The Smugglers' City
Department of History, University of Bristol


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Report to Lord Burghley on Smuggling in the West Country, 1577

Source: Folio 182 transcribed by: Vanes, J. (ed.), Documents Illustrating the Overseas Trade of Bristol in the Sixteenth Century, (Bristol Record Society Publications, Vol. XXXI, Kendal, 1979), No. 23, pp. 43-4. Folio 183 transcribed by Evan Jones.
Manuscript: B.L. Lansdowne MS. 25, no. 88, fos 182-3

fo. 182

Instructions to your Honour of the practises and devises used and executed within the whole realme by the marchauntes to defraude her Majestie of prizage.

1. Item, that customablie and commonlie they doe bringe home in their shippes of wyne whoe is due to paye prisage, ix ton, ix ton pype or ix ton pipe hogshed, and noe more, as in the porte of Bristowe there aryved vj shipps and barkes in like manner since Michaellmas laste, 1577, and the yeare before x ships in the same order, as by the custome bookes it dothe appeare, and in suche sorte in all the weste partes, and the rest of their ladinge beinge wines suggested to be the goodes of Londoners, of marchauntes aliens or els of marchauntes free of the Fyve Portes which doe owe noe prizage, as they saye.

2. Item, one other fraude is used that when shipps be laden for places moste to her Majesties benefyte and comodytie they will in their waye homewardes touche in some porte or creke where they will breake bulke and there sett on lande ij or iij tonnes of wine and bringe a certificate to th' other places where her Majestie is beste aunswered that dueties is paid where indede yt is judged that she is of a more parte deceaved then of prisage, and of prisage moste certaine for that they will bringe noe certificate but from suche places as her Majestie is not paide halfe soe muche there as she ought to be in the place whereunto she is laden, as Exeter and Bristowe can well wittnes, by breakinge such bulkes in Cornewalle where her Majesties due is verye smale.

3. Item, another fraude to defeate prizage, a Englishe marchaunte and marchauntes will compacte with marchaunte strainger to deliver a ship of wynes in this realme at a price certaine which they pretendethe owethe noe prizage. And as sone as it is landid it is theires that compaked, as for example there arived in Bristowe at Februarye laste a shippe with lxxij tons of gascon wynes agreed for in Fraunce by a marchaunt of that cittie, beinge factor as well for others as for himselfe, whoe were perteners of the saide wynes assone as they were landid. Every marchaunt toke his share accordinge to his quantitie of wares that they sent into Fraunce to exchainge therfore and soe every man had accordinge to his porcion who neither did ne woulde aunswerre anye prisage.

4. Item, one deceipte more and verye greivous which is that an Englishe marchaunte will lade an Englishe shippe ix ton pype of wyne and bringe in the same shippe nere xxx tons more of straingers wyne and some times more. And nowe this last ventage came into Bristowe a ship of a marchauntes of this cittie laden with bastardes, but for himselfe ix ton pype and for a marchaunte strainger in the same ship laden above xxtie tons and consigned to that Englishe marchaunte and owner who reported in the custome house that he layed that platte before his ship departed from home that he shoulde aunswerre noe prizage at her retorne.

Marginal note: Kytchyn, a man of Bristoll to be sent for by process.

fo. 183 (Transcribed by Evan Jones)

For reformacon therof that yt woulde
please your honour with some ~
lawfull prevencons to provide . /

Viz: ./

1./ To the firste article that is her majesties perogative or your
honourable order in her highnes behalfe, may soe reache that
everye v. ton may yealde for prizage halfe a ton and soe
upwarde after the rate . /

2./ To the seconde that where they shall breake bulke in suche ~
sorte, that they be compelled to lande and sellar all their
ladeing there or els to paye the prisage where the moste parte
of the wynes shalbe dischardged, or in the place where unto
yt was ladid for: /

3./ To incounter with the thirde that is anye merchaunte shall be
compacte and sende a strangers ship accordinglie with his a
hinderaunce to the navie maye at the landinge of the wyne
pay prisage in as ample manner as thoughe they had laden then
in Frunce them selfe, who in truthe oughte to doe for that
they doe bargayne for the same and doe take order for the
ladinge of good wynes . / . /

To conclude if these deceipts be not prevented in time her majesties
prizage wilbe of verye smale value in shorte time soe as
The prizage will not aunswarre the fees goinge out of the
Office . / . /

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