A History of the County of York: the City of York. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1961.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
In 1736 Drake (fn. 1) condemned the restrictive policy of the corporation as the chief reason for the absence of any manufactures which might have relieved the poor. 'Our magistrates have been too tenacious of their privileges, and have for many years last past, by virtue of their charters, as it were locked themselves up from the world, and wholly prevented any foreigner from settling any manufacture amongst them; unless under such restrictions as they were unlikely to accept of. The paying a large sum of money for their freedoms, with the troublesome and chargeable offices they must after undertake, would deter any person of an enterprising genius, in regard of manufacture, from coming to reside at York.' Drake had heard that in the past a colony of French protestants had been refused admission to the city, and that 'the late famous Mr. Clayton of Liverpool' had not been allowed to establish the tobacco trade in York; more recently the attempt to set up a woollen manufacture had failed, 'and chiefly, as I have been informed, by the small number of foreigners the city would admit on this occasion'. The establishment of a workhouse-manufactory and an invitation for handicraftsmen to come to York would, Drake believed, have done much to alleviate distress; as it was, he could 'safely say that, except some few wine merchants, the export of butter, and some small trifles not worth mentioning, there is no other trade carried on in the city of York at this day . . . . What has been, and is, the chief support of the city, at present, is the resort to and residence of several country gentlemen with their families in it.'
Enforcement of the freedom regulations continued throughout the century, with few relaxations to encourage trade. On two occasions, in the early years of the century and in the 1740's, attempts were made to establish cloth manufactories (fn. 2) and some relaxation was allowed; but the second attempt perhaps in part owed its failure to insufficient encouragement of this kind, as Drake declared that the first had done. On a third occasion the 1713 reform committee, (fn. 3) while urging more stringent enforcement of the regulations as far as labourers and porters were concerned, went as far as to recommend an invitation to foreigners of the kind that Drake was to advocate. It suggested that an advertisement should be put in the Gazette (presumably the London Gazette) offering additional inducements to the pleasant surroundings and plentiful and cheap provisions already to be had in York; merchants and other wholesale dealers, and persons of substance who spun wool and yarn, made woollen stuffs of the kind manufactured in Manchester, Macclesfield, and Kendal, made candle-wick and hats, cut 'firrs', or distilled, should be given 'free liberty to trade and traffic' in York, and enjoy exemption for seven years from all offices and charges apart from such ordinary taxes as freemen paid. (fn. 4) There is no evidence that such a policy was pursued for long, if at all, and Drake certainly saw few signs of it. For the rest, relaxation was slight: in 1706, and again in 1708, a flax-dresser was allowed a remission of part of his payment for freedom; (fn. 5) two carvers were in 1713 allowed to work unfree; (fn. 6) a coal dealer was allowed to work unfree in 1791. (fn. 7) Occasionally admission was excused, or part of the payment remitted, for those who were the only exponents of their trade in the city—a framework-knitter in 1741, (fn. 8) a plush-weaver in 1743, (fn. 9) and an instrument-maker in 1744. (fn. 10)
With these few exceptions, unfreemen were relentlessly pursued. Not only were they required to become free of the city but membership of their craft was essential too; (fn. 11) and in 1720, at the suggestion of the Merchant Adventurers, it was decided to require all freemen, at their enfranchisement, to give a bond of £100 that they would become free of their craft within a month of being required by the craft to do so. (fn. 12) Later that year the order was repealed except in relation to its original proponents, the merchants, (fn. 13) but they too found it inconvenient by 1725 when it was totally rescinded. (fn. 14) Naturally freedom was not enforced upon country-folk who brought victuals and other goods for sale in the markets and fairs, (fn. 15) but there were others whom the corporation would have pursued if it could. Certain trades were exempted by statute, (fn. 16) one being that of wineselling; in 1745 an attempt was made to oblige William Stainforth to become free, but the recorder gave the opinion that he could sell wine without suffering such an imposition and, moreover, that 'in the construction of charters at Westminster Hall trade in general rather than the advantage of corporations is regarded'. (fn. 17) One other class of unfreemen could not be pursued: those living in the 'privileged places' of St. Peter's and other liberties. The continued exemption from city jurisdiction of, for example, Mint Yard in the 18th century was a moot point, and the corporation was able to oblige residents of Davy Hall to become free. (fn. 18) The exemption of St. Peter's Liberty, however, was beyond question, and in 1776 three unfreemen fled there to avoid enfranchisement; another moved into Mint Yard, and a fifth to the north side of Bootham in the North Riding. (fn. 19)
The normal process by which eligible men and women petitioned the corporation for their freedom proved inadequate, for many were prepared to trade and await detection. The corporation was therefore obliged, in 1734, 1754, 1773, 1775, 1784, and 1793, to appoint committees of inquiry, several of which were subsequently reappointed. (fn. 20) Only that of 1775 did more than catch a few victims. The 1775 committee was empowered itself to collect the usual fees on the city's behalf, and give enfranchisement in return, (fn. 21) and it produced a lengthy report. (fn. 22) It brought an action against a number of offenders— an action defended by a subscription raised by unfreemen—and lost it by carelessly claiming that the corporation's jurisdiction extended to the whole city, including the liberties. Nevertheless, the court had been convinced of the legitimacy of the city's case and all unfreemen were ordered to appear before the committee; 'but', the committee admitted, 'as it always has been, so it will ever continue impossible to find out, or if found to compel, every individual who may be liable, to purchase his or her freedom, from the various causes of poverty, contrivance, secretion, connivance and deceit'. The report listed 239 offenders: against 13, actions had, or would be, brought; 5 had been enfranchised after actively opposing the committee; 76 had already taken up their freedom or were willing to do so; 16 were considered of 'sufficient ability' to become free but had not yet done so; 28 were willing to give up their trades or move into the privileged liberties; 8 claimed the right, by statute or otherwise, to remain unfree; 14 were to be further considered; 22 were poor ale-sellers who were to be pursued if they renewed their Crown licences to trade; 10 had unsatisfactorily sought to explain away their failure to become free; and 47 were too poor to take up their freedom but were prepared to pay small 'acknowledgements'. Giving approval to this report the corporation reaffirmed its insistence on enfranchisement and ordered all offenders to be prosecuted.
The 1775 committee had clearly stated the difficulty of enforcing such orders and had revealed a large number of defaulters. Despite frequent orders and numerous prosecutions, (fn. 23) it is clear that only a proportion of the eligible unfreemen was being apprehended. The annual admissions to the freedom varied considerably (see Table 3) and, moreover, were substantially increased when drives were made for political and occasionally, perhaps, for financial reasons. (fn. 24)
In enforcing the freedom regulations the corporation could still look to the craft guilds for support: in 1773, for example, the searchers of the joiners' company reported upon six men who exercised that craft while unfree of the city. (fn. 25) The guilds appear to have maintained a substantial measure of control over their occupations, but they did not always find it easy to oblige freemen to become members of their companies; at different times, the merchant tailors, joiners and carpenters, merchant adventurers, barber-surgeons, and glovers, and fellmongers were all authorized to prosecute nonmembers in the name of the city. (fn. 26) Occasionally companies were willing to take unfreemen as members: the merchant tailors were warned not to do so in 1726, for example; (fn. 27) but if the bakers, (fn. 28) barber-surgeons, (fn. 29) and linen-weavers (fn. 30) are typical, the admission of qualified members and the enrolment of apprentices remained prominent aspects of the guilds' work. It is clear, too, from the activities of these and other crafts (fn. 31) that searchers were still discovering abuses and imposing fines; and some guilds, among them the joiners' and carpenters', (fn. 32) were laying down the prices which their members might charge.
Not only were old ordinances, a number of which had been revised and reaffirmed by the corporation in the 17th century, (fn. 33) being enforced, but new clauses were being added to them, and even new companies established. New clauses for the enforcement of apprenticeship regulations were added to the joiners' and carpenters' ordinary in 1714 and 1727; (fn. 34) and additions were made to the butchers' ordinary in 1728 (fn. 35) and to the cooks' in 1729. (fn. 36) A great increase in the number of brewers led to their incorporation in 1726 with a new and comprehensive ordinary, (fn. 37) and the 'free-working masons' were similarly favoured in the same year. (fn. 38) The occurrence of so much legislation in the 1720's suggests a concerted effort by the corporation to strengthen guild control, regardless of the harmful effects of undue restriction on the city's economy. That such effects were, in fact, understood is revealed by one of the recommendations made by the 1713 reform committee: they suggested that all craft ordinances should be brought in so that the committee might discover what orders in them tended to 'limit and discourage trade and industry'. (fn. 39) That recommendation went unheeded; craft control was strengthened and new occupations were apparently brought under the surveillance of old companies. The carvers and statuaries, for example, were combined with the masons, (fn. 40) and a clockmaker was obliged to submit to the whitesmiths' ordinary. (fn. 41)
Despite these efforts by both the corporation and the craft guilds, the freemen's register must clearly be used with great caution as a directory of York trades. There is reason to believe, however, that while incomplete it does give a representative cross-section of occupations. (fn. 42) The report of the 1775 committee, for example, confirms the picture given by the register; only in the case of the distributive trades does it reveal a disproportionately large number of unfreemen. The three basic trade groups of clothing, food and drink, and building accounted for between 30 and 40 per cent. of the enfranchised working population: and tailors and cordwainers, butchers and bakers, and carpenters, joiners, and bricklayers were always among the leading individual trades. The 'manufacturing trades', as represented by the textile and leather-working trade groups, accounted for only about 10 per cent. and included no outstanding individual occupation. A variety of small handicraft occupations, among which metal-working and cabinet-making were prominent, may be placed within the household goods trade group which accounted for a little under 10 per cent. Between 20 and 30 per cent. of the freemen fall outside these groups; of these, barbers, mariners, coopers, labourers, and, in the later part of the century, comb-makers were outstanding, and many men were admitted as gentlemen and yeomen or into the professions. The miscellaneous group included, too, a great variety of numerically insignificant occupations: there were booksellers and coach-masters, engravers and gardeners, horn-breakers and jewellers, musicians and pawnbrokers, a ratcatcher and an optician, waiters and tobacco-pipe-makers. Finally about 15 per cent. of the freemen followed the distributive trades; many were merchants, grocers, and innand alehouse-keepers, together with a variety of dealers and shopkeepers. The 1775 committee's report shows, as might be expected, that this trade group included many poor men and women who were reluctant to take up their freedom: many were hucksters, ale-sellers, and ale-drapers; others were described as pot-sellers, 'appleshops' or baconsellers.
While the freemen's register does not allow of any detailed analysis of occupations, it does confirm the impression given by other available evidence. York had no notable manufactures; its economy was based on its importance as a market centre supplied by, and supplying, a wide area around the city; and a large part of its population was engaged in producing and distributing both the basic needs of its inhabitants and the luxury goods and services demanded by the gentry for whom York was an important social centre.
The first attempt to establish a manufactory in the city began inauspiciously in 1698. The corporation then offered its 'encouragement' to anyone who would promote the venture, provided that he was neither stranger nor foreigner, and offered St. Anthony's Hall, free of charge, to accommodate the employees. (fn. 43) Later that year agreement was reached with Richard Snow of Masham (N.R.), (fn. 44) and he was enfranchised in 1701; he had borrowed £200 from the corporation and a strict watch was kept on his work. (fn. 45) When the corporation established charity schools for boys and girls in the hall in 1705, (fn. 46) they were ordered to be provided with spinning wheels, (fn. 47) and in 1706 Snow was allowed to keep his £200 for a further year following his proposal to employ the children. (fn. 48) It appears that Snow's original intention to establish a manufactory failed, for in 1709 the corporation paid £30 to the 'undertakers of the new manufacture of stuffs' for their encouragement. (fn. 49) This new venture was not housed in St. Anthony's Hall. In 1714 a weaver was admitted to the freedom, without payment, under orders made for the promotion of the 'late woollen manufactory in Skeldergate'; (fn. 50) the orders were promptly repealed so that no further payments for enfranchisement should be lost. (fn. 51) It seems that Drake had been correctly informed of the reason for the failure of this enterprise. (fn. 52)
Woollen weavers were occasionally enfranchised in subsequent years, (fn. 53) but no further attempt to establish a manufactory was considered until 1737. (fn. 54) This time it was to be concerned with cotton, and was a manufactory-workhouse of the type which Drake had called for in the previous year. A Mr. Rawson of Manchester submitted proposals and was offered his freedom gratis, (fn. 55) but he became bankrupt soon after and was replaced by Richard Clough. Clough was prepared to employ between 200 and 500 poor people if the parish authorities paid him 5d. a week for each pauper for fourteen years; the corporation agreed to pay £100 for his removal expenses and to discharge his rents. (fn. 56) Clough later accepted the parishes' offer to contribute for only seven years and rented Alderman Cornwall's house at the end of Middle Water Lane (now Cumberland Street). (fn. 57) By February 1740 articles of agreement had been signed: he was to be given £1,000 for his stock-in-trade, and he agreed to bring 20 weavers, a dyer, a bleacher, a calenderer, and others competent in picking, carding, 'roving', spinning, and so forth; he was forbidden to sell York-spun yarn in Manchester but might dispose of unsuitable yarn in Nottingham, Leicester, and London; six of his skilled workmen were to be enfranchised gratis, and the others were to work unfree for fourteen years; all were to be indemnified by the corporation against possible opposition from the weavers' company; finally he gave a surety of £1,000 for the performance of the agreement. (fn. 58) This time the plans had been well laid, and Clough was settled in the house by June. (fn. 59) But in December 1741 a committee was appointed to investigate the manufactory; (fn. 60) two months later it was ordered to meet, (fn. 61) and no more is heard of the matter. The corporation, or Clough, had apparently failed.
Although the corporation had not succeeded in establishing cloth-making in factory premises, it seems likely that they did achieve an extension, albeit small, of textile employment. While Clough's venture was afoot, several workmen were enfranchised without payment: a weaver of stuffs in imitation of velvet, a fustian-, damask- and carpetmaker, and a thread-throwster were all admitted gratis in 1740; (fn. 62) and small numbers of weavers and dyers were admitted in the normal way during the second half of the century. The linen-weavers of the old weavers' company made a decreasing contribution to textile employment; 23 had been enfranchised in 1720-9 but only one in 1790-9, and only six or seven men attended the company's 'general courts' in the 1790's. (fn. 63) Attempts were also made to promote employment for the poor in spinning. In 1765, for example, the corporation offered £10 a year to support 'a proposal for promoting industry' whereby 40 boys and girls would be taught to spin wool, (fn. 64) and a spinning school was established shortly before 1784 'to excite a spirit of virtuous industry among the children of the poor'. (fn. 65) In 1744 cotton was being carded, cotton and flax spun, and silk wound in the parish workhouse of St. Martin-cum-Gregory; (fn. 66) and the 'cotton factory' in Marygate taken over as a workhouse about 1768, (fn. 67) the cotton manufactory in Walmgate offered for sale in 1797, (fn. 68) and the 'cotton factory' from which apprentices absconded in 1798 (fn. 69) were no doubt all in the nature of small workhouses. One other venture of a similar kind had been launched in 1732: St. George's House and Close had been leased to a man who undertook to employ 24 paupers in carding, spinning, and bleaching candle-wick. (fn. 70)
One of the leading markets of the city, and one of the city's few trading assets mentioned by Drake, (fn. 71) was the wholesale butter market in Micklegate, established in the 1660's. In the early years of the century the market's facilities were inadequate and the 'green-coat butter-weigher' received only £20 from the corporation; (fn. 72) in 1718, moreover, he preferred to have £20 as a city officer rather than a lease of the market for £30 with its uncertain profits. (fn. 73) A notable improvement in the trade followed the Act for the better regulation of the market which the city secured in 1722. (fn. 74) By 1731 the corporation was not prepared to let the market to a weigher and searcher for less than £60, (fn. 75) and York was apparently achieving a reputation for its carefully inspected butter. In 1737 the weigher was ordered to seal butter with the full word 'York' instead of merely a 'Y' which was being used by Malton (N.R.) traders in order to pass off their butter on the London market as if it had been weighed and searched according to the 1722 Act. (fn. 76) In the 1750's the trade was decreased by outbreaks of distemper among cattle, (fn. 77) but it was soon to experience a permanent decline. In 1764 the butter standard was ordered to be removed from the street into the adjoining churchyard of St. Martin's, (fn. 78) but a new one had still not been built in 1777. (fn. 79) Moreover in 1772 the butter-factors, agents, keelmen, and others concerned in shipping butter to London complained that the butter staith was low and often flooded. (fn. 80) In 1787 the weigher's rent was reduced from £80 to £70 because his profits were decreasing, (fn. 81) and in 1791 the mayor was authorized to reduce it to £60. (fn. 82) By 1794 the weigher was again preferring to be a salaried officer: his net profits for the previous year had been only £63 10s. 2d., and £40 of that sum was allowed as his salary. (fn. 83) In the following year he accounted for about £32 above his salary. (fn. 84) In 1796 the corporation offered to let the office for £42 clear, (fn. 85) and both rent and the number of firkins of butter handled continued to decline into the early 19th century. (fn. 86)
Despite Drake's failure to mention the grain trade, York was one of the leading corn markets in the north of England. Corn tolls were imposed on all supplies brought in by unfreemen; during the early 18th century they were leased, as they had been since the 16th century, to the mayor, and his right to take them was upheld against the resistance of merchants. (fn. 87) Just as York men claimed freedom from tolls elsewhere, by virtue of the city's charters, (fn. 88) so foreigners claimed exemption at York; in 1735, for example, a Huntingdon (Hunts.) man claimed exemption under his town's charters, but he was prosecuted and eventually obliged to buy the freedom of York for £35 and to pay £2 for tolls which he had neglected to pay on wheat-flour brought to King's Staith. (fn. 89) It may have been because of a decline in the trade that the corporation decided in 1736 to make the mayor an allowance towards the charges of his office, and to let the corn tolls to the highest bidders; (fn. 90) certainly the rent subsequently received declined, from £225 a year in 1736 to £170 in 1748; (fn. 91) and in 1753 the lessee was given a remission of £20 from each of his three years' rents to cover his losses. (fn. 92) Reluctant unfreemen were still compelled to pay the tolls, (fn. 93) but inquiries were made in 1751 about the city's rights to tolls (fn. 94) and in 1783 about the then state of the tolls. (fn. 95) Eventually, in 1791, the corporation decided to suspend tolls to see whether this would improve the market. (fn. 96)
The prices of wheat in the York market (see Table 4) clearly reflect periodic dearths and bad harvests, and exhibit, with a few exceptions, similar trends to those of wheat prices at Cambridge. (fn. 97) The dearth of the last five years of the century caused the greatest concern, but as early as 1762 the corporation had been alarmed by the shortage in York. They believed that the high prices and bad harvest experienced in the north of England were not shared by the south, and asked the House of Commons to prohibit export to assist the internal movement of grain. (fn. 98) A similar petition was sent in 1767. (fn. 99) The dearth which began in 1795 was more severe: a committee was appointed to consider the problem and it promptly bought, in the name of the corporation, over 400 quarters of wheat and sent representatives to seek more in Scotland. The scarcity of corn, the monopolies enjoyed by corn factors and large landowners, and the evils of forestalling, regrating, and engrossing were blamed for the shortage of corn and other provisions, and it was recommended that bakers should reduce the quality of their bread. (fn. 100) The committee was reappointed in 1796 and again authorized to prosecute forestallers, regrators, and engrossers. (fn. 101) Having considered the recommendations of Parliament, the committee proposed restrictions on the quality and weight of bread, and urged the mixture of rye, barley, and oatmeal with wheat flour; potatoes however, were described as less nutritious in bread than as a separate item of food. (fn. 102)
In the fish markets, too, supplies and prices were causes of concern. Sale was in 1709 limited to the usual market-places (fn. 103) in order to prevent forestalling and other abuses by fishmongers and panniermen; and, presumably to ensure adequate supplies, both citizens and foreigners were authorized to sell there. (fn. 104) The payment of tolls was enforced both before and after 1723-7 when they were temporarily remitted in an unsuccessful attempt to improve the trade, (fn. 105) and as late as 1784 the corporation promised the lessee that the non-payment of tolls should be inquired into. (fn. 106) In 1779 the corporation subscribed £20 to the work of a committee appointed to consider means of improving supplies and reducing prices, (fn. 107) and two years later it offered to co-operate with certain gentlemen who raised a subscription for the same purpose. It was proposed that fishmongers and panniermen should remain unfree and sell wherever they chose, and bounties were to be offered to those supplying the greatest quantities of fish. (fn. 108) Some freshwater fish were still, in the 18th century, caught locally. The corporation was continually in dispute with riparian landowners to preserve its fishery rights from Ouse Bridge to the mouth of the Wharfe, (fn. 109) and the fishery was let: in 1704 it brought in not only a rent of 20s. but two salmon a year for the mayor and one for the recorder. (fn. 110)
There is little indication of the volume of trade enjoyed by the wool market, established in the early years of the century. The venture was first proposed in 1702, (fn. 111) and by 1708 St. Anthony's Hall was being prepared to accommodate the wool containers. (fn. 112) At the same time the toll-collector on Ouse Bridge was instructed not to impose tolls on wool going to or coming from the market. (fn. 113) Nearby Layerthorpe Postern was widened to allow carts to pass through at the suggestion of wool merchants, amongst others, in 1731; (fn. 114) the market cross was ordered to be repaired in 1742; (fn. 115) and tolls were taken on wool packs carried over Ouse Bridge in 1761; (fn. 116) for the rest, it can only be said that the wool market remained in existence throughout, and beyond, the century. There is similarly little evidence upon which to base estimates of the state of trade in the city's other markets or in the fairs. (fn. 117)
Corn and other bulky commodities brought to the city were for the most part delivered at King's Staith, frequently referred to simply as 'the staith'. Mentions of the smaller Queen's Staith are confined to the early part of the century, (fn. 118) but it was later used as the butter staith. (fn. 119) Special leave was required for boats to pass farther upstream, under Ouse Bridge, (fn. 120) but because of the costly carriage of goods from King's Staith, boats were allowed to deliver goods for Bootham Ward first at Common Hall Lane end and later at a new staith at Lendal. (fn. 121) Similar considerations may have prompted the delivery of coal to Browney Dike in 1700. (fn. 122) Private staiths were occasionally permitted, (fn. 123) and towards the end of the century some merchants may have succeeded in freeing themselves of dependence upon King's Staith; in 1788, for example, a man was allowed to have a staith near his warehouse in North Street on paying 20s. a year for the privilege. (fn. 124) Certain goods were unloaded at the Old Crane, (fn. 125) which was operated by the sledge-men. (fn. 126)
Goods unloaded at the staiths were checked by the measurers, and the measures themselves regularly examined. (fn. 127) The measurers exacted a charge on each chaldron of coals handled, and in 1714 were ordered to investigate quality as well as weight. (fn. 128) Distribution of goods was in the hands of the porters and labourers whose rates for the delivery of coal to merchants' yards and to houses throughout the city were frequently under review. (fn. 129) On at least one occasion fixed rates were set aside as a result of the porters' idleness, and they were ordered to be paid only 'good hands good hire' and according to the work actually done. (fn. 130) The porters were a company superior to the labourers: they were given a monopoly of the carrying of coal in 1711 (fn. 131) and many of them were freemen. The labourers were forbidden to be employed for work belonging to the porters (fn. 132) although this was relaxed in 1740 so that they might carry coal if no porter appeared within an hour. (fn. 133) Few labourers were freemen and enfranchisement appears to have meant promotion to the porters' company if there was a vacancy. (fn. 134) Both occupations attracted many unskilled men—in 1713, for example, there were found to be 75 freemen and 110 unfreemen at work (fn. 135)—and their numbers were carefully regulated. The porters were limited to 32 in 1714, (fn. 136) 40 in 1721, (fn. 137) and 48 in 1727. (fn. 138) By 1772 the masters of vessels and dealers in coal, corn, salt, and other commodities were complaining that their trade having increased, the existing numbers of measurers (four) and authorized porters were inadequate; the measurers were accordingly increased to six and the porters were from time to time to be increased until there were 96 of them. (fn. 139)
The trade in corn has already been discussed. (fn. 140) Salt is occasionally mentioned as being carried by the porters, (fn. 141) and their rates for doing so were increased in 1796. (fn. 142) The extent of the trade is uncertain, but in 1774 it was announced that a York ship would make as many trips to Newcastle, fetching 90 tons of salt each time, as the demand of grocers and salt dealers justified. (fn. 143) Another commodity brought to the staith was lime. A lime measurer was appointed there in 1718, (fn. 144) and in 1772 a separate company of 32 labourers was set up to unload and carry lime: the trade was then said to have improved as a result of the increased use of lime in husbandry. (fn. 145) But the commodity most frequently mentioned is coal. The importance of the trade led the corporation to support several projects for making West Riding rivers navigable. In 1773 it was decided that the proposed improvement of the Don would be an advantage to York if coal for the city passed through the locks duty-free; (fn. 146) and in 1793 the making of a cut on the Calder was supported as a means of improving the irregular supply and decreasing the price of coal in York. Consumption was then said to have substantially increased. (fn. 147) The West Riding was in 1772 said to be the chief source of York's supply, and the corporation opposed an attempt by two men to gain a monopoly of the collieries there. (fn. 148)
A part of the city's water-borne trade was conducted with ships that were locally built; it was, for example, a York ship which was to carry the salt from Newcastle in 1774. Boats had been built and vessels trimmed and repaired on the banks of the Ouse earlier in the century, (fn. 149) but a more significant development took place between 1769 and 1771. The six ships of 'the York Contract' were then built by subscription, and by 1780 one of them was sailing from London to York every eight working days. (fn. 150) By the early 19th century these ships were known as Old Contract vessels and were bringing goods from London to the Old Crane; New Contract vessels were using the New Crane, (fn. 151) which had been built about 1770. (fn. 152)
For all its imperfections the Ouse was clearly still a valuable artery of the city's trade; many attempts were made to improve it, (fn. 153) and the city naturally supported efforts to improve its connexion with the sea. (fn. 154) Improvements to other rivers which might be prejudicial to the Ouse were opposed. (fn. 155) It was equally important to York that harbour facilities at Hull should be maintained or improved, and the corporation supported Hull's request for authority to extend its docks in 1793-4. (fn. 156) Active interest was taken, too, in the improvement of roads along which goods travelled to the city's markets. The corporation supported the establishment of turnpike trusts, not only for roads converging on York (fn. 157) but for those in more distant parts of the county. (fn. 158) Other road improvements would have adversely affected the city's trade: in 1788-9, for example, the corporation subscribed £200 towards opposition to an attempt to gain parliamentary sanction for a bridge over the Ouse at Selby. (fn. 159) The corporation continually sought to maintain the right of York freemen to trade anywhere in the country free of toll, whether their business was by river or road. (fn. 160) And there were frequent disputes with Hull regarding, for example, the payment of moorage (fn. 161) and water bailiffs' dues, (fn. 162) and the right of York freemen to let their ships ride for longer than one tide in part of the haven. (fn. 163) The latter question produced some animosity between the two corporations; York asserted in 1723 that a charter of Richard I and an agreement reached in 1578 gave its shipowners exemption from Hull's by-law, if, as the corporation said, 'royal charters be regarded by Hull'; and in both 1723 and 1737 York declared its intention to ignore Hull's objections.
York's trade was, in the 18th century, conducted by a greater variety of men than it had ever been before: a host of small merchants, dealers, mariners, brokers, factors, and shopkeepers had taken the place of the wealthy merchants who had earlier dominated the scene. The York merchants' company had lost most of its influence and social importance: many of its 18th-century members were merely small retail shopkeepers. (fn. 164) Moreover, there was no longer a substantial coincidence between membership of the merchants' company and of the now fast-declining York Residence of the Merchant Adventurers of England; between 1693 and 1815 only 102 York men were admitted to the residence: of those only 54 were also members of the company. (fn. 165)
Any comparison of the York economy of the last quarter of the century with that of the first quarter, which Drake had so gloomily depicted, reveals few signs of expansion and, indeed, several of contraction. No large-scale manufactures had been established to provide badly needed employment for the poor. It is true that there were some innovations during the last 20 or 30 years of the century: comb-making had been introduced, (fn. 166) as had horn-making, (fn. 167) confectionery, (fn. 168) the wholesale drug trade, (fn. 169) a toy-manufactory, (fn. 170) and a glass-works; (fn. 171) there were improvements in some branches of trade, such as the establishment of steam flour mills and a flour warehouse in North Street and Skeldergate; (fn. 172) and the opening of three banks in 1771 marked a step forward in commerce. (fn. 173) But employment still rested, as it was to continue to do in the early 19th century, largely upon the basis of a variety of small handicraft trades and the fortunes of the city's markets. That basis had been weakened by the decline of the wholesale butter trade and of York's position as a social centre. A shortage of provisions in the markets and the consequent rise in prices (fn. 174) were increasingly adding to the misfortunes of the city's working population. Journeymen were forced to demand higher wages by the 'extraordinary advance of all the common necessaries of life', (fn. 175) and tradesmen, 'not having had a living profit', were obliged to increase their prices. (fn. 176)
Special mention should perhaps be made of two small family concerns, established in this century, which were later to become important industrial enterprises. In 1725 Mary Tuke opened a grocer's shop which in 1752 passed to her nephew William, the Quaker philanthropist; he was joined in the business by his son Henry in 1785, and from about that time the Tukes manufactured cocoa and chocolate behind their Castlegate shop, as well as dealing in tea and coffee. These were the humble beginnings of a business which in 1862 was transferred to Henry Rowntree. (fn. 177) The confectionery business of Terry & Sons Ltd. originated in the establishment in St. Helen's Square in 1767 of the firm of Bayldon and Berry. (fn. 178) Thus two of York's leading modern manufacturers have roots in the 18th century; the latter part of the century also saw the establishment of several other undertakings which survive to the present day, among them the Fishergate glassworks (fn. 179) and the manufacturing and wholesale chemists, Bleasdale Ltd. (fn. 180)
The city was burdened with very large numbers of poor. Much of the population lived in poverty, and was exempted from parish rates and from such national taxes as that on houses and windows; the proportion can only be surmised, (fn. 181) but the extent of the problem is indicated by the number of paupers—about 500 a year in the 1720's— to whom the overseers had no alternative but to give relief. The corporation was ever vigilant to prevent additions to its burden: labourers might be admitted to the city if they could show that they were not legally settled elsewhere (fn. 182) or would not be a charge upon the rates; (fn. 183) but a master might be threatened with disfranchisement for increasing the number of the poor by taking country apprentices and discharging them after only one or two years of their terms. (fn. 184) The city was, of course, obliged to accept poor persons removed to York as their place of legal settlement; one such removal, in 1734, from Long Marston (W.R.), raised the problem of poor relief in St. Peter's Liberty where no overseers were appointed, but the dean agreed that such people would be cared for. (fn. 185)
With this exception the administration of poor relief by parish overseers extended throughout the city. Overseers were appointed for Mint Yard, (fn. 186) and their appointment for Davy Hall was recommended in 1746. (fn. 187) Occupiers of property to be built on the site of Davy Hall would, it was feared, not be liable to pay rates, (fn. 188) although the corporation had indemnified the overseers of St. Helen's, Stonegate, for levying assessments there in 1726. (fn. 189) The work of the parish overseers was supervised by the corporation who inspected the 'schemes' drawn up for the relief of each parish; details of both assessments and allowances were brought together in 'the Poor Book'. (fn. 190) In the 1720's the total weekly assessment for the city was about £16-£18 (see Table 5), and most of it was spent; in one year, 1727, out-payments in fact exceeded the assessment. In individual parishes assessments varied with the inhabitants' ability to pay rather than with their need for relief, and surpluses from some parishes were transferred to make up deficiencies in others. Allowances varied from 4d. to 2s. for each poor person or family, and about 500 people benefited: in 1712 the approximate numbers (fn. 191) of recipients were 170 in Monk Ward, 150 in Walmgate, 90 in Micklegate, and 80 in Bootham.
The overseers themselves collected the rates, and were supported by the corporation in taking distresses for non-payment. (fn. 192) Additional money was sometimes contributed by the corporation: in 1701, for example, £3 5s. was given towards the expenses of sending a man to sea, the overseers of the city parish where he was last legally settled paying an equal amount. (fn. 193) Little money was forthcoming from other sources and by the later 18th century the rates may have become inadequate to maintain the standard of relief given earlier; in 1791 the corporation was even prepared to seek a tax on dogs to assist the poor rates. (fn. 194) Most of the money raised by assessment was expended on immediate relief; when a surplus was available it might be used to pay for a poor boy's apprenticeship, (fn. 195) but money for this purpose usually came from one of several apprenticing charities. (fn. 196) Between 1721 and 1730 134 poor apprentices were 'put out'. (fn. 197)
The poor who were not thought deserving of relief and for whom the overseers were not prepared to find employment might be put into a parish workhouse. It is not known how many York parishes had such houses, but some certainly did, (fn. 198) and at least one ward, Walmgate, had one too. (fn. 199) Several attempts were made to establish workhouses on a wider than parish or ward basis. Had the woollen manufactory been successfully established in the early years of the century, it would have been a workhouse in all but name; (fn. 200) but consideration was first given to the foundation of a workhouse as such in 1729. By the following year the corporation had prepared a petition seeking a special Act to authorize the venture, but it was withdrawn in consequence of local opposition and the news that a general Bill was depending for improvements in the poor law. (fn. 201) These improvements did not come, and in 1737 the corporation again decided to prepare a Bill —this time to oblige all the city parishes to unite to provide a workhouse. Early in 1739 further consideration of the Bill was deferred, (fn. 202) and although the corporation proceeded with the establishment of a workhouse-manufactory, the scheme was unsuccessful. (fn. 203) Although apparently short-lived, (fn. 204) this manufactory lasted long enough for a substantial sum of money to be collected and spent to relieve the poor employed there. About £76 was collected in the city in 1740 for their clothing; by early the next year most of it had been spent on gowns, shoes, jackets, caps, breeches, and stockings, as well as coals, candles, and weekly payments for subsistence. (fn. 205) Co-operation between the parishes was eventually achieved about 1768 when a number of them united to establish a workhouse in Marygate (fn. 206) and this was not replaced until the 19th century.
Administration of the poor law was the chief function of parish government in the 18th century. Little is heard of the parish constables, whose inefficiency was to be publicized in 1836 (fn. 207) and may well have been of long standing. Parish overseers of highways were appointed to discover neglect of roads and pavements, (fn. 208) and after 1763 parish officials were elected to supervise the new street lighting introduced that year. (fn. 209)
It was but a short step from poverty and the workhouse to crime and the house of correction. Part of St. Anthony's Hall was maintained as a house of correction throughout the century. (fn. 210) Its inmates were usefully employed (hemp and mallets were provided for them in 1705), (fn. 211) and they might in certain cases be put out as apprentices, (fn. 212) but for most offenders the period of confinement was short. In 1724, for example, a vagrant resided for only 5 days, a man who had resisted his parish constables for 9, a lewd woman for 18, and Dolphin Duck, a lunatic, for 5. Confinement for several months was uncommon. The house of correction can nevertheless rarely have been empty. Between 30 and 40 men and women were committed to it each year from the mayor's court in the 1720's, and accommodation was limited. At that time the most numerous offenders were those variously described as vagrants, or idle, disorderly, or lewd persons; they were joined by men and women convicted of gaming, deserting from the army, forcibly entering the fish stalls on Foss Bridge, keeping disorderly houses, stealing brandy from a ship at the staith, defrauding or running away from their masters, beating their wives, retailing liquor without a licence, 'going naked in a shameful manner', and a variety of other petty misdemeanours. Corporal punishment was occasionally administered in the house of correction: in 1776, for example, a woman convicted of stealing a watch was ordered to be whipped daily until she was discharged. The city gaol on Ouse Bridge was perhaps mainly reserved for more serious offences, although idle and disorderly persons and deserters were sometimes sent there, together with felons and cheats; but they might find themselves side by side with a suspected murderer. For other offences the mayor's court imposed fines: for selling by false weight, offering bad meat in the markets, frequenting alehouses to the neglect of their work, or for killing pigeons. Some of these small fines were placed in 'the poor box'; when the box was handed over to the mayor elect in February 1724 it contained 24s. 8d. (fn. 213)
The mayor's court was also much concerned with the administration of the poor law. Parish overseers might be reprimanded for not collecting the rates, or ordered to make weekly payment to paupers not already on their books or to a lunatic woman in the house of correction. Many orders were made for the removal of paupers from one city parish to another, or to their place of legal settlement elsewhere; and passes were issued for travel to distant parts of the country. Such a pass was given to a woman to go to Stowon-the-Wold (Gloucs.) in 1724; her disorderly husband had been committed to the city gaol but released on his enlistment for service in Ireland. The court was also constantly concerned to reduce the charge on the city's rates by apprehending the fathers of bastard children. (fn. 214)
The honest and dishonest poor had one thing in common besides their poverty: both attracted numerous charitable bequests. Two examples may be given to illustrate the corporation's impartiality in this respect; in 1744 it accepted the bond of a blacksmith who had asked to be released from prison, he having been unable to pay a fine for assault; (fn. 215) and in 1789, during a bad winter, the corporation gave £50 towards the relief of the poor and appointed a committee to acquire a stock of bread and coal. (fn. 216) The compassion of individuals was equally impartial: as Dame Sarah Hewley left money for a coal stock for the poor of the city in 1707, so Tabitha Bower provided for the warmth of prisoners in 1781. Individual bequests for the poor were, of course, many and varied: they provided for food and clothing, for apprenticing, for loans and pensions, and for accommodation in almshouses and hospitals. A number of such bequests was administered by the cor poration. Of the numerous almshouses and hospitals in which the poor were housed in the 18th century, several survived from medieval foundations (notably St. Catherine's, St. Thomas's, St. Anthony's, and Trinity Hospitals, all by this time governed by the corporation), many were of 17th-century establishment, and six were founded in the 18th century itself. Several educational charities were also established in the 18th century, outstanding among them the Blue Coat and Grey Coat Schools set up in St. Anthony's Hall by the corporation in 1705. (fn. 217)