Mike and Diane Wilson -
Free Spirit

Home Page


Bridlington's Harbour Commissioners

I could get into bother with this blog. I'm taking on the might and majesty of a group of men (as far as I know there are no women commissioners) known as Bridlington Harbour Commissioners.

Huge signs around Bridlington harbour announce "The Commissioners of the Bridlington Piers and Harbour. Established 1695 and still progressive. Working for both the Harbour and the community." That's fine until you read a smaller (much smaller) sign that reads: "The Bridlington Harbour Commissioners were set up in 1837 by Act of Parliament to manage the piers and wharves and to impose harbour dues."

How is this possible? I'm really not being awkward: I want to know.

A similar conundrum occurs with the following: In 1987 Bridlington Harbour Commissioners issued commemorative mugs which commemorates their 150th Anniversary (1837-1987). They were handmade in Scotland and were available for sale. The wording around the motif reads "Commissioners of the Bridlington Piers & Harbour."

Then in 1997 - ten years later - another commemorative mug was issued by the commissioners.  The reverse of the mug reads "Bridlington Piers & Harbour Commissioners. Tricentenary 1697-1997." On the front of this mug the word round  an identical motif reads "Common Seal of the Commissioners of the Bridlington Piers & Harbour 1697 - 1997."

I have absolutely no problem with accepting that in 1695 (or 1697) there was a group of men acting as commissioners - note the small "c" - for the harbour. But in the Act of Parliament giving the instructions to collect revenue and fees the word "commissioner/s" is not mentioned. Similarly in subsequent Acts.

If that group of men given authority to collect revenue were titled "tax-gatherers," is it possible that the current body of men at Bridlington would be termed "The Bridlington Harbour Tax-Gatherers." Somehow I doubt it.

I also have no difficulty in accepting that the Bridlington Harbour Commissioners were established in 1837. But I cannot accept them both at the same time. One of the statements must - repeat must - be wrong.

In 2004, the "old-style" commissioners were abolished and a new group of men were deemed to be Bridlington Harbour Commissioners.

Surely this third group of men are not the same group as the previous two. Therefore they cannot take credit for being "Commissioners of the Bridlington Piers & Harbour," nor for being the same group that was brought into being by the 1837 Act of Parliament.

My argument is that, if Manchester United packed it all in and the footballers played for someone else, and MU's ground was put in the care of the bulldozer, they would cease to exist. If, a few days later, Sir Alex decided that was wrong and he'd recreate MU, the second MU is not, repeat not, a continuation of the first and would therefore not be entitled to claim that the team had won such and such a trophy in 1990 whatever. It was a different MU, not the current one.

Similarly with the commissioners. If they were brought into being in 1837, they are not the same commissioners group from 1695/7. And the current group of 2004 cannot claim to carry on from the previous group because they've been re-formed.

They can't have it all ways. When I mentioned my views to an acquaintance, he said that it was hardly worth the effort of worrying about it. But I claim that if the group can pull the wool over our eyes in this matter, could they not also do the same about their handling of the proposed marina in Bridlington?


Mike Wilson