"Return of Possession held in Conception Bay 1805"

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Conception Bay North Region

Plantation Records

"Return of Possession held in Conception Bay 1805"

Supplemental Documents and Acknowledgements

H. Maddick Memo 1937



DAY OF July A.D.1937.
H. Maddick

N.C. Crewe Letter 1958

Mr. H. M. Maddick,
Registrar of Deeds and Companies
St. John’s.

Mr. Eric Moon Chief Librarian, Public Libraries Board, St. John’s.

Dear Mr. Maddick and Mr. Moon,

  1. Some years ago the Gosling Library purchased from me a manuscript book being – A List of Fishing Rooms in Bonavista Bay, 1806. It is one of a numbered series of an official register thereof, evidently.
  2. The other day, it occurred to me that the much larger old manuscript book in the Registry of Deeds, of which the Registry’s Misc. Volume 13 (“Plantations Book”) is a typescript, must be one of the same series, dealing with Conception Bay.
  3. Perhaps these are the only survivors.
  4. I am taking the liberty of passing on this bit of information as perhaps useful to be cross-referenced in each book or otherwise noted for a searcher’s attention when perusing either of the two. For certain types of historical research (as distinct from their practical legal use) that one day are bound to engage detailed attention, these books are important indeed.

Yours sincerely,
N. C. Crewe
St. John’s, Nfld.
23 Dec 1958

N.C. Crewe Memo 1962


Re: the identification of the two old manuscript books, called respectively –

(1). The Plantations Book (a modern title), now at the Registry of Deeds and Companies, and being in fact a list of the Fishing Rooms in most or all of the settlements in Conception Bay, of about 1805, giving details of occupier, title, etc.

(2). Bonavista; Register of Fishing Rooms, 1805-6, received 10 Sep. 1806 (the original title), and being an exact counterpart of the Plantations Book, for Bonavista Bay, now at Gosling Memorial Library.

That these two books are survivors of an official survey covering the whole of Newfoundland, or of most of it, undertaken about 1804-6, is obvious from the following abridged extracts from the typescript volumes of the Colonial Records at the Nfld. Archives:-


(a) 21 Aug 1804. The lengthy Order issued by Governor Gower, to the Surrogates of the several districts of Newfoundland, ordering them to make a survey of all the Rooms in their respective districts, to enter the details in a Register (obviously to be kept in the district surrogate’s office) and to send a copy of the Register to the Governor. The details so required by the Order to be ascertained and entered are exactly the same as are found entered in the two above-named books.

The Order’s preamble indicates the purpose of the survey and Registers, viz: “Whereas frequent disputes arise in the different harbours of this Island respecting the right and possession of Fishing Rooms, Beaches, Flakes…….it is expedient that the claim of every Merchant, Boat Keeper and Planter to the places occupied by them should be clearly defined……..and it is therefore hereby directed that the Surrogates residing in the several parts of the Island shall take an exact account of all the Fishing Rooms, Wharfs………within 200 yards from High Water Mark……….and shall register them in a Book to be kept for that purpose…….

“And it is further directed that the said Register shall be admitted as Evidence in all disputes……”

(b) 23 Oct 1806. Letter from Governor Gower to Charles Garland, at Hr. Grace, Surrogate of Conception Bay: “I have received your letter …….informing me that a further expense of seventy pounds has been incurred in obtaining a Survey and Register of Fishing Rooms in Conception Bay……” This undoubtedly refers to the Plantations Book.

(c) 9 Septr 1806. Letter from John Bland, Surrogate at Bonavista, to Governor Gower: “Herewith I transmit to Your Excellency a Survey of Fishing Rooms within the District of Bonavista, with a charge for the expenses thereof…….” The charge is for some £69, detailed as travelling expenses around the bay, and the Governor’s order to pay it is dated 13th Septr 1806.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

To: Mr. H. M. Maddick, Registrar of Deeds and Companies, and Miss Marjorie Mews, Gosling Memorial Librarian ---- copy to each. I have just now encountered the above documents in the Colonial Records here, and I suggest you fasten this memo in at the front of these two books you now hold.

N.C. Crewe,
Nfld. Archives, St. John’s.
26 Mar 1962.

N.C. Crewe Letter 1966

The Registrar of Deeds and Companies,
St. John’s.

The Chief Librarian,
Gosling Memorial Library,
St. John’s.

On 23 December 1958, I wrote you a jointly addressed letter giving my opinion that the manuscript book held by the Gosling Library in its vault which I had sold it some years before, entitled A List of Fishing Rooms in Bonavista Bay, 1806, and the similarly columnised manuscript book held by the Registry of Deeds, of which the Registry’s Misc. Volume 13 (The Plantations Book) is a typescript, dealing with Conception Bay, were two books of the same series of an official Register (of Rooms for the whole of Newfoundland).

This present letter is to say that my opinion is born put by an official document I have just found on pages 359-363 of Volume 1/S1, 17 of the Colonial Records at the Newfoundland Archives.

The document is the Order, dated 21st August 1804, issued by Governor Sir Erasmus Gower, addressed to the Surrogates of the several Districts of Newfoundland, opening with a preamble that “Whereas frequent disputes arise respecting the right and possession of Fishing Rooms, etc., etc.,” and therefore directing the Surrogates to “take an exact account of all the Fishing Rooms, etc., within their Districts” and to “register them in a Book to be kept for that purpose, specifying the following particulars;” then follows a recital of the particulars, which correspond to the headings of the columns in the two surviving books held by the Registry of Deeds and the Gosling Library.

One clause of the Order directs that “the said Register shall be admitted as Evidence in all disputes respecting the claim or possession of any Fishing Room, etc.” after “the expiration of eighteen months from 21st August 1804.”

Later, Governor Gower’s Proclamation, dated 10th October 1805, extends this Evidence-qualifying time to two years after 21st August 1804.

N. C. Crewe,
Research Officer,
Newfoundland Archives.
St. John’s, Nfld.,
30 November 1966.

Act of William III.

10 & 11 Wm. III., Cap. XXV
An Act to encourage the trade to Newfoundland.

Whereas the trade of and fishing at Newfoundland is a beneficial trade to this kingdom, not only in the employing great numbers of seaman and ships, and exporting and consuming great quantities of provisions and manufactures of this realm, but also in the bringing into this nation by returns of the effects of the said fishery from other countries great quantities of wine, oil, plate, iron, wool, &c., to the increase of revenue, and the encouragement of trade and navigation.

Be it enacted that from henceforth it shall be lawful for all his majesty’s subjects residing within this realm of England, or its dominions, trading to Newfoundland, to enjoy the free trade of merchandize and fishing to and from Newfoundland; peaceably to take bait and liberty to go on shore on any part of Newfoundland for the curing, salting, drying, and husbanding of their fish and for making oil, and to cut down trees for building stages, shiprooms, tram-fats, hurdles, ships, boats and other necessaries for themselves &c. and all other things which may be useful for their fishing trade, as fully as at any time hereto-fore; and that no alien shall take bait or use any sort of trade or fishing there.

2. And to preserve the harbours. . . . . . that from the 1st March 1700 no ballast &c. shall be cast out but carried on shore.

3. And . . . . . . . that at their departing no person shall destroy flakes and at their arrival they shall content themselves with such stages as are needful for them, and they shall not repair them by rinding trees or demolishing other stages.

4. And . . . . . . that (according to the ancient custom there used) the master of such ship as first enter a harbour shall be Admiral, the second Vice-Admiral, and the third Rear-Admiral and that the master of every ship shall content himself with such beach as he shall have necessary use for, and if possessed of places in other harbours, shall make his election in forty-eight hours of such place as he shall chuse to abide in; and the Admirals shall settle differences and proportion the places to the several ships according to the number of boats which each ship shall keep.

5. And whereas several inhabitants in Newfoundland and other persons have since the year 1685 detained in their own hands, and for their private benefit stages, cookrooms &c. and other places ( which before that time belonged to fishing ships) for taking of bait and fishing and curing their fish to the great prejudice of the fishing ships and sometimes to the overthrow of their voyage and to the great discouragement of traders there; . . . . . . that all persons as since the year 1685 have taken stages &c. shall on the 25th March next relinquish them to the use of the fishing ships.

6. And to prevent ingrossing in future, . . . . . that no fisherman or inhabitant of Newfoundland shall take any stage &c. which at any time since 1685 belonged to any fishing ship until all such ships shall be provided with stages.

7. Provided always that all such persons as since the 25th of March 1685 have built houses and stages that did not belong to fishing ships since 1685 shall peaceably enjoy the same without any disturbance from any person whatever.

8. And . . . . . That all by-boat keepers shall not pretend to meddle with any stage &c. that did belong to the fishing ships since 1685.

9. And . . . . . that every master of a by-boat shall carry out two fresh men in six and that every inhabitant shall be obliged to hire two fresh men like by-boat keepers, and masters of ships one fresh man in five and the masters of by-boats and ships shall take oath before the collector, &c. that they have such fresh men, and the officers are required to give a certificate thereof without any fee.

10. And . . . . . that masters of ships take every fifth man a green man.

11.And . . . . . that no person shall deface masts of boats &c.

12. And . . . . . that no person shall rind trees nor set fire to the woods, nor cut timber except for repairing and no person shall cast anchor or do anything to hinder the hailing of sayns in the accustomed baiting places, nor steal nets or cut adrift boats.

13. And whereas several persons that have been guilty of thefts, murders and other felonies, have escaped unpunished because the trail of such offenders hath been ordered before no other court but the Lord High Constable and Earl Marshall of England . . . . . that all robberies and murders &c. committed there may be tried in any shire of England by virtue of the king’s commission of oyer and terminer and gaol delivery according to the laws of this realm.

14. And . . . . . that admirals are required ( in the harbours and on shore) to see the rules of this present act duly put in execution and that each shall keep a journal of the ships, boats, stages, transports and of all the seamen imployed in their respective harbours and deliver a true copy to the Privy Council.

15. And . . . . . in the case of dispute between the fishing ships and the inhabitants the Admirals shall determine them and if any party shall think themselves agreived they can appeal to the commanders of His Majestys ships of war appointed as convoys.

16. And to the end all may join their solemn prayers and addresses to Almighty God for his blessing on their persons and endeavours . . . . . that all the inhabitants shall strictly keep every Lords Day and that none keeping taverns shall sell wine &c. on that day.

17. And whereas by an act to grant his Majesty a further subsidy of five per cent. On all merchandize imported ( all manner of fish English taken excepted) and whereas some doubt has arisen whether oil, blubber and fins are not liable to the said duty . . . . . that all oils &c. of English fishing taken in the seas of Newfoundland and imported in English shipping are hereby declared to be free of the said duties.

[Source: Prowse’s History of Newfoundland as transcribed by Fred Davis]

The Plantation Book Project is the result of the work of the following people:

Susan Snelgrove - Susan transcribed pages 1 to 21 as well as pages 82 to 101 and proofed the postings.

Fred Swed Jr. - Fred transcribed pages 22 to 42 and proofed the posting.

Chris Jenkins - Chris transcribed pages 122 to 141 and proofed the posting.

Debbie Bateman - Debbie transcibed pages 102 to 121 and proofed the posting.

Sue O'Neill - Sue transcribed pages 43 to 81 as well as 142 to 160 and proofed the postings. Sue also made an addtional two copies of the complete book and mailed the appropriate sections to the transcribers. Sue and husband Al, proofed the transcriptions as they returned and made the appropriate corrections. She wrote the intro on the top of each page.

Bonnie Hickey - Bonnie transcribed the NC Crewe letters, the NC Crewe memo and the H. Maddick Memo. She also photocopied the complete Plantation Book and arranged for all of the transcribers. Bonnie also checked the original documents in order to answer a list of questions following the transcription project. She proofed the intro on the top of each page.

Fred Davis - Fred transcribed Act Wm III.

Stephen Baker - Coded the original transcription for the Internet and posted the files at NFGenWeb, now NL GenWeb.

Name in RecordDescription of error / additional informationMy Name

© Susan Snelgrove, Fred Swed Jr., Bonnie Hickey, Sue O'Neill,
Debbie Bateman, Chris Jenkins, Fred Davis & NL GenWeb
Conception Bay North Index