The trade of Chester and the state of the Dee navigation, 1600-1800
The thesis aims to describe the trade of the port of Chester and the state of the navigation of the River Dee from 1600 to 1800, and to put forward reasons for the decline in the City's trade. The thesis embodies facts and conclusions drawn from examination of unpublished documents in the City Archives and the Public Record Office, and contemporary printed books and newspapers. For the account of the City and its merchants considerable use has been made of the material in the City Archives, and the descriptions of the trade are largely based on a detailed study of the Port Books in the Public Record Office. Critical comments and reservations are made about the use of the Port Books as source material. Part One of the thesis describes the City, the navigation of the River Doe and the hinterland. Part Two describes firstly, Chester's role in the organisation of the customs, and the Port Books as source material; secondly, the trade with foreign countries, Ireland and other ports of England and Wales; and thirdly, the assessment of the various elements contributing to the decline of the port. Although considerable efforts were made to improve the state of the navigation, the City failed to maintain its importance as a port. This resulted from a variety of causes including the difficulties of the river. There was insufficient driving force to overcome these physical difficulties. This was partly due to conditions in the City where the guilds, persisting until the eighteenth century, were a restraining influence on commerce, and partly to the small size and nature of the hinterland with which Chester had imperfect communications. The mid- Cheshire salt trade was lost to Liverpool and the coal and load trade of Flintshire was largely remote from the City. Saltney Marsh was an important barrier separating the City from the mineral tract. The difficulties of the estuary were added to by the nature of the trade; bulky exports far exceeded the imports so many ships arrived in ballast which was jettisoned in the river. In this way, the thesis presents a broad, geographical survey of the inter-relationship of the City, the River Dee and the adjoining hinterland area of Cheshire and North Wales from 1600 to 1800.