The Smugglers' City
Department of History, University of Bristol


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Customs Frauds in Kingroad and the River Severn, 1588

Source: 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. 31, pp. 49-50.
B.L. Lansdowne MS. 55, no. 25, fo. 79.

p. 49

After the shipps hath taken in at the Key and Hungrode lawfull
merchandice, then the shipps goes into Kingrode and thear rides to
take in victuell and prohibited merchandice which comes to them owt
of Wales or Glocester in woodbusshis or trowes a tide or two before
they make saile when thease victuell and merchandice is aborde the
shipps, woodbushis or trowes, then they ar so provided with unlawfull
weapons as bills, javelins, bowes, arroes, gones and desperate hired
cutters owt of Wales which will use most dishonest speechis, so that no
officer shall enter aborde them, but such as they ar sure of and divers
shipps doth take in their ladinge in Kingrode because they will stoe
their victuell and prohibited merchandice in such manner that no
officer shall finde the same without unromyginge of all the goods in the
shipp which is a great chardge and trouble to do in that wilde rode.

If the honors of the shipps in Kingrode or company aborde them do
suspect the commynge of any officers abord when thease victuell and
prohibited merchandice ar abord when they ride in Kingrode, then
theie will by shyppinge of an ancker fall into the Wellsh rode which is
adjoyninge to Kingrode and, beinge in the Welsh rode they are in my
Lord of Worcesters lybertie and thearfore owt of controllment of the
officers of Bristoll.

If the merchantes cannot perceave it for their best to torne to thease
shiftes aforesaid, then theie will appoint the woodbusshes and trowes
to meete them when they are under saile with thease victuell and
unlawfull merchandice and so come to them with desperate weapons
and hired cutters by the cullor of a cockett or warrant made in a
shumakers or a bakers name which never was acquainted thearwith,
which is made by some of the officers aforesaid to pas to some other
porte or creeke there unto adjoyninge which hath not use for the same
victuell and merchandice and thease cocketes the officers doth not use
to chardge their custome bookes with, wheras they ought to sett downe
the whole quantety and quallity in the custome booke at the makinge
of the cockett and thease officers do not deliver their bookes into the
Exchquier but to the Auditor of that cockett.

If they cannot shifte uppon the above wrytten, after theie have taken
in lawfull merchandice here, then they will saile to Pennarte, Barrey,
Abberthaw, Myneheade or some other creeke in Seaverne and thear
ride to take in victuell and prohibited merchandice for their is no
ladinge for them. So long as thease matches may bee made in Seaverne
wee shall have verie littell of the comodities which thease countries do
yeelde brought to markettes or faires which causeth the corse of the
inhabitance generall of the countries adjoyninge uppon Seaverne.

If the merchantes suspect that their indirecte dealings wilbe called in
question by way of informacion, then theie will procure some freinde
of theirs with all speede to informe against them, wherby they prevent
all others.

And to avoide themsellves from the bands and payeng of Dover

p. 50

pence they will enter their shipps and merchandice for Garnesey or
some other porte within this lande.

Divers seasures ar made heare by the officers and her Majestie hath
not her part therof. If the last orders were directly observid then this
abuese would be taken awaye.

When we charge the masters, pursers and boatswaines at their
retorne for not observinge the Statute of Primo of her Majestie and the
orders of the Exchequir which doth concerne them, then the master
doth objecte that they comes not abord till the shipp is ready to make
saile in Kingrode, and the pursers and boateswaines then doth aleidge
that it is to muche for them to rone owte of Kingrode where they take
in ladinge, when the shipp is already to make saile and deliver in a bill
of that ladinge as they ought to do before they departe, and for us to
followe them by informacion it is to much to our chardges and
spendinge of tyme.

fo. 25vThe writer then describes the refusal of the master and merchants
lading the ship Jonas for La Rochelle in January, 1588, to comply with
the regulations. The deputy of the customs farmer, however, gave
them his warrant so that they were able to sail, but Thomas Parry with
his licence to search for butter unlawfully laden found 31 kinderkins
on the ship before she could clear the port. The deputy is also accused
of keeping the money taken in bonds for the return to port of all
ordnance shipped.

In thease respectes the lyeng of the rodes and their ladinge of victuell
and prohibited merchandice theare and the portes and nomber of
creekes which ar thear unto adjoyninge within the reache of one tyde
which yeelde nothinge ellse but victuell and prohibited merchandice,
and for that they have fower howers more heare to lade and to take the
advantage of the springe tydes and suddant falling of the tydes for their
lading then they have at any other porte and that there ladinges is
much in the night tydes when the officers ar not able to take viewe of
their ladinge and when theie have laden it is to great a trouble and
chardge for the officers to goe with a boate and fower men to roe them
uppon everie such occasion into the wilde rode, which is sixe miles
from the Key, and theare to unrommydge their shipps which ar
allmost laden and specially when theie ar neere ready to make saile, till
that tyme they will defer their takinge in of victuell and prohibited
merchandice. The due execucion of the band will prevent all their
former abuses.

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