A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 3, Barlichway Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1945.
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Except during the 17th century, Stratford has played little part in the history of England. The neighbourhood was the centre of the Gunpowder Plot; Clopton House was rented, about Michaelmas 1605, by Ambrose Rookwood, one of the conspirators, and various Popish relics were discovered when the house was searched by the bailiff after Fawkes's arrest. (fn. 1) During the Civil War the position of the town at the junction of several important roads, and its proximity to a number of garrisons of both parties, made it the scene of considerable activity and some fighting.
In January 1642, three days after the attempted arrest of the Five Members, the corporation decided to replenish the town armoury: (fn. 2) and in the following May or June the inhabitants were assessed to the first of many contributions, for 'the Kinges forces at Evesham'. (fn. 3) That summer was occupied in feverish recruiting, the Parliamentary leaders in each county attempting to enforce the Militia Ordinance, and the Royalists the King's Commission of Array. In Warwickshire, owing to the energy of Lord Brooke, the former secured the initiative. A meeting for the hundred of Barlichway was held at Stratford on 30 June, when 400 armed and 260 unarmed volunteers, besides the Militia, came in to join the Parliamentary standard. (fn. 4) The Commission of Array was proclaimed here by the Earl of Northampton on 29 July but with what result does not appear. (fn. 5) In August Lord Brooke raised a loan in the county on the Public Faith, to which, by 24 September, the corporation and citizens of Stratford had contributed £348 in money and plate. (fn. 6)
After the battle of Edgehill when a part of the Parliamentary Army fell back on Stratford, (fn. 7) at least seven soldiers were buried here and there are numerous payments for the care of the wounded. (fn. 8) In February 1643 the town was occupied by Royalist forces under Colonel Wagstaffe, but it was recaptured by Lord Brooke on the 25th after an engagement about 1½ miles out of the town along the road to Warwick. (fn. 9) The Royalists drew up their forces under the Welcombe Hills, overlooking the road. Brooke placed his artillery in the van and so disposed the rest of his troops 'that we stood tryangle upon three hills in full view each of other'. (fn. 10) A burst of artillery fire threw the Royalists into confusion and they fled back into the town pursued by the attackers 'so fast as our carriages, and the plowd lands well softened with the raine, would permit us'. The town was occupied without further incident except for the destruction of the Town Hall, where three barrels of powder were stored which blew up about an hour afterwards. Having disarmed the town, Brooke returned to Warwick. Prince Rupert passed through on his return from the capture of Lichfield in April and was here again (fn. 11) on 11 July, when he met Henrietta Maria, returning from Holland to join the king at Edgehill. The Queen was then the guest of Susanna Hall, Shakespeare's grand-daughter, at New Place (fn. 12) and the occasion was celebrated by bell-ringing and feasting. (fn. 13)
Stratford lay on the main route for supplying the Parliamentary garrison at Gloucester, which was cut off from direct access to London by the Royalist forces in the Cotswolds. In March 1644 a convoy marching from Warwick under Commissary General Behre got as far as Stratford, but retired in the face of opposition. (fn. 14) On a second and more successful attempt, about a week later, Behre's troops were again quartered in the town, which during this and part of the following year seems to have been almost continuously occupied by Parliamentary troops. (fn. 15) The last Royalist raid, by a party of 600 horse from Worcester, took place in April 1645. Balked of intercepting another convoy between Warwick and Gloucester they rode into Stratford and demanded £800 as ransom from plunder, though they were obliged to content themselves with only £10. (fn. 16) In June 1645 Fairfax's Army, on their march from Naseby to the west, was encamped at Clifford and quartered in the town. (fn. 17) Cromwell was here, probably in the following December (fn. 18) and again, before the battle of Worcester, on 26 August 1651.
The claims made by the corporation and the inhabitants for loss and damage by the Parliamentary forces from the beginning of the war to the end of January 1646 amount to about £2,542; (fn. 19) 119 townsmen sent in bills, rather more than half the number of those afterwards assessed to the Hearth Tax. The total estimate is confessedly incomplete, nor does it of course include losses suffered at the hands of the Royalists. About 55 per cent. of the claims (£1,412) were on account of taxes, loans, and contributions. Of these, the largest single item was £878 paid in the weekly contribution to the garrison at Warwick Castle; to which in May 1643 the town was required to pay £20 a week. This was reduced to £14 a week in August, and to £10 a week in December 1643. (fn. 20) The loans raised by Lord Brooke in 1642 and afterwards by the Committee at Coventry amounted to £398. From claims on account of free quarter and of plunder and requisitions, amounting altogether to £1,095, it seems that although when Lord Brooke captured the town he forbade plunder, his orders were not implicitly obeyed. (fn. 21) Requisitions included food, which was supplied to the Scots Army at Birmingham and Droitwich on its way south in 1645, teams and carts, cavalry horses and provender. The same system was followed in the second Civil War, the town being ordered to supply provisions for Lambert's troops during the Worcester campaign. (fn. 22)
On 23 June 1647 the corporation offered to make some repayment to those who had laid out money for the Royalist forces, (fn. 23) and on 1 Aug. 1649 the corporation reimbursed twelve persons to the extent of £41 out of the borough revenues 'because ther is noe other way of gettynge ye same in an ordinary way, beinge moneys laidout in the middest of the wars'. (fn. 24) As late as 1654 the bailiff was still attempting to recover the money lent to Parliament by the corporation and by private persons on the Public Faith. (fn. 25) The disturbing effect of the war on ordinary life appears also in a number of other ways. During the war years attendance at council meetings declined and rents became more difficult to collect. Between 1643 and 1645 the arrears increase from 10.7 to 20.3 per cent. of the whole rental of the corporation.
It cannot be said that the townsmen as a whole showed much spontaneous enthusiasm for either side during the struggle. The exactions of Charles's personal government aroused resentment here as elsewhere. Thus in January 1637 a levy for ship money was ordered apparently without question, but on the last writ, of 1639, the corporation could not agree to make an assessment at all. (fn. 26) There had always been a strong Puritan tradition in the town, but it was not so rigid as to prevent the gift of £4 to the curate's wife in 1644 'to buy her a fairing at Stratford Faire'; (fn. 27) or the Town Clerk, when entering in the 'Book of Damages' the amount paid Warwick garrison out of the corporation tithes, from adding the ironical comment that these had originally been 'given to pious uses'.
The Parliamentarians indeed asserted that it was at the invitation of the inhabitants that the Royalists had occupied the town in February 1643. (fn. 28) In 1646 the personal estate of the bailiff, John Wolmer, was sequestered for delinquency; but he was allowed to compound for £50 in consideration of his services to Fairfax's army when quartered at Stratford and of his loan of £40 to the service of the Parliament. (fn. 29) Throughout the period there are only two doubtful instances of removal from the corporation on political grounds; (fn. 30) and the many changes down to 1660 seem to have been accepted with equal readiness.
From at least the 16th century until the development of the tourist industry within the last fifty years, the prosperity of Stratford depended rather on trade than on manufacture. A petition of 1818 for the alteration of the market day describes it as 'the central point betwixt the towns of Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, from the supplies of which the main consumption of corn, seeds, &c. in Burmingham, Dudley and Wolverhampton must of necessity be principally drawn'. (fn. 31) More than two centuries earlier Shakespeare's friend Richard Quyney gives a similar picture: the town, he says, is 'Auncient in thys trade of malteinge & have [sic] ever served to Burmingham from whence, Walles, Sallopp, Stafforde, Chess. & Lanke allso are served'. (fn. 32)
Evidence of the economic relations of Stratford with the surrounding districts is afforded by the toll books of horse sales in the borough in the 17th and 18th centuries. The earliest of these, in 1602, (fn. 33) though only 12 sales are recorded, shows, in the places from which the buyers and sellers came, the importance of some of the principal roads going through or near the town: the road from Oxford to Birmingham; the Fosse Way, which crosses this road at Halford-on-Stour, 7 miles to the south of Stratford, and the Banbury road at Eatington, 5 miles to the east of it; and the road going out to the west, through Alcester towards Worcester. At the fair on 24 Sept. 1646 there were no less than 217 sales of horses, (fn. 34) and at the fair only 10 days previously there seem to have been 141 sales; at the May fair in 1646 there were 58, and the undated record of another fair, held apparently about the same time, gives 74; (fn. 35) but at none of the 18th-century fairs of which the toll books survives were there more than 19. (fn. 36) The toll books show that, like Coventry and unlike Warwick, Stratford was in the 17th century 'a town of common road'. (fn. 37) The fair of 24 Sept. 1646 attracted sellers from the heaths and open pastures of north-west Warwickshire, Leicestershire, and Northamptonshire, one of the great horse-breeding districts of 17th-century England, connected with Stratford by the Fosse Way. One of these dealers, Arthur Dobbs of Atherstone, sold over £79 worth of stock, and another, John Alcocks of Wolvey, nearly £52 worth. Six dealers from Strettonon-Dunsmore sold between them 35 horses, colts, and mares for £128 4s. 4d., and the sales of 7 persons from North Kilworth realized £58 11s. 4d. The principal buyers came from the west: from the forests of Arden and Feckenham, from the north Cotswolds, and especially from the middle Severn and lower Avon valleys and the thickly planted villages between Stratford and Worcester. (fn. 38) Some of these men too were dealing on a considerable scale; Thomas Hill of Norton-byEvesham bought a mare, 2 geldings, and 5 colts for £44 2s. 10d.; John Harris of Fladbury, 7 beasts for £37 6s. 8d.; and the purchases of 6 persons from Severn Stoke came to £60 10s. 6d. There is, further, a marked connexion, which also appears in 1602, with the country to the south-east; the vale of Red Horse, the north Oxfordshire uplands, and the valley of the Swere.
The roads into Stratford from the west were also routes from Wales to London. In a proposal, in 1702, to obtain an Act of Parliament for levying toll at the bridge, the toll of Welsh sheep is specially mentioned; (fn. 39) and the parish registers provide evidence of Welsh migration in the later 16th century, (fn. 40) mainly of the poorer classes, for few of these Welshmen attained prominence in the town, though one of them, Lewes ap Williams, rose to be bailiff in 1564.
The first grant of a market at Stratford was made by Richard I to Bishop John de Coutances in 1196. (fn. 41) The market was to be held on a Thursday, and the grant was confirmed to Bishop Walter Reynolds in 1309. (fn. 42) In 1214 John granted to Bishop Walter de Grey a three days' fair here on the eve, feast, and morrow of the Holy Trinity. (fn. 43) A second fair, on the eve and feast of the Exaltation of the Cross and the two following days (13–16 Sept.) was granted to Bishop Walter de Cantilupe in 1239. (fn. 44) In 1269 Bishop Giffard obtained a grant of a third fair, for three days at Ascensiontide, (fn. 45) and in the following year the Trinity fair was extended for a fourth day. (fn. 46) In 1309 Edward II granted to Bishop Walter Reynolds a fair on the feast of SS. Peter and Paul (29 June) and the fifteen days following. (fn. 47) The first charter of incorporation, in 1553, besides confirming the weekly market, established two fairs; on the eve, feast, and morrow of the Exaltation of the Cross (13–15 Sept.), and on the feast and morrow of the Invention of the Cross (3–4 April). The charter of 1610 added three others: on the Thursday and Friday before Lent, 14–16 July, and 5–7 Dec. The April, September, and December fairs were confirmed by the charter of 1664, but the dates of the two others were altered to the eve, feast, and morrow of the Annunciation, and the Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday before Corpus Christi. The dates were again altered by the charter of 1674, which provided for five three-day fairs; on the Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday after the Annunciation, before Michaelmas, and after Whitsuntide, the eve, feast, and morrow of the Exaltation of the Cross, and on 2–4 May. Thus, two of the fairs in 1646 already referred to were held on days not mentioned in the governing charter. A Trinity fair, though not included in any grant since 1270, is mentioned as being held in 1666; (fn. 48) and by the reign of George III the prescribed times were very little regarded. From 1763 to 1787, when the records of the tolls are practically continuous, it seems to have been customary to hold three fairs a year; on 14 May, on 25 Sept., and on a day in the first, or sometimes in the second, week in October. (fn. 49) In 1806 there were seven fairs in the borough, several of which, says Wheler, have 'been of late years established'. They were held on the third Monday in February, (fn. 50) the Thursday after 25 March, 14 May, the last Monday in July, 25 Sept. and the following Thursday, and the second Monday in December. In addition there was a statute fair for the hiring of servants on the morrow of Old Michaelmas Day. (fn. 51) This last, the only fair now kept, is still celebrated in the midlands as Stratford Mop, a name which first occurs in 1675. (fn. 52)
In the 17th century it was customary to proclaim the fairs in all the neighbouring market towns: in 1666, for instance, the Lady Day Fair was proclaimed at Henley-in-Arden, Southam, Evesham, Kineton, Alcester, Warwick, Chipping Campden, and Shipstonon-Stour. (fn. 53) But by 1795 the simpler expedient had become possible of advertising them in the Birmingham, Worcester, Oxford, and Coventry papers. (fn. 54) On market and fair days Stratford must have presented a scene of great activity, for the stalls, with the vendors of different commodities each in their appointed place, occupied a great part of the centre of the town. The glovers had their stalls at the High Cross. (fn. 55) In 1608 'the sellers of butter cheese and all manner of whitemeate and wicke yarne and funicles' were removed from their previous standings to the cross opposite the chapel. (fn. 56) The country butchers occupied the west side of Chapel Street; (fn. 57) the butchers' shambles were built near the market house in 1640. (fn. 58) The ironmongers and nailers were opposite the 'chewer' in Bridge Street, (fn. 59) and in another part of Bridge Street were the stalls of the collarmakers and ropemakers. (fn. 60) The sellers of raw hides occupied the space by the cross in the Rother Market, (fn. 61) and the braziers and pewterers the Rother Market end of Wood Street, (fn. 62) while lower down Wood Street stood the coopers. (fn. 63) All tanned leather had to be brought to the market house to be searched before being sold, (fn. 64) and under the arches of the market house the mayor or his officers weighed the cheese; (fn. 65) a necessary precaution since 'great store of cheese is usually brought to the faires . . . and . . . great deceipt is used both in the weighinge and weight' of it. Piccage, amounting to 1d. per stall, was collected by the sergeants-at-mace. (fn. 66) In Shakespeare's time the market was closed, by the ringing of the market bell, at 11.0 a.m. (fn. 67) During the 18th century it was prolonged, until in 1789 it was agreed between the mayor and the principal dealers that business should cease at 1.30. (fn. 68)
The right to the tolls of fairs and markets was not formally granted to the corporation until the charter of 1610, though they seem virtually to have established their claim to it in a dispute with Sir Edward Greville, lord of the manor, 10 years earlier. (fn. 69) The toll of corn, which was principally in question, amounted in 1601 to £10. (fn. 70) By an order of 1609 the toll of butter and cheese was given to the bailiff, (fn. 71) and when cheese was made toll free at the Michaelmas fairs in 1764 the mayor was voted 10 guineas a year in compensation. (fn. 72) The tolls on corn, cattle, and horses—the last of which still belonged to the lord of the manor—were abolished in 1788. (fn. 73) The present cattle market near the Great Western station was opened in 1832. (fn. 74)
Although the times and number of the fairs were frequently changed at the discretion of the corporation, the market was regularly kept on a Thursday until it was moved to Friday, the present market day, in 1818, (fn. 75) on the ground that the markets of Birmingham, Banbury, and Stow-on-the-Wold were also held on a Thursday and those of Chipping Norton and Chipping Campden on a Wednesday, so that Stratford lost much of the natural advantage of its position as 'the proper medium point' between the Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire markets and dealers from Birmingham and the Black country.
The importance of Stratford as a centre of trade was considerably enhanced by the navigation of the Avon. Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, early in the 15th century, is said to have intended to make the river navigable so 'that smale vessels as the water wold bere myght have be conveyed fro Teukisbury to Warrwik'. (fn. 76) But no such enterprise was actually undertaken until 1636, when William Sandys of Fladbury obtained the consent of the Privy Council to his project for making the Avon navigable as far as Stratford. (fn. 77) The work was finished in three years, the river being made navigable for vessels up to 30 tons burthen; (fn. 78) but as late as October 1641 Sandys was petitioning the corporation for 'assistance in his navigacon'. (fn. 79) During the Civil War the works were broken down and the Avon waterway fell into disuse. (fn. 80) After the Restoration the scheme was taken up again by Thomas, Lord Windsor, afterwards Earl of Plymouth, and a group of promoters among whom the ingenious Andrew Yarranton was the moving spirit. (fn. 81) Yarranton speaks of 'the River being a Brat of my Brain when I contrived it', (fn. 82) and envisaged an enterprise which would make Stratford 'to the West of England, Wales, Shropshire, and Cheshire, as Dantzick is to Poland'. (fn. 83) The new waterway would link one of the richest corn-growing districts in England with the coal and iron of Shropshire and the forest of Dean, with the cloth of the Middle Severn Valley and, through Bristol, with all the various commodities of foreign trade. (fn. 84) The situation of Stratford was also well suited to industry, and Yarranton selected two sites for development. One was at Milcot, at the junction of the Stour and the Avon, where a 'city', which he called New Haarlem, might be built capable of employing 10,000 people in the growing of flax and the manufacture of linen and thread. (fn. 85) The other was at Bridgetown, where on 30 acres of Sir John Clopton's land 'there would be in a very short time as great a Town built as Stratford now is; and there have as great a Trade as any city in those parts of England (Bristol only excepted)'. Here the principal industries were to be linen-weaving and the brewing of the Brunswick beer known as Mum, from which Yarranton proposed to name the colony New Brunswick. (fn. 86) There were also to be three large granaries, one for the brewers, one for the linen workers and the relief of the poor, and a public granary in which the neighbouring gentry and farmers might store their corn. (fn. 87) 'I pray observe', he says, addressing the inhabitants of Stratford, before you had that River Navigable, you were lockt up in the Inlands, and could not come to any Navigable River under twenty miles. . . . But see now how the case is altered by this new River coming to your Town. Now all Improvements offer themselves to you.' (fn. 88)
Such a vision of prosperity, though Wheler afterwards poured scorn upon it, was not so fanciful as it appears. Yarranton had the support of Sir John Clopton, William Bishop of Bridgetown, and 'my friend the Town Clerk of Stratford-Upon-Avon'. (fn. 89) He speaks of the building of New Brunswick as having been already begun, (fn. 90) and this can be confirmed from other sources. The navigation was open by 1672, when John Woodin, who owned the greater part of it under Lord Windsor, had twenty vessels plying between Stratford and Tewkesbury. In May of that year he was petitioning the Privy Council against the impressment of the navigators of his boats for service in the Dutch wars. (fn. 91) Woodin settled in Bridgetown about this time (fn. 92) and in May 1674 obtained from Sir John Clopton a lease of the 'new erected Messuage or Tenement' which he was then occupying, with a brick kiln and clay pit, a storehouse, and a coal yard extending to the bank of the Avon. (fn. 93) Ten years later a reference to an iron mill at Ruin Clifford indicates a further extension of the works. (fn. 94) The new venture was not popular in the neighbourhood, for in May 1674 Woodin was again complaining to the Privy Council that mobs 'of the poorer sort of People' had stopped up the locks and sluices, broken into the mills and seized the corn, and cut open the bags of corn brought for sale to Stratford market. (fn. 95) But though Yarranton's scheme was never completely carried out, the river traffic continued for another two centuries. The Earl of Plymouth, who died in 1687, settled his rights in the navigation of the Avon upon his widow. These rights took the form of an annual rent of £400 from the carriage of coals down the Severn and up the Avon, a trade which, according to the countess's complaint, was temporarily stopped by the coal tax of 1695. (fn. 96) Defoe, writing about 30 years later, speaks of the Avon navigation as 'an exceeding advantage to all this part of the country and also to the commerce of the city of Bristol. For by this River they derive a very great Trade for Sugar, Oil, Wine, Tobacco, Iron, Lead and in a word, all heavy goods which are carried by water almost as far as Warwick [sic]; and in return the corn, and especially the cheese, is brought back from Gloucestershire and Warwickshire to Bristol'; (fn. 97) and most of the 18th-century topographers echo his words. (fn. 98) Indeed Stratford at that time must have had, as Wheler says, 'the appearance of a small sea-port town'. (fn. 99) The main quay was at the Swan's Nest, but there was also a quay and coal yard at the Ferry at 'Southern Lane End'. (fn. 100)
The rates of tonnage, which had given rise to frequent disputes between the owners and the persons using the Navigation, were fixed by Act of Parliament in 1751. The river was by that time divided into the Upper and Lower Navigation (respectively above and below Evesham). (fn. 101) George Perrott of Fladbury, Baron of the Exchequer, died seised of the whole Navigation in 1780 and bequeathed it in trust for George Perrott, his nephew, who obtained an Act of Parliament enabling him to sell it, with other of his uncle's estates, in 1793. (fn. 102) The Navigation was then leased at a rent of £1,227 a year and was said to have been gradually improving for thirty years past. But owing, apparently, to the spread of canals, it had 'become precarious' and was 'attended with a Risque which may be dangerous to an individual Proprietor'.
When Wheler wrote the trade had declined and he expresses a fear that it 'will in a short time utterly cease'. There was a revival, however, in the early 19th century, due partly to the enterprise of Thomas Lucy, owner of the large mills below the church, who purchased great quantities of Irish corn and launched a steam vessel to bring it up the Avon from Gloucester. (fn. 103) A new company was formed to manage the navigation, (fn. 104) and in 1830 the trade was said to be 'principally for West Indies produce from Bristol'. The weekly supply of corn to the mills was then estimated at 3,000 bushels. (fn. 105) In 1859 the proprietors conveyed their rights in the Navigation to the Stratford Canal Company. The Great Western Railway Company acquired control in 1863, and the river traffic was finally abandoned in 1875. (fn. 106)
'At Stratford or thereabouts', says Yarranton, 'is always the best and cheapest Wheat and Malt in all them parts of England.' (fn. 107) This was the foundation of his whole scheme, and from the 16th to the 19th century malting was the principal industry here. (fn. 108) Richard Quiney speaks of 'Or houses made to noe other use then maltinge' and complains that the town is 'deceived by reson of contreye malte kylnes wch make ther owne Benifytt in malting ther Barley att home, wch usuallie was Brought to be solde att or m'kett & ther made & converted to malte'. (fn. 109) A survey taken in 1598, (fn. 110) a year of high prices and great distress, shows that 75 persons, probably a third of the more substantial householders in the borough, had stores of malt on their premises, amounting in all to 696 quarters, while 30 of them had also 65 quarters of grain of various kinds. In the bonds of indemnity (1603–1714) and in the Hearth Tax Returns of 1662–3 the maltsters still form the most numerous class among those whose occupations can be identified. This probably explains the formation of a Maltsters' Company—more than half a century later than any of the other trade companies—in 1666. (fn. 111) But as nothing more is heard of this company it must be assumed that household malting, as a side-line, which would make it difficult to enforce a monopoly, still persisted. Of the malt returned in the survey of 1598 rather less than two-thirds is classed as townsmen's malt; the remainder, 250 quarters, is strangers' malt. The list of 'strangers' who were storing their malt in the town is significant of the importance of Stratford as a market for malt even before the days of the Avon navigation. It includes Sir Thomas Lucy (with 28 quarters), Sir Edward Greville, Sir John Conway, Francis Smith of Wootton Wawen, and others of the neighbouring gentry; Sir Fulke Greville's cook and Robert Pennells, servant to Sir Thomas Lucy; and men from Coventry, Rowington, Ipsley, Ladbroke, Burmington, Whatcote, and other places.
The malting industry created certain social problems which at the time of this survey were especially urgent, for the general scarcity was widely attributed to the greed of the maltsters in buying up corn which might otherwise have been made into bread. One inhabitant expressed the hope 'if God send mi Lord of Essex downe shortle, to se them hanged on gibbetes att their owne dores'. (fn. 112) The figures of the survey, which shows only 44 quarters of wheat, mill corn, bread corn, and rye, help to explain this feeling. The licensing and restriction of maltsters is frequently referred to in the early 17th century: they were prohibited from making more than two quarters a week each in 1630 (fn. 113) or than four quarters in 1649, (fn. 114) and for the same reason the number of alehouses in the borough was restricted to thirty. (fn. 115) But the total prohibition of malting, the remedy which the Warwickshire justices were seeking to apply in 1598, might have hardly less serious consequences in a town which depended so largely on the trade for its livelihood; for as Richard Quiney pointed out, 'manie nowe geve releefe to other poore wch then wyll be disabled utt'lye'. (fn. 116)
In Stratford, as in other corporate towns in the 16th and 17th centuries, the different occupations were organized into companies. Within about the first halfcentury after incorporation there were ten different companies in existence, some of which were reconstituted during the period or enlarged to include additional trades. The first to be formed was the Bakers' Company, and its origin well illustrates the economic transition from manorial to corporate status after 1553. The licensing of 'common bakers' continued to be a regular function of the court leet for the first three years after the charter. (fn. 117) Then, in October 1556, we find the order 'yt none do bake bred to syll wt in the burrow but only the common baceres appoynted for the same but yt they do agree wt thartyffeceres of bacares' under penalty of 40s.: (fn. 118) and a year later Henry Sydnall was presented 'for bakynge of bred contrary to the order of the bacares book'. (fn. 119) A new 'Bakers' Book', which still survives, was issued in 1598 (fn. 120) and contains some special clauses which show that baking, more than any other trade, was under the direct control of the corporation. No baker might have more than one bakehouse or permit any to use it but himself; and all members of the company were to go every week to the bailiff to fetch the Assise of Bread, the issue of which is frequently recorded in the Council Books down to 1616. (fn. 121) The Bakers' Company was finally merged in the last of all the Stratford companies to be formed, the reconstituted Chandlers, Soap-makers, Ironmongers, and Bakers of 1726.
The 'Faculty of Tailors' was in existence by 1568 (fn. 122) and was reconstituted in 1586 as the Skinners and Tailors, with 15 members, of whom 3 are described as skinners. (fn. 123) The Walkers first appear as a company in 1569, (fn. 124) and received a new book of orders, under the name of the Walkers and Fullers, in 1582. The Dyers and Shearmen are first mentioned in 1570. (fn. 125) These last two companies had been amalgamated by 1611 (fn. 126) and renewed ordinances for the Walkers, Fullers, and Dyers were issued in 1628. (fn. 127) In 1570 also comes the first reference to the Smiths' Company, (fn. 128) and in 1572 the earliest surviving set of ordinances, those of the Weavers. In 1573 another new company was formed comprising the Masons, Joiners, Carpenters, Tilers, Wheelwrights, Ploughwrights, Tugerers, Thatchers, and Coopers. (fn. 129) This heterogeneous body was afterwards split up, the Joiners, Wheelwrights, and Coopers being formed into a separate company in 1607, (fn. 130) and the others, with the Glaziers, into another in 1613. (fn. 131) The ordinances of the Shoemakers and Sadlers were issued in 1578, and a ninth company, that of the Drapers, seems to have been in existence by 1581. (fn. 132) More than twenty years then elapse before any new companies are mentioned. A corporation order of 1597 'that ev'ie man of any trade or occupacon wthin this Towne shalle sorte hymselffe into one Company or other', (fn. 133) made at a time when there were said to be 700 poor in the borough, is significant; and later evidence also indicates that the policy of forming the inhabitants into companies had as its object the maintenance of the poor as well as the regulation of trade. (fn. 134)
Not until the opening years of the 17th century is there much definite evidence of the organization of companies among the wealthier trades. A company of Haberdashers, referred to in 1603, (fn. 135) was merged in what became the most important of all the companies, the Mercers, Linendrapers, Woollendrapers, Hatters, Grocers, Haberdashers, and Salters, whose book of orders was sealed in 1604. (fn. 136) In 1606 the Glovers and Whittawers Company was formed. (fn. 137) This was extended to include also the Collar-makers by a new book of orders issued in 1637. There was then no further development until the constitution of the Maltsters into a company in 1666.
The subsequent history of most of these companies can be traced only from the scattered entries in the Chamberlains' Accounts of the half of the admission and composition fees which was due to the corporation. (fn. 138) Apprentices to any of the trades in the borough might be admitted, after serving their term, on the payment of 3s. 4d. In the five earliest sets of ordinances, dating 1582–6, a stranger applying for admission has to prove that he has served his apprenticeship elsewhere; but from 1598 onwards this clause is omitted. The corporation reserved the right to vary the composition fee paid by strangers for licence to set up in the town. Thus when Foulke Sellars, who afterwards became mayor, was admitted to the Coopers' Company in 1668, 10s. out of his £5 fine was returned because 'Hee may bee a person that may bee beneficiall in reference to his trade to the Towne'. (fn. 139) But when Richard Cumberlidge of Warwick wished to set up in Stratford as a smith in 1665 his composition was only accepted on condition that he also entered into a bond for £50 to indemnify the town against the risk of having to maintain him and his family out of the poor rates. (fn. 140)
The development of a single craft company is well illustrated by a comparison of the book of orders issued to the Masons and allied trades in 1573 with their revised orders of 1613. Forty years have seen a marked advance in organization and a general increase in fines. (fn. 141) The composition fee is raised from £2 to £5, and foreigners who practise any of the trades in Stratford are liable to a fine of 10s. for every week that they fail to compound. (fn. 142) On the other hand, membership is open to all foreigners who pay their £5, whether they have served an apprenticeship or not. The later orders are directed rather against journeymen than foreign masters, a change of emphasis which may be at least partly due to the intervening crisis of the Great Poor Law. In 1573 journeymen might work in the borough for a fortnight and thereafter could become free journeymen on the payment of 2d. (fn. 143) If they failed to make a living during their first fortnight they were to be ordered to leave the town under a penalty of 3s. 4d. In 1613 journeymen working for their own profit are altogether forbidden and masters employing them are liable to a fine of £5 and 10s. a week until they are dismissed.
Our information is fullest on the Mercers' Company, since, although their ordinances are lost, their Minute Book 1652–1704 survives and from 1671 onwards is continuous. (fn. 144) The Mercers differed in many respects from the craft companies, amongst others in that their membership was not confined to residents in Stratford. William Venners (fn. 145) and Richard Perkhouse, (fn. 146) both of Alcester, were admitted in 1639 and 1655 respectively, and John Perkhouse of Alcester, son of the latter, was admitted a love brother in 1675; while John Smith of Warwick served as warden in 1686. (fn. 147) The members are always classified in the minutes under the three heads of Mercers, Drapers and Haberdashers, and Salters; (fn. 148) but the three groups also include ironmongers and apothecaries, a bookseller, Joshua Smith, who in 1692 was offered a monopoly of the sale of playing cards in the borough on condition of his joining the company, and even pewterers and braziers, whose inclusion suggests that the Elizabethan Smiths' Company had disappeared. Thus the company was tending to become simply an association of the leading retail tradesmen in the town. In size and wealth the mercers far exceeded any of the craft companies; 25 out of the 40 members mentioned 1652–1704 served on the corporation. (fn. 149) Nevertheless, the company was by no means fully representative of the trades included in it, for the names of at least 9 other persons can be traced, including 3 mayors of the borough, who followed one or other of these occupations during the period, but were never members of it. Membership steadily declined from 21 in 1652 to 10 in 1704, and one reason for this is probably the great increase in the composition fee. This was a general tendency among all the companies in the last period of their existence: thus the composition of the Tailors and Skinners, fixed at £3 6s. 8d. in 1586, was apparently raised to £5 in 1671, (fn. 150) and in 1711 to £10. (fn. 151) The original Mercers' composition was £5, but their new orders of 1676 or 1680 (fn. 152) seem to have increased it very considerably and £40 was exacted in 1701. It is not surprising that out of the 19 admissions recorded in the minute book, 16 are by apprenticeship and only 3 by composition, whereas in the Elizabethan companies the two classes had been approximately equal. A Mercers' Company was still in existence in 1741, (fn. 153) but a reorganization took place in 1726, as a result of which a new company was formed, comprising the Chandlers, Ironmongers, Soap-boilers, and Bakers. The ordinances of this company survive, as does also their minute book for the years 1726–60. (fn. 154) There were 10 original members, 9 others were admitted at the second meeting, and the maximum membership, attained in 1730, was 23. The total membership during the period amounts to 42, of whom 13, including 9 widows of deceased members, were women. Approximately half the members were bakers, and it seems to have been the custom for bakers and members of the other associated trades to alternate in the offices of master and warden. (fn. 155) In addition to their ordinary trades the members of the company in 1735 maintained against the butchers of the town their ancient right to kill pigs and sell pork in their shops. The ordinances, compared with those of the earlier companies, confer an increased freedom from corporation control. (fn. 156) Additional ordinances, made to bolster up a trade monopoly that was becoming increasingly difficult to maintain, restricted the number of apprentices, but the system of apprenticeship seems to have been laxly administered. In 1741 the Mercers and Grocers Company refused to admit one Kington, who had lived with a member for seven years without being actually apprenticed, and attempted to restrain him under the Act of Apprentices from setting up in trade. Counsel's opinion was given in Kington's favour, (fn. 157) and two years later when the Chandlers Company meditated suing a recalcitrant tradesman for fees and fines, the opinion of two counsel was taken and both agreed that, as Stratford was a borough only by charter and not by prescription, the corporation had no right to make by-laws excluding foreigners from setting up a trade there. (fn. 158) These cases mark the end of the trade companies as effective bodies. The chandlers, as late as 1746, tried, in vain, to prohibit persons who had neither served an apprenticeship nor bought their freedom from setting up in the town. No further composition fees were exacted, and between 1743 and the last mention of it in 1760 the membership of the company had sunk from 19 to 8. Of the craft companies, 5 survived into the reign of George II. These were the Skinners and Tailors, and the Shoemakers and Sadlers, always the two largest; the Weavers; the Joiners, Wheelwrights and Coopers; and the Glovers. The last reference to any of them is the entry of a payment from the Shoemakers in the Chamberlains' Accounts for 1746.
Compared with Coventry and its neighbourhood, south-west Warwickshire was never an important centre of the cloth industry. There was indeed a fullingmill in the manor of Stratford as early as 1252, (fn. 159) and part of the mill near the church was being used for that purpose in the reign of Charles I. (fn. 160) There is some evidence too of a medieval cloth-trade here and of its decline in the later 16th century. In the Gild Register (1406–1530) 37 out of the 242 Stratford men whose occupations are given are in some way connected with the manufacture of cloth. (fn. 161) But a corporation petition of 1590 described the town as 'now fallen much into decay for want of such trade as heretofore they had by clothinge and makeinge of yarne ymploying and maynteyninge a number of poore people by the same, wch now live in great penury and myserie'; (fn. 162) and in 1615 the Mercers and Drapers Company assured Sir Edward Coke that 'there is no clothes or stuffs made [in Strat ford] but bought at London or elsewhere searched and sealed'. (fn. 163) Moreover, while the Gild Register mentions 12 drapers in Stratford during the 15th century, there were never more than 2 drapers in the Mercers and Drapers Company in the later 17th. The Weavers or Clothworkers Company, though it was still in existence as late as 1742, (fn. 164) is one of the most obscure of all the companies, there being no reference to it between 1590 and 1707. (fn. 165) There must, however, have been a fairly considerable jersey combing industry here about the middle of the 18th century, for Saunders speaks of the jersey combers amounting to about two hundred; with their banners of Jason and Bishop Blaize taking the lead in the Shakespearian processions of the 1770's. But he adds that because of the decline of the trade the processions had to be discontinued. (fn. 166)
Stratford was for long a centre of the gloving industry which was once widespread throughout the whole district to the west of the town. The Gild Register mentions 8 glovers, inhabitants of Stratford, in the 15th and early 16th centuries. The heyday of the trade was in the reigns of Elizabeth and James I. Glovers and Whittawers, including Shakespeare's father, figure prominently on the Elizabethan Corporation. On market and fair days they occupied the most important position in the town, at the High Cross, where in 1618 'the seven glovers' were made responsible for the paving of the street. (fn. 167) In the same year 6 out of the 32 young tradesmen who received loans from the charity moneys were glovers. (fn. 168) By their ordinances of 1637 the Glovers, Whittawers and Collar Makers Company were allowed to impose fines on all tanners in the town who bought skins 'not belonginge to the trade of a Tanner' and on all butchers who brought mutton and lamb to the market without also bringing the skins for sale. In the later 17th century the trade seems to have declined. No glover occurs in the bonds of indemnity after 1630, and of the members of the corporation whose trades are known the last glover was elected in 1647. In 1677 their standing at the High Cross was being contested by the Mercers. (fn. 169) There are few records of admission to the Glovers Company, though it was still existing in 1732. (fn. 170) The trade, however, lingered on in Stratford and there was a firm of glove makers here as late as the 1860's.
The prominence of the leather and wood-working trades reflected the character of the surrounding countryside. There is also some evidence of a metalworking industry. The Gild Registers mention 13 smiths as compared with 12 weavers, and there was some migration of metal-workers into the town, more remarkable indeed for its variety than its extent, in the reign of Charles II. The bond of indemnity given by a needlemaker in 1665 (fn. 171) is actually the earliest known reference to that important industry in Warwickshire, though it never became established at Stratford; and John Becke, nailer, who settled in the town in 1674 with John Woodin as his surety, (fn. 172) was no doubt attracted by the new industrial developments at Bridgetown. A number of small nailers, gunsmiths, and tin-plate workers survived even into the '80's of last century. (fn. 173)
Among the various metal trades in Stratford, that of bell-founding in the 17th and early 18th centuries, calls for special notice. Richard Dawkes, described also as a plumber, recast the great bell of the Chapel in 1606 and one of the bells of St. Nicholas Warwick in 1619. He may also have been responsible for a number of Worcestershire bells. He died in 1627. (fn. 174) Richard Sanders, 'Feltmaker and Bellfounder', who settled in Stratford from Bromsgrove in 1719 (fn. 175) was no doubt a connexion of the Richard Sanders of the Bromsgrove foundry. He probably carried on a branch of the business here, since there are bells bearing the mark of Richard Sanders in the church, dated 1717 and 1733, and one at Alveston cast in 1729.
The later 18th century was here a time of general depression; in 1769 the corporation and the innkeepers of the town petitioned the Secretary at War against the quartering upon them of two troops of dragoons, alleging 'That the weight of Taxes are great & severely felt by the poorer sort of people; . . . that there is no Manufacture established in the place', (fn. 176) and within the next ten years the Shakespearian processions had to be discontinued because of the decline of the jersey combers and flax dressers who principally supported them. (fn. 177) The widespread distress is shown by the fact that no less than one in ten of the houses in the borough assessed to the Land Tax was empty in 1781. The great falling off in the Avon navigation noted by Wheler was no doubt both a cause and an effect of these conditions. Other evidence, from toll books and settlement certificates, points in the same direction.
Before the end of the century, however, Stratford was beginning to be affected by the Industrial Revolution. The road from Birmingham and the Banbury road as far as Edgehill were turnpiked as early as 1726, (fn. 178) the corporation advancing £200 towards the cost of an Act for the purpose. (fn. 179) In 1730 the same trustees, with the corporation of Stratford and others added, took over the Shipston and Oxford road as far as the top of Long Compton Hill. (fn. 180) The first Turnpike Act for the Stratford-Alcester-Bromsgrove road was passed in 1753, (fn. 181) and that for the Warwick road in the following year. (fn. 182) The Wellesbourne road was turnpiked in 1770. (fn. 183) The turnpikes, especially after the advent of the mail coaches, seem to have brought a revival of prosperity. The White Lion, rebuilt by John Payton in 1753, became one of the most celebrated hostelries in the Midlands; and improved communications helped to make possible the Jubilee of 1769, (fn. 184) which seems to have been promoted, among other reasons, in the hope of bringing trade to the town. In the early 19th century the increasing volume of through traffic necessitated the demolition of Middle Row in Bridge Street and the widening of the bridge. When the latter project was under discussion in 1804 it was considered 'highly essential to the Interests of this Town to promote and encourage the Travelling and Posting Business as the same is now used from Holyhead to London'; (fn. 185) and a proposal in 1821 to take the London mail coach off the road called forth a protest from the corporation to the Post-Master General. (fn. 186) In 1817 at least 24 coaches a day, outgoing or returning, passed through Stratford on the routes from London to Birmingham, Shrewsbury, and Holyhead. (fn. 187) In 1830 there were 12 coaches to or from London, while other coaches ran to Nottingham, Coventry, Leicester, Leamington, Oxford, Cheltenham, Bath, and Bristol. The principal coaching inns were the White Lion, the Red Horse, the Shakespeare, the Golden Lion, and the Duke of Wellington (now the Coach and Horses) in Henley Street. (fn. 188) The London coach traffic had disappeared by 1845, but a few local coaches continued to run until the '50's. (fn. 189) The Oxford, Worcester, and Wolverhampton Railway Company obtained an Act for a branch to Stratford in 1846, though the line was not actually built until 1859. In 1857 the Stratford Railway Company was incorporated, and three years later it constructed a line to join the main Great Western line at Hatton. The present Great Western station was built when these two branches were joined up by the Stratford Company in 1861. The Stratford Company was absorbed by the Great Western in 1883. (fn. 190) A line to Birmingham via Henley was opened in 1894 and the present North Warwickshire line, which goes direct to Birmingham, in 1908. (fn. 191) The present L.M.S. station at Stratford was opened in 1873 by the East & West Junction Railway Company as the terminus of their line from Green's Norton near Towcester. In 1879 the line was completed to Broom Junction on the Evesham and Redditch Railway. This line was operated by the Stratford & Midland Junction Company from 1908 until 1921, when it was absorbed by the L.M.S. (fn. 192)
In 1775 the corporation petitioned Parliament for an Act enabling a canal to be cut to Stourbridge, (fn. 193) but nothing came of the scheme. The proposal for a canal to Birmingham seems to have been first mooted in 1791. (fn. 194) After some debate as to whether the new canal should be made direct to Birmingham, or should join the Worcester and Birmingham canal, the latter course was adopted and an Act was obtained in 1793. (fn. 195) The work, however, encountered many difficulties and it was more than 20 years before it was completed to Stratford. In 1795 it was decided, despite the opposition of the Stratford corporation, (fn. 196) to make a branch to join the Warwick and Birmingham Canal at Lapworth and this necessitated another Act. (fn. 197) By 1798 the canal was navigable as far south as Hockley Heath, about half the distance. But a third Act, to authorize certain changes of course, had to be obtained in 1799 (fn. 198) and with funds approaching exhaustion the completion of the canal to Stratford became 'only a forlorn hope'. It was therefore decided to finish the branch into the Warwick canal, after which, in 1803, the work came to an end. In 1808 the corporation advanced £2,000 towards the extension of the canal to a point 1¼ miles south of Wootton Wawen. (fn. 199) A new scheme for raising money to complete it was put before the company by William James of Henley, one of the proprietors, afterwards celebrated as a collaborator with George Stephenson in early railway development. (fn. 200) The canal was eventually opened on 24 June 1816, when 'amidst the rejoicings of many thousand people', the first boat from Wootton Wawen entered the Avon at Stratford. (fn. 201)
The completion of the canal inspired William James with the further project of a horse tramway to connect the wharves at Stratford with Shipston-on-Stour and Moreton-in-the-Marsh. (fn. 202) This was being discussed in 1820 (fn. 203) and an Act was obtained in the following year. The Tramway Bridge at Stratford was built in 1823, (fn. 204) the line was opened to Moreton in 1826 and the branch line to Shipston in 1836. In 1847 the tramway was taken over, on a lease, by the Oxford, Worcester, and Wolverhampton Railway Company. The receipts then averaged about £3,000 a year. The line was used principally for goods, which were conveyed by the traders themselves, who paid £1 a month for a licence to take passengers. It remained in operation until 1881. (fn. 205)
These developments made Stratford once more the centre of a considerable trade. Wharves were built along the Bancroft, which now became a canal basin, and at One Elm on the Birmingham road, where, during the '20's and '30's something of an industrial colony began to grow up: Messrs. Greaves, who were then developing the stone quarries at Wilmcote, opened lime-kilns here in 1824; (fn. 206) Flower's Brewery was established in 1832, (fn. 207) and the first gas works in Chapel Lane in 1834. (fn. 208) The manufacture of tarpaulin and oilcloth was introduced and seems to have flourished until the '80's. Until about the middle of the century the canal traffic was in the hands of some half-dozen different barge-owners, but by 1854 most of it seems to have been monopolized by the firm of Ashwin & Co. Stratford also became an important distributing centre for Staffordshire coal, and there were at least 22 coal merchants in the town in 1845. (fn. 209) In 1857 the canal was bought up by the Oxford, Worcester, and Wolverhampton Railway Company.
Much of the capital for these enterprises was provided by local banks. The first bank in Stratford was started, on the south side of Chapel Street, by Charles Henry Hunt, solicitor and town clerk, about 1790. (fn. 210) Hunt probably sold it to Horsman and Battersbee about 1796 (fn. 211) and by 1806 the firm had become Battersbee and Morris. (fn. 212) Edmund Battersbee, who bought the College in 1796, and was a large shareholder in the canal, died in 1812. (fn. 213) The business was then taken over by the Warwick bank of Whitehead, Weston, and Greenway, who were still carrying it on in 1830. (fn. 214) A second bank was established by Oldaker, Tomes, and Chattaway in 1810. (fn. 215) After the death of William Oldaker in 1834 the business was bought by the newly formed Stourbridge and Kidderminster Banking Company. This was amalgamated in 1890 with the Birmingham Bank, which in turn was absorbed into the Midland Bank in 1913. The present Midland Bank office occupies the site of the original bank of 1810. (fn. 216) It is worth noting that both the country banks in Stratford survived the crash of 1825.