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Royal Fisheries Company records

Call Number: MS 83


The collection includes correspondence, copies of Parliamentary documents, and records related to stock in and the management of the Royal Fisheries Company, a British joint venture stock company of the late 17th and early 18th centuries, primarily concerned with fishing rights off the coasts of Scotland, Ireland, Greenland, and Newfoundland.


  • Creation: approximately 1677, 1691-1725


Conditions Governing Access

No access restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Spencer Library staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of manuscript materials.

History of the Royal Fisheries Company

King Charles II of England granted letters patent to the Company of the Royal Fishery of England in 1677. The company consisted of a governor, sub-governor, deputy governor, and 12 committees for a Court of Assistants to manage the company's business. The Company originated out of previous fishing companies, all of which had failed for various reasons.

A joint stock company, members could fish in and on all coasts, inlets, rivers, and seas belonging to the kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland and in any other parts of the king's dominion in which fishing rights were not already granted. Company members also had the right to transport and sell their fish and oil made from fish within England and in other markets.

The newest fishery company had a rocky start due to the ongoing wars between European powers. The company was under the rule of the Duke of York, King Charles II's younger brother. The Protestant English did not trust York's Roman Catholic religion and so were reluctant to back the fishery, including after Charles II died and York took the throne as King James II.

In 1690, after the Glorious Revolution and the succession of King William of Orange and Queen Mary to the throne, the Royal Fishery was dissolved. It appears from collection materials, however, that attempts were made immediately thereafter and during Queen Anne's reign to reconstitute a Royal Fishery joint-stock company. In the 1710s or 1720s it also appears there were attempts to consolidate this enterprise with the South Sea Company.

[Information retrieved from Elder, John R. The Royal Fishery Companies of the Seventeenth Century, James Maclehose and Sons: Glasgow, 1912, pages 111-115; and collection materials.]


.75 Linear Feet (2 document cases + 1 oversize box, 2 oversize folders)

Language of Materials



Collection remains unsorted, as the materials were found in the North family papers and are related to Arthur Moore's papers. Several folders in the collection include information regarding Hoffman-Freeman bundle numbers in which these materials were originally found. Conservation staff treated some of the collection in 2023, and these items have been removed to oversize housing to better aid their preservation.

Physical Location

MS 83

Physical Location

MS Q104

Physical Location

MS R32

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchase, part of the North family acquisitions, MS 240A.

Guide to the Royal Fisheries Collection
Royal Fisheries Company records
Finding aid prepared by alh, 1993; mwh, 2022. Finding aid encoded by mwh, 2022. Finding aid revised by mwh, 2023.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
Royal Fisheries Company records, MS 83, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas

Repository Details

Part of the University of Kansas. Kenneth Spencer Research Library Repository

1450 Poplar Lane
Lawrence KS 66045-7616 United States