The Smugglers' City
Department of History, University of Bristol


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Bristol Petition that Gloucester cease to be an Independent Port, 25 May, 1584

Source: Transcribed by Evan Jones (2001)
Manuscript: B.L. Harleian MS. 368/106

fo. 106r

Bristowe is scytuated in an Angle betweene the counties of Somerset
and Gloucester, maynteyned onlie by the trade of merchandizes and
makinge and ventinge of collored clothes for the sea made in
Bristowe and in Somersetsheire wherewith manye thousands
of handy croftesmen have ben set awoorke and maynteyned, And
they have also greate store of ledde oute of Somersetsheire
with which therie trade of marchaundizes they have alwaies
sufficientlie served as well all the countries adjoyninge to
the sayde cytie as also all townes and countries
lyenge uppon and nere aboute the Ryver of Severne and the
creeks of the same as farre inwarde toward the lande
as to the towne of Shresburye.

There is belonging to Bristow betwene Somerset and
Gloucester sheires a sufficiente porte for shippes of all
bourdens, to ryde and fleete in/ wherein hathe byne
builded and maynteyned from tyme to tyme as manie greate
serviceable shippes as in anye poorte in this her majesties
dominion (London excepted,) And therehathe byn broughte
and trayned upp as manie skylfull maryners as to suche
shippinge shoulde belonge and more which serve in dyverse
other places.

There have byne belonginge to the sayde cytie and poorte of
Bristowe tymme oute of mynde (as the records of the
exchequire do prove and shewe, and for thadvoydinge of
dyversytie of accomptes) so confirmed) all the creeks uppon
the rever of Severne inwards towards the lande as Barkely
Gatcombe Neweman, Gloucester, Tewkesburye, and all
other the creeks and pills extendine as farre upwardes
as Wigorn [Warwick] and by and thoroughe which creeke the sayde cytie
had there chefest vente for all manner of forren merchandizes
as farr as Shrewsburyie, And from the same creeks also
the sayde cytie and cytizens have had there chefeste provision
of Grayne and other victualls/

fo. 106v

Out of the which cytie by reason of theire trades porte
and creekes, the Queenes majestie receavethe yerelie
for fee farme fiftenes, customes subsedies impostes
and other duties great somes of money; And the
shippes of the sayde cytie verye often imployed in her
highnes service for Irelande and other places to therie
greate charges ./

But so yt is righte honorable that all the sayde creeks
(uppon an untrewe suggestion) byn by her majesties lettres
patente of late taken from the sayde cytie and porte
of Bristowe and are become a poorte of them selves to the
imynente ruyn of the sayde cytie, impoverishing of the
sayde Artyficers, decaye of the shippinge and mariners,
henderaunce of the Quenes majesties customes duties &
proffitts, brynginge and raysinge of dearthe & scarsetye,
encouraginge and encreasinge of pirotts and other greate
inconveyniances ./

The parliamente house Anno 34 Henry 8: was enformed
and well understood howe grayne was conveighed over the
seas by the small Barkes of the ryver of severn and the
Rode for shippes greatlie hurte by castinge oute Balleste
and takinge in of corne which came oute of the creeks, And
therfore for the Better searche and restraynte appoynted the
same to be broughte and measured at Bristow before yt
shoulde be transported /

Gloucester is no place for trade of merchadize because they have
no Laufull warres meete to be transported nor shippes
servisable or defencible to transporte and retorne merchandizes
yf they had any :/

fo. 107r

Gloucester standeth uppon other good trades and concourse of
people whereby they have ben well maynteyned, But yf they
adventure any thinge to the sea the same is in smale Barks
with corne and prohibyted warres where with they make more
profitable retornes, then Bristow wythe theire great shipping
and Laufull wares canne doe.

Glocester standeth betwene Bristow and Wigor [Worcester] Warwick Coventrie
and Shrewesberie and all other places up Severn where
the merchants of Bristow did usuallie make theire
vente of suche comodyties as they bringe from beyonde seas
But yf the same continewe a poorte they do not onlie
serve them selves but also those other countries and townes
aboute them and so the trade of Bristoll and theire greate
shippes (when the vente of theire comodyties is taken from
them) muste consequentlye decaye /

The more ladinge and discharginge places the greater
concealmente and stelthe of hir majestes customes and
conveyinge awaie of prohibyted warres in smale Barks.
and therfore was yt provided for in the statute and decree
videlit, that nothinge shoulde be Laden or discharged
within Severn but onlie at Bristowe and certayne small
places wherof the officers of Bristoll had speciall
chardge as by the same more at lardge dothe appere.

The chefeste place of ladinge and dischardinge
for Glouc is at a place called Gatcombe which is xvitie
myles downwardes the sea before the officers of Glouc
and within lytle as nere to the poorte of Bristowe which
is Betwene them and the sea/ And that hathe not depthe
of water but for a shippe of fiftie tonnes which cannot
come thither laden but at high springe tydes in fayre
weyther with a good pylott, And cannot continewe there any yeres
without spoyle and ruyn, and no officer dwellinge

fo. 107v.

neigher than Glouc nether is it anie towne or popelous
village to descrie or understand how hir majestie
is deceaved and the countrie spoyled of grayne /

It is more conveniente that the creeks upp Severne
do belonge to the porte of Bristow and to be under
theire controlmente, then to Glouc or to be a porte
of themselves because Bristoll standeth in neede
of the grayne and victualls which Gloucester and the
countries uppon Severne do abounde and can spare ./

When the Deputies of Glouc delyvered theire
Bookes to thofficers of Bristow, they were then able
to fynde therie orfenders and to reforme them, mete
wythe them, and staye therie passage, which nowe they
cannot doe ./

The Barkes upp Severne be so smale that they paye
no tonage to the peere [pier] of Dover accordinge to the
statutes as appearethe by theire books And there
owners be corne merchants and fermers, and theire smale
Barkes will slippe awaye corne and goods at everie meane
tyde and so maye deceave as muche as they will: yf the
officer of Bristowe have not authorytie to meate
and searche them ./

The cytie of Bristow which in tyme past hadd the moste
parte of there grayne from upp Severne have not hadd
within three yeres after the erection of the custome house
at Gloucester/ ten quarters of wheate from theire, and
have ben restrayned of grayne to come to Bristoll, so as
when they have occasion thay muste nowe travell to
Gloucester for a cocket and there put in suertis

fo. 108r.

And yf they obteyne yt, the same is not without greate deficultie
whiche is a greate over throwe and charge to the sayde cytie
of Bristow.

Irishe men also with theire barks have found a directe trade
to Glouc and all to shippe awaye corne and soe wee lose
the benifyte of theire commodyties and the utteringe of our
owne, an other great decaie to us ./

The Seviceable shippes of Bristoll have and muste serve
her majestie uppon all occasions to theire great hinderaunce
and chardges, and in the meane tyme the same barkes of
Severne are free to spoyle the countrie of grayne
and victualls for they are oute of the controllmente
of Bristoll which do lacke the same corne and grayne /

when the creeks of Severne belonged to Bristow, then
corne grayne and victualls came from theire by cocket
from Bristol ordinarylie taken out by the trowmen upp
Severne and then was her majestie for the victualinge
of Ireland and for other services redely and well provided
at Bristoll, but nowe her charges upp Severne to
provide to gather the same is great, As by the book
of the purveiors for that servicie appeareth and greate
exactions been at Gloucester for cockets and other fees
for where before the charge of a cocket and certyficate
was but iis viiid yt is nowes vs iiiid besydes there /
And the countrie upp Severne wilbe as well in everie respecte
cased by a deptuatcion at Glourcester as by the custome
house and for lesse charges by iis viiid in a cocket
of which exaction the trowmen up severne have often
complayned and exhibyted supplicacons to the mayor of


The trade and shippinge of Bristowe is alreadie so decayed
by reason of the premises that they have donne awaye
and must do awaye theire greate shippinge and have
offered the same to be solde to theire great losse for althoughe
the greate shippes be more worthier and serviceable, yet
are the smale sorte more profytable for the merchaunts
and better chepe to be fraighted and will turne and
wynde in narrow places sre./

In tender consideracon wherof and for as much as the
erectinge of the newe porte dothe and is lyke to decaye
the sayde cytie of Bristoll and stope the vente of our
Englishe lawfull merchandizes decrease and deminishe
the greate shipping of Bristowe, and the marryners
to them belongine stope and chooke the vente and
utterance which the sayde cytie hathe hadd upp Severne
with theire forren merchndizes deminishe her highnes
customes and proffits, And rayse a dearthe and
scarsytie in that common wealthe and of thother scarse
no proffyt or benifyte comporable to the laste of theise,
Maye yt please your honnors of your acustomed
regard in souch urgent distresses to be a meane
to her majestie that the sayde letters patent may be repealed
and the sayde cytie and porte of Bristowe restored
to there ancyante state, For in the begininge
of these decayes wee thinke yt not our parte to be

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