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Attempts to foster a
native industry in the
hands at Ipswich, where they paid export duty "for to pass from the quay to the parts of the sea". The list contains the coloured cloths of Beverley and Lincoln, and cloths of Coggeshall, Colchester, Maldon and Sudbury 1. These finer English cloths were also bought for the king's wardrobe; for example, in 1233 the king made large purchases of cloth from Lincoln, York, Beverley and Leicester 2.
In 1258 the Oxford Parliament prohibited the export of wool, and ordered that "the wool of the country should be worked up in England and not be sold to foreigners, and that everyone should use woollen cloth made within the country". It is difficult to determine how far the government was actuated by a real desire to promote the interests of the native workers, and how far it used its control of the wool supply merely as a weapon in its diplomatic relations with the Flemings. Thus in 1271 the export of wool was again forbidden, but the motive here was undoubtedly political. In the previous year the countess of Flanders had seized the possessions of English merchants in Flanders in repayment of a debt claimed from the English king. The government by way of reprisal prohibited the export of wool to Flanders, but finding that wool continued to be sent thither forbade all export abroad. At the same time it embarked upon a policy, the full significance of which only became apparent in the reign of Edward III. It promised that "all workers of woollen cloths, male and female, as well of Flanders as of other lands, may safely come into our realm there to make cloths-upon the understanding that those who shall so come and make such cloths, shall be quit of toll and tallage and of payment of other customs for their work until the end of five years" 4. But the project of stimulating the native industry does not appear to have borne fruit; and later in the year at the instance of the king of France, the
1 Black Book of the Admiralty, ii. 187 and 197.
2 Patent Rolls, 1232-1247, P. 23. In 1184 cloth was purchased for the king's need in Lincolnshire: Pipe Roll, 30 Hen. II. (vol. xxxiii. 14). For purchases made in 1182, see supra, p. 394.
3 Walter Hemingburgh (ed. 1848), i. 306; Macpherson, Annals of Commerce, i. 412.
De Antiquis Legibus Liber, 126, 127, 135-137; Riley, Chronicles of London, 132, 141, 142.
duke of Brabant and other princes, it was expressly abandoned, the export of wool abroad being allowed except to Flanders 1. None the less it serves to show that the design of introducing foreign weavers into England did not originate with Edward III., but was already present to the minds of English rulers at least two generations before.
Whatever may have been the condition of the English Decay of woollen industry in earlier times, there are clear indications the woollen that in the early part of the fourteenth century it had already begun to decay. In the time of King John the weavers of Oxford had been sixty" and more " in number 2; in 1275 they were reduced to fifteen 3, in 1290 to seven 1, and in 13235 all the Oxford weavers were dead and none had taken their place. The weavers of York were in a similar plight; under Edward I. and Edward II. only thirteen 6 freemen were engaged in the cloth manufacture, and they were unable therefore to pay the weavers' farm of ten pounds for which they were liable. The weavers of Lincoln declared in 1348 that under Henry II. they had numbered more than two hundred, and were a wealthy and powerful body which paid every year a farm of six pounds. In 1321 their payments came to an end, since there were now no weavers left in the city or its suburbs, though a few years later (1332) a handful of spinners were again to be found there. Under Henry III. Northampton is said to have contained as many as three hundred cloth-workers, who paid a tax on each cloth as a contribution to the firma burgi; whereas in 1334 the town was unable to pay its farm, and the bailiffs who were responsible for it were impoverished and reduced to beggary. In the case of Northampton the
1 Patent Rolls, 1266-1272, p. 685. In 1274 certain merchants were arrested for shipping wool abroad, presumably to Flanders: Fine Rolls, i. 22, 25, 44. In 1277 merchants were required to take oath not to sell wool to Flanders: Chancery Rolls Various, 1277-1326, p. 1.
2 Patent Rolls, 1272-1281, p. 102.
3 Ibid. 102; Ogle, Royal Letters Addressed to Oxford, 14.
4 Collectanea (Oxford Hist. Soc.), iii. 99, No. 19.
5 Ibid. 123, No. 67.
Vict. County Hist. Yorkshire, iii. 438.
7 Close Rolls, 1272-1279, p. 166. Even at Manchester the fulling mill, worth 26s. 8d. a year in 1282, was worth half the sum in 1320: Mamecestre, ii. 315 (n. 56).
8 Patent Rolls, 1348-1350, p. 120.
Rot. Parl. ii. 85 b.
industrial policy of
weavers, dyers and drapers are said to have withdrawn from the town to escape its burdens because they were too heavily tallaged, but the fact that they were unable to support the taxes is itself an indication of declining trade. Even in London, according to the evidence laid before the justices in the famous Iter of 1321, the number of weaving looms had fallen from three hundred and eighty to eighty. This, again, was attributed to the exclusive policy of the gild, which deliberately aimed at restricting its numbers. But while in one place or another particular causes operated to increase the strain or accelerate the decay, it is clear that there was a general decline of industry, in which all towns alike shared.
The government of Edward II., to its credit, was not indifferent to the decay which had overtaken the cloth Edward II. industry. In the Ordinance of the Staple it foreshadowed
the lines of industrial policy afterwards pursued with signal success by Edward III. It enacted that no cloth which was not made in England, Wales, or Ireland, should be bought in this country except by the “king, queen, earls, barons, knights and ladies, and their children born in wedlock, archbishops, bishops, and other persons and people of Holy Church, and seculars who can spend forty pounds sterling a year of their rents"; the latter alone were allowed to purchase the finer fabrics imported from abroad. But the most significant part of the ordinance was the promise that, in order to encourage people to work upon cloths, the king would have all men know that he will grant suitable franchises to the fullers, weavers, dyers and other clothworkers who live mainly by this mistery, whenever such franchises are asked for 3. It would seem that Edward II. had definitely planned the settlement of alien artisans in England, and that his successor only carried out a design already set on foot. The ordinance awakened the appre
1 Rot. Hund. ii. 3. At Leicester the exactions laid on weavers and fullers drove them from the town; of the fullers it was said that "none remains in the town save one only, and he is poor": English Economic History, Select Documents, 131, 133.
Riley, Liber Custumarum, i. 416-425.
3 Patent Rolls, 1324-1327, P. 269; ibid. 1327-1330, p. 98.
hensions of foreign manufacturers, and the government took steps to prevent the export of materials for making clothteasels and fuller's earth-upon receiving information that Flemings, Brabanters and other aliens, endeavouring to hinder the making of cloth in the realm ", had " been suddenly buying throughout our land all the teasels that they can find; and also are buying burs, madder, woad, fuller's earth, and all other things which pertain to the working of cloth, in order that they may disturb the staple and the common profit of our realm " 1.
The reign of Edward III. was a great landmark in the The imhistory of the English cloth trade, but to interpret his work migration aright we must bear in mind that Edward did not create a weavers. new industry 2, but revived an old one. His measures were taken, as he himself states, "in view of the decay of the art of weaving "3. Now the only way in which a native cloth manufacture could be successfully fostered was by inducing foreign craftsmen to settle in this country, and impart their technical skill and knowledge to English artisans. Political and economic unrest in Flanders facilitated the emigration of weavers, and in 1331 Edward granted letters of protection to John Kempe of Flanders, "weaver of woollen cloths", and to "the men, servants and apprentices", whom he had brought with him to exercise his craft in England. At the same time he offered similar letters to all weavers and other workers of cloth, who came from over the sea with their goods and belongings to ply their mistery within the realm. In 1337 a statute promised the most liberal franchises and 'fair treating': "all the cloth-workers of strange lands, of whatsoever country they be, which will come into England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland, within the king's power, shall come safely and surely, and shall be in the king's protection
1 Close Rolls, 1323–1327, p. 565; Riley, Memorials, 149-150. 2 Cf. the following passage in a charter of James I. (1616): the reducing of wools into clothing was the act of our noble progenitor, King Edward the Third": Select Charters of Trading Companies (Seld. Soc. Pub.), 78. "This year the art of weaving woollen cloth was brought from Flanders into England by John Kempe": Rapin, History of England (ed. 1784), i. 382 (n. x.). Similarly Hume, History of England (ed. 1823), ii. 495. 3 Patent Rolls, 1330-1334, P. 362. and 849.
4 Rymer (R. ed.), ii. part ii. 823
under Edward III.
and safe-conduct, to dwell in the same lands choosing where they will; and to the intent that the said cloth-workers shall have the greater will to come and dwell here, our sovereign lord the king will grant them franchises as many and such as may suffice them". Letters of safe-conduct were also given to cloth-workers from Zeeland 2 and Brabant 3, and we find weavers, dyers and fullers settled in London 4, York, Winchester 5, Norwich, Bristol' and Abingdon 8. Large numbers of Flemings resided at York and were enrolled among the freemen of the city, while the poll-tax returns of 1379 show that they were also distributed throughout the West Riding of Yorkshire 9.
Edward's experiment was attended with complete success, of industry and in 1613 an old writer was able to say that the English cloth-makers had grown so " perfect in this mistery . . . that it is at this instant the glory of our traffic and maintenance of our poor, many hundred thousands depending wholly on the same, chief pillar to our prince's revenue, the life of our merchant, the living of our clothier "10. Not only did Edward encourage the settlement of alien craftsmen, he also took steps to protect the native industry from foreign competition and to ensure an adequate supply of raw material. In 1332 he revived for a period of two years the prohibition against the use of imported cloth, unless the wearer owned a hundred marks of land or rent 11. In 1337 the importation of foreign cloth was forbidden by statute, and the use of native cloth was enjoined on all without exception; at the same time the export of wool was prohibited. These restrictions are contained in the same
1 Statutes, i. 281.
3 Ibid. 341; they settled in York.
a Patent Rolls, 1334-1338, p. 431. Ibid. 1377-1381, p. 67.
Ibid. 1334-1338, p. 500; Close Rolls, 1337-1339, p. 158.
• Records of Norwich, ii. p. lxvii.
The workmen employed by Thomas Blanket and other citizens in 1339 (Rymer, ii. part ii. 1098) may have been aliens; see infra, p. 413. 8 Patent Rolls, 1343-1345, p. 115. For Taunton, see Vict. County Hist.
Somersetshire, ii. 407.
• York Memorandum Book, i. p. xxx; Vict. County Hist. Yorkshire, iii. 439-440.
10 John May, A Declaration of the Estate of Clothing now used within this Realm of England. With an Apology for the Alnager (1613), 3. Cf. the account given by Fuller, Church History (1868), i. 488-489.
11 Patent Rolls, 1330-1334, P. 362.