A History of the County of Leicester: Volume 4, the City of Leicester. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1958.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC HISTORY 1509–1660
Leicester in the 16th and 17th centuries was a country town with a population of about 3,000 in 1509, 3,500 in 1600, and probably not much less than 5,000 in 1660. Its area was rather over 100 acres, and it was surrounded by open fields, pastures, and the oaks and ashes of the forest. (fn. 1a)
Table I: Admissions of Freemen, 1520–1660 (fn. 2)
|Occupations according to the admission register||Numbers||Percentages|
|Wholesale trade (Merchants)||2||2||0||3||4||5||19||1.3||1.9||0.0||0.8||0.9||1.4||4.7|
|Leather Crafts||31||33||68½ (fn. 1)||100||75||63||54||20.5||32.0||24.5||25.3||17.3||18.0||13.4|
|Textile Crafts, &c.||35||4||61||60||80||57||56||23.2||3.9||21.7||15.3||18.5||16.2||13.9|
|Metalworking||10||1||16½ (fn. 1)||31||27||22||27||6.6||1.0||5.9||7.8||6.3||6.3||6.7|
|Housing, furnishing, &c.||7||7||17||32||48||27||64||4.6||6.8||6.1||8.1||11.1||7.7||15.8|
|Services, Professions, &c.||4||4||5||16||14||25||15||2.7||3.9||1.8||4.1||3.2||7.1||3.7|
The occupations of the people, as stated on the admission of freemen, are set out in Table I. While not without interest, they do not constitute a census of real occupations. First, the occupation entered by the freeman is not always given. Sometimes social status is given, but this is no indication of occupation. Edward Glossop, yeoman, was not engaged in farming. (fn. 3) Henry Mosley was described indifferently as yeoman or weaver. (fn. 4) Thomas Swan, yeoman, was a miller as well as a farmer. (fn. 5) Henry Slater, yeoman, was a maltster. (fn. 6) Thomas Thompson, labourer, was a maltster. (fn. 7) Thomas Biggs, labourer, was a hosier. (fn. 8) Mrs. Alice Gilbert, widow, was a substantial business woman. (fn. 9) Gilbert Fawsitt the elder, gentleman, was a working saddler. (fn. 10) Bartholomew Gracedue, yeoman, was a glover. (fn. 11) William Chamberlin was a gentleman-woollen draper. (fn. 12) Thomas Blount, gentleman, was a cultivating grazier with most of his money in good bonds and desperate debts. (fn. 13) William Sherman, gentleman, left nothing at his death to indicate his occupation. (fn. 14) Widow Anne Launder ran a pewterer's business, (fn. 15) and Elizabeth Trickton, widow, an upholsterer's. (fn. 16) Style was no guide to occupation and no sure guide to class. Secondly, it cannot be assumed that sons necessarily followed in their fathers' footsteps. Thomas Johnson was a cooper, but his third son was admitted as a chapman. (fn. 17) Roger Warner was admitted as a labourer, but was the third son of a blacksmith. (fn. 18) The eldest son of one currier became a maltster, (fn. 19) as did that of a grazier. (fn. 20) The figures of Table I, however, assume that sons followed their fathers' trade in some few cases, so that tolerance must be allowed for error. Thirdly, the guilds that men entered did not always indicate their real business activity. Richard Barnes, vintner, bought and sold wool as well as wine. (fn. 21) Thomas Keckwick, fishmonger, was a farmer. (fn. 22) Richard Byllyng was a member of the haberdashers' company, but an ironmonger. (fn. 23) John Freake, butcher, was a grazing butcher and a cultivator. (fn. 24) Richard Swan, who belonged to the fishmongers' occupation, was a grazier and part-time gaoler. (fn. 25) John Launder was a pewterer who had most of his capital invested in malting. (fn. 26) John Palmer, baker, was mainly interested in brewing and dairying. (fn. 27) John Blackshawe was indeed a tanner, but most of his stock was in linen yarn. (fn. 28) William Ludlam the butcher had no slaughterhouse or shop and was probably a grazing butcher. (fn. 29) John Boxall, admitted as a beer brewer, was occupied in distilling. (fn. 30) Richard Springthorpe, whittawer, was chiefly concerned with grazing. (fn. 31) Henry Peale the elder, blacksmith, had twice as much invested in farming as in his craft. (fn. 32) Sampson Pougher, made free as a jersey comber, was a well-to-do hosier six years later. (fn. 33) Charles Robinson made his entry as a fellmonger and parchment maker in 1653, and was described as a fellmonger by the appraisers of his inventory, from which, however, it is plain that he was a fletcher. (fn. 34) John Ludlam was described in his inventory as a tallow chandler and had gained his freedom as such, but most of his capital was invested in hosiery. (fn. 35) Richard Johnson, who was engaged in malting for the most part, was still described as a fellmonger at his death. (fn. 36) Lastly, only some of the adult male population were freemen of the borough. Of 419 male testators, 253 were free and 166 unfree. Hence attention must be paid to the businesses and occupations revealed by testamentary inventories, (fn. 37) less comprehensive but more accurate than the admission register in this regard. These occupations are set out in Table II.
Table II: Occupations According to Inventories (fn. 38)
Nine merchants of the Staple were admitted to the freedom of the borough between 1475 and 1535. (fn. 39) The most famous merchant of the Staple of the early 16th century was William Wigston the younger. Others of his family had been members of the guild merchant and woolmongers, collecting wool for sale to the staplers. (fn. 40) When Wigston died in 1536 his goods and chattels, including sperate debts, were valued at £1,024. In the wool chambers at his house in the Newarke he had 50 stone of middle wool and 31 stone of good, together with 1,100 ells of packing canvas. At Calais were 16 sarplers containing 43 sacks and 10 stone of wool valued at £141 and 2,900 wool-fells at £112. Among his sperate debts was one of £40 owed by the Earl of Huntingdon. In all they amounted to over £234. Even greater were Wigston's desperate debts (mostly owed by men of Antwerp, Mechlin, Leyden, Bruges, and Delft) which totalled over £2,331. Moreover Wigston owed over £146, including £20 for images bought in Flanders. His real assets were less than £1,000 and his export business was in disorder. His manors and lands were granted to the hospital of his foundation. (fn. 41) It would seem that none of the staplers following Wigston attained great wealth, not even Thomas Davenport, who succeeded to his business, (fn. 42) and the Boithes, at least, appear to have been financially embarrassed. (fn. 43) A stapler named Vyllers took up the freedom in 1583 and was elected to the Forty-eight and the Twenty-four, (fn. 44) but the day of great wool exporters was over.
In the early 17th century Leicester was appointed one of the home wool staples, a hall was erected near Causeway Lane for the sale of wool, flax, and forage, and the borough made efforts to induce wool-growers to use these facilities and help meet the demand of local and northern clothiers. (fn. 45) Wool grown locally supplied Leicester as well as more distant markets, on the basis of direct sales by farmers to clothiers. In the neighbourhood many farmers and graziers produced wool and the needs of craftsmen could be met largely by Leicester and its environs, often by direct sale. (fn. 46) There were, however, woolmongers. Richard Ynge was dealing in pelt, fleece, and refuse wool in 1557. He left only just under £21 worth of goods and chattels of which slightly more than £12 was in wool. (fn. 47) In the later 17th century this small-scale trade was frequently conducted by the fellmongers, some of whom dealt also in leather and corn. Two such traders who died in 1647 left goods and chattels valued respectively at £20 9s. 4d. and £48 5s., having £2 and 5 guineas in wool stocks. (fn. 48) Somewhat later Robert Langton had £6 invested in wool and leather out of £30 13s. 10d. and Richard Johnson £10 in wool as a sideline to cornmongering. (fn. 49) Richard Barnes the vintner employed William Dowell, a Lutterworth woolman, as his factor in wool-gathering. (fn. 50) Those who purchased woolfells were able to sell fell wool, and glovers and fellmongers were, indeed, subject to the same ordinal. Richard Leydebeater, a glover, left 5 stone of best wool valued at £1 2s. 8d., 3 stone of middle cast at 10s., and 4 stone of the worst at 8s. (fn. 51) Another glover, Richard Bristowe, had 13 stone of wool worth £2. (fn. 52) John Hull, nominally a glover, could dispose of 8 tod of short wool worth £5 12s. and 3 of long worth £2 13s. 4d. (fn. 53) Richard Springthorpe, a whittawer, had wool and locks from fells that might have been purchased or might have come from some of his own sheep. (fn. 54) Thus the wool trade continued without giving rise to wealthy merchants like those who had previously engaged in wool exports.
Cornmongers are named in neither the inventories nor the register of freemen, but in 1586 Richard Markbie was described as a badger who bought corn at Melton and Uppingham for sale in Leicester market. John Hunt, a cheesemonger, bought malt at Stamford and elsewhere. He made weekly purchases of corn in Leicester and district and sold it where he bought cheese. John Davie conducted a similar trade. Among other licensed badgers were Gregory Kinge and Edward Browne the cobbler. (fn. 55) In 1612 a great maltster was presented for buying wheat at the Corn Wall at the rate of a cartload a day and for carrying malt from Melton to Hinkley and Bosworth, so passing it from Leicester market. A mercer, a widow, and a gentleman were presented for similar unlicensed activities. (fn. 56) Some years later others were charged with buying barley in the country and forestalling the market. (fn. 57) Richard Johnson the fellmonger had £40 worth of malt and £35 in a crop upon the ground that he could hardly have grown himself since he had no farm stock or implements. (fn. 58) Larger stocks were employed in the corn than in the wool trade, but no great merchants emerged.
Perhaps typical of the early 16th-century draper was Richard Beeston who left goods and chattels in 1531 to the value of £140 16s. 8d., about half this being in cash and debts and only £6 in shopware. (fn. 59) Such businesses were concerned with linens and woollens, sometimes combined with the sale of hosiery. (fn. 60) From about the third quarter of the century, however, the term draper was dropped in favour of 'linen draper' and 'woollen draper', presumably because the occupation divided. (fn. 61) William Gillot, a woollen draper who died in 1580, was a man of substance, leaving goods and chattels valued at £467 10s. In 1571–2 he had been mayor and was styled 'master'. He owned two houses, the one in which he lived having 15 rooms. In his shop and the chamber above it he had woollen cloth to the value of £198 10s., and the shop fittings alone were worth several pounds. He brewed his own beer and stored it in his own beer cellar. In his garret he had 20 slippings of yarn worth £3. Besides wood and hogs in the yard, he kept at St. Peter's Vicarage, which he leased, 2 geldings, a mare, a foal and a filly, 15 sheep and 5 beasts, from which he supplied his milk-house and cheese-chamber. Over and above this he had debts to the value of £140. (fn. 62) Another woollen draper, however, Thomas Bennett, left only £3 9s. 6d. in 1648. (fn. 63) Next year William Chamberlin, gentleman, a retired woollen draper, left goods worth almost £148. (fn. 64)
Table III: Leicester Mercers' Inventories (fn. 75)
Mercers were numerous in the 17th century when the town's usual complement was about nine. (fn. 65) They did not confine themselves to mercery. About 1620 the mercers' occupation swallowed up the linen drapers' and grocers'. As both sugarers and pepperers had previously merged with the grocers, the mercers' occupation emerged as a powerful amalgamated company, overshadowing those of the woollen drapers and haberdashers of hats. (fn. 66) This amalgamation was the logical consequence of combined trade in mercery, grocery, and linens. The later mercers dealt in linens, silks, mercery, haberdashery, grocery, hosiery, tobacco, paper, strong waters, and other goods. (fn. 67) From the side of the old grocers, this transition may be traced through the inventories. When William Ward the grocer died in 1558 his goods and chattels were worth £167 12s. 4d., of which £106 16s. 10d. was stock-in-trade. Of this sugar and grocery amounted to £5 7s. 4d., three pieces of broad russet to £3 18s., a piece of English worsted to £2, and 2 cwt. of madder to 48s. He also sold hops, honey, sackcloth, narrow russets, holland, starch, spectacles, and straw hats. (fn. 68) Mercers and grocers had originally dealt in their own wares separately and for this reason the inventories distinguish between grocery, mercery, drapery, and haberdashery wares, even when these were all handled by one following the mercers' occupation. (fn. 69) Richard Hilton, who died in 1574 with an inventory of only £37 odd, dealt in canvas, herefords, minsters, ghentish, carrel, mockado, russets, sackcloth, points, silks, cards, gloves, lace, thread, girdles, paper, brushes, leather laces, pins, cotton wool, pepper, saffron, cloves, nutmeg, almonds, rice, aniseed, brimstone, starch, sugar, prunes, treacle, currants, liquorice, and other commodities. (fn. 70) William Manbie, a grocer, dealt in hats, mercery, haberdashery, grocery, linens, hemp, soap, packthread, honey, and other goods. He had in addition considerable stocks of malt, rye, and barley, and leased a close at Abbey Gate for his dairy and stables, leaving goods and chattels valued at £359. (fn. 71) Thus grocers developed into mercers. The name grocer, however, survived as late as 1632, when James Fox was styled grocer, although he had been admitted to the mercers' company in 1629. Similarly William Stanley, who became free as a grocer in 1583–4, was called a mercer from 1595–6 onwards. (fn. 72) Robert Miller had linens worth £127 15s. 3d., silks worth £109 3s. 9d., mercery £148 13s. 3d., haberdashery £81 10s. 3d., grocery £64 10s. 6d., and hosiery £20 4s. 9d. Also he had shops in Lutterworth and Melton with stocks valued at £86 3s. 7d. and £20 9s. 1d. respectively; and a stock of hose at London worth £11. In spite of the fact that £327 14s. 9d. of his debts were doubtful or desperate, Miller could afford to live in style. The comfortable circumstances of James Andrew are shown by the contents of his study. Stocks continued to be heterogeneous. Nathaniel Brokesby sold, among other things, silks, silver lace, silk and cotton ribbons, buttons, taffety, tabby, calico, canvas, dimity, buckram, tobacco, flax, soap, oil, leather, and coloured skins. In 1666 Robert Herrick was buying cotton goods wholesale from Manchester, where he had £55 in ready money. Samuel Marshall, like many other mercers, (fn. 73) had a stall in the Market Place in addition to his shop. The mercers, an analysis of whose inventories will be found in Table III, were wealthy general retailers with shops, market stalls, and country branches in some instances, buying wholesale from Manchester, London, and elsewhere, and selling to the people of Leicester and the countryside. (fn. 74)
The haberdashers of hats were small fry compared with the mercers. Edward Billers, alderman, left goods and chattels worth only £124 in 1664. (fn. 76) Apart from £5 of desperate debts John Stringer left only £86 10s. in 1670. Among his shop goods were 18 castors, 15 beaver shags, 20 dozen odd of felt hats, 11 dozen coarse Malton hats, 16 satin, 4 taffety, and 20 leather caps, over two gross of hatbands, and calico and buckram hat linings. He possibly made some hats himself, but hatters bought most of their stocks from London, Malton, and elsewhere through the common carriers. (fn. 77)
Table IV: Leicester Ironmongers' Inventories (fn. 80)
There was originally an occupation of haberdashers who handled haberdashery before it was taken over by members of the mercers' company. The only 'haberdasher' of whom we find mention in the 16th century, however, was an ironmonger. Richard Byllyng, 'haberdasher', had three shops in Leicester, Lutterworth, and Melton, in which he sold, among other things, iron and lead nails of various sizes, mullen bits, steel, gads, hobnails, bellows, locks, straw-lath-nails, court clout-nails, wire, glue, cowbells, arrow heads, shoe buckles, awl blades, pack needles, latten plates, chisels, compasses with marking stones, aniseed, frying- and dripping-pans, shoe horns, lanterns, whipcords, bowstrings, packthread, scuttles, grafting saws, soap, raddle, pitch, tar, grindstones, basins, ropes, brown paper, points, cart saddles, skittles, spindles for wheels, horse-bells, pitchforks, pliers, pincers, planes, snaffles, hammers, collarmakers' rings, and tacks. Other commodities uttered by ironmongers, whose inventories are analysed in Table IV, included in 1625 parchment, charcoal, ladders, barrows, quicklime, glass, alder bark, ochre, crests, paving tiles, scales, millstones, pick-helves, slates, tobacco pipes, alum, wine bottles, pots, glasses, baskets, cradles, panniers, drums, tabors, trenchers, pens and ink-horns, scythe-stones, chalk, wicker chairs, forks, shovels, sheep-bells, tantivy bells, jersey and woollen stockings, bricks, jugs, rosin, purses, gloves, books of gold leaf, red lead, indigo, spurs, looking glasses, starch, painters' colours, warming pans, and shot. (fn. 78) Thus new industries and developments were reflected in the scene of the ironmongers' shop and it is hardly surprising that some ironmongers sold tobacco also. (fn. 79) The ironmongery business required considerable capital stocks, but the possibility of intervening between the smith and the market was profitable.
The first stationer whom we find was John Langford, admitted to the freedom in 1591–2. He left goods and chattels worth only £20 5s. in 1633, the shop wares being valued at £13 6s. 8d. (fn. 81) John Allen died in 1638, much wealthier than Langford, largely through bookselling. With his debts still unappraised, the value of his inventory amounted to almost £200. Of this bound books accounted for £124 odd; paper, ink, ink-horns, and parchment for just over £9; books in quires, pasteboard, and turkey leather for over £33, and leather bindings for over £1. Among his customers was the borough, which bought other books direct from London, probably the usual practice before booksellers became established locally in the 1580's. Thomas Green, the London carrier, used to fetch down books that he delivered to Godfrey Cowper the bookbinder. Presumably Cowper sold some books ready bound, but Allen specialized in this business. (fn. 82)
In 1605–6 Leicester boasted three vintners. (fn. 83) Their trade is illustrated by the inventory of William Newton who was made free in 1648 and continued to trade until his death in 1674. In his wine-cellar were French and decayed wines, vinegar and canary, worth in all just under £100. He had also a well-equipped brewhouse. Including £44 of good and £30 of desperate debts, his inventory amounted to £357 odd. (fn. 84) William Ives, vintner, became one of the most opulent burgesses in the early 17th century. (fn. 85) Judging from the practice of Richard Barnes, Leicester vintners bought their wines from London. (fn. 86)
Less wealthy generally than most shop retailers were the petty chapmen and pedlars who were numerous throughout the period. (fn. 87) Such chapmen went their way on foot. (fn. 88) William Clarke in 1613 left goods and chattels worth £8 (fn. 89) and in 1621 Daniel Wright slightly over £18. The latter peddled loom-work, drawn-work, Manchester and other coifs, garters, girdles, lawns, bonelace, thread and linen and woollen yarn. (fn. 90) Robert Johnson, however, left over £100 worth of goods in 1627. His stock, worth over £50, included such things as holland, cambric, scots cloth, sleezy holland, sleezy cloth, cobweb lawn, naples silk, cotton, needles, spectacles, and barber balls. (fn. 91)
Generally it may be said that the decline of the great export merchants was only partially offset by the development of smaller trading businesses and commercial capital seems to have lost much of its formerly commanding position. Since the independent existence of commercial capital is in inverse ratio to the independent existence of industrial capital, we might suppose a corresponding growth and development of the latter. (fn. 92)
Table V: Leicester Shoemakers' Inventories (fn. 93)
While some shoemakers attained modest wealth, most were poor, as may be seen from the inventories in Table V. Of those with no stock-in-trade, some were retired, but the poorer sort could have worked on materials owned by others. What is clear is that there were numerous journeymen shoemakers. In addition to the shoemakers' company (fn. 94) there was the 'compenie of the jornemen of schomakers', (fn. 95) a yeomanry organization of journeymen employed by members of the shoemakers' company. (fn. 96) The trading masters among the shoemakers probably controlled the yeomanry by means of the shoemakers' company, the borough government, and the residual powers of the guild merchant, as well as by the justices of peace and the Statute of Artificers. Thus in 1584 the journeymen shoemakers were called before the justices and registered as servants, (fn. 97) the word 'servant' signifying a wage-worker under contract. (fn. 98) In 1645 it was ordered that no man could claim the freedom of the borough by virtue of apprenticeship unless this had been served in some trade that 'normally and legally' took apprentices. This order was directed against cobblers opening shops and taking apprentices. The shoemakers complained that divers cobblers, not being freemen, kept open shop, made wares, took apprentices, and covenanted to teach the craft of shoemaker, while others were working in backhouses contrary to statute. They petitioned against the admission of Robert Carr on the plea that there were already too many shoemakers. The complaint against working in backhouses suggests that some journeymen had set up as small masters working for merchant employers. That journeymen should set up as cobblers and shoemakers was inimical to the interests of the trading masters because the newcomers were master craftsmen who evaded journey-work. From these comes the petition of John Hall, reciting that he was apprenticed for seven years to a shoemaker, then for nineteen years 'wrought journey worke in this town to a shoemaker', afterwards working as a 'translator' (cobbler) for four years. Robert Carr asked for freedom to support his wife and seven children. He too had been apprenticed, had worked as a journeyman for twelve years and as a 'translator' for seven. Some cobblers had been made free in the later 16th century, but those who now sought admission or kept open shop evidently intended to make shoes to measure or in stock sizes. While the shoemakers threatened to shut down the new-comers' shop windows, the latter accused company members of breaking their own ordinal by importing shoes, alluding perhaps to industry in the countryside. The company, however, refers to the ordinal, approved by the justices of assize under the Statute of Artificers, adding that the 22 interlopers pay little or nothing by way of taxes. The issue was settled by the borough licensing the 'translators' to keep open shop in 1646, thus abrogating the monopoly of the shoemakers' company. (fn. 99)
What made the victory of Carr and his associates relatively easy was not only the Great Rebellion but also the loss of control of the leather trade by the cordwainers' company, by virtue of which these trading masters had controlled the activities of the tanners also. Apparently in order to strengthen their hold on the leather trade, the shoemakers in 1648 opened a Leather Hall to which all tanned leather was to be brought for sale under the supervision of the cordwainers' company. The tanners refused either to use the new hall or to pay their contribution to its rent, which should have been shared by both town and country tanners but fell mainly on the former. Then the town tanners brought an action against those of the country, forcing them to pay their full share. In the midst of these disputes the system of control broke down and there ensued a period of free trade in leather to the advantage of the tanners and of the unfree 'translators' and shoemakers. Concurrently there was a clash between the cordwainers' company and the curriers. Some members of the shoemakers' company certified that the four curriers free of the borough were sufficient, and opposed the entry of others, especially of James Foxon, citizen and currier of London. Foxon's admission had presumably been approved by the curriers, however, and in the end the shoemakers' company also consented. (fn. 100)
Table VI: Leicester Tanners' Inventories (fn. 101)
The tanner's most essential investment was in hides, lime, and bark. His implements were not expensive and tan-house and tan-pit could be leased along with a dwelling, as also could a bark-mill. Alternatively bark could be bought ready crushed, or taken to a miller. It was not, therefore, difficult to set up as a tanner, but it was not every tanner who had his own mill, even a horse-mill being expensive. Hence a tendency for tanners to divide into those who undertook all processes and those who were forced to rely on others for their supplies of bark and other materials. William Halsope, for example, bought his bark from John Norris. No doubt leather was bought and sold similarly. Thus some tanners, as may be seen from Table VI, were able to develop into comparatively wealthy trading masters, leaving manual work to journeymen, or even into merchant employers.
A set of currier's tools would cost only about 15s. in 1632 and skins 'with hair upon them' only about 5s. each in 1580, so that great capital was not needed to set up in business. The only two curriers whose inventories have been seen had stocks of less than £1 and total goods and chattels of £28 and £22 respectively in 1580 and 1632 and most curriers probably worked as small masters, dependent upon merchants among the shoemakers or tanners. (fn. 102)
The saddlers worked as master craftsmen. In 1636 Anthony Spence left goods and chattels valued at £8 18s. 8d., of which his working gear was worth 4s., and the 8 saddles, 2 bridles, and one pillion that he had made were valued at £2. (fn. 103) In 1646 Gilbert Fawsitt left £30 in goods and chattels, of which saddles, bridles, girths, stirrup leathers, and wooden ware were worth £5 1s. Fawsitt also owned two houses besides his own dwelling, which was comfortably furnished. (fn. 104)
If the whittawers worked as master craftsmen—and this is not certain—it would seem that differentiation between members of the craft was great and trading masters were making their appearance. In 1560 Richard Burton left goods and chattels valued at £4 17s. 8d., of which just over £1 was stock-in-trade. (fn. 105) In 1590 William Shuter left an estate of just £10, of which his implements were valued at 3s. 4d. and nine horse-hides at 21s. (fn. 106) In 1638, however, Richard Springthorpe had an inventory of £156 14s. 2d. Of this, two fleeces of wool and locks were worth 10s., 100 hides £20, collars, basses, and other implements 13s. 4d., and an alum tub and a drench vat 15s., so that his stock-intrade was about £22. In fatting and dairying his investment amounted to over £50, and he had also £26 13s. 4d. in desperate debts. (fn. 107) Self-styled glovers also tawed sometimes. Thus John Hall had no gloves, but wool and dressed and undressed whitleather to the value of £4 6s. 8d., and 16s. worth of alum out of an inventory of £32 10s. 6d. (fn. 108)
Table VII: Leicester Glovers' Inventories (fn. 109)
Most glovers, however, bought their whitleather from the whittawers, and sometimes leather from tanners. The glovers, a sample of whose inventories will be found in Table VII, were small masters dependent on traders, mostly mercers. Richard Leydebeater in 1535 and Richard Brisbone in 1538 both employed servants and were comfortably placed, but the same cannot be said for the later glovers. Even Richard Brisbone helped to make ends meet by the four spinning-wheels in his house. The glovers made gloves, purses, and bags from buckskins, doeskins, sheepskins, lambskins, and also cattle hides. (fn. 110) That the town glovers were increasingly faced with the competition of country glovers is evident from the clash between the two. In 1591 Robert Herrick, a Leicester glover who had removed to Mountsorrel, requested to be allowed to continue in liberty of the borough. He was not allowed to keep up his shop in Leicester, but was permitted to trade as a stranger. Herrick was not the only one concerned, for in 1594 the glovers of Mountsorrel petitioned their landlord, the Earl of Huntingdon, to help them reverse this decision. The borough remained adamant, for the objection to foreign glovers was not merely that they sold in the town but that they bought woolfells needed by Leicester. Herrick of Mountsorrel led the glovers of his town and of Ashby de la Zouch and Loughborough, with the support of the Earl of Huntingdon, in a struggle against Leicester corporation. The borough debarred the glovers of all the country save Loughborough from trading in the Saturday market, for which prohibition the Leicester glovers had placed £5 at the borough's disposal. A compromise was arrived at, by which ten Mountsorrel and six Loughborough glovers were to have a monopoly of the 'outside' trade in return for taking up residence in the town. The Mountsorrel men, however, refused to abide by this and told the corporation their charter was 'only fit to stop mustard-pots'. Then the attorney-general of the duchy entered a bill in Star Chamber and sued a quo warranto against the glovers' market at Mountsorrel. Settlement was eventually reached. The country glovers were to pay 10s. each for a licence to trade, and of this 5s. was to go to the town glovers. In addition the country were to pay to the town glovers 1s. apiece for brotherhood money. At the time of the Civil War the town glovers attempted to reverse the position and the corporation was induced to shut up the shops of the country glovers, who were nevertheless readmitted to the market on payment of appropriate fees. (fn. 111)
Woollen and worsted spinning was undertaken by many of the wives and daughters of wage-labourers and craftsmen as well as by maids employed by shopkeepers, craftsmen, and farmers. Among the owners of spinning-wheels were people of all classes and occupations. (fn. 112) Some men had as many as four wheels. (fn. 113) A bellfounder had a spinninghouse for his two wheels. (fn. 114) Carding was similarly a domestic occupation. Richard Brisbone the glover had two pairs of wool-cards as well as four spinning-wheels. The wheels were in the brewery for use by the womenfolk but the cards were in the servants' sleeping quarters. (fn. 115) Similarly, John Norris had four wheels, two stools, and a pair of cards in his maids' chamber. (fn. 116)
Table VIII: Leicester Weavers' Inventories (fn. 119)
As far as can be seen most weavers, whose inventories form the substance of Table VIII, worked under conditions of some economic independence. They invested in looms, one weaver not infrequently owning as many as six. The owner of six looms needed to employ two or three journeymen as well as apprentices and family labour. The damask loom employed by Richard Ayshehill was an expensive instrument worth £5 with the gears. (fn. 117) Not all weavers were freemen, and the poorer supplemented their living from other sources. (fn. 118) The weavers appear to have been dependent for sales upon the woollen drapers and mercers, but some of them were large masters.
Fullers do not figure as such in either Register or inventories, probably being concealed among the millers. There were, however, at least two water fulling-mills, tenanted in the early 17th century by two partners, neither of whom was a freeman. Apart from the mill lease, the fuller's capital expenditure was not great, and Leicester tuckers probably worked as independent masters. (fn. 120)
The occupations of shearmen, clothworkers, and dyers were small. The clothworkers appear to have been small masters in modest circumstances. In 1579 Ralph Randall left tenters, shears, and other tools to the value of £5 among goods and chattels valued at just over £16. (fn. 121) Dyeing demanded more capital. When Mr. William Johnson died in 1670 he left an inventory of £145 10s. His dye-house equipment, including three coppers and dyeing vessels, was worth £20 and his dye-stuffs were valued at the same again. Furthermore, a large part of the wood and coals in his coalhouse must have been for his vats, so his industrial investment was about £50. He had two apprentices or journeymen who lived in the dye-house chamber. Johnson's position, then, was probably that of a trading master. (fn. 122)
Although some woollen drapers and others may have bought and sold yarn there is no indication of putting-out in these industries and as far as can be seen no middlemen intervened between craftsman and craftsman. (fn. 123)
Linen clothing was more widespread than woollen or worsted. Those who spun woollen also often spun linen yarn and many of the weavers must have woven linens. (fn. 124) Most of the linen spinners owned their own flax and yarn in considerable quantities when more than one wheel was employed. (fn. 125) No doubt some of this ownership of material concealed the activities of merchant-employers, (fn. 126) and there were in addition some linen clothiers who put out yarn to be woven. John Blackshawe in 1627 had ten yards of new flaxen cloth and fifteen yards of 'harden' worth 18s. and also 'yarn and "hards" in the house and abroad' worth 9s. 2d. (fn. 127)
In the 16th century, as part of a general programme of relief, poor were set to work making jerseys to be stitched into hose. In 1584 the corporation sent away for teachers of spinning, baize-making, fulling, and weaving, and in 1589 they tried to start capmaking and knitting. Children were taught jersey spinning, knitting, and bonelace weaving. (fn. 128)
Bonelacemakers appeared as freemen at the end of the 16th century and they continued as a small craft thereafter. In 1610 Daniel Wright borrowed £10 from the town to set pauper children to work. George Inninges left goods and chattels valued at £41 10s. in 1658, by which time he had retired, £40 being in debts. (fn. 129)
Leicester could hardly support a hemp-dresser, (fn. 130) but there were a few ropers in the town. In 1570 William Moore left £8 16s. 6d., of which hempen ware made and unmade constituted 5s. 10d. (fn. 131) In 1663 John Shepie had in his garret 40 dozen whips, 50 yards of sackcloth, 3 yards of haircloth, 2 sacks, 2 bags, 9 bunches of cord and 8 of small cord, and other items, worth in all £4 7s. In his shop he had hemp and hair, haircloth and sackcloth, hooks, mails, and weights worth £3 7s., and 10 stone of hemp worth £1 6s. 8d. In his warehouse were materials worth £2 more, more whips, and a 'coat-ofmail' used for dressing the cloth, these being valued at 25s. With the assistance of spinning he was able to live as a master craftsman. (fn. 132)
Table IX: Leicester Tailors' Inventories (fn. 137)
Tailoring was a craft that demanded little working capital. If the tailor could not afford a stock of cloth, then this could be supplied by the customer and all the tailor needed was his skill and his tools. The only times when a tailor's stock-in-trade was considerable was when it was mainly in cloth. Tailors, as may be seen from Table IX, ranged from paupers to well-to-do gentlemen, including some who were not working tailors, though they belonged to the company. Daniel Murfyn, whose goods and chattels were worth over £600 in 1660, was also the owner of three houses and three tenements, not counting the one in which he lived, and although he was discharged from the office of chamberlain in 1626 on grounds of illiteracy, he clearly lived as a gentleman. (fn. 133) Many tailors, furthermore, derived part of their income or livelihood from dairies, brewhouses, pigs, spinning, and usury; and these often absorbed more capital than tailoring itself. (fn. 134) Those tailors who possessed stocks of cloth had a considerable advantage over their competitors, especially as ready-to-wear tailoring was already making its appearance. In the early 17th century the tailors' company complains that one Shilcock 'not being content with the trade wherein he was brought up . . . nowe byes great quantities of cloth of forrein clothiers, makes them up into garments, and sells and exposes them ready made to sale to the great impoverishinge of the drapers, mercers, taylers and other tradesmen.' Other tailors also took up specialized lines involving the stocking of cloth and other raw materials. Edward Lee, for example, set up as a 'body maker' and built up a flourishing business, selling bodices to shopkeepers and gentlewomen. (fn. 135) The great complaint of the tailors' company was the activity of the poor tailors, who were not normally free of the company. Freedom was usually denied to these poor tailors, but some were authorized to work as 'botchers'. Complaint is thus made of those 'whoe like drone bees to the hyve, paying neither scot nor lot, lye lurking in the suburbs and other secret places, in and aboute this towne, and robbe your suppliants of the worke'. The mayor and the Fortyeight are petitioned 'not to make any more free of our company unless it be with our consent', according to the ancient custom. Botchers continued to be authorized from time to time provided they merely mended old clothes, did no cutting-out or turning, and took no apprentices or journeymen; but it became the practice to oppose the admission of strangers. Thus the tailors lived as small masters or journeymen, some of them exceedingly poor, or as merchant-employers or trading masters. (fn. 136)
There were hosiers in early 16th-century Leicester who dealt in woollen cloth stockings. (fn. 138) Later jersey spinning and knitting were taught as part of poor relief. (fn. 139) Some of the 17th-century ironmongers were selling jersey stockings as a new line of trade. (fn. 140) Mercers also took to trading in knitted hose. (fn. 141) At the same time jersey-wheels begin to appear in the inventories. (fn. 142) Concurrently there appear also jersey-mills, operated in by-employment, often by the jersey-spinners themselves and sometimes being kept in mill houses. (fn. 143) Jersey stockings were worn by a number of testators. (fn. 144)
Knitting with needles was already common in the 15th century, but hose was generally made of woven cloth, cut and stitched, and it was not until about 1570 that the practice of knitting jersey or worsted hose became general. (fn. 145) In the mid-17th century hand-knitting was well established as a putting-out industry. (fn. 146) Already in 1632 and 1633 were made the inventories of early Leicester knit-wear hosiers. When William Hitchcock the gardener died in 1632, he left, among other things, a pair of jersey-combs and a comb-pot, valued at £1, and books, hose, and yarn valued at 6s. He probably combed the jersey wool himself and then sold it to spinners, buying the yarn back again, either to be knitted by his family or for sale to other knitters and then repurchased. His whole production, however, was very small. (fn. 147) Thomas Biggs, labourer, who died in 1633, operated on a larger scale. In his parlour were a jersey-mill, 'pattens' for stockings, a pair of jersey-combs, and four jersey-wheels, all valued at £1. In his entry he had 13s. 4d. worth of woollen yarn, £1 worth of wool, and 12 pairs of jersey stockings valued at 36s. He had also 40 skeins of jersey yarn abroad and eight in the house. Possibly some of his £16 of debts were derived from the hosiery trade. Biggs was in a small way of business but he clearly combed jersey wool, had it spun, and then knitted. This occupation he combined with dairying and cheese-making. (fn. 148)
In 1657–8 there were at least ten stocking makers in the town: Isabel Wells, Elizabeth Pougher, Elizabeth Beckit, Anne Browne, Elizabeth Browne, Mary Smith, Katherine Ayre, Elizabeth Tod, and the widows Sharp and Rennell. They petitioned for the admission of a turner whose services they required, presumably for the making of needles, wheels, or mills. He had already been doing work for them for some time. (fn. 149) All the stocking makers were not spinsters or widows, Thomas Noone being admitted as stocking maker in 1634 and his son in 1663–4. (fn. 150) Although the other signatories of the petition cannot be traced, Elizabeth Pougher may serve as an example of their activity.
In 1668 she left goods and chattels valued at £754 1s. 11d. Of this £200 was in purse and apparel, £166 15s. 3d. in debts, £26 in barley, and £66 6s. 8d. in malt. In her wool chamber she had £240 worth of wool stockings, yarn, oil, and soap, and in her shop £4 'for the milne, combs and pattons and other materials for trade'. In other words, she was a maltster or cornmonger and a hosier. In the latter capacity she was a merchant employer, putting out the yarn to be knitted and perhaps the wool to be spun, while having the combing and milling done in her own shop. (fn. 151) It cannot be proved that none of these stockings was made upon knitting-frames by knitters in Leicester or the countryside, and we know that there were such framework-knitters in the countryside by this time. Moreover, turners were needed in the making of stocking-frames, and it might have been for this that the stocking makers required the services of one. Nevertheless, it appears that the introduction of frames into the town of Leicester took place only at a somewhat later date and in the teeth of the opposition of the hand-knitters. (fn. 152) William Bayley the chandler had a considerable stock of jersey wool and yarn in 1661. (fn. 153) Sampson Pougher was admitted as a jersey comber in 1655 and left goods and chattels worth £315 11s. 6d. in 1661; of this 10 guineas was in jersey yarn at home and abroad, £81 in 27 score stockings, £11 10s. in wool combed and uncombed, £4 1s. in a low board bed, a jersey mill, bobbins, and 'pattins' in his garret, 12s. in two pairs of combs and pots in his shop, and £103 in wares and debts in London. (fn. 154) Another jersey comber, Geoffrey Wharton, left £33 1s. 11d. in 1664, including jersey stockings and pattens to the value of £10 13s. 4d. in his parlour, two pots of oil worth 8s. 4d., 21 skeins of jersey yarn, some coarse wool and other things in his chamber worth £1 2s. 8d., and in his barn 'one jersey mill with bobbins and washing rings and one kinnell' worth 16s. 2d. (fn. 155) In 1667 Faustin Gilbert left £40 worth of wool and £20 worth of yarn out of a total of £150. (fn. 156) In 1669 John Ludlam the tallow chandler left 'in the stockinge chamber, imprimis one presse, stockings, wool, pattings', &c., worth £44 2s.; of 'stockings, wooll and yarn in severell persons hands in the country' £15 3s.; 'in the combe shopp, one pair of combs, kenges, pads, combpott', &c., worth 6s.; 'in the wooll chamber, wooll, weeke yarn', &c., worth £2 5s.; and 'in the mill chamber, one jersey mill, one ditto tubb, three coffers, weeke yarne', &c., worth £3. All told his inventory was valued at almost £128. (fn. 157) A jersey comber in 1671 left an inventory valued at £193 12s. 4d., of which £36 10s. was in wool and yarn, £120 7s. in stockings, and £1 10s. in working gear. (fn. 158) William Loleby, a shearman who died in the same year, left £230, of which 'in the house chamber, stockings, tickeings, bookes, and stuffe' were worth £35; 'in the gallery, wooll, a mill, for jarsey wheeles, cheese', &c., £20; 'in the shopp and chamber over it', two beds, two tables, and other furniture worth £6. (fn. 159) Next year John Humphries left in the closet in his hall '1 stocking press, 1 hangin press, stockings and other materialls' worth £10. The contents of his wool chamber were valued at £20 6s. 8d., of his mill chamber at £3, and of his wool shop at 10s., the whole inventory being appraised at £97 12s. 8d. (fn. 160) Henry Mug, admitted as a weaver in 1657, had one twisting-wheel and two jersey-wheels beside his six looms. (fn. 161) In 1678 Robert Cousens the fellmonger, who left goods and chattels worth only £19 9s. 5d., had in his wool chamber a parcel of hose and a hanger worth £10 15s. 8d. and a coffer, a comb pot, a pair of combs, a parcel of wool, ten 'patens', &c., worth £1 1s. 6d. (fn. 162) John Burbage, silkweaver, had goods and chattels worth £964 2s. 5d. in 1678. Of this his debts sperate and desperate amounted to over £539, 9 looms and their gear to £2 16s., and silk and thread to £65 13s.; 14 pairs of stockings were valued at 2s. 4d. the pair, 2 pairs of silk stockings at 6s. the pair, 13 worsted girdles at 1s. the pair, and 48 silk girdles at 2s. 8d. the pair; also he had silk and looms abroad worth £17 1s. 3d. (fn. 163) Richard Dan, 'hosier', left £37 14s. in 1679, of which a twisting mill, 2 wheels, 2 pairs of combs, and charcoal in his combshop were worth £1 10s. (fn. 164)
Thus the hosiers were recruited from labourers, gardeners, chandlers, fellmongers, jersey combers, shearmen, weavers, and others. Some worked as master craftsmen, some as small masters, some were trading masters, and some merchant employers. Others were in transition from one stage of organization to another. Already the hosiers were beginning to sell their wares to London and already there was developing the class of merchant employers that was only superseded in the 19th century. (fn. 165)
Table X: Leicester Cutting Butchers' Inventories (fn. 168)
Among the victualling occupations, butchers were the most numerous of the freemen in the 16th and 17th centuries generally. In addition, from 1634 onwards, the country butchers were admitted to the freedom for markets only and by the mid-17th century country butchers outnumbered town butchers. This appearance, however, is somewhat misleading. Many people were made free as butchers although butchering was not their main occupation and all butchers whatsoever were either grazing butchers, who bought stock in autumn and sold it in winter after feeding on preserved pastures; carcass butchers, who scoured the countryside for fat stock; or cutting butchers, equivalent to both modern slaughterman and meat purveyors. Philip Freake, for example, was a comburgess as a butcher, yet the major part of his capital was invested in cultivating grazing, for which he maintained two plough-teams; and he was in fact a grazing butcher. (fn. 166) So-called butchers and graziers will therefore be considered according to their main occupation as shown by the items of their inventories, and not according to their styles. None of the cutting butchers seems to have achieved great fortune, as may be seen from Table X. Cutting butchers' stocks were mostly in sheep, kine, calves, pigs, horses, and other livestock, in the modest equipment of slaughterhouses, in small quantities of tallow and other by-products, and in fodder and leases. William Cotes, who died in 1628, was a substantial butcher. He had 72 sheep valued at £20 and 2 beasts valued at £3 6s. 8d. These were for slaughter, as were also his 6 pigs. He had also 2 horses used for draught and worth £3 13s. 4d. and 2 cows and a calf for his dairy worth £4. The lease of a close for sheep and beasts was valued at £1 and slaughterhouse equipment at 5s. Four stone of tallow were worth 13s. 4d. and cock and hens 3s. 4d. He had also 50s. worth of hay. With the aid of linen and woollen wheels, Cotes was able to make a comfortable living, but butchering neither demanded a great capital stock nor gave remarkable profits and the Cotes family lived modestly in their small house with its hall, nether parlour, kitchen, and cellar. William Kirk in 1660 had only a mare, four sheep, and two swine, and lived in a house consisting of a hall, a little buttery, a kitchen, and two chambers. The labour of two or three persons sufficed to most butchers for slaughterhouse and pastures, and the butchers worked as self-employed persons, buying beasts from grazing butchers and farmers, and keeping and slaughtering them mainly by the labour of their families. (fn. 167)
Table XI: Leicester Bakers' Inventories (fn. 172)
Most Leicester people made their own household bread, taking it to be baked at the duchy common ovens to which they owed suit. In the 17th century there were six common ovens, and the bakers' company appointed Wednesday and Friday as the normal baking days, 'callers' going the round of the houses to fetch in the bread. There were also private bakehouses, licensed by the bakers' company, where white bread made of wheat for the gentry and horsebread made of beans and other horse-meat were baked. The household bread was made of rye or maslin. In addition country bakers brought in bread to sell at market and the common bakers also had bread for sale. (fn. 169) The bakers operated as master craftsmen, sometimes employing a journeyman servant or so, although some trading masters may have appeared. (fn. 170) In 1578 William Hilton left £1 in wheat and peas and £1 in malt, a horse, packsaddle, and pair of hampers valued at 13s. 4d., and bakehouse equipment worth about £1. James Hilton left much the same in the next year, together with more corn and money. They both lived in the same house with its hall, parlour, chamber, kitchen, bakehouse, and yard. John Palmer, who died in 1627, was a dairyman as well as a baker, leaving butter, cheese, bacon, and an old bed for a servant, worth in all £3, 6 kine and 4 hogs worth £20, and milkhouse equipment to the value of 6s. 8d. He had also brewhouse equipment worth £6 13s. 4d., and probably tippled. His flour, wheat, meal, and tubs were worth 50s., his weights and other implements £2, and his bread-house equipment £1 16s. Wood and coal fuel for these three lines of business, together with his hog troughs, were worth £10. (fn. 171)
Regulated baking in manorial ovens was opposed by a growing free trade movement. In 1599 five town bakers brought an action against William Becket the weaver and victualler for default of suit of oven. Becket acknowledged his suit but refused to render it and complained to the Earl of Huntingdon, who secured a compromise whereby Becket was allowed to bake spiced bread for sale to his guests only. (fn. 173) In 1610–12 similar trouble recurred. The bakers of the company brought an action in the duchy court against the bakers of 'unlawful' bread. Among these was William Becket, but it was Thomas Wright who led the rebels. He himself was accused of baking sixpenny rye loaves in contravention of the assize of bread. In 1611 the duchy court ordered the five rebels to do suit of oven, forbade the baking of 'unlawful' bread except for burials and other festivals, and gave costs against the defendants, who, however, refused to pay. The defendants refused the judgement of the duchy court and referred themselves to the common law. Wright 'gave fourth braveing speeches', set up his own common oven, and continued to bake his household loaves. Several townsfolk testified that Wright's bread was more profitable to the buyer than company bread. He baked sixpenny rye loaves and sold them to such as were 'not of habilitye to buy their corne in the market'. The bakers asked Wright to be a brother of their company but he answered 'that he woulde neyther submitt himselfe to there orders nor be restrayned from bakinge his sixe penye howsholde loves but abide the order and censure of the lawe in that case made and provided'. Shortly afterwards Wright and Thomas Pestrell were imprisoned. Meanwhile, however, the duchy court had bowed to the storm and referred the matter to the borough court, which allowed Wright and others to bake loaves as they wished, only keeping the assize of weight, 'as being more necessarie and profittabler for the buyers' than bread of 1d. or 2d. the loaf. Still further trouble ensued in 1628 when the bakers' company took action against bakers of pies and cakes in private ovens for sale without paying the company any rent or dues, and baking of pies at least was stopped, thanks no doubt to the changed political situation. In 1649, however, there were renewed protests against the company. William Holmes the baker borrowed the company ordinal and cut out 'certain branches forth of the said ordinall' because 'he was trobled for bakinge of pies more than any of the other bakers'. After he had given satisfaction to the company, the court discharged him. (fn. 174)
The borough also owed suit of mill (fn. 175) to the Castle Mills of the duchy. In the mid-16th century suit of mill seems to have decayed, but in 1605 Sir Edward Hastings, the owner of Abbey Mills and the tenant of Castle Mills and the windmill, brought a successful action in the duchy court for the enforcement of suit, though other mills could operate under licence. (fn. 176)
There was no company of millers and not all millers were exclusively engaged in this occupation. One miller was also a carpenter, (fn. 177) and Thomas Swan ran the Newarke water-mill and windmill together with his farm. In the water-mill lived one of his servants whose bedding was worth 10s. The lease of the mills was worth £5 and he had also two mill horses valued at £2 6s. 8d. But his farming interests were much greater than his milling. As for those who were mere millers, they worked as master craftsmen and lived modestly enough. In 1594 Edward Taylor left goods and chattels worth about £49; John Parsons in 1612 of less than £4; George Parr of less than £5 in 1637; next year Richard Millington just over £26 and Robert Jordan just over £30 in 1665, his millhouse equipment being worth only £1 13s. 4d. (fn. 178)
Table XII: Leicester Maltsters' Inventories (fn. 180)
In the early 17th century malting increased in importance and the occupation was the subject of considerable regulation. In 1615 maltsters were henceforth forbidden to buy barley for malting and it was ordered that malt was to be sold either in open market or directly to common brewers and victuallers. For a time the maltsters were reduced to making their purchases of barley through wives and servants. The objection to the maltsters was that they had stores of barley that they did not bring to market but sold to tranters at their houses. They were therefore ordered to bring some barley to market weekly. At this time home brewing was practised by those who could afford a brewhouse. In addition there were reported to be about 160 alehouses in the town. The market activities of maltsters evidently inconvenienced home brewers and alehouse-keepers and in 1618 there were riots against maltsters who refused to sell corn on the market. The immediate cause of these riots was the prevalent dearth and a similar campaign was stirred up during the next serious dearth in 1629–30. Extra pressure was brought upon maltsters by presenting their kilns as nuisances. Dannet Abney, for example, was presented for having an unlicensed kiln and he had to promise to remove it to where there would be no danger from fire. Other men were obliged to slate their malting rooms to avoid risk of fire, or to give bonds to their neighbours against such risk. At the same time those who were not freemen were debarred from malting. Malting had always been subject to regulation, but what now made the situation more difficult was the expansion of malting and brewery as home malting and brewing became more narrowly confined, being out of the reach of wage-earners, and also the series of harvest crises that marked the end of the old regime. (fn. 179)
Malting required considerable capital, especially for the purchase of barley and fuel. Maltsters, whose inventories are digested in Table XII, usually had stocks of wood and coals worth several pounds and sometimes as much as £20. The maltsters also undertook the curing of tobacco. Henry Slater in 1632 had £5 worth of tobacco and John Horne in 1670 10s. worth. Some maltsters also brewed: Slater's brewery equipment was worth £7 6s. 8d., for example. A typical malting-house may have been the one in High (Southgate) Street with two floors each 60 ft. by 14 ft. The business depended on having a working capital sufficient to maintain a constant flow through kilns and floors, the process lasting about two months. Thus John Swanne, who took to malting in 1622, had only a few malting floors and depended on speedy sales and quick turnover. He sold about 20 quarters of malt weekly, like other maltsters, to divers brewers and chapmen who were his regular customers. (fn. 181) Malting was also undertaken as a sideline by hosiers and others who commanded sufficient capital. Of the hosiers, for example, Sampson Pougher had £40, Faustin Gilbert £20, and Elizabeth Pougher nearly £100 invested in the business. (fn. 182) In all probability the 17th-century maltsters were large masters employing considerable wage-labour. (fn. 183)
Ale-brewing was old-established, but beer-brewing was not introduced until the 16th century, a company being formed in 1574 and incorporating the old ale-brewers' company. Brewing was undertaken by three main groups of persons. First, many people brewed for their own consumption. Secondly, there were common brewers who served the public through tipplers or innholders. Many of these brewers, in the 16th century especially, combined brewing with some other occupation. Thirdly, the innholders were often full-blown brewers, although they were allowed to brew only for travellers and not for the townsfolk except by special licence. The common brewers also worked under licence. (fn. 184) Some of those who brewed beer had relatively expensive equipment and employed some wage-labour. They also engaged burnmen to cart water for them, but these probably worked as self-employed persons. William Lush had brewhouse equipment worth £20 in 1667 and a large supply of fuel, some of which was for brewing and some for heating and cooking in his inn. The scale of brewery establishments was growing and there are signs of the development of large-scale brewing involving the employment of large numbers of workpeople. (fn. 185)
There were also distillers in the town. John Boxall, the strong-waterman who died in 1632, was a freeman of the brewers' company, but others were admitted as strongwatermen. Boxall left goods and chattels worth over £216, of which £107 was in debts and £40 in purse and apparel. In his shop he had strong waters, a copper, and an alembric, worth in all £22, and he had wood and coals in his yard to the value of £13 6s. 8d. (fn. 186)
Tippling was a common by-occupation of the craftsmen. Ale and beer were in such demand that anyone with a brewhouse had no farther to seek for a source of supplementary income. (fn. 187) Innkeeping could be very profitable, especially if one had a brewery. A skittle alley was also an advantage; and the inn servants could be employed at spinning in slack periods. (fn. 188) Victualling could be a whole- or part-time employment, and the occupation or company was heterogeneous in character: some members brewed and sold beer and ale, some were hay merchants, some wood- and coal-mongers. Bartholomew Gracedue, for example, who died in 1646, sold wood and timber, charcoals and pit coals, as well as hay. (fn. 189) Some cooks were able to earn good livings, (fn. 190) but the salters were poor in the extreme. (fn. 191)
This was the age of wood, and skilled woodworkers were of great importance to the economy. The carpenters worked as master craftsmen, employing small capital and attaining to only modest wealth. The wealthiest whose inventory has been examined left just over £84 in goods and chattels in 1678. Most were considerably poorer. (fn. 192) The joiners were similarly placed, the most successful leaving goods and chattels worth £72 13s. 4d. in 1642. (fn. 193) Cart and wagon wheels were almost universally iron-bound and the wheel-wright's craft was exceptionally skilled. Wheel-wrights operated with more capital than did carpenters or joiners. In 1546 William Hawkes was employing at least one maid and one manservant. William Hobby in 1597 was also a farmer, but he had well over £60 invested in his craft. He made some carts as well as wheels. (fn. 194) Ploughwrights were no less skilled than wheel-wrights and probably worked under similar conditions. (fn. 195) Turners were united in a single company with joiners, and their position was probably akin to those of the joiners and wheel-wrights, one of whom at least was also a turner. (fn. 196) Other woodworkers fashioned spoons and trenchers for the table. (fn. 197) Of three coopers, one left an inventory worth £10 13s. 4d. in 1538, a second nearly £22 in 1633, and another over £105 in 1649, having stocks-in-trade of £6 13s. 4d., £7, and £31 respectively. (fn. 198)
Blacksmiths could not hope for wealth from their smithies alone, especially when ironmongers intervened between them and the public. Many of them, indeed, were forced to supplement their livelihoods by spinning. The forge was often combined with a farm and a farmer-blacksmith might, like Henry Peale the elder in 1639, leave goods and chattels worth nearly £700, with about £270 invested in husbandry and about £100 in his craft. Most blacksmiths worked much like modern ones, though they fashioned some objects, such as arrow-heads, that are now obsolete. (fn. 199) Some specialist locksmiths were to be found, and some blacksmiths specialized in more intricate work such as locks, compasses, knitting pins, hand-saws and awl-blades, nippers, pincers, woolcards, sheep-bells, pack-needles, and the like, as did Thomas Armeson, who in 1672 maintained branch retail establishments at the Gainsborough, Loughborough, and Hinkley. He was, indeed, more of a metal-worker than a blacksmith and left over £276 in his inventory. (fn. 200) There were also a few coppersmiths and goldsmiths working as rather needy master craftsmen. (fn. 201) Smiths made some edge-tools, but these were usually produced by cutlers working as master craftsmen. One cutler, who died in 1663, was also a gunsmith and his shop an armoury. (fn. 202) Of the pewterers, John Launder left goods and chattels worth over £104 in 1625, but of this only £4 10s. was invested in pewtering and £54 in malt. In these two trades he employed, in addition to family labour, two menservants who slept in a chamber apart. Anne Launder in 1669 had a casting chamber with moulds and other implements worth over £14, and tools and fuel in her shop and yard worth £5 10s., but most of her personal estate was made up by the £410 she had in purse, apparel, bonds, and debts. (fn. 203) Braziers sometimes employed considerable capital; one who died in 1662 had £93 invested in craft goods ranging from coppers to candlesticks. He also had a brewhouse that exceeded his household requirements, and his inventory was appraised at over £207. (fn. 204) Bellfounders also employed large capital. Robert Newcombe in 1556 was combining bellfounding with tanning, but had more invested in the former occupation. He left a personal estate of over £250 and employed two maids and five menservants. Thomas Newcombe combined bellfounding with a spinning house. He apparently traded with London and employed at least two indwelling menservants who lived in an outhouse and slept on rough boarded bedsteads. (fn. 205) Some of the metal-workers employed wage-labour in considerable quantities, though usually only when they ran two occupations side by side.
Another group of craftsmen was concerned with building and the production of those household goods that were not made by carpenters and joiners. The register of freemen is not a good directory of trades in the 16th century and later, and it is not known, therefore, whether there were any glaziers admitted in the early 16th century. There was, however, at least one, Richard Ingulward, working in the town at that time, who was not a freeman, and there may well have been others. The later cheapening of glass production may have resulted in the recruitment of further glaziers, some of them from among the rough masons possibly, but those who were nominally rough masons might have been glaziers in fact. Possibly the two occupations were merged for a time. As the glaziers were expert in the use of lead, it is not surprising that some of them were also plumbers, and the two names may, indeed, have been used as alternatives. What is clear is that the glaziers were poor craftsmen with personal estates frequently of less than £10. (fn. 206)
Table XIII: Inventories of Chandlers, Plasterers, and Slaters (fn. 212)
The tallow-chandlers', slaters', plasterers', and pargeters' trades all overlapped one another and they all appear to have belonged to the same company. At the same time some members of the occupation branched out into other trades as well. In the mid17th century, for example, some chandlers were entering the hosiery business. (fn. 207) Their inventories are summarized in Table XIII. It is plain that chandlers, slaters, and plasterers lived as poor craftsmen unless they were able to gain a footing in some fourth occupation. As houses were made of timber, plaster, and slates, building needs could be met by members of the plasterers'- slaters'-chandlers' company and by the carpenters and joiners. There were also some masons and layers, and rough masons and rough layers, working as craftsmen and supplying their own materials. (fn. 208) Some of these masons and layers were freemen of the town and some were not. William Jerman (d. 1584), an unfree mason, left just over £50, and he and his family eked out their living by linen and woollen spinning and dairying. His working tools were valued at 2s. only. A rough layer left £52 odd in 1664; of this £18 10s. was in draught cattle and two old carts, presumably for the haulage of stones, and £15 in dairy cattle. (fn. 209) Painter-stainers were poor craftsmen with working capitals of about £1 in the mid-17th century. (fn. 210) One furnishing trade remains, upholstery. Upholsterers made or sold such things as cushions, blankets, manchester beds, scotch beds, rugs, coverlets, bolsters, and curtains. It was a profitable business, for one left goods and chattels worth £1,358 in 1635 and another of over £450 in 1675. The upholsterers seem to have developed from the mercers and linen drapers and must have exercised mainly trading functions, employing small masters in making up furnishings. (fn. 211)
Two crafts were concerned with armoury in addition to cutlers and gunsmiths, namely, the furbishers and fletchers. Furbishing can hardly have been very renumerative and the fletchers were virtually paupers, in spite of the fact that bows and arrows were still in wide use, if only for hunting and poaching. (fn. 213) Transport and communications were served by the common carriers, some of whom maintained services to and from London, and by the postmaster. (fn. 214) Medical services were provided by apothecaries, barbers, surgeons, and physicians. Barbers and physicians seldom commanded any considerable means, but some of the later barber-surgeons had personal estates running into hundreds of pounds, usually consisting largely of debts and leases. (fn. 215) Lawyers and scriveners were prosperous enough. (fn. 216) There were gardeners, but these were concerned with tending flower gardens and orchards, and there is no sign of market-gardening. (fn. 217) The rest of the occupations of the town—sergeants, gaolers, priests, criers, apparitors, schoolmasters, and musicians, provided essential services. The impression given is that social life in Leicester was no less cultivated in the early 17th than in the early 20th century. In many respects, indeed, cultural standards were higher then than now. (fn. 218)
The base of all this world of crafts, trades, and professions was agriculture. Leicester existed to serve the needs of the countryside and was itself part of the countryside. Husbandry in one form or another was the most general by-occupation of townsfolk of all classes, and the town had a profoundly rural aspect. Pigs and cows went their ways about the town, though ringed or herded, and as late as 1610 it was necessary to forbid winnowing in the streets. (fn. 219)
The lands of Leicester were made up approximately as follows. In the walled town, 132 acres; in the extra-mural town, 35 acres; East Field, 1,180 acres; South Field, 614 acres; West Field, 686 acres; and water, 60 acres. The West Field consisted of 140 acres of Braunstone meadows (holmes) on the west bank of the Soar, and, after the addition of forest lands in 1627, of c. 650 acres of arable and 152 of pasture. The arable was probably cultivated in the Midland three-field course of tilth, breach, and fallow successively. East (St. Margaret's or Great) Field contained c. 680 acres of arable and 500 of pasture, subdivided into Nether, Middle, and Conduit fields. South (St. Mary's or Town) Field contained c. 445 acres of arable and 169 of pasture, divided into Rawdykes, Gallowtree, and St. Mary's Fields, and the Cowhay near the river. These fields remained largely open in the 17th century. To the north of the town were the demesne lands of the abbey, which consisted in 1551 of 56 acres of arable in Hermitage and Peas Fields, 103 of meadow, 180 of up-and-down arable in the park, and ten closes ranging in size from 2½ to 24 acres and amounting in all to 157½ acres. In addition, some Leicester people farmed the lands of other townships, or pastured beasts in the forest, just as foreigners were also to be found farming some land in Leicester. (fn. 220) The open fields were subject to common rights and management. The town swineherd blew his horn about the town for the tack of swine, common of pasture was rated by the yardland, yardlands were laid down and altered from time to time, grass grounds were reapportioned, the course of cultivation regulated, the Cowhay fenced, the stint arranged, and agistment supervised in the manner of all common field townships. (fn. 221)
Many townspeople maintained a dairy for their own provision and there were numerous dairies working for the market. (fn. 222) Such dairies included pigs to consume the whey, sheep to close-crop the grass, and half a dozen or more kine, besides weanling calves, heifers, and an occasional bull. Their produce was mainly butter and cheese, butter at least being sold to London through the carriers. The dairies were run as family businesses, little or no outside labour being employed. (fn. 223)
Table XIV: Non-cultivating Graziers' Inventories (fn. 226)
Table XV: Cultivating Graziers' Inventories (fn. 227)
Non-cultivating graziers and grazing butchers were numerous. Their inventories are summarized in Table XIV. Sheep and beasts were kept or fattened on grass, hay, and oats. The non-cultivating grazier might make some of his own hay, or even all of it, but other fodder he would purchase from farmers or obtain from impropriated tithes or from sowing to thirds and halves, that is, share-cropping. In many cases, however, such graziers also ran dairies either for their households or for the market. Some also bred horses, as did Thomas Fleming, a member of the butchers' company who died in 1564. Cheese, bacon, beef, and wool all figure in the inventories. Some graziers were also craftsmen, as Richard Springthorpe the whittawer (d. 1638). Thomas Pippin was a member of the tanners' company and may merely have retired from tanning when he died in 1675. Such grazing, even if combined with dairying, was economical of labour. Most of the businesses could have been run by family labour or by the use of a small number of maids and men. By avoiding plough work, the non-cultivating grazier spared himself the great expenditure and forewent the high profits of the farmer. (fn. 224)
The cultivating graziers grew mainly meat and animal products, often supported by a dairy, but they grew their own fodder crops: hay, barley, peas, oats, tares, beans, and rye, and food and drink crops often. Hence they had the working expenses of general farmers. First, they had implements such as iron-bound wagons, ploughs, harrows, coulters, shares, plough-timber, yokes and harness, and so on. Secondly, they employed wage-labour in some quantity. Philip Freake, a grazing butcher, who died in 1588, must have employed men in plough and field work, and maids about the house and yard, and it is difficult to see how he could have run his farm with fewer than two or three servants in husbandry. Even John Shirman (d. 1675) maintained a plough, though he left only hay crops. It must be remembered, however, that much of the hay of these graziers was cultivated, whether grass or tare hay. John Thompson (d. 1571), 'butcher', had a dairy, but was probably a grazing or carcass butcher also. The bigger of the cultivating graziers employed far more labour than did the non-cultivating, and, as may be seen from Table XV, they resembled in many ways the farmers of the time. (fn. 225)
Table XVI: Leicester Farmers' Inventories (fn. 235)
The Leicester farmers, as may be seen from Table XVI, relied largely upon grazing, but this did not lead them to neglect the plough. On the contrary, they grew great quantities of corn. Wheat and rye were sown in considerable quantities, but the acreage under spring corn seems to have been much larger. Barley was an important crop, largely for malting samples, many farmers also being maltsters, but much barley was used for fodder and bread. Beans, peas, and oats were mainly for fodder: beans were the main constituent of horse-bread, and peas were fed to cattle, sheep, and swine. (fn. 228) Grass-hay was the most common, though tare- and oat-hay may have been used also. Grass-hay came mainly from meadows and grasslands mown in rotation. Grass was an important crop and much of the common field was in leys of permanent grass, as for example in the South and West fields. (fn. 229) Thus it was ordered in 1624 that 'all such leys and other greensward ground which hath beene plowed upp within the South Feilds at any tyme within 18 yeares last past shall be layd to grasse again'. Many leys were broken at about that time by farmers such as Mabbes, Abney, Swane, and Palmer. (fn. 230) Outside the town fields convertible husbandry, provincially 'up-and-down' husbandry, was chiefly practised, and while domestic dairies and part-time farming were mostly confined to the common fields, most of the land cultivated by the large farmers lay outside them in inclosures. Horses were the more usual plough-beasts, though draught-oxen were also used widely and both oxen and horses were used in harrowing, different implements existing for the different teams. (fn. 231)
Husbandry was widespread as a part-time occupation, for the townsfolk needed not only domestic dairies but also supplies of grain for themselves. In 1586, for example, Thomas Clark, innholder, planned to sow 3 acres of corn, as did one Morton, mercer. Robert Roberts, tanner and victualler, had 4 acres to sow. (fn. 232) Most families could supply the labour for 1 plough but for every other plough maintained wage-labour would have been needed, at the rate of about 2 or 3 persons per plough. Thus Nicholas Bailey probably worked a single ox-team by family labour and William Colinson was in much the same position, though using horses. Robert Simpson, however, maintained at least 2 and perhaps 3 plough-teams. This would mean the employment of about 4 wage-labourers. And we find in fact that he had 4 beds in the chamber occupied by his menservants. William Hobby must have employed menservants, if only because he was also a wheelwright. Ralph Freeman had 6 iron-bound carts, 6 ploughs and a wagon, and kept 15 draught horses. He had 2 beds in the stables, presumably for the carters, but he would have needed about 12 servants or labourers, if, as is assumed, he confined his activity to management. Henry Palmer, too, had half a dozen ploughs and probably twice as many menservants. Thomas Swan had 4 ploughs at work and beds for 3 carters in the stables. Of the 21 farms inventoried possibly 5 had 1 plough, 6 had 2, 2 had 3, 2 had 4 or 5, and 6 had 6 ploughs. (fn. 233) That is to say, there were 5 family farmers, 6 farmers employing about 2 men each, 2 employing about 4, 2 employing about 7, and 6 employing about 12. Thus the total composition of these farms would have been 5 family farmers, 10 capitalist working farmers, 6 capitalist gentlemen-farmers, and 106 servants or labourers. For every score of farmers there must have been about 100 wage-workers, while about two-thirds of the labour force were employed by about a quarter of the farmers. This takes no account of dairymaids, shepherds, and the like. (fn. 234) It is clear that capitalist farmers were the largest employers of labour in Leicester and that most wage-labour must have been agricultural, since the farmers constituted about one-tenth of those at the head of enterprises. The rise of a class of wealthy gentlemen-farmers was thus one of the outstanding features of Leicester's history in this period. As far as can be judged the proportion of the population engaged in farming, grazing, and dairying did not decline, but the number of family farmers probably declined considerably. In wealth and social influence the gentlemen-farmers greatly excelled the mass of craftsmen and the majority of shopkeepers. Farmers' capital was by far the most important form of industrial capital, and industrial capital was already of great social and economic significance by virtue of its growth in agriculture alone.
Most of the industrial production of Leicester was in the hands of master craftsmen, trading masters, and small masters. The importance of the master craftsmen was declining. Trading masters dominated the shoemaking industry, although it appears that merchant employers and small masters were developing from the ranks of trading masters and journeymen. The hosiery industry was organized on a fully developed putting-out system by about 1660. In spite of the decline of the wool merchants, commercial capital continued to be of great importance in the economy and exercised a more direct control over industry than it had done in the past. Nevertheless large masters and wage-workers were developing in the malting, brewing, metallurgical, and agricultural industries. Even if only 10 per cent. of the entrepreneurs were large masters employing an average of half a dozen wage-workers each, then for every 100 entrepreneurs there would have been 60 wage-workers. And there can be little doubt that the proportion of wage-workers was increasing during this period, as was also the number of small masters. About 10 per cent. of the entrepreneurs were merchants, shopkeepers, or merchant employers, possibly about 25 per cent. were small masters, and 55 per cent. were master craftsmen on the average over the whole period. It might be guessed that about a quarter of the male adults were wage-workers in the early 16th century and possibly about half in the mid-17th century. As Table XVII shows, about 20 per cent. of the adult population of St. Mary's parish were in 1587 in-dwelling men and maidservants. (fn. 236) One would not be surprised to find that in-dwelling wage-workers were equalled in numbers by whole and part-time day labourers. It must be said, how- ever, that any reconstruction of Leicester society is hazardous and that only wide approximations are possible.
Table XVII: Adult Parishioners of St. Mary's, 1587 (fn. 237)
|Widows and spinsters||15|
|Other relatives and inmates||17|
Many wage-labourers, journeymen, and servants are disclosed by the inventories of deceased persons. Of these inventories 52 were of such small value that those whose property they describe seem to have been servants or day-labourers. A number of persons in 1542, 1548, 1591, and 1615, for example, left less than £3 worth of goods and chattels. In 1556 William Fallows, serving man, left £18 17s. 11d. In 1572 John Meade, a servant of the Earl of Huntingdon, left £4 16s. 4d., but he had a half-year's wages owing to him. John Trowell, who left £2 19s. 2d. in 1591, bequeathed 2s. to Margaret, his master's maid, and 4s. to his fellow Thomas Tillys. In 1666 John Jarvis, John Johnston's servant at the White Lion, left £27 6s. 10d., suggesting fairly high wages. It seems that there were many day-labourers who eked out an existence by spinning and by the possession of a cow or a few pigs or poultry. (fn. 238)
Owing to the virtual absence of guild records it is not easy to trace the history of industrial organization. Most crafts were organized into occupations or companies and some of these companies were amalgamations as, for example, the chandlers', slaters', and plasterers'. (fn. 239) The occupations were supervised by the borough government—with which had been merged the Chapman Guild, a guild merchant —and to this the crafts had to take their ordinals to be approved or rejected. No new matter was to be put into any ordinal unless first agreed by the mayor and two justices of the peace. (fn. 240) Apprenticeship was regulated and freedom of the borough was needed before one could set up shop. Many of those who were apprenticed went on to spend most of their lives as journeymen. Thomas Claxton, weaver, worked for 24 years as a journeyman to support his wife and three children. Finally, as he complained, the places where he had worked were supplied with apprentices and as he grew older and less able to take pains he had difficulty in finding employment. He therefore petitioned for his freedom, so that he might set up shop. (fn. 241) It was the borough government that took action against unapprenticed masters, such as William Deane, the woollen draper. (fn. 242) The occupations, however, claimed that freedom of the borough could be granted to one of their trade only with their consent. (fn. 243) The authority of the borough government was reinforced by the Statutes of Labourers and of Artificers and by the office of justice of the peace. Journeymen were registered as servants, could only depart from a master under licence, and needed an endorsed passport. The leisure hours of men and maidservants were regulated and supervised. (fn. 244) Thus the borough government ruled the working population with the assistance of royal authority, and in order to understand who wielded power in the town it is necessary to examine the composition of borough government. While much remains uncertain, it can at least be said that the major voice in town affairs in the early 16th century belonged to the merchants. In the latter part of the century government was shared to a greater extent by craftsmen and producers, although the shopkeepers held preponderant influence. In the 17th century the influence of the producing element was reinforced by maltsters, brewers, and gentlemen-farmers, and the commercial element by merchant employers. At all times the small masters were subject to those in control of the borough, but later in the period industrial capital counterbalanced the power of commercial capital. (fn. 245) The borough government having passed into the hands of an oligarchy of traders, this position was legalized and reinforced by the Crown by letters patent and statute in 1488 and 1489. In defiance of the craft or popular party, commoners were excluded from government. (fn. 246)
The hegemony of the merchants arising from the function of commercial capital was strengthened by the operations of financial capital. Needy craftsmen and husbandmen were forced to borrow from wealthy traders, nearly all of whom had tens, scores, or hundreds of pounds owing to them by bond, bill, or other specialty. Of all the varied objects of these obligations the lending of money at interest must have been the most important. (fn. 247) Usury was not a trade in itself but was the sideline of the business man and the stand-by of retired traders and moneyed widows. If rates of interest were high, the large amount of desperate debts recorded in the inventories testifies to the risks of such operations. (fn. 248)
The hegemony of the merchants was further strengthened by their activities as landlords. Though lending money was often subject to some risk, investment in rents was secure and a lower rate of interest could be generally demanded without any great diminution of the return for the capital employed in this way. Leicester traders and gentlemen had lands as far afield as Great Dalby, Whetstone, Grub Street, and Tottenhall Manor, and many of the mayors and aldermen of the borough owned lands and houses inside and outside the town, but the most general form of investment was in town houses and tenements which were let to poor craftsmen by gentle and armigerous merchants, mercers, vintners, ironmongers, and the like. Nor was it unknown for such merchant-landowners to be lords of manors. Just as commercial and financial capital were linked, so were financial and landlord's capital, and there was no cleavage or sharp division between traders, usurers, and landlords; but both usury and landlordism deepened the cleavages between small master and merchant. The industrial capitalists— large masters, and capitalist farmers—did not, however, invest any considerable capital in rents or usury, and although some of them were owner-occupiers to a greater or lesser extent, they had much more capital invested in leases of land than in rents. (fn. 249) The borough itself was a landowner and lord of Whetstone manor. In 1589 the Crown and duchy lands within the precincts were granted to the borough in fee-farm, and the borough later bought Newarke Grange, which it leased out to gentlemen-farmers who resided in the town and were often leading men in the corporation. (fn. 250) As for security of tenure it cannot be said that it was better or worse in Leicester than in the countryside at large. Many examples of eviction may be found without in any way showing an abnormal degree of insecurity. (fn. 251)
The whole period was one of great building activity. Out-kitchens, second stories, garrets, and cellars were added to houses to conserve ground-space, while coal-houses and coal-fired grates were provided for the burning of pit-coal which was used increasingly for homes and industry, and special buildings were erected for such industries as malting, brewing, and hosiery. The increasing prosperity of a section of the townsfolk showed in improvement in housing, while the increasing numbers of wage-workers led to the division of houses between families and the taking of inmates. At the same time there were notable improvements in the water-supply, public wells being supplemented by conduits, waterworks, and common pumps. (fn. 252)
The borough was parcel of the Duchy of Lancaster, but all the town was not within the precincts of the borough. The liberty of the Newarke and the manors of Knighton, Bishop's Fee, and Danet's Hall and Westcotes in Bromkinsthorpe all impinged to a greater or lesser extent upon the authority of the borough. (fn. 253) The position of Bishop's Fee, which has been discussed above, (fn. 254) remained ambiguous during this period. In 1596, for example, Christopher Sutton was put out of the Forty-eight and disfranchised because he resided in the Bishop's Fee. (fn. 255) Such anomalies spurred the burgesses to seek new charters giving them jurisdiction over the fee and the Newarke, but these attempts failed against opposition from the lords of the fee on the grounds that their manorial franchises would suffer and that the trading privileges of the borough were 'offensive and hurteful to the countie'. The borough was unable to rebut the tacit allegation that craftsmen in the fee would be subjected to the rule of Leicester traders. It appears, indeed, that precisely this subjection was one of the main objects of the proposed charters. Since the privileges of the burgess oligarchy were being slowly undermined by the spread of craft industries in the suburbs and liberties, the perpetuation of these privileges depended upon the extension of their scope to bring the liberties under borough regulations. To this, however, was opposed the free-trade movement of the craftsmen of town, suburbs, and countryside. This movement obtained the support of indeed, that precisely this subjection was one of the main objects of the proposed charters. Since the privileges of the burgess oligarchy were being slowly undermined by the spread of craft industries in the suburbs and liberties, the perpetuation of these privileges depended upon the extension of their scope to bring the liberties under borough regulations. To this, however, was opposed the free-trade movement of the craftsmen of town, suburbs, and countryside. This movement obtained the support of the country gentry concerned, in the interests of the prosperity of their tenantry and so of their own rent rolls. Defeated in its main object the borough could only conduct a long and losing war of attrition in defence of its privileges. (fn. 256) At the same time the borough had to defend itself against tolls imposed by others, particularly by the lord of Gainsborough manor. (fn. 257)
While the secular trend in Leicester economy in this period may be described as the simultaneous growth both of industrial capital and of the control of commercial capital over small masters, the course of development was not smooth but was distorted by short-term movements and in particular by harvest crises. Such crises occurred, for example, in 1558, 1587, 1595, 1608, 1622, and 1629–31. In the 16th century the danger of famine was met by the further regulation of the market, but while regulation and control continued to be the royal remedy for famine, by 1608 the burgesses were overriding the Book of Orders on the plea that 'the allowinge of some to buye the overplus will incurrage the husbandmen and others that bringe corne out of other counties where it is cheaper to our markitts, for if all should bee restrayned from buyinge, the fewer woulde come to the marketts to sell and soe make the marketts lesse and cause them to make theire markitts at home as wee have knowne by former experience'. (fn. 258) Thus royal regulation was countered by argument for free internal trade.
Dearths were often accompanied or followed by pestilence, of which there were outbreaks in 1564, 1579, 1583, 1593, 1604, 1606–7, 1610–11, 1625–6, 1636, and 1638–9. These plagues are indicative of famine, near-famine, and post-famine conditions and constituted the main impediment to population increase in early 17th-century Leicester. The periodic harvest crises and pestilences merged in the general crisis between 1625 and 1640, with plague in 1625–6, dearth from 1629 to 1631, and plague again in 1636 and 1638–9. (fn. 259)
It was particularly during the 'permanent' depression of 1625 to 1640 that the longterm changes in the economic and social structure of Leicester found political expression in opposition to the royal government. This opposition was not merely economic, social, and political, but also religious—puritanism (fn. 260) having taken root among the socially discontented townsfolk. Here, however, we may only consider the social and economic aspects of this conflict.
The financial and military exactions of the Crown aroused opposition from most of the townspeople, although there was some division of opinion amongst them. (fn. 261) Inclosures also focused discontent. During the anti-inclosure outbreaks of 1607 the mayor led soldiers from the town to Cotesbach to aid in suppression and a party of trained men was sent to Welham also. At the same time, however, at least 32 Leicester men went to Cotesbach to help the levellers cast down ditches, the four principal offenders being John Russell, John Browne, William Gracedieu, and Thomas Seawell the painter. Assisted by the gaoler, the townsfolk took down the gibbet set up on the orders of the Earl of Huntingdon. The earl subjected the mayor to house imprisonment, appointed a deputy in his stead, and finally arraigned the mayor before him, taking his hat from his head and requiring him to speak on oath. Next year the chief Leicester levellers were pressed into the army for Ireland wherever possible. This was the fate of Russell and Browne and would have been that of Seawell if he had not fled. It seems that the craftsmen and poorer sort of the town were of a levelling opinion, that the leading burgesses were opposed to levelling but feared the populace and that Huntingdon welcomed the opportunity to lord it over the burgesses. (fn. 262) To the inclosure of Leicester Forest by Charles I the townspeople presented a united resistance. The corporation petitioned against inclosure and offered Charles £500 if he would desist, and the town artisans took the matter into their own hands and in 1628 were already casting down the ditches of royal inclosures. Eventually the king was forced to compromise and allotted 40 acres to the townsfolk and 20 to the corporation for rights of common enjoyed by the Grange farm, in addition to 76 to the freeholders of Bromkinsthorpe and 30 to John Danet of Danet's Hall. The corporation nevertheless continued to support the commoners in a further petition against disafforesting. (fn. 263)
There can be little doubt that economic and social progress was retarded by the sack of Leicester in 1645 and until the Parliamentary armies were able to protect the town. (fn. 264) The general crisis of the last years of royal government was thus prolonged in Leicester until the middle of the century.
The borough government opposed inclosure in principle and only grudgingly consented to it at Bushby in 1647. The forest inclosures continued to provoke hostility and in 1649 four men were arrested for spreading a rumour that Parliament had given leave for the levelling of the king's inclosures. It is significant that these men were respited after having promised not to take any action without the consent of the mayor. (fn. 265) In and after 1653 the corporation opposed the inclosure of Belgrave and organized intercommunal petitions against it. A petition against depopulation was drawn up by the town clerk and Anthony Gilbert, James Fox, Jonathan Cooke, and Samuel Marshall collected signatures about the town. The borough also met the expenses incurred by Moore and Yaxley in presenting the petitions in London. These petitions, however, were not merely against inclosure. They proposed the institution of a special local tribunal to regulate all disorders arising either from common field husbandry or from inequitable and depopulating inclosure. (fn. 266) Evidently the democratic breeze that blew through Leicester at this time had a powerful effect upon borough government, and the interests of industrial and agricultural producers received more attention than previously. Leicester favoured the Commonwealth and refused to join in addresses to General Monck. The opinion of the town artisans was probably summed up by William Dawes, who, on the king's arms being set up again, remarked 'it would doe the Devill good to see them'. (fn. 267)
Greatly strengthened in the course of the preceding hundred years, industrial capital in Leicester emerged as a social force contributing its share to the overthrow of royal government; but this was by grace of the numerical force placed at its disposal by the small masters and it was again relegated to a position subordinate to commercial, landed, and financial capital until the 19th century. The craftsmen and husbandmen were strong enough to play a decisive part in the Great Rebellion, but much more accumulation and refinement of industrial capital was needed before landowners and merchants could be displaced from the head of Leicester society.