At the heart of this website sits a relational database of approximately 50,000 ship voyages out of over 400 English, Welsh, and Channel Islands ports, c.1400-c.1580. The design of the database was centred on how best to answer a series of specific questions that related to the AHRC-funded project. What is offered here are several key pieces of information about the ships, including the name of the ship and its master, its home port and, in some cases, the tonnage and manpower of the vessel and its journey details. There were far too many surviving records to examine and input in the time we had and so from 1400-1453 we concentrated on the collection of all relevant naval data (where the crown requisitioned merchant vessels for military service), and all surviving records from the collection of custom duties of exported wines at Bordeaux (until 1453 Bordeaux was a possession of the English crown). From 1400-1550 we collected data from national (E 122) and local (Exeter City Archives and Newcastle's Chamberlains' Accounts) customs accounts relating to six head ports (Bristol; Exeter & Dartmouth; Pool; Hull and Newcastle) and the clusters of smaller ports that fell under their collection jurisdiction. Each of these case studies was chosen because both the naval and commercial records represent a balance of ports with differing trading activities. It is also the case that the collectors of customs working within these ports systematically recorded the name of the ships, its master, and its home port. Additionally, all English, Welsh and Channel Islands ships trading in the case study head ports have been recorded. This means that from 1400-1550 there are ships in the database from: Fowey, Polruan, Salcombe, Brixham, Dawlish, Weymouth, Lyme Regis, Colchester, Ipswich, Woodbridge, Great Yarmouth, King’s Lynn, Boston, Grimsby, Scarborough, Hartlepool and many more. For the period c.1565-c.1580 we inputted data for the whole kingdom using the Port Books. Implemented in 1565 the Port Books record both coastal and overseas trade.
Shipmaster's surnames are presented as they appear in the original accounts. Occasionally clerks would abbreviate surnames and so there are times when apostrophes were used to show a possible abbreviation. Not all abbreviations are evident however in the manuscripts and in some cases clerks may have recorded shortened surnames without providing evidence they did so (this is sometimes the case for surnames that end in 'son' Johnson; Stephenson etc).
Where possible, forenames have been modernised, and some have been altered from the original accounts. For example, shipmasters called Jacob have been changed to James (Jacob being the Latinised form of James); often clerks used Jacob and James interchangeably for the same shipmaster. For consistency Raynald has been changed to Reginald; again, these were used interchangeably in the accounts).
The spellings for all ports have been modernised. Regions and counties follow modern categorisations. Places such as Bristol or York, which technically had county status have been recorded as being in Gloucestershire (Bristol) and North Yorkshire (York). All ship names are recorded as they appear in the accounts.
Dates: we have followed modern dating practices, starting a new year on 1 January.
Where possible, and to help with the identification of individuals, forenames have been standardised (and in some cases modernised) so that the most commonly used form of a name is the one that has been recorded (for some shipmasters clerks used variant spellings for forenames even when it was the same shipmaster). This only affects a small number of entries.