Maister Day Book

Scope and Content

Day book recording the sale and purchase of items by the Maister family

Administrative / Biographical History

The history of the Maister family is recorded in detail under DAS/26, where there is a collection of family papers contained amongst the papers of the Alec-Smith family. The Maisters arrived in Hull from Kent in the sixteenth century and had established themselves as Hull's leading trading family by the seventeenth century when the port was the major English entrepot for trade with Scandinavia and the Baltic. Between 1650 and 1750 the Maisters specialised in importing timber and iron and their day book records over a decade of this activity. They were the only Hull trading family comparable with the Baltic merchants of London and throughout this century one member of the family was stationed in Stockholm or Gottenburg. The day book indicates that between 1714 and 1725 much of the iron imported was coming from Gottenburg. The day book belonged to the generation of Henry Maister (1699-1744) and his brothers, one of whom, Nathaniel (1703-1742) was especially active in the business and his hand figures throughout the book. They operated from the residence and counting house at 160 High Street in Hull. This building was lost to a fire, along with family papers, plate and pictures, in 1743. The severe burning of one corner of the day book would suggest that it survived this inferno; very sadly, Mary, the wife of Henry Maister, one of their infant children and two maid servants did not.

The Maister day book tells us much about the organization of trade in the eighteenth century. The Maisters acted as agents for others and used factors abroad, exporting grain and importing iron, in particular, making their business a way station for others. This is clear from entries in the day book such as the one that follows:

'Shipt on board ye Baltick mercht Richd Johnson Mr for Konigsberg 2 Packs seed from Mr Wm Rooke for acct of Mr Philip Nisbett Mercht in London & by his order consigned to Messrs Booth & Barnardiston Mercht at Konigsberg'.

The book has been burnt in one corner, but it has been well repaired and very legible with most of every page complete. It has been described by Gordon Jackson as the single most important source for the history of early eighteenth-century mercantile Hull (Jackson, Hull in the eighteenth century, p.436; Dyson, 'A little help can go a long way', p.4).

Access Information

Access will be granted to any accredited reader

Custodial History

Purchased from Miss E. Bocking of Norwich between November 1949 and October 1951

Related Material

Papers of the Maister family [U DAS/26]

Ingram Collection: Papers relating to the Maister family of Hull [Ref C DMI]

See also U DSJ/107; U DDBA(2)/10/53; U DDCV/19/9; U DDCV/123/9-10, 36-40; U DDCV2/62/23-4; U DDEV/9/220; U DDGE/3/250; U DDGE2/1/35, 149; U DDHO/4/19, 21-24; U DDLG/2/20-32; U DDSY/101/68; U DDSY3/5/1; U DDSY3/8/1


  • Calvert, Hugh, A history of Kingston upon Hull (1978)
  • Dyson, Brian, 'A little help can go a long way', Library Conservation News, 40 (1993)
  • Ingram, M. Edward, The Maisters of Kingston upon Hull : portrait of a merchant family (1983)
  • Jackson, Gordon, Hull in the eighteenth century: a study in economic and social history (1972)
  • Rowley, Jennifer, 'The house of Maister', Hedon Local History Series, 6 (1982)
  • Wildridge, T. T., 'The Maisters' in Old and new Hull (1889)