Records of Hull Trinity House

Scope and Content

This collection of documents largely comprises contemporary copies of the accounts and muster rolls for the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Most of the records of Trinity House Hull are held by the house itself.

The archive in greater detail is as follows: accounts and vouchers (1714-1907) including disbursements of the seaman's fund (1748-1774), some buoyage and building accounts, warden's vouchers (1714-1843) and primages (1730-1835); the minutes books (1820-1860), account book (1845-1872) and letter books (1837-1872) of the garrison ground committee; muster rolls (1746-1834).

The volumes in the archive contain material from committees, largely of the nineteenth century, formed to deal with legislation on pilotage, lighthouses, foreign trade, merchant shipping and other matters of direct relevance to the continuing privileges and responsibilities of the house and further volumes of bills and acts of parliament accompany the committee volumes. Included are the 1836 Bill for Regulating Hull Trinity House and the 1869 Merchant Shipping and Navigation Bill. Bills and acts for Hull cover a wide range of things from public health and lighting to several Hull Corporation Acts and enclosure acts. However, bills and acts collected for other places such as London and Boston represent types of waterway legislation. Volumes of miscellaneous material include all kinds of material from the late seventeenth century onwards related to the Humber foreshore and there is an 1881 volume of material on lights and the prevention of collisions. There is also an 1842 catalogue of books for Kingston College and meteorological logbooks of the late nineteenth century for the Killingholme High lighthouse and the Salt End lighthouses.

Miscellanous material in the archive includes the 1661 charter of confirmation of Charles II and the 1836 charter of confirmation of William IV. There is also an 1862 plan of the River Humber and the Hull daily shipping lists for 1826-30.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Trinity House began life in about 1369 as a religious guild of fifty five men and women who paid an annual subscription for the provision of candles and masses at Holy Trinity church. Elections were held in the church and members attended one another's funerals and supported one another in sickness. By the end of the fourteenth century the guild had over 250 members and they included shipmen, priests and other skilled tradesmen such as goldsmiths (Pevsner & Neave, York and the East Riding, p. 529; Allison, Victoria county history of Yorkshire, pp. 398-9; Brooks, The first order book, p. iii).

In the 1450s the guild changed shape when twenty four shipmasters decided to fund a perpetual chantry in Holy Trinity church, deploying their 'lowage and stowage' (cargo-handling) fees for the purpose (by the late sixteenth century this was called primage). They then went one step further, agreeing to found an almshouse for mariners brought to poverty by 'infortune of the seas' and this was accompanied by the decision to build a chapel. By this means the religious guild turned into a craft guild with a location separate from its original church and accounts have continuously been kept since 1461. By 1472 a timber-framed and tiled guildhall, almshouses and chapel were built on land leased from the Carmelites between Whitefriargate and Posterngate in Hull and by the late sixteenth century all guild members were shipmen (Pevsner & Neave, York and the East Riding, p. 529; Allison, Victoria county history of Yorkshire, p. 398; Brooks, The first order book, p. iv).

The guild was not one of seamen, but of master mariners who could navigate a ship. In 1541 Henry VIII confirmed the guild by charter, with a named twelve elder brethren, all other members being younger brethren. The guild also officially maintained a quasi-religious function with some catholic ceremonial. This was swept away by an Elizabethan charter of 1581, which formalised the protestantism of the brethren and Hull Trinity House's jurisdiction over the coast from the Tees in the north to Winterton Ness in the south. Separately-incorporated Trinity House guilds in London, Bristol and Newcastle made this imperative (Allison, Victoria county history of Yorkshire, pp. 398-8; Brooks, The first order book, pp. v, x).

The 1581 charter remained the basis of the organisation until the nineteenth century and led to an increase of the records of the house, kept by two wardens and six assistants. During the seventeenth century the house increased its control over Humber shipping, with a house officer being harbour master and with the laying and maintenance of buoys and lights becoming a regular area of house activity. A yacht was acquired in 1783 to facilitate such maintenance. It exerted control over seaman's wages and disputes between ship owners and masters (sometimes in conflict with the admiralty courts and the council of the north). In the early nineteenth century the house played a part in setting up the lifeboat at Spurn Point and had considerable control over the docking of boats at Hull (Allison, Victoria county history of Yorkshire, pp. 400-2; Brooks, The first order book, pp. vi, x).

The jurisdiction and privileges of Trinity House over navigation and pilotage loosened in the nineteenth century in the face of local criticism and parliamentary repeal of navigation acts. The Humber Conservancy Act of 1852 removed its control over Humber Shipping. However, the guild had started as a religious guild with charitable activities attached and it has maintained a place for itself as a charitable organisation with religious overtones. It is still a major landowner and maintains almshouses and a school set up in 1785. The latter originally catered to 36 boys, who wore distinctive blue dress coats with brass buttons, and who went on to be apprenticed to a shipmaster. An adult school in the evening taught navigation. The almshouses originally catered to guild members and their widows, and hospitals tended to their medical needs. However, in 1742 the Merchant Seaman's Act authorised a levy of 6 pence on all seamen's wages to establish a fund to support widows and dependant children and Trinity House was given the responsibility of keeping the muster rolls and administering the accommodation, medical welfare and pensions. The archive held by Hull University Archives throws most light on this charitable activity (Allison, Victoria county history of Yorkshire, pp. 400 ff; Brooks, The first order book, pp. xx ff).


U DTR/1 Accounts and Vouchers, 1714 - 1907

U DTR/2 Garrison Ground Committee, 1820 - 1872

U DTR/3 Rough Muster Rolls, 1746 - 1834

U DTR/4 Volumes, 1697 - 1906

U DTR/5 Miscellaneous, 1661 - 1900

Access Information

Access will be granted to any accredited reader

Conditions Governing Use

Hull Trinity House

Custodial History

Deposited by the Wardens of Hull Trinity House, circa 1974

Related Material

Fair copies of Trinity House Muster Rolls, 1747 - 1851, C DSTR

Other repositories:

Main Trinity House archive still held at Hull Trinity House


  • Allison, K J, Victoria county history of Yorkshire: East Riding, i (1969)
  • Brooks, F W, The first order book of the Hull Trinity House 1632-1665, Yorkshire Archaeological Society Record Series vol. cv (1942)
  • Pevsner, N & Neave, D, The buildings of England: York and the East Riding (1995)
  • Storey, A, Hull Trinity House history of pilotage and navigational aids of the River Humber (1971)