History of the City of London coal duties

Reform of the coal trade


The London Coal Trade Act 1803 levied an extra duty of ½d. per ton (increased to 1d. in 1804) to help pay the expenses of the coal market in London which had become a public market vested in the Corporation (For the reasons behind this see Smith's Sea-coal for London). The duty was continued by an Act of 1807 which otherwise largely repealed the 1803 Act.

In 1831, following the reports of select committees of both the House of Lords, and the House of Commons which had been set up to examine aspects of the coal trade, London, Westminster and Home Counties Coal Trade Act 1831 was passed making a number of reforms. The changes included the stipulation that coal was thereafter to be sold by weight and not measure and the granting of extra powers to the City in respect of the coal market. For details of the other changes see Smith's Sea-coal for London. The 1d. duty for this purpose was continued but the other duties were reorganised. There was a duty of 8d. per ton to replace the duty of 6d. and the metage fee of 4d. which formed the Orphans Fund (lately changed into the London Bridge Approaches Fund), and also a duty of 4d. per ton to replace the metage fee of the charters, all of which were suspended for seven years, together with the office of meter and practice of measuring coal. The new duties were to last seven years in the first instance.

The new duties and the suspension of the old ones were in the event continued by later Acts until the duties were abolished. Thus the duties abolished in 1889 were in fact the suspended duties, as the duties imposed by the 1831 Act (as continued) expired in 1889 in any case. As an aside, in 1840 an Act extended the duties imposed by the London Bridge Approaches Act 1829 for four years (ie until 1862), but as these duties were suspended for the whole of this period the 1840 Act was without practical effect.

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