A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 3, the City and University of Cambridge. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1959.
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Medieval Trade and Industry, p. 86. Fairs, p. 91. Jews, p. 95. Banks, p. 96. Modern Economic Development, p. 97.
Medieval Trade and Industry
The economic importance of Cambridge turned on its position as a centre of communications. It was and is a marketing centre for the shire and it served as the clearing house for the agricultural produce of the surrounding countryside whilst its accessibility from so many directions made it the most natural centre for the most famous fair in England.
First in importance came the river-borne trade. From 1118 to 1845, when the opening of the railway to London dealt the river trade its death-blow, the waterway from Cambridge to the Wash was one of the main thoroughfares of trade in the Eastern Midlands. In the 12th century, the river traffic went by the old Well Stream by Outwell and Wisbech and the Nene, (fn. 1) but before the middle of the 13th century this outlet was silting up and the Ouse had been diverted to flow, more directly, by Wiggenhall to Lynn. It was Lynn that was the port of Cambridge down to the 19th century.
In 1620 the public orator called the Cam 'our river . . . by means of which we enjoy the wealth of the neighbouring country', (fn. 2) and the passionate opposition of both town and gown to the draining of the Bedford level from 1607 to 1653 (fn. 3) was due to the fear that, as Fuller put it, 'the river Grant or Cam running by Cambridge will have its stream dried up by the draining of the fens'. (fn. 4) Fuller himself admitted, however, 'It seems that Cambridge was then more frighted than since it hath been hurt, now the project is effected'. (fn. 5)
Nevertheless, apprehension continued; Denver Sluice, it was feared, would obstruct the 'free and easy passage' of the vessels bringing coals, fish, salt, and foreign merchandise from Lynn to Cambridge, and petitioners still besieged Parliament from 1670 to 1745. (fn. 6) In 1702 a bill for making the Cam, or Grant, more navigable was introduced on the joint instance of town and gown, (fn. 7) and in 1703 the Conservators of the Cam were established by Act of Parliament. Three conservators were to be appointed by the University, three by the Mayor and aldermen, and five by the county magistrates at Quarter Sessions. Together they were empowered to improve the navigation from the Queen's mill to Clayhithe, and to make orders, levy tolls for upkeep, borrow money, hold up boats, and take distresses. (fn. 8) With their powers revised by legislation, (fn. 9) the conservators still function, though with lessened importance. The proposal to link the navigation of the Cam with the Thames by canal was first made in 1665, (fn. 10) and renewed persistently from 1782 onwards. In spite of the opposition of the conservators an Act authorizing a canal from Stortford to Clayhithe was passed in 1812, but the canal was never made. (fn. 11) The high days of inland navigation were over, although as late as the 1860's we hear of the 'half a hundred black barges' that went downstream to Lynn and came upstream to Cambridge 'laden with coal or heaped high with turf and sedge'. (fn. 12)
Of the goods for which Cambridge was a clearing-house, corn was the most important. On the estates of Ely Abbey, as we hear in the early 13th century, the villeins carried the abbot's corn to be sold at Cambridge from Hadstock, Great Shelford, Little Gransden, Willingham, Doddington, Streatham, Wilburton, and Fen Ditton, (fn. 13) whilst on the Ramsey manors, the villeins owed carrying services from February to August, as long as the surplus grain held out, either to Cambridge or to London. (fn. 14) These are merely two instances indicating the importance of Cambridge as a centre of the corn trade. The sixteen burgesses who were fined for exporting corn by water without royal licence in 1177 were some of them wealthy enough to be liable in 10 marks. (fn. 15) Corn to the value of £67 12s. was shipped to Norway from Cambridge by John's orders in 1202. (fn. 16) Cambridge was again forbidden to export corn because of scarcity in 1351 (fn. 17) and under Elizabeth I a protest that the local shortage was sending up the price of grain in Cambridge market 'to the pinching of poor scholars' bellies' evoked from the Privy Council the reply that the shire of Cambridge had been accustomed to convey its grain by water to Lynn and thence to London for the victualling of that city and that it was very necessary both for the help of the city and for encouragement to the husbandmen that the traffic should continue. The Council was only prepared to prohibit export if the corn was being sent overseas and not to London. (fn. 18) As the corn merchants could get 10½d. to 6s. a quarter more in London than in Cambridge and transport by water was easy, it is not surprising that corn went 'in a continuous stream' to feed other districts. (fn. 19) The Liber Albus of London shows that corn went by land also, by way of Ware, and malt also went to London from Cambridge from the 14th century on. (fn. 20)
There was also a considerable trade in fish (fn. 21) by the river. Sea-fish came up from Lynn as corn went down, and in the 16th century the coal trade began. In 1544 the Corporation indemnified the Mayor, with others, who had ventured to Newcastle-upon-Tyne for four shiploads of coal. (fn. 22) Again in 1702 the Mayor, bailiffs, and burgesses of Cambridge petitioned the Lord High Admiral for armed protection of the ships that imported sea-coal, salt, and other merchandise for the needs of the town and University of Cambridge from Newcastle and other foreign parts. (fn. 23) As late as 1804 Cambridge was said to be the head of the inland navigation from Lynn whereby it had an extensive trade in coal and corn, (fn. 24) and as the 17th-century drainage of the fens brought about what Fuller called 'a deluge and inundation of plenty', (fn. 25) their manifold produce came on to Cambridge, with imports from more distant regions. The Foreigners' Companion describes the situation in 1748:
The purest wine they receive by the Way of Lynn: Flesh, Fish, Wild-Fowl, Poultry, Butter, Cheese, and all Manner of Provisions, from the adjacent Country: Living is cheap: Coals from seven-pence to nine-pence a Bushel; Turf, or rather Peat, four shillings a thousand; Sedge, with which the Bakers heat their Ovens, four shillings per hundred sheaves: These, together with Osiers, Reeds, and Rushes used in several Trades, are daily imported by the River Cam. Great quantities of Oil, made of Flax-seed, Cole-seed, Hemp and other Seeds, ground or press'd by the numerous Mills in the Isle of Ely, are brought up by this River also: and the Cakes, after the Oil is press'd out, afford the Farmer an excellent Manure to improve his Grounds. By the River they also receive 1500 or 2000 Firkins of Butter every week, which is sent by waggon to London. Besides which, great quantities are made in the neighbouring villages, for the use of the University and Town and brought in new every Morning almost. Every Pound of this Butter is roll'd, and drawn out to a Yard in Length, about the Bigness of a Walking-cane; which is mentioned as peculiar to this Place. (fn. 26)
That flax itself came long before to Cambridge is suggested by the occurrence under Edward I of the name Flaxhythe as one of a succession of wharves that ran along the river bank from the common hythe (or Sedgehithe) just north of the Great Bridge. These were 'Dame Nichole's Hythe', 'Cornhythe', 'Flaxhythe', 'Salthythe', and 'Cholleshithe' just below the Small Bridges. (fn. 27)
The close commercial relations with Lynn produced a good deal of friction. In 1286 the Commonalty of Lynn vindicated its exemption from payment of toll and stallage at Cambridge. (fn. 28) In 1535 Cambridge was claiming exemption from toll if its ships discharged their merchandise at Lynn. (fn. 29) The grant of two fairs to Lynn was revoked in 1541 lest Sturbridge Fair should suffer. (fn. 30) In 1551 outstanding disputes between the two towns were submitted to arbitration and a carefully drafted award secured to the burgesses of Lynn rights of purchase to a part of the Cambridge cargoes and defined the payments owed by Cambridge burgesses for tying up their ships in the harbour, as a contribution towards the upkeep of the haven, the beacons, and the buoys. The burgesses of Lynn in return were secured dockage rights at Cambridge at the time of Sturbridge Fair. (fn. 31) Further disputes, however, recurred towards the end of Elizabeth I's reign (fn. 32) and another award was given in 1599 by two arbitrators, one being Attorney-General Coke. Duties on salt, corn, and sea coal had been exacted by the burgesses of Lynn, cargoes had been seized, and Lynn porters had refused to work for burgesses of Cambridge. A Lynn cargo of pitch and tar had been confiscated at Sturbridge Fair for failure to pay ground dues. Once again, the exemption of Lynn burgesses from toll was upheld but the groundage fees were to be paid. (fn. 33)
Cambridge was and is an important market centre. The market stands on one of the oldest inhabited sites of the Borough (fn. 34) and perpetually reminds the observer that the town is older than the University and has an independent raison d'être. No grant of a market by charter was necessary; it was established by local need and ancient custom well before the Norman Conquest. The regulations in the Cross Book make frequent reference to the buying and selling not only of corn and butter but of poultry, milk, garden produce, and meat. Among the earliest ordinances preserved are those forbidding the setting up of butchers', fishers', or tanners' stalls in the market except on market day (Saturday already in 1347). (fn. 35) An ordinance of 1377 lays down the location of the various stalls or tables in the market and forbids the sale of bad meat. Each burgess was entitled to one free stall but no more. (fn. 36) An ordinance of 12 February 1579 provided that 'all the fresh-water fish and sea fish brought to the town and all the common fishmongers which usually have stood in the market over against the new shambles shall from henceforth be sold on the Pease Market Hill and have and keep their standing there'. (fn. 37) The new fish market, supplied with paving and penthouses by the help of a contribution from Dr. Hatcher, was still kept until 1949 where it was placed in 1579. (fn. 38)
The shambles where the meat was exposed for sale were on the south side of the market in front of the Guildhall. The corn market where poultry and butter also were sold was to the north. The garden market was in the middle, to the east of the market cross; the fruit, flower, and vegetable stalls which make Cambridge one of the best markets for garden produce in England occupy the same position today but have spread further afield. The milk market was west of the market cross. (fn. 39) Petty Cury, mentioned as parva cokeria in 1330, took its name from the cookshops which supplied the needs of those coming in from the country; it is possible that the eastern side of the market square was once the Great Cury or Cook's Row. (fn. 40)
The old street names of Cambridge are evidence of the trades plied in the town. Butchery Row (Guildhall Street) (fn. 41) and Slaughterhouse Lane (Corn Exchange Street) led to Hog Hill where hogs and horses were sold. (fn. 42) Cordwainer Row, 1322 (Market Street) and the leather market, 1362, with Tanners' Hall (next the prison) indicate the presence of the leather-workers. (fn. 43) Other lanes and rows mostly unidentified but probably in the modern market square give further indications. Shearer's Row (Market Street, west end), 1512, Felters Street (King Street), Comber's Lane, 1319, and the Duddery, 1561, are evidence of workers in wool, while Broiderers' Lane, 1561, like Goldsmith's Row, 1589, testifies to more elaborate craftsmanship. The Cutlers' Row, 1297, is matched by the Sheathers' Lane, 1508, and the Smiths', 1271, by the Braziers', 1589. The Lorimers' Row, 1299, housed the makers of metal harness fittings, and Smearmongers' Row, 1330, the sellers of tallow. Potters' Row, 1249, furnished table ware, supplied with comestibles not only from the corn market and milk market, but from Butter Row, Cheese Market, and Malt Market, and the Poultry Row, 1388. (fn. 44) With the Apothecaries' Row, 1286, we reach more sophisticated trades. (fn. 45)
Other evidence of the trades plied in Cambridge comes from the callings of the various burgesses who witness deeds or serve as town officials. The cartulary of St. John's Hospital supplies the names of tailors, girdlers, cobblers, tanners, bakers, skinners, cheesemongers, and a writer and an illuminator (fn. 46) to which the St. Radegund's deeds add another illuminator in 1274, and a parchment-maker. (fn. 47) Among the various trades practised by Cambridge mayors are those of litster (dyer) (Redmeadow, 1365, 1380), skinner (Coke, 1473), grocer (Hessewell, 1482), goldsmith (Barber, 1513), waxchandler (Smith, 1522), baker (Lane, 1563), brewer (Bland, 1579), butcher (Potto, 1602), draper (Simpson, 1665), confectioner (Bryan, 1650), fishmonger (French, 1608), haberdasher (Purchas, 1760), vintner (Rumbold, 1708). (fn. 48)
Early evidence of a woollen industry in Cambridge is provided by the presentment of four drapers in 1261 and six in 1286 for selling cloth against the assize. (fn. 49) The cloth may have been imported then, and the first webster mentioned, in 1440, was an alien, but in 1449–51 cloth was woven for the nuns of St. Radegund's by a Cherry Hinton man, and fulled and shorn, it seems, in Cambridge. Fullers and shearers are mentioned, as well as a silkwoman, in 1491 and 1512. (fn. 50) Tenter yards on the lower slopes of the castle grounds are referred to in the 17th century, (fn. 51) and Hobson's Spinning House employed many hands until 1800. (fn. 52) Textile workers are mentioned again in 1719, when in a petition to Parliament the Corporation together with the woollen drapers, mercers, sergemakers, say-makers, websters, and wool-combers inhabiting the town complained of unemployment caused in the woollen manufacture in and about Cambridge by the general use of Indian calicoes and linens. (fn. 53) The drapery business of the second John Mortlock (d. 1777) founded the fortunes of his son, and in 1791 the woolcombers are mentioned again as celebrating St. Blaise's day with a procession. (fn. 54) The sellers of wine who were also penalized in 1261 and 1286 may well have imported their wine from London since Stephen of Hauxton had a partner (socius) dwelling there. (fn. 55) In 1510 there are details of a Cambridge vintner who supplied five colleges, a number of inns, and 40 private customers with malmsey, rumney, red claret, white claret, and bastard, (fn. 56) and the trade, regulated and licensed by the University, became one of the most important in Cambridge.
The assessments for the subsidy of 1512, though extant only for Market and Preachers' Wards, give valuable information as to Cambridge industries. Brewers, freemasons, tailors, and shoemakers preponderate, (fn. 57) and there are suggestions that the leather-working trades have been stimulated by alien immigrants. Nicholas Williamson, 'Dutchman' and alien born, employing eight servants and apprentices, was a shoemaker, as was the 'Dutchman', John Petyrson. (fn. 58) In 1440, of the 23 alien householders reported in Cambridge, seven were cordwainers, one of them employing six other Dutchmen in his business. The aliens had come from Brabant, Holland and Zealand, as well as Scotland, Ireland, France, and Germany. (fn. 59) Other trades reported in 1512 were those of thatcher, tiler, cooper, carpenter, staffmaker, raffman (timber-merchant), and paviour, in addition to others already noted. John Lete, smith, employed ten servants and apprentices, and William Barbour, goldsmith, had six; on the other hand a large number of 'common labourers', paying the lowest rate of taxation, were to be found in Preachers' Ward, balancing the wealthier inhabitants of Market Ward. (fn. 60) The paper-mill on the Newmarket road, first mentioned in 1557, was probably older. (fn. 61) The development of the printing and bookbinding trades from 1521 under University protection has been described elsewhere; (fn. 62) it was to become a permanent activity, unlike the manufacture of saltpetre, frequently mentioned in the early 17th century. (fn. 63)
As we have seen, the guild merchant of Cambridge early lost any economic significance it may have had. (fn. 64) Cunningham, noting mention of wool-combers and skinners, failed to trace any craft guild in connexion with the clothing trade. (fn. 65) There seems to be documentary evidence of only one craft guild in Cambridge. On 5 May 1590 the Corporation ordained that every cordwainer, shoemaker, or cobbler, who should set up shop in Cambridge and therein exercised his trade, must not only have served his apprenticeship but must be licensed by the masters and wardens of the Cordwainers' Company, presumably of London. The cordwainers in the town were to meet every year to elect a master and two wardens with power to search all the wares produced by the trade in Cambridge. (fn. 66)
The fact that nothing more is known of this craft guild and that no similar ordinance exists for any other craft may possibly be due to the fact that no Common Day Book survives for the period 1582 to 1610. We owe the copy of this ordinance to Metcalfe. It is unfortunate that for 30 years of crowded and prosperous Borough history our most valuable source should be lacking.
Three of the four Cambridge fairs are of purely local interest. Reach Fair, held at Rogationtide, appears to have been already in existence in 1201. If so it may be associated with Henry I's grant of the monopoly of river-borne trade. (fn. 67) In 1279, however, the Cambridge jurors described the Rogationtide fair as held 'in the town of Cambridge' and the jurors of Stone Hundred referred to 'a certain fair' as being shared equally between the king and the Prior of Ely. (fn. 68) In 1388 an inquest in Cambridge found that the Prior of Ely held one-third of the fair and the burgesses two-thirds. (fn. 69) However that may be, as far back as the evidence goes, the fair was held at Reach some 10 miles from Cambridge and proclaimed by the Mayor of Cambridge. The roll of the Pie Powder Court survives for 1508 (fn. 70) and shows that there were dealings there in corn, in cloth, in shoes, and in horses, but the profits in 1511 were only 6s. 2d. (fn. 71) Newton gives a brief account of the visit of the Mayor and aldermen to Reach in 1669; (fn. 72) but the proclamation in state had become a heavy cost to the Corporation by the 18th century. Its limits were defined in 1850 as extending to half a mile from the site of the ancient chapel. (fn. 73) It is still opened annually by the Mayor on Rogation Monday with due formalities, though it is now merely an amusement fair with a small sale of horses and ponies. (fn. 74)
By Newton's day, Midsummer Fair was also town property. It had been granted to the Canons of Barnwell by John in 1211, and by Henry's Charter of 1229 it was to last from the vigil of St. Etheldreda to the third day following—22–25 June. (fn. 75) By 1279 St. Awdry had yielded to St. John (fn. 76) and Midsummer Fair became its name, though Greencroft did not become Midsummer Green until 1501. (fn. 77) The burgesses who had made good their claim to quittance from fair dues as early as 1232 and had adjusted other disputes in 1294, (fn. 78) took a yearly lease of the fair in 1496 and acquired full right over it, in a general settlement of outstanding differences with the priory, in 1506. (fn. 79) Newton describes the formal opening in 1669: the Mayor attended by the aldermen in their scarlet and the Four and Twenty in their gowns proclaimed the fair 'once against the Cock, and the other in the water fayre beyond the soap barrells neere the Iron and next the River banke'; the serjeant cryer proclaimed the court at the door of the booth; and the corporation dinner followed. (fn. 80) There seems to be no account of the commodities sold, though in 1290 we hear of a merchant selling knives, gloves, and girdles, (fn. 81) but by the later 18th century the traffic in earthenware had become so important as to give it the name of Pot Fair. (fn. 82) It had come to last for a fortnight, and to be a fashionable event, falling as it did at the time of Commencement. Gunning describes it 'in all its glory' in 1785, attended by gentry from the town and neighbourhood and the adjoining counties, with fellows of colleges, and masters of arts, four or five arm in arm making the most splendid assemblage, and raffles for pictures, china, and millinery taking place every evening at the booths. (fn. 83) Twenty years later it was still held for a fortnight, (fn. 84) and in 1833 it brought in a larger profit than Sturbridge Fair, (fn. 85) but by 1840 it had declined, (fn. 86) and by the Cambridge Corporation Act of 1850 it was limited to its original four days. Though it has no economic significance today it is annually proclaimed by the Mayor on 22 June.
Garlick Fair, granted to St. Radegund's by Stephen, (fn. 87) was held on their own land at the junction of Jesus Lane and Park Street, formerly called Garlic Lane, from 14 to 16 August. (fn. 88) It was never large. It went to Jesus College with the other endowments of St. Radegund and was still in existence in 1808, though 'nearly abolished'.
Sturbridge Fair, (fn. 89) called in 1589 'by far the largest and most famous fair in all England', (fn. 90) had very modest beginnings. Its phenomenal growth is the outstanding evidence of the geographical advantages of Cambridge as a centre for commerce. It was granted, again by John, to the Leper Hospital of St. Mary Magdalene, (fn. 91) whose chapel still stands on the old fair ground, near where the Newmarket Road crosses a small tributary of the Granta by the bridge once called the Steers' bridge. (fn. 92) By 1279 the hospital had ceased to have any patients, (fn. 93) but the burgesses claimed to appoint its warden, and by 1376 had established their right to the profits of the fair. (fn. 94) This right was attacked by Henry VIII in 1539 and the burgesses, faced by an information of quo warranto, offered 1,000 marks for a regrant of their 'usurped liberties', (fn. 95) and apparently continued to exercise them. The charter of 1589, procured by the good offices of Lord North, declared the fair theirs from time immemorial (fn. 96) though the University as clerk of the market could still oust the Mayor's judicial rights in the fair. (fn. 97) More profitable than jurisdiction, probably, was the letting of booths and places in the fair ground. After 1403 every burgess was entitled to one booth free, but the treasurer's accounts for 1561–2 show £33 1s. 9d. received from rents of booths. (fn. 98)
In 1279 the fair was held on 13 and 14 September. By 1516 it was lasting from 24 August to 29 September; (fn. 99) the intervening stages are only hinted at. About 1349 the accounts of St. Mary des Prés show heavy expenditure at Sturbridge Fair on fish, horseshoes, mats, baskets, and cloth. (fn. 100) Two years later the king's deputy alnager seized 38 cloths at the fair for infringement of the assize of cloth. (fn. 101) In 1376 ordinances concerning booths at the fair began to appear in the Cross Book, while the date of the dedication feast of Holy Trinity Church was shifted to 9 October to avoid the multifold business of the parishioners about the fair. (fn. 102) In 1419 the University and the Mayor of London laid claim to the custody of the assize of bread, wine, and ale at the fair. (fn. 103) An ordinance of 1427, not cited by Cooper, shows that the traditional layout of the fair was already producing street names; the booths in the street called 'Chepe' raised every year in the 'Overfeyre' were not to be permanent structures. (fn. 104) About this time silken and goldembroidered goods, iron, and imported timber were sold at the fair. (fn. 105) The sale of local fish was still very important, (fn. 106) but the fair was beginning to be the mart for all manner of products brought from London and more distant workshops. In 1450–1 the nuns of St. Radegund's bought there, besides fish and timber, pepper, soap, and a churn. (fn. 107) The proclamation of the fair in 1549 mentioned various ales and wines, bread, fish salt and fresh of all sorts, flax, yarn, woollen and linen cloth, silk, pitch, tar, coal, charcoal, faggots, salt, hay, and grain. (fn. 108) By 1561 the layout of the fair included the Duddery, Birchin Lane, Chepesyde, Hadley Rowe and the Back Booths and Bury Booths, (fn. 109) and in 1586 the temporarily erected tolbooth, counsel house and court house on the fair ground are mentioned. (fn. 110) In 1583 there were booksellers at the fair, (fn. 111) and in 1606 'a pair of claricalls' (a clavichord) was bought there. (fn. 112) The printing of '400 passes against Sturbridge Fayre' in the treasurer's accounts for 1616 (fn. 113) indicates that the fair was becoming as densely thronged as when Bunyan described it in the Pilgrim's Progress. Though prohibited on account of the plague in 1625, 1630, 1636, and 1637, (fn. 114) the fair was held all through the Civil War, and it was at this time that it was described as 'the most plentiful of wares in all England, most fairs in other parts being but markets in comparison, being an Ambion, as well going on ground as swimming by water by the benefit of a navigable river'. (fn. 115) An antidote to its sideshows, such as stage plays and dancing horses, was provided by the appointment of a 'preaching minister'. (fn. 116)
An account of A trip to Stirbitch Fair in 1700 speaks of vast quantities of hops from the adjacent counties; of Garlick Row, where milliners, toymen, cabinet-makers, and perfumers are found; of Cork Row, where book auctions are held; of Cheapside, where wholesale linen drapers, silk men, ironmongers, leather-sellers, and tobacconists do business; of the Duddery, where Norwich stuffs and Yorkshire cloths are sold and packets of wool weighing at least a ton. (fn. 117) It is this wholesale trade which figures most impressively in Defoe's famous account of the year 1723. (fn. 118) He calls the fair the greatest in the world, surpassing those at Leipzig, Frankfort, and Nuremburg. The wholesaler's pocket-book transactions, especially in heavy goods like iron, salt, groceries, wine, and wool exceeded those in goods actually there; he speaks of £10,000 deals. The two articles which he calls 'peculiars of the fair' are wool and hops—'there is scarce any price fix'd for Hops in England till they know how they sell at Sturbridge Fair'. The hops of Kent and Surrey, he explains, were shipped by water to the fair field and there purchased by brewers not only from the midland and eastern counties but also from the northern counties and Scotland. The wool came principally from Lincolnshire, where the longest staple is found; some £60,000 worth had been sold at one fair.
The manufactured cloths, woollens, and cottons from Yorkshire and Lancashire, the serges, druggets, shalloons, Cantaloons, Kersies, and DuRoys from Somerset and Devon, and the sackings, blankets, rugs, and other upholsterers' goods from Kidderminster filled up the booths of the Duddery, where as much as £109,000 worth of goods had been sold in one week. Hardware from Birmingham, knives from Sheffield, glassware and stockings from Nottingham and Leicester helped to draw the confluence of people from all parts of England.
Yet for Cambridge itself Sturbridge Fair was more of a social than an economic event. The fair was proclaimed in state by Mayor and Corporation, riding out in a procession whose Tudor pomp was kept up until 1790. (fn. 119) The Vice-Chancellor and University officers celebrated its opening with a dinner at the Oyster House which still stands in Garlic Row. The town inns and hackney drivers and boatmen made their profit, but could not handle the crowds without extraneous help. Town and gown alike profited by the one chance in the year to see a stage play. The husbandmen who had stripped the cornfields by 24 August found them well manured with fair refuse when the booths were cleared away by 29 September. With the possible exception of the Horse-Fair, Cambridge had little more than a site to contribute to the greatest fair in Christendom.
The pocket-book transactions of the wholesale men noted by Defoe presaged the decline of the fair, the stages of which can be measured at intervals. In 1749 Carter describes it as lasting only from 7 to 28 September, 'though the greatest part is over in a fortnight'. (fn. 120) In 1762 the coal, pottery, cheese, wool, and hop fairs were still thronged, and ironmongers, silversmiths, hatters, silk-mercers, toymen, shoemakers, oilmen, and others were said to do good business, whilst the horse fair on 25 September drew crowds of gentry and farmers. Sixteen London tradesmen were listed as attending the fair, and the Mayor still held the pie powder court, but it now began on 18 September and lasted only a fortnight, and the numbers had fallen greatly. (fn. 121) Gunning speaks of it reminiscently as 'in all its glory' in 1789, but mainly in its festive aspect. (fn. 122) The state procession was abolished in 1790. (fn. 123) In 1804, though considerable business in wool, hops, leather, cheese, and iron was still done, there were only 8 or 10 London coaches where once there had been 60 or more. (fn. 124) The fair still lasted for a fortnight in 1830. (fn. 125) By 1840, in place of the many streets of old, there was only one range of booths. (fn. 126) In 1897 the fair lasted for three days only, and apart from 'Ossferdye' dealt with nothing but toys, confectionery, and amusements. (fn. 127) Twenty years later only the horse fair survived. The fair was proclaimed for the last time in September 1933 to an audience of three. (fn. 128) By Home Office order, confirming a resolution of the Town Council, it was abolished 5 July 1934. (fn. 129)
In the 13th century the quarter called the Jewry was that between All Saints by the Hospital and the Round Church. The lane now known as All Saints' Passage is called the Jews' Street (vicus Judeorum) about 1219; (fn. 130) a number of grants of that period to St. Radegund's are of land in All Saints parish, 'in' or 'next to the Jewry', (fn. 131) and both St. Sepulchre and All Saints are described in 1279 as being in the Jewry (in Judaismo). (fn. 132) There is clear evidence also that Jews lived in the parishes both of St. Clement and of the Holy Sepulchre, (fn. 133) and the Jew Bonenfaunt, hanged about 1275 for clipping coin, owned a void place in which King's Hall was later interested. (fn. 134) Cole believed, on the other hand, that the Jews congregated chiefly in the area between Butcher Row (now Guildhall Street) and the old Guildhall. (fn. 135) It is certain that they had a synagogue on the site of the Guildhall, by the house of Benjamin the Jew. (fn. 136) Stokes, the leading authority on the subject, believes that the Jews moved from the neighbourhood of the Guildhall to that of All Saints: (fn. 137) in any case, there is no reason to think that they were ever officially segregated; they lived side by side with Christians. (fn. 138)
There were Jews in Cambridge by the time of Niel, Bishop of Ely, who pawned a silver cross to the Cambridge Jews presumably about 1140. (fn. 139) From their contribution to the tax levied on all the Jews of England in 1159, it seems that the Cambridge Jewry ranked fifth amongst those of England, (fn. 140) after London, Norwich, Lincoln, and Southampton. It was to two Cambridge financiers that Richard of Anesty applied for loans in the same year; one of them, Comitissa, had many such transactions, and her son continued in the business. (fn. 141) In the mid-13th century the Jews were making an important contribution to estate development by advancing ready money to country gentlemen. (fn. 142) The list of bonds in the Cambridge Archa for the years 1224–40 gives a very good notion of the extent to which burgesses and country gentry were drawing on Jewish capital; Harvey fitz Eustace is among the debtors. (fn. 143) This led to some resentment on the part of the lesser nobility and may account for the brutality with which the 'disinherited' barons from the Isle of Ely raided the Jewry of Cambridge, slew many of its inhabitants and carried off their valuables on 12 August 1266; ignoring the special command of Henry III in the previous April that none should molest the Jews and their property. (fn. 144)
The Jews of Cambridge, like those of many other towns, sent representatives to an assembly in 1241 which agreed to pay the king 20,000 marks, but three years later another tax of 60,000 was imposed before the first one was paid off. The contribution of Cambridge was over £110. (fn. 145) The records of the Exchequer of Jews show that over 60 Cambridge Jews were lending money to Christians in the period 1234 to 1270, and Jews from Cambridge are found taking part in financial transactions in at least five other towns. (fn. 146) They constituted undoubtedly a very important element in the economic life of the Borough. But their business activities were cut short abruptly by the grant to Eleanor, the Queen Mother, in January 1275, that no Jew should dwell in a town which she held in dower. (fn. 147) As a result Jews were expelled from Cambridge, as from Gloucester, Marlborough (Wilts.), and Worcester, fifteen years before their general exodus in 1290. The chest of debts was transferred to Huntingdon and, when the inquisitors visited Cambridge in 1279, their houses had apparently escheated to the queen (fn. 148) and had in many instances been purchased by burgesses. Only some twenty houses are enumerated as having belonged to Jews. (fn. 149)
As moneylenders the Jews were replaced by the goldsmiths, such as William Barbour, wealthiest of the Cambridge residents rated for the subsidy in 1512, or Nicholas Symond, one of the alien immigrants, who became a freeman of Cambridge in 1521 and town treasurer in 1531. (fn. 150)
The first bank in Cambridge was that opened in 1780 (fn. 151) by John Mortlock. Its beginnings are thus described by Gunning.
At the death of his father, Mr. Mortlock came into possession of a profitable business, a large sum in ready money, and considerable landed property. . . . To the business left him by his father he added that of a banker, which engaged him in a variety of transactions for which at that time it was difficult to find an agent. He received dividends, purchased stock, and furnished letters of credit to such members of the county, town and university who were desirous of not running the risk of losing their guineas on their way to London by an encounter with highwaymen and pickpockets. These accommodations, liberally and cheerfully granted to all applicants without distinction of party, made him very popular. The circulation of his notes was for some time very confined, for even notes of the Bank of England were at that period received with distrust by the gentry of the county and positively refused by farmers. (fn. 152)
Not only in 1833 but from the first the importance of the bank as the basis of Mortlock's political influence was recognized, and the run upon it by University and county clients in May 1784 was a deliberate reply to Mortlock's success in securing the receivership of the county for his banking partner, Francis. (fn. 153) But Mortlock's credit stood, and in February 1785 he was able to tell the Duke of Rutland that he had discharged every engagement of his banking house and had real property clear to the amount of £33,000. (fn. 154) The bank was at first housed in the premises of the draper's shop he had inherited from his father, at the corner of Rose Crescent. The drawers in which the cloth had been stored were used until the bank was transferred, probably about 1786, (fn. 155) to the new bank house on the site of the old gateway of the Austin Friars in Bene't Street, purchased by Mortlock in 1783. (fn. 156) Here the business was carried on by Mortlock, in due course banker to both University and Borough, and after his death by his third son Thomas, who was assisted by his nephews, Charles and Edmund. On Thomas's death the bank passed to Edmund, who ran it in partnership with Gilbert Ainsty from 1866 to 1888. (fn. 157) In 1889 it was registered as a limited company and in 1896 was amalgamated with Barclay & Co. In 1955 its business was still conducted in the premises built by Mortlock. (fn. 158)
Mortlock's eldest son, John, had been his assistant but quarrelled with him, and left to join forces, from 1817 to 1819, with Skrine and Barker's in Trinity Street. (fn. 159) From the resolution of a public meeting in 1797 to accept the notes of Cambridge banks in all payments, it would appear that Mortlock had rivals before the end of the century, though according to Gunning he took the compliments to himself. (fn. 160) But the second bank on record is Foster's, opened 11 November 1813, at 55 Bridge Street, opposite Jordan's Yard. (fn. 161) In 1820 besides Foster's and Mortlock's in Sidney Street, there were Skrine and Barker's, later Barker's, in Trinity Street, and Hollick & Co. on Market Hill. Humphrey's Bank in Trumpington Street appeared in 1825, and Hollick's closed soon after. (fn. 162) Fisher's Bank in Petty Cury is mentioned in 1837. (fn. 163) Barker's Bank failed in 1841. (fn. 164) About 1846 Humphrey's merged in the London and County Bank which in 1911 was in turn absorbed by the Westminster Bank. Foster's Bank, originally associated with Mortlock's, moved in 1836 to 14 Trinity Street, once the property of Mortlock's protégé, Forlow, and occupied in 1955 by Matthew's Café. (fn. 165) In 1898 it moved to 3 Sidney Street, where in 1905 it was amalgamated with the Capital and Counties Bank, to be absorbed in 1919 into Lloyds Bank. The old name, Foster's Bank, is still cut on the stonework, as Mortlock's name appears on Barclay's cheques. Of the other members of the Big Five, the National Provincial established a branch at 6 King's Parade in 1909, and the Midland at 18 Petty Cury in 1914. Martin's Bank appeared at 30 Market Hill in 1939. The District Bank has recently opened a branch at 9 Trinity Street. (fn. 166)
Modern Economic Development
To judge from the estimates of 6,490 in 1587 (which includes 1,500 members of the University) and 7,778 for 1728 (including 100 college servants and 1,499 members of the University) (fn. 167) the population of Cambridge had increased but slowly before the 19th century. From 1801 exact figures are available. Between that year and 1951 the population of the Borough increased from 10,087 to an estimated 91,170, (fn. 168) and its area from 3,233 to 10,061 acres, 2,224 having been added in 1912 and 4,603 in 1935. (fn. 169) The spectacular increase in the parish of St. Andrew the Less from 252 in 1801 to 11,776 in 1851 can be paralleled by the all-over increase of 20,000 between 1931 and 1951. Of these only 3,380 persons were added by the territorial extension of 1935. (fn. 170) These figures represent an economic transformation.
The causes contributing to the accelerated expansion of the early 19th century were, in part, common to all England—the increased expectation of life resulting from advances in hygiene and the stimulus to agriculture caused by the French Wars, which particularly affected an important market-town. (fn. 171) The Inclosure Acts of 1801 and 1807 relieved the congestion in the centre of the town and rendered possible the rapid extension of the builtup area over the old open fields. (fn. 172) The great increase in the number of undergraduates between 1810 and 1820 must have also led to increased trade and employment.
The opening of the railway in 1845, though it ultimately killed the river trade, added a new occupation and, it might be said, a new quarter to Cambridge in Romsey Town. By bringing Cambridge into closer touch with the London market it stimulated the development of industries. Brick and tile works at Cherry Hinton and Coldham's Lane, cement works at Romsey Town, flour-milling, sausage-making, brewing, and malting, occupied increasing numbers, as did building and construction work and the old-established industry of printing, which in 1901 occupied 286 men in the town. (fn. 173)
Up to the outbreak of the First World War it would be true to say that the main cause of this industrial expansion was the development of the University, whose numbers increased threefold between 1861 and 1921 with the resulting stimulus to all the occupations concerned with supplying its needs, not only building and printing, but retail and victualling trades and personal service. Even in 1898 it was not true to say 'if the University did not exist there would be but little reason for the existence of the Town'. (fn. 174) By 1950 only about 6 per cent. of the working population of the Cambridge district were employed by the University and colleges. (fn. 175)
To this change several causes have contributed; the continued growth in importance of the town as a market and shopping centre, which has been helped by the development of motor transport; the establishing of Cambridge as the headquarters of East Anglian regional administration, and the development of the industries connected with applied sciences, mostly originated for and by University agencies, but now of national importance. The early history of the Cambridge Instrument Company, which had its beginnings in 1881 and was first formally registered in 1895, has already been told. (fn. 176) Its principal products in 1950 can be classified as temperature-measuring instruments, engineering instruments, electrical instruments, chemical engineering instruments, physical instruments, such as seismographs, and physiological and medical instruments, such as the electro-cardiograph. Its development of the required apparatus forwarded the rapid expansion of the study of atomic physics. (fn. 177)
An undertaking on an even larger scale also began by supplying the needs of the University. W. G. Pye had worked in the Cavendish Laboratory before he started his own business in Cambridge in 1896; it was after 1918 that his firm began to specialize in wireless. The Pye Radio Company, Ltd. was formed in 1929, and since then expansion has been rapid. During the Second World War work was concentrated on radar and radio-telegraphy for the services, and gun-sights, radio-activated fuses, and airnavigation equipment were also manufactured. Since 1945 television has taken the first place. Pye Radio has devised apparatus for the B.B.C. and was in 1952 the largest manufacturer of television sets in Great Britain. Pye Telecommunications supplies short-wave sets for the use of the military and the police, as well as for ambulances and taxis. Pye Radio was the pioneer in Europe of colour television, and its equipment is used for televising operations in London medical schools and for deep-sea underwater work. It has branch firms in Eire, Northern Ireland, Canada, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand, and its installations are used in the U.S.A. In 1950 the Pye group of companies operating in Cambridge included, besides Pye Radio, Unicam Industries, Ltd., Labgear, Ltd., Cathodeon, Ltd., Pye Telecommunications, and Pye Industrial Electronics. (fn. 178)
Besides other branches of electrical engineering, Cambridge industries in 1950 included the manufacture of agricultural implements, rope-making, brush-making, gun-making, boat-building, motor-body building, cement manufacture, and the manufacture both of hard asphalte and of bituminous mastic asphalte for covering roofs and lining buildings below ground level. (fn. 179)
The early history of the printing trade in Cambridge has been told elsewhere. (fn. 180) Apart from the University Press, which employs some 300 men, printing has in Cambridge been associated with the local newspaper offices. The first Cambridge newspaper, the Cambridge Journal and the Weekly Flying Post, appeared on 22 September 1744. It was started by Robert Walker and Thomas James and printed 'next the Theatre Coffee House'. By 1764 the Cambridge Journal was selling in London, Stamford, Ely, St. Ives, Huntingdon, Boston, and Spalding, and drawing advertisements from Northampton, Lincoln, and Lynn. Its sympathies were Tory, but its account of elections, even that of 1754, were impartial. (fn. 181) It ran a serial novel in 1749. It was, however, losing ground well before the appearance of its rival, the Cambridge Chronicle, on 30 October 1762, published at the same price of 2½d. weekly, and definitely aimed at a University public. (fn. 182) In September 1766 the Journal was absorbed by the Chronicle which, though it devoted little space as a rule to Cambridge news, is a valuable source for municipal politics and contains advertisements of corporation posts. (fn. 183) Its advancing Toryism, however, left scope for a more liberal paper and on 20 July 1793 the Cambridge Intelligencer was launched by Benjamin Flower. It was almost the only provincial newspaper in the kingdom to denounce the French War as 'absurd and wicked' and in 1799 its editor was found guilty of breach of privilege of the House of Lords for an attack upon the Bishop of Llandaff and punished by six months' imprisonment and a fine of £100. He left Cambridge some five years later and his paper came to an end in June 1803. (fn. 184) The flag of opposition was raised again when Weston Hatfield issued the first number of the Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press on 31 December 1818, which was amalgamated with the Huntingdon, Bedford and Peterborough Gazette in the following April, (fn. 185) but was known as the Cambridge Independent Press from May 1839. (fn. 186) Hatfield, like Flower, suffered for his liberal views. (fn. 187) The tone of the paper is well exemplified in its report of the municipal inquiry of 1833, as contrasted with that of the Chronicle. In January 1839 a third paper, the Cambridge Advertiser, appeared, which maintained an independent existence for over 25 years. (fn. 188) The first daily, the Cambridge Daily News, issued from the offices of the Cambridge Independent Press in 1888, and in 1934 the Independent took over the Chronicle and became the sole Cambridge weekly. (fn. 189) The printing department of the Chronicle survived as the St. Tibbs Press whilst the jobbing department of the Independent Press was taken over by Messrs. Heffers, who have a printing and publishing, in addition to their bookselling, establishment. (fn. 190)
The book trade has flourished in Cambridge ever since John Siberch printed and sold the works of Erasmus. (fn. 191) The market bookstalls of today, of which David's is the most famous, go back to the 16th century. (fn. 192) The bookshops were mostly in the vicinity of Great St. Mary's, and in the 17th and 18th centuries were most numerous in the Regent Walk on the site of the present Senate House. (fn. 193) The outstanding instance of continuity is No. 1 Trinity Street, which claims to be the oldest bookshop in England. The present building was erected about 1807, but the premises have been continuously occupied by booksellers since William Scarlett who was in business there at latest by 1594. John Nicholson (II), known like his father by the name of 'Maps', and A. D. Macmillan were 19th-century predecessors of Messrs. Bowes and Bowes who now occupy the site. (fn. 194)
An analysis of employment in and around Cambridge in 1948 as compared with the same area in 1931 shows that the chief growth has been in government employment and in the manufacturing industries. Central government employment has risen by 350 per cent., and central and local government together now employ as many as do the University and the colleges. All manufacturing industries taken together have risen by 40 per cent. and the five manufacturing industry groups that have gained most (the manufacture of chemicals and paints, the construction and repair of vehicles, the manufacture of scientific instruments, electrical instruments and radio, and engineering) have increased their employment by 180 per cent. Personal employment had fallen by 3,000, and the only other significant decline is that in the manufacture of clothing, which employed 521 as against 1,245. Apart from manufacture, the most notable advance was that of the building and decorating trades, where employment had risen from 3,099 to 4,483. (fn. 195)
The causes for these striking 20th-century developments can be readily summarized. The introduction of motor bus services after 1918 has greatly enhanced the use of Cambridge as a county shopping centre. More than ever, it has become the focus of all kinds of county and regional activities. It has been the meeting-place of the Arts Council, the East Anglian Regional Hospital Board, the Traffic Commissioners for the Eastern Area, the Great Ouse Catchment Board, the National Farmers' Union, and the county political organizations. There is a large and growing airport on its outskirts. The temporary immigration resulting from the Second World War, the establishment of Cambridge as a regional governmental centre, with a large resident civil service, together with the restrictions imposed by law on the setting up of new industries in the London area have all contributed to the steep rise in the population curve. To the native amenities of a town with an exceptional combination of large open spaces, architectural and historical attractions and cultural opportunities Cambridge adds the advantage of being near enough to London to serve to some extent as a dormitory town. (fn. 196)
Concern for the possible results of unregulated development led to the foundation in 1928 of the Cambridge Preservation Society which, in the best Cambridge tradition, embodied the joint concern of town, county, and University, the Mayor, the Lord Lieutenant, and the Vice-Chancellor being among its council members. Whilst failing to preserve the King's mill from destruction in 1928, the society has by purchase preserved other old buildings in the town and has averted disfiguring developments to the west and south of Cambridge, attracting, in addition to the donations and subscriptions of its own members, grants from the Pilgrim Trust. (fn. 197)