keel

In at least as early as the 15th century – 19th century, a unit of mass for coal, which was originally limited by the size of the boats carrying the coal downriver to the harbor. The size of the boats was in turn limited, in part, by the need to pass under a certain bridge. See chaldron.

sources

1

ITEM, Whereas of every Chaldron of Sea Coals which be or shall be sold to People not franchised in the Port of the Town of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Two-pence be due to the King of Custom, and in the same port be certain vessels called Keels, by which such Coals be carried from the Land to the Ships in the said Port; and every of the said Keels ought to be of the Portage of Twenty Chaldrons, and according to the same Portage, the custom is thereof taken to the King's use; there now be certain People that of late have made such Keels of the Portage of Twenty-two or Twenty-three Chaldrons, whereof the Custom has been taken according to the Portage of Twenty Chaldrons only, in deceit of our Lord the King, as he hath perceived by Complaint in this Parliament; It is therefore ordained and stablished against such deceit, that all the Keels which now be, and hereafter shall be in the said Port, shall be measured by certain Commissioners thereto assigned by the King, and marked of what Portage they be, before that any Carriage be made by the same, upon Pain of Forfeiture to the King all the Vessels called Keels, by which any such Coals shall be carried, before that they be marked in the Manner aforesaid.

9 Henry V. Statute 1, chapter 10 (1421)
Translation from the Norman French from Statutes of the Realm, vol. 2, page 208.

2

An Act for the Admeasurement of Keeles and Boates carrying Coales. (1678)

Recital of 9 H.V. st 1. c.10.

and that Doubts had arisen as to the Meaning of the said Act; Commissioners to be appointed for measuring and marking Keels, &c. in Newcastle and other Places.

Whereas by a Statute made in the Parlyament holden at Westminster in the Ninth  yeare of the Raigne of King Henry the Fifth emituled Keeles that carry Sea Coales at Newcastle shall be measured and marked It is ordained, and established for Remedy of Deceits therein complained of,

That all Keeles that then were or thereafter should be in the Port of Newcastle should be measured by certaine Commissioners thereto assigned by the King and marked of what Portage they were before that any carriage should be made by the same, upon paine of Forfeiture to the King of all the said Vessells, called Keeles, by which any such Coales shall be carried before that they be marked in the manner aforesaid. And, whereas diverse doubts have risen concerning the intent and meaning of the said Act, and whether Sunderland and other the Members of the Port of Newcastle were comprised within the said Act, and that diverse new Frauds, Deceits, and Abuses have of late arisen and are dayly practised in the carriage of Coales by Keeles and other Boates to the diminution of His Majestyes Customs and the damage and prejudice of the Sellers and Buyers of Coales.

For Remedy thereof Bee it enacted by the Kings most Excellent Majestie by and with the Advice and Consent of the Lords Spirituall and Temporall and Commons in this present Parlyament assembled and by the Authorise of the same

That Commissioners shall from time to time be appointed by His Majestie, His Heires and Successors for the measureing and marking all and every the Keels and other Boates and Carts and Waines used or in any time hereafter to be used for the carriage of Coales in the Port of Newcastle upon Tyne, Sunderland upon the River Ware, Callercoats, Seaton Sluice, Blythe Nook, and all and every other the Members, Havens, Creeks, and Places whatsoever to the said Port of Newcastle belonging or in any wise appertaining, by the Bowle Tub of Newcastle containing Two and twenty Gallons and a Potle Winchester measure and being Seaven and twenty inches Diameter upon the top from outside to outside and noe more and allowing One and twenty Bowls of Coales to be measured by such Bowle-Tub by heape measure to each Chalder and noe more.

II. Contents of Wains; Carts, and Chalders.

What Coals, and how to be made use of in such Admeasurement; Keels, &c. being measured, to be marked of what Portage; how and in what Parts to be marked.; Times during which Keels, &c. not to be measured or marked.

Provided alwayes

That the Content of each Wayne shall be seaven Bowls and the Content of each Cart three Bowles and One Bushell heaped measure and that three such Waynes or six such Garts shall be reckened and allowed for a Chalder and noe more and noe Coales to be made use of in such Admeasurement other then what shall be good and Merchantable and new wrought and led to the Steath or Wharfe within three monthes before such Admeasurement, and one Moyety thereof to be dry and, the other Moyety thereof being made wett as hath beene auntiently accustomed to be done and practised and that all Keels and other Boats soe admeasured shall be marked by the said Commissioners of what Portage they are or by such person or persons as shall be by them or any three of them thereunto, authorized and appointed, either by Nails upon Bulke heads or partitions to be affixed to the fore and after Beanie of every such Keele or Boate or by Nails to be driven into the Stemm, or Sterne Post of every such Keele or Boate or by such other way or manner as to the said Commissioners or any three or more of them in their discretions, shall seeme most meete and convenient to direct and appoint for prevention of the evills aforesaid, nor shall any Keele or Boate be admeasured or marked but betweene the Five and twentyeth day of March and the Nine and twentyeth day of September in any yeare.

III. Keels, &c. carrying Coals before being marked, forfeited together with the Coals.

And it is hereby further enacted by the Authority aforesaid

That every Keele or Other Boate or Wayne or Cart which from and after the First day of August which shall be in the yeare of our Lord One thousand six hundred seaventy and nine shall carry any Coales in any of the places beforesaid before they shall be measured and marked as aforesaid by three or more of the said Commissioners shall be and are hereby declared to be forfeited together with the Coals that shall be found laden upon them. One Moyety of all which forementioned Forfeitures shall be to the Kings Majestie His Heires and Successors and the other Moyety to him or them that shall seize and sue for the same in any of His Majestyes Courts of Record at Westminster by Bill Plaint or other Information wherein noe Essoigne Protection or Wager of Law shall be allowed, Any Law Statute or Usage to the contrary notwithstanding.

IV. Mayor of Newcastle to administer Oath to Persons employed in measuring Keels, &c. in the River Tyne.

Commissioners may administer Oaths to all other Measurers.

And it is hereby further enacted by the authority aforesaid

That the Maior of the Towne of Newcastle for the time being is hereby authorized and required to administer Oath to every person or persons imployed and appointed by the said Commissioners or any three or more of them for the admeasureing or marking of Boates and Keeles in the River of Tyne for true and faithfull execution and discharge of their respective Trusts, and that the Commissioners to be at any time appointed for the measureing Boats and Keels or any three of them shall and may administer the like Oath to every person or persons by them imployed and appointed for the measureing or marking of Boats and Keels or Waines or Carts in all places within the limitts of this Act for the true and faitfull Execution and Discharge of their respective Trusts.

V. Removing or altering Marks;
Penalty £10. Distress or Imprisonment.

And it is hereby further enacted by the authority aforesaid

That in case after the ad measureing or marking of any Boate or Keele or Cart or Wayne the Marks shall be removed or altered, that every person or persons who had a hand in the doeing thereof shall upon proofe thereof by one or more credible Wittnesses before any Justice of the Peace forfeite the summe of Ten pounds to be levyed upon his Goods and Chattells by distresse and sale thereof by Warrant of such Justice of the Peace (rendering the Overplus) and for failer of such distresse to be ecommitted to the common Goale there to remaine for the space of three Moneths without Baile or Maineprize.

Charles II, 1677 & 1678. An Act for the Admeasurement of Keeles and Boates carrying Coales.
Raithby, Statutes of the Realm, vol 5, page (1819)

To improve readability, the paragraphing and punctuation and the spelling of place names have been slightly modernized.

Section I defines the boll as 22½ gallons and the chaldron as 21 such bolls, heaped measure, or 472.5+ gallons, or about 59 Winchester bushels. Notice the score of 21.

Section II defines the wain as 7 bolls and the cart as 3½ bolls, heaped measure, and the chaldron as 6 carts or 3 wains.

The significant omission is the size of the keel itself, probably because in practice the keel was now 8 chaldrons, which could not be reconciled with Henry V's 20-chaldron keel.

3

An Act for the Encouragement of Trade (1633)

VIII. Proviso for lading Sea-coals on Payment of Duty, and being navigated according to Act, and giving Security for landing.

And for the better encouragement of the said Plantations and the increase of the Shipping and Navigation of this Kingdome Be it enacted and it is hereby enacted by the authority aforesaid That from and after the Five and twentyeth day of March One thousand six hundred sixtie and fower it shall and may be lawfull out of any Port of England or Wales or out of the Towne of Berwicke to shipp and lade Sea coales for any part of them paying for the Chalder Newcastle measure one shilling eight pence, and for the Chalder London measure one shilling and noe more in full of all Custome and Poundage for the same, Any Law Statute or Prohibition to the contrary in any wise notwithstanding. Provided that such Sea-coales be shipped in such Shipping and soe navigated as abovesaid, And that good security be given to the Officers of the Customes in such Port in which they are shipped for the landing them in the said Plantations and not elsewhere.

30 Charles II: Statute 1. c. 8. §2 (1663)
Statutes of the Realm: volume 5: 1628-80 (1819), pp. 449-452.

4

An Act for granting to his Majestie several Duties upon Coals and Culm. (1697)

...

Duty on coal imported and sold by Measure

And for all Coals so imported from Scotland or any part beyond Seas being most likely sold by the Chalder or by any other Measure whatsoever reducible to the Chalder the Sum of Seven Shillings Six Pence of like Money for every Chalder reckoning the Chalder to consist of Six and thirty bushels Winchester Measure...

William III, 1697-8.
Chapter XIII. Rot. Parliamentorum 9 Gui. P.3 n.3
Raithby, Statutes of the Realm, vol. 7, page 367-369.
For the complete act, access www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx/compid=46899

This act of William III from which this is excerpted did not deal with Newcastle coal. The 36-bushel chalder is the London chalder.

5

Recital of 9 H.V. Stat. 1. c. 10. and 30 Car.II: Stat. 1.c. 8. §2. and that new Frauds had arisen.; Commissioners to be appointed from time to time for marking Keels, &c; Admeasurement how and where to be made; Weight and Contents of Wains and Carts of Coals regulated.

Whereas by two several Statutes heretofore made the one in the Ninth yeare of the Reigne of King Henry the Fifth intituled Keels that carry Coals att New-castle shall bee measured and marked, And the other in the Thirtieth yeare of our late Sovereign Lord King Charles the Second intituled An Act for the Admeasurement of Keels and Boats carrying Coals For the remedy of deceits therein complained off (amongst other things) itt was thereby enacted that Commissioners should from time to time bee appointed by his said late Majestie his Heires and Successors for the admeasuring and marking all and every the Keels and other Boats and Wains and Carts used or in any time thereafter to bee used for the carriage of Coals in the Port of New-castle upon Tyne, Sunderland upon the River Weare, Culler-Coates, Seaton-Sluce, Blyth-Nooke and all and every of the Members Havens Creeks and Places whatsoever to the said Port of New-castle belonging upon the Forfeiture that every Keel Boat, Wain or Cart which should thereafter carry Coals in any of the aforesaid Places before they shall bee admeasured and marked as aforesaid should bee forfeited together with the Coals laden upon them.

Notwithstanding which diverse new frauds deceits and abuses have of late arisen and are dayly practised to the diminution of his Majesties Customes and the great prejudice & damage of the buyers and sellers of Coals. For remedy whereof Bee it enacted by the Kings most excellent Majestie by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons in this present Parliament assembled and by the authority of the same

That Commissioners shall from time to time bee appointed by his Majestie his Heires & Successors for the admeasuring and marking all and every the Keels Pan-Keels and Pan-Boats and other Boats and Wains and Carts used or in any time hereafter to bee used for the Carriage of Coals in the Port of New-castle upon Tyne Sunderland upon the River Weare Culler-Coats, Seaton-Sluce, Blyth-Nooke and all other Places within the Counties of Northumberland and Durham and all and every the Members Havens Rivers Creeks and Places whatsoever to the said Port of New-castle and Counties aforesaid belonging

Which said admeasurement shall bee by a dead weight of Lead or Iron or otherwise as shall seem meet to the said Commissioners or any Three of them allowing Three and fifty hundred weight to every Chaldron of Coals

Which said Keels Boats Waines or Carts shall bee admeasured and marked att the times and places and in manner hereafter mentioned, Any thing in the said former Acts to the contrary notwithstanding.

Provided always

That the Weight or Contents of Coals loden or carried by every such Wain shall bee off the weight or content of Seventeen hundred weight and an halfe and the weight or contents of Coals loden or carried by every such Cart shall bee of the weight or content of Eight hundred and three quarters

And that Three such Waines or Six such Carts shall bee reckoned and allowed for one Chaldron and noe more

And that noe other Carts or Wains are hereby intended to bee admeasured or marked but onely such Wains or Carts as now are or hereafter shall bee imployed in carrying Coals to the Staiths to bee directly putt from the Staiths into the Ships and noe others.

II. Commissioners to give Three Days' notice of time and place of Admeasurement.

Keels, &c. to be marked and nailed; Wains and Carts to be marked and nailed; Persons thereto appointed to take an Oath; Owners neglecting, &c; Penalty; Regulation as to Time and Place of such admeasuring, marking, and nailing.

And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid

That the said Commissioners or any three or more of them shall cause all and every of the said Keels Boats Wains and Carts to bee admeasured accordingly and shall give three days notice of the time and place of such admeasurement to the Owner or Owners thereof and cause the said Keels and Boats soe admeasured to bee marked and nailed on each side the stem and sterne and midshipp thereof or otherwise as they the said Commissioners or any Three of them in their discretion shall direct and the said Wains and Carts to bee marked and nailed on the head and sides of the said Waines Carts or otherwise as the said Commissioners or any Three of them shall direct or by such persons as shall bee by them thereunto appointed which persons soe appointed shall take an oath before the said Commissioners or any Three of them for the true and impartial performance and discharging the same which oath the said Commissioners are hereby impowered to administer and if the owner or owners of such Keels or Boats, Wains or Carts shall after such notice neglect or refuse to have their said Keels, Boats, Wains or Carts soe admeasured they and every of them shall incurr the penalty hereafter mentioned. Provided that noe such Keel or Boat bee admeasured marked or nailed but between the Five and twentieth day of March and the Nine and twentieth day of September in any yeare nor shall bee admeasured marked or nailed to carry more then ten such chaldrons of Coals att any one time and that all such Keels and Boats belonging to the Port of New-castle shall bee admeasured marked and nailed at the New Key of the said Port and that the Keels and Boats belonging to the River Wear shall bee admeasured marked and nailed att Lambton Staiths upon the said River and not elsewhere and that all the Keels and Boates belonging to Culler-coates, Seaton-sluce, Blyth-nooke and all other places within the said Counties of Northumberland and Durham as alsoe all Wains and Carts to bee admeasured and marked by virtue of this Act shall bee admeasured and marked att such times and places as the said Commissioners or any Three of them shall direct.

III. Keels, Wains, &c. carrying Coals before they are marked and nailed, unless by Default of Commissioners, forfeited together with the Coals therein.

And bee it further enacted by the authority aforesaid

That every Keel Boat Wain or Cart which from and after the Foure and twentieth day of July which shall bee in the yeare of our Lord God One thousand six hundred ninety and five shall carry any Coals in any of the Places aforesaid before they shall bee admeasured marked and nailed as aforesaid by Three Commissioners or more of them shall bee and are hereby declared to bee forfeited together with the Coals that shall bee laden upon them (unlesse the same shall happen by default of the said Commissioners) one moiety of all which forementioned forfeitures shall bee to the Kings Majestie his heires and successors the other moiety to him or them that shall discover or sue for the same in any of his Majesties Courts of Record by Bill Plaint or Information wherein noe Essoign Protection or Wager of Law shall bee allowed any Statute Law or Usage to the contrary notwithstanding.

IV. The Marks on Keels, Wains, &c. removed or altered;

Penalty £10. Distress; If no sufficient Distress, Imprisonment in County Gaol for Three Months. How Penalty applied; Such Keels, Wains, &c. remeasured. marked, and nailed.

And bee it further enacted by the authority aforesaid That in case after the marking and nailing of any Keel Boat Wain or Cart the mark shall bee removed or altered whereby to frustrate the intent and meaning of this Act that every person and persons that shall have a hand in or bee privy to the doeing thereof and shall upon proof thereof by one or more credible witnesses before any one or more Justice or Justices of the Peace of the Counties where the said offence shall happen to bee com[m]itted & convicted thereof such person or persons soe as aforesaid convicted shall forfeit the su[m]m of Ten pounds to bee levied upon his or their Goods and Chattels by distress and sale thereof by warrant under the hand and seale of the said Justice or Justices rendring the overplus (if any) to the partie or parties distrained upon and for want of sufficient distresse the parties soe offending shall by like warrant bee committed to the common Gaol of the said County where the offence shall bee committed there to remaine for the space of Three months without bail or mainprize one halfe part of the said forfeiture to his Majestie his heires and successors and the other halfe part thereof to such person or persons as shall make such discovery and alsoe that after any such offence as aforesaid committed by altering or removing any of the marks or nails that shall bee sett upon any such Keels Boats Wains or Carts by virtue of this Act that from thenceforth and soe. often as any such offence shall bee comitted as aforesaid the said Commissioners or any Three of them or such person or persons as shall bee by them appointed shall have authority and are hereby authorized and impowered to admeasure mark and nail the said Keels Boats Wains and Carts anew according to the directions hereby before given.

Notice the inconsistency in the definition of the chaldron: first as 53 hundredweights, but 3 wains at 17½ hundredweights each is 52½ hundredweights. In practice the 53 cwt value was the accepted weight.

6

A keel of coals is 21 ton 4 cwt. and contains 8 Newcastle chaldrons, so that each chaldron is 53 cwt. — A London chaldron contains 36 heaped Winchester bushels, and weighs on an average near 28½ cwt. (according to the quality of the coals) which weights being nearly in the ratio of 8 to 15, it is always reckoned, that 8 Newcastle chaldrons make 15 London chaldrons.

J. Bailey and G. Culley
A General View of the Agriculture of Northumberland, with Observations on the Means of its Improvement…
Newcastle: printed by Sol, Hodgson, and sold in London by Robinson and Nichol, 1797.
Page 6, footnote.

7

1863, July 6. The following document was signed and issued by a majority of the leading mercantile firms of Newcastle :- "We, the undersigned merchants, shipbrokers, and shipowners of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, recognising that the keel has long been obsolete, and does not now in reality exist as a standard measure, that it bears no relation to foreign weights and measures, but one that is most difficult and tedious to establish (the reduction having first to be made in tons and cwts., and subsequently into keels); and furthermore that coal and coke are now sold by the ton, and not by keels and chaldrons, hereby pledge ourselves and agree to commence at an early date, to conduct all our chartering operations, whenever and wherever practicable, on the basis of the established and legitimate weight of the realm, viz., the ton, in order to simplify calculations, which as hitherto conducted, cannot have failed to be a source of great inconvenience to foreigners having business with this port."*

* Other measures and denominations used in the Coal-trade, as the peck, boll, and ten, could advantageously be done away with or simplified.

Transactions of the North of England Institute of Mining Engineers, vol. 15, page 258.

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