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Henley, Michael, & Son

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0064 HNL
Held at: National Maritime Museum
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Full title: Henley, Michael, & Son
Date(s): 1771-1830
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 110ft: 33m
Name of creator(s): Henley, Michael, and Son


Administrative/Biographical history:

Michael Henley ([1742-1813]) was an apprentice waterman and lighterman from 1757 to 1764. By 1770 he was trading as a coal and rope merchant and three years later he acquired a wharf and premises in Wapping. In 1775 he appears to have purchased his first sea-going ship; other vessels followed, which he employed in the east coast coal trade, and later in other trades in the Atlantic, West Indies, Mediterranean and Baltic, mostly on charter. During the American War of Independence, he also chartered ships to the government as transports. In 1780 his eldest son Joseph (1766-1832) was bound apprentice to him and within a few years he was running the day-to-day aspects of the business. Michael Henley spent much of his time travelling to the various ports at which his ships called regularly, in particular Newcastle and Portsmouth, but on occasions he also visited Ireland and Scotland. The shipping activities of the Henleys increased substantially during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars. Between 1775 and 1832 they owned over a hundred and twenty ships. They stopped trading directly as coal merchants early in the nineteenth century, though retaining a strong interest in the trade. At the same time their ships became more involved in the West Indies trade and in the timber trades with the Baltic, North America and Canada and the Bay of Honduras. Many of their vessels were chartered to the Transport Board, after its re-establishment in 1794, as troop and horse ships or victuallers. After 1815 shipping suffered from the post-war slump and Joseph now divided his time between his shipping interests and Waterperry, his Oxford estate. He owned a smaller number of ships, which were principally involved in the North American and Baltic trades, although there were two notable Transport voyages to Ceylon and the Mediterranean between 1820 and 1822. He appears to have continued to own one or two ships up until the time of his death.


Scope and content/abstract:

The papers in the Museum relate to the Henleys' shipping and other commercial interests between 1771 and 1830. From about 1784, when Joseph seems to have taken charge, the records become fairly systematic and the 'ships' collections' begin. Most of the 109 wooden boxes (now replaced) related to individual ships, but 24 related to general matters. A small number of the ships were owned jointly with someone outside the family, usually the master; only one seems to have been divided into sixteenths. The bulk of the collection consists of ships' boxes, containing correspondence from masters, agents, brokers, merchants, government boards and sailors and their families. Masters' voyage accounts and vouchers have nearly always survived from 1784 on onward, together with some Articles of Agreement, portage bills, crew lists and wages and receipts; sometimes, and especially during the last decade of the eighteenth and the first decade of the nineteenth centuries, memoranda books were kept detailing Henleys' own expenditure on ships; and papers relating to freights including Charter Parties, Bills of Lading, manifests, protections, customs documents, freight and brokers' accounts were often retained. 'Transport papers', relating to voyages under charter to the Government, include agents' orders and certificates, individual orders and receipts for victualling ships, and forms with details of troops victualled. The subjects range over every aspect of the employment of the ship, including building, maintaining, victualling and manning, the process of chartering or seeking cargoes, and the convoys in which she sailed. The general boxes contained books with accounts, receipts, memoranda and lists covering all Henleys' activities and are the main source of information for the early years from ca.1771. There are detailed records of their activities as coal merchants, especially for the last years of the eighteenth century; there is a continuous series of cash books, 1807 to 1824, with various 'weekly expense' books and petty cash books kept by individual clerks. The Henleys ran their own sail loft and there is a run of account books from 1813 to 1824, in addition to material covering other years. The rest of the general boxes contained papers on other aspects of their activities: boxes of loose receipts covering business and domestic expenditure, a box relating to the premises at Wapping containing correspondence about leases, building and repairs, with detailed receipts for building and rebuilding the Henleys' three houses, counting house and warehouse; boxes with accounts, receipts and correspondence relating to shipping matters generally and sometimes to particular ships or groups of ships. At different times it was the practice to keep freight papers separate from ships' papers. There were four boxes relating to the supply of coal to government departments, particularly the dockyards and the Ordnance Board, 1790 to 1802 and 1807 to 1820. There were three boxes of correspondence and accounts reflecting the activities of James Kirton, 1800 to 1825; he had been successively carpenter, mate and master in Henley ships from the earliest years and set up as a shipowner and agent in Newcastle at the turn of the century. There is also correspondence with agents in other places.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Conditions governing access:

Please contact the Archive for further information.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Please contact the Archive for further information.

Finding aids:

Detailed catalogue online at the: National Maritime Museum website .

Archival Information

Archival history:

The papers were discovered at Waterperry House with a number of domestic and estate papers, which are now in the Oxfordshire County Record Office.

Immediate source of acquisition:

The collection was presented in 1972 by Captain J.A.C. Henley, RN.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Edited by Sarah Drewery, Jul 2011.

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:

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