Catalogue description Board of Trade and successors: Marine Maps and Plans

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Date range

Details of BT 356
Reference: BT 356
Title: Board of Trade and successors: Marine Maps and Plans

The records in this series mostly relate to works constructed in tidal waters and to the ownership of foreshore land but the collection also included a small number of plans relating to railways.

It is possible that what is now one collection of maps may originally have been three - one collection relating to Crown foreshore, one collection relating to potential obstructions to navigation and harbour limits, and a third, much smaller, collection relating to railways.

Many pieces consist of a bundle of maps or plans rolled together, and sometimes accompanied by associated correspondence. Where a specific date is given for a particular piece, this is the year in which the Board of Trade received it; where this date is not known, an estimated date range has been supplied in square brackets.

Date: 1772-1989

When discovered, these maps and plans had no discernible original order. The order of the reference numbers assigned to them by the National Archives has no particular significance.

Originally all the maps were numbered using a tag which protruded from the map roll. In some cases this tag has now fallen off and cannot be found (these are the maps listed as having no original reference or which have been given the reference number 0). It is not unusual for a number of maps to have been allocated the same reference number. Other numbering systems can also be seen on the maps, including:

  • 'black' maps where a number is written in black. These appear to be works for which permission was granted by the Board of Trade, the authorisation being recorded on the maps and plans
  • plans with red numbers or red bindings relate to schemes for which consent was given
  • a green series, representing applications for which consent was not given or was not required

Related material:

Some of the maps are marked with references beginning with 'H', 'M' or 'MNA'. These are file references of the Board of Trade and its successors. Some of these files may be found within the following series:

BT 243

MT 9

MT 10

Separated material:

Maps and plans not meeting the selection criteria were deposited with local record offices, the National Archives of Scotland, the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland and the India Office Library.

When discovered the collection also included some photographs of foreshore structures. These have been transferred into BT 355

Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Former reference in its original department: Variously H, M, MNA, a map library number, or none of these
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English

Board of Admiralty, Harbour and Railway Department, 1848-1854

Board of Admiralty, Harbour Department, 1842-1848

Board of Admiralty, Harbour Department, 1854-1856

Board of Admiralty, Hydrographic and Harbour Department, 1856-1862

Board of Trade, Commissioners of Woods, 1842-1866

Board of Trade, Fisheries and Harbour Department, 1898-1904

Board of Trade, General Department, 1840-1842

Board of Trade, Harbour Department, 1867-1898

Board of Trade, Harbour Department, 1904-1918

Board of Trade, Marine Division, 1965-1970

Board of Trade, Public Utilities and Harbour Department, 1918-1919

Department of Trade and Industry, Marine Division, 1970-1974

Department of Trade, Marine Division, 1974-1983

Department of Transport, Ports Division, 1983-1997

Ministry of Shipping, 1939-1941

Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation, Marine Divisions, 1953-1959

Ministry of Transport, Docks and Canal Division, 1934-1941

Ministry of Transport, Harbour Branch, 1923-1934

Ministry of Transport, Marine Divisions, 1946-1953

Ministry of Transport, Marine Divisions, 1959-1965

Ministry of Transport, Ports and Transit Division, 1938-1941

Ministry of War Transport, 1941-1946

Physical description: 12802 flat sheets and rolls
Physical condition: All the maps and plans in this series are very dirty.
Access conditions: Open
Immediate source of acquisition:

Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions

Custodial history: These maps and plans are believed to have been passed from the Department of Trade and Industry to the Department of Transport in 1983. In the late 1980s they were discovered in a basement in a Department of Transport building and passed from the Department of Transport to the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions upon the creation of the latter department in 1997.
Selection and destruction information: Maps relating to the following themes in England and Wales were selected for transfer to The National Archives: boundaries and limits of authority; changes to the course of rivers; coastal erosion; coastal defences, including walls and embankments but excluding groynes; datum posts; flood protection schemes; land drainage; land ownership; sewers, outfalls and sluices; structures at sea; submarine cables; wrecks; significant structures in and alterations to overseas ports. In addition, maps bearing file references of files already held by TNA have been preserved. Where local record offices had declined the maps offered to them, maps and plans relating to nationally significant structures in that area were transferred to TNA as well as maps relating to the above themes. Plans which accompanied Parliamentary bills were not transferred to TNA.
Accruals: No future accruals expected
Publication note:

See Irish Archives, Autumn 1995, for description of the striking resemblance between this collection of maps and plans and a collection held in the National Archives of Ireland

Unpublished finding aids:

The Crown Estate Office holds registers of some of the plans organised by county.

Administrative / biographical background:

In about 1840 the General Department of the Board of Trade was created and its responsibilities included coast protection works.

In 1842 the Harbour Department of the Admiralty was created and its responsibilities included the regulation of foreshore development. Under the Railways Consolidation Act 1845 the Admiralty was given powers to approve railway construction affecting tidal lands. The Harbour, Docks and Pier Clauses Act gave the Admiralty and the Commissioners of Woods powers to authorise works if they affected, 'any part of the shore of the sea, or of any creek, bay, arm of the sea or navigable river where and so far up as the same of the tide flows or reflows'. The Preliminary Inquiries Act 1851 extended the Admiralty's authority to include bridges, viaducts and 'any work affecting the navigation of any harbour, port or navigable river'.

The General Pier and Harbour Act 1861 required that all proposed bills relating to such works were to be deposited with the Board of Trade, although their approval remained with the Admiralty until 1862 when the Harbour Transfer Act transferred the functions previously performed by the Admiralty to the Board of Trade. The Crown Lands Act 1866 transferred responsibility for the management of the Crown foreshore from the Commissioners of Woods to the Board of Trade.

The Harbour Department of the Board of Trade discharged these responsibilities until 1919 when they passed to the Ports Division of the Ministry of Transport. In 1939 the navigational functions were transferred to the Ministry of Shipping, which was amalgamated with the Ministry of Transport in 1941 to form the Ministry of War Transport. When the latter was dissolved in 1946 the responsibilities returned to the Ministry of Transport.

The Coast Protection Act 1949 passed the management of the Crown foreshore to the successors of the Commissioners of Woods, the Commissioners of Crown Lands. It seems likely that at some date following this transfer of responsibility further accruals to the collection related solely to the approval of works in navigable waters and not to the management of the foreshore but there is no evidence as to when this occurred.

Responsibility for the approval of structures in navigable waters remained with the Ministry of Transport until 1965, when the functions passed to the Board of Trade. They remained with the Board of Trade and its successors until 1983 when the responsibility passed to the Ports Division of the Department of Transport.

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