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Great Yarmouth maritime sources

We have a large number of records relating to the merchant navy at the Norfolk Record Office (NRO), including some material among the Great Yarmouth Borough archives.

This guide summarises these records. The main sources relating to the merchant navy are at The National Archives (TNA) where you can also find relevant research guides.

Borough archives

  • Borough court rolls including local customs accounts, c1312-1700, and conveyances of ships, early 14th century (see list Y/C4; some available on microfilm)
  • Accounts of customs and dues, 17th to 19th centuries (see list Y/C 26)
  • Registers of freemen, 1429-1892 (see lists Y/C 22, available on microfiche, and Y/C4)
  • Registers of apprenticeships, 1563-1856 (see lists Y/C 22, available on microfiche, and Y/C 4)
  • Admiralty Court acts, 1712-1835 and papers, 1698-1836 (see list Y/C 16)
  • Port and Haven Commissioners' records, 18th to 20th centuries, including some registers of ships, harbourmaster's reports and accounts of tolls (see list Y/PH)

For more information about these records see Paul Rutledge’s Guide to the Great Yarmouth Borough Records (NRO, 1971).

Public records

Registrar General of Seamen and Shipping

  • Registers of merchant shipping, 1834-1994 (P/SH/Y/1-19, on microfilms MF 827-833, and P/SH/Y/20-60)
  • Ships’ registration files (mainly for small vessels), 1875-1994 (P/SH/Y/66-971)
  • Registers of fishing boats, 1940-56 and 1985-89 (P/SH/Y/61-65)
  • Register of apprentices, 1884-1907 (P/SH/W/7, on microfilm MF 837)
  • Registers of crews engaged, 1881-1913 (P/SH/W/4, on microfilm MF 837)

Other sources

Pre-1700

  • Royal Customs - Yarmouth Collector's accounts, 1568-92 (MS 12115, 30E1)
  • Bargain and sale of keel, 1585 (MS 2166, 2E1)
  • Bond re: Mary Susan in coal trade, 1612 (MS 12286, 31F2)
  • Pengelly letters (between a London merchant and his Yarmouth agents), 1656-74 (Y/L 13; Y/PP 7/1, Y/PP/19, Y/PP 27; MC 44, MC 265, MC 375, MC 388, MC 411, MC 484; BRA 529)
  • Copy of Act settling differences between Great Yarmouth and Little Yarmouth [Southtown] about loading and unloading goods, 1667 (MC 950/1)
  • Records of Abraham Bayly of Great Yarmouth, wool merchant, 1684-96 (BR 79)
  • Sailor's appointment of attorney, 1691 (Y/D 41/51)
  • Miscellaneous letters (photocopies) including: Shipping lead, 1699; Capture of W D Palmer's ship the James, 1795; Manby's rocket, 1829 and Shipping herring to Italy, 1840-46 (Y/PP 7/1-20)

1700-1800

  • Jack Secker, sailor, autobiography, 1730-55 (Y/D 41/105; Rye MS 71)
  • Receipts for customs on tea and wine, 1755-56 (COL 2/51)
  • Table of imports to Yarmouth, 1756-57 (COL 7/41)
  • Deeds of sale: Providence, 1759; Two Betseys, 1781; Christopher, 1785; Sarah, 1786; William, 1793; 1785-6 sales by Thomas Douglas Jnr, boatbuilder of Southtown (MS 1785, 1786, 1794-1796, 1E4)
  • William Youell's diary (includes mercantile matters) 1765-1815 (Y/D 87)
  • Autobiography of Samuel Ward, who worked as a ropemaker and a customs watchman in Great Yarmouth, c1775 (COL 7/13)
  • Appointment of attorney re: the Lion trading to Italy, 1776 (Y/D 53/1)
  • Letters of marque for the Hunter of Yarmouth, 1781 (Y/D 18/2)
  • Journal of George Errington, herring fisherman, 1787-1828 (BR 137)

1800-1900

  • Bills of Sale of various Yarmouth vessels, 1806-54 (Y/D 16/747-50, 760-8; Y/D 51/1706, 1712, 1902, 1907)
  • Letter relating to Yarmouth seamen captive in France, 1813 (Y/D 72)
  • Letter describing herring fishery, 1816 (FX 8)
  • Ship Anthony insurance policy, 1820 (Y/D 14/13)
  • Papers of Captain Victor T Howes of Gorleston 1823-76, including an account of shipwreck in Cochin China, 1848 and papers re: the Clyde troopship's voyages, 1867-70 (Y/D 24/1-65)
  • Fellowes, Yarmouth, shipbuilders, deeds, 1828-95, including partnership articles; accounts, 1828-95 (Y/D 16/462-91; Y/L 17; Y/D 23; Y/D 96; BR 36)
  • Accounts and minutes of Haven Commissioners, 1833-5 (MC 324/51)
  • MS account of escape from shipwreck of Samuel Brock, a Yarmouth beachman, 1835 (Y/D 40)
  • Bill of Sale (mortgage) of vessels by Turnell's Company (beachmen), 1838 (Y/D 16/771)
  • Petition of merchant seamen against employing boys on vessels, 1843 (Y/L 15/21)
  • [Incomplete] Company articles of (?) Coull's Company, (beachmen), (?)1844 (Y/D 51/1912)
  • Caister Beach Company accounts, 1840s-1940s (microfilm copy on MF102/7)
  • Port and grain returns, 1844 (Microfilm copy on MF/RO 10-12)
  • Papers of Preston family as vice-consuls, 1844-61 (Y/D 2)
  • Records of the Press family of Great Yarmouth, merchant mariners, 1847-1964 (BR 66)
  • References to herring fishery, Caister beachmen, shipwrecks in diary of John Humphrey, 1848-73 (MC 1193/1)
  • Log of brig Margaret Cook of Yarmouth, 1850-52 (MC 661)
  • Description of Battle of Sveaborg, 1855 (Y/D 27/14)
  • Yarmouth Shipwrecked Sailors' Home, minutes, etc, 1858-1964 (Y/D 54; SO 4)
  • Papers re: loss of the brig Laurel going to Peru, 1859 (MS 2318, 2E2)
  • Beechings, Yarmouth shipbuilders, deeds, 1870-1913, including partnership articles (Y/D 16/246-71)
  • Bills of sale for Excelsior, 1870 and Dawn of Day, 1882 (MC 1177)
  • Statement of the general and particular average by the brig Nil Desperandum from Archangel to Yarmouth, 1872 (MS 5729, 18F6)
  • Crew agreement for Dawn of Day, 1882 (MC 1182/1)
  • May Gale Relief Fund accounts, 1860-74 (Y/D 41/65)
  • Bill of sale for Rachael, 1884 (MC 1182/2)
  • Sale particulars, Hull and Newcastle, a steampacket wharf and of blockmaker's shop, 1888 (MC 1145/2)
  • Records of F J W Salmon, fishing boat owner and auctioneer, 1889-93 (BR 92)
  • Log of Albert mission ship, 1892-94 (Y/D 24/67)
  • Yarmouth Fishermen's Widows’ and Orphans’ Fund minutes etc, 1895-1967 (Y/D 77/1-5)
  • Garson Blake Ltd, builders', coal and general merchants, accounts, including steamers journal, 1895-1946 (Y/D 81)

After 1900

  • Records of Jewsons, Yarmouth, timber merchants, 20th century (BR 24)
  • Photograph of Cossey's boatyard in Vauxhall, c1900 (FX 58)
  • Records of J G Gibbs, wherry operators, 1908-13 (BR 182)
  • Gus Lee and Boswell, boiler makers, ledger, 1908-44, and photos (Y/D 64)
  • Records of Bloomfield’s, fish merchants, 1911-59 (BR 51)
  • Yarmouth Boatowners’ Association minutes, etc, 1915-65 (Y/D 77/6-10)
  • Yarmouth Herring Salesmen’s Association minutes etc, 1925-62 (Y/D 77/11-13)
  • Record of war service of HMS Norfolk and HMS Gorleston, 1941-45 (MC 572/1)
  • Papers re history of the Belle steamers and other maritime matters (BR 191)
  • Delf Collection of lantern slides includes wherries and ships (MC 530/9-11)
  • Photographs of Great Yarmouth harbour (MC 575)
  • Records of Maconochies Kippers Ltd, 1945-57 (BR 308)