The Fishing Vessel Registry

When you look at photos of the trawlers and drifters from the UK, you'll see names on the boats and a registration number. Starting in 1868, boats were registered in their home ports and in Lowestoft, that number begins with an "LT". The owners of the vessels began registering with the Crown in 1868, but of course there were many, many ships that pre-date registration. The harbour opened in 1831, so there was 37 years of busy commerce before official registration lists and over a thousand years fishing and merchant ships before that. In its heyday, there were over 1,100 vessels registered in Lowestoft. Vessels were re-named, moved from port to port and often changed owners. Some were lost at sea, some were blown up by mines and others eventually wore out and were broken up, so names and numbers were constantly being updated.

The record is fascinating microcosm of history. You can see how styles in names change through the decades, who was owned what boats, where they moved around town, who was successful and who was not. You can see where the boats ended up at the end of their working life (Norway!!) or where the government confiscated boats for mine sweeping and, sadly, you'll find the a record of the lost drifters and trawlers who were sunk by U-Boats or mines... or simply never returned.

Several of the 19th century local directories had a list of the vessels, their owners, and the names of the ships, which useful for historial research and is interesting in itself. Because the directories compiled lists from hand-written ledgers and the publisher then had a another person hand write the information before it made it to the typesetter, there is ample opportunity for typos and mistakes. I've tried to be as accurate as possible in my own transcribing and if you find a mistake, please don't hesitate to email me.

I am also transcribing a ledger of the registrations that is kept in the Suffolk County Archives in Lowestoft and has been placed there for safe-keeping by the Lowestoft Port History club. It is very, very slow going and I can only type in the information on location as they won't allow me to copy the ledger so that I can work from home. It's so important that this information be made available to students and researchers and the ink is already fading, but I hope get the information online as soon as I can. At the rate I'm going (once a week for 2-3 hours) it's going to take me about a year to get this online. If you are looking for a paricular ship for your research let me know and I'll skip to that one when on my next trip.

The most logical way for me to organize this information was by number. If you're looking up a particular boat, look for the number. You'll find what information I have and if I have any images with boats with that registry number. If you are looking for a name, the easiest way to find them is to go to the top of each page and do a page search (Mac keyboard shortcut is Command+f, PC it's Control+f). I hope you'll find an ancestor's boat! If you do, let me know!


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Registry Codes

A list of all UK fishing boat registry codes and their ports.

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