Trinity House Pilots

Trinity House Pilots (in the Solent area), by Tony Bevis


Trinity House was appointed to supervise the provision of Pilots in various ports around the British Isles in 1808; previously they had been responsible for London Pilots since the reign of Henry VIII. All the archives of Trinity House are held in the Archives section of the Guildhall Library in the City of London. Initially Trinity House contacted the Customs Collectors for the outports asking for recommendations on pilotage rates, suitable persons to be appointed as sub-commissioners and suitable pilots. From these recommendations they established boards of sub-commissioners who were instructed to test and appoint pilots. Copies of the correspondence including initial recommendations and subsequent examinations, which also includes details of vessels, are in MS30193.

Once the system of management of pilots was established a register (MS30174) was established for 1st and 2nd Class Pilots which exists until 1846. After that a run of annual returns submitted to Parliament exists until 1909; for some years a full list of pilots at each outport was submitted, for other years only changes are shown, in preparing this transcript every fifth year was examined. These returns are in series MS30198. Initially Cowes outport included Southampton although their pilots were listed separately and are excluded from this publication, in the mid 1840s Southampton became a separate district. In the mid 1860s Portsmouth was amalgamated with Cowes and there is nothing to distinguish pilots from the two former districts. In the early 1900s Southampton was merged to form a combined Solent District.

In addition to the above Minute books of the Pilotage Committee series MS30158, the Board MS30010 and the Court are held, and I have endeavoured to give an indication of the type of information held in each series.

Trinity House awarded pensions to retired Pilots usually at age 70 and their widows and also the widows and children of Pilots who died in service. These pensions were not automatic and could be revoked, they were funded by an extra levy charged on foreign vessels and remitted by the pilots to the Board of Trinity House. Many petitions for pensions still exist and are held in MS30218.

MS30195 is a register of Sub commissioners.

The information is presented as a series of searchable PDF files taken from the original spreadsheets compiled. The information for each man in the 1808 - 1846 lists are spread across 3 pages. These files will each open in a new window.

(If you do not have Adobe Acrobat Reader it may be downloaded for free from their website)

Trinity House Pilots 1808 - 1846 (PDF file, 4.3 Mb)
Trinity House Pilots 1848 - 1909 (PDF file, 1.3 Mb)
Trinity House Sub commissioners 1808 - 1921 (PDF file, 153 Kb)


I am most grateful to the archivist and staff at the Guildhall Library for their advice and assistance in producing the various records they hold. I first became aware of the information held on pilots at the Guildhall from a list on the Isle of Wight Family History Society and I am extremely grateful to the late Di Harding for placing it there. Also to Lorelei Williams for publishing a list of Isle of Wight recipients of Trinity House pensioners in the IOW FHS magazine.

Tony Bevis - Click for email address