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THE CLOTH TRADE
Wool was sent from England to Flanders to be woven into cloth until the middle of the fourteenth century when Edward II banned its exportation. The foreign markets were abolished and Englishmen were encouraged to produce their own cloth. English weavers were not able to make enough cloth however, so foreign cloth-workers were invited by the King to come to England. From this importation of skilled laborers came the woolen manufacturing industry in England. To further bolster the domestic production of cloth the Elizabethan poor-laws, recommended that spinning of flax, hemp and wool be done in workhouses. The two trade Corporations which had been involved in the cloth trade, the Merchants of the Staple who traded in the raw material, and Merchant Adventurers who traded in the cloth, found their fortunes wain as the cottage industry grew in England. Staples or markets were established in various towns and by the mid-sixteenth century the two Corporations were replaced by the Clothiers. The term cotton was used to describe a type of weave, not the fiber or fabric during the 15 to 17th centuries which was a woollen fabric with a raised nap. The process of raising the nap was called cottoning or frizzing. It was Manchester that was eminent for its woollen cloth or Manchester cottons at the end of the 16th century. By the time of the Tudors Manchester led in manufacturing garters, laces, ribbons, thread, and caps. The weaving of cotton cloth began in Spain and in the 14th century the Netherlands became the leader in cotton manufacturing. In 1538 John Leland wrote that …Bolton-upon-Moore market standeth most by cottons; divers villages in the Moores about Bolton do make cottons. These cottons were an English wool imitation of European fustians. In 1578 the will of James Billston, proved at Chester, describes himself as …a cotton manufacturer. Manchester and the region surrounding it were noted during this period for the weaving of linen. The yarn was imported from Ireland, woven, and sent back to Ireland for distribution and sale. Manchester and Bolton were the center of woolen weaving in England. Flemish weavers fled Spanish persecution in the later half of the 16th century. An influential number of these weavers settled in and about Manchester in 1585, where some cotton fabrics were being made on a small-scale. With the arrival of the Flemish weavers the cotton-spinning and weaving industry in England grew. The climate in the region was particularly conducive to manufacturing cotton fabrics because the humidity helped control the fiber and make it more manageable. Another attraction was the ability to obtain wood for building and burning from the College woods around the city. It was after the Flemish weavers arrived that cotton began to be imported into England in any quantity.
Queen Philippa of Hainault rides into Manchester in the spring sunshine and is greeted by some of the Flemish Weavers who were invited to England under Edward III’s act of 1337.
In 1590 William Camden referred to Manchester cottons as woolens, and the Act of 33 Henry VIII regarding the Manchester linen and woolen industries, and cottons, did not apply to cotton textiles. The cottons described in this act were woolens which required dressying and frisying which is the raising and curling of the nap. The act of Edward VI stated …all the cottons called Manchester, Lancashire and Cheshire cottons, full wrought to the sale, shall be in length twenty-two yards and contain in breadth three-quarters of a yard in the water and shall weigh thirty pounds in the piece at least…. This was a woolen product based on the weight and milling. Most weavers built their own looms. The master usually provided the reeds, healds, and other changeable parts, and employed gaiters to set up the new work in the looms. Once the water-frame was developed cotton could be spun in a length and fineness which was suitable for warps. Prior to this the warps were either linen or wool. The reeds were often imported from Germany, Ireland and Scotland. Women and children cleaned, carded and spun the cotton-wool at home. The cleaning involved beating the cotton with willow switches, called willowing. Then it was washed or soaked with water. Most of the weaving was done by men on looms they constructed themselves. The men were responsible for warping, sizing, dyeing and weaving the warp into cloth. Once the cloth was made it was scoured in a trough of water using a wooden scraper, and then stretched on wooden racks where it was allowed to dry. Once dry, fullers earth was rubbed over the cloth which was folded and then hammered by water powered wooden hammer. This gave the cloth a smooth surface. After stretching once more, the cloth was ready for the tailor. The two groups involved with the production were farmers and cottagers. The cottagers raised their rent from spinning and weaving woolen linen. Farmers too raised their rent from spinning and weaving woolen, linen, and later, cotton. Weavers made farming their secondary source of income, not the other way around. They would work small pieces of land, and helped gather in the harvest for the manor during the proper season. Fustian masters or Manchester merchants would engage weavers to produce the cloth. Most were paid by the piece and were supplied the raw materials by the master or merchant. Only a few weavers bought their warps and cotton and sold their own finished product. Strict regulations controlled weight and size of the finished products. Cotton cloth in the early 16th and 17th century was mixed with linen (fustian) or worsted yarn. It wasn’t until the mid-1700s that cotton cloth was woven. 1620 is considered the beginning of fustian weaving in Manchester. fustians were a heavy cotton fabric. In Manchester, cotton was imported from the Levant. By 1641, Lewis Roberts notes the cotton industry of Manchester as a thriving trade. This growth in the textile trade was due in part to relationships with London. Roberts wrote …The town of Manchester buys the linen yarn of the Irish in great quantity, and, weaving it, returns the same again, in linen, into Ireland to sell. Neither doth her industry rest here, for they buy cotton wool in London, that comes first from Cyprus and Smyrna, and work the same into fustians, vermillions, dimities, &c., which they return to London, where they are sold, and from thence not seldom are sent into such foreign parts where the first materials may be more easily had for that manufacture. The growth of cotton products in the Manchester region resulted in the decline of English linen. English colonists transported the cotton industry to the American Colonies.
|The Wooldresser took the sheared wool and washed it, pulling the heavy, soaked wool with an equally heavy rake, to remove the dirt and debris in preparation for drying, and carding.|
The Weaver took the yarn that had been carded, and spun, usually by women and children. The loom size determined the width of the finished cloth. Large looms required more than one person to operate.
In the warm days of the summer, the Fuller took the grey or yellow cloth and soaked in a mixture of bluing, starch and soap. The cloth was also soaked in buttermilk or whey which contained lactic acid. The bleached cloth was then dyed and placed in a tub of fuller’s earth, urine and ash and worked until it became soft. It was then laid out in the warm sun to dry.
The Shearer was tasked with shaving the protruding fibers on the surface of the fabric, to create a smooth, even surface.
The Silkworker took raw silk, which needs to be cleaned and softened, and spun it into fine thread, which was then used in embroidery, or woven on a specialized loom for fine fabric.
The tailor carefully crafted clothing, that generally outlasted the wearer, and frequently was gifted in the wills of the owner.
Guilds and Livery Companies
Gild means a payment, and members raised money for charitable and trade uses as well as payments to the Exchequer in return for rights, liberties or privileges granted by the King. In medieval London, individuals involved in a trade lived in the same neighborhood and attended the local church. They formed fraternities for mutual assistance and protection. These soon evolved into guilds that were licensed as lawful merchants of their product or ware. The guilds were organized to regulate their trade, to ensure a level of quality, and to control wages, and distribution. They regulated apprenticeship to insure they were properly prepared for the trade. From the beginning they were aligned with the church, providing financial support and participation in observances and ceremonies. Livery Companies were formed from the Trade Guilds. They are governed by a Master, Prime Warden or Bailiff, a body or court of Wardens of Assistants, and the Clerk who governed daily operations of the company. The membership was composed of freemen and liverymen. Access to membership as a freeman could be obtained by fulfilling the terms of apprenticeship, by being the son of a liveryman, or by paying a fee after approval of the governing body. Advancement to liveryman came by vote of the Company ruling court. The liverymen were able to vote for the Lord Mayor and Sheriffs of London. In 1515 there were 48 livery companies in London and they were ranked based on their power, both political and economic. The top dozen were called the Great Twelve City Livery Companies. The oldest company of London was the Weavers’ Guild. It was established at a point in time before 1130. Henry II granted them a charter which renewed the rights they held in the time of Henry’s grandfather. In 1321 the Court of Husting made it lawful for all Freemen to set up looms and sell cloth if they made payment of a tax to the King. The Flemish weavers were encouraged by Edward III to come to England and the Weavers’ Guild was forbidden from forcing the Flemish weavers to join their guild. They set up their own guild but conflicts over the years resulted in the Weavers’ Guild absorbing the Flemish weavers in 1497. In 1490 the Weavers’ Guild was granted livery and Arms and was recognized as a company. In the early 1500’s the Weavers’ Guild could not meet the heavy tax imposed for its privileges, so Henry VIII reduced the tax. Protestant refugees from Europe brought their skills in silk weaving. The Weavers’ Company continued to be vital to London, helping with the cost of charitable endeavors. It gave subsidies to the King and helped defend the kingdom by keeping gunpowder, arms and a group of men who would fight in the King’s army when needed. Competing merchant companies included the Drapers, Merchant Taylors, Mercers, Haberdashers and Clothworkers. Company precedence the textile trade included Mercers (exporters), Drapers (domestic merchants), Merchant Tylors, Haberdashers, Clothworkers, Dyers, Weavers, Woolmen (bought and sold wool), Upholders (upholsterers), Feltmakers, Broderers (embroiederes), and Framework Knitters. The Worshipful Company of Mercers, who began as silk importers and exporters of woolen cloth, was the most powerful Company. This was followed by the Worshipful Company of Grocers who controlled the spice trade, and then the Worshipful Company of Drapers who were wool and cloth merchants. The order of the Worshipful Companies continues as: Fishmongers who handled the fish trade and fisheries in the North Atlantic; Goldsmiths; Merchant Taylors who were tailors and linen armourers; Skinners, who were fur traders; Haberdashers who sold items needed for sewing and tailoring; Salters who traded salt and chemicals; Ironmongers; Vintners who sold wine; and finally Clothworkers. The Weavers were ranked as 42nd by 1515. The Skinners’ Company developed from the Guild dedicated to Corpus Christi. In 1327, Edward III granted a Royal Charter. The Skinners dealt in furs which were costly and luxury items only affordable to the powerful and wealthy as well as all treated animal skins. With the growth of the cloth trade, the Skinnners moved away from fur trade into becoming general merchants and in controlling the lucrative fur trade with the New World by the 15th century. The Skinners and the Leathersellers as well as the Tawyers and the Tailors frequently were in dispute over areas of control. The most important of these disputes was between the Skinners and the Merchant Taylors in 1484, when violence disrupted the Mayor of London’s barge procession on the Thames. The Coopers Company ranks 32 in precedence in London. In the reign of Henry V, the Coopers were governed by two Wardens and Coopers’ makers were introduced in 1420. John Baker, a warden who died in 1490, left The Swan on Basinghall Street for use of a Coopers’ Company, providing they obtained a Royal Charter, which they did in 1501. Under the expansion of English naval power and sea trade during the reign of Henry VIII, the need for casks and barrels increased the wealth and influence of the Coopers’ Company. The Guild of St. George of the Armourers began in 1322, and they received their Royal Charter from Henry VI in 1453. As their name implies, they made armor, travelled with the King’s army, and repaired armor damaged in battle. The Haberdashers were formed from a guild whose members worshipped at St Paul’s Cathedral and were originally involved in making the padded clothing worn beneath armour. They evolved into the sale of ribbons, beads, purses, gloves, pins, caps and toys. They joined with hatmakers in 1502. Henry VI granted their Royal Charter in 1448 and their hall was on Staining Lane at the corner with Maiden Lane. By 1650 it became impossible to control the haberdashery trade as the population of peddlers and craftsmen increased in London. The Grocers began and a guild of pepper merchants, and its name was change to the Company of Grossers in 1373. They received their Royal Charter in 1428 from Henry VI. Originally responsible for the prevention of adulteration of spices and drugs, they also weighed all merchandise sold. The term grosser came from the peso grosso or in gross and they were the wholesale dealers in spices and foreign produce. The Stationers were booksellers who copied and sold books, pamphlets, limners, and writing materials. The printers joined the society by the early 16th century. They received their Royal Charter in 1557 and in 1559 they became the Worshipful Company of Stationers. Within the society they dealt with copyright infringements and protections. They were authorized to seize pirated material and unlicensed publications which were not enter in the Stationers’ Company Register. In 1710 the copyright act removed their authority. The Drapers obtained their first Royal Charter in 1364. The Brotherhood of Drapers, which was a religious fraternity associated with St. Mary Bethlehem in Bisposgate, existed in 1360. Most of the Drapers lived around Candlewick Street and Chepe and around Cornhill. St. Mary le Bow in Cheapside and St. Michael’s Cornhill became the centers of worship. In 1438 the company received its Charter as a Company. The drapery trade involved a shop where drapery was sold, with wealthier members becoming merchants or traders in wool and cloth as well as financiers. As the woolen trade expanded in the 15th century, the Drapers’ company prospered. They had wide powers to regulate the trade in woollen cloth in London. They controlled the sale of cloth at fairs and set standards of measure and quality. The Drapers’ Hall moved from St. Swithin’s Lane in 1543 to the home of Thomas Cromwell, after his execution by Henry VIII. It has remained on Throgmorton Street since this time, though the Great Fire of 1666 destroyed the original structure. The Vintners were centered at St. Martin in the Vintry and held a monopoly on the trade for wine with Gascony in 1363. Only they could buy herring and cloth to trade with Gascon merchants for wine. Wine was a major import in England. By the time of Edward VI, their power to control the wine trade was severely curtailed. Having supported Charles I, the Commonwealth dealt harshly with the Vintners, and after the Great Fire of 1666 which destroyed properties and assets, the company fell into decline. The Clothworkers Company was formed in 1528 from the Fullers and the Shearmen Guilds that were originally part of the Company of Weavers. The plague and the Great Fire of London decimated the company’s membership and assets.
An examination of the London trades circa 1400 indicates that drapers traded over a region of about 100 miles from London and their primary customers were esquires, knights, gentlemen, clerks, parsons and other drapers. Likewise, skinners traded a greater distance, but had the same clientele, as well as husbandmen, who clearly would have supplied hides. Mercers, who were wholesalers, dealt with chapmen, who were middlemen, knights, esquires, gentlemen, yeomen and husbandmen. Their trade was more diversified, and of less luxurious goods and cloth. Their trade was over a wider area. They were supplied woollen cloth from chapmen, and distributed London linens and imports. Most of their trade was centered on larger population areas in the Midlands and Southeast such as Bristol, Gloucester, Reading, Northampton and Coventry. In addition, drapers did a wholesale trade with York and Hull as well as Manchester, Cheshire, Maidstone, Ely, Norwich and Salisbury. Skinners from Coventry, Leicester, Northampton, and Salisbury, as well as Boston, are found as members of the London livery. This was likely a consequence of a need to have access to imported skins. Skinners were also center in York, and Lichfield. Outside of London, vintners found their trade constrained by the bulk of their product. Vinters operated out of Hull, Bristol, and King’s Lynn supplying wine over rivers and roads to inland centers. (Reconstructing London’s distributive trade in the later middle ages: the role of computer-assisted mapping and analysis; James A. Galloway; in New Windows on London’s Past; Information Technology and the Transformation of Metropolitan History; Matthew Woollard ed.; Glasgow:2000)
After campaigning for early a year against the city, Calais fell in August of 1347 to Edward III, King of England. The king drove out most of the residents and commanded William de la Pole, and other rich merchants to go to Calais to set up the administration of the city. Edward III wanted Calais for its access to the lowland markets for English wool. These merchants were soon joined by others who, heading the proclamation of the king, were assured that if they removed to Calais within a certain time, they would receive a house at a reasonable rent, and have the liberties, privileges, and immunities needed to live safely there with their families. Almost 200 received lands and tenements, ranging from inns, shops, bakeries, houses, messuages, and cottages with gardens. Among those listed were financiers of the king, three mercers, a vintner, a goldsmith, a merchant, three leather workers, a saddler, a barber, and others. By 1364, a system was in place which separated the administration of Calais from the operation of the staple port. Merchants were divided into those who brought goods into Calais for comsumption there, and those who traded solely in the staple, wool. There were four classes in the wool trade, the wealthy financiers, the tax farmers and army contractors, the merchants in staple towns, members of “gilds merchant”, and a large group of small traders. The small traders gathered in the wool which was brokered by the gild merchants.
BADGER: (bager) a food commodity dealer who gathered products from producers and resold the commodity in market towns. York had a bage(s) gate in 1243. Elizabeth required badgers of corn and drovers to be licensed. Some badgers had special names. Malsters obtained grain. Mealmen obtained grain or meal for bread. Drovers obtained livestock.
CALENDERMAN: operated a machine which pressed and finished fabrics or paper using two large rollers (calenders)
DRAPER: was a cloth (linen draper) dealer, wholesaler, who also sponsored the manufacture of cloth, by providing the raw materials to weaver. A draper would also act as a cloth merchant selling linens, silks, fustians, or worsted piece-goods and bedding.
FACTOR: an agent, commission merchant; one who acts or transacts business for another.
HABERDASHER: a seller of small articles for sewing such as ribbons, buttons, needles.
HUSBANDMAN: a farmer who cultivated the land
MERCER: a merchant or trader that deals in textiles; mercery.
YEOMAN: a husbandman who owned his own land or a retainer of fairly high rank in a noble household. A yeoman held status between the knight and man-at-arms or servants. The famous English long bowmen were mostly yeomen.
ATTAINTED: the process of confiscating the holdings and titles and inheritances of traitors
COURT ROLL: The record of the manor court, kept in a roll or on long sheets of bound paper.
DEFORCIANT: The person conveying title to the land, or the person against whom an action is being taken.
DEMESNE: (de-main) the part of the manor directly controlled by the lord for the benefit of his household and dependents. A dependent worked in the demesne and was paid or shared his production.
FIEF: the acres needed to produce a crop and revenue in a locality that allows a knight to provide a year’s service to the overlord. The land would be occupied by others who farmed for the benefit of the knight
HIDE: about 120 acres
HONOR: an administrative unit which included manors, whose tenants owed suit to an honor court in place of the normal manor court.
KNIGHT’S FEE: a measure of a unit of land which was large enough for a knight and his esquires to support his horses and provide the funds for his armor. This could be anywhere from two to ten hides. The land was a fief (fee). It would be taken from the demesne of the king, or lord. A knight’s fee was inheritable, and could be split as a ½ knight’s fee.
MANOR: land with tenants of a landlord, who might hold title in a variety of ways. The manor court was a private court under the jurisdiction of the landlord.
MESSUAGES: a dwelling house and its adjacent buildings and land.
QUERENT: The person who is receiving conveyance of land, or the party initiating a legal action.
SOKE: similar to a Hundred, it was a collection of local parishes holding an exemption by the King.
TENEMENT: a rental house, also purport such as land, rents, or franchises which are leased
WAPENTAKE: similar to a Hundred, The Wapentake was a collection of local parishes, used under Danelaw, coming from a term meaning, show your weapon.
A tenant farmer after 1400 held a copyhold and paid a token service to the Lord of the Manor. A Copyhold for Lives would be a lease for 99 years or for 3 generations, with three individuals named, each holding title in reversion and remainder upon the death of the previous holder in the queue. This type of copyhold was not included in wills, as the queue for title was determined already.
A Copyhold of inheritance involved one tenant who paid rent, and this copyhold could be sold or willed. The Lord of the manor would then grant the copyhold and enter the conditions and names in the court roll. A yeoman held a freehold. He owned the land, and was socially and economically above the tenant or cottager. He gave fealty and service to the Lord of the Manor.
The Prerogative Courts of York and Canterbury were used when the deceased owned property in more than one diocese. The Prerogative Court of Canterbury was also used for foreigners, military, property owners outside of England, such as Virginia, and by the wealthy. In each diocese the Consistory courts or Bishops’ courts were the highest court. Archdeaconries were common probate courts in the majority of diocese, except in York where the diocese was divided into rural deaneries.
The Civil War in England resulted in destruction and disruption of existing and new records kept in parishes. This period began in the 1640’s and continued through to 1661. Churches were attacked and ransacked by the rebels during the conflict. Then, during the Interregnum under Cromwell, Parliament set out how births, marriages, and burials were to be recorded. In 1653, the civil authorities took control of all church registers, and their agents, who often were the previous Church of England clergyman, were the only authorized keepers of records. Every entry cost a shilling, which resulted in many births not being recorded. In addition, when the recorder was not a clergyman, it was not unusual for parishioners to travel to another church if the recorder there was a clergyman. Justices of the Peace became responsible for marriages in 1654; however couples, who believed this was a ceremony which belonged in the church, did not have the civil ceremony performed. If they opted for a church ceremony, it was clandestine and not recorded. When Charles II was placed on the throne, all these provisions were repealed, however records kept by the civil authorities frequently did not survive.