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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0074 CLC/526
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1454-2000
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 1963 production units.
Name of creator(s): Corporation of Trinity House


Administrative/Biographical history:

The Corporation of Trinity House was incorporated by royal charter in 1514. There is a tradition which dates the existence of Trinity House from the thirteenth century but there is no firm evidence to support this. When the charter was granted, Trinity House had a hall and almshouses at Deptford. Premises were acquired in Ratcliff and Stepney in the seventeenth century and meetings were held at all three sites. The Corporation bought a property in Water Lane in the City of London in 1660 which they then used as their hall. The Hall at Water Lane twice burnt down and was rebuilt, in 1666 and 1714. When it proved too cramped for proposed improvements in the 1790s, the Corporation bought land at Tower Hill on which Trinity House was built 1793-6. The present building retains the 1790s facade but a bomb on 30 December 1940 destroyed most of the rest of the original building which was sympathetically rebuilt in 1952-3.

The Corporation of Trinity House has had three main functions for most of its history:
1) General Lighthouse Authority for England and Wales;
2) Principal Pilotage Authority for London and forty other districts;
3) Charitable organisation for the relief of mariners.
These three functions are described in more detail in the introductory notes to the lighthouse, pilotage and estates and charities records.

The Corporation of Trinity House has had many other functions, largely carried out by the Board of 10 Elder brethren. Elder brethren are elected (for life) from the pool of around 300 Younger brethren who are normally Merchant Navy captains, though a few Royal Navy officers are also admitted as Younger brothers. These other functions have included the supply of ballast to ships in the Thames; sitting in the Court of Admiralty to hear collision cases; examining Royal Naval navigation officers in pilotage; and the examination of Christ's Hospital mathematical scholars in navigation.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the Corporation of Trinity House, including: copies of charters, grants and patents; Court minutes; Board minutes and agendas; minutes of various committees; financial records including ledgers, journals, cash books, salaries; correspondence; administrative files; letters patent to collect tolls; papers relating to lighthouses including committee minutes and inspection books; notices to mariners; reports by Michael Faraday and other scientists regarding improvements to lighthouses; war diaries detailing damages to beacons and buoys; papers relating to pilotage including committee minutes, pilot's registers and examinations in pilotage; reports on collisions; papers relating to management of estates and charity work; lists of elder and younger brethren; photographs; and papers relating to the Royal Trinity House Volunteer Corps.

In the mid 19th century, the Corporation of Trinity House replaced minutes of committees with "agendas". These "agendas" are not agenda papers with a list of items for discussion. They are stripped down minutes which record those elder brethren attending the committee meeting, items coming to committee, the decisions taken and further action, if any, required. They do not record any of the committee's discussions.

The papers have suffered from fire in 1666 and 1714 and from bombing in 1940. Though the court minutes survive from 1660, many other series of records only survive from the nineteenth century. Because of the many ways in which the Corporation of Trinity House has touched on British maritime life, the records which survive are still very rich and extremely varied.

There is a thirty year closure rule on the Trinity House archive and researchers must ask the Corporation for permission to consult any records less than thirty years old.

Lighthouse plans have not been deposited, although LMA holds copy catalogues of the plans which are still held by the Corporation of Trinity House (CLC/526/MS30131A, available on the library shelves in the LMA Information Area). Please ask at the enquiry desk for details or see our leaflet about lighthouse history sources.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:
English, Latin, Dutch, Portuguese and Turkish.

System of arrangement:

CLC/526-01: Constitutional records;
CLC/526-02: Minutes;
CLC/526-03: Financial records;
CLC/526-04: Correspondence and internal administration;
CLC/526-05: Lighthouses and navigation;
CLC/526-06: Pilotage;
CLC/526-07: Estates and charities;
CLC/526-08: Elder and younger brethren;
CLC/526-09: Other activities;
CLC/526-10: Photographs;
CLC/526-11: Miscellaneous papers;
CLC/526-12: Royal Trinity House Volunteer Corps.

Conditions governing access:

Restricted access: please see staff.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright to these records rests with the depositor.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

The records of the Corporation of Trinity House were deposited in Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section in 1992 and thereafter. Further records, often modern additions to existing series, are deposited from time to time. The records were catalogued by Charlie Turpie in 1994 (main deposit) and subsequently (additional deposits).

A small number of records were bought by or given to the Manuscripts Section and do not belong to the Corporation of Trinity House - Ms 30048a; one letter in Ms 30108/5; Ms 30169; Ms 30171; Ms 30174/1; Ms 30193-4; Ms 30207/2-4. The large series of Petitions from distressed mariners or their dependants (Ms 30218A-D) were deposited by the Corporation of Trinity House at the Society of Genealogists in 1934 and were transferred to Guildhall Library in 1995.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

The Printed Books section of Guildhall Library holds a number of published works on the history of the Corporation of Trinity House, at L63.7 in the London subject catalogue.

A leaflet about the records of the Corporation of Trinity House is available at (accessed August 2010).

The letters and papers of Michael Faraday (Ms 30108) were presented to Trinity House after his death. They are included in the ongoing edition of Faraday's papers by Dr Frank James.

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
June to August 2010.

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