A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 8, the City of Coventry and Borough of Warwick. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1969.
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ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL HISTORY, 1545-1835
TRADE AND INDUSTRY.
Because of its poor communications and its proximity to industrial Coventry the economic position of Warwick showed little change between the 15th and 18th centuries. A scheme to make the Avon navigable, first mooted in the 15th century, (fn. 1) was revived about 1634 by William Sandys of Fladbury (Worcs.) and received support both from the corporation (fn. 2) and from the Privy Council, (fn. 3) but the improvements reached only so far as Stratford. (fn. 4) Although naturally minimising their ability to pay Ship Money in 1636, the bailiff and burgesses claimed that Warwick was 'a town of very small trading consisting of many poor artificers, and is no common road to receive the benefits of travellers, and standing betwixt Coventry and Stratford, both towns of common road, and their markets more abundant and populous . . .'. (fn. 5)
More than sixty years earlier there was said to be 'no trade to be reckoned of', but most people had 'corn and some husbandry', which was 'the chiefest maintenance of their poor housekeeping'. (fn. 6) At that time the most prosperous traders were mercers and drapers; malting, hitherto also profitable, was in decline. (fn. 7) Other trades in the town were represented among the principal and assistant burgesses, although they were not a completely representative cross-section of the community. An analysis of members of the corporation between 1554 and 1588 (fn. 8) reveals 7 butchers, 6 drapers, 6 mercers, 4 shoemakers, 3 each of bakers, carpenters, glovers, and victuallers, 2 each of tanners and smiths, a chandler, and a pewterer. In 1586-7 a survey (fn. 9) of craftsmen, journeymen, and apprentices in the town (Table I) revealed that the tanners were the largest group. (fn. 10) The mercers, grocers, and haberdashers were clearly the most organised group, (fn. 11) having a master, 2 wardens, and 9 others who were together described as 'householders and free of those occupations'. In addition to a journeyman and apprentices there were three others not qualified under the statute. The 6 servants employed by glovers were hired by the day, also contrary to the statute. Henry Moore, it was noted, wove, sheared and dressed his cloth in his own house, and another weaver exercised his trade without having served an apprenticeship. (fn. 12)
|Warwick Tradesmen, 1586-7|
|Mercers||14 (fn. 13)||1||5||3|
The glaziers, with at least 3 masters, a journeyman, and 4 apprentices formed an important group. Their leader seems to have been Nicholas Eyffler (d. 1591), a native of Osnabrück, (fn. 14) who was also the most prosperous of the foreigners in the town. (fn. 15) At his death his workshop was found to contain glass with the arms of Lucy, suggesting that he might be responsible for some of the glass at Charlecote. (fn. 16) Another glazier was Roger Saunders, who was employed regularly at St. Nicholas's Church between 1583 and 1610. (fn. 17) A third master glazier was John Weale, described as such in 1597-8, when he was also selling barley and making malt. (fn. 18) Weale illustrates well the point that tradesmen also had interests in agriculture; Thomas Oken, mercer, and several others dealt in corn and malt and invested the profits of their trade in land. (fn. 19)
An important feature of urban economy were the trade companies, the successors of the medieval craft guilds, through which corporations exercised economic control. In Warwick they seem to have owed their existence to corporation initiative but were supervised in many of their activities by the court leet. The leet, for example, as early as 1549-50, had ordered that no baker should sell his wares outside the borough. (fn. 20) This decision had subsequently been set aside by the 'governors of the town', (fn. 21) but soon after the establishment of the corporation in 1554 the decision was again reversed, the corporation, with the consent of the justices of assize, issuing a new ordinance for bakers. (fn. 22) During the 1570s a number of 'books' or ordinances were issued by the corporation, indicating the growth of organisation within various trades in the town. The butchers' book (1570) (fn. 23) was followed by ordinances for pointmakers, glovers, and skinners (?1572), (fn. 24) walkers (fullers) and dyers (1572), (fn. 25) bakers (1573), (fn. 26) drapers and tailors (1573), (fn. 27) and mercers, haberdashers, grocers, and fishmongers (1574). (fn. 28) By 1604 masons and tilers, (fn. 29) carpenters and joiners, saddlers and wheelwrights were similarly organized. (fn. 30) While on the one hand these companies, each with a hall for meetings, (fn. 31) indicate increased economic development, on the other hand they are evidence of greater control exercised by the corporation. With the one exception of the company headed by mercers, the corporation was able to control membership, a power which could be exercised for political and social as well as economic reasons.
Markets and fairs were similarly controlled by the corporation through the bailiff, who was clerk of the market ex officio. The bailiff was required in 1571 to attend at each market between 11 and 1 o'clock with two or three burgesses, and was to keep sessions as clerk of the market at least once each year. (fn. 32) By 1611, however, the court leet had taken over the bailiff's functions by appointing bread weighers, flesh tasters, leather sealers, and aletasters. (fn. 33) The corporation retained control of the general administration of markets, ordering that the Tuesday (before 1554 the Wednesday) market be held at the High Cross and surrounding streets until it was abolished before 1683. (fn. 34) Butter and cheese were to be sold at the cross itself, wheat in Castle Street, barley in Church Street, and beef in Jury Street. Alternative sites were used on fair days. The Saturday market, as in medieval times, probably remained in and around the Market Place. Other places of trade included shops under a Wool Hall, mentioned in 1556, (fn. 35) and a Butter House, pulled down early in the 18th century. (fn. 36) After 1554 the corporation enjoyed rents paid by stall holders in the Booth Hall. In 1581 34 tradesmen paid a total rent of 113s. 4d. (fn. 37) By 1692-3 there were 45 stall-holders paying rents varying from between 5s. and £2 a year, totalling £19 13s. (fn. 38) The stalls then lay on the northern and southern sides of the hall, and evidently overflowed into the street, for some were described as lying inside and others outside the hall. (fn. 39) In 1725 the income had increased to £35 11s. (fn. 40) The serjeant at mace was responsible for the collection of the rents for the mayor, (fn. 41) but by the beginning of the 18th century, despite leases containing voidance clauses, arrears of rent mounted rapidly. (fn. 42) As a result of the Chancery suit of 1735 the Booth Hall was taken into the hands of the Sequestration Commissioners in 1742. (fn. 43) The corporation probably recovered the hall when they re-occupied the Court House in 1761. (fn. 44) Repairs to the hall subsequently became costly, and it began seriously to decay. As a result it was sold in 1791 and demolished. (fn. 45)
To the three surviving fairs of the 15th century, (fn. 46) each in 1554 of two days' duration, was added by the town's first charter a fair on the first Saturday in Lent. (fn. 47) The charter of 1613 allowed another on St. John the Baptist's day (24 June). (fn. 48) By 1664 a fair was held from 26-28 September, giving an annual total of six fairs covering 22 days. (fn. 49) A further fourday fair around the feast of the Purification (2 Feb.) was granted in 1683. (fn. 50) Nine fairs were held in Warwick in about 1796, (fn. 51) 12 in 1815, (fn. 52) and 14 in 1850. (fn. 53)
As in the case of markets, fairs were held in various parts of the town, and particular places were allotted to individual commodities. In 1554 space was created around the High Cross. (fn. 54) A corporation order of 1685 declared that fairs should be kept at the usual places in the town and not moved without leave. The cloth fair, however, was to move to High Street, between the brasiers' and the shoemakers' stalls, and the grain market was to be held in Castle Street. (fn. 55) Certain commodities came to be associated with particular fairs: fish was the speciality of the March fair, cheese and cattle were sold in May, wool and cattle in August, cheese, cattle, and hops in November. (fn. 56) Horses were sold at every fair, but particularly in May. For each sale the corporation received 4d., and for each exchange 8d.; a careful record of business was kept to ensure honest dealing. (fn. 57) These sales, incidentally, continued without a break in the early 1690s when the legality of the town government was in doubt. (fn. 58)
Throughout the period the court leet issued orders to regulate sales in both fairs and markets according to supply and demand. Badgers retailing grain, coming from as far afield as Worcestershire, had to be licensed, (fn. 59) and in 1597-8 several men were required not to make malt for eight months. (fn. 60) Both corporation and court leet interfered to regulate standards and prices. (fn. 61) In 1611 the corporation ordered that foreign butchers should not sell meat on Saturdays after the beadle had rung the market hall bell at 2 o'clock, and that these butchers should bring hides and tallow for sale on Fridays and Saturdays, on pain of fines. (fn. 62) The leet was also concerned for the good conduct and cleanliness of the market. An overseer was appointed in the corn market in 1611 partly to prevent people winnowing corn at the cross, in the four principal streets and in the chapels. (fn. 63) By 1648 a scavanger had been appointed to carry away refuse, and the inhabitants of the Market Place and the four streets were required to pay him. (fn. 64)
Much of this control was to encourage outside traders, although on one occasion in 1615, the corporation went so far as to expel foreign butchers altogether from the Booth Hall, until they should conform to the bailiff's regulations and agree to an increase in rent. (fn. 65) In 1628, on the other hand, the leet ordered that town butchers should sell tallow at 8s. the tod while country butchers could undercut them by a shilling. (fn. 66) Again, in 1648 country bakers were being encouraged to bring bread into the town, as much wheaten and 'household' bread as white. (fn. 67) An important argument against Sir Thomas Puckering as a possible parliamentary candidate for the borough in 1626 was that he was 'not so commodiously sending corn to the market for the general good of the people'. (fn. 68) Local maltsters, however, needed protection: no stranger was allowed to buy barley to make malt in any house in the town, and no bachelor nor maid was to buy barley for this purpose. (fn. 69) These protective measures suggest that Warwick's economy was rather precarious, that the growth of population (fn. 70) made the town rely heavily on outside producers, limiting malting to increase the availability of barley. There is no evidence that Warwick's craftsmen were producing significantly for outside consumption.
Warwick's trading community in the second half of the 17th century seems to have expanded fairly rapidly to meet the needs of a growing population. (fn. 71) In turn the corporation sought to increase its control over the town's economy through the trade companies, as well as continuing its direction over markets and fairs. A corporation order of 1669 attempted to control membership of the companies by requiring that the freedom of the borough (fn. 72) should be purchased first and that no company should accept anyone not free of his trade. (fn. 73) A stationer, a watchmaker, two maltsters, and two tanners were enrolled in the following six months, after which further traces of admissions are slight. In an attempt to impose indirect Crown control over membership, the charter of 1683 confirmed the previous order, and, as a result, a list of tradesmen free of the borough was commenced. Enrolled under twelve companies are 103 names, (fn. 74) though not all had taken the oath as freemen. (fn. 75) The smiths formed the largest group, (fn. 76) followed by mercers, tailors, fullers and dyers, bakers, shoemakers, masons and tilers, and glovers. New companies had been formed for flax-dressers, and silk- and woollen-weavers. At least one other company, the butchers, was not included in this list, (fn. 77) and the inclusion of names of other borough freemen suggests that some trades were not organized in companies at all, and that certain individuals were working outside companies of their own trade. For a time certain trades remained subject to corporation oversight. Bakers were fined in 1698 for making light bread, though composition money, amounting to a third of admittance fees, seems to have been of more interest to the burgesses. (fn. 78) Control of standards through the clerk of the market was retained, the fish and flesh taster being presented by him to the grand jury at quarter sessions in 1697 for neglecting his office. In 1707 the leather sealer was presented for accepting bribes. (fn. 79)
The number of trades outside the confines of the companies shows a marked increase in types and variety. The survey of 1586-7 and the companies known to be in existence by 1604 (fn. 80) indicate over twenty different trades. The 'Free and Voluntary Gift' returns of 1661, (fn. 81) by no means providing a complete survey, reveal thirty. Tradesmen who petitioned for relief in the area destroyed by the fire of 1694 represented nearly fifty. (fn. 82) A century later 87 different trades appear. (fn. 83) Bakers, maltsters, and innkeepers led the field in the incomplete 1661 returns, followed by glovers, shoemakers, and mercers. The market for their goods would seem to have been largely local, but the appearance of certain traders producing luxury articles reflects the position of the town as the centre of county administration. For the increasing numbers of gentry and professional men for whom Warwick provided either temporary residence during assizes and sessions, or, increasingly during the 18th century, a permanent home, (fn. 84) the watchmaker and the stationer admitted to the town in 1669, (fn. 85) a clockmaker, and a 'lymner', (fn. 86) plied their trades. By 1694 had appeared a bookseller, a confectioner, two milliners, six apothecaries, two goldsmiths, and two gunsmiths. (fn. 87)
One product of the town in the 17th century was of wider appeal. Among the 22 members of the smiths' company in 1684 were Nicholas and Samuel Paris. Samuel was regularly employed mending and maintaining clocks at the castle between 1682 and 1715. (fn. 88) Nicholas, described as a gunsmith in 1694, was also employed at the castle between 1677 and 1713, particularly in supplying metal fittings for the castle fire engine and mill. (fn. 89) Elsewhere in the town he maintained the clock at St. Nicholas's Church for over 25 years, (fn. 90) and was responsible for regilding the effigy of Richard Beauchamp in St. Mary's. (fn. 91) His fame as an iron worker extended well beyond Warwick, examples of his work having been identified in several parts of the county and as far afield as Oxford, and Frome and Taunton in Somerset. (fn. 92) His son, Thomas, continued his work until the middle of the 18th century. (fn. 93) Thomas Swarbrick (d. 1751), the Warwick organ-builder, was also well known in the midlands. (fn. 94)
The effects of the fire which in September 1694 destroyed a large part of the centre of the town are difficult accurately to determine. Nearly three hundred people, of whom 156 were tradesmen, applied for relief to the commissioners for the rebuilding. (fn. 95) Malting houses were particularly mentioned by the justices among the losses, together with barns, stables, and outhouses. (fn. 96) Individual losses ranged from the £2,500 worth of damage to St. Mary's, and Alderman Heath's loss of £1,536, to the 12s. claim of Mary Drury, servant of Thomas Gibbes, and the 10s. of Thomas Briscoe, 'tewkerer'. Total damage was estimated at about £120,000. Nearly £9,000 was collected from individuals, cities and boroughs, and the Treasury made a grant of £400 a year and 1,000 tons of timber. (fn. 97) While a heavy burden fell on the rebuilding commissioners who sat for ten years examining claims and planning a new town, the justices had to take emergency measures for rehousing, providing immediate relief and preventing extortion. (fn. 98) The disaster occurred at a period of serious food shortage, thus increasing the difficulties; the great recoinage two years later added to the burden. For a short while Warwick was considered a suitable place for the site of one of the four country mints established to produce the new milled coin. Instead, the town suffered, since much of the coin contributed to the relief fund was clipped and therefore devalued. (fn. 99) The justices also took steps to prevent a repetition of the fire by demanding the replacement of thatched roofs by tiles on some 200 barns, stables and hovels. (fn. 100)
The impetus given to rebuilding the town in contemporary style brought to the fore a number of individuals whose work as architect-builders earned them a wide reputation in the midlands. Francis Smith (1672-1738), surveyor at Warwick Castle 1720-35, was responsible for many buildings in the town, (fn. 101) as well as for Stoneleigh Abbey and Umberslade Hall. William (d. 1776) and David Hiorn succeeded to his business about 1747, and were responsible for churches and country houses in the midlands. William's son, Francis (1744-89), three times mayor of Warwick and county bridgemaster, also left his mark as an architect. (fn. 102) Job Collins, employed as a mason at the castle from 1742 until 1785, Thomas Johnson (d. 1800) and Henry Couchman (d. 1803) each helped to create in 18thcentury Warwick a town for the residence of gentry, which the Act for Rebuilding had set out to encourage. (fn. 103) This social change is reflected in the trading community by the appearance by the end of the 18th century of hairdressers, stay makers, mantua makers, pattern makers, and gardeners, a perfumer, a coach painter, and a nursery and seedsman. (fn. 104)
A more significant change in the economy of the town came with the opening of the Warwick and Birmingham Canal in 1793 and the Warwick and Napton Canal in 1800. (fn. 105) By improving communications and lessening the price of coal, industry was stimulated in the town, and during the last decade of the 18th century and the first two decades of the 19th century Warwick experienced a minor 'industrial revolution'. That this boom was closely associated with wartime requirements is amply demonstrated by the closure of most of the large textile firms not long after peace had been signed. Textile manufacture was not new to the town. The petitioners for compensation in 1694 (fn. 106) had included 8 flaxdressers and a flax man, 4 weavers, 2 'tewkerers', and a jersey comber, together with a number of other traders and craftsmen in close association. Flaxdressers were again prominent in the return of thatched dwellings made after the fire in 1696. (fn. 107) The manufacture of worsted and woollen cloth on a considerable scale as a cottage industry at the beginning of the 18th century was still remembered a hundred years later, (fn. 108) but not until the last decade of the century were factories established on a large scale. The first was apparently that of Messrs. Smart, whose cotton spinning factory opened at Emscote in 1792. (fn. 109) Woollen manufacture on a smaller scale began in 1789: William Parkes, in partnership with his brother, Joseph, a cotton factor, set up workshops and warehouses in Barrack Street. In 1795 they went into partnership with Joseph Brookhouse, cotton spinner, and Samuel Crompton, and in the following year built their factory in the Saltisford for worsted spinning. (fn. 110) By 1815 it employed about 500 hands, and the chief markets were Leicester, Hinckley, and Nottingham for worsted and Kidderminster for yarn. (fn. 111) In 1797 Messrs. Parker, cotton weavers, opened a factory in Oil Mill Lane (now Priory Road), employing 200 hands in 1815 and depending for raw materials and sales entirely on Manchester. (fn. 112) By 1815 Messrs. Lamb, hat manufacturers of Market Place, Tomes and Handley's Navigation Mill (1805), Nunn, Brown and Freeman's lace factory (1810), and Thomas Roberts's iron foundry (1810) were all in active production. (fn. 113) This boom was short lived: Parkes, Brookhouse, and Crompton failed in 1819, (fn. 114) and Smarts and Parkers seem to have disappeared by 1822; (fn. 115) Lambs, the hatters, who took over the Parkes factory in 1819, were not included in Pigot's Commercial Directory for 1841. Nunn, Brown and Freeman also ceased production in the third decade of the century. (fn. 116)
To some extent these firms were replaced: John Burton's worsted and hosiery manufactory was established by 1822 and remained until the middle of the century; other textile firms, less successful, made only transitory appearances in the Commercial Directories. Three silk mills appeared in the 1830s, but hat manufacturing by Messrs. John Mollady and Sons, established in 1838 or 1839, became the principal trade. (fn. 117) Roberts's iron foundry, by 1822 in the Coventry road, which 'deservedly obtained considerable reputation for making all descriptions of machinery', (fn. 118) remained for a further half century. The firm of Richard Buckley, brazier, of Old Square, established on a small scale in 1816 outlived the century. (fn. 119) Perhaps the most unusual newcomer was the business of George Nelson, Dale and Co., of Emscote Mills, Wharf Street, established in 1837 as timber merchants and gelatine manufacturers, and still (1965) in existence. (fn. 120)
Apart from these manufactures the general trade of Warwick expanded to meet the needs of its rapidly increasing population (fn. 121) and the early demands on retail trade made by the rise of Leamington as a fashionable resort. The 'good trade in malt' noted in the 1790s (fn. 122) continued predominant throughout the 19th century, with cabinet-makers, carpenters and joiners also prominent. (fn. 123) In about 1825 the market was said to have been for some time increasing in trade and reputation', and the sale of corn was considerable. (fn. 124) The supply of provisions, with the exception of fish, was plentiful, and the income from rents for market stalls more than doubled between 1823 and 1829. The decrease by 1833 was explained by the fact that fewer people came to the market rather than by less efficient collection. (fn. 125) In 1830 the Market Place was said to be 'constantly improving with highly respectable drapers' and other shops and inns of the first class. (fn. 126) Seven years later the commissioners enquiring into the proposed municipal boundary thought that the town was thriving, with rapidly increasing trade, 'which may be accounted for in a great measure by its proximity to and connexion with Leamington, where most of the Warwick tradespeople have shops, and where the chief speculators from this town invest their capital'. (fn. 127) In connexion with investment the two Warwick banks of Dawes, Tomes & Russell (afterwards Tomes, Russell and Tomes), and of Greenway, Whitehead & Weston were both founded in the late 18th century. (fn. 128) A savings bank was established in 1818, and two further banks were opened in the 1830s, which had strong connexions with Leamington. (fn. 129) The growth of Warwick's neighbour henceforth was an increasingly important factor in the development of the town.
In 1571 John Fisher complained that the number of poor was very great, and that they 'were relieved only by the charitable devotion of the inhabitants both with collections in the church . . . and also with meat and drink according to every man's ability'. (fn. 130) Already existing charities (fn. 131) may have been adequate for a time, and the problem does not seem to have been treated with any urgency. Only one of the medieval hospitals, St. Michael's, was still providing any kind of hospitality in 1545, with a weekly distribution of 8d., and the provision of four beds for poor men under the care of a poor woman who received 8d. a week for attending them. (fn. 132) The master of St. Michael's was said in 1586 to be partly supporting one family. (fn. 133) In 1611-12 the master of St. John's was said to take all the profit, bestowing little on the poor, though Sir Thomas Puckering, in possession of St. Michael's at the same time, paid half the income to the poor. (fn. 134) In addition there were Eyffler's almshouses, and others in Gaolhall Lane and near St. Peter's Chapel. (fn. 135)
Following national legislation in 1576 appear the first signs that the corporation was taking steps to provide stocks of wool and other commodities 'to keep the rogues to work'. (fn. 136) The alleged failure to set the poor to work as provided under certain charities was the excuse for a petition in 1580 as part of a general attack on the corporation. The terms of the petition must therefore be treated with reserve, but it is clear that it was partly the result of a then recent decision to prohibit almsgiving to the impotent poor by ordering them to live on the church rate only, which, it was claimed, was not sufficient, and others, not on relief, were in an equally poverty-stricken state. (fn. 137)
By 1582, however, concentrated action was being taken for the support of the impotent poor by the levy of a general rate in the two town parishes, and assessments have survived for both that year (Table 2) and 1587. (fn. 138)
|Weekly Poor Relief, 1582|
|Ward||Persons Assessed||Assessment||Persons Relieved|
|St. Mary's parish:|
|West Street||13||1||4||14 (fn. 139)|
|St. Nicholas's parish:||26||4||3½||20|
A further survey in St. Mary's parish in 1582 gave the names of householders 'thought able to maintain their households without help of others' relief but upon their own labours' (Table 3, column a), of which some were 'ready to decay' but not already relieved (Table 3, column b).
|TABLE 3 (fn. 140)|
|St. Mary's Parish, Household Survey, 1582|
|TOTAL||235||68||(31.6 per cent.)|
The surveys indicate clearly the poorest areas of the town, and suggest that the corporation was attempting to tackle the problem seriously. A further survey, made in 1586 on the insistence of the Puritan master of Lord Leicester's Hospital, Thomas Cartwright, 'touching the disorder of beggars', (fn. 141) described 114 adults and 113 children in St. Mary's parish as poor, of whom 50 adults and 60 children were beggars. Seven adults and a child were declared to be able bodied, and one adult was to be whipped and ordered to find himself a master. Eight families, including at least as many children, were to be sent from the town to their places of origin, mostly in the county but one as far as Wales.
As a result of this report a further assessment was made for the parish. (fn. 142) The figures are incomplete, but at least 63 adults and 82 children were to be supported by the parish at a weekly cost of over 33s. 4d., which represents an increase of 50 per cent. in the number of adults relieved since 1582 and of 80 per cent. in the size of the assessment. (fn. 143) A year later the weekly cost had risen to 38s. 4d. borne by 114 people.
A visitation of plague in the winter of 1604-5 so strained the resources of the overseers (fn. 144) that an attempt was made to decrease the number of people chargeable on the rate by removing inmates or lodgers from the town. Under a corporation order of 1605 36 inmates were required to leave the town, their landlords often having to find security to ensure their removal. (fn. 145) Subsequent presentments of inmates by the court leet indicate that the problem still remained. (fn. 146) By 1628 all inmates were required to give pledges on entering the town lest they became a burden on the rates. (fn. 147) Another way of dealing with the problem was the appointment of an official in 1618 for 'avoiding of rogues and restraining of wood stealers'. (fn. 148) He was succeeded in 1629 by an official to be known as the 'marshal to keep out rogues and sturdy beggars and wanderers', whose salary and uniform were to be provided by levy from both parishes. (fn. 149) This did not solve the problem, for householders were still willing to give shelter to outsiders. The corporation therefore ordered that no inhabitant should let or sell any house room without prior notice to the bailiff and burgesses, on pain of a heavy fine. (fn. 150)
The corporation had an obligation to distribute at least £16 each year to the poor and to raise £100 in stock to put them to work as required in Lord Ellesmere's Decree of 1618. (fn. 151) Its repetition by Lord Keeper Coventry in 1638 (fn. 152) suggests that this had been largely ignored, a state of affairs which continued until the Decree of 1739. (fn. 153) Subsequently, about £50 each year was contributed towards poor relief, together with extra payments as occasion demanded. (fn. 154) In 1782-3 the corporation gave £77 6s. to the overseers of both parishes to buy wheat, to have it ground, baked, and sold cheaply to the poor. (fn. 155) Two years later over £32 was given for the same purpose and over £6 to provide cheap coal. (fn. 156) Between 1795 and 1820 at least a further £230 was given, to provide a soup kitchen in 1799-1800, to the mayor for his special fund in 1816, and to the committeee for poor relief in 1819-20. (fn. 157) The years 1795 and 1800 in particular seem to have been years of crisis: in the former a 'Fund for the Relief of the Industrious Poor and Distressed Inhabitants' raised and spent over £250 in eight months, to be succeeded by a sinking fund under the 'Committee of the Borough of Warwick'. (fn. 158) In 1800 Lord Warwick proposed to create a trust of £1,000, the sum owed to him by the corporation as a contribution for the building of the new bridge, in order to purchase corn for sale at 5 per cent. profit, the £50 thus obtained to be used for corn or whatever was needed 'by the exigencies of the times'. (fn. 159) Lord Warwick also paid a subscription to the soup kitchen in the names of the two members of Parliament who sat in his interest, and also for plumbing and glazing 'at the soup house'. (fn. 160) In the winter of 1816-17, 4,000 people were said to have been served with soup and beef twice a week, and the inhabitants were asked to eat less bread and flour and no pastry while the price of wheat remained high. (fn. 161)
Private benefactions administered by churchwardens and overseers provided relief of a limited kind, (fn. 162) but reliance on a regular poor rate becomes evident in St. Mary's parish by 1694. (fn. 163) In the following year this amounted to £168 8s. 7d., as recorded in a return for the Commissioners for Trade. (fn. 164) No return was made for St. Nicholas's parish. At least until the middle of the 18th century (fn. 165) the rate for St. Mary's was calculated on a monthly basis; each collection amounting, according to need, to one or more month's rate. Thus for the period June 1746 to May 1747, twelve collections produced 22 'monthly' rates. (fn. 166) The four overseers divided the parish into two areas for collection: part of Market Place, High Street, Castle Street, Jury Street, West Street, Longbridge, Barford, and Wellesbourne formed the High Street division, the other division embracing part of the Market Place, Joyce Pool, Saltisford, and 'outliers'. The expansion of the town and the creation of new streets entailed a certain amount of reorganization of this scheme, the two areas in 1811 being called, respectively, High Street and Market Place divisions. (fn. 167) St. Nicholas's parish, smaller in area and population, remained one unit but in other respects followed St. Mary's. A regular monthly rate had been established there by 1718. (fn. 168)
Relief, either in the form of regular monthly payments or of extraordinary payments, disposed of most of the income thus acquired. (fn. 169) Workhouses, however, were established in both parishes during the 18th century to provide accommodation and work for those most distressed. A parish meeting of St. Mary's in 1717 requested the mayor, justices, and other individuals to provide a house or houses for the parish, and authorized the churchwardens to spend money on utensils for the houses and on materials to provide work. (fn. 170) The house was controlled by the vestry, which in 1728 declared that no inmate should leave the house without permission, save children who were going to school. (fn. 171) In 1758 Lord Brooke sold a house for the use of the poor of St. Mary's and gave £30 to the overseers to equip it. (fn. 172) By 1815 only one house, in the Saltisford, was used for this purpose. Described as 'unassuming in its external appearance', it was, nevertheless, 'humanely and judiciously regulated within'. (fn. 173) The ground floor provided apartments for the master and mistress, a large common room, and a good schoolroom. The upper floor was divided into lodging rooms, a piece of ground attached provided space for drying linen, and there were two workshops for carding, spinning and weaving. There were seldom over 60 people in the house, and not often under 30. (fn. 174) The Poor Law commissioner criticized the financial administration of the house, but found that the governor 'being an honest man, had not abused his power'. (fn. 175) The Warwick Union was formed in 1836 (fn. 176) but St. Mary's Workhouse continued in use until the Union workhouse at the Packmores was opened in 1838. A majority at a vestry meeting wished to convert the old workhouse into almshouses, but the Poor Law commissioners would not permit the scheme. (fn. 177) The building was therefore sold in 1840. (fn. 178)
The workhouse in St. Nicholas's parish is less easy to trace. From 1734 the overseers rented 'Frees House' in St. Nicholas Church Street, (fn. 179) and from 1767 Thomas Bintt's house in Smith Street, (fn. 180) though for what purposes is not known. From 1783 a house and garden formerly belonging to Francis Williams, in Coten End, was acquired with the income of Catherine Burton's Charity, and was certainly used as part of the workhouse by the end of the century and probably before. (fn. 181) In 1815 there were twenty or thirty inmates, principally women and children, chiefly occupied in spinning. Good provisions were given, and clothing was issued when necessary. (fn. 182) In 1823 part of the workhouse was leased to a private individual, and after 1837 the overseers retained only the two houses in St. Nicholas Church Street. These were not charged to them after 1839. (fn. 183)
The most significant factor in the social life of Warwick was the position of the town as the centre of county administration. The assizes and quarter sessions and the presence of the county militia brought prestige to the town, a fact which the corporation fully understood. Sessions dinners and presents to the justices were the outward recognition of the value placed on the attendance of numbers of gentry, lawyers, and officials at these times. (fn. 184) The influx was at first limited to the duration of court days, and could be catered for by inns such as the 'Swan' in High Street, kept by Amilion Holbeche (d. 1597). This was a large house, containing two halls, six parlours, and twenty chambers. Several of these rooms were set aside for local gentry and their households: Sir Fulke Greville, Mr. Verney, Lady Digby, Mr. Dabridgcourt and the sheriff had accommodation there, and John Fisher had a chamber for himself and one for his men. (fn. 185) The 'Swan' continued to be used by public officials and local gentry in the next century. Known variously as the 'Great Swan' and the 'Black Swan', and kept by Moses Holloway, it was the meeting place of the royal commissioners who received the Oath and Declaration under the Corporation Act in 1662, (fn. 186) and frequently housed justices of the peace. (fn. 187) It was returned with eighteen hearths in 1663 (fn. 188) and Dugdale recommended it rather than the 'Bell' for the heralds' visitation in 1682. (fn. 189) The 'Bell' with fifteen hearths, kept by Thomas Stratford, like Holloway an alderman of the town, and the 'King's Head' in Castle Street with ten hearths, kept by John Kerby, must have been two of the other 'capacious inns' which provided 'good entertainment as to wine and other necessaries for man's delight'. (fn. 190)
Not until the 18th century did the gentry come to reside in Warwick in any numbers. The Grevilles at the castle, the Puckerings at the Priory, and the Stoughtons at St. John's were families with their principal seats within the borough boundary; only the Archers of Umberslade and the Wagstaffes of Tachbrook of the important local families had town houses by the middle of the 17th century, but Thomas Ward, probably one of the Wards of Barford, was also living there. (fn. 191) A traveller in 1662 observed that Warwick 'for a seat is now affected by the gentry'. (fn. 192) Those men described as gentlemen in the return for the 'Free and Voluntary Gift' of 1661 formed the urban upper class divided between professional and mercantile men. These are found to rank in wealth rather below the substantial farmers and lesser gentry of the surrounding area, but far above yeomen and husbandmen. (fn. 193) The comparatively high Hearth Tax assessments reflect the luxury of upstairs fireplaces which were still novel in the country districts.
Increasingly professional classes made their mark in the town, as a result of Warwick's position as the administrative centre of the shire. At least a quarter of the counsel and attorneys active in the quarter sessions between 1625 and 1682 were resident in the town. (fn. 194) Thomas Ward (1612-86), James Prescott the elder (d. c. 1663), James Prescott the younger, Edward Rainsford (1579-1653), and Matthew Holbeche (d. 1663) were among the prominent lawyers living there, who were related to local families by marriage. The last three were town clerks. The medical profession was also well represented in the town, the most notable in the 17th century being James Cooke (d. 1693-4) of Jury Street, surgeon to the Archers and the Brookes, (fn. 195) and William Johnston (c. 1643-1725), who came to Warwick in 1675. (fn. 196) A man of some means, he had a house (now Landor House), built by Roger Hurlbut in 1692-3, which was occupied by Dr. Walter Landor at the end of the next century.
One of the aims of the Act for rebuilding the town after the fire of 1694 was to encourage the settlement of gentry and professional men in Warwick. (fn. 197) The 'regular and fine buildings' certainly impressed Celia Fiennes, (fn. 198) and Defoe was of the opinion that although Warwick 'was ever esteemed a handsome, well-built town' it had subsequently been 'rebuilt in so noble and so beautiful a manner that few towns in England make so fine an appearance'. (fn. 199) The influx of gentry continued throughout the 18th century and is reflected in the development of a 'Gentlemen's Party' in the 1760s, (fn. 200) an important factor in town politics until the turn of the century. (fn. 201)
The new social order required fashionable entertainments, prominent among which were the horse races on St. Mary's Common. (fn. 202) In 1707 Lord Brooke gave £15 to the chamberlains 'towards making a horse race', and by 1711 regular racing had probably been established, for Lord Brooke gave £2 3s. as his subscription for the year. (fn. 203) In 1726-7 a large room above the Market House was hired during a race meeting. (fn. 204) By 1775 the races, then held in September, provided entertainment on two days. On each evening balls were held in the Shire Hall, and public breakfasts were staged at the Court House. (fn. 205) Racing increased in popularity, and a race stand was erected in 1809. (fn. 206) By 1815 races were being held in September and November. (fn. 207) Hunting began in the area in 1791. (fn. 208)
Theatrical entertainments were provided in the town during race meetings, and occasionally at other times. (fn. 209) Strolling players, such as the Duke of Northumberland's troupe, had visited the town in the 16th century. (fn. 210) During the 17th century the Market House was rented to groups such as 'the actors of the plays', and the 'actors of Whittington'. (fn. 211) A theatre had certainly been built by Easter 1792, when Thomas Couchman, architect, was presented at the quarter sessions for laying stone against it. (fn. 212) In 1801 John Boles Watson of the Theatre Royal, Cheltenham, planned to erect a new theatre in the Market Place. It was to be of brick, with a portico for use as a market. He proposed to open it for 'dramas' on race and other public days, and to pay 3s. 6d. to the mayor for each performance. The inhabitants of Market Place seem to have objected to the plan, and Watson was forced to return to his 'old shop', the theatre in Cocksparrow Hall. (fn. 213) The external appearance of this theatre was said to promise nothing, but 'the interior affords ample space, and convenient accommodation, for all who usually resort to theatrical amusements'. (fn. 214) The theatre continued under a succession of owners until the middle of the 19th century, Kemble, Macready, and Kean appearing on its stage. (fn. 215) Race balls, hunt balls, concerts, winter assemblies, and card parties, usually at the Court House, completed the social round not only for townsmen but for those who came to the area drawn by the fame of the castle, and later by the medicinal springs at Leamington. (fn. 216)
Less refined tastes were catered for by entertainments like the waxworks and a tiger exhibited in the Market Hall in 1694-5, or the lion, leopard, and puppet shows of 1726-7. (fn. 217) Cock-fighting and cockthrowing were evidently popular. (fn. 218) In the early years of the 19th century a cherry wake was held in Coten End, its memory perpetuated in Cherry Street, and in 1825 two fights were staged between bulldogs and lions. 'Wallace', one of the lions, is remembered in the name of one of the streets in the area. (fn. 219) Less formal amusements were provided by gaming and the alehouse. Accusations of unlawful gaming were frequently made by the court leet jury in the 17th century. (fn. 220) Two bowling alleys were presented at the quarter sessions in 1795 (fn. 221) and gambling tables in private houses were complained of in 1801. (fn. 222) The importance of malting in the town implies a large number of alehouses. The reformation of alehouse keepers was one of the first actions of Humphrey Crane on his appointment as bailiff in 1573, (fn. 223) and 26 men were fined during his year of office for not securing a selling licence. (fn. 224) In 1627 the constables were ordered to report whether any suppressed alehouses were still in business; they and the churchwardens were to see that no innkeeper or alehouse keeper allowed strangers to drink or tipple, that none sold under measure or failed to provide both full and small ale. All drunkards were likewise to be reported. (fn. 225) Lord Brooke's expenses for the 1734 election (fn. 226) included an item of £284, £4 having been paid to each of 71 publicans in the town who had dispensed hospitality on behalf of the Tory candidates. (fn. 227) Presentments of several inns selling ale on Sundays were frequent in the early years of the 19th century, (fn. 228) and 26 alehouses were named during the 1833 election enquiry as having been implicated in the Greville interest. (fn. 229)
Orders in the sphere of rudimentary public health and administration made in the court leet or at quarter sessions were concerned mainly with streets and ditches obstructed by refuse or vehicles. (fn. 230) As a precaution against disease an order of 1648 required carrion to be buried outside the town. (fn. 231) A scavenger was appointed in the same year to clean the four main streets and the Market Place. (fn. 232) Both before and after 1694 precautions against fire were taken. Thomas Oken had provided twelve leather fire buckets to be 'in some place always in readiness'. (fn. 233) In a town of timbered and thatched houses, however, the risk of fire was high; parts of the town were burnt in 1671 (fn. 234) and in 1692, when 34 men were paid for beating down a fire in Back Lane and then watching for two nights lest it should break out again. (fn. 235) The removal of thatched dwellings and the provision of fire buckets and lights in sconces was frequently ordered by both court leet and grand jury. (fn. 236) The court leet in 1648 ordered the removal of furze, broom, and other combustible material from houses and backsides (fn. 237) and in 1703 proscribed the use of gigs for drying flax 'it being very dangerous to the whole neighbourhood'. (fn. 238) A fire engine was provided by the end of the 17th century. (fn. 239)
The library of St. Mary's Church, formed in the 15th century by John Rous and largely destroyed in 1694, was re-established in 1701. Interest declined, however, and was not revived until the 19th century. (fn. 240) A number of booksellers, however, traded in the town during this period. John Rider was licensed to set up business there in 1669, (fn. 241) and George Tonge, or Teonge, was active by 1682 until the end of the century. (fn. 242) By 1733 a Mr. Hopkins was acting in the town as agent for the London Daily Register (fn. 243) and between 1735 and 1743 J. Hopkinson (possibly the same man) was in business there, in the former year advertising Spenser's Law and Customs of the Lead Mines. (fn. 244) John Sharpe carried on trade between 1769 and 1791, and included among his list J. Jones's Remarks on the English Language. (fn. 245) A public subscription library was opened in Old Square in 1792 which in 1815 had over 100 members. (fn. 246) In 1806 a newspaper with Whig-Independent sympathies, the Warwick Advertiser, was founded by Henry Sharpe. (fn. 247) About 1825 J. Merridew, printer of the Warwick Guide, opened a library in the town. (fn. 248) Among individuals of some intellectual standing were the Revd. William Field, historian of the town, and minister of the Unitarian chapel in High Street from 1789 to 1843. He was an able preacher and writer, and leader of a congregation which included some of the town's largest manufacturers. (fn. 249) Joseph Parkes (1796-1865) the radical secretary of the Royal Commission on Municipal Charities, and author of The Governing Charter of the Borough of Warwick, and his brother Josiah (1793-1871), the inventor of the deep drainage system, were natives of Warwick, the sons of Joseph Parkes, manufacturer. Another native was Walter Savage Landor (1775-1864), author of Imaginary Conversations, the son of Dr. Walter Landor, a prominent figure in Warwick's political circles.
Despite these examples of social and intellectual activity, the general impression of the town at the end of the 18th century, as much for political as for social reasons, was characterised by an 'uncommon dullness . . .' and 'an air of melancholy'. (fn. 250) It was said to be 'a place remarkable for dull inactivity, and for the careless inattention of the inhabitants to all that might obviously contribute to its improvement and its embellishment'. (fn. 251) The quickening of economic activity in the town and the beginnings of corporation interest in matters of public welfare had brought improvements by 1815. The main streets were culverted, flagged, paved, and lighted (fn. 252) at the cost of the corporation. Water supply for parts of the town had already been improved. (fn. 253) Shops were 'newly fronted and tastefully fitted up' so that the town could 'fairly claim to be described not only as a neat, airy and cleanly; but also to a certain extent, as a spacious, regular, handsome and flourishing town'. (fn. 254) Communications by coach were established regularly with Birmingham, Coventry, Leicester, Gloucester, Bristol, and London. (fn. 255) By 1830 there were fourteen coach routes through Warwick, nine of them daily, connecting with London, Liverpool, Wolverhampton, Oxford, and Cheltenham, as well as with local towns. (fn. 256)
The rapid increase in population in the first three decades of the 19th century, (fn. 257) particularly among the labouring and artisan classes, had a considerable effect in the social, as well as in the political sphere. The influx of Irish labourers whose votes were so eagerly canvassed in the alehouses, and the small shopkeepers who appeared in the town in increasing numbers created new problems of public administration. These were at first tackled on a voluntary basis, for example by the establishment of a watch committee in 1819 'for preventing a continuance of nightly depredations on their property' (fn. 258) or, in another sphere, in the Provident Dispensary set up in Castle Street in 1826. (fn. 259) The problems arising in this situation were varied; the complaints raised by the court leet jury in 1827 may be taken as characteristic. (fn. 260) The corporation was urged to enact byelaws to regulate the emptying of privies and to prevent such nuisances as wheeling barrows and rolling lead on the flagging, setting up stalls at street corners, leaving tubs of sugar on the pavements; and to discourage loiterers and idlers on street corners at night 'to the annoyance and frequent insult of females'. The jury drew attention to the need for paved crossings at various places in the town, and suggested that the poor from the workhouses could be employed scraping the roads and sweeping the crossings in winter. They pleaded for a more efficient fire service, for the erection of public conveniences, for the removal of fairs from the centre of the town, and for the prohibition of Sunday-morning trading after nine o'clock. The 'professional men and higher orders of tradesmen' who were members of the leet jury (fn. 261) thus demonstrated an awareness of the needs of a rapidly expanding town. But these were only recommendations to a corporation ill-equipped to cope with new economic and social problems.