The greatest stimulus to the north east Yorkshire ports over several centuries was the expansion in the despatch of coal from the Northumberland and Durham coal fields . The port of Sunderland was improved and by 1710 its overseas shipments were nearly equal to those of Newcastle. The north eastern coal trade increased from 400.000 London chaldrons in 1701, to 2 million tons in 1801, of which three quarters went to London.
The vessels called collier brigs were built to carry a maximum load of coal with a minimum draught. Many were almost flat bottomed to allow the unloading of coal on east coast and European beaches. The average capacity of colliers rose from 140 tons in 1702 to 580 tons in 1840.
Collier ownership was heavily concentrated at Whitby and Scarborough, where many of the vessels were built and manned ,rather than at Newcastle and Sunderland. Scarborough, with 54 ships calling at Newcastle, early in the century, was already important in the trade, although not as heavily involved as Whitby with 98 vessels. Other east coast ports had significant fleets by 1704. Their order of significance in the number of chaldrons moved was Yarmouth with 211 vessels, London, Whitby, Newcastle, Brighton, Scarborough, Bridlington, Ramsgate, Hull and Margate, the last sending 24 ships. Whitby, Scarborough and Bridlington were all increasingly involved in the trade.
Samuel Bell, Nicholas Saunders, Robert Steile, Edward Catlin and Thomas F. T. Foster were appointed to take office as local "coal meters" for the port of Scarborough in 1715. Owners and masters from Scarborough and Whitby were combining to protect their interests by 1717 and local committees existed two years later . The Whitby ship owners suggested articles of agreement, "after inconveniences" in 1717. They proposed that no-one should load coal before March 10th at Newcastle, but that those laid up elsewhere than Tynemouth and other loading ports could sail on March 1st. No-one was to begin a voyage after Sept 29th. Other suggestions covered coal prices at London and Holland , delivery by ships in turn, and monthly payment of wages.
A conference of the Whitby men together with the coal agents and masters of Scarborough vessels, sought to keep out interlopers, who entered the trade when prices were high and when other trades were depressed. The threat posed by inter -port combinations in 1729 had Whitby and Scarborough forming their own combination and agreeing to send no coal till March 3rd. London blamed the rising price of coal at the capital on these combinations. They said that many of the coal ships had masters
"of great passion and little reason"
The Earl of Scarborough, a Durham mine owner, in 1727 had an interest in seventeen vessels trading from Scarborough, fourteen from Whitby and two Filey ships. The Scarborough masters were William Barker (Three Brothers), Richard Bell (Concord), Stephen Bilbrough (William and Ann), John Braithwaite (Friendship), William Cappelby (George), Thomas Fletcher (The Hopewell), William Fowler (Eagle), John Harrison (Loving Hart), John Huntriss (John), John Lawson (Endeavour), George Mainprize (Hopewell), William Matthews (Jane), John Nessfield (Francis), Robert Stephenson (Patience), William Wade(Unity), William Wilson (Happy Return) and Thomas Anon (Happy Return).
A typical voyage by a Scarborough owned collier saw Captain Allatson Bell leave Newcastle on August 5th.1718 for his sixth voyage . He had property in East Sandgate and his family became rich in Scarborough's maritime trade. The profit of this voyage however, was distributed to Thomas Goland, George Hugill, William Fowler and other shareholders. More voyages later that year were very similar in their pattern of cost, income and profit but included purchases of peas, swine grease, cheese, hard and soft bread, vinegar, a pair of oars for four shillings, a stone of oakum at one shilling and four pence, a brass gauging compass for nine shillings and mending maintop sails for eight shillings and ninepence. Seven men were paid wages. One man had £1 for "looking after our ship in Winter".
132 chalder of coals cost £71.4.0
keel dues £10.18.0
heaving ballast £1
trimming coal 16s
a stone of pitch 2s4d
horse hire 2s
shipping money 4s
laying second hand rope 4s6d
seven yards of old canvas 2s4d
26 stone 15 lbs beef £1.13.3
axe, nails, bread etc 9s
custom house charges £13.17.6.
cobble hire at Scarborough 3s
London crimps bill £220.127.116.11.
When Robert T. Gaskin prepared his vaulable book "The Old Seaport of Whitby" in 1909 he was able to examine several voyage account books . He told of the "Havanna" of Whitby, built in 1715, at a cost of £1678. The bill included the hull £650, sails £115, and smith's work £120. The ship would carry 220 tons of coal. The Havanna showed good profits in seven voyages to London and Norway. Gaskin also noted records of the Whitby coal vessel "William and Jane" between 1718 and 1729. Similar records are very scarce for Scarborough and the Maritime Heritage Centre would dearly like to hear of any still existing, where-ever they are..
Larger coal ships and increased traffic offshore called for bigger harbours , especially for the collier fleets to take refuge in bad weather. When Filey proposed a new harbour, Scarborough , with a keen sense of self interest, argued that it would be cheaper to enlarge the harbour at Scarborough. And yet this harbour had persistent problems. When great storms breached the great pier in July 1710, near the battery ,two of the pier guns were washed into the harbour. The Corporation mortgaged Wheatcroft farm to raise monies for repairs. Silting up was continuous .It was necessary to open the outgate hole in the great pier to wash it out, and close it again before Michaelmas 1723.
A Committee to draft a Parliamentary bill for harbour improvement met in 1730, including Thomas Cockerill, Culmer Cockerill, Henry Cottrell, Thomas Coulson, Benjamin Fowler, John Harrison, John Hebden, William Maling, Timothy Otbie, and James Tindall. The Bailiffs of Scarborough in a letter of ,1731 said that they had "approved Mr. Lelam for an engineer".He had supervised the north pier extension at Bridlington and rebuilt their south pier in 1717. He was the Sunderland harbour engineer 1722-1731. Early in 1732, he was told to survey the shore near the great Scarborough pier and examine how it might be convenient to alter the pier for enlarging the harbour.The survey was approved and Lelam attended Parliament to give evidence.
"Whereas the harbour of this ancient town corporate of Scarborough" is "the only place between the port of Newcastle and the River Humber capable of receiving in distress of weather, ships navigating to and along the northern coasts " and "to and from the eastern seas and other places "
without great difficulty, the enlarging and extending of the piers would render it more commodious for receiving large vessels, particularly those using the coal trade, in tempest and other times of danger. The estimated expense of £12.000 was to enlarge the pier in order to gain at least six foot of water, Scarborough was unable to raise the money it self. The burgesses proposed that there should be a levy of a half penny, for
"every chalder of coals laden on board any ship , hoy, bark or other vessel at the port of Newcastle on Tyne, or at Sunderland, Blyth, Seaton sluice, Cullercoates and other members of that port.",
from 24.6.1732 till 24.6. 1763 , payable to the Scarborough bailiffs and burgesses. The duties were to be collected at the Custom Houses of Newcastle and Sunderland and sent en bloc, less a collector's charge.
Ship masters were to pay at lading, before being allowed to proceed and would be given receipts. Local duties were also authorised until 24.6.1783. There would be an import duty on goods landed at Scarborough (with the exception of those brought in ships of Great Yarmouth) and a double duty for those imported in foreign bottoms. There was also an export duty on goods shipped from Scarborough. These things came to pass. The bailiffs and burgesses were made responsible for pier maintenance and were to appoint an officer to direct moorings. Fifteen commissioners were appointed as watchdogs to audit the accounts. A new day had dawned for Scarborough harbour.