides performing the Duty of Searcher in attending the Examination of  such Goods as are shipped for Exportation.

William Godwin, Tide Surveyor

£40 – 0 – 0

£10 – 0 – 0

This Officer has frequently Visited and Inspected the Boatmen at Yarmouth to excite them to a Diligent attendance on their Duty in order to prevent the many frauds that have been carried on there.

James Blake, Riding Officer and Supervisor

£40 – 0 – 0



£10 – 0 – 0

This Officer has frequently Visited and Inspected the Riding Officers in this Port to excite them to a Diligent attendance on their Duty besides Guarding a District of about Fifteen miles Viz. from the Needles to Atherfield Rocks

Incident Officers

John Wilkinson, Deputy Comptroller


£25 – 0 – 0

The Deputy Comptroller has in order to be a Compleat Cheque on the Collector kept in a fair and legible manner an Abstract Book of Entries Outwards, a Book of Poundage Goods Inwards, a Book for Wine and Tobacco Inwards, a Book for Coals and Cyders, also Books containing Accounts of all Payments and as well as Receipts Viz. Salaries & Incidents, Debentures, Damages & Over Entries, Portage Remittances, Receipts and Payments what ever.

William Phipps, Riding Officer


£40 – 0 – 0

This Officer hath Guarded the Coast from Cowes to the Needles being about 15 miles & has executed all Sufferances for all Shipped Coastwise from Newtown and Hamstead.

Thomas Porter, Boatman at St. Hellens


£30 – 0 – 0

This Officer hath kept Journals of all his transactions besides keeping Good look outs, hath Boarded and Rummaged all Vessels coming in & going out of that harbour and thereby prevented the many frauds that doubtless would have been carried on there.

George White, Boatman


£30 – 0 – 0

This Officer was removed from St Hellens to do Duty in the room of Edmund Potts, Tidesman and Boatman sent from Cowes thither but he is at present indisposed and not able to perform his Duty

25 July 1753                  Pursuant to your Honours order of 26 Ultimo we have burnt the Snuff Tobacco and Tobacco stalks undermentioned which were condemned in the Exchequer last Term and the several Officers concerned pray that they may be paid their respective rewards for seizing and prosecuting the same agreeable to an Act passed in the 24th year of his present Majesty’s Reign as follows viz.

Richard Thorold for 10lb snuff seized by him the 30th September 1752 at 2d per lb

0 – 1 – 8

William Rimer and John Hill for 265lb tobacco seized by them 26th December 1752 at 2d per lb     

2 – 4 – 2

William Godwin for 2422lb of tobacco seized by him 26th December 1752 at 2d per lb

20 – 3 – 8

John Wilkinson for 1823lb of tobacco seized by him 25th March 1753 at 2d per lb

15 – 3 – 10

ditto for 4400lb of tobacco stalks seized by him 28th March 1753 at 1d per lb

18 – 13 – 4

Isaac Byerley for 25lb tobacco seized by him the 13th May 1753at 2d per lb

0 – 4 – 2


£56 – 10 – 10

concerning which we desire your Honours order.    


22 August 1753             In order to your command signified by Mr Freemantle in his letter of 18th inst. we beg leave to Report that the Rum & and other sundry Goods saved out of the Assurance, Man of War, stranded on this Island were first brought by the persons who took them up floating in the sea to the Custom House & delivered to Mr Wilkinson as a perquisite of Admiralty in case they should not be claimed but as there was not then room in our Warehouse to contain them we lodged the said Goods in a Warehouse hired of Mr George Mackenzie at 12/6 per week (on which Mr Samuel May, Excise Officer, has put a Lock) ‘till the 23rd inst. at which time thereof having been claimed & there being left only Two Casks of Rum and Five Casks of Wine which probably may remain a Droit of Admiralty therefore to avoid further expense we removed them to the King’s Warehouse as we had sufficient room there, whereon the said May was going to put a Lock which he said he was directed to do by his Collector Mr William Arnold, which Mr Read did not absolutely refuse him as he alleges but told him if he or his Collector would produce an Order from the Board of Excise that directed him to put Locks on such Wrecked and stranded Goods as were liable to Excise Duty or shew any Law that to that affect he might put his Lock on, but otherwise he could not consent to have the King’s Warehouse Lock’d up by reason seizures are almost daily brought in and unless he would always attend we could not take the necessary care of them. And we further beg leave to observe that it is the constant complaint of Merchants in General at this Port of having their Warehouse Locked by the Excise Officer when they have any Wrecked or stranded Goods subject to that Duty secured therein, for as the said Officer does not reside at East Cowes and is often on his Survey in the Country many difficulties arise for want of his attendance for the presentation thereof; and we are informed it is not the practice in any other Port in the Kingdom but this for Excise Officers to put Locks upon Stranded or Wrecked Goods but that the same are always secured in the Custody of the Collector of the Customs till Claimed and the Salvage Duties paid in case any is due, all which is humbly submitted. (HMS Assurance was lost off the Needles on 24 April, 1753)


17 September 1753         William Andrews, Waiter and Searcher at this Port has acquainted us by his letter of 10th Inst, copy of which is inclosed, that he has stopped one Chest containing 70 pounds of manufactured Tobacco, 40 pounds of Thread & 4 pounds of Snuff and one box containing 42 pounds of manufactured Tobacco for being brought Coastwise from London in the Richard & Elizabeth, John Major Master, & landed at Newport before the Master had delivered his Coast Cocquet at the Custom House and had obtained a sufferance or had delivered the certificate accompanying the Tobacco & Snuff to the Proper Officer on his Arrival agreeable to an Act of the 24th year of his present Majesty. On which we observe that although the Weight of the Tobacco in each particular package did not on Examination agree with the Certificate yet upon the whole as there was 20 pounds of Tobacco more in the box and 20 pounds less in the chest the quantity landed is the same as specified in the Certificate and the 40 pounds of Thread is mentioned in the Coast Cocquet, concerning which we may have your Honours command.


30 March 1754               The Business of this Port having very much increased of late and frequently 6 or 7 ships and upwards are discharging at one and the same time at different Keys and even at this present time Five ships are Landing Goods from Foreign parts besides several others Loading Foreign Goods for Exportation on Debenture and there being but two sheds for sheltering the Surveyor or Landwaiter & Searcher from the Weather when they take an Account thereof so that sometimes they are obliged to take an Account upon the Key by which they and their Books are exposed to the Weather and at other times they shelter themselves in Storehouses at some distance from the scale whereby many inconveniences arise and may be often attended by mistakes; therefore we think it absolutely necessary for the Good of the Service to have two more New Sheds provided of the following Dimensions Viz. Length 6 feet, Breadth 4 feet and Height 6 feet which will be large enough for three persons to sit in; and having caused an estimate to be made of the Expenses we find the Lowest Price they can be Built for in a Workman like manner is £5 – 10 – 0 for each shed for the providing of which we pray your Honours order.


27 April 1754                 William Cushen, Extraordinary Tidesman and Boatman at this Port has resigned his Deputation. We beg leave to recommend John Jones to succeed him who is well qualified for the said Employ.


3 July 1754                    We received your Honours command signified by Mr Wood in his letter of the 10th Ulto. with the Petition of Thomas Dobtree & the Affidavits of John Farvell and others relative to a Seizure made by Nicholas Clifford belonging to his Majesty’s Sloop Savage the 19th February last & in obedience thereto we wrote to the said Clifford under cover to Captain Foley his Commander to come herewith with the men that were with him making the said Seizure and make Affidavits agreeable to your Honours directions since which we have received a letter from Captain Foley with copy of an Affidavit made by Peter LeBar, master of the Vessel out of which the Seizure was made which are here inclosed to which we beg leave to refer & as we don’t find the said Clifford or the other men intend to Come here & make Oath we have herewith returned ye said Petition & Affidavit. The whole Goods Mr Clifford brought to the Warehouse were 2 bags containing 33 lb Tea, 2 bags containing 37 lb Coffee, 45 casks containing 204 gallons Brandy, 16 casks containing 90 gallons Rum, 20 bags containing 1568 lb Tobacco & 19 casks containing 160 gallons Wine as will appear by account sent 23rd February last.


11 September 1754       Having examined the petition of John Webster who is under prosecution for running and receiving Goods, in pursuance to your Honours command of 5th Inst. signified by Mr Wood, we beg leave to Report that we believe that the said Webster may be near Sixty years of age, that he has a Wife and two Children, the eldest a Son about 17 or 18 years of age a very profligate young fellow who hath followed the practice of Smugling as we are informed ever since he was able, the other son about 12 or 13 years old. That said Webster did serve as a Mariner on board her Majesty’s Yacht the Bolton for many years but with a notorious bad character, that since his discharge he hath pretended to follow the Trade of a fisherman but his Chief employment has been Smugling that we believe he has been privy to more of the frauds that have been carried on at & near Yarmouth on this Isle (the place of his residence) for many years past, which practice we have the greatest reason to believe his Son continued to the time he was taken up; that when in Custody he was heard to acknowledge that he had upwards of Seven hundred pounds which he would have deposited in the hands of two Substantial persons he wanted to have been his Bail & was likewise heard to say that he would give Two hundred pounds to be cleared. On the whole are fully satisfied he is worth 700 pound upwards.


16 September 1754        Richard Rogers Riding Officer maketh Oath that having Suspicion that some Run Goods were Concealed at Niton on the 10th Instant he took Even Griffiths a Dragoon to his assistance and went in search thereof & in a hedge belonging to Farmer Harvey at Niton aforesaid this Deponent in the presence of the said Dragoon found, One Cask containing five Galls & three quarts of Brandy which he seized this Deponent further sayeth that there was no private or collusive agreement between him & ye said Dragoon. [This was one of three Oaths by Richard Rogers detailing the assistance give to him by Dragoons.]


25 September 1754        On the 16th Instant John Mouncher Extra Tidesman & Boatman of this Port being out fishing saw David Clark of this Place Fisherman taking some casks into his Boat on which he went to him & found that he had taken up near a place called Meadhole on this Island up about 100 yards from Low water mark 8 Casks containing 70 gallons of Red Wine and 1 Cask containing 9 gallons of White Wine which were fastened together with Ropes and mored to three bags of Ballast that were Sunk and the said Clark assured him that he was bringing it to the Custom House which he accordingly did said Mouncher accompanying him. Since which the said Wine hath been claimed for the Lord High Admiral & also for Lord Portsmouth Governor and Vice Admiral of the Island.

29 October 1754            Richard Rogers and William Goddard, Riding Officers at this port having complained to us that they met with the following obstruction in the Execution of their duty, viz that on 21st instant about 6 o’clock in the Evening they went into the house of Timothy Dyer of Ventnor in the Parish of Newchurch in this Island in order to arrest the said Dyer by a warrant from the Sheriff of this County upon a Capias issued against him in which they were named as Bayliffe’s and upon Godard taking hold of the said Dyer, the said Dyer’s wife together with Rich’d Pittis of the Parish of Witwell, husbandman & James Coleman of the Parish of St Lawrence, husbandman, laid hold of and Collared Godard & puled him down over a chair by which he had the skin broke on his right leg & was otherwise hurt on which the said Dyer endeavoured to escape & then Rogers took hold of him whereupon said Dyer’s wife and daughter took hold of Rogers and held him so that the said Dyer escaped & got quite of. On which Godard told said Pittis, Coleman, Dyers Wife & Daughter that they had rescued his Prisoner.  We beg leave to observe that if these persons are not made examples of it will be with much difficulty that we shall be able to get any more offenders taken.


20 January 1755            Yesterday was stranded at a place called Barnes Chine on the Coast of this Island a Snow called the Lee, George Snow Master, from Virginia Laden with 314 Hogsheads of Tobacco; we have sent out Officers to assist in saving & securing the cargo, but none of it is yet brought on shore. (Barnes Chine is at Brighstone.)


8 February 1755                Whereas some time past Thomas Prince, alias Salter the Elder, William Elsbury and Thomas Warr were arrested & committed to the County Goal at Winchester for being concerned in running Goods, but by your Honours order of the 9th July last, you were pleased to signify that you had ordered the prosecution against them to be stopped in Consideration of the Informations they had given; since which they have several times applied to us setting forth the deplorable condition they be confined in, being entirely destitute of subsistence & desiring that they may be released & as the greatest part of the offenders against whom they have sworn have been apprehended & have offered Compositions for their Offences & the others being at present absconded, we beg leave to address your Honours on their behalf & if your Honours should think fit to consent to their being discharged out of Custody we immagine they would nevertheless give evidence (if required) to support their Informations against the said Offenders.

We have in obedience to your accordance with your Honours commands of 4th Inst signified by Mr Wood examined into the circumstances of Thomas Turner who is under Prosecution for running Goods & as on the Strictest Enquiry it appears that the sum of £5 & Charges as he has Offered is the extent of his ability & than he can raise no more, we are humbly of the Opinion it will be advisable to accept it.

James Birt who is in Winchester Goal likewise under Prosecution for running Goods having sent us a petition to your Honours praying that five pounds & Charges may be accepted as a Composition for his said offence, we have Examined into the allegations therein contained which we find to be true & are of the Opinion that the offer he has made is as much as his circumstances will admit of.


8 March 1755                There have been sold of the Lee, George Snow Master, from Virginia, which was stranded on the Coast of the Island on 19th January:

260 Hogsheads Tobacco

70 Wallnut Planks

6 Pieces Cherrytree Wood

100 – 0 – 16 Staves

0 – 3 – 24 Headings

& a parcel of Ships Materials. The Ship is broke to pieces & the rest of the cargo is lost & the greatest part of the Tobacco has been wet with salt & is in a very bad Condition, we expect the Merchants will apply for an immediate Sale for such part as is perishing; in respect to which we desire your Honours Directions, and likewise in what manner we must proceed in Entering and granting Certificates for removal agreeable to the Act 2A Geo 2 for such of the said Tobacco as may be sold as being perishable and also for such of it as may be sold Duty free to defray the Charges of Salvage.


27 May 1755     A Charge against Richard Colebrooke, Extra Tidesman and Boatman in the Port of Cowes boarded on the Fair Lea, Thomas Bartley Master for Newfoundland with Spanish Salt, Tobacco & Oil on Debenture.

Whereas on the 24th Instant in the afternoon you Absented yourself from the said Vessel without leave and went on board another ship drinking and about eleven o’clock in the Evening of the same day when the Tidesurveyor was visiting he found you fast asleep upon the main hatch of the said Ship during the time of your Watch and your Partner being asleep in his proper turn so that the said Ship was left unguarded.

To which matters you are hereby required to give Plain and Distinct Answers in writing on or before 30th Instant returning this Charge with your Answer taking care to avoid all Scurrilous and Abusive Expressions.

Answer   On the 24th Instant in the afternoon the Tidesurveyor alleges I was absent from duty from the said vessel without leave and went on board another vessel drinking to which charge I do not deny but did go on board another vessel and drink of a small mugg of Water, Sugar and a little Rum in the same but did not stay more than twelvish minutes at the most at which time my Partner was on the deck on watch and the ship was not unguarded. The weather being very warm I was glad to get anything I could to quench my thirst without coming on shore. As to my being asleep about eleven o’clock the same night the Officer and myself walked the deck until half and hour past ten o’clock then the Officer went to sleep and I rested myself on the main hatch where I chanced to fall on sleep and I am very sure that there was no fraud was committed for the Tobacco was stowed where they could not get it without a great deal of trouble and Gentleman if I am Guilty, I may humbly ask Pardon, but Gentlemen I was never the man to see the Government abused since I have been in their employ for I always act much to the contrary.


27 March 1756               Inclosed we transmit to your Honours a Memorial we have received from Mr William Godwin, Tide Surveyor of this Port relating to his being Assaulted in the Execution of his Duty to which we beg leave to refer & pray your Honours direction. Inclosed is likewise the Writ of Assistance & the narratives of Alexander Sherring and Joseph Mouncher relating to the above affair.


22 March 1756    Memorial of William Godwin, Tide Surveyor           

This day upon seeing a sloop whereof Thomas Francis of West Cowes, a reputed Smugler, is Master go alongside of a Key belonging to his dwelling House without having any Visible business there, and I having Seized goods at several times from him and he arrived but last Saturday from Alderney. From all these circumstances I suspected that there was some Run Goods concealed in his House, therefore I determined to Search it and with that intent I took two Extra Tidesmen, a Writ of Assistance and Roger Parkman one of the high Constables with me to the House to Search it but at my entering the Passage the said Francis seeing me, lock’d the door of one of his rooms, which made me conclude that there was run Goods in that room, therefore I desired the door to be opened, which said Francis refused to do, then I desired the Constable to break it open which he not only refused but told me he would not Suffer any Lock to be broke without a Justices Warrant. When I shew’d him the Writ of Assistance and told him that it was a sufficient Warrant for him but as he could not read it (it being writ in Latin and the old Court Hand) he still refused to lett the Locks be broke open & Pushed the Extra Tidesmen from the door who I directed to break it open after the Constable had refused to do it himself and then the Constable told me if anybody broke open the door I should do it myself. Accordingly I endeavoured to do it and then said Francis came with the Tiller of the Sloop in his hand and declared he would kill the Man that should break open the door, and continued with the Tiller in his hand some considerable time, then I went to another door that opened into the room Adjoining to the before mentioned room and thrust the door open and entered in, where I see another door into the room where I suspected the Goods to be and was going to open that door but was prevented by the said Francis laying hold of me and forcibly hindered me after a long struggle during which time the Constable did not give me any Assistance, by this time several of said Francis relations were gathered together in and about the House who I imagined were come to help him and that I should not be able to get at the Goods therefore I quitted the house to acquaint you with the affair but left the two Extra Tidesmen on guard it outside till my return, which was in about half an hour when Joseph Mouncher (one of the Extra Tidesmen) told me Matthew and the said Thomas Francis had during my absence throw’d out of the house five or six Pails of  Liquor which the said Joseph Mouncher declares he both smell’d & tasted & that part of it was Brandy and which he is ready to make Oath of. An account of this affair I beg you will transmit to the Board praying their Directions and Assistance.

PS The inclosed is the Writ of Assistance by which I required the said Constables Assistance. I am in some doubt of it being a sufficient Warrant by reason some part of it has been eaten by Vermin & the Seal broke off.  [A Writ of Assistance is a document to this day held by Customs which allows Officers to search premises for Goods without need of a Search Warrant.]


29 March 1756               Being very much in want of Officers to Board on Ships from Carolina we beg leave to recommend Newport Brinewood and Robert Twyman as Extraordinary Tidesmen and Boatmen in the Room of John Brown and Henry Banister preferred to be Established Tidesmen and Boatmen at this Port and pray your Honours will be pleased to send us Commissions for them. Inclosed are Certificates of their Qualifications.                          


5 June 1756                   We beg leave to report that there is a East Cowes one Free Key in front to the Water Side 169 feet, One Other Adjoining in front to the sea 114, at which Goods are Landed, there is another Free Key at East Cowes called Urry’s or Lovings, 333 in Length but at present Useless there being no place to Land Goods on or Storehouses, there are likewise two free Keys at West Cowes, one call’d Lovings, 130 feet, the other 30 feet but neither of them fit for Landing anything more than Small Quantities, there not being water for Ships to Lay near them. There is likewise a Key at East Cowes Built about 40 years past, one other at west Cowes side adjoining the ferry Built about 16 years past, neither of them free Keys but Goods have frequently been Landed there by special Sufferance without any Detriment to the Revenue and at 200 yards Distance from the last mentioned Key is that built by Messrs. Day & Gregory and having consulted the Land Surveyor, Searcher & Land Waiter we see no reason to Apprehend there will be any Detriment to the Revenue by Suffering Goods liable to Duty to be Landed at said Key belonging to said Day & Gregory and likewise at the two other Keys as has been hitherto practised.


19 June 1756                 Mr Brooke when here upon his last Survey gave it in strict charge to Mr Lemon, Waiter and Searcher at Newport in this Port to stop all Wines that are brought from Southampton & Portsmouth that the Masters of Common Passage Sloops shall for the future attempt to land before they put in their Sufferances they bring with such Wines into this Office and obtain our Warrant or Sufferance for landing thereof, yet Mr Lemon has suffered 2 Pipes, 1 Hogshead and 2 Quarter Casks of Portugal Wine from Southampton by two Sufferances for the reason given in his letter to us of the 16th Inst. and Mr William Bray who brought that Wine absolutely refuses to comply with these directions alluding that as Southampton & the Isle of Wight are in the same County the law don’t oblige him, concerning which we pray your Honours instructions. [On the Boards order of 10 July Lemon was subsequently charged, see below.]


14 July 1756                  Inclosed is an account of the seizure of 5 Gallons of Brandy made by Richard Rogers Riding Officer in a Garden Hedge belonging to William Rolf of Niton. After the Officer had secured his Seizure he went to the same Garden to search for more when William Arnold otherwise William Rolf son of said Rolf damned him & said he wou’d fight him & put off his Clothes for that purpose. He asked the Officer what he carried away his liquor for & said if he had been at home he should not have had it where upon which he pushed the Officer three times on his left breast with his hand and prevented him from making any further search, which is humbly submitted.


15 July 1756     Answer to Charge by John Lemon Waiter and Searcher Newport

I have received the Charge against me or the 13th Inst. and in Answer beg leave to acquaint you that that the two Pipes, one hogshead and two quarter casks of wine which was bought hither from Southampton in the Sloop William, William Bray Master, was not landed by my permission, nor in my presence, neither had I any notice of it or knowledge of it being in the Vessel until after it was on shore on the key then having the Sufferance that came with it to Southampton delivered me, I found one of the Pipes there, and was informed the rest were Carry’d home to the Proprietors house as the Wine was ships and came by legal Sufferance, I did not think of it as liable to Seizure as to be safe in Stoping it, or going into any house in search for what was carried away appending the Law in this case only subject the Master to a Penalty and not the Goods to forfeiture for which if the Honourable Commissioners should think it fit to Prosecute him, I humbly submit may be a means of bringing others to conform in taking out a Landing Sufferance which they now absolutely refuse alledging they never did it for any Goods neither from Portsmouth or Southampton. I beg pardon for not stopping this Wine according to the Surveyor Generals instructions, I shall take care strictly to observe the said Order in future in which I hope I shall be indemnified.


26 August 1756    Letter from W Methuen, Landlord of the Watch House.

The expense of repairing Mr Godwin the Tidesurveyor’s House, the Watch House, the place for drawing up the Custom House Boats, the Lookout and Boat House, the three latter being exposed to all Weathers & you saying it would be inconvenient to you to have it covered from the rain hath been considerable for the last ten years that I don’t think I have received twenty shillings a year clear, therefore this is to give you notice that from old Michaelmas Day next you are to pay me after the rate of Sixteen Pounds per annum for the said premises, or if you had rather keep it in repair I will then let you have it for Twelve Pounds. It is now in good repair, two years Rent having been laid out this summer to repair it. 


4 September 1756    Report by John Lemon, Waiter and Searcher Newport.

I stopt upon Newport Key this morning, one Pipe, two half hogsheads & one hamper of Portugal & Spanish Wine brought hither by the William of Newport, William Bray Master, from Southampton for being landed before the said Master had produced his Sufferance from Southampton to you for the same and obtained yours to me for that purpose which said Wines I have lodged in his Majesty’s Warehouse at Cowes and desire you report the same to the Board. I have done this in pursuance of the Commissioners & Mr Brooke’s Order. I hope your Honours will defend me against any suit that shall be brought against me by the Owner of the said Wines as I am not, of ability to defend my self if I should be sued for the same. I am Gentlemen your most humble servant.


11 September 1756        We beg leave to acquaint your Honours the present Rent of the Watch House & Boat House at this Port is 12£ per Annum but that as Mr William Methuen the present Landlord have been at some considerable repairs he insists that from old Michaelmas day next the Collector pays him for it £16 per Annum or for the future to keep it in repair he has accordingly given Notice Copy of which is inclosed. We have endeavoured to find Out a proper Place for a Watch House and Boat House but as yet cannot find any so convenient, concerning which we pray your Honours directions.


1 January 1757              Complaint having been made to us by Isaac Byerley, Boatman at Yarmouth against William Doudney Coalmeter there for bringing on shore in his Boat the 13th Ult. about 5 o’clock in the morning in company with Timothy Heath and John Webster and landing upon Yarmouth Key one stone bottle of Brandy & six bottles of Wine, which said Brandy and Wine Mr Edward Dix, Officer of Excise at Yarmouth & Byerley who were watching the Boat endeavoured to Seize but Heath threw the stone bottle of Brandy into the water, Doudney broke one of the bottles of Wine and carried off the other five after Byerley had stopt them. Byerley and Dix took up with the Boat hook the bottle of Brandy out of the water, but the Wine they could not recover. Upon this they sent for Doudney and ask’t him how he came to suffer run Goods to be brought ashore in his Boat & to carry off the Wine which Byerley had stopt to which he gave very impertinent & equivocal Answers. Upon the whole we are of the opinion that Doudney ought not to be employed as a Coal Meter for if he will assist persons that are reputed Smugglers in small matters, we apprehend he will in greater when opportune.

13 January 1757    Answer by William Doudney, Coal Meter, Yarmouth.

I received the favour of yours with the inclosed Charge. In answer thereto I make bold to Acquaint you that the six bottles of Wine mentioned in the Charge against me I had from a woman passenger whom I took out of a ship and landed at Cowes. She had no money or anything else to reward me for that Service therefore for want of knowledge in the Service of the Revenue I inadvertently Excepted that payment. As to the bottle of Brandy I am Charged with I utterly deny. My youngness in Business was the intire cause of my error. I humbly beg you will tenderly acquaint the Commissioners with the same and at the same time assure their Honours that as this is the first time I have given Offence so it shall be the last time I ever will whilst their Honours are pleased to grant any Employment.


19 March 1757               When Mr Brooke Surveyor General of Hants & Dorset was here last, he took Notice that there was wanted for the Service, a Rudder or Sieve for separating Culm from Coal, brought hither from Water, and directed us to apply to your Honours for one. We pray your Honours will be pleased to give Orders that One may be sent us for the use of this Port.


18 April 1757                 Inclosed is an account of all the Keys at this Port both free and unfree that have been commonly used and their situations on which we observe that the unfree key at East Cowes No. 6 hath been greatly used for upwards of 40 years for discharging of Ships from the Plantations and Holland and is nearer to the Custom House than any of the Free Keys. No 10 an unfree key at West Cowes Point hath been built and used for discharging of ships from plantations upwards of 16 years; No. 11 an unfree key called Day’s Key at West Cowes at which two ships from the plantations have discharged, this is the Key proposed to be made free in lieu of No. 4 and notwithstanding this last has not a depth of Water to it to admit ships coming alongside to discharge, Goods may be landed there out of lighters on which the Officers wou’d be obliged to attend whenever required by the Merchant, wherefore if liberty be given to land goods at Day’s Key in lieu thereof as desired, no Additional Officers will be wanted because the same Officers that do their Duty on One Key may attend the other and with the Advantage in respect of Day’s Key that it is an open situation and more convenient to the Custom House.

On this occasion we beg leave further to offer our opinion that if your Honours will permit us to grant special Sufferance (when applied for) for landing Rice & other Bulky Commodities from the Plantations at any of the said unfree Keys as hath been the practice at this Port, it would be greatly to the advantage of the Trade of this Port, and ease to the Merchants easing the expense of a new Commission and upon the whole we can’t see the least detriment that can accrue to the Revenue such a practise here. [A chart was attached to this letter, but was not included in the Book.


3 June 1757                   These are to Certify that William Mouncher is Qualified in all respects for the Management of a Boat.


J Wilkinson                               William Godwin              John Read

Deputy Comptroller                    Tide Surveyor                 Collector


23 July 1757                  On the 9th Inst. Died Richard Colebrooke an Extra Tidesman at this Port in whose Room we recommend William Ashton a Person well Qualify’d as will appear by the Inclos’d Certificate and beg your Honours will be pleased to send us a Deputation for him & also one for William Mouncher recommended to your Honours in our Letter of the 4th Ultimo in the Room of Peter Banister preferr’d to be a Riding Officer at Ride. As ours is a Road in which Transient Ships often stop we fear we shall be in want of Officers to board them unless your Honours are pleased to fill up the Vacancies.


25 July 1757                  The 18th Instant reported here from South Carolina George Trowd, Master of the Gertrude with Rice. Inclosed we transmit to your Honours Copy of her Register by which it will appear that she was a French Vessel taken this present War & Condemned in South Carolina concerning which we pray your Honours will inform us if the subsidy of five pounds and ? advalorem (pursuant to Mr Woods letter of 21st April last) is due here on their ship and if any thing more is due for the sales belonging to her other than five pounds.


8 February 1758             Your Honours by their letter of 22nd February last were pleased to dismiss William Doudney from his place Coalmeter for this Port since which we have had but three Coalmeters and as their service often in the Summer time require more, we have been obliged to employ Joseph Wood an Extra Tidesman (occasioned by the number of Coal Ships discharging at the same time) since the dismissal of the said Doudney. A Coalmeter at this Port is but of small value (that is to say about £10 per annum) but as it will be a help to the said Joseph Woods (who has been an Extra Tidesman here above twenty nine years) and has always behaved very faithful and honest, having no complaint against him from the Tidesurveyor, we beg leave to recommend him to be a Coalmeter at this Port and pray your Honours will be pleased to send us a Deputation for him.


12 January 1759    Letter to the Collector by Thomas Porter and Christopher Bullock, Boatmen at Bembridge.

We beg leave to complain of Mr Charles Bignall our chief Boatman for not suffering us to do our Duty in the Boat as direct by Mr Brooke our Surveyor General & yourselves an instance of what happened on the 22 November last the Oars of our Boat being as we apprehend stolen we made diligent search after them to no purpose when on the 28th Mr Bignall told us he had put them away to prevent us going on our Duty therefore beg directions may be given that the Oars may not be taken from us that we may be able to board such Vessels as the Dayly arrive.

12 January 1759    A Charge against Charles Bignall, Chief Boatman at Bembridge.

Whereas on the 22nd day of November last the Oars out of the Boat under your Inspection cou’d not be found by the Boatmen and that Diligent search by your Orders was made till 28th day of the same month when you were pleased to acquaint the Boatmen you had put them away your Self on purpose that they should not do their Duty by which surprising behaviour the Duty of your Harbour and Road was entirely neglected for the period of seven days and nights. To which matter you are hereby required to give a plain and distinct Answer in writing on or before the 22nd Instant returning Charge with your Answer taking care to avoid all scurrilous and abusive expositions.

18 January 1759    Answer by Charles Bignall, Chief Boatman at Bembridge

On the 12th Instant in the evening I received from Mr Thomas Porter the Charge of that date against me signed by you to which I have endeavoured to give as plain and distinct answer as I am able.

I having many times desired the Boatmen to put the Oars and the Masts and Sails into the House that they used to be put and not to leave them as their Custom was standing up against the House in full view that came on shoar for fear of their being taken away by some of the boats crew that came on shoar or other persons. But to no purpose they continuing to keep them there for many days together. On 21st November last between eight and nine of the clock in the evening I took the Oars that were standing against the House and what had stood there for several days and carried them one by one by Mr Bullock’s House and laid them under a Hedge in a field by the House. The next morning Mr Bullock told me the Oars were gone and he believed Mr Porter had taken them to Portsmouth with him. To which I answered how he Mr Porter came from Portsmouth in the Evening and the next morning I saw Mr Bullock goe towards Mr Porters House and watched him and watched their coming down to the Green. When Mr Bullock told me Mr Porter had not taken the Oars and that they would goe and look in the Peoples boats to see if they could find them, upon which I told them not to goe that I knew where they were that I had put them in a place where they were less likely to be taken away than when standing against the House in Publick view and if they were wanted for any duty I would find them and in a day or two I told them where they were, but the exact time I cannot remember. After I had told them where they were removed from the place I had put them in but by whom I know not and then I admitt I desired them to Enquire after them but I did not before they were removed from the place I put them in. I do positively deny that on the 28th day of December or at any other time acquainted or told either of the Boatman that I had put the Oars away on purpose that they should not do their Duty or any thing to that or like effect or purport or that I did do it with any such view and do declare that I did it to make them more careful of them and with no other view. I think it is very plain that neither the Duty of the Harbour nor the Roads was neglected by the Oars being put in a field by me nor could be for there were two Oars in the House which belong to the Boat which they might have made use of if the Boat had been wanted for any Duty and I do declare that neither of the acquainted me of any Duty they were wanted for.

29 January 1759    Letter from Collector to the Board

We beg leave to Acquaint your Honours that Thomas Porter and Christopher Bullock Boatmen at Bembridge have made Complaint to us against Charles Bignall their chief Boatman for not suffering them to do their Duty in the Boat by hiding away the Oars as set forth in their Complaint on which we gave the said Bignall a Charge, to which we have received his Answer and upon hearing them all face to face it appeared to us that the Charge against the said Bignall is true notwithstanding what he said to the contrary in his Answer.

The next book, 1759  - 1764 is missing

1749 -1753

1764 -1769

Customs Cowes Letters Book

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

2 August 2009