This section of ParishRegister.com focuses on Watermen and Lightermen.
Just in case you don’t already know,
A Waterman was someone licensed to navigate and pilot passenger vessels on the River Thames
A Lighterman, on the other hand, worked on barges, carrying goods or wares up and down the river and from cargo ships to shore)
We have Watermen Ancestors (7 generations !) and have spent many years researching our family history. Using our knowledge and expertise, we have put together information, products and services to help you with your researches. We hope you will find something of interest, either here on the pages which follow, or in other sections of our site, which cover Parish Register information and Family History supplies.
Good luck with your researches !
If you have a Waterman or Lighterman Ancestor then you are very fortunate indeed. The surviving records of the Company of Watermen & Lightermen are rich and varied, and date back to the late 17th Century.
The Bindings books (recording when and to whom an apprentice was ‘bound’) and the Affidavit birth proof records (noting the date and place of birth of an apprentice) provide a straightforward source of genealogical information.
The Quarterage books (recording license payments), Court of Complaint books (recording complaints to the Company about Watermen and Lightermen and the action taken) and the many other records showing names, plying places, fees charged, etc. can add colour and detail to an Ancestors life.
More information on the history of the Company is given in the next section.
Here, we want to focus on the genealogical data available.
Tracing your Ancestor or more probably Ancestors is a two stage process. We say, more probably Ancestors, because this was a trade that ran in families. If you have found one Waterman or Lighterman in your family, then probably you have more.
Firstly, you need to know that no one could work on the river without being licensed. And to get a license you had to become an apprentice and serve under a master. The Apprentice Bindings books (which record the name of the apprentice, the date of binding, the master’s name and mooring, and the date of freedom (i.e when the apprentice having learned his trade, qualified to get his own license) cover the period 1688 to 1949.
The original records are held in the Guildhall Library in London. (Address; Guildhall Library, Aldermanbury, London EC2P 2EJ Tel; 020 7332 1863; www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/guildhalllibrary .
If you are not able to get to the Guildhall, then we offer a number of alternatives.
The binding records entries (over 65,000 of them) have been transcribed by Rob Cottrell and are available in a PDF searchable format on CD-ROM.
This product is available from our Shop. Click here for more information.
Once you have the date and place of birth, you can search the Parish registers to obtain further genealogical information on your family.
On a more general note, our founder, James Legon has written a book called ‘My Ancestors were Watermen – A Guide to Tracing Your Watermen & Lightermen Ancestors’, published by the Society of Genealogists. This covers his own search for ancestors and includes chapters on the history of the Company and on tracing your ancestors.
Available from this website, Click here for more information, and to order your copy now.
For as long as London has existed, there has been a need to carry passengers and goods up and down and across the River Thames. The first attempt to regulate these activities came in 1193 when the Corporation of London began licensing boats on the river. No doubt there were other attempts to impose order on what, from contemporaneous accounts, seems to have been a fairly rough trade, but the next surviving record comes in 1514. In that year, Parliament introduced an act to regulate the fares charged by London Watermen. (Lamentably, it has been recorded that Watermen, once safely away from the banks, sometimes threatened to tip their unfortunate passengers into the river unless more money was forthcoming.) Further regulations regarding apprenticeships and complaints followed and in 1555 a governing body to be called The Waterman’s Company was set up.
Eventually, the apprenticeship system which was to persist for many centuries was set up. The boy had to be between the ages of 14 and 20, and a recognised affidavit or birth proof had to be produced. He was bound to a recognised master who was responsible for housing, clothing, feeding and training the boy. Piloting a boat on the Thames was (and is) a skilled occupation. There was much to be learned. After 2 years training, the boy and master had to satisfy the Company of the boy’s competence, before a provisional license was issued. After a further 5 years, the boy was examined by the Company again, and if successful, gained his ‘freedom’ i.e a full license to work on the river as a Waterman.
Lightermen, who worked on cargo boats rather than passenger vessels, were originally members of the Woodmongers Company. In 1700 they petitioned Parliament to join their Watermen colleagues and were successful. Thus, the Company of Watermen & Lightermen came into existence.
Over the years, as successive bridges have been built over the Thames, the demand for the services of Watermen has declined. The opposite, however, happened with Lightermen, who became busier and busier. Employment of Lightermen probably peaked last century, between the two world wars.
More information on the History of the Company can be found on the Bindings records CD produced by Rob Cottrell. Click here for more information. Additionally, there is a chapter on the Company in James’ e book ‘A Guide to Tracing Your Watermen & Lightermen Ancestors’. Click here for more information and to order your copy now.
Both the first and the second Watermen’s Halls were destroyed by fire – the first in the Great Fire of London in 1666. Many records were also lost. Those that remain and are available for consultation include:
Apprenticeship bindings 1692-1949
Apprenticeship affidavits 1759-1949
Quarterage books 1764-1923
Records of Contract licenses 1865-1926 (for over aged boys)
Registers of lighters, barges, passenger boats (names and addresses or moorings)
Records of ferry services (names of ferrymen and money earned)
Court of Complaint records (concerning the regulation and discipline of company members)
Many other administrative records and minutes concerning finances, estates, charity [almshouses and pensions] etc.
We’ve already mentioned the first two (Apprenticeship Bindings and Apprenticeship Affidavits) in the section entitled ‘Tracing Your Watermen & Lightermen Ancestors’.
Exploration of the other records can help you to flesh out your Ancestor’s life and give you the details that bring your Family History to life. If you need help with this then please consider using our Research Services. Click here to inquire.
Additionally, we’re pleased to be able to offer Rob Cottrell’s latest transcription. This covers Watermen & Lightermen (or their wives / widows) receiving relief (pensions) from the Company in the years 1794 to 1837. Over 1,100 names are shown, with the date relief was granted and the area the pensioner was living in. Click here for more information.
Additionally, you might be interested in the items that the present Company of Watermen & Lightermen have made available and that we offer for sale in our Shop. Click here for more information.
The first hall of the Company was reputed to be Coldharbour Mansion, just upstream of London Bridge. In History and Progress of the Company of Watermen & Lightermen, Henry Humpherus certainly believed this to be the case. I however am persuaded by Christopher O’Riordan in The Thames Watermen in the Century of Revolution that this was not the case.
The first hall was in fact situated at Three Cranes Wharf, south of the Guildhall, in Broad Lane. It was leased from the Merchants Taylors’ Company in 1565, for an annual lease of £66 and a rent of £8, the lease being renewable at 21 year intervals.
This hall was burnt down in the Great Fire of 1666 and a new hall built on the site of Coldharbour Mansion. This second hall continued in use until it was rebuilt on the same site in 1721
The present, 4th hall, was built in 1780 and can be seen today situated in St Mary At Hill, close by the Thames. It was designed by William Blackburn, who is also noted as being the leading designer of prisons of his time. Built in the classical style, with Croade stone decoration, the hall remains the only original Georgian Hall left in the City of London.
The hall was damaged by bombing in the War and repairs were not completed until 1951. It was extended in 1983 to include bigger dining and meeting facilities, with the acquisition of two adjacent buildings, including the former Fellowship Porters Hall. An anteroom on the ground floor is panelled with timber from demolished riverside warehouses
All Watermen and Lightermen have passed through the hallowed doors to be examined by the Court at the time of their Binding and Freedom admission.
1827 Francis Theodore Hay (1st Master)
1828 John Drinkald
1829 Anthony Lyon
1830 Robert Thomson
1831 Joseph Turnley
1832 Thomas East
1833 Robert Banyon
1834 William Easton
1835 William Randall
1836 Charles Hay
1837 Charles J. White
1838 John Drew
1839 James J. Thompson
1840 John Raymond
1841 Thomas Young
1842 Henry Hobbs
1843 Francis Flower
1844 John Addis
1845 John Dudin Brown
1846 Thomas Groves
1847 Richard Robbins
1848 W. W. Landell
1849 Samuel Pocock
1850 Webster Flockton
1851 John Newell
1852 Clement Peache
1853 George Cooper
1854 Charles Lucey
1855 Henry Grey
1856 Joseph Turnley
1857 William A. Joyce
1858 Charles H. Thompson
1859 William C. Raymond
1860 William Downing
1861 Thomas White
1862 Thomas Pillow
1863 Francis Sales
1864 John Downey
1865 William Tomlin
1866 Thomas Pillow
1867 John R. Berry
1868 William Bromley
1869 William Winn
1870 William Winn
1871 William S. Page
1872 Joseph Lucey
1873 William T. Bond
1874 Samuel Williams
1875 John D. Lee
1876 Richard Cory
1877 John Gaywood
1878 Thomas W. Elliott
1879 George Ward
1880 Richard Phillipps
1881 William S. Hinton
1882 Joseph J. Smith
1899 Sales, Arthur
1900 Sales, Arthur
1901 Sales, Arthur
1902 Keep, Harry
1903 Keep, Harry
1904 Deering, Richard
1905 Williams, W. Varco
1906 Williams, W. Varco
1907 Murray, Sidney G.
1908 East, Richard W.
1909 Philip, Frederick
1910 Philip, Frederick
1911 Alder, Gilbert
1912 Jacobs, Thomas W.
1913 Clements, James
1914 Spicer, Edward A.
1915 Alder, George
1916 Taylor, Edwin W.
1917 Clements, James
1918 Spicer, Edward A.
1919 Stratford, John T.
1920 Goldsmith, Edward J.
1921 Brown, Leonard J.P.
1922 Jacob, Reginald
1923 Scoulding, John T.
1924 Pearce, William
1925 Clayton, Forrester
1926 Higgs, Harry B.
1927 Catt, Harry Jacob
1928 Bailey, William P.
1929 Bryan, Robert M.
1930 Williams, F.Ainslie
1931 Gradner, Frank
1932 Wrightson, William L.
1933 Perfect, Charles T.
1934 Coulton, William
1935 Scanlan, William C.
1936 Philip, Reginald E.
1937 Francis, Reginald R.
1938 Francis, Reginald R.
1939 Brown, Leonard J.P
1940 Rogers, Harry
1941 Etheredge, Charles D
1942 Etheredge, Charles D
1943 Braithwaite, Charles T.
1944 Braithwaite, Charles T.
1945 Collard, Henry L.
1946 Collard, Henry L.
1947 Goldsmith, Edward J.K.
1948 Wright, Robert G.
1949 Lines, Walter J.B.
1950 Whitehair, Sydney G.
1951 Odell, Richard G.
1952 Hardee, Harry D.
1953 Taylor, John B.
1954 Brown, Geoffrey A.
1955 Locket, Frank B.
1956 Williams, A.Lawrence
1957 Philip, Ian E.
1958 Stratford, Jack
1959 Metcalfe, Sir Ralph
1960 Sudbury, Frederick A.
1961 Sudbury, Frederick A.
1962 Locket, Frank B.
1963 Robottom, H.Percival
1964 Burnett, Sir David H. Bt
1965 Marriott, William H.
1966 Page, John A.
1967 Denny, Alderman Sir Lionel
1968 Shelbourne, C.P.
1969 Gasell, Auriol S.
1970 Gilman, H.J.
1971 Sargent, Robert M.
1972 Clarabut, David S.
1973 Woodward-Fisher, K.N.
1974 Collard, Geoffrey L.
1975 Garrett, Geoffrey E.
1976 Francis, Malcolm R.
1977 Cunis, Ryan A.
1978 Constant, John
1979 Metcalf, T.J.Tertius
1980 Spong,S .E.Alan
1981 Braithwaite, C.P.
1982 Rawson, Alderman Christopher
1983 Rawson, Alderman Christopher
1984 Clark-Kennedy, Alec C.
1985 Piper, D.J.(Peter)
1986 Peacock,S ir Geoffrey
1987 Crouch, Robert G.
1988 Turk, Michael J.
1989 Adams,John G.
1990 Mack, H.Graham
1991 Crowden,J ames G.P.
1992 Woods, Alan T.
1993 Roberts, Peter D.T.
1994 Badcock, Julian K.
1996 Edge,Captain Sir Malcolm
1997 Jenkinson,Jeffrey. MVO
1998 Livett,Christopher J.
1999 Johnson,James G.
2000 Barrow,Lionel G.
2001 Newens,Chas G.
2002 Allan,John S.
2003 Lupton, Robert E.
2004 Benson, Sir Christopher
The Amalgamated Society of Watermen, Lightermen and Bargemen was established in 1872 as the Amalgamated Society of Watermen and Lightermen of the River Thames. In 1901 it absorbed the Society of Watchmen of the Port of London and changed its name to the Amalgamated Society of Watermen, Lightermen and Watchmen of the River Thames. This union absorbed the Medway Sailing Bargemen’s Union in 1910.
In 1912 the union changed its name again to the Amalgamated Society of Watermen, Lightermen and Bargemen. It initially joined together in 1922 with thirteen other unions to form the Transport and General Workers’ Union. However, a large number of the Society’s members broke away to form the National Amalgamated Society of Stevedores, Lightermen, Watermen and Dockers together with the Amalgamated Stevedores’ Labour Protection League.
The T&G was formed on 1 January1922, with 350,000 members from 14 unions, including dockers, stevedores, lightermen, factory workers, transport workers and clerks. The union’s first general secretary – and the architect of the amalgamation – was Ernest Bevin.
The records of the union are housed at the University of Warwick; click here for more info.
Further reading: K. Coates and T. Topham, The making of the labour movement. The formation of the Transport and General Workers’ Union 1870-1922. Oxford : Basil Blackwell Ltd., 1991.
We are always searching for more information that can help to fill in the gaps and provide detail and colour on the lives of Watermen & Lightermen Ancestors. There is a wealth of supplementary material (held mainly by the Guildhall and the National Archives) and we are slowly but surely managing to transcribe what seem to be the most useful items.
Have a look at what we have. Perhaps, the one piece of information you need to make progress is contained in one of the items below.
Admiralty Muster 1628/9
We have transcribed this document from the National Archives in Kew. There are some 2,400 names of Watermen in it. Information recorded is forename, surname, Age in 1628/9, number of voyages made, location and notes (such as trumpeter, gunner, boatswain).
As you will have noticed, the earliest Company record is dated 1692, so this is a wonderful resource for possibly pushing your history further back in time.
Watermen in the Navy c1803-1809 and Watermen Killed in Action, or Invalided from the Service c1803-1809
These are transcriptions by James from the Company of Watermen and Lightermen archives, kept at the Guildhall Library. The originals were compiled in the early 19th century during the Napoleonic Wars. This was a time when many Watermen were Impressed into the Navy.
Watermen in the Navy lists the surname and forenames of some 525 Watermen, together with both the name of the ship they were serving in and how many guns it had. Additional notation sometimes included such details as their rank or the date they arrived on the ship. Included also is an index to the ships. These provide a fascinating insight into the Fleet as a whole during the time of Nelson’s Navy. The index lists 233 ships, including 85 ships of the line. 7 of the Watermen in the Navy actually served on HMS Victory. Was your Ancestor one of them?
Watermen Killed in Action, or Invalided from Service covers the same period and the original was compiled by the same clerk. It lists the details of 105 Watermen who were either killed in service, discharged, invalided or held in prison in France.
The transcriptions of both these records are available on one CD-ROM. This is searchable, and is available from our Shop. Click here for more information.
DOGGETT’S COAT AND BADGE RACE
Thomas Doggett was an Irish comedian and joint manager of the Drury Lane Theatre. There are various stories about why he founded this race for Watermen in their first year of freedom. Suffice it to say that since 1715, or some say 1716, six first year freemen have taken part in this rowing race (from The Old Swan tavern at London Bridge to The New Swan tavern at Chelsea) . Originally held on the 1st day of August.(as laid down by Doggett, to commemorate the accession of George 1, the race is nowadays actually held towards the end of July each year. It is the oldest annual sporting event in Britain if not in the world.
The prize was a scarlet coat and a silver badge, and the winner became a Royal Waterman, required to carry out various ceremonial duties.
1934 Dogget`s race. Winner, lane 3, was Harold Smith of Gravesend trained by E.G. (Teddy) Anson.
Joseph Harding Jnr – Winner of the 1893 Doggett’s Coat & Badge Race.
This NEW volume has proof of the race starting in 1715, together with the names of previously unknown winners and competitors, including the name of the FIRST WINNER in 1st August 1715. The evidence has been agreed by Watermen’s Hall, Fishmongers’ Hall and Guildhall Library.It also explores the history of the race, the life of Thomas Doggett and is lavishly illustrated throughout. Compiled from primary sources, this is the most comprehensive work on the man and his race available.
A complete List of every known competitor, including those who failed in heats and drawing of lots.
Directories can be a useful source of information for the Family Historian. A regular visitor to our site has sent in this list of Lightermen from Kelly’s Post Office Directory for 1853.
The list below was transcribed from the original held at the National Archives, Kew. The reference number is ADM106/282, folio 197.
2nd July 1673:1 Henry Lewice?
2 Richard Taylor
3 William Robbins
4 William Price
5 James Provence
6 George Gamond
7 Edward Whitten
8 John Wheadon
9 Robert Deane
10 William Beast
11 Thomas Scoope
12 Richard Shreeve
13 Thomas Evans
14 Ffrancis Selly
15 William Langley
16 John ? Lane
17 William Burniford
18 Thomas Philips
19 Roger Jones
20 Henry Williams
21 John Guy
22 James Mealman3rd July 1673:23 Alexander Ffarr
24 Henry ?opeland
25 William Pope
26 William Knight
27 Samuel ?ayer
28 Anthony Elms
29 James Baley
30 John Hornsbey
31 William Ballard
32 Richard Wilfes
33 James Barret
34 John Prescot
35 Robert Hill
36 Thomas Miller
37 John Wittall
38 William Griffen
39 Isaac Bowler
40 Andrew More
41 William Boffy
43 James Richeson
44 Peter Taylor
45 Peter Rednap
46 Henry Carey
47 John Smith
48 John Mitchell
49 Daniel Crow50 Thomas Hand
51 Mathew Dennis
Please let us know if you can interpret the queried entries!
It is one of the rare surviving examples of records that pre-date the Apprenticeship Bindings, held at the Guildhall Library.
As these start in 1692, the watermen on this 1673 list will probably have their sons listed at the beginning of the Bindings records. Some might also appear as masters.
Here are some possible interpretations kindly provided by two of our visitors . . .
1. Heather, 17th August 2009
July 1673 List of Watermen Imprest into the Navy
16 John Crowch = Lane (= could mean aka or als)
21 Samuel Wayer
24 Henry Copeland
36 Thomas Will[son] (the last 8 are in the same hand, if Mitchell is right then Miller is wrong)
41 William Bosby or Bosly not Boffy (see ff in Griffen)
42 Robert ffone[x] (see ffarr & Jones, the last letter looks like the x I have seen in several Parish Registers, where the date has been written in Roman Numerals, usually during the 1600’s, but it makes a most unusual name)
I have a few suggestions for the 1673 List of Watermen Imprest at the Tower of London
Michaell Whitehouse looks like Whitehead
John Bairoso looks like it should be Barrow
Phillip Carloss looks like Carless
John Larssen looks more like Larsenco, but I’m probably wrong on that one
2. Christine, 11th July 2009
1 yes, Lewice
16 Crowch (but is the final word Lame rather than Lane?)
24 initial letter most likely C
27 initial letter W
42 Surname looks like ffonex but may be ffenex (the first vowel is hard to see on screen, but could well be an e rather than an o; listening to the sound of “ffenex” suggests modern-day Fenwick[?] or the German pfennig!)
What the list doesn’t tell us is whether the watermen are apprentices or masters, but it is reasonable to assume that none would have been younger than 14. (That being the youngest age for admittance to the Company as an apprentice.)
Further research into these men might be possible by using ship records. By identifying which ships were in existence in 1673, it might be possible to trace the ship’s muster.
These websites provide a handy starting place:
http://www.cronab.demon.co.uk/INTRO.HTM , Ships of the Old Navy
http://www.port.nmm.ac.uk/research/b7.html , National Maritime Museum
http://www.bl.uk/collections/social/srvlst2a.html , British Library
Information on Ship’s Musters can be found here:
The list below was transcribed from the original held at the National Archives, Kew. The reference number is ADM106/283, folio 133. It is dated 26th July 1673 and was compiled by Thomas Lowe, clerk to the Company.
The list below was transcribed from the original held at the National Archives, Kew. The reference number is PC 1/1/274.
Four Shillings in the Pound Aid refers to a tax imposed in 1693/4 by King William IV in order to finance his involvement in European War. The original assessments are kept at the Corporation of London Record Office
The list below was extracted from the ‘Metropolitan London in the 1690s’ project, based at the Center for Metropolitan History, by Derek Keene, Peter Earle, Craig Spence and Janet Barnes.
All the men below were recorded with the notation ‘Occupation: waterman’. None were recorded as having any liability to the property tax.
You can view the whole of the document at the excellent British History website using the link below.
|City of London, Tower Ward, The Commissioners etc of the Custom House|
|Surname||Forename||Comment||Stock Value||Tax Assessment|
|Watermen & P’r of Oars to attend Tyde Surveyors|
|For Tyde Survey
For Tyde Survey
For Tyde Survey
For Tyde Survey
For Tyde Survey
For Tyde Survey
For Tyde Survey
For Tyde Survey
For Tyde Survey
For Tyde Survey
For Tyde Survey
For Tyde Survey
For Tyde Survey
For Tyde Survey
For Tyde Survey
For Tyde Survey
|Inspectors of Thread & Linen|
|To insp. Of thrd/linn.
To insp. Of thrd/linn.
|Officers of the Wood Farme|
|[to the Wood Farm]
[to the Wood Farm]
This document is to be found in the State Papers collection at the National Archives (PRO, SP 16/195, no. 15, ff. 21-[21a). The Marquis of Hamilton was instructed by the King in 1630 to levy troops to fight for the Protestant cause in Europe, under the Swedish king, Gustavus Adolphus, (the “Lion of the North”).
Hamilton had a great deal of trouble raising the required number of troops, hence this letter to the Watermen. In 1631, Hamilton led a force of about 6,000 English and Scottish troops to fight against the Catholic Hapsburgs in Germany. However most of his army died from famine and plague before taking part in any fighting.
The next task is to try to identify which watermen were impressed. For this, our starting point has to be the Admiralty Muster of 1628(9), which lists the watermen living at that time. Many of these are undoudedly likely to have sailed with Hamilton to Germany.
I’m hoping that there are further references to the watermen impressed in the State Papers at the National Archives.
To the Master of the Company of Watermen, 28 June 1631
Whereas wee are informed that there is in the Thames
of watermen Bargemen & fishers divers lewde & vnnecessarye
persons as alsoe a greate Nomber more then can be well
imployed & kepte from idlenes: Our will and pleasure is
that you take vp all such forenamed persons as
Convenientlie maye be spared to the ende that all such
inconveniences maye be preuented as maye fall by theire
aboade and staye here, And to deliuer them by the eighte
daye of the next Moneth to such officers as or trustie
and welbeloued Cousin the Marquess of Hamelton shall
appointe ouer them In soe doeing you must not fayle,
And this shall not onelie be yor warrt but wee shall take
it as good service done vnto vs from or Courte at
Greenewich this 28 Iune 1631
To the Masters & Rulers of
the Companye of Watermen
These protections are from MS8910 and can be seen at the Guildhall Library. The entries below are typical of what can be seen.
No23. The said Edmund Watford is Fifty Three Years of Age, Dark Complexion, wears his own Dark Hair, in height five feet five inches, and is much Pitted with the small Pox
Date of Protection 3rd March 1803
Protection Resigned Oct 26th 1807 being above Age
23 The said Samuel Lette is Twenty six Years of Age of a Dark Complexion and wears his own dark Hair in Height five feet five Inches &1/2 and has two small scars on his forehead
Date of Protection 5th Nov 1807
No 40 The Bearer John Rook, is Thirty Nine Years of Age, five feet four Inches high, fair complexion light brown hair, and has a Mole on the right side of his face, Date of Protection 3rd March 1803
No 1 The Bearer hereof, John Cotton, is 19 Years of Age, Dark Complexion, and wears his own Dark Brown hair, height five feet, six inches and Pitted with the small Pox – Date of Warrant March 3rd 1803 – Place of abode No 4 Tooly Street Protection Resigned Dec 1807 being Appointed a Sunday Ferry Man
No 2 The Bearer hereof, John Holland is 17 Years of Age, Brown Complexion, wears his own Brown hair, in height about five feet 4 Inches and has a Tear on his forehead. Date of Warrant Sept. 13th 1804 – Place of Abode No 35 Parish Street, Horslydown
No 1 The Bearer John East is Thirty two Years of Age, a Dark Complexion and wears his own Dark Hair, in height Five feet four Inches and has three Sea[??] on the Inside of his Left Leg
Protection Dated Jan 14th 1808
|Serving in His Majesty’s navy, in person, or by substitute As per list A||518|
|At sea and supposed to be chiefly in His Majesty’s service,
or in French prisons, or have lost their lives during the war,
As per list B
|Killed, wounded, or invalided during the war||105|
|In the service of the Board of Customs, as Established, Preferable, and Extra Watermen||290|
|Protected by and employed by the Board of Ordnance at Gravesend||125|
|By ditto at the Tower and Woolwich||52|
|Bargemen and Artillery at Woolwich||16|
|Impress service at Gravesend||44|
|Ditto at London||14|
|Downs and River Pilots||68|
|His Majesty’s Bargemen and Watermen, and Watermen Pensioners||50|
|Bargemen to the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty||18|
|Ditto Treasurer of the Navy||17|
|Bargemen of the Lords Commissioners of the Navy||29|
|Ditto Commissioners of the Victualling Office||12|
|Ditto of the Board of Green Cloth||10|
|Ditto in the service of the Transport Board||9|
|In the service at His Majesty’s Dockyard, Deptford||9|
|In the service of the Elder Brethren of the Trinity House||10|
|In the service and protected by the East India Company||21|
|In the service of the London Dock Company||5|
|Ditto West India Dock Company||4|
|Protected by the Master of His Majesty’s Mint||4|
|Ditto by the Herald’s Office||2|
|Ditto and employed by the General Post Office||3|
|Employed by the Marshal of the Admiralty Court||4|
|Bargemen of the Right Honourable the Lord Mayor, the Water Bailiff and Committee of Thames Navigation||47|
|In the employment of the Superintendent of the city canal||4|
|In the service and employ of the police magistrates for the county of Middlesex||37|
|In the employ of the respective Fire Offices||459|
|Protected and employed by the Company of Watermen and Lightermen||22|
|Masters and Owners of craft, many of them Liverymen of the City of London||291|
|Sailing Masters of Sloops, Lighters, and Barges, sailing under Custom House Registers||147|
|Liverymen of the City of London||88|
|Fellowship Porters, and Corn and Coal Meters||38|
|Officers and Privates of the several Marine Volunteers Corps, on the river Thames, many of whom are masters and owners of craft, and a great portion of them apprentices||1,020|
|Watermen protected by Peers of the Realm||7|
|Apprentices who have not served fours years about||900|
|Aged, Decayed and Infirm Watermen and Lightermen about||300|
|(Description omitted in copy)||191|
Source: Henry Humpherus, History and Origin
It’s always interesting to read about the researches of other Family Historians. It can also be useful, and suggest possible avenues for exploration.
If you would like to contribute an article to the website, you are most welcome. Please email your contribution to email@example.com
Here is a contribution from someone who has been in touch with us many times over the past few years.
WATERMEN, LIGHTERMEN AND FIREMEN
by Annick Storey
The late 17th Century saw the beginning of the insurance industry and companies recruited men from amongst the watermen who worked on the barges and lighters on the Thames finding that they were strong, reliable men, well used to danger, could always be found at specified places owing to their calling, and could, therefore, be readily summoned to a fire.
A company would employ from eight to thirty men for a brigade and some companies employed additional men as porters to remove goods from burning buildings or from buildings threatened by fire. In some cases the foreman, or engineer, was paid a salary, but the ordinary firemen usually received a retaining fee, and were paid a fixed amount in addition for each drill or fire that they attended, which gave them a valuable supplementary source of income to add to their earnings as watermen.
(from an article on the Internet)
The insurance companies provided their fireman with a distinctive livery, consisting of caps, coats, breeches, stockings and shoes, and with a large badge to wear upon the upper part of the left sleeve of their coat, with the company’s emblem embossed on it. Many of these arm badges were made of silver and silver-gilt, some of the later badges being made of silver-plated metal and others of brass.
Of course, the insurance companies were only interested in the properties that they insured so they introduced a scheme to mark properties. Each policy holder was issued with a metal badge or mark which was fixed to the outside of a building. When a fire broke out, it was not unusual for several company’s firemen to arrive at the scene. If the building did not carry their mark, they would leave, often leaving the building to burn down. (in http://www.firemarkcircle.fsnet.co.uk/history3.htm)
Robert Edward Storey, freeman of the City of London, lighterman, was bound to the Sun Fire Office on September 20th, 1796. He signed a bond saying that he would forfeit £100 if he did not obey the company’s instructions or if he brought the company into disrepute or if he sold or pawned his uniform and his precious fireman’s badge.
(Sun Fire Office, Manuscript at the Guildhall Library, London)
The book “Badges of Extinction” by Brian Henman and Brian Sharp said that Robert Edward Storey was promoted from supernumerary fireman to full fireman with the Sun in 1798. In 1806, he had become sufficiently respected to be appointed the representative of the firemen at the committee management meetings. Four years later, in 1810 he was ranked as an Engineer in charge of one of the Sun’s engines. For twelve more years he continued in this job and in 1822, whilst Engineer at the Commercial Road, Lambeth, engine house, he was charged with assaulting a boy who was hindering the firemen at a sugar house fire and steeling the sugar. The Sun’s lawyers fought his case for him (at a cost of over £52) and he was eventually acquitted of the charge.
He ended his service with the Sun as Deputy Foreman.
His son William became a Sun fireman, and his grandson, also William, was porter. Both of them were lightermen.
This is the badge R. Ed. Storey wore at his trial.
I recently received an e-mail from Rosemary about her great grandfather which included a very interesting newspaper article from the 1930s which she thought might be of interest, and once you’ve read it I’m sure you’ll agree it definitely is. She also sent me a photograph with William Fishlock seated on the grass furthest left of photo. He was born 1858, and lived in Chiswick. She was wondering if anyone might recognise the place or even some of the others in the picture. If you can help then please e-mail me!
“William Fishlock ( William E Fishlock my gt grandfather), his father before him (William J); and a fine well set-up man, his son, make three generations of licensed lightermen of the City of London. As a boy of 6, William often went trips on the barge ‘Edith’ of which his father was a skipper and he keenly remembers one voyage from Brentford to Sea Reach (nr Southend) for sand or gravel. They got down alright and when the tide had ebbed away and left them high and dry on the Bligh sand they loaded up, which has to be done by hand and shovel and is pretty hard work. As sometimes happens, when the tide turned and the flood began to make, the wind freshened up, until by the time she was again afloat , it was blowing hard westerly and before long there was a whole gale meeting them. The skipper had his wife , daughter and young son on board and for safety sent them all below, afterwards battening everything down and locking them in. Those who have used the river know what such a gale and a strong flood tide means, and how nasty a sea can get up under those conditions, especially when a sand laden barge has to beat up to windward through it, which, however, this one did and in the end brought up off Gravesend, where there was a little shelter. It can be guessed how the poor women folk below felt about it ,and as to the boy William Fishlock says that was the last time in his life he ever kept below deck in bad weather, preffering to take his chance on deck whatever happened. In time and as he grew up, he kept on the river and later found himself mate and then skipper of different barges the “Lydia”, “New John” and “Oliver” all about 70 tons and smaller then than now and all under sail. In those days barges were never towed; they sailed everywhere, and he recalls how it was a common sight to see a fleet of 20 or 30 of them outside Brentford and if the wind was (….erly?) or otherwise ahead, have to (…..?) practically the whole way to (…?) a distance of 50 miles at the least. One experience that has possibly never happened to any other man. It occured later on, about middle life when it chanced that a barge he was master of, with another man as mate, was towing down the river. It was at the time when Cannon street railway bridge was building, and the craft he was on was a tank to hold liquids, having a cargo from brentford gas works and being three quarters full, everything was strongly battened down.As they were passing through an archway of the bridge, a sudden set of tide threw her up against one of the piers, this impact caused her to heel over, which in turn made her liquid cargo surge heavily and started a roll which made her turn turtle completely and come up on the other side. Strangely the rolling motion once started, continued and again she turned turtle, again coming up on the other side. The mate, who had been forward, had jumped overboard and swum clear, but W Fishlock who was aft, had clung to a rope fixed to the craft’s sidee, which steadied the tiller,and he of course went round and under water with the ship. Finally she again floated on an even keel and he was rescued as quickly as possible though at the “far end” , and into an ambulance and hurried off to hospital where he had to spend a month before getting right again after his narrow squeak. When Thorneycrofts were busy building T.B.D. there was at launching times a great deal of traffic on the river, and there were always many Admiralty people about on their ‘lawful occasions’, it fell to W.Fishlock’s lot to especially attend to these and to take them about in his small rowing boat wherever they wished to go. On such occasions a good deal of paint and varnish would be expended to smarten up his boat. A lighterman’s life is not an easy matter as far as working hours go and that it is a dangerous calling goes without saying. In the end that was the undoing of W.Fishlock , as in February last he tripped over the coaming of the hold and seriously damaged his knee, which at the age of 72 has but little chance of gettin well.”
Knollys Rose Ceremony
The Knollys Rose Ceremony commemorates an ancient City custom dating from 1381. Sir Robert Knollys owned a house on the West Side of Seething Lane. During one of his absences abroad his wife is reputed to have purchased a property on the east side of Seething Lane. She then built a footbridge over the lane to the other side, without the equivalent of planning permission. This resulted in the City Corporation imposing a rent of one red rose, payable each year on the Feast of St John the Baptist.
The rose payment was a peppercorn rent, a symbolic fine upon Sir Robert, a leading citizen soldier. For this payment permission was given “to make an haut pas of the height of 14 feet” across the lane. The footbridge has long disappeared, but the legal requirement for the payment of this quit-rent has now been re-established as one of the City’s traditions. The Ceremony is organised by the Company of Watermen and Lightermen, and the Company, the Knollys family and the Vicar of All Hallows invite guests to this annual ceremony which takes place at the Mansion House. On that day one red rose is plucked from the garden in Seething Lane and presented to the Lord Mayor on the altar cushion of All Hallows by the Tower.
The Master of The Company of Watermen and Lightermen, Mr Robert E Lupton, cuts the rose in Seething Lane Gardens, in front of a goodly crowd. (June 2004)
The Master of The Company of Watermen and Lightermen, Mr Robert E Lupton, cuts the rose in Seething Lane Gardens, in front of a goodly crowd. (June 2004)
Pictures by kind permission of All Hallows by the Tower
Licensed River Thames Watermen & Lightermen
by Robert John Cottrell
No doubt many of you present today have studied and searched the various census returns and come across the occupations of Waterman or Lighterman. It is surprising how many people ask me exactly what these professions are. Many think the trades are connected with what we now term today as “utility occupations” supplying water and lighting to the general public, so before proceeding further it is important to be aware what exactly Licensed Thames Watermen and Lightermen are. First, you must be made aware of the fact that they are two completely different professions, indeed the Lightermen up until 1700 were members of the Woodmongers Company and only joined forces with the Thames Watermen after successfully petitioning Parliament . . .Read More (PDF download) . . .
I am indebted to Pam Smith, who contacted me recently, with a fascinating waterman mystery. Pam had been given a collection of waterman artefacts, as pictured above. At first glance these appeared to be the regalia of a Doggett’s Coat & Badge winner, as depicted by the scarlet coat and silver arm badge.
However, the records show that in the year in question,1869, the winner was George Wright. So, the mystery was, how to reconcile the physical evidence with the recorded history?
Rob Cottrell was adamant that his records, from the Company, were accurate. My records come from two sources: the Company, via their annual diary, and from Henry Humpherus, in History of the Origins & Progress of the Company of Watermen & Lightermen, first published in the 1870s. (Humpherus was the Clerk to the Company). So all in all, I’d put my money on the historical records.
The key to the mystery lies in the silver badge. According to the will of Thomas Doggett:
‘. . . a prize of a coat and silver badge to be rowed for annually by six watermen within a year of completing their apprenticeships.
“. . . Five Pounds for a Badge of Silver weighing about Twelve Ounces and representing Liberty to be given to be rowed for by Six Young Watermen according to my Custom, Eighteen Shillings for Cloath for a Livery whereon the said Badge is to be put, One Pound One Shilling for making up the said Livery and Buttons and Appurtenances to it . . .
. . . all which I would have to be continued yearly forever in Commemoration of His Majesty King Georges happy Accession to the Brittish Throne . . .”
Ok, so far it looks like Charles Smith is indeed a Doggetts winner. The answer lies in the two words: representing Liberty. Look closely at what you see on the Smith badge: A boat. Does this represent liberty? I think not. So what does, on a Doggetts winners’ Badge of Silver? The Hanoverian white horse, accompanied by the motto Liberty. This is borne out by the fact that Doggett inaugurated to commemorate George I’s accession to the throne.
The 2nd clue is the date inscribed:, September 1869. Doggett’s Race was rowed on 1st August. And it states that Charles Smith was a Regatta winner.
So, the answer to the mystery is that Charles Smith was the winner of a race, but not Doggett’s Coat & Badge Race. I’m pretty sure further proof could be gleaned from the Illustrated London News.
The impression I got from Pam was that she’s a bit disappointed. But, consider the pictures you see above (the Picture Gallery has larger images, -link below). It is the only complete set of artifacts from a waterman of 138 years ago. I advised Pam that the Museum in Docklands I’m sure, would be most interested in displaying these items. They are a unique collection, and I for one am dead jealous!
This book has been donated to the Sainsbury Study Centre by Cyril Chapman’s family, as a testament to him and the London lighterage trade:
‘Cyril Chapman came from a long line of lightermen. He was apprenticed from 1951 and became a Freeman in 1958. He was apprenticed by his father, as were previous generations. He worked on the River Thames for many years until the decline of the London dock industries in the 1970’s. However, his thoughts and interests were never far from the River until he died on 12th December 2006.
The reason for the book is not only to remember Cyril Chapman and the love he had for the camaraderie, the job and all things connected with this way of life, but also to record that same history and passion, as seen through the eyes of his fellow workers and their families.’
Chapman Family 2007
This book is available to Watermen, Lightermen and their families who wish to add their stories and memories to its pages. It is also available to any museum visitor who would like to read the contributions. The book is available during Study Centre opening hours. Please ask a member of staff if you would like to see the book or add a contribution.
The Ballad of the Last Lightermen
Well we listened to your stories
Of your days in Greenland Dock
Of barges full of rough goods
When you’ve been on the job-and-knock
Of pockets full of money
Earned for sitting on a barge
And how you are a race apart
From people by and large
Of hours you’ve spent in cafes and pubs
Of Woodbines, tea and toast
Of turned up jeans and hobnailed boots
Form guide and winning post
Of the barmaids you’ve pulled
If only in a dream
Of nights spent on the mucking
When tugs run out of steam
But like the arrowsmiths and wheelwright
Yours is a dying trade
And each day you grow more bitter
As your numbers slowly fade
For The Port of London’s dying
Though she’s been a grand old girl
And Father Thames no longer
Holds the shipping of the world
They’re filling in your docks
Knocking down your wharves and pubs
They’re selling all your barges
And scrapping all your tugs
In their luxury apartments
That command a river view
As they sip their dry Martinis
Do they ever think of you?
What do they know of Greenhithe
Blackwall Point and Wapping Stairs
As they talk of liquidation
And watch their stocks and shares
But still you’ll have the last laugh
As they’re hellbound for their sin
It’ll be so full of Lightermen
The buggers won’t get in.
The author of this ballad remains anonymous. If anybody can identify him, please get in touch.
I am indebted to George Moss, an ex lighterman, for passing on another interesting article which was written by Jane Furnival who bought the chapel in Royal Waterman’s Square, home of the alms houses for retired watermen in Penge. I have edited the article and changed it from the first person to the third. I hope you find it as interesting as I did.
‘The chapel in Royal Waterman’s square, south London, is spookily gothic, laced with leering gargoyles, and crowned with two tall towers, like Camelot’s battlements. It is the focal point of Royal Waterman’s square, a little park bordered by cloistered cottages. A plaque outside says it was built in 1840 as an ‘asylum’-not a mental hospital but almshouses for retired people, old Thames Watermen; characterful Cockneys who ferried around and across the Thames for centuries before there were bridges.
The square flourished for a century, but was badly bombed in 1941, but repairing it was too costly for its owners, the Company of Watermen and Lightermen, whose fortunes had dwindled since the 19th century. London’s new docks wiped out the small boats that ferried goods ashore from cargo ships and new bridges, trains and trams spelled the end for passenger boats too, So bomb-torn Watermen’s square made do with zinc roofs instead of Welsh slates. These degenerated so badly that the residents moved elsewhere in 1971. The land was sold and some of the buildings were demolished, before a preservation order was made. After a facelift the cottages were sold or rented out by Bromley Council. Meanwhile, the jewel in the crown, the chapel, lay unloved. Gargoyles were stripped from the hammer-beam roof. Huge latticed windows were smashed. The grand entrance stairs collapsed. Eventually, it was auctioned for £25000. The buyers used grants to make it habitable until, defeated by the cost of its upkeep, they put it on the market. For another ten years it remained unsold. It was then bought by Jane Furnival and her husband. They decided to restore the building to its original condition. The British library provided them with a print of the square in 1844, amazingly unchanged but without the central monument to its founder John Dudin Brown, who died in 1855. Some nuggets of history dropped into their laps, when they employed old local firms to work on the building. Mr Butler, their chimney sweep, recalled his father doing the same job. He said, “Your chimneys are more complicated than the ones at Buckingham Palace.” He also solved a puzzle; why did they have two bread ovens in the outer walls? He said that they weren’t ovens; they were doors to give the sweeps; brushes access to the flues so that little boys didn’t have to climb inside and clean them. Outside there were dolphin shaped pumps that were used to provide water during the cholera epidemic in 1831. Jane explained that despite this modernisation, the building seemed to be Victorian retro. On a visit to Hampton Court she realised where the inspiration came from; the gatehouse of Henry VIII’s palace looked suspiciously like their chapel and they saw ‘their’ heraldic gargoyles there. So, why copy the Tudors? She thought it was down to Sir Walter Scott, who was so popular then, and the fashion for harking back to a golden age. Watermen’s square, with its towers and cloisters, reminded the Victorians of a gentler age when supposedly you could find a bed and care in a monastery.
Who had lived and worked in the chapel? She found the Company of Watermen and Lightermen’s records and learned that sheltered housing is not a modern concept. John Williams, 65, and his wife Mary, 71, had to show their marriage certificate before moving in on May 11th 1841. Once accepted, the care was excellent, to judge by the number of staff. Mr Hayes the gardener was paid £14 3s 6d in 1885 while the reverend Anolly received a princely £36 5s for services to the inmates over three months. Dr Wood, the surgeon, gained £20 for six months. The company also introduced her to Ray Hackett, the last caretaker at Waterman’s Square. She went to visit him in Hastings, where he looked after the watermen in their new retirement home. Ray told her that the chapel was hardly holy when he arrived as maintenance man in 1963, “If you wanted to hear bad language , you watched the lightermen play snooker there every afternoon.” He said.
Two articles submitted by George Moss, Ex-Lighterman
Click the links below for a selection of sound and video from external websites . . .
The extracts below are all viewable as Adobe Acrobat documents. If you do not have the Adobe Acrobat reader software installed on your computer, click on the link below to get it. It’s free and takes moments to download.
Watermen and Lightermen
Title: Men of the Tideway
Author(s): Dick Fagan & Eric Burgess
Publisher: Robert Hale, London, 1996
Copyright: Dick Fagan & Eric Burgess
Chapter 1, pages 12-17 “One of Our Own”
Chapter 2, pages 20-30 “The Years of Blisters”
Title: Working Lives Volume One 1905-45
Author(s): Alfred Dedman
Publisher: Hackney WEA with Centerprise Publishing Project
Copyright: Alfred Dedman
Chapter 10, pages 81-95 Alfred Dedman-Lighterman
Title: The Thames Watermen in the Century of Revolution
Author(s): Christopher O’Riordan
Publisher: Self Published
Copyright: Christopher O’Riordan
Chapter 1, The Watermen
Title: Under Oars, Reminiscences of a Thames Lighterman 1894-1909
Author(s): Harry Harris
Publisher: Centerprise Trust Ltd
Copyright: Bob Harris
In Charge Under Oars; The Tower to the Royal Albert Dock
Title: Tales of a Thames Lighterman
Author(s): Ernest G. Murray
Publisher: Barron Birch for Quotes, 1992
Copyright: Ernest G. Murray
Chapter 2, pages 21-26
Life & Traditions, London’s East End by Jane Cox, published by Weidenfeld Nicolson Illustrated. ISBN 1857999568. Paperback
Tales of a Thames Lighterman by Ernest G. Murray, published by Baron Birch for Quotes Ltd. ISBN0860235157.Paperback.
Men of the Tideway by Dick Fagan and Eric Burgess, published by Hale, 1996. ISBN n050002989. Hardback. Written by a Thames Lighterman.
Voices from the Waterways by Jean Stone, published by Sutton Publishing Ltd., 2000. ISBN 0750923857. Paperback. Chapter 7 features Robert Crouch, Bargemaster to HM the Queen until 1997, a 3rd generation Watermen and winner of Doggett’s Coat & Badge in 1958. Wonderful recollections of a life on the river.
London’s Thames by Gavin Weightman, published by John Murray, 2004, hardback. ISBN 0719564115. Chapter 8 has quite a bit on watermen. Some very good illustrations too.
Working Lives Volume 1 published by Hackney WEA and Centerprise Trust, 1969, paperback. ISBN 090373821X. Twelve accounts of working life in the east end. Chapter 12 features an interview with a Lighterman, Arthur Dedman. Recommended reading!
Dockland Life:A Pictorial History of London’s Docks 1860-1970 by Chris Ellmers & Alex Werner. Published by Mainstream Publishing Company Ltd 1991. Hardback. 205 pages .ISBN 1851583645. Published in association with the Museum of London. Photo book.
Liquid History,The Thames Through Time, by Stephen Croad, published by B T Batsford, 2003. Hardback.ISBN 0713488344.
208 pages of photos and explanatory text. Excellent Thames book, including much of interest for those with Watermen connections
On the River: Memories of a Working River by Pam Schweizer; Charles Wegner; Alex Schweitzer. Paperback, 184 pages, Published: December 1989 by Age Exchange Theatre Trust. ISBN 0947860096.
Thames Tideway, by Robert Simper. Volume Six in the English Estuaries Series. Hardback, published by Creekside Publishing, 1997. ISBN 0951992767. 96 pages, over 150 black & white plates
Thomas Doggett Pictur’d by Walter Leon. Published by the Company of Watermen & Lightermen 1980. Hardback.52 pages
History & Progress of the Company of Watermen & Lightermen by Henry Humpherus. This is the definitive history of the Company written by a clerk to the Company in 1859. Hardcover 508 pages (July 1981)
Published by E.P.Microform ISBN 0715853503
The Thames Watermen in the Century of Revolution by Christopher O’Riordan.
Under Oars: Reminiscences of a Thames Lighterman, 1894-1909, by Harry Harris Paperback 42 pages (December 1978)
Published by Centerprise Bookshop ISBN: 090373835X
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