Humber Pilots

Scope and Content

A collection of 59 volumes from the Humber Pilots including cash books, collection books day books, docking order fees, journals, ledgers ,and minute books. Amongst the records of the Humber Pilots collection there are volumes of the following bodies: Humber Conservancy Board, Humber Pilotage Commissioners and Humber Pilots Steam Cutter Company Ltd.

Administrative / Biographical History

The principle of ships being brought into the Humber by pilots was established during the 16th century. Formal pilotage began in 1512 when Hull Trinity House was requested to provide mariners to bring ships into and out of the port of Hull. Pilotage for foreign vessels became compulsory after the visit of King Henry VIII to the town in 1541. A charter of 1581 formalised Hull Trinity House's jurisdiction over the coast, giving them authority to examine and issue a licence to mariners of the port to take charge of a vessel sailing from Hull across the sea, or north of Flamborough Head, or south of Winterton Ness.

In 1800 The Humber Pilot Bill was passed, giving Hull Trinity House the authority to licence pilots, and 21 commissioners were created. Certificates were to be carried by pilots and shown to ship's masters on demand. A joint stock company was created to divide earnings and a tonnage tax of 1/2d per ton levied on all ships to pay for the passing of the Act. A list of all pilots was to be maintained, printed and distributed. In August, the Commissioner's Bye-Laws were passed. There were to be 30 pilots, 6 boats and 1 apprentice bound to the master of each of the boats, all to be paid for out of the joint stock - the boats did not belong to the pilots. The number of pilots fluctuated during the 19th century - by the 1890s there were 70 pilots. The new Pilot and Ballast Office on Queen Street in Hull was opened in 1821.

In 1832 the Humber Pilotage Act was passed. Amongst other things, this Act allowed for the accommodation of the trade of the Port of Goole. A separate pilotage service was started, to bring ships into and out of Goole from Hull Roads. The Merchant Shipping Act of 1854 defined a pilot, required log books to be kept and set out issues of liability of pilots. In 1892 the first Humber Conservancy Act was passed for the more effectual conservancy of the river, and in 1868 the second Humber Conservancy Act incorporated the Conservancy Commissioners. Following legal disputes between the pilots and the commissioners, new orders, rules and bye-laws were passed by the Humber Pilotage Commissioners in 1890. In 1894 The Humber Pilot's Steam Cutter Company (HPSCCo) was incorporated on 1894. The old cutters belonging to the Commissioners needed replacing, but the Commissioners had no power to do so. A prospectus was issued to every working pilot giving the opportunity of investing £100 and becoming a shareholder in two new steam cutters, built in 1894 and 1899.

In 1907 The sixth Humber Conservancy Act dissolved the Commissioners of Pilotage and incorporated the Humber Conservancy Board (HCB). In 1968 Pilotage Authorities for the Humber were again transferred as the nationalised British Transport Docks Board replaced the Humber Conservancy Board under the Humber Harbour Reorganisation Scheme 1966. In 1984, the Pilotage Act transferred pilotage organisation to the ports around the UK. Associated British Ports (ABP) became the Competent Harbour Authority for the rivers Humber, Trent and Ouse and was given the power to authorise pilots, issue pilotage directions and raise charges for pilotage. Spurn Pilots Limited (SPL), a co-operative of self-employed pilots, was created when the Humber, Trent and Goole services amalgamated. In 1999 this was renamed Humber Pilots Ltd (HPL). In 2002 ABP terminated the authorisations of all Humber Pilots and employed their own pilots directly. This brought to an end the history of continuous self-employed pilotage on the Humber which began in 1512.

There is a much more detailed history of pilotage on the Humber, compiled by John Simpson, at:


U DPI/1 Pilotage Day Books

U DPI/2 Pilotage Day Books - inward

U DPI/3 Pilotage Day Books - outward

U DPI/4 Pilotage Day Books - Goole

U DPI/5 Pilotage Day Books - Grimsby

U DPI/6 Pilotage Day Books - Immingham

U DPI/7 Pilotage Cash Books (Humber Conservancy Board)

U DPI/8 Cash Books (Steam Cutter Company Ltd)

U DPI/9 Cash Books - Grimsby

U DPI/10 Cash Books - Immingham

U DPI/11 Collection Books

U DPI/12 Docking Order Fees

U DPI/13 Pilotage Dues

U DPI/14 Journals

U DPI/15 Ledgers

U DPI/16 Minutes (Humber Conservancy Board)

U DPI/17 Victualling Committee Cash Books

Access Information

Access will be granted to any accredited reader

Custodial History

Records deposited by Captain John Simpson, 2001

Related Material

Records of the Humber Ports of the British Transport Docks Board, later Associated British Ports [C DPD]

Records of Trinity House [U DTR]

Correspondence of Sir Patrick Wall with the Humber Pilots Society concerning government policy towards pilotage in the 1980s forms four files, with associated background papers [U DPW/3/113-116]

Other repositories:

The main archive of Trinity House, still at Trinity House