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The history of the worsted manufacture in the fourteenth Its history century is mainly the record of successive attempts to in the fourteenth establish a system of industrial supervision and control. century. In 1315 the merchants had petitioned in parliament for the appointment of an aulnager to prevent deceits and frauds ; they complained that the cloths called worthstedes and ayleshams' were not made according to the assize, or legal measurements, and therefore "that which was sold for 24 ells was only 20"1. The king responded with a proclamation in which he enjoined the legal measurements, and shortly afterwards John Pecock was appointed assayer of cloths for Norfolk, Suffolk, Lincoln, Essex, Kent, Devon, Cornwall, Stamford and Beverley 2. Pecock retained his office until 1327, when at the request of Queen Isabella 3 he resigned it for the county of Norfolk to Robert de Poleye, a 'king's yeoman', and in return for his complaisance was made aulnager of canvas and linen web throughout the realm 4. This Robert de Poleye had earned the royal favour "for service to Queen Isabella and the king beyond seas and after their landing in England ” 5, evidently in connexion with their conspiracy against Edward II. In the exercise of his new functions he soon came into collision with the weavers of Norfolk. His predecessor, John Pecock, appears to have taken a lax view of his duties, for the traders of London and Norwich declared that the assize of worsted cloth was not carried out, and a commission appointed by the king in 1327 to inquire into the charges supported their assertion. The activity of the new aulnager speedily provoked opposition from the worsted weavers, who complained that instead of manufacturing their cloths in lengths of 8 or 10 ells, more or less according to their liking without let or hindrance, they were now forced to make cloths of 50, 40, 30, or 24 ells at the least. In addition the aulnager exacted fees for sealing their cloth, one penny or more for each cloth according
1 Rot. Parl. i. 292 b.
3 Ibid. 1327-1330, P. 31.
2 Patent Rolls, 1313-1317, P. 344.
Ibid. 59. Observe the dates: he resigned his office for Norfolk on March 6, and received his new appointment on March 9.
• Records of Norwich, ii. 407.
Control vested in the authorities
to its length, from buyers and sellers alike 1. Another commission was appointed, and the following year Poleye in his turn complained that a number of weavers had conspired to prevent the execution of his office in Norwich, Bishop's Lynn, Worstead, Walsham, Catton, Scottow, Tunstead, Honing and other places". Already at this early date, the worsted manufacture was distributed over the whole county. The worsted weavers triumphed, for the king annulled his grant to Robert (1329)3, and in 1348—upon a renewal of their petition-consented to confirm the revocation of Poleye's patent. Henceforth weavers were at liberty to make, and merchants were free to sell, cloths of worsted "without assay". This exemption from supervision was confined, however, to the worsted weavers, for in 1335 Thomas But was appointed to exercise the office of aulnager in the city of Norwich and other towns in Norfolk and Suffolk5; and again in 1346 John Marreys was made aulnager of canvas, linen, web, napery, and all manner of cloths' of Norfolk and Suffolk and other counties. We may conjecture that it was the comprehensive terms of this second appointment which alarmed the worsted weavers, and made them seek for a ratification of their privileges in 13487. But in 1410 they lost whatever measure of freedom they may have enjoyed, and the civic authorities received a grant of the aulnage of worsted cloths made in Norwich and Norfolk for a period of seven years 8.
While the rulers of Norwich thus asserted their authority over the worsted weavers, they attempted at the same time of Norwich. to concentrate the industry within the sphere of their jurisdiction. In 1421 it was enjoined that no one within the liberty of Norwich should "in future set any woollen cloth to any one to be woven or fulled, unless that weaver or fuller shall reside or ply his craft within the liberty "". In 1440 they enacted that all the cloths called worsteds made
7 Rot. Parl. ii. 204 b.
8 Ibid. iii. 637 b. The statement in Blomefield, Norfolk, iii. 92, that the bailiffs of the city received a grant of the aulnage after Poleye is unsupported and very unlikely. • Records of Norwich, ii. 86.
within the city for sale, and all cloths of worsted brought to
In the early part of the sixteenth century it became evident Decline of that the prosperity of Norwich was declining. A succession in the of epidemics and fires inflicted serious damage upon the sixteenth city, while the oppression of the gilds drove craftsmen into century. the country districts. There was a widespread movement from the town into the country, which was not confined to Norwich but was general in many parts of England. Complaints were made of those who had left Norwich to dwell 2 Blomefield, Norfolk, iii. 113. Ibid. ii. 149.
1 Records of Norwich, ii. 90. 3 Records of Norwich, ii. 92. 5 Statutes, ii. 322, 420 (1467). "There be tables at Norwich, Yarmouth and Lynn that testify of great pestilence that hath been in those towns": Leland, Itinerary, iv. 122. 7 Statutes, iii. 504. A great number of houses at Norwich were "burned and utterly consumed".
"in divers places in the county of Norfolk adjoining to the city", the protection of whose walls was no longer needed in these more settled days of Tudor administration. At the opening of the fifteenth century Norwich had been the second city in the kingdom; a century later in the assessment of 1503 it ranked sixth 2, and in 1545 grass was growing in the market-place 3. The revival of its prosperity was caused by an event which had more than merely local significance. The influx of aliens in the sixteenth century constitutes the second great landmark in the history of the English cloth trade. As early as 1543 the art of hat-making had been introduced from France, and a company was formed to exploit it. "Divers honest citizens", it was said, "had begun a craft of hat-making, which hats they can make as well and as good as ever came out of France and Flanders "4. This is an early instance of a capitalist organization formed to develop new industries in this country. Shortly afterwards we meet with the russel weavers, who in 1554 were incorporated by act of parliament. The act recites that the mayor and twelve others, merchants and citizens, belonging to the city of Norwich had " at their great costs and charges made looms, and brought strangers from beyond the seas to teach their art and the mysteries of their craft to native weavers 5. The ordinances of the russel weavers express their indebtedness to the capitalist pioneers who had introduced the new manufacture into England. "And forasmuch as by the cost, charge and good diligence of certain of the merchants of the city of Norwich, the first practising of the making of the said russels within the same city was first invented by the said merchants", therefore in their interests it was provided that weavers of russels must sell only in Norwich 6.
The most important event, however, in the industrial history of the sixteenth century was the coming of the 1 Records of Norwich, ii. 131.
2 Rogers, Agriculture and Prices, iv. 88, 579.
3 Records of Norwich, ii. p. lxxii.
Ibid. ii. 381. A sixteenth-century poem (1563) speaks of "French hoods, caps, hats from Venice and Spain": "Dives Pragmaticus", in Fugitive Poetical Tracts, ed. Hazlitt.
Statutes, iv. part i. 260.
• Records of Norwich, ii. 410.
Dutch and Walloon immigrants, who established a new The new branch of the woollen industry, the manufacture of the draperies: finer fabrics known as the 'new drapery'. The cruelty of Norwich. Alva's administration in the Netherlands occasioned a large exodus of the most skilful and industrious section of the population, and the exiles were welcomed by the English government both as religious refugees and as a valuable asset in the economic resources of the country. Among other centres they settled in Norwich, the rulers of which had sought eagerly to attract skilled artisans to their city. The Book of Dutch and Walloon Strangers relates that in 1564 the worsted manufacture," by which many citizens both merchants and artisans before that time had (of the gain thereof) their whole livings and a great number of poor of the city were set on work", was greatly depressed and its cloths out of estimation and vent [sale]. In response to their entreaty, the authorities obtained licence allowing thirty alien master craftsmen to settle in Norwich. They are described as "divers strangers of the Low Countries", that came over for refuge against the persecution then raised against them by the power of the Duke Alva". The letters patent, by which this permission was granted, enumerate the manufactures which the newcomers were to introduce: "bays, arras, says, tapestry, mokadoes, stament carsays, and other outlandish commodities" 2. The prosperity of Norwich now increased by leaps and bounds. The revenues of the city were more than doubled. The number of cloths sold by the Russel Company rose from 276 to 2845 in the year 15723, and in the same year there were no less than four thousand aliens dwelling in Norwich, and before the plague of 1578 as many as six thousand-for to all appearance there was renewed immigration at the time
1 Records of Norwich, ii. 332.
2 Compare the Old English rhyme (J. S. Burn, History of the Foreign Refugees, 1846, p. 205):
Hops, reformation, bays and beer
3 Records of Norwich, ii. pp. lxxx, lxxxviii.
4 In 1569 there were 2866 aliens in Norwich: W. J. C. Moens, The Walloon Church of Norwich (Huguenot Soc. Pub. vol. i. part i.), p. 27. In 1571 nearly 4000: ibid. 34.