A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 6. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1962.
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ECONOMIC HISTORY BEFORE 1612
Salisbury's predominance as an industrial and commercial city lasted from the 13th to the first half of the 16th century. After recognition by royal charter in 1227, (fn. 1) the city developed rapidly as a centre of culture and trade. It benefited not only from being the seat of a bishopric, and in a good geographical position on the route between Southampton and Bristol, but also from its proximity to Clarendon Palace, (fn. 2) which during the early days of the city's history attracted a constant influx of visitors.
For nearly a century after its foundation the city enjoyed good relations with its lords, the bishops, who were anxious to increase the trading facilities of the city they had created on their demesne. Bishop Bingham built, or re-built, Harnham Bridge, (fn. 3) and Bishop de la Wyle secured a second fair in 1270. (fn. 4) The bishops even apparently encouraged the development of daily markets until these were eventually limited to two a week by royal charter in 1315. (fn. 5) The complaints from Wilton and Old Salisbury in 1240, 1275, and 1281 that the irregular Salisbury markets were stealing their trade are clear evidence of the increasing attraction of the new city as a trading centre. (fn. 6) A guild merchant was probably established soon after the grant of the first royal charter, (fn. 7) but it is impossible to estimate the exact extent of the commerce in wool, wine, and other goods pursued by the 13th-century citizens such as Robert le Pulter, whose wool was confiscated at Southampton in 1275. (fn. 8) Some idea of the numbers engaged in trade may, however, be had from the list of fifteen Salisbury men, who, contrary to royal embargo, exported wool through Southampton or Lymington in 1275. (fn. 9)
Less than forty years after its foundation, the status of the city was such that it sent two burgesses to represent it in Parliament. (fn. 10) It is a measure of the development and importance of the community that by the end of the 13th century the citizens felt equal to an attempt to challenge the bishop on the matter of his tallages, and this growing prosperity explains the resentment felt at the control exercised by the officers of the bishop over the guild merchant and markets, which culminated in the struggle of 1302–6. (fn. 11)
There is ample evidence for the trading activities of Salisbury merchants from the beginning of the 14th century, but not for the organization of their craft guilds until the beginning of the 15th century. (fn. 12) No list of medieval freemen survives, and the entries of admissions in the city ledger books are so infrequent as to suggest that these were special admissions of non-residents. In 1306, however, there is a list of 284 men and 13 women, who were permitted to join the re-constituted guild merchant. (fn. 13) Most of the names have no description after them, and are apparently those of men belonging to the merchant class. They include many who are known to have been wool merchants. Some 50 persons, for whom occupations are given, represent a wide range of craftsmen and food suppliers, generally one or two for each calling, but there are rather more hatters (6), spicers (3), and fishmongers (3).
Salisbury's contribution to the Wiltshire wool trade in the 14th century depended largely upon the activities of such men as Robert of Knoyle, mayor 1309 and 1314, whose shipments in one year (1314– 15) amounted to 5,665 wool fells and 19 sacks of wool, (fn. 14) and John Aunger, who in 1339 acquired, in return for wool valued at £541, royal licence to export 270 sacks of wool to Antwerp, free of custom. (fn. 15) In 1327 Salisbury was one of the towns asked to send representative wool merchants to meet the king at York. (fn. 16) Six of her merchants, two of whom were former mayors, were summoned to appear before the council in 1338 for ignoring the recent statute against the export of wool. (fn. 17) The chief of these, Robert of Woodford, mercer, mayor in 1322, lived opposite the wool market, (fn. 18) and came of a family established in Salisbury by the beginning of the 14th century. (fn. 19) In 1339 the king's bond to Robert for wool seized amounted to £1,031, (fn. 20) and an example of the size of his shipments may be taken from the period from November 1341 to January 1342, when he paid custom on each of two occasions for 1,100 fells. (fn. 21) Robert became a collector and receiver of the king's wool in Wiltshire, (fn. 22) and was expected to go to Calais in support of the French wars in 1347. (fn. 23)
Trade in wool continued to occupy Salisbury merchants to some extent well on into the 15th century. John Crekemere, for example, in 1451 could house 2,500 fells at a time in Salisbury. (fn. 24) Wealthy 15th-century citizens like William Swayne, John Hall, and William Webb very possibly traded in wool as well as in other commodities, but there is no evidence that any of these three called themselves merchants of the staple, as has sometimes been stated. (fn. 25) John Compton, exporting wool in 1512, was so described. (fn. 26)
As has been shown elsewhere, (fn. 27) the 14th century witnessed the rise of the Wiltshire cloth industry, and particularly that of Salisbury, which, by the end of the century, stood out as the great centre of the trade in the county. In spite of the caution with which they must be used, some idea of the extent of this industry may be had from the aulnage figures for the three years 1394–5 to 1397–8 when nearly 19,000 cloths of assize were returned by Salisbury and its suburbs by some 158 persons. (fn. 28) The men named in the accounts in these years range from craftsmen, like John Hosier, Hugh Tailor, and John Pinnock, weaver, producing very few cloths, to men of greater standing returning larger quantities, such as Richard atte Mulle (545), John Nedler (294), and John Moner (200). (fn. 29) It was indeed a feature of the Salisbury cloth industry that quite small craftsmen frequently dealt in cloth as well as did the members of the merchant class. (fn. 30) But it should be noted that the aulnage figures included cloths marketed in Salisbury as well as those made there, and the fact that the city was the great collecting and distributing centre for the cloth trade was perhaps even more important in its economic development than the actual manufacture of cloth. (fn. 31) Upon this trade flourished the many citizens who bore their share of local government and became the city's benefactors in various ways. Such a man was Richard Gage, clothman or draper, city reeve in 1413, (fn. 32) who had houses in Pot Row and Castle Street, and shops near Fisherton Bridge. His household included servants or tenants from Guernsey, (fn. 33) and he left property and money to repair the streets of the city, and for vestments in St. Edmund's Church where he was buried. (fn. 34) Another clothman, William Warmwell, twice mayor, and several times parliamentary burgess, left property in the city to be disposed of by Thomas Wyly, another leading draper, and bequeathed money later used in constructing bars and gates. (fn. 35) William Walter, merchant, mayor in 1402, devised a tenement opposite the Corn Market towards the expenses of the commonalty. He held much property in the city and his household included five men and two women servants. Among many pious bequests he remembered the fraternities of the Holy Cross and the weavers' craft in St. Edmund's Church where he was buried. (fn. 36)
While the manufacture and marketing of cloth became Salisbury's primary occupation, the men who styled themselves drapers, mercers, grocers, or simply merchants, dealt, sometimes in partnership, (fn. 37) in a wide range of goods, as may be seen in the 15th-century Southampton brokage and water bailiff's books. (fn. 38) In 1427–8 John a Port, Thomas Freeman, Richard Payne and ten other Salisbury merchants imported fruit, iron, soap, tiles, and wine, besides the raw materials for the cloth industry. (fn. 39) The brokage book for 1443–4 includes not only a number of merchants who had small consignments of a variety of commodities, but also several trading on a larger scale. Chief among these were John Hall importing fruit, fish, soap, tar; Thomas Packer importing wine, woad, soap, fruit, rice; William Hore importing madder, oil, wax and wine; William Lightfoot importing almonds, dates, rice, sugar, soap, alum, and wine; Richard Walker importing almonds, honey, dates, fish, wine, soap, madder, and woad. The largest consignment was for William Swayne, who imported fruit, fish, alum, madder, and 572 balets of woad. (fn. 40) Some of the fruit, fish and wine was probably destined for the merchant's household, but the quantities are large enough to suggest that some of it was for sale. (fn. 41) John Hall's shop in Salisbury, called 'Doggehole', for example, stocked a large variety of cloth, pepper, cloves, mace, ginger, and other spices, hats, caps, bonnets, and other mercery, grocery and haberdashery, pitch, tar, flax, woad, madder, and several kinds of wine. (fn. 42) In 1451 the Salisbury merchant, William Barlowe, imported garlic, onion seed, fish, madder, soap, teazles, tar, hemp, steel nails, timber tables, brushes, points, hats, and tapestry covers. (fn. 43)
Much of the city's fish supply, especially herrings and saltfish from Ireland, and stockfish from Iceland, probably came from Bristol traders through their own port. (fn. 44) A certain quantity also came from Southampton. In 1444, for example, William Warwick, more usually importing madder and woad, imported through Southampton 480 salmon in his own name, and another 144 jointly with John a Port. (fn. 45) In the same year a very large quantity of herrings, hake, saltfish, and sprats were taken to Salisbury for Richard Bele, who appears to have traded chiefly in fish. (fn. 46) Fish from Great Yarmouth also reached Salisbury through Southampton. (fn. 47) Practically no salt came into Salisbury through Southampton, and it is not known whence Salisbury received the large quantities, which were a basic need for food and industry. (fn. 48)
The wine trade, which contributed to the wealth of Salisbury from the 13th century, was, as has been shown above, carried on by men, who were also dealing in wool or cloth, and by merchants, who even if importing principally wine, also shipped other goods as well. (fn. 49) In 1369 Edward III's orders to Plymouth, Dartmouth, and Southampton to provide seamen for the defence of their ships were also directed to William Gys 'and other men of Salisbury' sailing to Gascony for wine, or 'to overcome and destroy the king's enemies at sea'. (fn. 50) Probably wine was imported by Reynold Gys, who exported wheat to Portugal, (fn. 51) and by Elias Homes, who exported grain to Ireland, Holland, Gascony, and Spain. (fn. 52) The value of wine and other merchandise belonging to John Webb alias Felde, captured by the French in 1411 was said to amount to £1,000. (fn. 53) John Hall was trading cloth to merchants of Bordeaux for red Gascon wine in 1478. (fn. 54) Such isolated references to this interest in the wine trade are confirmed by the Southampton brokage books, which show that in the 15th century wine and woad were the two chief commodities carried from that port to Salisbury, the amount of wine averaging some 250 pipes annually. (fn. 55)
Until the end of the 15th century the overseas trade of Salisbury was conducted chiefly through the port of Southampton, although, especially in the 14th century, there was also a connexion with Bristol. (fn. 56) The link with Southampton in the 14th and 15th centuries was strengthened by the number of Salisbury men like Richard Spencer, draper, mayor of Salisbury in 1396, who had property in Southampton, (fn. 57) and Southampton men, who had property in Salisbury. (fn. 58) Salisbury in turn was a great distributive centre for goods coming into the country through Southampton, for not only were the goods of Southampton and Salisbury merchants taken to the city, but a large proportion of goods were carried from Southampton to Salisbury for men of many other places. Merchants from towns in Somerset and Hampshire, as well as from Bristol and west Wiltshire, carried merchandise to Salisbury from Southampton, and the city's markets were also frequently used by London merchants, particularly for perishable goods. (fn. 59) Thus John Payn of London sent fish and fruit from Southampton to Salisbury. (fn. 60) Thomas Scot, also of London, who had some title to a tenement and shops at the corner of Winchester and Brown Streets, sent woad from Southampton to the Salisbury markets. (fn. 61) Other notable London merchants with Salisbury connexions were Nicholas Taillour, described as citizen and tailor of both places, who was mayor and parliamentary burgess for Salisbury, (fn. 62) and Thomas Harding, citizen and clothier of London, who held property in Salisbury, (fn. 63) Robert Love, merchant of London, held, among other property in and around Salisbury, the New Inn. (fn. 64) Among the London grocers using Salisbury as a market for their fruit, wine and dyestuffs, was William Cambridge, who married the widow of Richard Spencer (see above), and had property in Salisbury. (fn. 65) Italian merchants like the Florentine, Christopher Ambrose, and the Venetian, Gabriel Corbet, also had business connexions in Salisbury through Southampton. (fn. 66)
The relationship with Southampton was thus of vital economic importance to Salisbury, and the city fought frequently to preserve the rights and special privileges of its merchants trading through this port. In 1329 the Salisbury merchants obtained a preferential tariff on the tolls of some 60 items, for the majority of which they were to pay at half the usual rate. (fn. 67) On one occasion, in 1410, a deputation which included John Moner, Richard Spencer, and three other former mayors tried to settle a dispute over new duties of cranage and wharfage, (fn. 68) and in the next year two of the craft guilds advanced money towards negotiations about the new toll thought to be injurious to Salisbury. (fn. 69)
Besides Southampton, the smaller ports of the south coast such as Lymington and Poole, were used by the Salisbury merchants. (fn. 70) In the 15th and 16th centuries men like Richard Bartholomew, Thomas Chaffyn, Nicholas Martin, John a Port, and William Webb frequently used Poole for their imports and exports, especially those connected with the cloth industry. (fn. 71)
Although the goods destined for the Salisbury markets or sent abroad by Salisbury merchants were mostly carried in ships of foreign, (fn. 72) or other English, owners, there is some evidence of the interest of Salisbury merchants in shipping. (fn. 73) In the 15th century five Salisbury men were owners of the Catherine of Salisbury, a ship of 140 tons, which was commandeered at Dartmouth for service in the king's wars. (fn. 74) One of these men also owned the Catherine of the Tower, presumably once a royal man-of-war, given to him for his good services and losses on the king's behalf. (fn. 75) Thomas Felde, having been despoiled by the French of goods worth £400, secured a letter of reprisal, and manned for war, at his own cost, a ship, barge, and sloop (balinger), with which he captured a vessel carrying French wine. (fn. 76) John Hall possessed a light ship (caravel) called the James of Poole. In 1463 this vessel captured at sea a ship from Brittany, which, unfortunately for Hall, was carrying woollen cloths under safe conduct from Edward IV. (fn. 77)
Commercial enterprises, especially in wine, wool, and cloth, took Salisbury merchants across the channel and along the north and west coasts of Europe, or even further south. (fn. 78) In the 14th century William Cole and John Stykeberd were among the wool merchants living in Bruges, who illegally set up a staple there. (fn. 79) The interest of the le Teynturer family in the wool trade (fn. 80) gave them connexions with Amiens (fn. 81) and Calais. (fn. 82) When the Genoese merchants in London complained in 1386 of piracy off the coast of Brittany, the matter was referred to Salisbury, as well as to Bristol and Southampton, as being the towns most concerned. (fn. 83) The seizure of an agent of William Warwick in Brittany with goods worth £300, which he had received in exchange for an English cargo, was the subject of a petition to Parliament in 1433. (fn. 84) Connexions with Guernsey are sometimes disclosed in wills, (fn. 85) for Salisbury families fully shared in the interchange of trade between the Channel Islands and the south of England. (fn. 86) Thomas Portman, merchant of Salisbury, had 'custody' of Alderney for six years by royal grant in 1376. (fn. 87)
A precise assessment of the wealth of the individual 14th- and 15th-century merchant magnates and how they employed it must await further research. Some acquired a certain amount of property in the city as appears from the only complete rental to survive. (fn. 88) This is a list drawn up in 1455 of the quit rents in the city due to the bishop as lord. (fn. 89) Of the lay persons, who held four-fifths of the property, the eleven men with the largest number of holdings, and paying the highest totals of quit rents, (fn. 90) came about equally from the gentry and the merchant classes. By far the largest holder of property was William Ludlow, of Hill Deverill, a royal servant, who paid quit rents for well over 40 tenements which he was sub-letting. (fn. 91) Next came the Salisbury merchant William Swayne with some 23 tenements or shops, (fn. 92) and after him John Hall, merchant, and Thomas Bower, styled 'gentleman', with some 16 properties each. (fn. 93) Swayne and Hall both came of Salisbury families about whom little is known, and both, as rich merchants, greatly influenced civic affairs. Others among the men holding a considerable number of properties were William Cormaile, tailor, (fn. 94) and the merchants Thomas Freeman, (fn. 95) John a Port, (fn. 96) and William Lightfoot. (fn. 97) The property of the last named included a meadow with racks at Fisherton and three inns in Salisbury.
Salisbury continued to play its part in the Wiltshire cloth industry throughout the 16th century. Kerseys and narrow cloths, similar to those made at Wilton, and especially the striped rays, (fn. 98) for which Salisbury had become noted, were still being produced by numbers of weavers working at home or in the workshop of an employer. (fn. 99) 'Young beginners that be kersey makers' are remembered in the will, dated 1558, of John Abyn, merchant. (fn. 100) Salisbury thus continued to provide a local market for its own merchants, who bought up cloth manufactured in the city and neighbourhood and exported it to France and Spain. (fn. 101) Foremost among this group of wealthy merchants trading about the turn of the 15th century in a variety of commodities besides cloth were Richard Bartholomew, his sons Richard and John, (fn. 102) Thomas Coke, (fn. 103) and William Webb and his son, also called William. (fn. 104) Richard Bartholomew exported lead and cloth, and imported paper, velvet, damask, playing cards, gold foil, and madder. (fn. 105) Thomas Coke, who dealt in tin, like William Webb, also traded in the Baltic. (fn. 106) Webb's business was extended by his son, who in 1522 became an assistant of the Merchant Adventurers at the Whitsun market at Antwerp, (fn. 107) and was assessed more highly than anyone else in Wiltshire to the benevolence of 1545. (fn. 108) In certain years quantities of canvas, especially from Brittany, were imported into Salisbury, the ultimate destination of which is unknown. (fn. 109) Associated with these leading members of the mercantile craft were men of middle rank such as Nicholas Martin, mayor in 1481, the owner of a dyehouse in Fisherton, who had some connexion with Guernsey, (fn. 110) and Thomas Grafton and John Stone, traders in tin. (fn. 111)
The overseas trade through Southampton, on which these merchants prospered, lasted until the 1570's, but by then the port had so declined that only one Salisbury merchant was said to be using it on any considerable scale. (fn. 112) Because of the decline and eventual decay of Southampton, and also because of the change in the character of the cloth produced in Salisbury, the city looked more and more towards London for its main market. (fn. 113) As has been shown above, the commercial connexion between Salisbury and London was a close one. (fn. 114) Already by the late 14th century Salisbury rays were being marketed regularly in London, and throughout the 15th century Salisbury merchants traded there. (fn. 115) As late as 1573 the cloths sold by Thomas Grafton in London were kerseys, (fn. 116) but by this date, Salisbury, like the rest of Wiltshire, was turning to the manufacture of broadcloth, as demanded by the new markets in Germany and the Netherlands, (fn. 117) and for which Blackwell Hall in London was the main market. (fn. 118)
The end of the lucrative trade through Southampton resulted in what has been called a 'minor industrial revolution' in Salisbury and the replacement of the former merchant magnates by the clothiers of the broadcloth industry. (fn. 119) As a potential centre for the manufacture of broadcloth Salisbury had many advantages to offer, and at least two clothiers from Somerset transferred to the city in the earlier 16th century. (fn. 120) The clothiers, like their predecessors the merchants, played active parts in civic affairs. The first clothier known for certain to have been mayor was John Bailey in 1577, (fn. 121) but Thomas Cator, mayor in 1562, may also have been a clothier, although styled draper in his will. (fn. 122)
Salisbury, like the rest of Wiltshire, suffered from the depression which hit the cloth industry in the later 16th century. (fn. 123) This period saw the virtual disappearance of the former class of merchant magnate and in 1596 the mayor, seeking exemption from the payment of ship money, claimed that 'not above three merchants' in Salisbury were trading through Southampton. (fn. 124) The clothiers suffered from the difficulties of the times, and do not seem to have amassed the large personal fortunes, such as were made by some individual merchants in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. But the greatest distress as a result of these hard times was probably borne by the humble employees of the clothiers, and it is significant that during this period the city was obliged to take a number of measures for the relief of the poor. (fn. 125) The Salisbury clothiers also appear to have suffered from the competition of the great capitalists flourishing in the north and west of the county. (fn. 126) The only Salisbury men who can be placed in this class are John Webb and his brother William, both of whom served the city as its mayors and in 1559 represented it together in Parliament. (fn. 127) Even John Bailey was not outstandingly wealthy at the time of his death in 1581, (fn. 128) although he was one of the more highly assessed contributors to the subsidy of 1576. (fn. 129) Scrutiny of this list suggests that among the wealthiest citizens were merchants of a new social standing and different interests. Out of 199 contributors, three were styled 'esquire', and nine 'gentlemen': nine of these were taxed on landed property. (fn. 130) Typical of this new class was Charles Wootton, styled 'gentleman', who remembered his apprentice and the company of weavers in his will, and besides leasing the manor of Calne had lands in Hampshire and Lincolnshire. (fn. 131) Members of the Eyre family provide even better examples. (fn. 132) Thomas Eyre, mayor in 1587, who died in 1623, held land in Wimborne Minster (Dors.) as well as in South Newton and elsewhere in Wiltshire. (fn. 133) Two of Thomas's sons followed the legal profession, and one of these married the daughter of the Bishop of Bath and Wells. Another son, Christopher, was one of the founders of the East India Company, and the founder of Eyre's Hospital in Salisbury. (fn. 134) One of Thomas's daughters married Giles Tooker, barrister, of Lincoln's Inn, who represented Salisbury in Parliament. (fn. 135) Some leading citizens, highly assessed for taxation, such as Giles Estcourt, and Christopher Weeks, both parliamentary representatives, had no apparent share in the city's commercial activities. (fn. 136) Such also was Gabriel White, esquire, to whom the Webbs were related by marriage, who was rich in land, silver, plate, and ready money, but whose chief interests and important family connexions lay outside the city. (fn. 137)
The site chosen by the bishop for his city of New Salisbury was an excellent one for communications, not only with the south of England, but also with the continent of Europe. The city developed at a time when trade was expanding. It played an important part in the wool trade of southern England in the 13th century, and in the cloth industry from the 13th to the 16th centuries. Many weavers, fullers, and dyers resided in the city, and while the city's prosperity in the 14th century depended greatly upon their crafts, they for their part benefited from this prosperity. (fn. 138) Throughout the Middle Ages the city was an important market for consumer goods, and the fortunes of other important crafts, such as the tailors, skinners, and tanners, and of the food suppliers, were closely linked with those of the mercantile community. In the mid-14th century Salisbury ranked with Bristol, London, and Winchester as a leading centre of the cloth industry. (fn. 139) The subsidy assessments of 1332 (fn. 140) and 1334 (fn. 141) placed it as ninth in wealth among English provincial towns. When contributing to a loan in 1397 the city ranked sixth together with Gloucester and York. (fn. 142) The enormous bonds of £2,000 from the commonalty and £1,000 each from 200 citizens exacted in 1395 to ensure obedience to the bishop, are some indication of the city's prosperity at that time. (fn. 143) In 1422 Salisbury ranked third in contributing to a loan, (fn. 144) a position approximately retained for about another century. The subsidy of 1523–7 shows only five provincial towns making a higher contribution. (fn. 145) Signs of depression are evident in the later 16th century as has been shown above. (fn. 146) A survey of decayed properties was called for in 1580, (fn. 147) and overcrowding was causing concern in 1595 and 1596. (fn. 148) Although the taxation lists of 1545 and 1576 show that Salisbury was still without rival for wealth in Wiltshire, this prosperity was shared by fewer people, and came partly from those having connexions outside the city. By 1576 Salisbury had fallen to 13th or 14th place for wealth among English provincial towns. (fn. 149)