Catalogue description Mainland English, Scottish and Irish Outport records

Details of Division within CUST
Reference: Division within CUST
Title: Mainland English, Scottish and Irish Outport records

Mainland English, Scottish and Irish outport records relating to customs business carried out at ports in these areas.

The main types of record contained amongst the outport series are original correspondence and letter books, arising mainly from business between the board and the collector, but a number concern shipping matters handled by the collector on an agency basis for the government department responsible, principally the Board of Trade.

There are also:

  • general letter books containing entries of a miscellaneous character including correspondence with sub-offices, business and commercial firms etc
  • board orders, instructions etc to the collector from the Board of Customs
  • staff and accommodation records; these are of a general establishment nature and include records of Service and of premises occupied.

The records comprise the following outports (in westwards geographical order around the coast):

Date: 1660-1988

Records of outports are generally classified under the head port concerned.

Related material:

For port books, completed by customs officials in accordance with Exchequer orders see E 190

Separated material:

Shipping registers of outports are deposited locally under the Public Records Act 1958.

Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English
Physical description: 46 series
Administrative / biographical background:

A customs port was not a port in the normally accepted sense of the word but a coastal area which might include a head port and its sub-ports or creeks. A head port might not be the most important place within a port if its trade had declined in favour of that of one of its creeks. Outports were any ports, other than the Port of London, where foreign shipping was carried on, and where the duties payable thereon were received by a collector to be remitted to the Receiver General's Office in London. Administratively outports were divided into two groups:

  • Northern Ports, those from the Thames to Beaumaris northwards; and
  • Western Ports, those from the Thames to Aberystwyth southwards.

The functions of outports, whatever their size, were similar in kind, varying only in degree. Their main business consisted of: receiving and bringing to account moneys paid for customs and other duties; receiving and registering reports of ships on arrival and taking masters' declarations; wreck business; issuing clearances and bills of health to outgoing ships; and collecting materials for statistical records of imports and exports.

An outport, which was delimited by Treasury warrant, was formerly distinguished by the appointment of three patent officers (the Customer, Controller and Searcher), who had authority over all members and creeks within its jurisdiction. When customs farming was abolished in 1671, a new staff of Collectors appeared in the outports, though the older officers were allowed to remain for many years. The Collector, who originated as a servant of the farmers, now became a Crown Officer, appointed by Treasury warrant, and the office was introduced and extended throughout the department as Collectors were appointed by the Board to all ports, including London and those in the Plantations.

The Collector became the principal officer at head ports, responsible to the Board for all customs business of the district and for the discipline and proper distribution of the staff there. He was given complete responsibility for collection of duties in the port and for the return of money and accounts into the customs offices, and with the Controller (until that office was abolished in 1857) had general superintendence over the port. The Collector was also responsible for a wide variety of shipping business, including duties relating to the registration of ships and to wreck and salvage matters.

Under the Merchant Shipping Act 1854, the Collector or other principal officer at any port was constituted the Registrar of Shipping at that port; and from 1869 he also carried out duties in connection with the registration, etc, of sea fishing vessels and boats under the Sea Fisheries Act 1868.

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