The History and Antiquities of London, Westminster, Southwark, and Parts Adjacent, vol. 3
The Trinity House.
The principal front of this edifice is faced with Portland stone, and consists of a centre and wings, made in elevation into a basement and principal story; the former is rusticated, and contains an arched door-way, between windows of a corresponding character. The principal story is of the Ionic order, the centre having attached columns, with windows in the intercolumniations. The centre, and windows in the wings, are each divided into lights, by Ionic columns resting on a ballustrade. Above the central window are the arms of the corporation, and over the lateral ones are medallions of king George III. and queen Charlotte; the wings are ornamented with coupled pilasters, between which are windows, having pannels over them, occupied with alto-relievos of light-houses, and naked boys supporting an anchor, an entablature and cornice are applied as a finish to the elevation, which is continued along the whole facade, only broken by the slight projection of the wings; the west end is in a plainer but corresponding style of architecture; the east end is of brick.
It was built under the direction of Mr. Samuel Wyatt; the stone was laid , and it was opened for business years afterwards.
The interior corresponds with the exterior in elegance and chasteness of design.
Attached to the vestibule is an elegant staircase of a double flight, ornamented with busts of admirals Vincent, Nelson, Howe, and Duncan. and a long list of benefactors. The court-room, which occupies the principal part of the floor, is very elegant; the ceiling is coved, and at the angles ornamented with allegorical designs representing the principal rivers of England, viz. Thames, Medway, Severn, and Humber. In the centre is a sphere supported by cherubim. At the east end of the room is a large painting feet long, by Gainsborough, representing the elder brethren of the Trinity House. Above the fire-place is a large and beautiful glass, and on each side full length portraits of George III. and his queen. On pedestals beneath the above paintings are busts by Chantrey, of W Pitt, and captain J. Cotton, deputy master. Over each door of entrance from the gallery are quarter length portraits of the duke of Bedford and lord Sandwich. Against the west wall. on each side of the door leading to the master's room, are full length portraits of lord Howe and William Pitt; and above the door, a -quarter length of Charles II. At the east end of the room is a host of his late majesty by Turnerelli.
In the ante-room are portraits of sir W. James and captain Fisher, and a bust by Chantrey of sir A. S. Hammond, treasurer of the navy, also several plans and some models of life-boats, &c. in the board-room are several fine paintings of James I.
|and II., Elizabeth, Anne of Denmark, earl Craven, sir Francis Drake, admiral sir J. Leake, and general Monk.|
In the deputy-master's room is a portrait of sir W. Digby, a curious Chinese map, and several other drawings.
Adjoining is the model-room, containing various models of lighthouses, floating-lights, life-boats, &c. all preserved within glass cases.
In the waiting-room, on the ground-floor, is a noble model of the Royal William, rate man-of-war; it is in fine preservation, though upwards of years old. Here also is an elegant model of a revolving-light.
The society of the Trinity House was incorporated by a royal charter of Henry VIII., dated the , yet so early as the reign of King Henry VII. an association existed, consisting of shipmen and mariners, for the purpose of piloting ships and vessels belonging to the crown, as well as all descriptions of merchant ships; but what remuneration was received for that service, and in what manner it was disposed of is not known. The charter of Henry VIII. granted to the shipmen and mariners of the realm authority to erect and establish a guild or fraternity, as well of men as of women, in the parish-church of Deptford Stroud, in the county of Kent, under the name and title of
They were empowered to make laws and statutes among themselves, for the relief, increase, and augmentation of the shipping of England; to levy fines or subsidies on offenders--to acquire lands and tenements to a certain amount; to maintain a chaplain, and to do and perform other acts of piety, and to enjoy all the franchises and privileges shipmen and mariners of this realm have used and enjoyed.
This charter was successively confirmed by Edward VI., queen Mary, and queen Elizabeth. The act of Elizabeth, which was passed in the year of her reign, after confirming to the society the general supervision of the buoys, beacons, and ballastage, enacts, that the corporation of Trinity House may at their own cost make, erect, and set up any beacons and signs for the sea, on such places of the sea-shore, or uplands near the coast, or forelands of the sea, only for sea marks, as to them shall seem meet. The same act declares it penal to disturb those marks, and further authorizes the master of the Trinity House to license mariners to row on the Thames. By another act, in the year of the same reign, the queen granted to the corporation the lastage and ballastage of all vessels upon the river, which was then held by the Lord High Admiral, Lord Howard, who surrendered it for the purpose.
|James I. also granted a new charter to the corporation of the Trinity House, giving them more ample powers for their government; and directing the manner in which the society should in future be constituted. The charter directed a master,|
| wardens, and assistants, should be elected from the guild; that theme persons should elect eighteen other persons out of the whole company of seamen and mariners, making altogether persons, whence they have sometimes been called, |
The eighteen persons elected by the master, warden, and assistants, were called Elder Brethren, and the rest of the members are called Younger Brethren, and are unlimited in number, as every master or mate skilled in navigation is eligible. The corporation still continues as it was constituted by James I.; and although the society, in imitation of many other corporations, surrendered their charter to Charles II., yet his successor restored it in ; and it is under the charter of James I. thus restored, that the corporation at present enjoys and exercises its several rights.
Few chartered companies in the metropolis are of more importance to the commerce and naval power than the corporation of the master and wardens of the Trinity House; to whom is intrusted, in addition to the authority over the beacons and sea-marks, the examination of the masters of the navy, the appointment of pilots for the river Thames, with power to fine, in the penalty of , every person who shall act as pilot without their approbation--the settling the rates of pilotage--the preventing of aliens from serving on board British ships without their license--the punishment of seamen in the merchant-service for mutiny or desertion the hearing and determining of all complaints of officers and seamen in the merchant-service, subject to an appeal from the high court of admiralty--the granting of licenses to poor seamen, who are not freemen of the city, to row on the river Thames; and the examination of the mathematical pupils in ; and they are charged with the clearing and deepening of the river Thames, in which service upwards of barges are employed; and the supplying all ships that require it with ballast.
The revenues of the corporation, which received its charter through the benevolence of sir Thomas Spert, comptroller of the navy to Henry VIII., are dispensed in charity. Independent of their alms-houses, upwards of decayed seamen, their widows and orphans, are annually relieved by this society. The alms-houses of the corporation, in number, were founded in the year , and are appropriated to the residence of decayed commanders of ships, mates, pilots, and their wives or widows, who are allowed a pension of a year, and a chaldron of coals. Among the benefactors to the corporation was captain Saunders, who bequeathed and the reversion of an estate worth a year more, which fell in the year .
There are also hospitals at Deptford belonging to the corporation. The old hospital, originally built in the reign of Henry VIII, and re-built in , adjoins the church-yard of St Nicholas,
|and contains apartments. The other hospital in , was built about the time of the revolution, and consists of apartments, with a chapel and hall. Both hospitals are occupied by decayed masters or pilots of ships, their wives or widows; each single person being allowed per annum, and the married couple|
The ancient bounds of this ward may be taken from the extent of the soke of the priory of ; and what that was, may be known from what was written by of that convent, and preserved in an old book, called Dunthorne; where we read,
 Percy Histories, iii. p. 23.