Early Tonnage Measurement in England Part I

By William Salisbury, published February 1966


The armament and complement of a warship defined size; only cargo capacity described a merchant ship. Fourteenth century owners estimated total cargo capacity on wine tuns. Hire and port dues were levied accordingly.   The Tudors introduced a bounty for building larger ships, and paid additional hire on crew and armament space. An easier way of determining nominal cargo capacity was needed.   In 1582, Mathew Baker proposed multiplying an arbitrary length, breadth and depth, then dividing by a constant. By 1628, a definite formula was, after debate, agreed. Virtually the same arguments were rehearsed prior to Moorsom’s system, in 1854.

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Filed under: Tudors | High Middle Ages | Other (Nineteenth C) | Other (Eighteenth C) | Other (location)
Subjects include: Merchant Marines | Navies | Shipbuilding & Design

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