The Petition of Lowestoft fishermen 1670

From History of Lowestoft by E. Gillingwater, 1897

Transcribed by Lisa Eade

From History of Lowestoft by E. Gillingwater, 1897

Spelling and punctuation as in the original

Pages 46 - 48

Upon enquiry into the state of the herring fishery .... it was found that the fishery at Lowestoft, and also at the adjoining towns, was greatly on the decline, occasioned partly by the disputes with Yarmouth, by the civil war in the reign of Charles I, the great fire at Lowestoft in 1644, and the war the nation was then engaged with the Dutch.

In consequences of these distresses, the town of Lowestoft and the neighbouring towns of Pakefield and Kirkley, presented a petition to both Houses of Parliament, requesting their lordships to take the unfortunate state of these towns into consideration, and to grant them relief; and particularly with respect to enforcing the old statutes relative to the consumption of fish in this Kingdom, and also by adding such new ones for that purpose as their lordships might think necessary.

"To the right honourable, the lords and commons in the high courts of Parliament now assembled.

"The humble petition of the fishing adventurers and fishermen of the townes of Lowestoft, Pakefield, and Kirtlye, in the countye of Suffolk.
"Humbly sheweth.
"That your petitioners have ever chieflye subsisted by the fishing trade, in catching lingg, codds, and herrings, the staple fish of this Kingdom; and have, before the unhappye difference fell in this Kingdom, (the civil wars of Charles I) uttered and soulde greate quantitye of the said fish, which tendered to the welfare and mainteyneing of these townes, in regard of the sale they found for the same (but nowe so it is.) May in please your honours that our townes are become very poore, and these adventurers in fishing affaires so undone, that one half of them are taken off, our fishermen lamentablye impoverished, and if better encouragement be not given they will fall to nothing; and these fishermen, the nurserye of seamen, will be enforced to undertake other employments, which will prove a greate prejudice to the nation; and for want of expense of the fish, through our adventures therein are soe much declined, yet that fish which we have cannot be soulde for twoe thirde of the price it have formerlye yielded, when twice as much fish have been taken, whereby manye poore faimilyes are utterly decayed, and these poore townes will be undone; they wholye depending upon the fishing trade.

"Your petitioners therefore, humbly pray your honours will be pleased to take the premises into consideration, and in your greate wisdomes make provision for the reveiveing of the ould good lawes, and making such additional lawes, that from hencedforth fish may be more expended in this Kingdome. That soe your petitioners may be inabled to adventure in the fisherye as formerlye, and thereby support themseoves, the fishermen, and theire faimilyes.

"And your petitioners, as in dutye bound, shall ever pray.

John Youell, vicar, Thomas Tye, John Landifield,
Samuel Pacy, James Reeve, James Sprat,
Peter Durrant, Robert Bell, Simond Spicer,
John Durrant, Thomas Harvey, Richard Drake,
John Wilde, Ar. Jermey, John Drake,
Tho. Uttinge, Thomas Ashby, Robert Bray,
John Gardinar, William Pearson, William Fowler, sen.,
Richard Spe-dlove, Thomas Felton, John Colby,
Robert Daines, Edward Long, Thomas Fowler,
Robert Ashby, John Longe, William Thurrkettle,
John Gardinar, Robert Botson, William Wood,
Robert Hawes, Francis Botson, William Church,
Thomas Bolton, Cornelles Landifield, Obed Haulsworth,
Francis Mewse, Henry Ward, George Wooden,
Thomas Newton, John Fowler, William Browne,
William Shorting, Thomas Batchelor, John Barber,
Stephen Corfin, James Spicer, John Munds,
John Uttinge, Simon Mewse, William Seagoe,
Thomas Harrould, William Harrould, William Richman,
Matthew Reeve, John Postle, Thomas Church,
John Soane, John Kittrige,
Thomas Mighells, John Bootey,
To this petition were annexed several proposals tending to the improvement of the herring fishery; and both together were transmitted to Sir John Pettus, to be by him presented to the committtee appointed by Parliament for drawing up an Act for the further support and advancement of the herring fisheries, these complaints were so far attended to by Parliament that the petitioners obtained for the further increase of their fisheries, and also seamen and shipping; together with other privileges of considerable importance.

"A trewe copy of the severall proposalls sent to London this 24th of February, to Sir John Pettus, to be offered to the courtte of Parliament, 1670.


"1st. That the fishers be free from payeing costome or excyse for any materralls to build, finish, victuall, repayre, and fitt to sea, their vessells, on their respective voyadges for herring, codd, ling, or any other fish.

"2nd. That the fishers be free to dispose of their fish at all tymes, in all places for their most advantage, within his majesty's dominions and countries, without restraint of corporation, or any other place or places whatever. And that noe person or persons be excluded that trade.

"3rd. That one year's assessment for the pore may be advansed in the respective parishes in England, to be employed in building convenient houses in the chefist of their townes; and for stocke for hempe, to sett the pore and idle persons oute of imployment to work to spinn twine and make netts.

"4th. That when one yeare after such housis be built, stocke of hemp provided and the pore sett on work to make netts; that all forryne nets be exhebated, upon payne of forteiture of the same.


"1st. That all persons of abilitie may have a small quantitie of fish and herrings imposed on them, at the common rate, according to their qualitie.

"2nd. That tooe fish days in the weke be duly observed, and no flesh spent unless for good reason they be lysensed by the mynister of the parish.


"Whereas the sovereignty of the British seas hath been ever (tyme out of mind) a flower inherent in the crown of England; and whereas the principall supporte thereof, as alsoe of the safetye and welfare of the English nations depend upon multitudes of shipping and seamen. And whereas the fishing trade doth above all others breede and increase seamen and shipping; and alsoe employes greate numbers of all sortes of impotent and aged people, as well women as children, above any other trade, in spinning, making and tanning netts, and in making roapes and sailes; and alsoe in curing, dressing and drying herrings, pilchards, ling, cod, salmon, and other sortes of fish, and otherwise. And whereas this soe advantagious and beneficiable trade, wherein the crowne, strength, and safetye of England is soe much concerned, and whereby innumerable people of all sorts might be maintayned, is of late years become neglected, and in hazard to be wholly lost, to the indangering not onlye the soveraignty of the British seas, but also of the safetye of these three nations, if not timelye prevented.

And whereas it is impossible for the people of England to attaine unto a share in the taking of herrings, ling, cod, or other fish, to be pickled or otherwise cured and vented in forreigne countryes, unless they be in all respects enabled to builde, furnish and victuall busses and other fishing vessels, to catch them as cheape as other nations; and that the returnes of the said fish, more than shall be found usefull for England, may be brought into England and shipped out againe into any forreigne parts with as little charge and trouble as merchants, fishermen and others, in like cases, are put unto other countryes.

Be it therefore enacted by the King's most excellent maiestie, and by and with the advice and concern of the lords spirrittuall and temporall and commons in Parliament assembled, that all materialls and provisions for building, furnishing, victualling, or repayring of busses or other fishing vessels, or otherwise, to be imployed or spent in and about the fishing trade upon certificate of the trueth thereof, shall be freed from paying the duty of costomes and excise. And be it further enacted, by the authority aforesaid, that all victuallers, inns, alehowses, ordinaries, chaundlers, vintners, and coffeehowses, according as they are better accustomed one then another, be and are hereby obliged to take of such merchaunt or other person as shall first tender the same in such porte or other convenient towne or cittye, upon a river neare unto theire respective habitations (as his maiestie, by advice of his right honourable privye council shall appoint) and cause notice thereof, by letters or otherwise in writing to be left here, and a copy thereof to be left with the cheife magistrate or chiefe officer, of such cittye, porte, or towne, or with theire respective officers or servants in that behalfe, one, two, three, four, or more good and merchantable barrells of herrings of herrings yearly, at such tymes and prise as his maiestie, by advice of his right honourable privye councill shall appoint dureing the term of seven years, to commence immediately after the end of this present sessions of Parliament, upon penalty of double the said prise unto the owners of the said herrings soe tendered by due course of lawe in any of his maiestie's courts of justice, etc."

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