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out their kersies to the length of 24 yards,” and were in continual fear of searchers. This ingenuous confession of inability to keep the law seems to have led to its alteration, for an Act was shortly afterwards passed 1 allowing short coloured cloths made within the county of York to be from 23 to 25 yards in length.
The woollen manufacture of the north improved in quality. A paper dated 1615,2 states that the wools of the counties of Lincoln, Northampton, Rutland, Leicester, Warwick, Oxford, and Buckingham were carried in large quantities to Leeds, Halifax, Wakefield, Rochdale and other places to be manufactured. The same paper describes the Yorkshire trade as carried on by the “meaner clothier that seldome or never travells into the wooll country to buy his wooll,” but borrows the most part at the market, “ clothes it presently, and sells it upon the bare thread.” He then returns to the market, pays the old debt, and borrows more. The writer added that many of these lived well, and employed many, and that, but for the wool chapman, they must have become servants to the rich clothier for “4d. or 6d. a day, which is a poor living.”
The improvement in quality was so great that in 1619 a dispute 3 arose between the Yorkshire clothiers, and the custom officer at Newcastle as to the amount of custom due on each cloth. In 1619 the customer, Edmond Nicholson, demanded an additional 3s. upon, each cloth, The clothiers objected, and stated their ancient privileges, and the matter was referred to the Attorney-General Sir Henry Yelverton. He stated to the Lords of the Treasury that, upon examination, he found that the northern cloth was of three kinds, some made of northern wool only, some containing one-third or one-half of southern wool, and some made wholly of southern wool, the clothiers “using it now as part of their trade to send up and down for southern wools, to be made into cloths in the northern parts.” He recommended that the whole duty should be charged except where the cloth was made only of northern wool, for by the mixture of other wools “they make their clothes both more durable and more saleable, whereby they increase their own gains and drawe away the trade of clothing from the southern clothiers.". This is an early instance of a complaint being made that the northern clothiers were spoiling the southern trade.
The northern trade suffered like that of the rest of the
4 Jac. i, c. 2,
2 D.S.P. Jac. j., vol. 8O, 13. 3 D.S.P. Jac. i., vol. iii, 69, 70, 71, 72.
country in the periods of depression which occurred during the century. In 1608, the patent granted to Sir William Cockayne for the dyeing and dressing of all cloths before export, and the withdrawal of the license of the Merchants' Adventurers to ship undressed white cloths had a very adverse effect upon the northern trade. It had largely depended upon the export trade to Holland of coarse undressed cloths. The Dutch refused to admit the dressed cloths, and the industry fell into such a stagnant condition that Sir John Savile declared in the House of Commons that in Leeds, Halifax, and Wakefield the clothiers were being ruined. Thirteen thousand persons were affected in these districts alone, two thousand householders worth from £5 to £20, and others of less substantial means.
Later in the reign the complaints of depression in trade were so continual that in 1622 a committee was appointed to inquire into the causes of it. The Privy Council sent to the justices in the clothing counties, and required them to call the clothiers before them and appoint two to give evidence as to the decay of trade in their district. The justices of Lancashire replied, that they had called the clothiers before them“ and do by them find a great decay ... and the poore brought into great extremitie for want of worke.” They appointed two of the principal factors for the northern clothiers, who lived in London, to give evidence before the Commissioners. The Cumberland justices repliedthat no cloth was made in their county for foreign trade, in spite of the encouragement which had been given to the clothiers there, and they sent no witnesses.
Among other things, the Commissioners were ordered to examine whether the broggers of wool were of any good use, and if so, then to consider “in what places and under what cautions they might be continued."' + The Commissioners recommended that the clothiers and manufacturers should have the pre-emption of wool for two months after shearing time, and after that in the northern and western parts the broggers should have liberty to buy in order to furnish the poorer clothiers and weavers with small quantities. Probably as a result of the disclosures to the Commissioners the Act of 21 Jac. i., c. 18 was passed continuing an earlier Act, and enacting for York that the tenters in that county should only be allowed with a chafe of one-eighth of a yard for the under bar, which
1 D.S.P. Jac. i., vol. 129, 81.
2 D.S.P. Jac. i., vol. 130, 4.
regulated the extent to which cloth could be stretched upon them. It had evidently been found impossible to prevent the use of tenters as Elizabeth's Act had prescribed. The Sessions Records for the North Riding during the years 1600 to 1623 contain several cases of prosecution under the Act. In 1602, John Tottie of Wakefield, one of the searchers, was accused of altering the assize of his tenter and making the chafe bigger than was agreed upon between him and the other searchers, which looks as though the Act had been held to allow the use of tenters, provided cloth was not unduly stretched.
As another result of the commission the attorney and solicitorgeneral were instructed to draw up a book for the “form of corporations to be in every county, city and place where it shall be found needful for the better ordering and true making of the new drapery." Writing in 1625 to the solicitor-general, Sir Edward Conway pointed out that the corporation for the county of Hertford had been drawn up and asked that the same should be done with all speed for thirty-one other counties, including Northumberland, Durham, Cumberland, Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cheshire. In 1629 the clothiers of Leeds stated in a petition 3 that the town had been incorporated two years before " for the better increase of the trade of clothing,” and power had been given to the parishioners “to distinguish and divide themselves into guilds and fraternities,” but the aldermen were not to compel men to join companies. The clothiers complained that, contrary to their wishes, the aldermen had tried to compel them to join a company.
This dispute between the corporation of Leeds and the clothiers lasted during the commonwealth period. Matters were adjusted between them in the charter given by Charles II. The clothiers inside the town apparently objected to the regulations as to their trade being very rigidly enforced, while the clothiers outside in the the country districts were under a lax administration. In 1635 Leeds, Halifax and Wakefield protested against contributing to the ship money required from Hull on the grounds that there was not that quantity of cloth made in them as in the towns and villages about them, and that the inhabitants of ability were not clothiers. In 1647 and in 1654 the Aldermen of Leeds remonstrated with the justices of the West Riding for not enforcing the regulations as to the stretching of cloth. In 1647 amendment was promised, but the promise was not kept apparently, and the clothiers inside the town suffered for their honesty. They aimed therefore at administering the law for the whole of the West Riding, and obtaining the power vested in the justices to appoint searchers and to deal with offenders.1
1 39 Eliz., c. 20.
2 D.S.P. Car. I., vol. i., 62.
In spite of these complaints of the Leeds clothiers the laws dealing with the cloth trade do not appear to have been a dead letter during the seventeenth century. The North Riding Sessions Records contain many instances of the prosecution of defaulting clothiers, and references to the appointment of searchers; and the returns of the justices ? for several districts in Lancashire and Yorkshire refer to the appointment of searchers of cloth in the different districts.
In 1635 a petition from Lancashire clothiers : complained of the conduct of the deputy aulnagers appointed in accordance with the provisions of 8 Elitz., c. 20, from which it is evident that this Act was still in force.
By this time the making of cotton cloth was firmly established in Lancashire. It was probably introduced into England in the reign of Elizabeth, and it settled in the neighbourhood of Manchester. The first description of the cotton trade there is the well-known one in Lewis Roberts' Treasure of Traffike (1641). In 1626 a Dutchman named Jacob Stoit proposed that the poor should be set on work in the making of cloth from cotton wool. In 1654 the Manchester clothiers, traders in cotton wool and fustians, petitioned 4 the Protector to set aside the Navigation Laws in their favour, and to allow cotton wool to be brought over in foreign ships. They said that Manchester then contained twenty thousand people who were entirely dependent on the making of cotton goods for their livelihood, and that the scarcity of material was producing disastrous effects. Baines describes the manufacture of cotton as being improved at this time by the immigration of French and German artisans. A further immi"gration thirty years later, and the cessation of trade with France at the same time led to the introduction and naturalization of the manufactures of silk and sail cloth in South Lancashire and Cheshire.
The cloth trade of England sank into a very depressed condition after 1660, from which it did not recover till after the Revolution. Writing in 1667, Sir Josiah Child attributed this depression to monopolies, closed corporations, and the forcing
1 Add. MSS., Brit. Mus., 210.
D.S.P. Car. i., vol. 386, 107, and vol. 386, 61, &c. 3 D.S.P, Car, i., vol. 79, 69.
* D.S.P. Interregnum, vol. 66, 1.
of labour into particular channels. If these were the adverse influences the North ought to have suffered less than the South ; for although the large towns there were being incorporated, and the trades within them were being regulated in the same way as in the southern towns, the workers in the North retained the freedom of spreading into the country districts, where they could carry on their trades, unhampered by many restrictions as to apprenticeship and so on. The clothiers of Lancashire, Cumberland, and Westmoreland were exempted from the section of the Act of apprenticeship limiting the persons who might be taken as apprentices outside corporate towns. In Yorkshire, a seven years' apprenticeship to the trade of weaving was required, and there were several prosecutions of weavers who had not served this term in the North Riding. The regulation of weavers' wages by the justices was not enjoined until the reign of James I.; but the Chester assessments of Elizabeth's reign contained rates for weavers, while on the other hand the North Riding assessments of the next century contain no mention of weavers' wages, and among the numerous prosecutions there for the giving and receiving of excessive wages there is no case in which a weaver or clothier was prosecuted.
To sum up, during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries northern cloth became an important article of export, and while this led to regulations being made for its length and breadth, no attempt was made to force the cloth trade into corporate towns, and it was thus free from many of the restrictions which were in force in the South. During this time the cloth manufacture became firmly established in the north of England, and the towns such as Halifax, Leeds, Manchester, &c., which owed their rapid growth to this industry, have retained ever since their connection with it. BEATRICE HEWART
1 5 Eliz., c. 4.