1606, Selby and Chapman, Newcastle MPs, petition about a coal bill

George Selby, knight, and Henry Chapman, MPs for Newcastle upon Tyne. SP 14/18 f. 78 (1606)

The humble peticion of George Selby knight and Henry Chapman burgesses of the Parliament for the towne of Newcastell upon Tyne.

Yt may please your honorable good lordship that where a bill is preferred into the upper house tendinge by act of Parliament to have the ancient course of ladinge of coales to be otherwise then formerlie by statute the same hath bene appointed and ever used to be att Newcastell aforesaid, the contents of which bill togeather with the answeare of the supposicions of the same, wee doe herewithall offer unto your honour.

Yt may please your honour upon perusall thereof to have consideracion to the good estate of the same towne which a hath bene serviceable and ever more respective in all offices and duties towardes the Kinges majesty and his noble progenitors, and the comon wealth and a very key storehouse and reliefe in tyme of derth for that parte of the country.

The bill is preferred by such as carry an hard opynion against the hostmen of Newcastell in respect that the price of coales did arise this last yeare, which they wrongfully complaine to proceede from combynacion nowe as that ymputacion did arise from a sinister construinge of orders made amongst the said hostmen att Newcastell and longe since by the lordes direccions dissolved, soe by reason the shipmen which transport the cole did find themselves (without any just cause) greived att the same, upon a malicious and perverse frowardnes and upon pevishe counsell amongst themselves, they did forbeare by the space of two monethes in the springe to come to fetche coale, att the ancient and accustomed rates whereby the cittie and country grewe lesse provided, which is the onlie trewe cause of the scarsety and high price.

Att the tyme of the incorporacion of the hostmen of Newcastell and in consideracion thereof they graunted to the late Queene her heires and successors xii pence of everie chalder to be shipped and transported from thence amounteth to a greate yearelie proffitt which his majesty enjoyeth and then promisse was made by divers of the lordes that both the towne and hostmen should have theire liberties corroborated and the foresaid act of 21 Henry 8 kept in force.

Yf this bill should proceede and take effect, to become as is pretended and explanacion of the statute of 21 Henry 8 not only the Kinge should be defrawded of his customs contrary to the good intendmentes of the same statute and the statute itself confounded as also the hostmen frustrated of theire incorporacion and graunt but most of all the towne it self havinge by ancyent charters and grauntes, duties out of such coales as are from thence transported (and whereupon the cheifest maintenance thereof resteth) should thereof be defrawded, and in short tyme would fall to an utter decay, ruyn and depopulacion, and thus humbly desireinge your lordships honorable favor: wee cease etc.

Report by Barbara Prynn

Sir George Selby (1557 – 1625) was an English politician who sat in the House of Commons between 1601 and 1611. His father was William Selby, and his wife was Elizabeth Fenwick, daughter of Gerard Fenwick of Newcastle. Selby was a sheriff in 1594), an alderman from 1600 to his death) and four times mayor of Newcastle, in 1600, 1606, 1611 and 1622. In 1601 he was elected Member of Parliament for Newcastle-upon-Tyne.(1)

Henry Chapman’s father was mayor of Newcastle at Elizabeth’s accession and died in 1566. Chapman himself acquired his freedom as a Newcastle Merchant Adventurer by 1577 when he took on his first apprentice and shortly afterwards joined the municipal hierarchy, serving as sheriff in 1581-2 and mayor in 1586-7. According to his funeral monument he also became a freeman of London, joining the Clothworkers’ Company, presumably in order to further his business interests in the metropolis. Early in his career he became a shareholder in the Grand Lease of Episcopal Coalmines on the south bank of the Tyne, an interest acquired in 1583 by William Selby and the father of the petitioner, and his cousin Henry Anderson, who formed a consortium which quickly came to dominate London’s coal supply. In 1595, when this monopoly came under attack from the London corporation, Chapman and Henry Mitford were sent to put the mine owners’ case to the Privy Council. Chapman was later described as ‘chief counsellor of the grand lessees’ during the municipal wranglings which led to the incorporation of the lessees as the Hostmen’s Company in 1600.

The Hostmen of Newcastle upon Tyne were a cartel of businessmen who formed a monopoly to control the export of coal from the River Tyne in North East England. They were so known from the medieval practice of “hosting”, whereby local businessmen provided visiting merchants with accommodation and introduced them to local traders. The Hostmen acted as middlemen with whom the coal producers and those who shipped the coal to London and elsewhere were forced to deal. (2)

In a consortium the Hostmen formed for the shipment of coals in 1603, Chapman was allocated a quota of 18,900 tons, around 10 per cent of the annual total, making him one of the largest suppliers on the Tyne. However the Company’s monopoly was hotly contested by rivals within the town who sued the Hostmen before the Council in the North for denying membership of their Company to other Newcastle freemen. In July 1603, Chapman and William Jenison were dispatched to York to contest this suit but the Council fixed the entry fine for those wishing to become Hostmen at the modest sum of £2 13s. 4d. The dispute was apparently settled on 17th January, 1604, when fifteen new freemen were admitted to the Company. (3)

It looks as though the petition had a positive response.

(Note that a chalder was a unit of dry measure formerly used in England equal to four quarters or about thirty-two bushels for grain and thirty-six bushels for coal).


1. Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Selby. See also ‘SELBY, Sir George (1556/7-1625), of Oatmarket, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northumb. and Winlaton, co. Dur.’, The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010, https://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1604-1629/member/selby-sir-george-15567-1625

2. Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hostmen_of_Newcastle_upon_Tyne

3. ‘CHAPMAN, Henry (by 1556-1623), of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northumb.’, The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010, http://www.histparl.ac.uk/volume/1604-1629/member/chapman-henry-1556-1623


This report is part of a series on ‘Petitioners in the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I, 1600-1625’, created through a U3A Shared Learning Project on ‘Investigating the Lives of Seventeenth-Century Petitioners’.