22. Joseph Rutter's pamphlet of 1843

Reading about the Port of Swansea ] Swansea Harbour in 1771 ] Swansea's South Dock (c.1870s) ] Swansea's South Dock (c. 1880s) ] Swansea Docks in 1881 ] Brunel's report for Swansea Docks 1846 ] 2. Charter of William de Newburgh ] 6. A Royal Charter ] 9. Trade In The Early Port ] 10. A port Indenture of 1135 ] 11. Salt A vital commodity ] 12. Swansea's Layer Keeper ] 12a. Early Quays and Docks ] 14. The Uncrowned King Of Swansea ] 15. Swansea in the 1790s ] 16. After Gabriel ] 17. 1790s Swansea;The Time For Change ] More about Swansea in the 1790s ] 17a. Smuggling in Swansea and Gower ] 18. The Harbour Act and the Mumbles Lighthouse ] 19. Port Tennant ] Port Tennant in 1827 ] 20. port Development. A Chronology ] 21. The South Wales ports ] [ 22. Joseph Rutter's pamphlet of 1843 ] 25. Thomas Page's report of 1846. ] 27. John Henry Vivian ] 29. The East Dock ] 30. The Prince of Wales opens the East Dock ] The Helwick Lightvessel ] Jack's World: Swansea North Dock in the 1880s ] James Harris Seascape Painter ] Mr Padley of Swansea ] Plan of the Prince of Wales Dock ] Who put the 'Sweyn' in Swansea? ] Swansea's first tugs ] The Victorian port of Swansea ]

This is the full version of Joseph Rutter's 1843 pamphlet about port charges. This was widely circulated around the town to try and raise opposition to the proposed developments. Compare it with the Brunel report to get an idea of the debates that were going on at the time. Rutter's opinions about the need to monitor the expensive ambitions of the Harbour Trustees would not be out of place today when you think of some of the city council's spending plans!

 

THE IMPOLICY

 

OF

 

EXCESSIVE PORT CHARGES;

 

WITH

REMARKS ON THE PROPOSED EXPENDITURE FOR THE

IMPROVEMENT OF

SWANSEA HARBOUR.

By JOSEPH RUTTER.

SWANSEA:

 

PRINTED AT THE CAMBRIAN-OFFICE, WIND-STREET,

 

By W. C. Murray and D. Rees

 

1843.

SWANSEA HARBOUR.

 

I AVAIL myself of the opportunity afforded me, through the medium of the press, to call the attention of my fellow-townsmen to a subject they have hitherto treated with great apathy and indifference, but which they will soon find to be, in its results, of the highest importance to the interests of Swansea and neighbourhood-You are most of you aware that, in conformity with the powers granted by the last Act of Parliament for the improvement of the harbour, the Trustees borrowed upwards of £70,000—that a considerable portion of this amount has been spent— that a toll has been levied on the shipping and trade, to pay the interest of the money borrowed— and that it is the intention of the Trustees to continue borrowing, until they consider the undertaking complete, the only preliminary to additional borrowing being the consent of their body, and there is good reason for supposing that the Proprietary Trustees will oppose no obstacle to such a step.

It is the opinion of practical men unconnected with the Trust that £50,000 more will be required to carry out the present plans, a total outlay of £120,000,— and it is pretty certain that unless the inhabitants of Swansea interfere, and by vigorous efforts prevent it— this further amount will be borrowed and expended— and the shipping and trade will be again rated to meet this additional outlay

The subject will more fully and conveniently be brought under our notice by the following queries:—

I. Have the Trustees of the Harbour, in the exercise of their duties, more especially in the expenditure of the money raised under the last Act of Parliament, evinced proper caution and exercised a sound judgment, and has their capacity for business been such as to render it prudent to place at their disposal those further sums which it is their intention to raise?

II. Taking into consideration the present condition of the trade of the town—the lamentable falling off that has already taken place, as exhibited in the Harbour Office receipts — the daily increasing competition around us — and seeing the very serious and injurious effects which excessive local taxation has produced in the trade of other seaports, are we justified in sanctioning an expenditure which, by imposing burdens far too heavy for the trade of the place, will, in all probability, produce similar results in the Port of Swansea?

As to the first question —If from your own knowledge, on careful inquiry, you have reason to believe that the Trustees set about their work in a prudent and business like manner— avoiding delays— committing no serious errors— being especially careful not to waste the public money— or trammel their own proceedings by litigation; if they have so conducted the business as to avoid all just suspicion of playing into each others hands, of paying any large portion of the money borrowed, or leasing the property to members of their own body ;—if you find that they have carefully avoided falling into engineering traps— so as not to be deceived in the outlay— without widening, deepening, or any of those little extras which contractors "delight in ;"—if, again, you find that they have evinced prudence in the choice of their contractors, by selecting persons with sufficient skill and capital, properly to carry on and complete the undertaking, not of course allowing them to have any connexion with a truck or beer shop ;—if you are quite satisfied as to these matters, you may venture to look over errors of minor importance, and the question is easily disposed of.

Let me then direct your attention to the second question. Some few years ago, a gentleman, whose predecessors had acquired considerable property in the iron trade, selected a spot in this county with the intention of establishing iron works. It was thought necessary to divert the course of a small stream of water, intended for the use of the works, so as to bring it across a deep valley. To effect this object, a stupendous and massive acquaduct was built, at a cost of about £20,000. No further progress has been made, and instead of the bustle and activity attendant on the extensive — manufactory in full operation the stillness of desolation reigns amidst these monuments of misdirected ingenuity. The passing traveller and the angler view with astonishment the Structures, and wonder, as well they may, for what earthly purpose they were erected.

I have related this circumstance to exemplify the folly, under the name of improvement, of recklessly expending our resourses, to effect an object which may often be secured at much less cost-The stream of water could have been made to cross the valley, so as to answer every useful purpose, for £1,000, leaving the other £9,000 to be expended in erecting buildings and providing the necessary facilities for carrying on the works.

The city of Bristol, fifty years since, was one of the most flourishing ports in Great Britain— her tradesmen were prosperous— her merchants ranked among the richest of the land. The old river did not present sufficient accommodation for the large class of vessels that frequented the port, and an Act of Parliament was procured for enlarging and improving the harbour, converting the old river into a float Eminent engineers were of course employed, therefore the estimate bore the same proportion to the actual cost that our Kilvey Hill does to Cader Idris. The fate of the city was sealed; enormous charges were imposed upon shipping,— a rival port, as a necessary consequence, has risen into importance, and, notwithstanding the dangerous and tedious navigation of the Severn, owners of vessels still prefer the risk and disadvantage to submission to the Bristol port charges. The sons of the merchants who procured that Act of Parliament have, by the operation of that very act, been driven from the city to settle in Gloucester and other places, where they can employ their enterprise and capital to greater advantage. Prudent and practical men proposed at the period a plan, by which all that was desirable could have been secured at one-twentieth of the cost; but prudence and foresight were contemned— nothing less than improvement upon a grand and magnificent scale would meet their approbation— their wishes were realised, and they are now paying the penalty of their own folly and ambition.

Following up this enquiry, we pass to Cardiff, a port which, besides having a safe and convenient roadstead outside, and being in other respects well situated for trade, besides having immense fields of coal brought close to hand by canals and railways, has the peculiar privilege of shipping all the iron from the largest works in the kingdom. These circumstances, and they are such as are rarely found, caused the place to be much frequented, so that it became an improving and increasing place— the accommodation for shipping became too confined. A Nobleman, possessing considerable property and influence in the neighbourhood, constructed, at a great expense, a large and commodious dock. Its completion and opening were considered quite an important event in the history of the town, and were accompanied by corresponding demonstrations, and, as is usual on such occasions, brilliant anticipations of what the opening of the docks would do for the town and neighbourhood were indulged in. These expectations have never been realised.

After the excitement passed away, came necessarily the pounds, shillings, and pence, the business part of the affair. The dock had been provided and must be paid for. Dock dues and charges on vessels going foreign, far heavier than those existing in any other port in the kingdom, were laid on. The consequences are just such as might have been foreseen; masters of vessels avoid the place, and no ship owner will send his vessel there to load if he can get the same freight at any other port; nor is it to be wondered at that with a charge on vessels going abroad, amounting to one shilling per ton, the trade should fall off. cell may the inhabitants complain that, at this time, there is no port in the channel suffering more from the general depression of trade than the port of Cardiff.

From the earliest period of our history, as a commercial people, Kingston-upon-Hull has ranked high as a mercantile port. Situated, like our own town, on an angle formed by the sea board on the south, and a navigable river on the east, being nearly opposite the entrance of the Baltic, within two days sail from the Rhine and the Elbe, the two great thoroughfares to central Europe, connected with the Yorkshire manufacturing districts, by the rivers Humber and Ouse— the Trent opening a communication with the midland part of the kingdom— no Port in Great Britain, twenty years ago, possessed greater advantages, or enjoyed a larger share of continental and coasting trade. Upwards of sixty large vessels were annually fitted out for the Northern Fisheries; the trade of the place at that period was immense, and there was every prospect of its continuance. Extensive docks, for the accommodation of shipping became a matter of necessity; in providing these the outlay was very great. Unfortunately, the fisheries dwindled away so far as to employ only eight or ten vessels; our restrictive commercial policy, by producing a system of retaliation, cut off a great portion of our continental trade; a considerable falling off in shipping was the consequence; the charges, which they had before scarcely felt, became too heavy for the contracted and limited rate of profits. Many of the merchants withdrew to Goole, a town further up the river, where the charges were very low; and as the trade of Hull decreased, so that of Goole increased, until it has become a place of considerable importance

Similar results have followed injudicious expenditure, rendering necessary heavy charges, in many other Ports; and I shall be much obliged by any gentleman of the Trust informing me, what peculiarity there is in the trade or situation of Swansea to prevent similar circumstances from being attended with like consequences in this port. The competition in the coal trade is daily increasing, and all the smaller shipping ports around us are naturally exerting themselves to undersell us. The recent changes in the Tariff, affecting, as they seriously do, the articles of coals and copper, and the infatuated policy pursued by our Paternal Government, have produced an important change in those branches of trade. Recent events also prove that they are by no means exempt from

the operation of those casualties and checks to which all other trades are, in a greater or less degree, liable. It therefore behoves the inhabitants of Swansea seriously to deliberate before they permit the representatives of their interests to continue a course of proceedings, which may only prove the first step in a down hill progress.

I am fully aware that the question will be raised— Do you then ask us, the inhabitants of Swansea, to stand still, and resign all attempts at local improvements? I reply, decidedly not. On the contrary, I would second, by all means in my power, every attempt at well digested improvement, founded on clearly perceived grounds of something like adequate returns; but I cannot, and I feel assured the inhabitants of Swansea will not, be deluded by mere words. All is not improvement that is so called- it is no improvement to build a dock, when in so doing sums of money are expended, bearing no proportion to the capabilities of the place, and leaving to the inhabitants the legacy of heavy local taxation and splendid accommodation for an extent of shipping, which may never enter the port. I need not remind you, that any impost laid upon shipping, in the shape of dock or harbour dues, has precisely the same effect as if the same amount were added to the price of the article exported.

Regretting, as I do, that a subject, bearing so intimately on the interests of the town and trade of Swansea, has not been taken up by abler pens than mine, I trust that this humble effort will, if attended by no other result, have the effect of directing the close attention of my fellow-townsmen to the proceedings of a body entrusted with such heavy responsibilities as the Harbour Trustees-Be assured, that it is only by such watchful supervision of your own affairs, that you can prevent private interest from usurping the place of public good, and the attachments of friends, anxious to do each other "a good turn," from superseding that regard for public welfare which, in public matters, ought to be supreme.

Your local taxes, lately so much increased by the fears of some and the folly of others, are already burdensome enough, and it is therefore high time for you to bestir yourselves, before steps shall have been taken which will make retreat even more ruinous than a further advance.

 

Swansea, 9th Month, 1843.

 

 

Murray & Rees, Printers, Swansea.

 

 

The View for Sunday 4 December 2000

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