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Epilogue 1700 - 1827

The eighteenth century seems to have seen the slow decline of popular representative government in the Company. The writing was already on the wall when a Parliamentary Act of c. 1728, stating that the 'Number of Assistants are so numerous as ... to occasion Confusion and disturbance', reduced their number to thirty.[1]

The revolution of 1641 - 42 may have got rid of the post of chief ruler or 'Master' (and perhaps other distinctions which the pre-revolutionary rulers had made amongst themselves). On 1 March 1695 a parliamentary bill was heard proposing to (re-)establish a chief ruler or 'master'. But the bill was not enacted. Such a proposal does not seem to have been carried out until 1827.[2]

In that year an Act of Parliament finally re-established an oligarchic constitution for the Company, with a self-selecting court of a master, several wardens, and a number of assistants.[3]


1. The Laws & Constitutions of the Company of Watermen and Lightermen ... (1742), p.52. Back

2. Humpherus, II, p.390. Back

3. Second Report on Municipal Corporations (London, 1837), I, p.177; cf. Charles Dickens jnr., Dickens's Dictionary of the Thames (London, 1884), p.283. Back 1