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From some Admiralty records which we have collected, we are now enabled to give a complete account of a holding of a Vice-Admiralty Court. The Judge of the Vice-Admiralty sits on a chair placed on the sea shore below the flood-mark, or as we have said, on the bank of a navigable river, or on a quay; at other times by custom, as we have shown by Sir H. Spelman, in a church, Court, or other building, inland. The Registrar, generally speaking a notary public, sits near him at a table. The Vice-Admiralty Marshal bearing the Silver Oar, emblematical of the jurisdiction of the Admiralty, stands nigh. About them stand the Serjeants or Under-Marshals having charge of the prisoners. A jury of twenty-three men composed of mariners or fishermen are summoned there to make Presentments. The parties to the Civil suits, the prosecutors, and all witnesses are there collected. The procedure of the Court follows the Civil-or Continental-system of the Roman Law, rather than that of the English Common Law; save in the more serious matters when by virtue of the statute 28 Hen. VIII., C. 15, the Common Law must be followed, and then the Judge sits, qua a Commissioner, under that statute. An illustration of the holding of a Water Court is given at the commencement of this Article.*
First, the Vice-Admiralty Judge delivers his charge to the jury. We have a copy of one, found in the British Museum Library, delivered by the Vice-Admiralty Judge of the County of Sussex in 1638. From the internal evidence, it would appear that no Water Court had been held in that county for the preceding twelve years. The charge is a long one.f The Judge charges the jury to present all
Designed and drawn by my daughter, Miss May Sherston Baker, from the descriptions in the Vice-Admiralty Records.
+ The full text of the charge and many other particulars will be found in my “Office of Vice-Admiral of the Coast.” London : Privately printed. 1884. Some few copies may still be obtained of Reeves and Turner, 100, Chancery Lane, London.
pirates, robbers, murderers, felons and thieves that have
“ Curia Admiralitatis per comitatus Cestrie et Lancastrie et pertinentium maritimarum earum dominii tenta apud ædes Johannis Tilston scitutas in vico vulgariter nuncupato the Eastgate Street infra civitatem Cestrie, coram venerabili viro Mattheo Anderton in legibus barristerio, Commissario sive Judice Admiralitatis predicte per comitatus predictas, nono die mensis Octobris Anno Domini 1635, presente me Nicholao Ratcliffe notario publico ejusdem curiæ registrario, &c.” This shows that a Court of Admiralty or Water Court for the Counties of
Chester and Lancaster, and maritime parts of their domain, was held at the house of John Tilston, situate in the street commonly called Eastgate Street, within the City of Chester, before the Worshipful Mathew Anderton, Barrister-at-law, Commissary or judge of the Admiralty aforesaid for the said counties on the ninth day of October, A.D. 1635, in the presence of me Nicholas Ratcliffe, Notary Public, Registrar of the said Court. Henry Darwell and John Low, Constables of the Parish of the Blessed Mary on Hill, appeared and produced the Precept or Warrant to them directed, together with a list of persons summoned and presented by them, and were duly sworn. On the same day, John Johnson, Constable of the Parish of the Undivided Trinity of the City of Chester, did not appear nor sent the Precept to him directed, in contempt of this Court. Whereupon the Marshal of the Court being first sworn that he had delivered the Precept to the said John Johnson, and had warned him to execute the same, and to produce the said Precept on this day and place, the said John Johnson was fined in the sum of forty shillings.
“The Protocols continue thus:" Officium Domini merum contrà Thomam Formeby. Presented by the said jury for cutting Richard Blevin his cable. Quo die Dominus mulctavit eum ad summam 13/4.
“ Idem contrà Robertum Melling, Willielmum Rymmer, Rodulphum Hall, Edwardum Martinn, Thomam Plum, Richardum Higginson, et Thomam Parr. Presented by the said jury for driving carts over cables. Quo die Dominus mulctavit quemlibet eorum ad summam 5/
“ Idem contrà Richardum Dwarrihouse, water bayliff of Liverpool. Presented for suffering ballast and lime stones to be cast in the port thereof to the annoyance of shipping. Et Dominus niulctavit eum ad summam 20/
“Idem contrà Johannem Smith de Liverpool. Presented for a quarrel. Et Dominus mulctavit eum ad summam 40/
“ Idem contrà Jacobum Low. Presented for laying his anchor without a buoy. Et Dominus mulctavit eum ad summam 10/
“Idem contrà magistrum Ashton de Penkett et Dominum Richardum Brookes de Norton. Presented by the said jury for either of them having an unlawful weirs or fishyard. Quo die Dominus mulctavit eorum utrumque ad summam 40/
“ Idem contrà Willielmum Stevenson et Henericum Brookes de Halebancke. Presented by the said jury for keeping and fishing with unlawful nets and fishyards. Quo die Dominus mulctavit eorum utrumque ad summam 20/
“Idem contrà Lawrentium Formeby for suing and imprisoning of John Williamson sailor in another Court than this Court of Admiralty. Et Dominus mulctavit eum ad summam 20/
"Idem contrà Robertum Bond de Toxteth Park for destroying the brood of small fish. Et Dominus mulctavit eum ad summam 13/4.
“ Idem contrà Franciscum Pickering de Halebancke for hindering the accustomed passages of ships into Ditton Pool, for quarreling with and offering to kill mariners, for causing men to pay 2/6 for anchorage at the same pool contrary to all former customs, and for putting of ships and other vessels in danger. Et Dominus mulctavit eum ad summam 40/
Idem contrà Jacobum Williamson de Alverston who was drowned with a watch in his pocket in October last upon Connsant
Connsant sands. Quo die Dominus decrevit inquisitionem faciendum et commissionem, &c."
We obtain further information from the Protocols of a Vice-Admiralty Court, held at Manningtree, in Essex, in 1635. They are written in Latin, and I translate them thus: “A Court of Admiralty for the County of Essex, held at Manningtree, on Saturday, the gth day of the month of January, A.D. 1635, before Master Richard Pulley,
Deputy of the Worshipful Robert Earl of Warwick, ViceAdmiral for the said County, in the presence of George Smith, Notary Public. (Then follow the names of the constables of every parish within the County, who attended to make a return of the defaults justiciable by the Court.) On which day and place the precognition having been made as is customary, and the constables having been called to produce the precept and the list of those summoned by them. From among all and singular appearing these following were chosen as jurors, and were sworn by the Holy Gospels of God as is customary." The jury made no presentments, but at a similar Court held the following year at the same place on Wednesday, the 20th day of April, 1836, the jury having been sworn as above, presented as follows: “To the fifth article we present certain ship's rigging and provision found and taken up in the sea by Roger Coeman, of Harwich, coming from Newcastle. And also we present certain ship's rigging and provision found and taken up by Edward Lee and Willian Lee of the same place coming from Newcastle. Also we present a fore-mast taken at sea by Hugh Paine, of St. Oseth, and now in the possession of William Lumley, of St. Oseth, carpenter, worth five shillings.” We have several others before us.
By virtue of Charters, an Admiralty jurisdiction was conferred on many boroughs,* the Mayor and Magistrates acting as the Admiralty Judge; this jurisdiction of boroughs was abolished in 1835, by S. 108 of the Municipal Corporations Act. The Water Court latest held was in the Borough of Saltash,t on July 27th, 1885, probably being
* Admiralty rights are also enjoyed by private persons, by virtue of being Lords of Manor. Thus the family of Lord Mount Edgcumbe, as Lords of the Manor of Bodrugan (Cornwall), have a right to wreck of the sea, which extends as far as a man can ride on horseback into the sea at low water, and reach with a spear.
† For an account of this Court, see the Law Magazine and Review for May, 1895.