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The Rise of an Early Modern Shipping Industry

The Rise of an Early Modern Shipping Industry: Whitby's Golden Fleet, 1600-1750

Volume: 14
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    The Rise of an Early Modern Shipping Industry
    Book Description:

    The ancient but isolated town of Whitby has made a huge contribution to the maritime history of Britain: Captain Cook learned sailing and navigation here; during the eighteenth century the town was a provider of an exceptionally large number of transport ships in wartime; and in the nineteenth century Whitby became a major whaling port. This book examines how it came to be such an important shipping centre. Drawing on extensive maritime records, the author shows that it was commercial entrepreneurship which brought about the growth of Whitby's shipping industry, first in the export of local alum and carrying coal to London, then in northern European trades, alongside its very successful ship-building industry. The book includes details from the financial accounts of voyages. These provide a fascinating insight into seafaring in the period with details of the hierarchical structure of crews, and of shipboard apprentices learning the trade. Overall, a very full picture emerges of every aspect of the shipping industry of this key port. ROSALIN BARKER is an Honorary Fellow in the History Department at the University of Hull, and was formerly a tutor in adult education at the universities of Cambridge, Leeds and Hull and the Open University.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-946-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vi-viii)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. ix-x)
    Professor Anthony Pollard

    Whitby is famous for St Hilda, Dracula and Captain Cook. Cook learnt his craft at Whitby. In 1747/8 he was one of no fewer than 1,256 apprentices, or as we might say today cadets, indentured with masters in the town. It was here he learnt navigation and it was here he learnt the importance of the Whitby diet of fresh vegetables, especially the wild plants growing on the cliffs to north and south containing vitamin C to ward off scurvy. Whitby in the eighteenth century was the nursery of English seamanship.

    What has not been fully understood until the publication...

  5. Preface and Acknowledgements
    (pp. xi-xiii)
  6. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xiv-xiv)
  7. [Plates]
    (pp. None)
  8. Part 1: 1600–1689

    • Introduction: A Small Port in Yorkshire
      (pp. 3-17)

      There has been no case study hitherto of the merchant fleet of a single port over a long period of growth and stability in the early modern age. This book considers the constituent parts of such a fleet between 1600 and 1750, and the capitalisation, profitability and risk inherent in such an enterprise. It also examines the changes in the infrastructure of the port, and the effects of this industry on the community that financed, built, repaired, owned, manned and supported it.

      Since Ralph Davis’s The Rise of the English Shipping Industry in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries was published...

    • 1 Foundations
      (pp. 18-33)

      There was already a vill, or settlement, and a port at Whitby in 1078, when William de Percy granted land for the foundation of a Benedictine abbey, dedicated to St Hilda, on the ruined site of an abbey that had flourished from the seventh to the ninth century.¹ The refounded abbey prospered and the abbots became entitled to wear a mitre, a coveted status. (In 1225, Abbot Roger de Scarborough was a witness to the major reissue of Magna Charta.) The land held by the abbey was very early elevated to the status of a Liberty. That privilege gave the...

    • 2 The Early Seventeenth Century
      (pp. 34-49)

      It is clear that the first two decades of the seventeenth century saw the start of a new economic phase in Whitby, together with the demographic change necessarily accompanying it. It was in the next forty years that, despite all the vicissitudes of a period that was very hard for much of the whole country, Whitby managed to progress, to make political and economic decisions, and to increase the size of both population and fleet, and its consequent prosperity. During those years there was both foreign and civil war, in the second of which the Cholmleys were heavily embroiled, as...

    • 3 Upheaval
      (pp. 50-57)

      At the start of the Civil War, in 1642, Whitby was a Royalist port which served the Royalist general, the Earl of Newcastle, until his departure from Scarborough, and Whitby’s capture by Lord Fairfax and Sir William Constable. Of the period between 1641 and 1650, with its brief glimpse of the development of factoring by the masters of colliers, there is little information from the systematic record of community or port. As in so many parishes, the parish register is deficient until the election of a Civil ‘Register’, William Jones, in 1653. The Port Books are once again scrappy, as...

    • 4 Stabilisation and Confidence
      (pp. 58-81)

      The thirty years following the end of the Commonwealth and the restoration of the monarchy are the years in which Whitby at last became established as a major port on the east coast. Sufficient evidence survives from different sources to make this apparent.

      After the restoration of Charles II in 1660 a much clearer picture emerges of the consolidation of Whitby’s fleet, and the effect of that development on the community. Parish registers from this time have survived almost without a break, and it is much easier to observe the demographic patterns and to see how the growth of the...

    • 5 Overview of the Seventeenth Century
      (pp. 82-98)

      During the first ninety years of the seventeenth century Whitby had established itself as a thriving port and town. It had weathered the catastrophe of the dissolution of the monasteries, and had found and exploited a new source of wealth in the alum industry. Within that industry its inhabitants had either learned new skills or recalled to mind skills existing only in the collective memory of the older residents. They had seen further opportunities tangential to the alum industry, and from them in turn had discovered a talent for networking which gave an impetus to the development of a fleet...

  9. Part 2: 1690–1750

    • 6 The Established Port
      (pp. 101-127)

      Whitby and its fleet grew and thrived during the wars against France and Holland, the Civil War and the so-called ‘glorious revolution’. The accession of William and Mary led not to peace but to involvement in the grand alliance with Austria, the Netherlands and Spain against the invasion of the Palatinates by Louis XIV of France, and thus to the war known in England as King William’s War, which in itself led at the start of the next century into the War of the Spanish Succession. Little is known about Whitby’s direct involvement in these new external upheavals except that...

    • 7 ‘They That Go Down to the Sea in Ships’
      (pp. 128-151)

      Between the voyage book of Judith, 1677–81, and the Seamen’s Sixpence muster rolls beginning in 1747, a picture of the men who manned the growing fleet, of their conditions of service, training and career structure and welfare, begins to emerge. Crews were listed, masters named, and ‘posts on board’ indicated within some of the surviving voyage books, as were the wages paid, usually by the month.

      The ‘Sixpence’, payable for each month or part of a month at sea for each seaman on board an English merchant ship, was intended for the upkeep of Greenwich Hospital for incapacitated naval...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 152-158)

    The shipping industry is unlike any other, in that it takes place largely in a very unstable element, far from the land in which its financial investors are based. Like agriculture and horticulture, it is dependent on the weather, but even those ancient means of earning a livelihood are rooted in the land. Mining, as distinct from quarrying, takes place below the surface of the land, and is in its own way an industry whose workforce labours beyond the element on which most of us live. Yet even that is closely linked by geography to the source of capital.


  11. Appendix 1: The Size of the Fleet
    (pp. 159-164)
  12. Appendix 2: Pressgang Instructions
    (pp. 165-167)
  13. Appendix 3: The Naming of Ships
    (pp. 168-170)
  14. Appendix 4: The Burnett Papers
    (pp. 171-171)
  15. Glossary and Definitions
    (pp. 172-176)
  16. Selected Bibliography and further reading
    (pp. 177-184)
  17. Index
    (pp. 185-189)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 190-191)