Ports and Voyages

We have provided a map of most of the ports and voyages that appear in the database. While most major English ports are easy to locate many of the creeks and riverine ports listed in the customs accounts and port books can be difficult to find. Additionally, there are ports listed in the accounts that no longer exist (washed away through coastal erosion or storms) and many that ceased to function as ports centuries ago. Mapping the voyages of coastal ships was particularly challenging, not least because many sailed up English rivers far inland, so Worksop on the River Ryton appears as does Halloughton on the River Trent. The River Severn catchment is vast with ships sailing from Worcestershire and Shropshire riverine settlements to places along the coast of England and beyond. Some places are difficult to distinguish from one another. For example, it is difficult to differentiate between the variant spellings of Helford and Helston. 'Yarmouth' is often used for Great Yarmouth but also Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight; Blakeney in Gloucestershire is the same form as that recorded for the town of Blakeney in Norfolk; Hythe in Hampshire is recorded in the same way as Hythe in Kent. Documentary context is therefore used to identify ports that share a common name. For example, it is likely that the Blakeney recorded in Bristol or Gloucester records is the Gloucestershire town; the Yarmouth and Hythe recorded in a Southampton coastal port book are likely to be located in Hampshire/Isle of Wight. There are some places however for which documentary context offers little help; one such place is Walton, which could either be Walton near the Rivers Deben and Orwell or Walton-on-the-Naze. Likewise they often abbreviate ‘Combe’ in records relating to Devon and Cornish shipping could be many places. In such cases we can narrow these places down by looking at the careers of ships and shipmasters in the documents that record these place names fully, or record the county they are in, and use these to identify the port (i.e. Ilfracombe; Combe Martin, or Combe in Cornwall), although this is not always achievable.

When mapping the ports and voyages in England sometimes proximity locations have been used when the latitude and longitude of some places is difficult to locate. For example, ships described as sailing to or from the Orwell (which is a place where ships gathered/anchored rather than a port or town) have been fixed to Harwich. Likewise for ships described as leaving or arriving at Goseford we have used King’s Fleet as the geographical location.

Locating some foreign ports was also difficult. For many ports the clerks tended to use Anglo-centric names or recorded the names in Latin (Rogomagnus is Rouen) form. In some cases the names used for foreign ports could be linked with more than one destination (Morels could be in Wales, Spain or Brittany) and ‘Bay’ is used as a generic term for the Bay of Bourgneuf (an important place in the salt trade). In terms of mapping the voyages therefore it has meant that occasionally we have used places as geo-locational ‘fixes’: so Saint-Nazaire has been used for voyages going to the ‘Bay.’ In some cases a country of origin is given as the voyage origin or destination and in this case the coordinates used are those given for the country.

Below is a list of ports and destinations for which no easy geographical location can now be found. It is important to stress that these are all in the database as recorded ports and voyages, so it is always worth searching the database for places that cannot be located on the interactive map. Additionally, the database is an evolving resource that will be updated and extended, so new places may appear that are not recorded on the interactive map.

For guides to ports and aids for locating them the following books are useful:

Calendar of Patent Rolls; the indexes can be useful.

Susan Flavin and Evan T. Jones (eds), Bristol’s Trade with Ireland and the Continent, 1503-1601 (Bristol Records Society publication, 2009)

C. M. Fraser (ed), The Accounts of the Chamberlains of Newcastle upon Tyne, 1508-1511 (Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne, 1987)

N. Gras, The Early English Customs System; A Documentary Study of the Institutional and Economical History of the Customs from the Thirteenth to the Sixteenth Century (Cambridge, 1918)

The publications of the Southampton Port Books by the Southampton Record Society (several editions)

J. F. Wade (ed) The Customs Accounts of Newcastle upon Tyne 1454-1500 (Publications of the Surtees Society, 1995)


coastal Grimsby Port Book
overseas London Port Book; likely Low Countries
coastal Hull and Boston Port Books; likely lost Lincolnshire port
Beyond the seas
as recorded in several entries
Brandon Ferry
coastal Boston Port Books; probably referring to a place on the River Brandon
overseas and coastal Padstow Port Book
Canyua et Viam
overseas Ipswich Port Book which seems to be referring to a voyage type anchorage/road?); carrying wool so possibly Low Countries
coastal Bristol Port Book
coastal Exeter and Dartmouth Port Books
overseas Southampton Port Book
coastal Scarborough Port Book; Cottam in East Riding
overseas and coastal Hull Port Book
overseas King’s Lynn Port Book. Manuscript says port is in Scotland
navy payroll from fifteenth century; possibly North-west or Irish
coastal Devon Port Books;
the research of one of the website's visitors has discovered that this was probably situated on the Gower Peninsular.
overseas and coastal Bristol Port Book
customs account for Bristol
overseas Colchester Port Book; likely Denmark/ Low Countries
overseas and coastal Chester Port Book
overseas and coastal Great Yarmouth Port Book; could relate to Brandy Hole in Essex
coastal and overseas St Ives Port Book
coastal Padstow Port Book
coastal Hull Port Books
coastal Hull Port Books
overseas Bristol Port Book. Manuscript says port in Ireland
overseas Bristol Port Book
overseas Southampton port book. Manuscript says port is in Spain
overseas and coastal Great Yarmouth Port Book; mostly likely Low Counties
overseas King’s Lynn Port Book. Manuscript says port is in Flanders
coastal Gloucester Port Books: possibly in Wales, but could be Spain and Brittany
coastal Great Yarmouth Port Book
In Kent; The Accounts of the Chamberlains of Newcastle upon Tyne, p. 26; but could be West Newton in Norfolk
coastal King’s Lynn Port Books
recorded near Bristol in a State paper ship survey
overseas and coastal Woodbridge Port Book
coastal Ipswich Port Book; could be South Ockendon in Essex
coastal Hull Port Books
coastal Barnstaple Port Book; possibly in Gloucestershire
coastal London Port Book
fifteenth century customs account for Bristol
coastal King’s Lynn Port Book
overseas Bristol Port Book
coastal Bristol Port Book; could refer to place in Shropshire
coastal King’s Lynn Port Book
coastal Hull Port Book
coastal Poole Port Books
Suffolk or Essex; in State paper ship survey
coastal Southampton Port Books
overseas Chester Port books
overseas Ipswich Port Book
coastal King’s Lynn Port Book
coastal customs account for King’s Lynn; mostly likely near Snaith
overseas and coastal Hull Port Book; possibly foreign destination
Gras, Early English Customs, p.664
coastal King’s Lynn Port Book