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authorities. The cloth manufacture was the first branch of industry to be subjected to national control and a uniform system of regulation, an indication of its importance as a source of revenue to the king and of wealth to his subjects. A seventeenth-century writer, John May, who was himself an aulnager's deputy, enumerates the deceits practised in the woollen industry in his day 1: the mingling of different kinds of wool which made the cloth uneven, and the deceits in the weaving, making, dressing and dyeing of cloth. The anxiety of the government to maintain a high standard of quality led to the institution of the office of the aulnage, which was already in existence under Edward I.2 An early statute (1323) ordered that the warden of the aulnage should deliver yearly to the Exchequer the estreats (rate rolls) of his office, containing "all the defaults which he hath found of cloths throughout the realm "3. But the control of the government was irksome to the trading classes, and when Edward II. ordered the mayor of London to proclaim that no merchant should sell cloth until it had been measured by the aulnager, John Pecock, the citizens opposed his authority on the ground that it infringed the liberties of the city, and refused to let the proclamation be made1. Until native cloth was manufactured in England on a large scale, the aulnager was concerned with the supervision of imported cloth. His functions were to test both the measurements and quality of each piece of cloth, to affix his seal when the cloth was sound and confiscate it when defective, and so ensure uniformity of "length, breadth, weight and goodness "5. At first the aulnager received an allowance from the Exchequer, but by an act of Edward III. he was given a fee of a halfpenny on every whole cloth and a farthing on every half cloth, and was also appointed to collect the customs levied on it. He was allowed to depute his office to others with the king's assent 8, but was required to answer for his deputies as for himself 9. Complaints were some
1 A Declaration of the Estate of Clothing, 24. 2 Madox, Exchequer, 538.
5 May, op. cit. 9, 16.
3 Statutes, i. 192. ▲ Letter Book E, 53. "Statutes, i. 330.
6 Ibid. 9.
E.g. Patent Rolls, 1345-1348, p. 265; ibid. 1348-1350, p. 41.
times made that the aulnagers sealed defective cloths "to the deceit of the people and the very great scandal of the king", and it was ordered (1378) that they should be punished with the loss of their office1.
The policy of the government, however, was not con- The assize of cloth. sistent. Of Richard I.'s assize of cloth we have already spoken, and the principle which it embodied was also laid down in Magna Carta. Edward II., in the Ordinance of the Staple drawn up at the end of his reign and published by his successor, allowed cloths to be made of any length 2; but the following year (1328) the assize of cloth was revived 3. In 1337, as a concession to the immigrant weavers, it was again repeated that "a man may make the cloths as long and as short as a man will "4. Imported cloth, however, was still required to be of the legal measurement, for in 1338 Ghent-whose favour Edward was anxious to conciliate for reasons connected with his foreign policy-was allowed the special privilege that, cloths made and sealed there should not be "intermeddled with" by the aulnager 5. Subsequently, Edward reverted to the older system and restored the assize in 13516. But the drapers of London complained that they had cloth left on their hands unsold which apparently was "not of due length and breadth", and they sought licence to sell it although it was not in accordance with the legal requirements. In 1353 the Commons prayed the king to abolish the office of aulnager on the ground that it was to the damage of all the king's realm, and they promised to recompense the king so that he should not be a loser thereby 8. It was said that merchants refused to come to England since their cloth was liable to forfeiture, if it did not correspond with the assize. The king was anxious, for the success of the staple which was being set up in England, to remove every pretext which might keep foreign traders from frequenting English markets. Accordingly, it was ordered that no cloth whatever its size should be forfeited, but that the aulnager was to measure the cloth
1 Rot. Parl. iii. 81 b, 82 a.
3 Statutes, i. 260.
5 Patent Rolls, 1338-1340, p. 190.
• Statutes, i. 314.
2 Supra, pp. 394, 398.
7 Letter Book F, 230.
8 Rot. Parl. ii. 252 b.
and mark it," by which mark a man may know how much the cloth containeth" and the price he should pay1. But the concession to alien merchants was only a temporary expedient and did not mark a permanent change in the attitude of the government, for in 1373 the assize 2 was revived and in the reign of Richard II. was several times confirmed3. In 1394 the traditional policy of standard measurements was again for the moment abandoned: Every man of the realm may make and put to sale and sell cloths . . . of such length and breadth as him pleases . . . notwithstanding any statute . . . made to the contrary "4. Under Henry IV. the same vacillating policy was pursued, until the assize was confirmed in 1411 5.
Apart from the functions comprised in the office of the aulnager, special conditions regulated the sale of cloth in each locality. When commodities were sold secretly the king was apt to go without his customs. In the interests. therefore, of the royal revenue a public place was appointed, at which cloth was warehoused and exposed for sale on fixed days in the week. This also served to prevent "disorderly and deceitful bargains against the franchise and liberties of the city", a reference doubtless to the prohibition against strangers selling cloth either in retail or to non-burgesses. In London Blackwell Hall, a name corrupted from Bakewell Hall, became the famous centre of the cloth trade, and here was held a weekly market for the sale of cloth brought by country clothiers to the city. It was purchased by the mayor and commonalty' in 13969, and in the following year strangers were bidden to house their cloth at Blackwell Hall and nowhere else, and to sell only between the
1 Statutes, i. 330.
3 Eg. 1380, 1383, 1388: ibid. ii. 13, 33, 60.
2 Ibid. i. 3954 Ibid. ii. 88.
5 1406 (ibid. ii. 154) the assize was confirmed; 1407 (ii. 160) repealed; 1410 (ii. 163) re-enacted; and in 1411 (ii. 168) again confirmed. See also ibid. ii. 284. Elaborate regulations touching the sizes of cloth were laid down in 1465 (ii. 403), and in 1552 (iv. 136). The assize was also supplemented by local regulations, e.g. at Coventry: Leet Book, iii. 776. • Compare Little Red Book of Bristol, ii. 71.
7 Riley, Memorials, 550. Compare Records of Norwich, ii. 92; and Statutes, ii. 153, where wholesale dealing in cloth is alone permitted. 8 Stow, Survey of London, i. 288.
Ibid. ii. 337; according to the editor the date given by Stow (20 Ric. II.) should be 19 Ric. II.
hours of eleven A.M. on Thursday and eleven A.M. on Saturday1. Previously they had been required to bring their cloth “to one of the three recognized warehouses "2. In 1405 the drapers were empowered to appoint a keeper of the hall 3, but it was easier to establish ordinances than to enforce them, and complaints were raised that woollen cloth was sold "in many secret places" 4. How unwilling were the country clothiers to comply with these ordinances may be gathered from the record, which has been preserved, of a controversy between London and the citizens of Norwich over the sale of cloth. In 1576 London ordered that the new draperies coming from Norwich must not be taken to private houses, but should be carried to Worsted Hall, "and there to be sold at certain days and hours and not elsewhere, imposing also certain rates and sums of money upon the said commodities never before paid or required". Norwich forbade its citizens to submit and appealed to the privy council, which decided that "the citizens of Norwich should continue their trade of occupying and buying and selling of their wares in the city of London as they had been accustomed, without any exaction or innovation to be offered by them of London" 5. Not only in London but in other towns also, an institution corresponding to Blackwell Hall existed, and a separate place was set aside for the sale of cloth. Norwich had its "Worsted Seld" where cloth was exposed every day in the week, Bristol' its Saturday market in Touker Street, York its Thursday Market, Ipswich its Moot Hall, Lincoln 10 its Cloth Market, Southampton 11 its Cloth Hall, Beverley its Common Hall 12, and Coventry 13, Northampton 14 and Winchester 15 their Drapery.
1 Letter Book H, 449.
2 Ibid. 91 (1378). 3 Letter Book I, 41.
4 Letter Book K, 342 (1451). • Ibid. ii. 90 (1440), 92.
8 Drake, Eboracum, 214 (1550). given to the chief market in York: ibid. 323.
• Wodderspoon, Memorials of Ipswich, 198, 277. 10 Charter Rolls, i. 467 (1257).
11 Oak Book, i. 160.
13 Leet Book, i. 100 (1425).
12 Beverley Town Documents, 106 (1561).
14 Vict. County Hist. Northamptonshire, ii. 332 (temp. John).
15 Patent Rolls, 1292-1301, p. 305 (1297). At Worcester (Smith, English Gilds, 384) wool and leather were sold in the gild-hall, so that cloth
The expansion of the cloth trade brought with it new problems and new methods in the economic organization of industry. The foreign weavers were empowered by the king in 1352 to organize themselves into a separate gild, with two wardens at their head to supervise their work and exercise coercive jurisdiction over their members1. They made apparently no attempt to evade the authority of the magistrates, for in 1362 they sought the sanction of the mayor and aldermen of London for their ordinances by which they regulated the rule of their craft; and again in 1366 they presented their ordinances for approval 2. In 1370 the Flemish weavers petitioned the mayor that they might hold their meetings for hiring servants apart from the weavers of Brabant owing to friction between the two groups," because that the Flemings and Brabanters were wont to fight and make very great affray in the city”. Accordingly, it was ordered that the Flemish weavers who sought employment should repair to the churchyard of St. Lawrence Pountenay, and those of Brabant to the churchyard of St. Mary Somerset ; it was added that the serving-men of either nation could be hired by a weaver of the other nation 3. But while the immigrant weavers thus proved amenable to the civic authorities, they refused to submit to the control of the native weavers or to enter their gild. The latter doubtless resented the rivalry of the newcomers who set at defiance their monopoly, and they could urge with some show of reason that those who shared their privileges should help to bear their burdens. This was the real source of the trouble. The English weavers were responsible for the payment of an annual farm to the Crown, from which aliens were exempt, and they claimed that the king ought either to discharge them from their liabilities or compel all weavers to join their gild and conmay also have been sold there. Similarly Reading: Records, i. 427. Wallingford had a linen-market before the reign of Edward II. (Hist. MSS. Comm. 6th Rep. App. 572). 1 Letter Book G, 130.
2 Riley, Memorials, 306, 331; in 1366 the ordinances were presented by the Flemish weavers only. As early as 1347 the civic authorities had ordered them to be ruled in the same manner as denizen weavers: Letter Book F, 173.
3 Letter Book G, 265; Memorials, 346.