British Records Relating to America in Microform (BRRAM) series

The Liverpool Plantation Registers, 1744-1773 and 1779-1784
in the Custom House, Liverpool

Introduction to the microfilm collection by Murice M. Schofield and David J. Pope
Publication no. R96481


First published 1978 © Microform Academic Publishers 2005 Main Street, East Ardsley, Wakefield, West Yorkshire WF3 2AP United Kingdom Tel: +44 (0)1925 825700 Fax: +44 (0)1924 871005 Email: ISBN: 0 7158 5090 3

Provenance The legislation requiring registry (by David J Pope) The scope of the Liverpool plantation registers The contents of the register volumes



A note on the date of entry of a register a t Liverpool
Dates in the index Registers of vessels 'of Liverpool' Vessels of other British ports registered a t Liverpool Registers a t other ports copied a t Liverpool


Problems concerning the registers

A note on tonnage figures

A note on owners


Contents of the film Bibliography


an index to the volumes can be found immediately following this introduction on each film



Under the navigation act of 1696 English shipowners who intended t o employ their vessels in trade with the English colonies were required t o register their vessels according to the manner laid down in the act and it was ordained that no vessel could take part in such trades unless so registered. Although such registers should have been compiled in all the ports of the British empire, very few have survived. Of the extant registers, the four volumes of the Liverpool Plantation Registers which cover the years 1744-56, 1756-65, 1765-73 and 1779-84 are the most complete.. They were compiled by the customs officials in the Liverpool Custom House where they have remained since their compilation. They are here reproduced by permission of the Secretary, HM Customs and Excise, King's Beam House, Mark Lane, London EC3. In Scotland,+to which the provisions of the 1696 act were extended after the Act of Union, two volumes of the Campbeltown registers, in a different form from those of Liverpool, exist for the years 1763-9 and 1769-80. Of the registers compiled in the colonies, an early Massachusetts volume for 1697- 1714 is still in existence,' as is the South Carolina register for the years 1735-802 and the Pennsylvania registers for the years 1726-75.3 Other registry oaths are occasionally t o be found among the Customs records in many ports, entered among the ordinary transactions or correspondence of the ports.4 The general registers in which were copied the details of registers granted in the out-ports are believed to have been lost in the fires which destroyed the London Custom House in 1714 and 1814.5






Analysed in Bernard and Lotte Bailyn, Massachusefts shipping. 1697- 1714: a srarisfrcal srudy (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard UP. 19591. In the South Carolina Record Office, Columbia, SC. See Pennsylvania Magazine of Hisrory and Biography, XXlll 118991 254-64. 370-84. 498-515; XXlV (1900) 10% 212-23, 348-66, 33-19: XXV 11901l 118-31. 266-81, 400-16, 560-74; XXVl I19021 126-43, 280-4, 390-400, 470-5; XXVll 119031 94-107. 2 3 - 4 7 , 346-70. 482-98; XXVlll 119041 84-100, 218-35. 346-74, 470-507. See Roben S Craig and Rupert C. Jarvis, Liverpool regstry of rnerchanr ships (Manchester: Chetham Societv Publications. 3rd series, XV. 19671 p. xix. See Rupert C . Jarvis. 'Liverpool statutory registers of British merchant ships'. Transacrions of rhe Hisforic Society of Lancashire and Cheshre, CV 119531 109. 113.

1. 5



The keeping of plantation registers arose as a result of infringements of the seventeenth-century navigation acts, especially of provisions in the navigation act of 1660 and the staple act of 1663. As far as shipping is concerned, the navigation act of 1660 (12 Charles II c 18, sections i and iii) reserved the trade between England and her transoceanic colonies and inter-colonial trade t o vessels owned, mastered, predominantly manned and, if owned in the plantations, built by natives of the British empire.
Under the navigation act of 1660, Scotland was treated virtually as a foreign country and Scottish ships were excluded from the colonial trade. But the navigation act of 1660 placed Irish ships on an equal footing with those of England and the colonies. During the 1680s and 1690s the English government received many complaints from various officials and English merchants that the Scots and Irish were contravening the navigation laws and engaging in trade with the plantations illegally. The Scots were particularly active in this trade, the merchants of Glasgow, for example, seeking t o build up a trade with Virginia in tobacco. The establishment of the Darien Company as an agency for Scottish trade also heightened mercantile fears. A year or two earlier the Custom House officials at Liverpool wrote to the Commissioners of the Customs at Bermuda in 1692, saying that they had various accounts from Liverpool merchants and masters of ships who ‘lawfully trade t o the said Plantations’ that they are ‘much discouraged and almost ruined by reason their majesties’ officers in the Plantations.. . corruptly or unfairly comply with persons tradeing to Scotland not capable by law t o trade there’. The merchants of London also complained ‘That their trade is in a great measure destroyed and ruined by many ships trading directly from Scotland and Ireland to Virginia, Mary1an.d and Pennsylvania without paying their majesties‘ duties to the undervaluing of trade’. The Commissioners of the Customs stated that they ‘concur with the said merchants herein and do humbly move ... that some effectual remedy be taken by writing t o the government of Scotland or otherwise as t o His Majesty shall seem fitt for preventing this great evill‘. In 1694 the merchants and traders of Bristol also sent in a petition against unfair traders from Scotland and Ireland, who did not pay customs. in England. All these factors provided the impetus for parliamentary action to deal with the problem of illicit trading with the plantations. A further navigation act (7 & 8 William Ill c 221, designed t o tighten up the enforcement of the navigation system, was passed in 1696. This ‘Act for preventing frauds and regulating abuses in the plantation trade’ virtually confined the plantation trade not only t o English-owned shipping but t o English-built shipping. It stipulated (in clauses i, ii and iii)

that no goods were t o be imported into or exported from the plantations, exported from the plantations to England or carried from one plantation t o another, except in such ships as were or would be ‘of the built of England, or of the built of Ireland, or the said colonies or plantations, and wholly owned by the people thereof or any of them, and navigated with the masters and three-fourths of the mariners of the said places only’. Prizes legally condemned by an Admiralty Court and, ’for the space of three years’, foreign-built ships employed by the Commissioners of the Navy t o bring in naval stores from the plantations, provided they fulfilled the .conditions regarding ownership and manning, were the only foreign-built vessels allowed t o trade with or in the plantations. In order to enforce this regulation the act ordained that, after 25 March 1698, ’for a more effectual prevention of frauds which may be used to elude the intentions of this act, by colouring foreign ships under English names’, all shipowners and merchants, before they could employ vessels in the plantation trade, had t o swear on oath that their vessels complied with the requirements of the act and then have them registered in the manner laid down by the act. This done, the vessels were recognised as British vessels entitled t o trade with or in the colonies. By section xvii of the act it was laid down that if a vessel at the time of registration belonged t o a port in England, Ireland or Wales, or to the town of Berwick-upon-Tweed, the oath was t o be sworn before the Collector and Controller of Customs in the port of ownership; if the vessel belonged to one of the English plantations in America, to the islands of Guernsey or Jersey, the oath was t o be sworn before the Governor and the crown’s principal revenue officer in the plantation or island. The form of the oath t o be sworn a t the time of registration was clearly defined in the act: Jurat A.B. That the Ship (Name) of (Port) whereof (Master‘s Name) is at present Master, being a (Kind or Build) of (Burthen) Tuns, was built at (Place where) in the Year (Time when) and that (Owner’s Name) of and of, &c are at present Owners thereof; and that no Foreigner directly or indirectly, hath any Share or Part, or Interest therein. Instead of stating the time and place of build of their vessels, section xix laid down that owners of prizes were t o declare in the oath when and where their vessels were captured and condemned. Having attested the oath, section xviii required the appropriate official t o register it, deliver the certificate of registry t o the master of the ship concerned ‘for the Security of her Navigation’ and send a duplicate of the

registry immediately t o the Commissioners of Customs in London to be entered by them in a general register kept for the purpose. Vessels claiming to be British vessels found trading with or in the colonies without a certificate of registry were t o be regarded as foreign vessels subject to forfeiture for illicit trading. Although the act of 1696 prohibited foreign-built British-owned ships, other than legally condemned prizes, from engaging in the plantation trade, exceptions were sometimes made, the Liverpool Plantation Registers including several registrations of foreign-built ships which had been 'made free'. For example, the Jenny, a Russian-built vessel, was registered a t Liverpool on 12 June 1769 having been 'made free' on 22 April 1769. Foreign-built ships stranded or wrecked on the coasts of Britain, repaired or rebuilt and bought by British subjects, were frequently admitted to the British plantation trade. No statutory provision was laid down for the obtaining of plantation registers for such vessels. However, the Crown through its prerogative was able-to 'free' them if the extent of their repair or rebuilding meant that the greater part of their cost was British. The buyer of a repaired or rebuilt foreign-built vessel which he wished t o be 'made free' petitioned the Privy Council which then directed the Attorney-General t o establish all the relevant facts about the vessel in question such as the circumstances surrounding its wreck and repair. If he were satisfied that, through its repair and its cost, the vessel was in fact more British than foreign, the Attorney-General would give an opinion to the effect that it should be entitled to the privileges of a British ship. The Commissioners of Customs in London, having been notified of the Attorney-General's opinion, would then give permission for the registration of the vessel. In the event of a ship's name being altered after registration, its owners were to register it anew. Similarly, if a vessel were transferred to a different port, its new owners were t o register it again at its new port of ownership. When a new registration occurred, section i laid down that the old certificate of registry was t o be delivered up t o be cancelled, in order to prevent its illegal use by ships not entitled to the privileges of British shipping. It would seem that this regulation was frequently disregarded for in 1742 it was stated that certificates of registry, which should have been delivered up t o be cancelled, were being sold to foreigners who were using them in order t o employ their vessels in illicit trade with the British plantations. By an act of that year (15 George II c 31, section 1) t o remedy this abuse, it was stipulated that after 25 December 1742 no ship was t o be permitted t o trade with or in the plantations until its master had sworn the following oath before the Governor or Collector of Customs of the plantation where the ship had arrived :

A.B. maketh Oath (or if a Quaker, solemnly affirms) that the Ship or whereof he this Deponent (or Affirmant) is Vessel called the Master, or hath the Charge of Command during this present voyage, Tons, came last from , and that being of the Burthen of she is, as he verily believes, the same Ship or Vessel described, meant and intended in and by the Certificate now produced by him; and that the same does now, as he believes, belong wholly t o His Majesty’s British Subjects, and that no Foreigner has directly or indirectly any Share, Property or Interest therein, to his Knowledge or Belief. If goods were unloaded from a vessel in the plantations before this oath was sworn, the vessel concerned was subject t o forfeiture. Under-the earlier legislation (7 Et 8 William II c 22, section xxi) if, after registration, a change of ownership took place by the sale of shares in a vessel to other residents of the port t o which the ship belonged, an endorsement, acknowledging the sale, was t o be made before t w e witnesses on the certificate of registry, ’in order t o prove that the entire Property in such Ship remains t o some of the Subjects of England, if any Dispute arises concerning the same’. The.act of 1742 (15 George II c 31, section iii) also laid down the procedure for obtaining replacements for certificates of registry which had been lost or mislaid. In such cases the master and one or more of the owners of a ship were t o provide proof that the certificate had in fact been lost or mislaid and were then t o take the oath afresh and were t o give a financial security t o the Collector of Customs of the home port of their ship - f500 for ships of one hundred tons or less, with a bigger sum for larger ships in proprotion t o their size. They had also to swear that the original certificate had not been fraudulently disposed of or used contrary t o the law and t o promise that if they found the lost certificate, they would deliver it up t o the Commissioners of Customs. When these conditions were fulfilled, a replacement certificate of registry would be issued. The new certificate of registry, which had the same validity as the one it replaced, indicated that the ship had been previously registered and that the necessary formalities had been completed. For an example of a certificate granted to replace one that had been lost, see the certificate of registry of the President, registered at Liverpool on 9 June 1773. Provision was also made in the act of 1742 (section ii) for the granting of temporary replacements of certificates of registry which were lost when a ship was absent from its port of registration. In the event of this happening after 25 December 1742 the master of the ship concerned was to take an oath, before the Governor or Collector of Customs in the port where the ship happened to be, t o the effect that his ship had been

registered according t o the law and was therefore qualified to trade with the plantations, that a certificate of registry had been granted a t the ship’s home port but had been lost or mislaid, that he had not fraudulently disposed of it and that he and three-quarters of the crew were British subjects. Securities and guarantees were t o be given t o the Governor or Collector of Customs, similar to those required in the case of the granting of a new register t o replace one that had been lost. These conditions having been fulfilled, the Governor or Collector of Customs would give the master a certificate stating that the necessary securities and guarantees had been given and the oath taken. This certificate would entitle the ship to trade for one voyage only, after which a new certificate would have to be obtained in the ship’s home port. The system of plantation registration operated until 1786, when, as a result of the changed circumstances brought about by American independence, a new system of registration was introduced. By an act of 1786 (26 George Ill c 60)all decked British-owned ships above 15 tons, with a few exceptions such as those employed solely in inland navigation, had t o be registered afresh in the manner laid down by the act before they could be used in any trade.




The surviving Liverpool registers consist of four volumes, the first three of which form a continuous record of entries from 28 April 1744 to 24 December 1773 and the fourth a continuous record from 7 August 1779 to 20 November 1784. In the four volumes there are some 3800 entries of vessels, of which just over 900 are in the fourth volume. During the period 1744-73, about 72 per cent of the entries are for vessels marked 'of Liverpool', about 12 per cent for those belonging to other ports in the British Isles and about 9 per cent for those belonging to ports in the colonies (a number of entries have no clear attribution). For the period 1779-84, the figures are 60 per cent 'of Liverpool', 27 per cent of other British ports and 10 per cent of colonial ports, with a much smaller number of doubtful attributions. Some of the entries are for vessels taken as prize during the wars of 1739-48 and 1756-63 and 90 of these are accompanied by a copy of a document issued by the Registrar of Shipping in London admitting the vessel to 'the freedom of the British register. Such entries often give further details about the vessel such as the number of decks and masts and its former name and master and sometimes those of its captork); in some cases the sum paid in duty on the vessel and its tackle under the laws protecting British shipbuilding and ships' supplies from foreign competition is added together with the name of the man who paid the duty. In the last volume covering part of the American War of Independence these documents are not quoted but detailed statements about capture, date and place of condemnation as prize, former name and master, are often to be found. During peace time, however, the entries contain only brief statements of former nationality with possibly a date of condemnation as prize; many entries which are registrations of prize vessels for a second or third time merely refer to a 'former register' without further detail.


THE CONTENTS OF THE REGISTER VOLUMES The entries can be divided into six categories: i Vessels marked as ‘of Liverpool’ and registered there. The second entry in Volume I is an example of the type of entry: the Scaresbrick of Liverpool, built there in 1744, was registered there on 28 April 1744 as owned by two Liverpool merchants. ii Vessels marked as ‘of Liverpool’ but registered at a colonial port. For example the first entry in Volume I is the Cleveland of Liverpool, built at Boston (Mass) in 1743 and registered there on 29 October 1743 by a Boston merchant as part-owner with two Liverpool merchants. iii Vessels registered at a colonial port and belonging to a colonial port. The first entry of such a vessel is the Rachel of New York, built at Newbury in 1740 and registered a t Boston on 20 February 1740/1 as owned by two residents of New York. Her register was copied a t Liverpool between 10 and 20 July 1744. iv Vessels marked as of another British port and registered there. The first example of this type is the Charming Peggy of Buncranagh in Ireland, built at Philadelphia in 1735 and registered at Londonderry on 23 July 1737 as owned by a resident there. Her register was copied at Liverpool between 20 July and 10 August 1744. v Vessels marked as of a British port other than Liverpool but registered at Liverpool. The first example of this type is the Musgrave of Workington built there in 1730 and owned by her master but registered in Liverpool on 14 December 1745. vi Vessels marked as of a colonial port but registered at Liverpool. This category accounts for only 10 out of 3800 entries.

A note on the date of entry of a register at Liverpool
Registration made at Liverpool (categories i, v and vi) are clearly dated and often bear the signature of owner or master, whichever swore the oath attesting the details of the register. Between 1744 and 1773, copies a t Liverpool of registers made elsewhere (categories ii, iii and iv) are given usually only the date of the original register but not the date of the copying at Liverpool, though from 1770 these are sometimes to be found. In the fourth volume, 1779-84, copies are usually complete with the date of copying a t Liverpool.

For convenience, in the following pages, where a Liverpool entry is not precisely dated, it is referred to by the nearest t w o Liverpool registers which are precisely dated. For example, the Rachel above is noted as copied at Liverpool 'between 10 and 20 July 1744'. The Cleveland is more difficult to date, since it if the first entry in volume I; the only dating t o be given must be 'before 28 April 1744', the date of the next Liverpool register to follow. Such entries can sometimes be given more or less precise dates by reference t o Lloyd's List or newspapers which give entries of vessels at Liverpool; thus Lloyd's List for 27 April 1744 gives the arrival of the Cleveland at Liverpool on 24 April from Cape Fear in North Carolina. The arrival of the Rachel has not been similarly traced but may be earlier than July since the register appears t o have been copied to authenticate the new registration of the vessel as the Enterprize on 10 July 1744 with new Liverpool owners. Volume II of the registers also begins with a first entry of a copy of a colonial register for the Enterprize of Liverpool, registered at Jamaica on 18 June 1755. This entry is t o be dated as between 30 July 1756, the last Liverpool registration in the previous volume, and 5 August 1756, the first Liverpool re,gister in volume II. Dates in the index For convenience, in the index the date of an entry which is a copy of a register made elsewhere is always given by the date of the Liverpool register preceding the copied entry followed by a dash. For example, in Index Il1,'vessels registered at or marked 'of' colonial ports, the entries for Antigua begin: 1746 July 19 - Antigua Packet; 1752 October 14: Antigua Packet. This means that the register for the first Antigua Packet was copied at Liverpool after a Liverpool register for another vessel clearly dated July 19; and the second Antigua Packet was registered at Liverpool on October 14 and this precise dating is symbolised by the colon. Registers of vessels 'of Ljverpool' According to the navigation laws, the master of a vessel leaving a British port for a colonial destination or vice-versa must carry with him a plantation register; otherwise his voyage was illegal and his vessel liable to seizure. The entries of vessels marked as 'of Liverpool' entered in the Liverpool Plantation Registers qualified these vessels for such a voyage and these, previously listed as category i, are the most numerous entries. They fall into four main groups:

a) first built and taking its first voyage t o a colony: the Scaresbrick already cited is an obvious example.

b) first sent on a colonial voyage, after previously being employed on other types of voyages which needed no plantation register. For example, o n 18 November 1752, the Ballof Liverpool, David Guthrie master, was registered at Liverpool and on 6 November her owners applied for a Mediterranean pass for a voyage t o Barbados. A previous Mediterranean pass was applied for in 1751 for a voyage t o Leghorn and Williamson's Liverpool Memorandum Book of 1753 lists the vessel among those which 'take freight for Europe'. Mediterrranean voyages did not need a plantation register but it is clear from other entries that some owners, engaged in the Mediterranean trade, took out registers for their vessels so that a voyage t o a colony could be undertaken if required.
c) vessels taking out at Liverpool a second or later registration after a change of name or ownership and making the first colonial voyage thereafter. An example of this type of registration is that of the Enterprize already quoted, registered under that name on 10 July 1744 after being owned in New York under the name of the Rachel, There are many such examples of a Liverpool registration being immediately preceded or succeeded with a colonial'register or British register of an earlier date, obviously copied t o authenticate the new Liverpool register. Sometimes, however, the early register is well separated from the new register. In such instances, comparison of details of tonnage, rig, and place and date of build must be attempted. In the first three volumes, 1744-73, there is often a note in a new register of a previous register being cancelled but usually without reference t o a previous name or date and place of registration. Thus it is often difficult t o be sure that two entries widely separated refer to the same vessel. Registers in the volume 1779-84 are usually more precise. d) vessels taking out a register at Liverpool after being condemned as a prize of war and receiving a certificate of freedom t o share the privileges of British registered vessels from the Registrar General in London. The earliest references t o prizes in 1744 give only a date of condemnation as prize; but in April 1745, entries for the Golden Lyon give the first example of some 90 certificates of freedom issued in London and copied at Liverpool between 1745 and 1764. Between 3 and 9 April is entered a certificate for the Golden Lyon issued in London on 30 March 1-744/5 which is referred t o in the Liverpool registration of 9 April as 'Foreign Prize made free ... London 30 March 1745. Again there is sometimes a separation of the London certificate from the Liverpool register but this is usually because the London certificate copied in full was a long document and the clerks chose to-begin copying on a fresh page. When such a prize was later registered again under a new name, identification is often difficult since the new register has only some such vague phrase as 'Prize from the French, as per former register now cancelled'. Prizes condemned in the colonies whose plantation register

was copied at Liverpool usually have details of when and where condemned and sometimes of the captors. If such a vessel was sold in 'Liverpool and re-registered, the 'clerks often copied details from the former register; but again subsequent re-registrations are often without sufficient detail. The 1779-84 registers again are much more precise. Vessels of other British ports registered at Liverpool

A number of vessels previously listed as category v were registered at Liverpool in spite of belonging to other ports in Britain. There seem to be three main classes of such vessels: a) vessels built in Liverpool for owners in another British port but making a first colonial voyage from Liverpool. Such a vessel was the Bold of Lancaster, built at Liverpool in 1750 and registered there on 24 July 1750. On 25 July 1750 an application for a Mediterranean pass was made, for a voyage to Jamaica, the ship being listed as 'lying at' Liverpool and the pass was t o be sent there. In the registration the place of residence of the owners is not given but often in such registrations there is precise detail given.
b) vessels making a first voyage t o a colony from Liverpool, after being employed on other voyages not needing a plantation register. A n example of this class of vessel is the Concord of Lancaster, built at Liverpool in 1750 but not registered there until 1 March 1753. Williamson's Liverpool Memorandum Book, 1752, listed her among vessels which 'take freight for Europe' and a voyage from Memel t o Liverpool in 1752 has been traced in Lloyd's Lists. Her owners again are not identified by place of residence in the register but from other sources are men from the Furness district of Lancashire in the customs port of Lancaster and men from Kirkham in the Fylde in the customs port of Poulton. Their interests were in the Baltic trade in flax and hemp for a raw material and in exports t o the colonies. On the same date as her register at Liverpool there was an application for a Mediterranean pass for a voyage t o Maryland, clearly her first colonial voyage. c) vessels bought in Liverpool and registered there, after the sale, as belonging t o another British port. Before Liverpool newspapers were regularly published, such sales can only be guessed at but after 1756 an almost continuous run of newspapers regularly included sales advertisements for all varieties of vessels. These advertisements and the news items often make clear the reason for Liverpool registrations. Thus the Thomas and Mary was registered for the first time at Liverpool under that name on 26 March 1761, though built in Philadelphia in 1750, after a voyage from Leghorn during which she had been captured and ransomed for €1000. Setting off for Newfoundland, she was again ransomed for 450

guineas and on her return Williamson's Liverpool Advertiser on 16 April 1762 carried an advertisement for her sale. She was registered on 8 May 1762 as of Lancaster, though only her master is so described.

d) vessels registered at Liverpool after being condemned as prize and having a certificate of freedom of navigation from the Registrar General in London but belonging t o a British port other than Liverpool. Only 9 out of the 90 certificates of freedom between 1745 and 1764 state that the vessels were of ports other than Liverpool or list owners as of other such ports. Two were of Chester and one of Lancaster and remained so on registration at Liverpool; four others became Liverpool vessels on registration there, though the freedom certificates were for vessels of Guernsey (one) and Plymouth (two). Not strictly to be included in this section because of colonial ownership, the remaining two were of New Providence and New York respectively.
Registers at other ports copied at Liverpool

Categories ii, iii and iv above are vessels already registered whose registers were copied at Liverpool. These copies present the most difficult problem of interpretation of the reasons for entry in the Liverpool volumes. Two classes of entry, however, seem t o have clear explanations: a) vessels having a plantation register from another British port but sailing t o a colony from Liverpool. Probably the facilities of Liverpool for the provision of export cargoes for the colonies account for the sailing of such vessels from Liverpool rather than from their own port. Unless business documents are forthcoming, only guesses can be made as t o whether the owners had business connections with Liverpool merchants who collected an export cargo for a colony or whether they chartered their vessel to Liverpool merchants. A n example of such a possibility is in the voyage of the Warren of Lancaster, whose register at Lancaster of 28 August 1750 was copied a t Liverpool between 22 December 1752 and 2 January 1753, the latter date being also the date of application for a Mediterranean pass for a voyage t o Jamaica when the vessel is described as 'lying at' Liverpool (the pass also stated she was 'of Liverpool' but this is contradicted by the register copy). The Warren had already made two voyages to Antigua from Lancaster, according to Mediterranean pass lists. Most of the copies of registers of vessels belonging t o the ports of Lancaster and Poulton have dates of application for Mediterranean passes for colonial voyages coincident with the copy of the register in the Liverpool volumes.

b) vessels sent t o Liverpool to be sold there and having their registers copied t o authenticate the new register. It was common in the eighteenth

century for the American colonies to send vessels t o Britain to sell not only the cargo but the vessel as well. This is particularly true of the mainland colonies, rich in timber resources at a time when British timber was becoming less plentiful, and 'built of English oak' became in a Liverpool sale advertisement, a special feature to attract buyers. Prizes in wartime were also sent from the mainland colonies and the West lndies t o be sold in Britain. The Liverpool registers have numerous examples of such vessels and also of vessels sent there for sale from other British ports. A study of advertisements of ships for sale published in the Liverpool newspapers between 1756, when regular publication began, and 1773, the end of the third volume of registers, has been made, so that comparisons can be made with registers copied at Liverpool from originals granted at colonial or other British ports. The advertisements often lack essential details such as date and place of build and usually quote 'tons burthen' or 'carpenter's measure' instead of register tonnage. But in spite of this, it is possible t o identify most of these vessels with the register copies. Also useful in identifying changes of name or ownership are Lloyd's Registers, available for 1764, for 1768 for names M to Z, and from 1776 an almost complete run. So when a register is copied at Liverpool, it may well be that the owners had sent the vessel t o Liverpool for sale; and reference t o nearby register entries to look for a matching description, or t o newspaper advertisements for a sale notice, can often confirm such an assumption. Before 1756, however, only the internal evidence of the registers can be used t o assume a sale of a vessel. It has been found that the date and place of build provides the most convenient and accurate clue t o a change of name entered by the new owners. in later years Lloyd's Registers are helpful though the entries are always under the new name and the old names are not indexed; also it has often been found that the Lluyd's Register date of build is a year earlier or later than the date of build given in a register entry. In checking against the registers the details of vessels condemned as prize, the Lluyd's Register entries are often unhelpful; the registers were concerned with a date of condemnation as prize and/or the admission of the prize to freedom of navigation whereas the underwriters were concerned with the age, place of build and condition of a vessel.



The Liverpool registers have been collated with the sales advertisements of vessels in the Liverpool newspapers and with the Mediterranean passes for Liverpool, Preston and Poulton, Lancaster and Whitehaven. Many register entries, particularly those of other ports than Liverpool copied into the Liverpool register volumes, are shown by these sources to be explained as vessels sailing from Liverpool to a colonial port or arriving in Liverpool to be sold there. However, such a check leaves a significant number of entries unexplained and as an example of these, an examination of the limited group of 35 registers and copies of registers for vessels of the port of Whitehaven has been made. There are five out of the 35 registers concerning vessels previously entered, four of which are explained by changes of ownership which required a new register either at Liverpool or Whitehaven; the remaining one is an unusual example of a simple repetition, the 1754 Whitehaven register of the Bootle being copied in 1759 and again unchanged in 1760. Of the 35 register entries, 13 are explained by a Mediterranean pass application for a voyage t o a colony about the same date as the register entry. Three more entries are between 1761-3 when the relevant volume of passes has not survived; at least one of these can be shown to have been in Liverpool about the time of the register entry at Liverpool. The Fame had her Whitehaven register of 1759 copied at Liverpool between 23 June and 20 July 1761 and the record of her clearance for Whitehaven from James River, Virginia on 22 March 1762 shows that on 13 June 1761 in Liverpool her captain took out a bond for the return of any enumerated goods in her cargo from a colony t o a British port. The other two vessels might well be discovered t o have the same evidence for a voyage from Liverpool. Of the remaining 19 entries, one is explained by the fact that the Love of Whitehaven was built in Liverpool in 1748 and registered there in the same year. Three others were sold in Liverpool. In 1760 the Dolly and Polly of Liverpool was registered on 3 May and the next entry i3 a copy of the 1754 Whitehaven register of the Mellor, with the same description of rig, tonnage and date and place of'build and even the same master, as for the Dolly and Polly. In 1773 the Whitehaven register of the John was copied immediately after the Liverpool register of the Myers on 24 December; a sale advertisement for the John on 27 November 1772 and Lloyd's Register for 1776 confirm the sale. On 1 March 1765, the Betsy of Liverpool, registered there on 18 November 1763, was advertised for sale and obviously became the Willjam of Whitehaven, registered at Liverpool on 10 April 1765.

There remain 15 entries unexplained, three of them for vessels registered at Liverpool with no matching register to indicate a sale and 12 being copies of Whitehaven registrations. Possibly further research in Liverpool newspapers or in colonial records may show a sailing t o a colony from Liverpool in spite of the lack of Mediterranean pass. Obtaining such a pass was not a legal obligation on the master and owners but a safeguard against attack by the Barbary pirates in the Mediterranean or their other cruising grounds off the coasts of Portugal, Spain and Africa. But a voyage in the North Atlantic t o the northern American colonies would not necessarily need a pass. Clearly, 15 registers or copies of registers unexplained out of a total of 35 is a significant number. Approaching the registers and the Mediterranean pass. lists from another point of view produces similqr evidence that a Liverpool register or copying of a register at Liverpool does not mean that the vessel was about to sail from Liverpool for a colony. The pass lists have been searched between 1750 and 1773 for vessels not belonging t o Liverpool which are marked as 'lying at' Liverpool and the pass sent there from London to be collected by the master from the Liverpool custom house. (The pass lists between 1748 and 1750 were badly kept by the clerks and are obviously incomplete.) In the 23 years from 1750 there are 188 vessels 'lying at' Liverpool for a voyage t o a colony, counting each vessel only for the first entry of a pass; 104 belonged t o British ports and 88 t o colonial ports. When these entries are checked with the registers, some vessels do not appear at all; for example a pass for the Gale of Whitehaven was applied for on 1 February 1768 but she does not appear in the registers. Some applications were made some time after the register was copied at Liverpool; the Commerce of Whitehaven was registered there in 1770 and had her register copied a t Liverpool between 13 and 20 August 1771 but the first pass marked 'lying at' Liverpool was applied for on 26 May 1772. Sometimes a pass application is much earlier in date than the registration copy. The Pearl was registered at Virginia on 13 June 1766, her first pass application marked 'lying at' Liverpool was on 10 June 1768 and her register was copied only between 23 September and 2 October 1772, this date being explained by the fact that she was advertised for sale on 9 October 1772. The results of investigation are summarised as follows: VESSELS NOT BELONGING TO LIVERPOOL BUT SAILING FROM LIVERPOOL TO A COLONY WITH A MEDITERRANEAN PASS, COMPAREQ WITH LIVERPOOL REGISTER ENTRIES British
1 Passes with dates roughly coincident (ie within one month) with register entry

Colonial 35


Percentage 52



2 Passes with register entry before a pass date 3 Passes with register entry after a pass date 4 Passes with no register entry






9 32


8 30


It was not necessary, therefore, for a vessel leaving Liverpool for a colony t o have her register entered in the Liverpool plantation register volumes. This marks the difference between the Liverpool entries and those of the main source of registration details for most British ports, the Colonial Naval Officers' Lists, preserved in the Public Record Office under the name of Colonial Office 'Shipping Lists'. *A colonial naval officer was a customs official in a colony and one of his duties was to record details about vessels arriving and clearing from the area under his control, to make sure that the legal requirements of the navigation laws concerning ship, crew and cargo were being observed. This included copying the plantation register of each vessel both on arrival and clearance, each time the vessel came into his area of control. The entries were forwarded to the colonial governor and by him t o Britain, t o show that the navigation laws were being enforced properly in his colony. Regular runs of such quarterly returns are not frequent and there are many gaps and some of the entries are very summary. But they are the only source of register details for Liverpool before the Liverpool volumes begin in 1744 or for the years 1774-9 and 19 November 1784 onwards, for which there are volumes missing, until the new system of registration began in 1786. The colonial naval officer's entry provides an actual example of a voyage to or from a colony; if a vessel made regular voyages to that colony, there are repeated entries to be found if the quarterly returns have survived. The Liverpool plantation register entry, however, was made once only: the duplication entries are sufficiently few to be clerk's mistakes. The Liverpool entry thus marks the fact that at the date of entry of the register a t Liverpool, the vessel was qualified to enter the plantation trade, was a 'free bottom' as the sale advertisements occasionally mention. The plantation register does not necehsarily mean that the vessel was certain t o be employed in the plantation trade. Some vessel of Liverpool entered in the volumes have only Mediterranean passes for voyages t o Mediterranean ports or to the Spanish and Portuguese wine ports. Some vessels of Liverpool entered in the volumes also appear in the 'Wool Register' for 1739/40 to 1784 preserved at Liverpool, allowing

"Also available o n microfilm in this series.

them to take part in the export of wool from Ireland to England. The owners of such vessels with a plantation register could thus vary the voyages from coastal or European to colonial voyages according to circumstances. There remains the problem of the Liverpool register entries for which there is no Mediterranean pass and no Liverpool sale advertisement to explain the entry. Explanations at present can only be guessed at. Some owners may have risked a colonial voyage without a pass. Sales of vessels in Liverpool need not have been advertised but could have been already arranged through agents in Liverpool. Some sales may have taken place in Liverpool after a copy of the register had been entered but the vessel was sold to another port than Liverpool so that the new register was made at the new home port rather than at Liverpool. Some advertisements occasionally stated that if the vessel was not soM quickly, she would sail on a normal voyage and offers for freight would be accepted; sometimes the Liverpool sailing lists published in the newspapers show a sailing after the advertisement has not made any such reference, as if the captain or Liverpool agent had been given discretion by owners elsewhere to take whichever step, a sale or a voyage, seemed most profitable. It seems likely, therefore, that a register copied at Liverpool without a pass or a sale advertisement, may well be made because of an intention to sell the vessel but the limits of present research or surviving evidence prevent easy proof of this. One further explanation needs much research to substantiate. The 15 unexplained Whitehaven vessels’ entries at Liverpool have been examined for passes issued for colonial voyages from Whitehaven about the same period; some of these suggest a return voyage from a colony to Liverpool, which is consistent with other evidence that many Whitehaven vessels took freight frorr a colony to other British ports rather than to Whitehaven direct. It may be that these, and some of the colonial registers copied, were taken by the customs officials on arrival a t Liverpool as part of the process for checking a bond taken out for the landing of enumerated colonial goods in a British port and not in any foreign port. Such bonds were often taken out in Britain at the beginning of a colonial voyage; the date of such a bond is often the same as that of application for a Mediterranean pass and, for a first colonial voyage, that of a date of register. But the colonial naval officers’ lists often show bonds taken out in a colony by British or colonial registered ships and customs documents would have to be sent from a British port before the bond taken out in the colony would be cancelled. Registers may have been copied in Liverpool as part of this process of cancellation.

A note on tonnage figures

The question of tonnage measurements in the eighteenth century is a complicated one and the registers add no further clarification. The act laid down a formula for measurement of register tonnage but the Liverpool officials and many officials of other ports were content with round figures, such as 70 or 150 or 230 tons, or, mostly for small vessels, putting in the odd 5 tons. Some officials were precise, as at Dublin where the Ann and Margaret in 1747 was registered as 58 tons (copied at Liverpool between 13 November and 10 December 17511, or the Barter, registered at Philadelphia in 1763 as 184 tons, advertised for sale at Liverpool and her register copied on 28 January 1765 when she became the Torn. When such a precise figure was given and the vessel re-registered at Liverpool, the officials there copied the original register and seem not t o have been concerned t o measure the vessel again. But precision is unusual and the round figures of the registers are repeated in the tonnages of Mediterranean passes. Sometimes re-registrations show variations of tonnage. The Grace was first registered in Virginia on 6 December 1770 as 50 tons and this was copied in Liverpool between 14 and 20 July 1772 and a sale advertisement appeared on 17 July 1772 giving her as 120 tons burthen. Lloyd's Register of 1776 gave the same figure, entering the vessel under her new name of the Jenny and referring t o the former name of the Grace. The Liverpool register of 19 August 1772 as the Jenny, however, gave the register tonnage as 70. Similarly the Jarnes and Mary was 25 tons when registered at Philadelphia in 1759, advertised for sale as 90 tons burthen o n 6 June 1760 but on re-registration as the Bassa on 18 July 1760 was marked as 70 tons register. Similar discrepancies are common between the London certificates of freedom of navigation for vessels condemned as prize and the register at Liverpool. The Augustus Caesar was given 300 tons in her certificate of freedom in 1759 but registered at Liverpool on 19 October 1759 as 200 tons. The fourth volume usually shows the same acceptance of round figures but some of the British ports give very precise tonnages. For example, The Friendship of Weymouth was registered there on 12 May 1783 as 54 tons (copied 12 June) and Greenock officials even produced tonnage with fractions, such as the Charlotte, registered 1775 as 57% tons, copied at Liverpool 22 July 1780.


In view of the possibility.of errors, it is wise t o check tonnages with whatever other sources are available and particularly copies of registers in colonial naval officers' lists and the Mediterranean pass lists. Lloyd's Registers, however, are not so helpful, since there appears to be no standard variation from register tonnage t o tons hurthen.

A note on owners
The form of oath laid down (see above) seems t o demand that the place of residence of an owner of a vessel be given in the register. The vessels registered at Liverpool between 1744 and 1773 do not, however, usually give this detail. One is therefore tempted t o assume that when a vessel was registered at Liverpool, the owners were Liverpool men unless specifically marked to the contrary. Similarly, if there is registered at Liverpool a vessel specifically marked as belonging t o another port and no place of residence is given, one is tempted t o assume that the owners belong to that port. This however may lead t o error. For example on 3 April 1752 the Williarn and Nancy of Lancaster was registered with no place of residence of its owners; but the owners are not men of the town of Lancaster but from the Furness coastline of Morcambe Bay within the area of the customs port of Lancaster but not the area of the Port Commission of Lancaster. On 1 March 1753,2he Concord of Lancaster was registered at Liverpool and four of her owners were from Furness and the other two, John Langton and William Shepherd, from Kirkham in the Fylde, in the customs port of Poulton. Shepherd and Thomas, son of John Langton were part-owners in 1767 with three Liverpool merchants when the Fanny of Liverpool was registered on 7 December but this time marked as of Kirkham; but in similar part-ownerships for the Martha registered on 4 August 1769 (probably the Fanny under a new name) and the Juba, registered on 17 June 1771, they and the other owners are given no place of residence. Later in 1771 the two Kirkham men were joiried by a new Kirkham business partner, John Birley, but they are not marked as of Kirkham in the registrations in 1771 and 1773 of two different vessels called Marcia, when they were again part-owners with the same Liverpool merchants. Another example of lack of place of residence is t o be found in the registration at Liverpool on 6 September 1763 of a prize from the French, the Kerie, and the accompanying certificate of freedom issued in London on 31 August 1763. The London certificate stated that Abraham Rawlinson junior, of Liverpool, affirmed the accuracy of the details of the vessel and its owners and the Liverpool register omitted 'of Liverpool'. But in neither document was a place of residence given for the three other owners, Abraham Rawlinson, called the senior of that name only in the London certificate, Thomas Hutton Rawlinson and William Lindow. Abraham Rawlinson junior at this time was considering settling in Liverpool to trade from that port but his father Thomas Hutton, his uncle Abraham senior, and his relation by marriage William Lindow, were always merchants of Lancaster. There are other registrations of Lancaster vessels made or copied at Liverpool which hint at this place of residence but the clerks rarely entered the necessary detail.

William Lindow was also a merchant and plantation owner in the West lndies and spent much time there; this explains the copy between 16 and 24 November 1769 of the register of the Lindow of Lancaster, first taken out in the Grenades on 21 July 1769 by William Lindow 'of Grenadoes'. His co-owners were Abraham and Thomas Hutton Rawlinson but they were not marked as of Lancaster. William Lindow is one of many examples in the registers of the movement of British merchants from their home ports t o spend some time in a colony building up business and later returning home. The chief Liverpool co-owners of the Kirkham group of Shepherd, Langton and Birley were John Sparling and William Bolden and the earliest reference to these men in the Liverpool registers shows them as resident in Norfolk, Virginia, in the Virginia register on 5 February 1759 of the Hannah, copied at Liverpool between 18 and 26 January 1760. The register in Virginia on 29 October 1765 of the Hope was shown by Bolden as of Norfolk, with Sparling as of Liverpool; this was copied in Liverpool between 7 and 13 January 1769. When Sparling registered the fanny on 7 December 1767, both he and Bolden were marked as of Liverpool. Such migrations are not always clearly reflected in the registers. For Liverpool a' series of directories from 1766 is available t o check Liverpool merchants but most other British ports have no such material until the end of the century. Fortunately the fourth volume at Liverpool is much more precise than the earlier three, since one of the effects of the American War was to make customs officials much more thorough in demanding information about owners so that Americans newly become foreigners should not be allowed t o have 'any share or part, or interest' in any British vessel.


April 1744 to July 1756 August 1756 to May 1765 May 1765 to December 1773 August 1779 to November 1784

Reel 1 Volume I Volume I I Volume Ill Reel 2 Volume IV



Discussion of the plantation registers, especially of their origin and the legislation which led to their compilation, may be found in the works listed below. No attempt has yet been made t o undertake a thorough investigation of the Liverpool registers and to produce a full analysis of their contents. Charles M. Andrews, The colonial period of American history, IV England's commercial and colonial policy (New Haven, Conn: Yale UP, 1938) Bernard and Lotte Bailyn, Massachusetts shipping, 1697- 1714: a statistical study (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard UP, 1959) Edwaid Carson, 'Customs bills of entry', Maritime History, I (19711 176-89 Robert S.Craig and Rupert C. Jarvis, Liverpool registry of merchant ships (Manchester: Chetham Society Publications, 3rd series, XV, 1967). The introduction by Rupert Jarvis covers the history of ship registration but the text deals with the registers from 1786 t o 1788 Lawrence A. Harper, The English navigation laws: a seventeenth-century experiment in social engineering (New York: Columbia UP, 1939) Rupert C. Jarvis, 'Liverpool statutory registers of British merchant ships', Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, CV (1953) 107-22. This article deals with all Liverpool registers from their origins to the twentieth century

-_-----_-l(1971) 29-45

, 'Ship registry - t o 1700', Maritime History, , 'Ship registry - 1707 to 1786', Marifime History, , 'Ship registry - 1786', Maritime History,


II (1972) 151-67

-_______-IV (1974) 12-30

Ronald Stewart-Brown, Liverpool ships in the eighteenth century including the King's ships built there, with notes on the principal shipwrights (Liverpool UP, 1932)

Published in conjunction with the British Association for American Studies
General Editor: Professor Kenneth Morgan, Brunel University This series of microfilms, which includes over 100 titles, covers many aspects of American history. Material ranges in time from the colonial period to the twentieth century and in place from Quebec to the West Indies. The series includes records relating to trade, industry, plantations, agriculture and ranching, immigration and settlement, the anti-slavery movement, politics and military affairs. There are personal papers and diaries as well as state documents and the records of industrial and commercial concerns. Primary printed material (newspapers, pamphlets, bibliographies, etc.) as well as manuscript collections are included. Most titles are accompanied by a printed guide. The academic control of the scheme is vested in an advisory committee of the British Association for American Studies (BAAS). The Publishers and the committee are constantly seeking to widen the scope of the scheme. Suggestions for material for inclusion should be sent to: Professor Kenneth Morgan Gaskell Building Brunel University Uxbridge UB8 3PH Email: Full details of all titles in the series available from the publishers upon request or visit our website:

The position o Scotland within i..e navigation system is discussed in the following works:

A.M. Carstairs, 'Some economic aspects of the Union of Parliaments', Scottish Journal of Political Economy, II (1955) 64-72
George Pratt Insh, The Company of Scotland trading to Africa and the lndies (Scribner's 1932) Theodora Keith, 'Scottish trade with the plantations before 1707', Scottish Historical Review, VI (1908-9) 32-48


, Commercial relations of England and Scotland, 1603- 1707 (Cambridge UP, 1910)

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ , 'The economic causes for the Scottish Union',
English Historical Review, XXlV (1909) 44-60

Thornas C. Smout, Scottish trade on the eve of Union, 1660- 1707, (Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, 1963)

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ , 'The Anglo-Scottish

Union of 1707, 1. The economic background', Economic History Review, 2nd series, XVI (1964) 455-67 1556-1707',
Scottish Journal of Political economy, VI (1960) 194-212

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ , 'The development and enterprise of Glasgow,

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