Early Boat Records: 1795 Act

Tracing Family History: NarrowBoat, Spring 2009

Paul Sillitoe

Paul Sillitoe reveals how to trace early boat families - from the 1790s

“An Act for requiring all Boats, Barges, and other Vessels, of certain Descriptions, used on Navigable Rivers, and on Inland Navigations, in Great Britain, to be registered” (35 Geo III c.58) was enacted on 5th May 1795. It passed through both Houses of Parliament without any officially recorded comment as to its intent. It seems reasonable to assume, though, that it was a complement to the Quota Acts – contemporary legislation designed to raise men for the Royal Navy. War with France was not going well, and the Admiralty was pressing government for more ships and men. Every inland waterways vessel capable of carrying more than 13 tons of cargo was to be registered with the local Clerk of the Peace or equivalent local officer. Registration could be made in any county or other administrative area within which a vessel normally worked, or within which its master usually lived. Vesselsbelonging to the Royal Family, and those used solely for pleasure, were excluded. Cer…

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