Our database contains the details of English, Welsh, and Channel Islands merchant ships, and the voyages they undertook, between 1400 and 1580. The database was compiled using evidence from three core documentary records:

  1. Customs Accounts: the records of customs charges levied on English maritime commerce. The taxation of maritime commerce was an important part of the crown's income and to collect revenues from custom charges the crown needed to systematically record the details of the ships and their cargoes as they entered or left port.
  2. Navy Payrolls: the crown's wartime requisitioning (and payment) of merchant vessels for naval duties and for the transportation of armies and supplies to Scotland, France, and elsewhere.
  3. National ship surveys: compiled to provide the government with accurate information as to the size and geographical distribution of the English merchant fleet.

In many cases the customs accounts, naval records, and ship surveys provide us with the name of the ship, its home port, its master, and sometimes the destination and/or origin of the port from which it sailed. This means we have the names of thousands of shipmasters, ships, and details of the commercial active ports in England over this period.

We are keen to receive queries and contributions (case studies of individual masters and/or ships, and any help with the location or re-location of ports) and would like to post as many case studies as possible on the blog, so please feel free to contact us on: medievalandtudorships@gmail.com. You can also follow members of the team via Twitter: @Medievalmariner (Craig Lambert) and @DrGaryBaker (Gary Baker).

We would be grateful if you would kindly acknowledge use of any part of this resource (medievalandtudorships.org/database) in your publications, presentations, blogs and any other form of communication.