A decree concerning soap-boilers, 1633

Pages 109-115

Historical Collections of Private Passages of State: Volume 3, 1639-40. Originally published by D Browne, London, 1721.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.


A Decree in Star-Chamber concerning the Soap-boylers, in pursuance of a Censure of that Court upon May 10. 1633. 9 Car.

In Camera Stellata coram Concilio ibidem, Vicesimo tertio die Augusti, Anno Nono Caroli Regis, &c.

Whereas Mr. Noy, his Majesty's Attorney General, hath informed this Court, That the King's most excellent Majesty, by his Highness's Letters Patents under the Great Seal of England, bearing Date at Westminster the seventeenth Day of December, in the seventh Year of his Majesty's Reign, for the Reasons, Causes and Considerations in the said Letters Patents expressed, did give and grant to Roger Jones, since deceased, and to Andrew Palmer, Esquires; and also to Sir William Russel Baronet, Sir Basil Brooke, Sir Richard Weston, Sir Edward Stradling, Sir Rich. Bettison, Knights; George Gage, Thomas Jones, Beverly Bretton, Thomas Russel, Thomas Jennings, Thomas Hicks and Albertus Belton, Esquires, and to Robert Carver Gent. a Patent of Privilege for the term of fourteen Years, for the sole making of hard Soap and soft Soap, with such Materials as by them have been newly invented, and in such manner as in the said Letters Patents, and others Letters Patents therein recited appeareth; and for the burning and preparing of Pot-ashes, and other Ashes of Bean-straw, Pease-straw, Fern, Kelp and other Vegetables to be found in his Majesty's own Dominions, for the making of Soap, not formerly or ordinarily used or practised by others within the said Realm, Dominions, and Town of Berwick, but by them newly invented and devised, and also of the using of the Assay-Glass for trying of their Lee: In and by which Letters Patents there was careful provision made for the true making of the said Soaps for the use of the King's People, and for the searching and making thereof to distinguish the same from other Soaps: And for the selling of the same at and for reasonable Prices, as by the said Letters Patents do at large appear. And his Majesty's said Attorney further informed this Court, that because his Majesty in his great wisdom foresaw, that without government of that Trade it would soon fall into disorder; therefore for the better regulating and ordering of the said Works, his Majesty did by other Letters Patents under the Great Seal of England, bearing Date at Westminster the twentieth Day of January, in the seventh Year of his Majesty's Reign, incorporate divers Persons of principal worth and quality, who had been Adventurers in the said Works, by the name of Governors, Assistants and Fellows of the Society of Soap-makers within the City of Westminster in the County of Middlesex, to have perpetual Succession, and to them had given and granted divers Powers and Authorities for the preventing of Frauds and Deceits, and other Abuses in that Trade and Manufacture. And afterwards by his Majesty's special Commandment signified by his Writ in that behalf, the said Grant of Privilege for making of Soap and Pot-ashes, with the Powers and Authorities to the said Patentees named in the said Patent of the seventeenth of December, granted as aforesaid, were by them assigned unto the said Governor, Assistants and Fellows, and their Successors, and in respect thereof the said Governors, Assistants and Fellows of the said Society, by Indenture bearing date the third day of May, in the eighth year of his Majesty's Reign, did covenant, promise, and agree to and with our said Sovereign Lord the King, his Heirs and Successors, to do and perform divers things in that Indenture, particularly mentioned for, and concerning the perfecting of the said Works, and the furnishing of this Kingdom with sufficient quantities of sweet and good Soap, and to sell the same at and for reasonable Prices, not exceeding the price of three Pence the Pound, which was a cheaper rate than other sweet and merchantable Soap was usually sold for. And his Majesty's said Attorney further inform'd this Court. That when his Majesty had thus provided for the sufficient quantity and reasonable prices of the said Soaps, out of his Princely care for the good of his People, foreseeing that the goodness of the said Soaps might soon decline and decay, unless by the continual care and pains of some trusty and diligent Officer a watchful Eye were had to search and try all the Soaps that should be made and utter'd, to see that the same were answerable in goodness to the first Pattern or Standard; his Majesty, by other Letters Patents bearing date the eighth day of June, in the eighth year of his Majesty's Reign, did ordain, constitute and appoint, that for ever then after there should be an Office; and did thereby, for him, his Heirs and Successors, erect, create, and make an Office to be, and to be called the Office for keeping the Patterns, and making of the Assay of Soaps to be made by the said Governor, Assistants, and Fellows, who shall be called the Assay-Master for Soaps to be made by the said Governors, Assistants, and Fellows. And thereby did appoint in what manner the said Officer, having first taken a corporal Oath to that purpose, should execute she said Office without any trouble or charge to his Majesty's Subjects which should buy the said Soaps. And his Majesty's said Attorney further inform'd this Court, that his Majesty, in his Royal Care for the wealth and prosperity of his loving Subjects, intending to advance the native Commodities of this Realm, the setting of his own People at work, and the saving of the expence of the Treasure of this Kingdom, which unthristily and unnecessarily was spent in buying and importing of Foreign Materials for the making of Soap from other Kingdoms, to the enriching of them, and the impoverishing of his Majesty's own Kingdoms to a great yearly Sum. And purposing to prevent or severely to punish all frauds and deceits in the making of Soap with foreign and unsweet Materials, and the excessive rates in the sale of Soaps, as formerly it was practised by the Soap-boylers, being no Body Politick, not governed by any good Orders or Constitutions regulating their Trade, but being a few singular Persons who took this advantage to enrich themselves, to the wrong and prejudice of his Majesty and his loving Subjects in general, who had no ordinary means to right themselves therein: To the end that all his loving Subjects might take notice of this his Princely care and providence for them herein, by his Highness's Proclamation given at the Court at Greenwich the eight and twentieth day of June, in the said eighth year of his Majesty's Reign, did streightly charge and command, as well the said Governor, Assistants, and Fellows of the said Society, who had formerly bound themselves by Covenant with his Majesty to a regularity in that behalf, as all others not being of that Society, which should then after make any Soaps, that they should use no other Oyl in making that Soap, but Oyl Olive and Rape Oyl, as had been long sithence decreed by the Mayor and Aldermen of London. That by that means the Soap might be good, sweet and serviceable, according to the Patterns delivered up to the Assay-Master. And did also thereby strictly inhibit that no Person or Persons should import, or cause to be imported, or brought into this Realm, or Dominion of Wales, any unsweet or unserviceable Soaps, and also that none presume to put to sale or vent any Soaps, Pot-ashes, Soap-ashes, Berrillia, or Soade, of what nature soever, belore they shall be assayed and tried by the Searchers, to be assigned, and yearly to be chosen by the said Governors, Assistants, and Fellows, and the Assay-Master for the time being, or some of them, and by them, or him, found to be good, useful, and serviceable, and so marked by them, or their Deputies, with the Mark appointed for that purpose, being the Flower-de-luce; if any such Officer shall reside in the Towns where such putting to sale thereof shall be, and, being required, will search and try the same without Fee or Salary. Notwithstanding all which, divers Soap-boylers, inhabiting in, and near about the City of London, and places adjacent, have with much contempt opposed themselves against all the said several Letters Patents and Proclamation, and have endeavoured, to the utmost of their powers, to frustrate his Majesty's said gracious Intentions; and did, contrary to the said Proclamation, and in contempt thereof, make great quantities of Soap of Fish Oyl, very noysom and unfit for that purpose, and wilfully opposed the Searchers, and Assay Master, and their Deputies, and refused to suffer them to search; and took upon them, without any Authority given to them, to usurp and to exercise the Liberties and Authorities of a Corporation in holding Assemblies and Conventicles for their own private ends; and to set Prices at what rates they would sell their Soaps, and to make distribution of what quantities of Fish-Oyl every one should weekly or monthly spend; and to appoint what quantity of Soap should be weekly or monthly made by every one of them.

For which Offences and Misdemeanours his Majesty's said Attorney on his Majesty's behalf, on the two and twentieth of November, in the eighth year of his Majesty's Reign, exhibited an Information in this Court against divers of the said Offenders, whereunto they answered. And the Cause coming in a legal way to be heard upon the tenth day of May, in this ninth year of his Majesty's Reign, the said Defendants were justly censured by the Decree and Sentence of this Honourable Court. And thereby, amongst other things, by the Sentence of this Court disabled by themselves, their Workmen, Servants, Agents, or any other, to use or exercise the said Trade of Soap-boyling at any time then after which they had so notably abused. And his Majesty's said Attorney now further informed, that nevertheless, since the exhibiting of the said Information into this Court, upon which the said Sentence was grounded, divers other Persons, who formerly did not use or exercise the said Trade of Soap-boyling for themselves, have taken upon them to use and exercise the Trade of boiling and making of Soap, as well in the Houses of divers of the said Persons so sentenced and disabled, as in other places, and with their Vessels and Stocks, to the high contempt of this Court, and the deluding of the said Decree and Sentence, and to the great discouragement of those who would honestly and regularly use the said Trade, and to the encouragement of all such ill-disposed Persons, as for their own private lucre and unjust gain would oppose a Work so manifestly tending to the publick Good, and therefore his Majesty's said Attorney humbly prayed, that in a case of this extraordinary nature, wherein the Publick had so much Interest, this Court would take these things into their Considerations and honourable Cares, and for the future settle and establish such order for the government of this Trade, which hath long continued irregular, and without any government at all, as may prevent those Abuses, which otherwise, without the aid of this Court, cannot be prevented. And for that the employment and setting on work of so many of his Majesty's Subjects in the making of Po***ashes within this Kingdom, and that with the Materials here found, and the saving of the yearly expence of so great Sums of Money for that purpose formerly exhausted out of this Kingdom, to the diminution of the Stock and Treasure thereof, are works of great weight and consequence, and worthy the Consideration of this Honourable Court, and of all assistance and encouragement for their establishment as Matters concerning the State: The Court taking the Premises into their grave Considerations, hath therefore thought fit, and so ordered,

  • I. That the said Governor, Assistants, and Society, shall use all diligence to perfect their undertaking with his Majesty for establishing the said Work, wherein this Court will be ready from time to time to give them all just assistance.
  • II. That the said Company shall on the last day of every Michaelmas and Easter Term, and oftner, if required, make true Certificate into this Court, under the Hands of the Governor and Assay Master, and two of the Assistants for the time being at least, of the goodness of the Soap from time to time to be made by them, and whether the Standard be duly renewed, and the Soap made according to the goodness of that Standard.
  • III. That the Assay-Master for the said Soap do diligently attend and justly and faithfully search, and mark all the Soap to be made which shall deserve to be so marked, and do refuse to mark all such Soap as shall be any way deficient in sweetness or goodness, or not answerable to the Standard; and that no Soap-maker whatsoever presume to put any Soap to sale which shall not be so marked, and be made of the like goodness with the Standard. Nevertheless if it shall hereafter appear to this Court, that for any inferior use, or for other use than washing of Linen, there shall be cause to make any other sort of Soap of less goodness and sweetness, and consequently of a lower Price; this Court, upon due consideration of the necessity thereof, will give such further Directions therein as shall be fit, and so order the making and uttering thereof, that it shall not be an Evasion for the making and uttering of Soap contrary to the true meaning of his Majesty and of this Court, to the abuse of the King's Subjects.
  • IV. Because it hath already clearly appeared both to his Majesty and to this Court, by the Certificate of Sir Robert Ducy Knight and Baronet, late Lord Mayor of the City of London, and here remaining of Record (to whom the Examination thereof was specially referred) that the said Governor, Assistants, and Society of the Soap-makers of Westminster have brought the making of Soap with the Pot-ashes, and other Materials of this Kingdom, and of his Majesty's own Dominions, to that perfection, that it exceedeth the best London Soap in the goodness thereof, and for that it doth also in the easiness of the price, the same being by them undertaken to be sold at and after the rate of three Pounds and four Shillings the Barrel, which is three Pence the Pound, and not above. And the same appeareth likewise to be true by the Oath of Francis Coningsby Esquire, the present Assay-Master for Soap, appointed by his Majesty, which Oath remaineth in this Court recorded. It is therefore thought fit, and so ordered and decreed, that no soft Soap shall hereafter be uttered or fold by any Soap-Maker, his or their Factors, Workmen, or Servants, for above the said Rate or Price of three Pounds and four Shillings the Barrel, which is three Pence the Pound. And if any such Person shall presume to sell any soft Soap at or for any greater rate or price, directly, or indirectly, than as aforesaid, every such Person so offending shall be punished by the Censure of this Court as a Person who unjustly oppresses the King's Subjects by excessive Prices of Commodities, this Court deeming and adjudging that Price, for the reasons aforesaid, to be a sufficient Price for the best soft Soap. Nevertheless, if at any time hereafter, by the increase of Prices of the Materials to be used in making of Soap, it shall be made to appear to this Court that there is just cause to inlarge the Prices of such Soaps to be made by others, then the said Governor, Assistants, and Fellows, then, and not otherwise, and for so long time only, this Court will take such order as shall be fit.
  • V. And forasmuch as this Court is fully satisfied by the former carriage of such Persons, who now stand under the Censure and Sentence of this Honourable Court, that they have used, and still do use, all the indirect means they can to oppose the reformation of their own former Abuses, and the prospering of this new Manufacture, which will be so profitable for the Publick; and do conceive that those other Persons, or most of them, who since the said twenty second day of November last, on which day the said Information was exhibited in this Court, have set up a Trade of Soap-making as for themselves, which before they used not, and exercise the same Trade in the Houses, and with the Vessels, and U-tensils, and Stock of the said Delinquents, so censured as aforesaid, have set the same up by some secret Agreements and Compact, with, or on the behalf of the Delinquents, of purpose to delude the Sentence of this Court: And for that it is well known, that before the said 22d of November a very few Men exercised the Craft of making of soft Soap; and that but a few also were set on work by them, whereas in the making of Soap, and preparing the Materials for that Work, by the ways used by the said Governor, Assistants, and Fellows, a very great number of his Majesty's People are imployed, and set on work in making of Soap and preparing of Materials for it, whereof cometh an increase of Profit to the Commonwealth, and not a Detriment. It is therefore further ordered and decreed, that no Person or Persons, who on the said 22d day of November now last past, did not use the said Trade of Soap-making, or Soap boyling for themselves, nor any other Person or Persons, who by reason of his or their Profession or Apprenticehood are capable of using that Trade, shall continue, or set up the said Trade, directly or indirectly, until this Court, upon examination of the true state of each particular Person's Case, desiring or intending to set up such Trade, do receive satisfaction of the Justice of his pretence to use that Trade, and of the convenience and fitness of the Place where he intendeth to use or exercise the same, and that he doth not colourably pretend to use that Trade for himself and his own use, where in substance he purposeth to use it for the benefit of some of the Delinquents, and this to continue until this Court shall give other order to the contrary.
  • VI. It is further ordered and decreed, that because by the Offences of the said Delinquents, and by their disabilities to continue their said Trades, some few Servants and Workmen, formerly imployed by them, or by some others in Soap-making, may be destitute of means for their Live-lihood, this Court doth recommend them to the care of the said Governor and Company to employ them in their Works in some convenient manner; wherein if they shall fail (these Servants carrying themselves faithfully and diligently towards them as is fit) this Court intenderh to settle such a course for their relief as shall be fit, those Servants and Workmen for any thing yet appearing to this Court not having offended, but as they were commanded by their Masters.
  • VII. And to the intent that a due Search may be had of all Soap hereafter to be made, and so the abusive making thereof, contrary to the said Proclamation, be prevented, it is ordered and decreed, that the Assay-Master and Searchers, or their Deputies, shall from time to time execute their Offices, with a Constable when they shall think fit to require it, by going into the Houses, Work-houses, or Cellars of all those who shall be Makers of Soap, to make search for all Soaps made, and for all Oyls, or other Materials provided for making of Soap, and to assay as well the Soap so made, as the Oyls, and other Materials provided for the making of Soap, and that no Person oppose, or hinder, or unnecessarily delay such Search to be made, and Assay to be taken.
  • VIII. And for that it is well known that within these few years last past no soft Soap was made within this Kingdom, but in, and about the Cities of London, Westminster, and Bristol, it is therefore ordered and decreed, for the more conveniency of making such Searches and Assay, as aforesaid, that the said Governor and Company do erect and continue their Work-houses for the making of soft Soap according to their undertaking, as aforesaid, in or within one Mile of the City of London or Westminster: And that no other Soap-boyler, or Soap-maker do erect any other Work-house, or place for making or boyling of Soap, but within the Cities of London and Westminster, or City of Bristol, or within a Mile of the said Cities, or in such other place or places as this Court shall upon other good Considerations and Reasons think fit, and first approve of and allow. And that notice be given by those that make or shall make soap for Sale, to the said Governor and Company, or Assay-Master, of all and every the said places where their Work-houses are, or shall be hereafter erected before any Trade of Soap-making be there used, lest by the erecting of such Houses in obscure places, or far remote one from the other, the Assay-Master be disabled to perform his Office in the due searching, assaying, and marking of Soap, Oyl, and other Materials, as aforesaid.
  • IX. And because those who formerly used the Trade of Soap-making, or Soap-boyling are no Body Corporate, nor have any Government or Orders by which they are, or can be regulated, but every singular Person doth that in his Trade which he knoweth most for his private Gain and Advantage, tho never so much to the prejudice of others, or of the Publick: It is therefore ordered and decreed, that all Soap-boylers and Soap-makers, not being of the said Company, shall from henceforth be under the Survey, Rule, and Government of the said Company, and Officers thereof, as well as the proper Members of the said Company, so far forth only as concerneth the Trade, and the true making of the said Soap, and not otherwise, nor to any other purpose, without their own free Consent thereunto.
  • X. And it is also order'd and decreed that the said Governour, Assistants, and Fellows of the said Society, shall from henceforth from time to time take care that there shall be and continue of the said Society thirty Persons at the least. And lastly, it is ordered and decreed, That if any Person shall offend against any thing herein contained, ordered and decreed, every such person shall incur and undergo such Imprisonment and other Punishment as this Court, upon Consideration had of the quality of every such Offence, shall judge to be fit and just to be inflicted.