THE COST OF THE BOARD OF CUSTOMS ESTABLISHMENT

ID: 24093
£1500.00
Customs establishment for summer quarter ending the 5th of July 1769.

MANUSCRIPT: BOARD OF CUSTOMS,, Customs establishment for summer quarter ending the 5th of July 1769. [And] Customs establishment for Michaelmas quarter ending the 10th October 1769.

Two vols., large folio (48 x 30 cms), 74 + (4) and 74 + (2) pages written up in ink in a neat contemporary clerical hand, all on rectos, all versos and additional unused leaves also ruled in red ink ledger style, bound in uniform contemporary vellum panelled in gilt with the large gilt arms of the Custom House, London, on each cover, all edges gilt. In fine crisp state of preservation.

Two extremely rare consecutive original ledgers recording in the greatest detail the complete establishment of the Customs in England and Wales for a six month period in 1769. A search for holdings of these manuscripts confirms that there is a complete set of all 607 volumes of the establishment lists of the Board of Customs, 1671 to 1909, covering the period 1675 - 1813, at the Public Record Office, Kew. There appear to be other copies only at Cambridge University Library (ref. ADD 5224-81), which has a substantial run covering the period from 1763 to 1829. The British Library also holds establishment lists for 1762-63 and Sheffield archives those for 1765-66. None is held by the Guildhall Library nor by the London Metropolitan Archives. Although these two volumes only cover the six month period from April to October 1769, they provide an extraordinarily detailed portrait of one of the key departments of government in mid-18th century Britain. They show a massively expensive civil service department headed by 9 Commissioners, each on a basic salary of 1000 p.a. (one of whom was Corbyn Morris, d. 1779). Each of the members of staff is named and each salary or other remuneration is recorded with the relevant job title. And so in London alone the cost of the vast establishment of commissioners, receivers, comptrollers, clerks, inspectors, examiners, surveyors, warehousekeepers, doorkeepers, messengers, land carriage men, coastwaiters, watermen, watchmen, noontenders, weighing porters, landwaiters, tidesurveyors, preventive officers, tidesmen, searchers and so on, amounted to a massive 17,485 for this half year alone. Although the port of London saw something like 75% of all British import trade, there were, of course, numerous other ports of entry, each with its own Customs' staff. These establishment accounts actually list 71 such ports, many of them remaining recognisable ports today, but others now of little more than historical curiosity (for example, Arundell, Aldeburgh, Chepstow, Faversham, Ilfracombe, Minehead, Maldon, Penryn, Preston, Southwold, Woodbridge and Wisbech). The Harwich team cost a little over 234 for three months. Of this the Collector, Griffith Davies, was paid 30, the Inspector of the Waterguard, 15, and the Tidesurveyor also 15. A waiter and searcher operating at Manningtree cost 10. The biggest expense was for the crew of the Customs' smack, the commander, one Cyprian Bridge, getting 50 per annum, with the 14-man crew costing approaching 430 for a whole year, a figure that included food.