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  Edward Chafe
Letters from his Submission for a Solution to the Longitude Problem - 1784


Edward Chafe was born c.1720 and buried in Tormoham, England in 1802.  He submitted a claim around 1783 to the Longitude Board for the Longitude Problem award.  In 1714, the British Government offered, by Act of Parliament, 20,000 for a solution which could provide longitude to within half-a-degree.  John Harrison (1693-1776) submitted his first timepiece, the H1 in 1737.  Four models later and after much lobbying of the Longitude Board, King George III and finally parliament, an Act of Parliament in June 1773 finally awarded him 8750.  Apparently there were many board members who coveted the award themselves.  John Harrison was recognised as having solved the longitude problem.  Captain James Cook confirmed the accuracy when he returned to England in July 1775.  However the actual prize went unclaimed until the Longitude Act was repealed in 1828 as the board had asked for very extensive land and sea trials.

Below are transcriptions of letters sent by Edward Chafe, Elias Preston and William Chafe to the Board of Longitude.  The signatures and drawings were provided with permission by the Cambridge University Library, Royal Greenwich Observatory, MS.RGO.17 Board of Longitude Papers: Edward and William Chafe:  

Tormoham 23 September 1783
Honored Sir,
I have your of the 20th Aug last where in you write you have my letter the the plans inclosed defining the longitude and likewise have delivered them to Mr Parker, secretary to the Board of Longitude to be laid before this Board which I immagain have been examined by this time hoping itt will be of good use for the thing destined for.  Futher more as I am no ways doubtful butt that itt will be made pracktable, I have this more to beg of your Honour to make known to such gentlemen as itt doth consearne which is of an easy way in having the works file? up and in laying itt on the plan fitting for pracktible use in a fine and plaine way to be taken of by the mariner and in so plaine and easey way as gentlemen might nott soon think of, and likewise of some additional parts as may be wanted to fitt up the practisional compass which shall be ready to day and due as far as my compass leads me to in such afaires as soon as shall be required.
Honored Sir, from your most obedient and humble servant
Edward Chafe
I hope you will be so well pleased to favour me with a line or two att the acceptance of this letting me know iff its examined or nott and when itt will, and iff itt will anser in expectation of the works.
Edward Chafe Signature, 23 September 1783

July 27th 1784
This is to certify your Honour's that I Elias Preston of the Parish of Tormoham in the county of Devon, have followed the sea above thirty years, and I have been Mate and Master of a vessel fifteen years, and gentleman I am strongly of the opinion that Mr. Edward Chafe's works for finding out of Longitude will actually answer the purpose intended for, as he hath made known to me the whole working there of for fourteen or fifteen months past and at several different time before this instant, which I actually think it will be a ready way of finding out the longitude by an instrument that he himself hath now projected.
Toroham July 27, 1784
Gentlemen I am your most obliged and humble servant
Elias Preston

Tormoham 27 July, 1784
Honored Sir,
This your letter of the 21 instant sent to Mr. Willm Chafe att Berry Pomerory concerning my scheme for finding the longitude where I find your request is of me to procure a certificate where in is one enclosed by Mr. Elias Preston  on my works which I hope will show the gentlemen of the Board of Longitude to examine itt where as I thought that by this time itt might be examined and only to have been putt the ? as itt is so long since Mr. Stephens wright me itt sent to been laid before the Board of Longitude as I have been dearly waiting for a demand for the comencing a decision.  I have to add to the former to compiled the hole which I am to give in when required which I hope you will be pleased to lett me know att the receirt of this when I may expect a final anser if it is approved of or not.
Honoured Sir,
Edward Chafe 

Tormoham 6 August, 1784
Honored Sir, 
This yours of the 30 July, where in you write me that I most produce a certificate from some person of science whom as I know of no one that can be better judge here of my works than the person I produced the last time. If you will be so well pleased as to find me a person of better science than you think him is of I am readey to relate? on him with the atention of all my works as I think by this time I have met with much obstructions in my undertakings in making my works known, which if I had been admited set the remaining additions as I have offered att any time when it was required butt because by former works did nott come to hand as I expected as Mr. Stephens sent me the old note before I received a letter I might send them when as I find itt was presently ? to by that, by that meanes itt encoridges me from sending the remains for fear what hands it falls into for if itt should come known of such as have science of navigation he might make instruments by my works for their own use which might be a disadvantage to the government as I am for good and honour of my King and country and as I am well ashured of such gentlemen see what I can further produce itt might be soon putt in commission,  For now gentlemen I am to offer my attendance with all my works if your Honours will be so pleased as to admit I should wait on them and to be herd and examined as I will be readey att any little time after notice as I can make an instrument in a rough way to take both latitude and longitude by as I am by no means afraid butt itt will answer the thing desined for no I have shown itt to Mr. Elias Preston as he is readey also to afirm to its truth.  Now gentlemen I find addition at this time what incoridgement there is offered by the government with assistance also for finding such works as longitude as by the assistance and help of a good god.  I have now to ? as far as he pleases to ?assist me with for itt nott from art nor contrivance of man as I am free to answer to gentlemen after your Honours have pruesed this over I hope you will be so well pleased as to send me an answer of what I am to do as I beg pardon if any faults in this as I hope this will be shown to such gentlemen as it doth concern
Honoured Sirs, from your most obedient humble servant
Edward Chafe
Elias Preston

Right Honoured Sirs
Tormoham 19 February 1785
In respect of my formour plans for the discovery of longitude I have here too added here two globale instruments one for taking the lattitude by sun or stars and the other for the giving of longitude by the travishing and sliding scales here in directed pray my that youre Honours will be so well pleased as to send them over hoping the will anser the thing desined for.  Hoping youre Honours will be pleased to order me a letter att the reciept of them.
Right Honoured Sirs
To the Right Honorable Commissioners of the Longitude Board
I am youre most obedient and dutiful servant Edward Chafe
These instruments must be fitted up with degrees and minutes and the hours of the days as you think properest

Drawing 1. 
This outer scale is ? the outer globe itts proper to putt in ?
This scale to hide up and.. to the latitude you are ? seek from yore meridian line find your long 

Drawing 2.
Right Honoured Sirs here you may fix this travishing global instrument and observe by the travishing scale if you please for on the perpindukler line otherwise you may fix the sights on the global instrument and let him travish and observe so him either sun or stars for your distance required.  

Honored Sir, 
Exeter 17 July 1785
I most sincerely beg your pardon for waiting so long to return you my most honourable thanks for your very obliging answer that my last letter to you which communicated to me the determination of the Board of Longitude not to receive any scheme for the discovery of the Longitude at sea without its being recommended by a scientific man.  I am exceedingly sorry to find that such severe regulation? has past that Honorable Board as at may perhaps preclude many ingenious men who have not in their power to produce such a friend.  I am only say for my own part that I hope I have done my duty in communicating to you that I had a scheme to offer on that subject in as it is refused by reason of the aforesaid resolutions it ? under the ? of taking it to those who will be pleased to grant me the indulgence now refused me.  Perhap it may not ? ? to observe - I do not find by the book of Arts & Sciences which have come to my hands any such instrument therein described for taking angular distances, as I have by me a model of however I dont wish to press anything that might give offence, the purpose of this being only to acknowledge the very great honor you have done me.  I therefore most respectfully take my leave and am Honored Sir, your very much obliged and obedient humble servant
William Chafe 

Tormoham 3 September, 1785
Honored Sir, 
When I sent this letter to the Right Honourable the Lord Commissioners of the Board of Longitude dated the third of august last in repsect of my plans for the discovery of longitude as I though by this time might be brought to perfection as I hope is nott laid aside as in a work that was so greatly desired and so much incuragment offered to any one that should make itt there buisness to seek into itt which work I have endivered for about fourteen years past butt being abstant for some years in my undertakings could nott bring itt to a performance which by the asistance of a good god have used the best of my indeavour which according to the incouragement offered have don what is in my power to make itt known for the good and honour of the King and country butt as I have not been answered nor incouradged according to expectations as I think such works would afourded I am to inquir what is done with my letter plans I last sent or if the be respected or nott therefore most pray that your Honour will be pleased as to send me a letter to lett me know if there is any thing going on in respect of them as I cannot find any works that will give itt more nigher than the sun or stars after taking my distance by and bearings also as one instrument will be proved for the other as youre Honours most rightly know.  So I beg leave to request for an anser in returne of ? as I hope I have fulfilled my respect of my offers butt if nott aproved of by your Honours I most beg the assistance of good God strive to ? my self and family. 
Honoured Sirs, I am youre very humbeld servant. 
Edward Chafe
Elias Preston
                                           Sir Harry Parker, Admiralty Officer, London

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