Gloucester, 1660-1720: Population and economic development

Pages 101-112

A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 4, the City of Gloucester. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1988.

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GLOUCESTER 1660–1720

The restoration of Charles II in May 1660 was celebrated at Gloucester with a display of official rejoicing. Wine ran out of the conduits and there were fireworks at night, (fn. 1) but the city had much to fear from the collapse of the parliamentary cause and the first years of the new reign were certainly inauspicious. Royalist retribution brought about the demolition of the town walls, the return of the inshire to the county, and the systematic purge of the corporation. Paradoxically, however, in the long run the later Stuart period saw Gloucester make a slow but steady recovery from the economic and social difficulties of the late 16th century and the early 17th. During Queen Anne's reign Sir Robert Atkyns, a county magnate, praised it as 'a handsome neat city' with 'a pleasant prospect … It is adorned with many beautiful towers and spires'. (fn. 2) Though other visitors like Celia Fiennes, (fn. 3) John Mackay, (fn. 4) and Daniel Defoe (fn. 5) were less fulsome, most commented favourably on the clean streets and fair public buildings, aspects of special interest to the gentry. For like other county towns in the period Gloucester benefited from its enhanced importance as a social centre for the landed classes who came in mounting numbers to shop and enjoy themselves. At the same time, the urban economy also prospered from the expansion of marketing activity and from the growth of specialist craft industries. The economic revival inevitably had important repercussions for the social, political, and cultural life of the community.


The various population estimates for the period indicate that the city's demographic performance was generally sluggish with virtually no growth and possibly even a slight loss of inhabitants in the late 17th century. The hearth-tax assessment for 1672 listed about 1,100 houses, suggesting a population of just over 5,000. (fn. 6) According to Gregory King, the total was 4,756 in 1696, (fn. 7) while Atkyns c. 1710 counted 1,003 houses with c. 4,990 inhabitants. (fn. 8) By George II's reign the population was rising again, with 1,284 houses enumerated in 1743 and a population of c. 5,585. (fn. 9) The general picture, though tentative, is broadly in accord with what has been found for a number of middle-rank towns in the post-Restoration era. (fn. 10)

The parish register evidence is difficult to analyse but it sheds some light on the demographic stagnation. One problem is that after the Restoration an attempt was made to reverse the parochial reforms of the preceding regime and new parish arrangements were only completed c. 1676. (fn. 11) Even after that date double registration of baptisms and burials was not uncommon. Other complications arise from the inclusion in the registers of inhabitants of hamlets outside the city, and the omission of data for dissenters, a substantial group in post-Restoration Gloucester. Nevertheless evidence for the parishes of St. John, St. Nicholas, St. Mary de Lode, St. Michael, St. Mary de Crypt, and the cathedral provides a reasonable insight into the demographic trends. (fn. 12) In the first place, a steady increase in baptisms can be seen, particularly after the turn of the century. Second, burial rates were very high and in most decades exceeded baptisms. Though plague was absent after 1666, smallpox was a major killer. In 1687 it was said 'smallpox is very rife in this city', and there was another epidemic in the years 1712–13. (fn. 13)

With a running deficit of births against deaths, immigration remained a crucial element in the city's demographic matrix. Biographical information provided by Gloucester witnesses appearing in the church courts in the years 1660–85 indicates that c. 53 per cent of the male inhabitants and 60 per cent of the women had migrated there. Those were somewhat lower proportions than before the Civil War. Again, fewer than in the past had come long distances: only c. 13 per cent of the men had travelled from outside the county. Localized migration was particularly strong among women, where fewer than one in ten had travelled from outside the shire. (fn. 14) Many of them may have come to work in Gloucester as domestic servants or in the shops and victualling houses which were proliferating by 1700. In contrast to the century before the Civil War, there is declining evidence of vagrants and other poor migrants coming to Gloucester. (fn. 15)

Together with high mortality, the reduced level of migration almost certainly contributed to the static demographic position in post-Restoration Gloucester. At the same time, the higher incidence of female movement may have been an important factor in the unbalanced sex ratio in the city, with a surplus of women in all the parishes. The excess was particularly great in the wealthier areas like the cathedral close, St. Mary de Grace, and St. Nicholas, where there were substantial numbers of domestic servants working in the houses of the gentry and other well-to-do citizens. (fn. 16)

Economic Development

After the Restoration Gloucester consolidated and enlarged its traditional role as a market town and river port, a role which had been adversely affected by the Civil War. Even more important, it began to prosper as a social and service centre, winning a growing following among the county gentry, now reconciled to the city by their victory in the matter of the inshire. Finally, there was the steady growth of industries like pinmaking, glassmaking, and possibly hosiery. All the signs are that by the early 18th century Gloucester was increasing its lead over the other market towns in the county, although, as ever, it was overshadowed by Bristol, which was rapidly advancing as a regional capital and Atlantic port. (fn. 17)

Visiting the city in the early 1720s, John Mackay noted that Gloucester had 'two markets a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays, well supplied both with flesh and fish; and four fairs yearly, viz Lady day, Midsummer day, the 17th of September, and the 17th of November'. (fn. 18) Corn remained one of the principal commodities traded at Gloucester. Grain was brought in from the Severn Vale and from Herefordshire and then shipped down river, principally to supply the growing demand of Bristol, whose population more than doubled between the 1670s and 1730s. (fn. 19) As before the Civil War, there was a lively trade in malt. A maltsters' company was set up in 1717 (fn. 20) and probate inventories survive for a number of wealthy maltmen, such as Robert Elmes who died in 1681 with personal property and assets worth c. £811. (fn. 21) Some of the malt may have been used by local brewers and innkeepers, but most probably went to Bristol. (fn. 22) Other specialist agricultural trades were also growing. By the early 18th century Gloucester was a major market for the cheese which was increasingly produced in the Severn Vale: the September fair, Barton Fair, became famous as a cheese fair. (fn. 23) Part of the cheese was carted overland to Lechlade and Cricklade (Wilts.) and so down the Thames to the capital; more probably was shipped down river to Bristol and also to London. (fn. 24) Market gardening developed in Barton Street and Kingsholm. William Bennett, for instance, was growing beans, carrots, and onions in Barton Street during the 1670s, possibly manuring his ground with night soil from the city; the produce was sold locally and probably also sent down river. (fn. 25)

As in the past, the authorities tried to restrict trading to the traditional markets and fairs. A new wheat market house was erected; (fn. 26) certain market days were announced in the Gloucester newspapers as specializing in particular commodities; (fn. 27) and orders were renewed against the sale of goods outside the market. (fn. 28) By 1700, however, a considerable amount of business had departed the open markets and fairs for good. Inns and the larger alehouses clearly profited, expanding as important centres of private trading. (fn. 29) Country people brought goods to the victualling house to sell and itinerant traders found customers in its drinking rooms. In addition, by the early 18th century the city had a good selection of specialist retail shops on the London model, the most fashionable in Westgate and upper Northgate Streets. They catered for the gentry and other well-to-do folk who came to the city. By the 1720s shopkeepers were advertising their wares in the Gloucester Journal. (fn. 30) The grocer Peter Haynes (d. 1696) carried an enormous stock of goods from rice to currants, spirits to best London tobacco, and Holland tapes to Manchester cottons, which he stored in three warehouses and a cellar; his total personal wealth was appraised at £1,884. (fn. 31) John Rodway, a mercer who died a few years before, had an almost equally valuable array of fine cloths including silks, cambrics, Hollands, silver lace, and numerous types of 'new drapery'. (fn. 32) Probate inventories suggest that the distributive traders were the wealthiest occupational group in Gloucester. Not that all the inhabitants were easily impressed. In 1697 Giles Blethin declared that 'he did know Scotchmen that carried better packs at their backs than Mr. Alderman Rodway's shop of goods was worth' (the alderman was Giles, younger brother of John Rodway). (fn. 33) But it is clear that by 1700 Gloucester's shopkeepers were doing a good business, not only selling by retail but also enjoying a busy wholesale trade with the smaller towns of the region. Thus Gideon Palmer of Pershore (Worcs.), mercer, was a regular customer of the Gloucester draper Daniel Lysons during Charles II's reign, buying from him 'sundry cloths, goods, wares, and merchandises'. (fn. 34) Some Gloucester tradesmen had branch shops in the market towns. (fn. 35)

Gloucester's shopkeepers bought large quantities of wares from London wholesalers. In the 1670s Edward Lewis, a London ironmonger, had 'great dealings' with Francis Singleton, a Gloucester ironmonger, and sent him 'divers parcels and faggots of steel and other things usually sold by country ironmongers'. (fn. 36) Quite often the goods, particularly if they were valuable, were transported by carrier overland. By the early 1720s there was a twice weekly coach service to the capital. (fn. 37) Though road conditions may have been improving generally in the late 17th century, communications undoubtedly received some encouragement from the spread of turnpikes at the turn of the century: the Gloucester to Birdlip part of the London road was first turnpiked in 1698 and became a very busy route. (fn. 38) However, overland carriage was expensive. Edward Lewis sent some items by carrier to Gloucester but preferred to transport others by ship from London to Bristol and so up river, 'carriage that way being much cheaper than by land'. (fn. 39)

Gloucester's port continued to be a mainstay of the city's marketing role in the post-Restoration era. By then the city had lost virtually all of its overseas commerce to Bristol, (fn. 40) but it was much involved in the Severn trade. The quay was substantially improved in the early years of the 18th century. (fn. 41) As well as carrying Gloucester's agricultural and industrial exports down river, mainly to Bristol, and importing in exchange a great variety of consumer and other wares for sale in the city's markets and shops, trows and barges provided links with the expanding economy of the West Midlands. There was a flourishing trade with Bewdley (Worcs.), Worcester, and later Coalbrookdale (Salop.), aided by improvements to navigation on the upper reaches of the river. Iron and coal were brought down for use in the city's metal and glassmaking industries. (fn. 42) Attempts by the city authorities to levy tolls on the trowmen passing by or landing at Gloucester were contested and had partly lapsed by 1700. (fn. 43)

Gloucester's resurgent prosperity as a marketing and commercial centre after the setbacks of the Interregnum was undoubtedly related to the rising living standards of many urban and rural inhabitants, as a consequence of falling food prices and rising real wages. It was also encouraged by the city's closer ties with the landed gentry, some of whom joined the corporation, (fn. 44) and by transport improvements. Similar factors contributed to the major expansion of the service sector in the post-Restoration city. The professions did especially well. Already fairly numerous before the Civil War, lawyers became prominent city figures after the Restoration. With the decay of the church courts, ecclesiastical lawyers diminished in importance, but there was a large cluster of powerful attorneys in their place. As well as being involved in local and London litigation and probate work, they acted as rent collectors, estate agents, manorial stewards, and money lenders. (fn. 45) Benjamin Hyett (d. 1712) loaned up to £6,000, mainly to country people, on mortgages in the later Stuart period; (fn. 46) some of the money had probably been put on deposit with him by widows and others with surplus funds. Thomas Pearce, another Gloucester lawyer, was said in 1693 to have been 'very much employed … in placing forth of … moneys … by many other persons … as well great as small'. (fn. 47) The statute merchant records for the later Stuart period confirm that Gloucester was quite an important centre for money lending in south-west England, though only a small proportion of the borrowers and creditors were Gloucester men. (fn. 48) That financial importance may help in part to explain the early establishment of a bank of Gloucester c. 1716 by James Wood, a city mercer. (fn. 49)

Compared with the period before 1640, a greater number of the Gloucester attorneys had official links with the Westminster courts: Thomas Pearce, for instance, was one of the masters extraordinary of Chancery. (fn. 50) At the provincial level, city attorneys frequently had close ties with county administration, serving as undersheriffs, deputy clerks of the peace, county treasurers, and clerks of the peace. (fn. 51) In that way they brought urban and rural society closer together. Along with the score or so of attorneys in Gloucester at the close of the 17th century, there was a smaller group of barristers, including Sir John Powell, who was town clerk in the years 1674–85 and 1687–92 and a justice of Common Pleas, and his brother Thomas, who succeeded him as clerk. (fn. 52) Over all the period was one of mounting prosperity and social recognition for the city's lawyers.

Second only to the lawyers were the medical men. Gloucester at the time had a number of successful physicians, including Henry Fowler, who became mayor in 1670, 1671, and 1679. Apothecaries, who included William Jordan, mayor in 1685, (fn. 53) were also prominent. (fn. 54) As for the surgeons, most still coupled their art with barbering and were relatively unimportant, but several were starting to prosper: John Shipton who died in 1684 left personal goods worth over £350. (fn. 55) By the later part of the 17th century Gloucester also had a group of talented schoolmasters like Maurice Wheeler and Abraham Hague, together with some lesser known boarding-school teachers who attracted the children of the gentry and other prosperous folk from the region. (fn. 56)

Figure 5:

The city centre from the south, c. 1710: features shown include the north, south, and east gates, Trinity tower in Westgate Street, the high cross, the market houses in three of the main streets, and St. Kyneburgh's Hospital adjoining the south gate

Inns and other larger victualling houses did a handsome trade from the influx of the rural upper classes. In 1672 the corporation agreed to an increase in the number of inns from about 14 to 23. (fn. 57) Fourteen years later a government survey of hostelries (mostly inns) in the county established that Gloucester had beds for 484 people and stabling for 759 horses, far greater than the provision in any other town in the shire: Cirencester by comparison had 109 beds and Tewkesbury only 26. (fn. 58) Already quite large in the 16th century, a number of the inns had become extensive complexes. The Bell in Southgate Street comprised the main inn, outhouses, stables, several shops, and land and a garden worth £130 a year in rent. (fn. 59) In the 1660s the New Inn was rated at 29 hearths in the hearth tax and was probably one of the largest buildings in the city. (fn. 60) By the 1720s the Saracen's Head in Eastgate Street had stables for 60 horses. (fn. 61) As well as lodging and refreshing the well-to-do, inns were also important commercial centres and places where wagons and coaches were boarded for London and elsewhere. (fn. 62) Not least important, Gloucester inns provided a fashionable social arena where the urban and rural élites came for cockfights, concerts, and other entertainments. (fn. 63) A number of innkeepers served on the corporation in the last decades of the century, and, if the surviving probate inventories are a guide, they frequently ranked among the wealthiest inhabitants. (fn. 64)

Taverns, where the prosperous came to drink wine, spirits, and coffee, also flourished in the later Stuart city. When the Fountain in Westgate Street was converted into a tavern and coffee house c. 1672 the work cost over £200. (fn. 65) William Warwick's tavern, the Raven, was quite elaborately furnished with paintings and plate. (fn. 66) There, as at the inns, a good deal of commercial, professional, and fashionable social activity took place. (fn. 67) Licensed alehouses likewise prospered, and the total number of licensed premises in the city rose from 50 in 1674 to 89 in 1710 and to 92 in 1719. At the same time, the illicit petty tippling houses, so numerous before the Civil War, tended to fade away. (fn. 68) Alehouse premises became larger and more respectable; rooms were given over to specialist purposes like the game of shove-halfpenny. (fn. 69) Landlords tended to be modestly prosperous, though far inferior to inn and tavern keepers. The alehouses catered principally for the lower classes, then enjoying a substantial rise in real wages. Such establishments sold a growing variety of drinks (beer, ale, cider, and spirits) and also provided a wide range of economic and social services. (fn. 70)

For fashionable visitors there were other attractions. A bowling green by the castle had its coterie of devotees in the 1680s, (fn. 71) and by 1714 another green, in the grounds of Greyfriars, was in use. (fn. 72) By the early 1720s horse races were being run on Sud Meadow for large prizes. (fn. 73) With the revived interest in Gothic antiquities the cathedral became a tourist landmark. (fn. 74) Landowners began to rent or own houses in or near the precincts; the Guises, for instance, had a house in the cathedral yard. (fn. 75) The less wealthy might stay at the upper-class lodging houses which existed in the city by the 1720s. (fn. 76) From at least 1718 the music meeting (later known as the Three Choirs festival), rotating between Gloucester, Worcester, and Hereford, brought a triennial invasion of gentry, clergy, and other professional folk and well-to-do, coming to the concerts and related social events. (fn. 77) Gloucester never became a specialist gentry town, like Winchester or Shrewsbury, in the period, (fn. 78) but its growing significance as a social centre undoubtedly gave impetus to its economic revival.

As for industrial activity, the largest of the new industries was pinmaking. About 1710 it was said that the 'pinmaking trade is … very considerable in this city and returns about £80 a week'. (fn. 79) Already well established before the Restoration, pinmaking may well have benefited from the decline of Dutch competition in the late 17th century. (fn. 80) By Charles II's reign the Gloucester industry was clearly expanding, attracting investment from the service sector and other trades. John Cromwell, a carrier and innkeeper, became a leading pinmaker, raising part of the capital through the fortuitous control (and possibly misappropriation) of a trust estate. In 1675 he formed a partnership with Sampson Bacon, a lawyer, Isaac Lumbard, a jerseycomber, and William Gibbs, a Worcester chapman; Cromwell invested £1,200 in the joint stock and the others £400 each. The company traded in pins in several parts of England, Scotland, and Ireland, but was adversely affected by the failure of one of its creditors and by the subsequent death of Cromwell, which led to protracted litigation. (fn. 81) However, Cromwell's share in the company was taken over by another pinmaker and the company probably continued to operate. (fn. 82) Also active in the trade was Samuel Willetts, whose business was carried on successfully by his widow 'who greatly improved her estate thereby'. (fn. 83) Between 1660 and 1740 over 100 pinmakers worked in the city, but the great majority were small masters, employing a couple of men. In the years 1680–1700 only one pinmaker, John Cromwell, sat on the common council. (fn. 84) The manufacture involved a high division of labour with much of the work performed by women and children. The raw metal probably came from London initially, but later from the ironworks of the West Midlands. (fn. 85)

Another, older metal craft which flourished in the late 17th century was bellfounding. John Barnard was a modestly affluent bellfounder at the Restoration with property in Grace (later St. John's) Lane, Bearland, and elsewhere. (fn. 86) Abraham Rudhall's bell foundry from 1684 served both local customers and others across the country: (fn. 87) in 1705 Rudhall cast eight bells for the rebuilt St. Mary's church, Warwick. (fn. 88) Gloucester also had a number of other specialist metal workers in the post-Restoration period, including cutlers, watchmakers, and gunsmiths, often no doubt selling to wealthy customers from the countryside. (fn. 89)

Celia Fiennes in the 1690s drew attention to the new textile trades in the city: 'here they follow knitting, stockings, gloves, waistcoats and petticoats, and sleeves, all of cotton and others spin the cottons'. (fn. 90) There seems to have been some involvement in silkweaving and also in the 'new draperies'. In 1691 the corporation proposed establishing a linen manufacture at Gloucester. (fn. 91) Evidence from probate inventories and apprenticeship and freeman records, however, makes it clear that textiles never recovered as a major occupation. Hosiery may have suffered fatally from the competition of the highly successful Tewkesbury industry. (fn. 92) More buoyant was glassmaking. About 1682 Thomas Baskerville remarked on the glasshouse at the lower end of town near the river 'where they make a great store of glass bottles selling 15 to the dozen'. (fn. 93) In 1694 a large new glasshouse was built near the north end of the quay by the partnership of Benjamin Hyett, Thomas Browne, and Henry Fowler. (fn. 94) One important use for the glass was in bottling cider, which by 1700 was produced on a commercial basis in Herefordshire and Gloucestershire and shipped in great quantities to Bristol and London. (fn. 95) Also linked with the growth of a consumer society was the establishment of one or two sugar refineries in the city, processing the growing imports of Caribbean sugar to Bristol which may have outrun the capacity of the Bristol refiners. (fn. 96)

The spread of fashionable brick-built housing in the late 17th century encouraged the growth of brickmaking on the Common Ham. Philip Greene, who was making bricks there by 1659, had a thriving business in the early 1680s, digging clay at the Ham and possibly at Wainlode Hill, in Norton, and using coal brought by river to fire his kilns. (fn. 97) John Blanch later lauded the city's 'admirable bricks at six shillings a thousand'. (fn. 98) One enterprise which may have contracted in the second half of the period was wholesale brewing. Gloucester's common brewers appear to have been flourishing at the Restoration, selling in the Forest of Dean and up river at Tewkesbury. (fn. 99) John Woodward (d. 1667) was said to have had a personal estate in excess of £6,000, but his heir John Price, also a brewer, had only a few hundred pounds in personal property by the 1690s. (fn. 100) During the 1680s Baskerville observed that 'here the people are wise and brew their own ale, not permitting public brewers'; (fn. 101) by 1712 the brewers' company had lapsed. (fn. 102) The decline in brewing was in marked contrast with other southern towns where the common brewers steadily enlarged their share of the drink market in the late 17th century. (fn. 103) It may reflect, as Baskerville thought, an increase of domestic brewing by householders who were exempt from the heavy excise duties. More important probably was competition from the affluent innkeepers, who seem from their inventories to have moved into brewing on a large scale. (fn. 104) The brewers' beer may also have faced competition from cider, which had become a popular drink in the city. Tanning was another industry which may have declined in the period. (fn. 105)

The new trades did not, of course, dominate Gloucester's industrial order. The freemen lists and apprenticeship records, increasingly unreliable though they are by the later 17th century, indicate that the traditional clothing trades (especially shoemaking and tailoring), food processing trades (including baking), and building crafts remained principal sources of employment. The new specialist industries, however, added a more profitable and dynamic element to the urban economy. The growth of those industries was almost wholly outside the old framework of the trade companies and may have contributed to their general decline. In 1665 the butchers' company was reportedly in great disorder through the neglect of certain of their customs. (fn. 106) A few years later the mercers' company complained of the invasion of the distributive trades by outsiders without formal training. (fn. 107) Detailed records which survive for the tanners' and butchers' companies suggest that by the second half of the 17th century there was a marked reduction in the level of their activity. (fn. 108) By George I's reign the majority of Gloucester's 12 companies had been reduced to a mainly formal role in the community, processing with the mayor on ceremonial occasions. One reason for their eclipse was the politicization of the freedom after the Revolution of 1688, with droves of freemen, including growing numbers of outsiders, being enfranchised at parliamentary election times. (fn. 109) Another related factor was the influx of outside traders and craftsmen, which the corporation, itself with a growing number of gentry intruders, was unwilling or unable to exclude. The decline of the trade companies, which had never been especially strong at Gloucester, was only one aspect of the slow liberalization of the economy. Equally important was the growth of private marketing and the partial cessation of the levying of tolls in the city. By the 1720s Gloucester had both a more prosperous and a more open urban economy.

Social Structure

Some idea of the social order and topography of the city after the Restoration is provided by the hearth-tax return for 1672, which is complete except for parts of the west ward and Barton Street. Of the 1,113 households listed, 794 paid the tax and 319 (29 per cent) were exempt as too poor, a figure broadly in line with other county towns at the time. Of those paying the tax, just over half were assessed at the lowest rates of one or two hearths and only 117 (15 per cent) at the higher rates of six or more hearths. So over all the social hierarchy remained quite steeply tapered. At the same time, the tax reveals considerable variations in the incidence of wealth within the community. Those households paying at the higher rates accounted for only 2.2 per cent of taxpayers in the Barton Street area and 2.8 per cent in St. Catherine's parish, both outer districts, whereas in the prosperous commercial area of the west ward and the increasingly fashionable cathedral close the respective figures were 17.2 per cent and 38.9 per cent. There was a not dissimilar pattern of poverty, as measured by the incidence of exemptions. St. Catherine, Barton Street, and St. Mary de Lode all had high proportions of exempt households, as high as 58 per cent in St. Catherine. (fn. 110)

Comparative data are not available for the early 18th century, but by then there were signs of changes in the social structure. The narrow élite was reinforced and enlarged by growing numbers of gentry and professional men. For the years 1680 to 1700 gentlemen made up 17 per cent of the aldermen (or future aldermen) on Gloucester corporation and 6 per cent of the councillors. (fn. 111) Some were leading shire gentry like Sir John Guise of Elmore (fn. 112) and Sir Duncombe Colchester of Westburyon-Severn; (fn. 113) others were middling or lesser figures like the royalist soldier Henry Norwood of Tuffley (later of Leckhampton). (fn. 114) They typified the growing numbers of landowners who increasingly spent part of the year in the city and who regarded it as a civilized, tolerably fashionable refuge from the bucolic longeurs of the countryside. In turn the accession of affluent outsiders, often with links with London or the Court, helped integrate the urban upper classes into the wider provincial and national community.

Also important in that context was the growing presence of lawyers and other professional men in the city. As well as playing a lively part in the urban economy, a substantial contingent served on the corporation. (fn. 115) The lawyers in particular were often very wealthy by urban standards: the attorney William Windowe (d. c. 1670) reportedly had a personal estate in excess of £7,000. (fn. 116) They maintained close ties with the county, and as the 18th century progressed acquired increasingly professional connexions with London and national society. Other leading members of the Gloucester élite were the mercers, grocers, and similar distributive traders, who undoubtedly prospered from the renewed expansion of the city's marketing function. They held just under 40 per cent of all the seats on the corporation in the last two decades of the 17th century. (fn. 117) Like the lawyers they frequently styled themselves as gentlemen and with rising expenditure on housing and fashionable consumer comforts could affect a display of gentility. (fn. 118)

Less evidence can be obtained about the fortunes of middle-rank citizens such as master craftsmen and smaller shopkeepers. Probate inventories suggest that they were more affluent than in the past, their houses provided with a modest array of consumer goods. The city's bakers, for instance, seem to have been solidly prosperous, in many cases owning plate. One of them, Thomas Partridge (d. 1684), had various feather beds, carpets, striped curtains, a collection of leather chairs, and a silver tankard, bowl, and other plate worth £10. (fn. 119) John Hone, a tailor whose inventory was taken in 1723, owned numerous small pictures and a clock and case, along with the usual feather beds. (fn. 120) The growing prosperity and social self-confidence of the middling inhabitants gave a new stability to urban society.

On the other hand, poverty was a persistent and serious problem in the post-Restoration city, especially in the outer parishes. In 1669, for instance, the inhabitants of St. Catherine's parish complained that they were burdened with many poor and sought relief from other parishes. (fn. 121) There is no evidence for the overall incidence of poor in need of relief, but the overseers' accounts for St. Nicholas and St. Michael indicate that the numbers of people receiving parish pensions remained broadly stable in the late 17th century, though the former parish saw some increase at the start of the following century. (fn. 122) If that reflects a greater stability in the general level of impoverishment, then part of the explanation was the revival of the urban economy after the Restoration, together with rising real incomes for the lower orders. Also influential may have been the growing effectiveness of city controls over poor immigrants, especially after the Settlement Act of 1662. In 1679 and 1680 the St. Michael's overseers acted on a number of occasions 'in taking care that no inmates might inhabit amongst us and that them that did come might give security to the parish, which several did'. Weekly fines were rigorously imposed on landlords who housed inmates. (fn. 123) At the same time, there is a suggestion that the authorities may have been pursuing a more selective policy than in the past and excluding mainly unskilled males. (fn. 124) There was vigorous action against vagrants. (fn. 125)

For the local poor, however, relief was more generous. The selective provision of the four main established hospitals or almshouses was enlarged by Sir Thomas Rich, a London merchant and native of Gloucester, who left the corporation a house and £6,000 to erect a bluecoat school for 20 poor boys, with surplus income to be distributed to other needy inhabitants. (fn. 126) Most parishes by the early 18th century had several charity funds for the poor, though they were largest in the wealthier parishes where poverty was less serious. (fn. 127) In addition there were parish voluntary collections, which in St. Michael's parish in 1677 were assigned to help the poor 'that be sick and at winter when the poor has most need'. (fn. 128) By the later Stuart period, however, philanthropy was less important in assisting the poor than statutory parish relief. Though the parish reforms of the Interregnum were partially overturned at the Restoration, parochial relief seems to have been increasingly well organized and supervised. A substantial part of the expenditure was in the form of pensions to the elderly, sick, and local destitute. Payments per capita rose by 60 per cent in St. Michael between the 1640s and 1690s; (fn. 129) in St. Nicholas the increase was a more modest 12 per cent in the years 1681–1720. (fn. 130) At a time of falling prices the real value of pensions rose substantially. In addition, there was a growing range of miscellaneous provision for the poor, including clothes, medical aid, schooling, and payment of rents, the last comprising up to one eighth of parish expenditure. Overseers might also pay the taxes of those on the borderline of poverty in order to keep them solvent and off the rates. (fn. 131) As elsewhere, there were complaints that the poor were being mollycoddled: in 1681 St. Michael's parish ordered that its pensioners should no longer be paid, since they were 'refractory to the parish and have too large allowance already'. (fn. 132) Certainly parish expenditure on relief grew markedly: in St. Michael it doubled between the 1660s and 1690s; St. Nicholas had a similar increase in the period 1682–1720. (fn. 133) The high cost of parochial relief was one factor behind the urban corporations of the poor founded about the turn of the century, the earliest at Bristol in 1696. (fn. 134) Gloucester's was established by statute in 1702, whereby from 1703 all the city poor were to be employed in a large workhouse under the control of a board of guardians, including the mayor, 3 aldermen, and 24 respectable citizens elected by wards; (fn. 135) lands left by Timothy Nourse were applied to support the establishment, which included a charity school. (fn. 136) In 1707, however, the workhouse lapsed through insufficient finance and the difficulty of confining and employing all the poor there, though it was revived in 1727. (fn. 137)

For most of the period, therefore, parish payments were the principal mechanism for routine poor relief. In emergencies, however, they were supplemented by subscription funds. In 1709, for instance, because of the bad harvest and high grain prices whereby 'the poor of this city have been of late very much increased', the common council proposed the opening of a subscription to aid the poor, with contributors having a say in how the money was distributed. (fn. 138) Subscription funds of that type were to be of growing significance in 18th-century towns in alleviating social distress. By contrast, the civic corn stocks which had been an important element in poor relief in the late 16th century disappeared in the 17th as corn prices declined.

In sum, the urban social order appeared more prosperous, stable, and harmonious than in the decades before the Civil War. One sign of that was the relative absence of popular disturbances in Gloucester during the period. Those riots and disorders which did occur were almost invariably in the context of the growing party strife between Whigs and Tories.


  • 1. G.B.R., F 4/6, p. 348.
  • 2. Atkyns, Glos. 82.
  • 3. Journeys of Celia Fiennes, ed. C. Morris (1947), 234.
  • 4. J. Mackay, Journey through Eng. and Scotland (Lond. 1722–3), ii. 128–30.
  • 5. D. Defoe, Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain (Everyman edn. 1962), ii. 41.
  • 6. P.R.O., E 179/247/14, rott. 29–31; Ripley, 'Glouc. 1660–1740', 11.
  • 7. G. King, 'Natural and Political Observations', Earliest Classics, ed. P. Laslett (1973), 70–1.
  • 8. Ripley, 'Glouc. 1660–1740', 11, 206.
  • 9. Ibid. 206; Glos. R.O., D 327, p. 4.
  • 10. Cf. Country Towns in Pre-industrial Eng. ed. P. Clark (1981), 16.
  • 11. Ripley, 'Glouc. 1660–1740', 13–14.
  • 12. Glos. R.O., P 154/4/IN 1/1; 9/IN 1/1–5; 11/IN 1/1–2; 12/IN 1/1; 14/IN 1/1–3; 15/IN 1/1–2; Glouc. Cath. Libr., vols. 37–8.
  • 13. Glos. R.O., Q/SO 2, f. 127; Ripley, 'Glouc. 1660–1740', 23.
  • 14. G.D.R. vols. 205, 211, 219, 221, 232.
  • 15. Above, Glouc. 1547–1640, population.
  • 16. King, 'Natural Observations', 70–1; cf. D. Souden, 'Migrants and the Population Structure of later 17th-Cent. Provincial Cities and Market Towns', Transformation of Eng. Provincial Towns, ed. P. Clark (1984), 154.
  • 17. Cf. W. E. Minchinton, 'Bristol-Metropolis of the West in the 18th Cent.', Trans. R.H.S. (5th ser.) iv. 69–87.
  • 18. Mackay, Journey, ii. 129–30.
  • 19. H.L. Papers, N.S. ii. 202; T. S. Willan, Eng. Coasting Trade 1660–1750 (1938), 83–4.
  • 20. G.B.R., B 3/9, ff. 15–16.
  • 21. G.D.R. invent. 1682/73; cf. ibid. 1687/249.
  • 22. Glouc. Jnl. 24 June 1723; 10 Dec. 1728.
  • 23. G.B.R., B 3/7, f. 194v.
  • 24. R. B. Westerfield, Middlemen in Eng. Business (New Haven, 1915), 205.
  • 25. G.D.R. invent. 1677/140.
  • 26. G.B.R., B 3/3, p. 162.
  • 27. Glouc. Jnl. 10 Dec. 1728.
  • 28. G.B.R., G 8/3, f. 7v.; Glouc. Jnl. 2 Aug. 1725.
  • 29. G.B.R., G 8/3, f. 8.
  • 30. Ripley, 'Glouc. 1660–1740', 69.
  • 31. G.D.R. invent. 1696/176.
  • 32. Ibid. 1685/260.
  • 33. G.B.R., G 3/SR, Mich. 1697.
  • 34. P.R.O., C 6/66/43; C 5/503/89.
  • 35. H. R. Plomer et al., Dict. of Printers and Booksellers 1668–1725 (1922), 228.
  • 36. P.R.O., C 5/516/12.
  • 37. Glouc. Jnl. 2 Dec. 1723.
  • 38. E. Pawson, Transport and Economy (1977), 58–9, 90; H.L. Papers, N.S. V. 461–2.
  • 39. P.R.O., C 5/516/12.
  • 40. Atkyns, Glos. 89.
  • 41. G.B.R., B 3/8, p. 509.
  • 42. S.W. Davies, 'An Econ. Hist. of Bewdley before c. 1700' (London Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1981), 249 sqq.; P.R.O., E 134/4 Wm. and Mary Mich./50; B. Trinder, Ind. Revolution in Shropshire (1973), 104, et passim.
  • 43. P.R.O., E 134/4 Wm. and Mary Mich./50; E 134/1 Geo. II. Hil./4.
  • 44. Below, city govt. and politics.
  • 45. e.g. P.R.O., E 134/13 Wm. III East./34; C 6/277/76; P. Clark, 'Civic Leaders', 324.
  • 46. P.R.O., C. 5/329/17; C 5/205/48.
  • 47. Ibid. C 5/109/18.
  • 48. G.B.R., G 9/1.
  • 49. Glos. Colln., Hannam-Clark papers, TS. notes on Glouc. bankers.
  • 50. P.R.O., C 5/522/6.
  • 51. Clark, 'Civic Leaders', 325.
  • 52. Fosbrooke, Glouc. 211; D.N.B., s.v. Powell, John.
  • 53. Below, Aldermen of Glouc. 1483–1835; Fosbrooke, Glouc. 209–10; cf. G.D.R. wills 1685/180; invent. 1713/119.
  • 54. J. Blanch, Hoops into Spinning-Wheels (Glouc. 1725), 15.
  • 55. G.D.R. invent. 1684/3.
  • 56. Below, religious and cultural life.
  • 57. G.B.R., B 3/3. pp. 546–7, 554–5.
  • 58. P.R.O., WO 30/48.
  • 59. Ibid. C 7/174/46; C 7/174/60.
  • 60. G.B.R., G 3/SO 7, f. 77v.
  • 61. Glouc. Jnl. 13 May 1729.
  • 62. Ibid. 30 Nov. 1724.
  • 63. Ibid. 24 Aug., 14 Sept., 7 Dec. 1724; 9 Mar. 1731.
  • 64. G.D.R. invent. 1685/169; 1707/187; 1691/87.
  • 65. P.R.O., C 5/425/105.
  • 66. G.D.R. invent. 1692/118.
  • 67. P.R.O., C 5/122/15; Life and Times of Anthony Wood, ii. (Oxford Hist. Soc. xxi), 143.
  • 68. G.B.R., G 3/AV 1.
  • 69. G.D.R. invent. 1712/275; 1714/103.
  • 70. Clark, Eng. Alehouse, chaps. 9–10.
  • 71. Hist. MSS. Com. 29, 13th Rep. II, Portland, ii, p. 295.
  • 72. Bodl. MS. Top. Glouc. c. 3, f. 61v.; cf. Glos. Colln. prints GL 60.46 (in both sources Greyfriars is wrongly called Whitefriars).
  • 73. Glouc. Jnl. 10 Sept. 1722.
  • 74. Journeys of C. Fiennes, 234–5; Hist. MSS. Com. 29, Portland, ii, p. 294.
  • 75. Autobiography of Thos. Raymond and Memoirs of Fam. of Guise (Camd. 3rd ser. xxviii), 145; P.R.O., C 5/528/18.
  • 76. Glouc. Jnl. 21 Oct. 1729; 6 Oct. 1730.
  • 77. H. W. Shaw, Three Choirs Festival (1954), 1–2; D. Lysons et al., Origin and Progress of the Meeting of the Three Choirs (Glouc. 1895).
  • 78. Country Towns, ed. Clark, 172 sqq.; A. Everitt, 'Country, County and Town: Patterns of Regional Evolution in Eng.', Trans. R.H.S. (5th ser.) xxix. 95–6.
  • 79. Atkyns, Glos. 119.
  • 80. J. Thirsk, Econ. Policy and Projects (1978), 83.
  • 81. P.R.O., C 5/417/41; C 7/585/20; C 7/95/52.
  • 82. Ibid. C 7/95/52.
  • 83. Ibid. C 5/179/35.
  • 84. Ripley, 'Gloue. 1660–1740', 62.
  • 85. P.R.O., C 5/516/12; Selection from the Rec. of Phil. Foley's Stour Valley Ironworks 1668–74: Pt. I (Worcs. Hist. Soc. N.S. ix), 99.
  • 86. P.R.O., C 6/231/63; C 6/169/22.
  • 87. Glos. Ch. Bells, 57–60.
  • 88. Warws. R.O., CR 1618; WA 4.
  • 89. G.D.R. invent. 1662/12; 1695/139; 1736/77; 1686/132.
  • 90. Journeys of C. Fiennes, 234.
  • 91. Ripley, 'Glouc. 1660–1740', 65; G.B.R., B 3/7, f. 36.
  • 92. T. Rath. 'Tewkesbury Hosiery Ind.', Textile Hist. vii. 140 sqq.
  • 93. Hist. MSS. Com. 29, Portland, ii, p. 294.
  • 94. Glos. R.O., P 154/15/IN 1/1; cf. Bodl. MS. Top. Glouc. c. 3, f. 41.
  • 95. Cf. Clark, Eng. Alehouse, 210–11.
  • 96. Ripley, 'Glouc. 1660–1740', 70–1.
  • 97. Trans. B.G.A.S. xcviii. 175; G.D.R. invent. 1685/147. The brickworks on the Ham are shown in a painting of the city, attributed to Jan Griffier (d. 1718): Glos. Colln. prints GL 90.25.
  • 98. Blanch, Hoops, 15.
  • 99. P.R.O., C 5/417/41; C 7/79/47; E 134/25 Chas. II East./15.
  • 100. Ibid. C 5/74/22; C 5/71/35.
  • 101. Hist. MSS. Com. 29, Portland, ii, p. 295.
  • 102. Atkyns, Glos. 119.
  • 103. Clark, Eng. Alehouse, 183–4.
  • 104. G.D.R. invent. 1695/226; 1688/8.
  • 105. Ripley, 'Glouc. 1660–1740', 45, 47.
  • 106. Glos. Colln. 11664, no. 5.
  • 107. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1671, 419.
  • 108. Glos. Colln. 28652, nos. 16, 18; 29334.
  • 109. Below, city govt. and politics.
  • 110. P.R.O., E 179/247/14, rott. 29–31.
  • 111. Clark, 'Civic Leaders', 315.
  • 112. Glos. R.O., D 326/F 13, F 15.
  • 113. Ibid. D 36/F 8.
  • 114. Ibid. D 303/F 40.
  • 115. Clark, 'Civic Leaders', 313, 323–4.
  • 116. P.R.O., C 5/493/39.
  • 117. Clark, 'Civic Leaders', 315.
  • 118. e.g. Nic. Webb: G.D.R. invent 1691/109.
  • 119. G.D.R. invent. 1684/241.
  • 120. Ibid. 1723/21.
  • 121. G.B.R., G 3/SO 7, ff. 77v., 139 and v.
  • 122. Glos. R.O., P 154/15/OV 2/1–2; 14/OV 2/1.
  • 123. Ibid. 14/OV 2/1.
  • 124. Ibid. 2.
  • 125. G.B.R., G 3/SO 7, ff. 92, 106, et passim.
  • 126. Below, Educ., Sir Thos. Rich's sch.
  • 127. Below, Char. for Poor, par. char.
  • 128. Glos. R.O., P 154/14/CW 1/42.
  • 129. Ibid. OV 2/1.
  • 130. Ibid. 15/OV 2/1–2.
  • 131. Ibid.; ibid. 14/OV 2/1–2.
  • 132. Ibid. 14/CW 1/42.
  • 133. Ibid. OV 2/1; 15/OV 2/1–2.
  • 134. D. Marshall, Eng. Poor in 18th Cent. (1926), 127–8.
  • 135. Rudder, Glos. 129; G.B.R., B 6/5.
  • 136. Below, Educ., elem. educ., Poor's sch.
  • 137. Glouc. Poor-Relief Act, 13 Geo. I, c. 19.
  • 138. G.B.R., B 3/8, p. 333.