Plymouth’s Other Fleet
The Merchant Shipping Registers of the Port of Plymouth 1814 to 1876.
Available on CD.
£18.00 + £2 p&p UK or £3 p&p International.
Email the author: Gary Hicks
Over 1,800 vessels, registered in the Port of Plymouth prior to 1876 – transcripts of the registers giving details of construction or capture, launches and losses of the vessels and details of the people – builders, owners, masters and lenders, now available on CD.
The CD makes a large portion of the shipping registers of the Port of Plymouth more easily available to those interested in maritime history and to genealogists; it may also encourage a wider use of the registers by others, such as those interested in economic and social history.
The requirement to register vessels over 15 tons burthen, not used solely on inland navigation, was introduced in 1786. The original register books for the Port of Plymouth for 1786 to 1823 are lost and the copies forwarded to the Commissioners for Customs in London prior to 1814, did not survive the great Customs House fire of 12 February 1814. The CD therefore reproduces the surviving copies sent to London after 1814, from the National Archives (BT107/163 to 171) and the original register books for 1824 to 1876, at Plymouth & West Devon Record Office (894/1 to 894/12).
Because the index has been created by entering data sequentially from the registers, it has proved possible, where register entries were incomplete, unclear or only partially legible, to remedy this in most instances from subsequent re-registrations and subsequent research has completed the picture in many cases where the registers themselves are silent. The index provides sufficient information to allow the history of any particular vessel to be rapidly followed and, where there are several vessels of the same name, it will enable the correct vessel to be identified, even where only limited information may be available. Computer search tools enable research, even with minimal, flawed or conflicting information, to be pursued with every prospect of success.
The index will facilitate research into the history of vessels which remained on the Plymouth Register and also those which may have started or ended their working lives at other ports. Originally conceived to act as both a stand alone reference and as an Index to the records held by the Plymouth & West Devon Record Office, the Index is now presented on this CD as the means of access to the transcribed registers.
The computer’s ability to compress days of searching into minutes, or seconds, opens the way to information, the extraction of which, from the original material, would be too laborious to contemplate and it is hoped, that this in itself, will prompt further innovative use of the material. This was a possibility which heavily influenced the decision to transcribe the whole of the registers verbatim, rather than merely create a database, thus preserving the ability to follow any line of enquiry which it is possible in the originals.
For family historians the registers will open a fascinating window into the past; giving the rig, dimensions etc of the vessels which their ancestors built, owned or sailed and providing information such as year of build, official number, rig and date of loss, essential for further research.
All owners are shown, with their share holding; many are, of course, in trades associated with the sea; but the registers depict a share owning society; grocers, yeomen, farmers, miners, a silver refiner, widows and gentlemen, also owned shares. Many owners lived within the Three Towns (Plymouth, Devonport and Stonehouse) but all the communities along the banks of the Four Rivers (Lynher, Tamar, Tavy and Plym) and the nearby port of Looe, are very well represented, less frequently the inhabitants of inland market towns owned shares, while other owners reveal links to south Wales or the great ports of Liverpool and London. See the Port of Plymouth.
From the beginning of the period until 1854, master’s names and dates of appointment are given in the register and, for a shorter period, the register also names the builders, in all cases these have been transcribed where given in the original sources. In many instances the lack of a builder’s name has been supplemented from other contemporary, or more recent, sources.
A snapshot from certain sections of the CD