A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1959.
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THE WOOLLEN INDUSTRY BEFORE 1550
Woollens have probably been manufactured in Wiltshire, as in many other parts of England, for some four thousand years. The 'Beaker' folk of the Early Bronze Age, who overran the chalk uplands of southern England about two thousand years before Christ, and raised at Stonehenge and Avebury their mightiest monuments, wore woollen as well as linen cloth, and it is not unreasonable to suppose that some at least of this was locally woven from the wool of the sheep that then grazed on the Wiltshire downs. (fn. 1) But it is not until the Early Iron Age that we have definite evidence of the actual practice of textile crafts, woollen or linen, in the county. No specimens of the finished material then woven in Wiltshire have been discovered, but parts of the tools used in the making of it have come to light, and these tell something of the method of its manufacture. They reveal, for instance, that spinning was carried out by means of the distaff and spindle universally used in primitive societies, as they are still used in some places even today. The wooden distaffs have perished. So too have the spindles. But the whorls which by this time were generally attached to the base of the spindles, to make them whirl more effectively, have frequently survived, for they were commonly made of more durable materials, often of the readily available chalk, and occasionally of baked clay; they have been found in numerous sites on the Marlborough Downs, on Salisbury Plain, and on the chalk uplands of Cranborne Chase. (fn. 2) When the yarn had been spun, it was woven into cloth on an upright loom. This too was made of wood, but a portion of one has survived in one of the pits excavated on Swallowcliffe Down. (fn. 3) In such upright looms the warp threads suspended from the beam at the top were kept taut by being attached in groups at the lower end to weights made, like the spindle whorls, sometimes of chalk, and sometimes of baked clay. Many such loom weights were discovered in the pit on Swallowcliffe Down with the fragment of the loom, while another pit close by seems to have been a store for them. Often they have been found in clusters of seven, as at Liddington, where there were seven in each of four pits, suggesting that seven were commonly used on one loom. (fn. 4) Specimens of weaving combs for pressing the woof into position have also been discovered, like those at Oldbury Castle and Swallowcliffe, and that at Liddington with eight teeth. These combs are generally made of bone. (fn. 5) Whether each household possessed a loom and wove for itself, which seems unlikely, or whether there were skilled local craftsmen supplying the needs of a village community and making up their customers' yarn, we cannot be certain. Still less is it possible now to ascertain whether such craftsmen produced for the market. Nevertheless the 28 loom weights in clusters of seven in the four adjoining pits at Liddington suggest that here perhaps there may have been a group of clothmakers producing for more than a merely local clientele, though whether they were making woollen or linen cloth we cannot be sure.
If evidence is scanty for the five centuries that have been called the Early Iron Age, it is no less so for the four centuries of Roman rule that followed. No written record survives to enlighten us, but archaeological finds at least confirm the assumption that clothmaking in Wiltshire continued. (fn. 6) Fewer in number than those of the Early Iron Age, they are much the same in kind—spindle whorls, loom weights, and weavers' combs—and they suggest that there was little if any development in basic techniques. Their distribution, however, perhaps points to a greater development of clothmaking, as of settlement, in the west of the county, though it is hazardous to draw deductions from what is as yet so small a number of finds.
Even less is known at present of clothmaking in Wiltshire in Saxon and Norman times. Indeed it is not until the end of the 12th century that clear evidence of it begins to appear and that we can distinguish a textile industry concerned specifically with woollens.
By the close of the 12th century the techniques of woollen manufacture, fundamentally unchanged from prehistoric to late Saxon times, were undergoing a transformation scarcely less remarkable than that of the late 18th and 19th centuries. The primitive upright loom had already been superseded by the horizontal loom, with its complex mechanism of heddles, a fixed comb, and a revolving beam on which any length of warp could be wound, while looms were now constructed of 'double' as well as 'single' width, the double loom being worked by two weavers seated side by side. Hence, instead of the small pieces of cloth which made up the staple of the Saxon as of the Roman and prehistoric industry, immense cloths up to 2 yards in width and often well over 20 yards in length could be, and were, produced for the market in England as elsewhere. It was a symptom as much of the development of commercial production as of the prevailing passion for order and regulation that the end of the 12th century saw an attempt by the state in England, as by individual cities in Flanders, to fix a standard width for all woollen cloth put up for sale. Richard I's Assize of Measures (1197) decreed that 'woollen cloth, wherever made, was to be of the same width, viz. two ells within the lists'. (fn. 7) It was not surprising that protests were made against such a restriction, and that many boroughs, including some of those most famous at the time for the production of fine cloth, like Beverley, Lincoln, and Stamford, paid considerable sums to the Crown for permission to deal in cloths of any width. (fn. 8) The provision about width was nevertheless reiterated later on in Magna Carta; (fn. 9) proclamations were ordered to be made on the subject; (fn. 10) again licences of exemption were issued, and this time two Wiltshire towns—Marlborough and Bedwyn—secured exemption in respect of their 'burel' cloths, ne occasionentur in aliquo de burellis suis vendendis. (fn. 11)
This earliest written evidence of the production of Wiltshire woollens on a commercial scale reveals, as is to be expected, not an industry of finely dyed and finished cloths, such as that centred on cities of the eastern plain like Beverley, Lincoln, and Stamford, but one of less high quality cloths. 'Burel', which was made also in large quantities in London and Winchester, seems to have been a speciality of southern England, and it was also manufactured in Normandy. As a trade name the word vanishes at the end of the 13th century. Its etymology is as uncertain as its meaning, but we know at least that burel was a cheap cloth, cheaper than almost any cloth except the cheapest russets, and one considered suitable for clothing the poor and sometimes the troops. Henry II, for instance, bought 2,000 yards of burel for clothing his soldiers on the Irish expedition of 1172, and Henry III, who bought fine Lincoln and Stamford cloth for himself, regularly bought burel for the poor—900 yards of it, for example, for the Maundy Thursday distribution in 1233. (fn. 12) Most probably it was a coarse cloth with a rough surface, distinguished by its texture rather than by its colour.
But if Wiltshire was producing cheap cloth for the lower ranks of society when first we have written record of its woollen manufacture, that does not mean that in boroughs like Marlborough or Bedwyn the industry was a primitive or an undeveloped one in its method of organization. The 13th century 'burellers' of London were, we know well, no mere artisans weaving with their own hands, but entrepreneurs who 'caused burels to be made', employing weavers to work for them, and paying them piece-work wages about which there were many disputes. (fn. 13) So too we have good reason to believe that the weavers of Marlborough were by the opening of the 13th century no less subject to the entrepreneur. In the earliest book of the Laws and Customs of London there are enrolled, in handwriting almost certainly of the late 12th century, certain 'laws of the weavers and fullers of Marlborough', together with those of Winchester, Oxford, and Beverley, based, it is there stated, on the customs of London. These laws make it quite clear that the weavers and fullers in all these places were dependent folk, excluded from the freedom of their boroughs, and themselves employed by the freemen. In the Marlborough laws it is laid down that the weavers might not weave and the fullers might not full ('work') except for the prudhommes of the town; that they might possess nothing of their own pertaining to the making of cloth worth a penny, except such as would amount to 5 yards a year for their own clothing; that they might not bear witness against a freeman; and that if any one of them became rich and wished to join the ranks of the freemen he must pass two years without following his craft and in the third year forswear it, putting his tools (ustils) out of his house. (fn. 14)
Here then, in the late 12th and early 13th centuries, we glimpse an industry urban and capitalist, with its unenfranchised wage-earning craftsmen and its burgess entrepreneurs, influential enough to gain exemption from the assize regulations for the burels which they were putting on the market.
What of the fullers who are mentioned in these laws ? When we read of them 'working' for the prudhommes of the town we may think of them working in the trough with their feet, thickening and felting the cloth as they trod it underfoot. But the age which saw such striking advances as the evolution of the double loom, and also of the spinning-wheel, saw even more striking an advance in fulling. Though the old-fashioned foot-fulling continued, particularly in the boroughs, which clung conservatively to oldestablished customs, there were beginning to appear fulling-mills, driven by waterpower, where human feet were replaced by mechanical hammers linked, by a complex system of cogs, to a revolving water-wheel. (fn. 15) Built usually in the countryside by lords of the manor, these fulling-mills came to be regarded as a manorial monopoly, like the manorial oven, wine press, or corn-mill, or even the primitive fullery. Suit of fullingmill was as much an obligation of the tenants as was suit of corn-mill. Even cloth woven for a family's own clothing, like corn ground for its own bread, had now to be taken to the manorial mill for processing. Hence wherever water-power was readily available fulling-mills, like corn-mills, became an attractive investment for the surplus funds often at the disposal of landowners in the halcyon days of demesne farming in the late 12th and 13th centuries. One of the very earliest known to have existed in England was in Wiltshire. This was the fulling-mill belonging to the Cistercian abbey of Stanley, near Calne, first mentioned, as molendinum monachorum fullericum, in a charter of Richard I (1189) confirming the abbey's holdings. (fn. 16) Not long afterwards, in 1215, we hear of another in the south of the county, on the Salisbury Avon in the manor of Downton, then in the possession of the Bishop of Winchester; it was said to be worth £2 a year to the bishop. (fn. 17) But the most interesting account of a Wiltshire fulling-mill at this time is that of the king's fulling-mill just outside Marlborough, first recorded in a charter of 1215. The profits from this mill for a while maintained two men in the king's service, and it was regarded in the early 13th century as being worth 6 marks (£4) a year. A royal order of 1237 almost certainly relates to the reconstruction of this mill, or to its replacement by another one not far off. The Constable of Marlborough Castle was instructed to build 'de novo' a fulling-mill 'below the mill of Elcot', and the very detailed accounts of the work still exist. Timber was supplied from Savernake Forest, and more than a hundred cartloads of it were brought to the spot in the last week of July and the first week of August 1237. The whole task was entrusted to two carpenters, who included in their account the cost of making and adjusting the flagella et baterella —no doubt the beaters or hammers which, alternately raised and dropped upon the cloth, did the actual work of fulling. (fn. 18)
Thus already in the reign of King John, while the manufacture of burels was an established industry in the towns of Marlborough and Bedwyn, the fulling of woollens by water-power, whether or no on a commercial scale, was being carried on in the east, west, and south of the county—in the vale of Kennet, on the Bradford Avon, and on the Salisbury Avon. In each of these three regions fulling-mills seem to have increased in number during the following century. In the vale of Kennet, in addition to the mill outside Marlborough, we know of one at Chilton Foliat which was valued at 6s. 8d. a year in 1307 and at 20s. a year in 1327. (fn. 19) In the west, Rowden in the manor of Chippenham had at least one fulling-mill in 1300 and two in 1307. (fn. 20) In the south, down below the castle of Old Salisbury, one Walter de Wilton was running a fulling-mill in 1277 off the same stream as the malt-mill which he held of the Prior and Convent of St. Denis beyond Southampton. (fn. 21) And a mile or two lower down the Avon in the manor of West Harnham, just outside the young and rapidly growing city of New Salisbury, now little more than half a century old, a free tenant called Richard Pynnok was paying rent in 1299 for two mills, one of which was a fulling-mill. (fn. 22) Not far off, up the Wylye valley at Steeple Langford, the king owned a fulling-mill in 1294, (fn. 23) and in the extreme south-west of the county at Mere there was a fulling-mill in the time of Edward I which was let out to farm at £1 6s. 8d. a year, with the proviso that the lord of the manor would find the large timber for its repair. (fn. 24)
Yet, despite the building of fulling-mills in the valleys, there can be little doubt that in the late 13th and early 14th centuries Wiltshire was better known for its raw wool than for its manufactured cloth. It was wool rather than cloth which was being purchased in the county for export abroad. Sheep abounded on the chalk uplands, whether on the Marlborough Downs, on Salisbury Plain, or on the Wylye Downs, and though Wiltshire wools were not among the finest that England could boast, close attention was being paid to breeding. Foremost among the producers of English wool at this time were the Cistercian abbeys, whose clip was bought up year after year by Italian merchants for shipment overseas to feed the looms of Flanders and Italy. And in the merchants' handbook compiled by Pegolotti we read that Wiltshire's one Cistercian abbey of Stanley could be counted on to supply each year some 40 sacks of fairly good wool. (fn. 25) Wiltshire merchants, too, were dealing in the export of raw wool, like those merchants of New Salisbury who shipped it from Southampton, Lymington, and Poole, and at the same time they, like the alien merchants, were handling the import of foreign cloth and the selling of it in the county, for fine-quality foreign woollens were still assured of a considerable market in England. (fn. 26) Scattered up and down the Wiltshire countryside there were indeed isolated weavers, such as were to be found all over England, working no doubt mainly for the needs of their own district; it was to specialist craftsmen like these that households great and small, if they possessed their own sheep, put out wool to be woven, as did the nuns of Lacock, who recorded in their account roll for 1266–7 payments made for both weaving and fulling. (fn. 27) Many boroughs, too, were doing at least a small business in the manufacture of textiles, more especially in the dyeing of cloth for the market, a matter which had indeed been specifically reserved to the boroughs by the Assize of 1197. (fn. 28) A rental of Malmesbury Abbey, for instance, of the time of Edward I, reveals 4 dyers at Malmesbury and 2 fullers, in addition to 2 weavers. (fn. 29) The same rental mentions a dyer at Colerne, besides 2 weavers. (fn. 30) At Cricklade in 1263 Stephen the Fuller held half a burgage, and tenements were also rented there by 2 dyers and another fuller. (fn. 31) A dyer, John le Teynturer, was bailiff of Devizes in 1281, (fn. 32) and at Salisbury at least one dyer, William Scot, tinctor, was among the group of 300 citizens who signed the agreement with the bishop after the bitter disputes of 1306. (fn. 33) But there is no sign of any concentration of clothworkers. Nor is there trace of any export of Wiltshire cloth at this time. If some Wiltshire woollens did in fact find a sale on the Continent, they certainly did not enjoy the reputation there of those of Stamford or Lincoln. Most probably such cloth as was then being made in the county was only for local use, or cheap cloth for the poor like that of Marlborough or Bedwyn. Such a supposition is strengthened by the fact that in the agreement that Salisbury made with Southampton in 1329 there is mention of the tolls to be paid on imported Spanish and German wool. (fn. 34) Possibly a real shortage had been created in England by the quantities of English wool being bought up at this time by the Italians, so that the Wiltshire industry was driven to resort to wool of very different quality from abroad.
In that period of rapid growth for the English cloth industry during the reign of Edward III, when exports of raw wool were hindered and interrupted by diplomatic embargoes, war-time controls, and burdensome customs duties, and when English cloth was ousting Flemish cloth from the home market and steadily building up its export trade also, clothmaking in Wiltshire went rapidly ahead. It is for Salisbury that we have the clearest evidence of its development. Weavers, fullers (or 'tuckers' as they were called in the west of England), dyers and drapers occur frequently in the Salisbury 'Domesday Books', (fn. 35) as also in deeds in the Tropenell Cartulary concerning properties in Salisbury and in its suburb of Fisherton. (fn. 36) The same sources show too how all over the city and its suburbs, in back gardens and in empty spaces, there were going up those 'racks', or 'tenters' as they would more often be called in the north and east of England, on which cloth was stretched after fulling, or hung out to dry after dyeing. (fn. 37) They must have been as prominent a feature of the landscape in Salisbury as they were in many another growing textile town such as Coventry or Exeter. Thus we read of how in 1350 a Salisbury dyer, William at Brigge, took over a messuage in Fisherton with a curtilage and rekkis ibidem constructis, formerly the property of two Salisbury drapers successively. (fn. 38) Evidence appears also of at least one other fulling-mill in the immediate vicinity of Salisbury, at Ford in Laverstock, in 1372. (fn. 39) At least by the middle of Edward's reign the purveyors for the royal wardrobe were dealing with Salisbury men in Salisbury and Winchester and sometimes in London, (fn. 40) though we cannot be certain how much of the cloth they bought from them was actually made in Salisbury, since the city was then as always a great collecting and distributing centre. At the end of the reign, though still we know little as to how far there was any export of Wiltshire cloth overseas, we can at least be certain that Salisbury cloth was on sale in the London shops, as in the shop of the draper Henry Wylwes. (fn. 41)
At the same time there are signs that the industry was developing in the west of the county as well as in and around Salisbury. Racks are heard of there too, as at Keevil, where one Mary Baldenham allowed her mill cum rekkes to decay, (fn. 42) and at Trowbridge, where one John Cacherell paid a rent of 6d. for a long and narrow strip of land within the manor, 26 perches in length and 6 feet wide, on which he intended to put a tenter— pro uno tentorio superponendo. (fn. 43) We know also of a fulling-mill at Castle Combe in the Box valley by 1340, and of another at Bratton by 1348. (fn. 44)
The growing importance of the southern and western regions of Wiltshire through the reign of Edward III becomes yet more apparent when we look at the remains that survive, fragmentary though they are, of the 1379 Poll Tax collectors' returns for the county. This tax was a graduated one on all of 16 years and upwards, and a detailed schedule was issued, ranging from £6 13s. 4d. for John of Gaunt and £4 for an earl or for the Mayor of London down to 4d. While humble labourers and tillers of the soil were to pay only 4d., artisans and merchants were to be charged at higher rates. From each 'great merchant' 20s. was to be levied—as much as from a knight; from other 'sufficient' merchants 13s. 4d.; and from lesser merchants and artificers sums varying from 6s. 8d. down to 6d. (fn. 45) Hence when the tax returns were made, trade or occupational names were very often appended, at least to the names of those assessed at more than 4d., to explain the higher assessments. Where such detailed returns survive they tell us much about the trades pursued in various places, though it must be remembered that the lists are seldom complete or wholly accurate, if only because of the many evasions of the hated subsidy, while the collectors' methods of classification doubtless varied from region to region.
Clothmaking, according to the poll-tax returns, would appear to have been of very little importance at Marlborough or Bedwyn in 1379. In the borough of Bedwyn, taxed altogether at 13s. 4d., the total adult population listed was only 36, and it included only three craftsmen—a tailor, a smith, and a plumber. At Marlborough, although the tax collectors, taking a total of £7 2s. 4d., noted amongst the adult population 5 weavers, 1 tucker, 1 dyer, and 2 shearmen, all of modest means, they noted 7 stone-workers, 10 shoemakers, and 10 tanners, one of whom, a well-to-do man, was mayor of the town. In the west of the county, on the contrary, at Bradford-on-Avon, where they took only £3 4s. 4d. from a population but half the size of that of Marlborough, only 5 masons, 4 shoemakers, and 5 tanners were listed, but there were 8 weavers—one of them with 2 servants, 3 tuckers, and a dyer. (fn. 46) Still, however, there was no extensive industrial development in this part of the Avon valley. No clothworkers are recorded in any place in the hundred of Bradford other than Bradford itself, and such clothmaking as there was may well have been for a merely local clientele. Most of the surrounding villages would appear to have been wholly agricultural. Those craftsmen who are mentioned are such as would have been required to serve the needs of any agrarian community: in the hundred as a whole, credited with an adult population of 553 (excluding wives), there were listed 4 carpenters, 2 stone-workers, a smith, a wheeler, a hooper, 2 shoemakers, and 4 tailors, besides 3 'merchants' and 2 unspecified 'artificers'. Higher up the Bradford Avon, outside the hundred of Bradford, we can perhaps see the beginning of things to come at Christian Malford, where 13 weavers and 1 fuller were noted, and east of Bradford 6 weavers were listed at Seend and 3 near by at Bulkington. (fn. 47)
It is in the south-west of the county that a really interesting development is revealed by the poll-tax records, despite the fragmentariness of the returns and the likelihood that, even where they do survive, they give but an incomplete list of the adult population. Glimpses of what was happening at two points on the Wylye river are afforded by the returns for the hundred of Heytesbury. (fn. 48) High up the Wylye at Hill Deverill and Brixton Deverill 3 men described as fullers were listed, and 3 described as weavers. On a four-mile stretch of the river lower down no less than 9 fullers were recorded— 2 at Heytesbury, 1 at Knook, 1 at Corton, 1 at Upton, 2 at Boyton, and 2 at Codford, with half a dozen men specified as weavers. Indeed there was scarcely a place in the hundred without a clothworker of some kind. Here then was clearly emerging a specialized clothmaking area. The fullers at least must have been working for a clientele beyond their own locality, for the proportion of fullers to the adult population as a whole was exceptionally high. So too was the proportion of fullers to those described as weavers. Doubtless many weavers so combined weaving with husbandry that they could persuade the tax collectors to assess them at the lowest rate of 4d. rather than at the higher rates for which the artificers were liable. Even so it seems highly probable that these fullers were fulling more cloth than that made in their own immediate neighbourhood. Yet more remarkable is the apparent concentration of fullers in the extreme south-west of the county, where 10 were listed at Mere, and at least 3 close by at Woodlands. (fn. 49) So too some of the streams running down to the Nadder were evidently being developed industrially. At least one fuller was listed at Fonthill Gifford, together with a weaver, and lower down the same stream at Tisbury 2 fullers were noted and 2 weavers, one with 4 servants. Not far off at Swallowcliffe, where looms had been at work in the Early Iron Age, there were a weaver and draper. (fn. 50)
A fragment which almost certainly represents part of a poll-tax return for Salisbury gives no trade descriptions. Yet it is not wholly without significance in this connexion. For though late-14th century surnames are not necessarily an indication of occupation, the frequent incidence of 'Webbe', the fairly frequent incidence of 'Tucker', and the occasional appearance of 'Dyer', 'Comber', and 'Cardmaker' suggest that all these crafts were, or had recently been, of importance in the city, and thus confirm the conclusions drawn from other evidence as to the city's industrial growth. So too the surname 'Fleming' suggests at least a measure of Flemish immigration. (fn. 51)
The contrast between the parts of Wiltshire that were just beginning to show signs of industrial development and those that were quite undeveloped can be seen by a comparison of the poll-tax returns for the hundred of Heytesbury with those, for example, of the hundred of Kinwardstone. (fn. 52) In the hundred of Heytesbury, among some 651 adults listed (excluding wives), 13 (i.e. 2 per cent.) were described as weavers and 13 as fullers. In the hundred of Kinwardstone, with its far larger recorded population of 968 adults, 12 (i.e. only 1.2 per cent.) were described as weavers, and 3 (i.e. only 0.3 per cent.) as fullers; one of the fullers was at Pewsey, one at Collingbourne, and one at Chilton Foliat. Indeed, except for Pewsey and Collingbourne, in each of which there were a few men described as merchants, throughout the hundred of Kinwardstone we discern purely agrarian communities, whose people were concerned almost exclusively with the cultivation of the soil and the rearing of sheep and cattle, with a sprinkling of craftsmen providing for their immediate needs—smiths, carpenters, masons, tailors, tanners, and shoemakers, and here and there an expert weaver, wheeler, hooper, thatcher, miller, or brewer.
At the close of the 14th century when, during the reign of Richard II, English cloth exports as a whole expanded threefold, from some 12,000 cloths of assize to some 36,000 and more, (fn. 53) Wiltshire came to the front as a cloth-manufacturing area of the first importance. Her advance is apparent in the aulnager's sober records of cloths produced for sale. It was the duty of the aulnager or his deputies in each county to measure cloths put for sale to ensure that they conformed to the statutory assize (which now specified length as well as width), to affix to them a special seal signifying that they did so, or to confiscate them if they did not, and to levy a duty of 4d. on each 'cloth of assize' thus sealed. In 1362 the aulnage of Wiltshire had been let to farm at £60 a year; this farm had been stepped up in 1365 to £63 6s. 8d.; in 1368 to £64; and in 1375 to £66 14s. 4d. In 1388 it was further increased to £70, and in 1390 to £86 13s. 4d. (fn. 54) However unreliable the aulnager's returns of the number of cloths sealed may be, (fn. 55) however slowly and imperfectly any increase in production may have been reflected in an increase of the farm, the very fact that the aulnage could thus be let to farm at a much higher rate at the end than at the beginning of the reign of Richard II shows unmistakably that the Wiltshire clothmaking industry was expanding at that time. In many other counties no such increase of farm was made during this period. Early in the following reign, when the aulnage was again let to farm (at Easter 1403), the sum was further increased to £100, though not long afterwards it was reduced again to £80, reflecting perhaps the temporary depression that afflicted the English cloth trade generally in the early 15th century. (fn. 56)
The aulnage accounts point not only to the growing industrial importance of Wiltshire as a whole towards the end of the 14th century but also to the predominance of Salisbury at this time. Even though the detailed returns of the aulnager are often far from trustworthy, and even though the lists of cloths taxed at Salisbury undoubtedly include cloths marketed at Salisbury as well as manufactured or at least finished there, yet the very fact that at this moment the overwhelming majority of the Wiltshire cloths were listed under the heading of Salisbury makes clear the importance of the city as a producing and marketing centre for English cloth, a centre marketing, no doubt, cloths made all along the valleys that there converged, and further afield too. For the year 1394–5, 5,039 cloths of assize are listed under the heading of Salisbury and its suburbs, as compared with only 723 cloths for the rest of the county; (fn. 57) for the following year 6,749 cloths, and for the year after that 7,044 cloths. (fn. 58) From this and from much other evidence Salisbury would appear to have been at its zenith industrially at the turn of the 14th and 15th centuries.
What kind of cloth, then, were the Salisbury dealers putting on the market with such success ? Their business was a very different one from that of the cheap burel makers of Marlborough and Bedwyn in the 12th and 13th centuries, catering for the poor, and from that of the luxury clothmakers who then catered for the wealthy at Lincoln, Stamford, and elsewhere. No scarlets or cloths dyed partly in the costly scarlet grain seem to have been made in the Salisbury region. Production was confined mainly to cloths of the middle price range, such as would be bought by the middle classes, by the more prosperous peasants and artisans, or by the upper classes for their household servants and retainers. Three quite different types of cloth were made. There were first of all the plain coloured broad cloths (panni colorati) of many and various shades but each of one colour throughout; they were of the statutory width (i.e. 'six quarters at the least') but were usually sold in 'dozens' or 'half-cloths', that is in lengths of 12 yards, half that of the full statutory broadcloth 'of assize'. According to the values put upon such cloths when confiscated by the aulnager at this time, black was once worth 1s. 3d. a yard, red 1s. 4d., and blue 1s. 5d., while russets were sometimes valued at very similar prices but were made also in cheaper qualities. (fn. 59)
Very different from these plain coloured cloths was the Salisbury speciality—striped cloths or 'rays' (panni stragulati or panni radiati). These seem to have had a ground of one predominant colour by which they were commonly described, as a modern tweed might be, with varied stripes woven into it. Thus a 'whole cloth of Salisbury ray with a sanguine ground' (pannum integrum de Salesbury ray cum sanguyn chaump) was found in the stock of a London draper late in the reign of Edward III, (fn. 60) and among cloths confiscated by the aulnager at Salisbury was a 'half-cloth of ray with a blue ground' (dimid' panni stragulat' cum un bleu champ), besides cloths described more simply as blue ray, red ray, murrey ray, sanguine ray, green ray, russet ray, and white ray. (fn. 61) Most often rays were sold in dozens, or half-cloths, and their price range seems to have been very similar to that of the plain coloured cloths, though some were perhaps cheaper. It was this Salisbury ray which was bought regularly through the 15th century, and perhaps earlier, by Winchester College, at prices from 1s. to 1s. 6d. a yard, for clothing the servants, grooms, and stewards, while the scholars were dressed in plain cloth; until 1418 it was given a final shearing on arrival at the college, as was quite a common practice in royal and other households at one time, but afterwards it was delivered ready shorn. (fn. 62) For the wedding of Henry IV and Joan of Navarre at Winchester a carpet of ray was laid down all the way from the gate of the cathedral, along the nave, and through the choir to the high altar, and some, if not all, of this was bought from a Salisbury man. (fn. 63) Salisbury citizens frequently left garments made of ray in their wills, as William Woderove, weaver, in 1405 left a cloak of ray with a green ground, (fn. 64) and Salisbury rays were being marketed regularly at the London fairs at least by the late 14th century. (fn. 65) Indeed so important to Salisbury was this business, that when it was reported that the rays displayed by the Salisbury clothmakers (pannarii) at Westminster Fair had been confiscated because they were not of the statutory width, the matter was discussed at a special meeting of the City Convocation (January 1412). There were present 35 citizens specifically named in the record of the meeting in the city's 'Ledger Book', with 'many other makers of cloth within the city', presided over by the mayor, William Doudyng, who was himself a Salisbury draper. It was agreed that 'at the expense of the whole community' two citizens should be sent to London to negotiate, and when a few weeks later the delegates reported that the king and his council were adamant in insisting that rays should be 28 yards long by 6 quarters wide it was further agreed that specimens of Salisbury rays at different stages of production should be sent to London —one unfulled, one partly fulled, and one wholly fulled and shorn— in order to demonstrate to the council that they could not be made of the required width. (fn. 66)
One other species of cloth appears in the Salisbury records of this time, namely 'osetes'. These are classed separately in the aulnage accounts, but only very small quantities are mentioned there. They too were sold in 'dozens' half the length of a statutory broadcloth, but unlike the 'coloured cloths' and 'rays' they were narrow cloths (panni stricti), only half the width of a statutory broadcloth, so that each dozen was equivalent to 6½ yards of a full broadcloth 'of assize' (pannus integrus de assisa). (fn. 67) It was indeed their narrow width that gave them their name, for they were made on narrow looms worked by one weaver alone, and 'osete' is a contraction of 'omansette' or 'one man's seat'. (fn. 68) Beyond this we know virtually nothing of what they were like, except that they seem to have been made chiefly if not entirely in black, white, or russet, and that to judge by their price they cannot have been much inferior to the other Salisbury cloths. (fn. 69)
Whatever may have been the status of Salisbury weavers in the city's early days, at the opening of the 15th century they were evidently a prosperous and propertyowning group of men, very different from the depressed wage-earners of Marlborough, Bedwyn, and many another clothmaking town two centuries previously. William Woderove owned not only his own home in Endless Street, where many of the neighbouring householders in Endless Street and Chipper Lane were also weavers, but also a number of shops elsewhere; all these he devised by his will in 1405, as he bequeathed also the 'instruments of his craft'. (fn. 70) Weavers were evidently not precluded from dealing in cloth as well as weaving it, for William Pridy, who is recorded in the city's Ledger Book as selling six dozens of white cloth, rayed, to John Draper of Shrewsbury, is elsewhere described as a weaver. (fn. 71) Moreover a city ordinance regulating the sale of cloth clearly envisages craftsmen dealing in it, for it prohibits any 'citizen or artisan (artifex) or resident or any other' from taking cloths to be sold at fairs or markets or anywhere else outside the city, except at the fair of St. Edmund once a year. (fn. 72) By this time, if not earlier, the weavers were associated together as a craft for economic, as well as for social and religious, purposes. An entry in the city's first Ledger Book, recording a meeting in 1421 to discuss urgent business, especially concerning the fairs, gives the names of four wardens (senescalli) of the master weavers with a list of 81 master weavers, and of four wardens of the weavers' journeymen or servants (valetti textorum) with a list of 207 such valetti. (fn. 73) It was the duty of the wardens to present cloth which was not up to standard before the city convocation, as did Walter Mede, John Machyn, and John Pridy, senescalli artis textorum, when in the presence of the mayor at the Guildhall they presented a dozen of cloth which, 'for lack of the true width', was declared forfeit. (fn. 74) And when convocation resolved to open negotiations with Southampton about a new toll there imposed, which was doing grave injury to the citizens of Salisbury, then the weavers' wardens advanced a loan of 100s. towards the expenses incurred until these could be met by a levy on the whole community. (fn. 75) Worshipping together in St. Edmund's, not far from Endless Street, the weavers had their own light in that church, opposite the altar of the Virgin, and their own chantry to which they made offerings so that prayers might be said for the souls of themselves and of their families. (fn. 76) They also had a hall of their own in Endless Street and owned considerable property in the city. (fn. 77)
The fullers, or 'tuckers' as they were often called in Salisbury and in the west of England, were also organized as a craft with wardens in the early 15th century. They appear to have been less numerous and less wealthy as a body than the weavers, for the list of 1421 gives only 70 master fullers and 30 valetti, and for the Southampton negotiations they lent only 40s. as compared with the weavers' 100s. Individually, however, they may have been no less prosperous, owning their own houses and workshops as did George Joce, tucker, who in 1431 devised his shop 'with the house called the Workhouse, and a hall in the solar of the shop', together with other possessions such as a book containing the Psalter and his best brass pot which he left to St. Edmund's, requesting that he might be buried there. The division of labour was not very great in the Salisbury textile industry at this time, and the fullers seem to have been generally responsible for all the finishing processes. Probably they sent the cloth out to one or other of the mills near the city for the actual fulling, but it is clear that they themselves in their own workshops completed the final processes of raising the nap with teasles, shearing, and pressing. Thus William Hanleygh, tucker, possessed a press, a pair of shears, and twelve pairs of what were probably hand-frames for setting the teasles into, all of which he bequeathed to William Sheregold. (fn. 78) Indeed, later on in the 15th century the craft is described as that of 'the Fullers and Shearmen'. (fn. 79)
None of the other craftsmen concerned with the making of cloth appear in the city's records as associated together in any way as were the weavers and fullers. The multitude of women spinning in their own homes, in or out of Salisbury, to keep the looms busy, have left little trace in the records, here as elsewhere. But there is at least a glimpse of them in the poll-tax fragment, where many women of Salisbury are designated simply by Christian names with the occupational name 'spinster' appended; that in this case 'spinster' is not a mere synonym for 'unmarried woman' is shown by the fact that many of these, though not all, are also described as sola, like Johanna Spynnestre, sola. (fn. 80) Still less do we know of those concerned with the preliminary processes of sorting, beating, and washing the wool, or of those who carded it or combed it before it was spun. The manufacture of wool-cards was, however, a highly specialized craft in Salisbury, occupying the undivided attention of a number of craftsmen who no doubt produced cards for sale not only to clothmakers of the city but also to others outside it. At least one craftsman in the poll-tax fragment has the surname 'cardmaker', and later on in the mid-15th century, among the records of the election of various wardens of crafts, we read of two wardens being elected to represent jointly the saddlers, cutlers, pewterers, pinners, and cardmakers. (fn. 81) Of the dyers, too, there is little trace in the records, except for stray references in deeds, rentals, and wills, like that to the tenement occupied by John Cupper, dyer, next the 'upper bridge' of Fisherton, or to the tenement in Winchester Street belonging to the wife of a dyer, Richard Waren. (fn. 82)
More important than any of these were the members of the mercantile crafts— mercers, drapers, grocers, and others, who for the most part monopolized the government of the town. Primarily traders, many of them were concerned with the marketing of cloth or the import, amongst many other things, of raw materials for the cloth industry. But some of them were also concerned in the production of cloth, as entrepreneurs, purchasing wool and putting it out to be spun, woven, dyed, and finished. Such men could be described, to use a contemporary expression, as 'clothmen' or 'clothmakers', in that they were engaged in the manufacture, as well as the sale, of cloth. Very naturally the craft of clothman was more closely linked with that of draper than with that of any other mercantile craft. John Bitterlegh, for instance, Mayor of Salisbury in 1385, whose business activities extended to dealing in wool in Devonshire, was spoken of sometimes as a draper and sometimes as a clothman; so too were Nicholas Tailor and William Bailly. (fn. 83) But not all Salisbury's clothmen came from the ranks of the drapers, or indeed from those of the mercantile crafts as a whole. No rigid barrier now separated merchant and artisan, as once it had done in Marlborough and Bedwyn, and there was nothing to prevent any enterprising citizen, even one engaged himself in manual labour, from going into business as a clothman. Hence many in fact came from among the weavers, skilled in the actual making of cloth. No list survives of the Salisbury clothmen, for this diverse throng had no formal association. But a vivid if fitful light is thrown on the character and composition of the group by the account of the meeting that was called in 1412 to discuss the crisis arising from the confiscation of the cloths of the Salisbury clothmen (pannarii) in London. (fn. 84) The clerk began by writing down the names of 35 citizens who were present. Then, wearying of his task as he saw the large crowd of people there, he contented himself with adding: 'and very many other makers of cloths within the city' (quampluribus aliis factoribus pannorum infra civitatem). The group evidently ranged from folk of small account, scarce worth the clerk's attention, to those who were among the leading citizens of the day. At least eleven mayors—past, present, or future—were there. Of those specifically named a number can be identified as drapers; and at least six appear as master weavers in a list of 1420. (fn. 85) Some of these clothmen not only manufactured and sold cloth but also exported it themselves, sometimes in their own ships. Such a shipowner was the draper William Doudyng who, as mayor in that year, presided over the meeting of 1412. (fn. 86)
Throughout the 15th century Salisbury remained a clothmaking and marketing centre of no little importance, famed especially for its rays, which continued to be purchased in considerable quantities, particularly for liveries, both by individuals and by institutions like Winchester College. (fn. 87) Its weavers and fullers, so far as we can see, retained their independence, and among them there were still property-owning folk, even if they did not amass such wealth as did the merchants who made up the citizen aristocracy. Meanwhile, however, the industry was developing elsewhere in the county in regions where it had been of slight consequence hitherto. By the end of the century the clothing centres of west Wiltshire rivalled, if they did not yet surpass, that of Salisbury.
The growing importance of the west is already perhaps reflected in an aulnage account for part of a year early in Henry V's reign. (fn. 88) Hitherto aulnagers had arranged their account for Wiltshire under two headings only: that of the county, and that of the city of Salisbury, to which by far the greater number of cloths were attributed. Now several new headings appeared. Out of a total of 1,871 cloths, 1,309 were indeed listed under the city of Salisbury, and 67 under its near neighbour Wilton—a figure eloquent of the economic defeat of the ancient county capital by the upstart New Salisbury. But three other towns were singled out for special mention: to Devizes 140 cloths were attributed, to Mere 80, and to Castle Combe seventy-one. In addition, 129 cloths were attributed to the hundred of Warminster and 7 to the hundred of Melksham.
The development of the industry in the extreme south-west of the county at Mere, which, as we have seen, had a fulling-mill in the late 13th century and was remarkable for the number of its fullers in the reign of Richard II, is further emphasized by the appearance of a second fulling-mill in manorial accounts of the second quarter of the 15th century. (fn. 89) So, too, not far off in the upper reaches of the Wylye valley, where also many fullers had been recorded in the poll-tax returns, there were signs of the increasing exploitation of water-power early in the 15th century, stimulated, no doubt, as much by the proximity of Salisbury as by the great activity in sheep-farming on the chalk uplands of this region. At Heytesbury, for instance, one of the principal centres of management for the flocks of the Hungerford estates, with its own demesne flock a thousand or more strong, manorial funds were invested in the construction of a wholly new fulling-mill in 1421–2, together with tenters for stretching the cloth out to dry, for which were bought 2,500 tenterhooks ('rekkenaills'). (fn. 90) This mill was then farmed out at £2 a year to Thomas Knight and his wife for life, with the tenters, the mill-pond, weir, and fisheries, and it continued for many years to yield this sum to the manor. (fn. 91) Another manorial fulling-mill appears in the records at this time at Warminster, where one called 'Wissheleys' was leased in 1420–1 to Henry Towker for 33s. 4d. a year; when next we hear of it in 1464–5 it was bringing in 53s. 4d. a year. (fn. 92) By 1440–1 there is mention of yet another at Boyton, farmed for 26s. 8d. a year to John Mody and John Somer jointly, together with a garden, a cottage, and three tofts, one of which had been held previously by a fuller. (fn. 93) No less significant is the increase of entry fines for those taking up holdings in this part of the valley in the mid-15th century; (fn. 94) business opportunities assuredly were good, whether for the production or for the manufacture of wool, and in the Wylye valley the first half of the 15th century was clearly a period of economic growth.
Still more impressive is the evidence of industrial growth in and around Castle Combe. A multitude of records, national as well as local, point unmistakably to the emergence here in the first half of the 15th century of a thriving industrial township, renowned far and wide for the making, and still more the dyeing, of woollens. Already in the reign of Edward III, if not earlier, Castle Combe had its manorial fulling-mill, (fn. 95) and a century later it was said that one Roger Young had lived there then as a clothmaker. (fn. 96) When in 1409 the manor passed by marriage into the hands of that astute property-owner, warrior, and man of business, Sir John Fastolf, who held it until his death at the age of 70 in 1459, progress became rapid and indeed spectacular under his vigorous patronage. Sir John was a Norfolk man and, when he was not campaigning, preferred to make his home in Norfolk rather than at Castle Combe or any of the manors he had acquired elsewhere by his marriage. But he knew the potential value of all his estates and was determined to make the most of them, and he evidently realized that nowhere could he procure better cloth for clothing those who followed him to the wars than from his tenants at Castle Combe. In 1411–12, the year that he first set sail for France, a young man still in his early twenties, in the retinue of the Duke of Clarence, there is mention in a Castle Combe bailiff's account of the purchase of three white cloths at a cost of £7 18s. 4d. 'for the great livery of the lord beyond the sea', and of another piece of cloth price 53s. 4d. (fn. 97) From the moment of the great invasion of France in 1415 until he retired from the wars about 1440 Fastolf was constantly recruiting and equipping troops to serve under him; in 1415, for instance, he agreed to find 10 men at arms and 30 archers, and in 1424, 80 men at arms and 240 archers. These men he clothed in his livery of red and white cloth, made at Castle Combe, purchasing every year by his receivers, as his steward William of Worcester tells us, 'to the value of more than £100 of red and white cloth of his tenants in Castle Combe'. Reckoning on the basis of the price paid in 1411, this indicates a purchase of close on 40 broadcloths, amounting in all, probably, to about 1,000 yards of cloth. 'In this manner', as William of Worcester remarks, 'he divided the rents and profits of his manors of Castle Combe and Oxendon and the rents of Bathon Wyly (fn. 98) among his tenants and clothmen (pannarios) of Castle Combe', and his doing so was one of the 'principal causes of the augmentation and store of the said town and of the new buildings raised in it'. (fn. 99)
The effect of such a stimulus to production just at the time when the overseas market for English cloth was expanding also, after a slight depression at the beginning of the century, was soon apparent. New men arrived in Castle Combe to take up business there. Some became entrepreneurs like the Irish-born Walter Power, householder and 'clotheman'. (fn. 100) Some remained humbler craftsmen, working for others, like those landless artificers who paid 2d. chevage a year to the lord for licence to dwell in the manor, their masters being pledges for the payment; their numbers, recorded annually in a list headed Chevagium Garcionum, increased markedly during Sir John Fastolf's lordship. (fn. 101) A sharply rising demand for wool gave an impetus to sheep-rearing, and again and again in the late twenties and thirties tenants were fined for putting upon the common pasture two or three times the number of sheep they were entitled to graze there. (fn. 102) Castle Combe cloth was by this time finding a sale far beyond the bounds of the manor and was prominent among the woollens displayed for sale to English and foreign buyers in London at Blackwell Hall. Among cloths confiscated there by the aulnager, for instance, were four red cloths of John Rede of Castle Combe valued at 46s. 8d. each (1431–2), (fn. 103) and a crimson kersey of John Lane of Castle Combe valued at 1s. 10d. a yard (1438–9) (fn. 104) So renowned had Castle Combe clothmakers become for the fine reds, as well as for the fine whites, required for the lord's livery that cloth made elsewhere was being sent to them for dyeing. The well-known Cirencester manufacturer Roger Robyns had twelve of his white cloths dyed red there in 1434 (fn. 105) and clothmakers of Bath also seem to have sent cloth thither; we hear, for instance, of the cloth of Thomas Webbe of Bath being stolen by John Batyn, a weaver of Bath, while in the keeping of John Lacock, a 'maker of cloth', at Castle Combe. (fn. 106) Indeed, before long 'Castlecombe' became a trade name, for we read in the City of London records in 1457 of 'two woollen cloths of red colour called Castlecombes' (duos pannos laneos rubii coloris vocat' Castlecombes) which Robert Doswell of Castle Combe claimed to be his property. (fn. 107)
As business increased, new experiments were made in labour-saving techniques at Castle Combe. In addition to several fulling-mills there was now at least one gig-mill. This was a mechanical device for raising the nap on the cloth. Hitherto the nap had been raised by the tedious process of drawing teasles over the whole surface of the cloth by hand. Now the cloth could be passed over a roller set with teasles and kept whirling by being attached to the spindle of a water-wheel. (fn. 108)
A vivid light is thrown on the wealth which Castle Combe's new industrialists were accumulating at this time by the proceedings following upon the death of a Castle Combe villein, William Haynes, in 1435. Haynes's goods and chattels at the day of his death were at first declared by members of Sir John Fastolf's council to be worth the vast sum of 3,000 marks (£2,000). This figure was evidently challenged. An inquiry was opened in the manor court, and an inquest of twelve local men swore that all Haynes's goods in gold, silver, debts, household equipment, merchandise, stock, and all other chattels, were worth at his death 300 marks (£200) and no more, after the payment of certain outstanding commitments such as costs incurred in the rebuilding of his house (£30) and a subscription (£20) to the church tower, begun in the year of his death. (fn. 109) Even so this was a substantial amount for a villein to possess in movables, and that it was very likely a considerable underestimate is shown by subsequent events. His widow Margery, after further disbursements including £27 for the funeral and over £43 to William's son, was able and willing to pay an entry fine of £40 for possession of William's movables, including woollen cloths, wool, and madder for dyeing, and for the house in which she was living, and later on yet another fine of no less than £100 for permission to marry again and for possession of all William's property, both movables and lands and tenements, including a fulling-mill, a grain-mill, and a gig-mill. (fn. 110) Margery continued to live in affluence. The alien subsidy roll of 1439–40 records that she then had two foreign servants born in France—William Frenshman and Morgan Frenshman, and when she died in 1454 she was still in possession of a grain-mill, a fulling-mill, two houses which she herself had built, a shop to which a stall (stala) had been added after William's death, and other lands and tenements. (fn. 111)
Margery's brother Richard Halwey, clothmaker, mill-owner, and farmer, who died in the same year, 1454, held at his death two fulling-mills by Colham Wood besides much other property in and beyond the manor of Castle Combe. (fn. 112) He had built nine new houses in Castle Combe, in addition to rebuilding his own house, (fn. 113) and evidently had a number of craftsmen in his employment as servants and apprentices. After he took over the fulling-mills in 1440, paying a fine of 20 marks for them, (fn. 114) his business expanded, and in 1450 he was named as surety for nine of the landless artificers paying chevage, including one who had served him for at least fifteen years and another, a weaver, who had served him for twelve years. (fn. 115) In his will, of which an incomplete copy survives, he remembered his apprentices, leaving to each of them 6s. 8d.; he also left to one servant a sheep and to another a sheep and a lamb, apart from various legacies to his family and to his church, with provision for masses to be said for his soul. (fn. 116)
By this time the whole character of Castle Combe had been transformed. William of Worcester, introducing his detailed survey of the manor made in 1454, describes how there were then two vills, one at Overcombe, where lived the husbandmen engaged in agriculture, and one at Nethercombe, where dwelt those concerned with the making of cloth—weavers, fullers, dyers, and other artificers. (fn. 117) No fewer than 50 new houses had gone up during Fastolf's lordship, most of them built by clothier tenants like Richard Halwey who built ten, John Rede who built four, all of stone, and Robert Webbe who built four, while Margery Haynes had built two, and a number of others (including Walter Power and John Lacock) had each built one. (fn. 118) The business of cloth manufacture was the dominant interest throughout. From the looms of the weavers the cloth went on to the fulling-mills, the dye-houses, (fn. 119) the gig-mills; on the hill slopes above the deep wooded combe it was hung out to dry on the tenters (or 'racks') that gave their name to 'Rack Hill' and to 'Tenterfield' behind the church. There were at least five fulling-mills along the three-mile course of the Box Brook as it wound through the manor from the Foss Way in the north to Ford in the south. (fn. 120) More and more sheep were kept on the common pastures. They intruded even on the pasture called 'The Shrub', customarily reserved for oxen, and on the arable fields when the grain was shooting, so that the manor court was compelled to intervene, as when it regulated (in 1451) the number of sheep that a man might graze on the Shrub according to the size of his customary holding, or ruled (in 1446) that none might put sheep on the arable fields between the Feast of the Purification and Holy Cross Day. (fn. 121)
Fresh problems were created for the manor court by the throng of clothiers and craftsmen with their servants and apprentices, who had to be restrained from poaching in the lord's fishpond, keeping greyhounds to chase hares, and gambling in taverns, or, if they were wholly undesirable, refused employment in the place altogether. Most of those who were convicted in 1439 of breaking into the park and stealing the deer proved, like those who took the lord's trout, to be weavers and fullers. One of them was James Osberne, a weaver in the service of Richard Halwey, who was later also convicted of keeping a greyhound 'though he had not lands or tenements worth 40s. a year'. (fn. 122) Industrial cases of debt, contract, detention of chattels, and the enticement of apprentices were frequently before the court, and in 1444 a 'new ordinance' was made appointing two wardens (custodes et conservatores) of the craft of dyers and fullers (artis tinctorum et fullatorum) and two of the craft of weavers, together with four men, to supervise the common pasture lest it should be overloaded and the sown fields lest the corn should be devoured by beasts. Taverns were ordered to close at 9 o'clock in summer and at 8 o'clock between Michaelmas and Easter; there was to be no playing for money in them, nor was anyone to allow playing at dice or at 'tables' in his own house after 9 o'clock. (fn. 123)
If much of the profit of this industrial expansion went into the pockets of the tenant clothmakers, and some into those of their employees, some too accrued to the lord of the manor, more especially through the remarkable increase in entry fines, the average for which was as much as £4 6s. 9½d. during Fastolf's lordship of the manor. (fn. 124) Sir John Fastolf, living on in England when he retired from the wars, kept an eagle eye on all his properties, urging his stewards to ever greater efforts in enlarging their yield. Well aware of Castle Combe's prosperity and of how keen was the demand for hold ings on his manor, he granted them to those who would pay the highest entry fines, instructing his steward to inquire 'what man will give most', and insisting on more than one occasion that if within a year a second bidder should appear, offering more, he should be given the tenement unless the first should be prepared to pay the same. (fn. 125) His officials were not in the least concerned with tilling the land, but they were concerned to keep in good repair the manorial buildings that were leased to the tenants, to see that such valuable assets as the park and the fisheries were not despoiled by interlopers, to keep the peace, (fn. 126) and to collect the lord's rents and profits, part of which went back to the tenants in the form of payment for cloth. For the rest, apart from the somewhat tenuous control exercised by the royal aulnager, the 'clothmen' of Castle Combe were free from any restrictions. They could employ whom they would, at whatever wages would be accepted, and could make their cloth by any methods they pleased; they were not prohibited from weaving with their own hands should they so wish, any more than an enterprising weaver was prohibited from becoming a 'clothman'.
Such was the pattern of industry as it had developed in Castle Combe, under the aegis of the manor rather than the borough. Almost wholly unregulated, it presents a striking contrast to the much regulated urban industry of the 12th and 13th centuries.
While the woollen industry of Castle Combe was reaching its zenith under Fastolf's patronage in the latter phases of the Hundred Years War, other small, and hitherto inconspicuous, townships of western Wiltshire were also developing industrially. But it was not until the late 15th century that they came to the fore as textile centres of real significance. By then a cloth-manufacturing area of first-class importance was emerging in what may best be described as the basin of the Bradford Avon, stretching from Malmesbury in the north to Westbury and beyond in the south, and from Devizes in the east to Bradford-on-Avon in the west. It was the southern and western part of this area, especially in and around Trowbridge, Bradford, Westbury, Steeple Ashton, and Devizes, that first became prominent. Here there were all the signs of increasing wealth and prosperity during the period of trade recovery under Edward IV and, still more, during the notable commercial expansion in the reign of Henry VII, when England's annual woollen exports increased from some 60,000 to some 80,000 cloths of assize.
Clothmaking had been carried on in these parts on a small scale for many generations. Weavers, dyers, and fullers had been at work; the waters of the Avon and its tributary streams had been utilized for fulling-mills, and land had been let for the erection of tenters. (fn. 127) In Trowbridge some quickening of industrial activity in the reign of Edward III is suggested both by the leasing of land for tenters and by the many new rents accruing early in the reign of Richard II from places in the market let to men from neighbouring townships such as Frome, Beckington, Norton (probably Norton St. Philip), Chippenham, and Seend. (fn. 128) And that coloured cloth from the region was being marketed in Bristol early in the 15th century, perhaps for export, is suggested, if not absolutely proved, by the aulnager's arrest at Bristol in 1420 of two cloths belonging to John Draper of Trowbridge, one of the colour of medley 'plover subtil', and the other of 'frost green' (viridis frost). (fn. 129) At Westbury in 1433 was a 'clothyer', William Gaweyn, to whom a Lynn merchant was indebted in £20; perhaps Westbury cloth was being marketed in Germany, shipped from east-coast ports. (fn. 130) At Devizes clothmakers were prominent among the town's benefactors in the first half of the century. (fn. 131)
By the opening of Edward IV's reign there was in this region a group of substantial 'clothmen', who were responsible for all the processes of cloth manufacture from the purchase of the raw material onwards and who marketed their cloths themselves in London, in Bristol, and on the south coast. Such was William Athelam of Westbury, 'clothmaker', who in 1459 sold 26 cloths worth £99 to German merchants in London on long-term credit. (fn. 132) In a six months' aulnage account of 1466 Athelam was credited with paying subsidy on 62 cloths, and if this aulnage account is to be trusted there were then clothmakers at Westbury producing on a yet larger scale—men such as Richard Knight living down by the stream at Brook in Heywood, credited with 84 cloths; John Campion, Thomas Knight, and John Clevelod, credited each with 80; and John Whitaker, credited with 120 cloths. (fn. 133) Such too was John Wyke of Trowbridge, 'clothmaker', who sold 20 cloths worth £100 to Italian merchants in London at much the same time as Athelam, (fn. 134) and who in 1459 had no less than 102 whole white cloths of his own manufacture arrested at Trowbridge on the ground that they had been folded and tacked and put to sale without being aulnaged. (fn. 135) The prices paid to Wyke and Athelam in London show that some, at least, of the cloth they produced was of very high quality.
Towering above these by the scale of his operations and by the wealth he accumulated was James Terumber, 'a very rich clothier' as Leland described him, long remembered as one of the principal benefactors of Trowbridge. Like some other clothiers of the time he was closely associated both with Trowbridge and with Bradford-on-Avon and he is variously described as James Tucker, James Terumber, of Bradford, or of Trowbridge, or just James of Bradford. Already in 1458 'James Terumber alias Towker of Bradford' was prosperous enough to contemplate founding a chantry at Bradford, (fn. 136) and at least by 1461 his possessions included an advowson in Oxfordshire. (fn. 137) A few years later (1463) he was in trouble over 29 white woollen cloths, valued at 43s. 4d. each, which he had sold at Bridport to a merchant of Venice, Bernard Justinian. They had been confiscated in Justinian's house in London on the ground that they had been put for sale without being viewed by the aulnager. Justinian declared that they had been made by James Towker at Bradford, aulnaged by the Wiltshire aulnager, and then—still unfulled—folded and tacked and taken off to Bridport, whence Justinian had conveyed them to London. James confirmed this and said that he had done the same with 100 other cloths he had made. Both James and Justinian were examined in the Exchequer, and when James was released on bail, before his final acquittal, Justinian and two merchants of Venice stood surety for him, together with one of James's fellow clothiers 'William Stowford of Bradford, Wilts, clothman'. (fn. 138) Stowford and Terumber must have been two of the most prominent clothiers in the Bradford region at this time and the aulnager, drawing up his list of cloths sealed in the hundred of Bradford between April and Michaelmas 1466, made them responsible for half the total, attributing, doubtless somewhat artificially, 236 to 'Jamys of Bradford' and 236 to William Stowford. (fn. 139)
Local wool supplied at least part of the needs of these clothmakers, and the close interdependence of the sheep-breeding and cloth-manufacturing industries of Wiltshire, each stimulating the other, is illustrated by the sale to 'James Towker of Trowbridge' of £40 worth of 'pure white wool' in 1468–9 from the clip of the Hungerford estates. It is perhaps no coincidence that this clip was now commonly collected each year (from Heytesbury, Frome, Wellow, Colerne, and elsewhere) for sale at the castle of Farleigh Hungerford (Som.), not more than 3½ miles by road from Trowbridge and Bradford. (fn. 140)
By 1468 then, and perhaps earlier, Terumber was living in Trowbridge and building, or planning the building of, that 'notable fair house' which he made for himself there, and he must surely have been among those who about this time rebuilt the main body of the church in the contemporary style throughout, so that it roused the admiration of discriminating tourists even half a century later for its beauty and lightness. (fn. 141) His fellow clothier John Wyke, dying in 1460, had left £10 in cash towards this 'new work' on the church, besides one 'great furnace' in his dye-house by the west mill, 12 oaks in the mill meadow, and one oak opposite the rectory. (fn. 142) In 1476, when Terumber held the markets and fair of Trowbridge at farm from the Crown, he was clearly one of the wealthiest and most influential men in the place. (fn. 143) Some of his profits he invested in lands and houses in Trowbridge and also in the region round about at Studley, Broughton Gifford, Bradford, and Beckington (Som.). In Trowbridge he built not only a house for himself but, close to the church, an almshouse for six poor folk, on land which he procured for this purpose in 1479. (fn. 144) In 1484, when the almshouse was finished and he himself was ready to retire from the worldly cares that so long had occupied him, he made elaborate provision for its permanent endowment, for the foundation of a perpetual chantry to sing masses for his soul and those of others, and, as security for his remaining years in this world, for an annuity for himself and his wife. By a lengthy deed (14 Jan. 1484) he created a trust for this purpose of 35 prominent landowners and business men in and around Trowbridge, conveying to it his house and all his landed property. Out of the annual profits of the property he was to be paid an annual pension of £16 for as long as he lived, and his wife, if she survived him, 10 marks a year after his death. The whole management of the property, including collecting the rents, seeing to any necessary repairs, and keeping the accounts, was to be entrusted to an 'apt and convenient secular priest', chosen by the trustees; this priest was also to be warden in charge of the almshouse, and chantry priest officiating daily 'atte the auter in the saide Chirch newly bielded, byfore the tumbe of Johane late my wife, called Jhesus auter'. Amongst those specially to be prayed for by name in Terumber's chantry were a number of notable men in and around Trowbridge, including the clothman William Stowford. (fn. 145)
Despite the fact that Terumber was a landowner, moving in good society, he was most probably a self-made man. Uncertainty as to his surname early in his career suggests that he had risen in the world from comparatively humble beginnings, setting up first in business as a fuller (or 'tucker'), and gradually becoming an entrepreneur on a big scale. That he may perhaps have been a Bristol tucker who migrated up the Avon to Bradford and Trowbridge to exploit the water-power there available, returning to Bristol at the end of his life, is suggested not only by his appearance in Bristol in 1487 (fn. 146) and by the fact that he had given up his Trowbridge house, but also by his last will and testament, made in 1488. (fn. 147) Described therein as 'James Terumber of Bristol' he disposed briefly of what little property he still possessed, chiefly in small charitable bequests distributed among Bradford, Trowbridge, and Bristol, more particularly the Redcliffe quarter of Bristol where so many weavers and tuckers lived and worked. (fn. 148) Besides legacies to the church, the vicar, and the conduit of Redcliffe, he left 4d. apiece to the poor in the 'tuckers' hall' and in the 'weavers' hall', both situated there. To the poor in the almshouse at Bradford he also left 4d. apiece, but to each of those in his own favoured almshouse at Trowbridge he left 8d.
Terumber's friend and fellow 'clothman' William Stowford was also variously named. Originally he was known as 'William Sewey'. (fn. 149) But in 1459 he acquired on a 96-year lease a large property in the manor of Wingfield, including a house and garden and four fulling-mills at Stowford, situated 3 miles from Bradford and Trowbridge where the road to Farleigh Hungerford crosses the Frome. Thenceforward he was spoken of as 'William Sewey alias Stowford', 'William Stowford of Bradford', or simply 'William Stowford'. (fn. 150) Many another clothier who was described as being of Bradford or of Trowbridge, where perhaps he had his home and his business headquarters, may similarly have had fulling-mills a little way off. The milling branch of the business, dependent upon water-supplies, was often then, as now, apart from the rest, even if under the same management.
A few miles east of Trowbridge at Steeple Ashton, perched on its hill slope, lived two notable clothiers, Robert Long and Walter Lucas, who both came of families established in the locality. Fired perhaps to emulate the splendid project they had seen brought to completion at Trowbridge, they set to work with other parishioners upon their own church, and between 1480 and 1500 completely reconstructed it, except for the chancel and the tower, in the modern style. The north aisle was built, as a contemporary inscription tells us, 'at the cost and charge of Robert Long and Edith his wife', the south aisle for the most part at that of Walter Lucas and Maud his wife, 'and the rest of the church, with the steeple, at the cost and charge of the parishioners'. (fn. 151) All around were signs of increasing industrial activity and of the new wealth that it was bringing to the neighbourhood. A fulling-mill, with tenters adjacent to it, had long existed in the manor, (fn. 152) but it was the fine pastures rather than the streams of Steeple Ashton that promoted and supported its industry. More and more sheep were being put to graze upon them at the close of the century, both upon the upland and upon the marshes, as may be seen by the many fines levied in the manor court for overloading the common pastures at Steeple Ashton, West Ashton, Littleton, and Hinton. (fn. 153) Business men of Trowbridge, as well as the local inhabitants, were invading these pastures, like 'William Long of Trowbridge' who was fined for putting 1,000 sheep upon them, though he had no rights of common there. (fn. 154) Many of the clothiers of these parts were wool-growers, concerned as much with the supervision of their sheepfolds as with that of their workshops. Their sheep and their looms were among the most precious possessions they could bequeath in their wills. So Walter Lucas 'clothier' (d. 1514) left 20 wether sheep each to numerous relations, including his daughter, who received also his silver spoons. They were to be taken 'as they will ronne owte of the folde'. He bequeathed his best broad weaving loom to one nephew, and the broad weaving loom in his shop to another, while the residue of all his 'household stuff' of the kitchen, chamber, shop, &c. went to his son Robert 'accordyng to my promys when I caused hym to remove and come to me frome Bradford'. (fn. 155) The industry was also spreading in the surrounding villages, where many folk must have found employment from Steeple Ashton, if not from their own clothiers or those of Bradford and Trowbridge. Building works, to which Walter Lucas contributed, (fn. 156) were in progress at the churches of both Keevil and Bulkington early in the 16th century, and Keevil, though never so important as Steeple Ashton, then boasted at least one substantial manufacturer in Thomas Barkesdale, 'clothier' of Keevil, who once sold cloths worth nearly 400 marks on long-term credit to merchants who were bound to him in 500 marks, to be paid either in cash or in malmsey wine. (fn. 157) At Whaddon there lived for a while John Bailly, who in 1502–3, described as 'John Bailly, clothman, late of Whaddon', sold cloth to a London shearman, receiving in exchange partly money and partly goods, such as kettles, bedcovers, and painted cloths. (fn. 158) Seend too achieved a fleeting prosperity through the woollen industry at the end of the 15th century when John Stokes spent part of the wealth he accumulated thereby on adding a new north aisle to the church, causing the fact to be had in everlasting remembrance by the memorial brasses to himself and his wife which he placed there in 1494, four years before the making of his final will and testament. No more ashamed of his business than any other thriving clothier of that time, he proudly displayed upon the outside of the building one of the tools of his trade which lends itself most readily to carving in stone—the long flatended shears with which the nap on the cloth was shorn. (fn. 159)
The borough of Devizes had from time immemorial had its textile craftsmen and its merchants dealing in cloth, if not actually making it, (fn. 160) and there were fulling-mills in the vicinity as at Market Lavington. (fn. 161) At the end of the 15th century it was a clothmanufacturing and marketing centre of no mean importance, with large-scale producers like William Page, 'clothier', who once disposed of £100 worth of cloth in a single deal. (fn. 162)
The people of these clothing townships of west Wiltshire were now as dependent upon overseas markets for their livelihood as those of Salisbury had long been. The natural outlet for their wares, in so far as it was the most readily accessible, was Bristol, and to Bristol much of their cloth went. (fn. 163) But the merchant ships sailing from Bristol were bound mostly for Ireland, France, Spain, Portugal, or Iceland. Their ventures to Italy and the Levant were few and far between, nor were they seen often in the Baltic or in the ports of west Germany or the Low Countries. Hence cloth for these markets, which were becoming increasingly important to English producers in the course of the 15th century, had to be sent elsewhere. Indeed Bristol men themselves dispatched considerable quantities of cloth by road to London—for sale to the London Adventurers and to the Germans and Italians who congregated there, and to southcoast ports, particularly Southampton, for shipment on the Italian galleys and carracks that called there. Their pack-horses, laden with cloth, must constantly have passed through Wiltshire, bound for London by Chippenham and Marlborough, or for Southampton by Salisbury, together with those of the regular carriers who plied to and fro along these routes, as also along the route between London and Exeter by Salisbury and Shaftesbury. (fn. 164) Very naturally much Wiltshire cloth travelled also along these ways. Sometimes it was conveyed by the clothmen themselves, or their agents, and sold at the ports direct to export merchants, English or foreign, as Terumber sold to a Venetian at Bridport and as Athelam and Wyke sold to Germans and Italians in London. Back from the ports came wares from abroad that the cloth-makers needed for their business—oil required in the spinning of the yarn, dyestuffs such as woad, madder, and alum, and teasles which England did not produce in sufficient supply for her growing industry. Only casually do we hear of the dispatch of goods like these from Bristol and London, but the survival of many of Southampton's Brokage Books, recording day by day the tolls paid on goods carried in and out by road through the gates, enables us to discover much about the links between that city and the Wiltshire clothiers. Thus alum, oil, madder, and above all woad, imported in large quantities at Southampton, especially by the Genoese, were taken constantly by cart to Salisbury, whence, no doubt, much was distributed elsewhere. In the first complete surviving Brokage Book, that for 1439–40, woad was entered as going to Warminster, and the increasing frequency with which townships like Devizes and Bradford are mentioned in later accounts emphasizes yet further the growing importance of the west Wiltshire clothing area. (fn. 165)
At the end of the 15th century more and more Wiltshire woollens came to be directed towards London, where now the sale of much the greater part of England's cloth was concentrated. There the demand was increasingly for white woollen broadcloth, such as Wyke and Terumber had produced, though much coloured cloth, particularly kerseys, could find a sale, especially for export to France, Spain, and Portugal. Whites could be exported in almost unlimited quantities to the great international markets of the Low Countries, now principal vent for England's cloth. For the once famous textile cities there were endeavouring, as their own industry declined, to keep at least the finishing branches in their own hands, employing their own skilled craftsmen to dye, raise, and shear fine English cloth for sale far and wide throughout Europe. White English broadcloth was also being dyed and finished in considerable quantities by the Italians, either in Italy or in England before shipment abroad. And some English cloth was being finished in London on behalf of English dealers, as, very likely, was the cloth sold there by John Bailly to a London shearman. (fn. 166)
Now west Wiltshire, particularly the region round Bradford, Trowbridge, and Devizes, had long been renowned for white woollen broadcloth. The reputation of Devizes and of clothing centres along the Frome for whites early in the 15th century is shown by a parliamentary petition of 1429 concerning the fall in prices alleged to have resulted from a decree that cloth should be sold to foreigners only for ready money; among three types of cloth singled out for mention was white cloth of Devizes and Beckington—'western blankett of the Vyse and Bekenton'. (fn. 167) Shortly after this we hear of a white cloth called a 'bastard', the property of Henry Bowyer of Devizes, being put for sale in London. (fn. 168) And at Trowbridge in the middle of the century Terumber evidently did a big business in manufacturing white woollen cloths of high quality for Italian merchants; so too did John Wyke, though he evidently produced coloured cloth also. (fn. 169) Possibly the difficulty of dyeing with the chalky water of these parts, and the abundance there of fine white wool, led clothmakers to concentrate on meeting the demand for fine white woollens which other regions with long-established dyeing and finishing industries would be likely to resist. Castle Combe, very differently situated, had become famous for its reds rather than for its whites, particularly for its crimson kerseys, though it made white cloths also. (fn. 170)
Early in the 16th century cloths from this region prove often to have been broad and white, like the white cloths of Thomas Bailly of Keevil found unsealed at Devizes, (fn. 171) and the large quantity sold by William Page of Devizes in London, (fn. 172) and throughout the reign of Henry VIII London looked to west Wiltshire as one of its chief sources of supply for fine white woollens, like those long and broad woollen cloths 'coloured white' manufactured towards the end of the reign by a Devizes widow, Katherine Brede, 'with her usuell marke woven in'. (fn. 173)
The importance of west Wiltshire to the London merchants trading to the Low Countries in the time of Henry VIII is vividly revealed in the memorandum book of a prominent mercer and merchant adventurer, Thomas Kitson, who had been exporting cloth almost from the beginning of Henry's reign. (fn. 174) Some of the cloth he dealt in was coloured cloth, such as kerseys—red, green, blue, or yellow—but he concentrated primarily on long white broadcloth, and between the stout covers of his bulky 'Boke of Remembraunce', (fn. 175) running from 1529 to 1540, there are recorded the names of those manufacturers who supplied him, with the number of cloths bought (or perhaps ordered) from each. Prominent among them are the clothiers of west Wiltshire.
The region from which Kitson procured his white broadcloth was indeed a wider one than that of west Wiltshire. Industrial frontiers have little to do with county boundaries, and west Wiltshire was but a part of what may be described as the West of England broadcloth region. This stretched westwards over the Wiltshire border into Somerset, where Kitson bought from Frome, Beckington, Rode, Norton St. Philip, Hinton Charterhouse, Bath, Keynsham, and Bristol; and north-west to Gloucestershire townships along the fringes of the Cotswolds, where he bought from Sodbury, Kingsbury, Wootton-under-Edge, Dursley, Stroud, Eastington, and Tetbury. Nevertheless, the pre-eminence of west Wiltshire for the manufacture of white woollen broadcloth is immediately apparent from a perusal of Kitson's book. Of over 100 broadcloth suppliers whose places of business are there mentioned, more than half belonged to west Wiltshire, and most of the remainder came from what is essentially an integral part of the same district—that is to say Bath and those parts of the Frome valley not actually in Wiltshire. In west Wiltshire itself Kitson bought from clothiers of Trowbridge, Steeple Ashton, Keevil, Devizes, Westbury, Warminster, Heytesbury, Melksham, Broughton Gifford, Lacock, Chippenham, Calne, Malmesbury, and possibly also from Edington and Longbridge Deverill. (fn. 176) The cloths were carefully graded and described by numbers ranging from 1 to 19. Thus '30 whites No. 3' were bought of Nicholas Affarnwell of Chippenham; 'whites No. 12' of Anthony Passion of Trowbridge; and a cloth 'No. 10' of John Benet of Warminster.
While most of Kitson's white Wiltshire broadcloths came from the west of the county, a few at least came from the Salisbury area. He bought from at any rate one Salisbury supplier, William Holbrooke, and also from John Radmond of Wilton. Late in the reign of Henry VIII we hear of other Salisbury men selling whites in London, as did Hugh Seinbarb. (fn. 177) The making of broadcloth was, indeed, no novelty in Salisbury, but in the 14th century the city's broadcloths had usually been dyed, and then and throughout the 15th century it had been famed rather for its many-coloured rays. (fn. 178)
But if Salisbury now made white broadcloth, it also continued to manufacture coloured cloth, and in the mid-16th century, at any rate, was well known for its kerseys—cloths comparatively light in texture. John Abyn, Mayor of Salisbury in 1551, bequeathed £20 to the city to be lent out 'as a stock to help younge beginners that be kersye makers', (fn. 179) and no less significant is the will of William Webbe (1553), an even more munificent helper of young clothiers, whose imposing house still survives in part, for one of his principal legacies was that of his dwelling house in Salisbury 'and the dye howse by the water lane with all tenementes to the same apperteyning and ymplementes thereof'. (fn. 180) Indeed throughout the first half of the 16th century there were some Salisbury clothiers such as Webbe who, like their predecessors of the late 14th century, themselves exported cloth through south coast ports, importing thence oil and dyestuffs. (fn. 181)
Kerseys of many colours were as popular an export in Henry VIII's reign as white broadcloth, and one of the most important areas for their manufacture was along the vale of Kennet, particularly at Newbury (Berks.), where lived clothiers like John Winchcombe ('Jack of Newbury') and Thomas Dolman, renowned through Europe for the kerseys they exported through the Adventurers. Outposts of this celebrated kersey region were to be found in Wiltshire, in the upper reaches of the Kennet valley. Here fulling-mills had long existed at Chilton Foliat, Ramsbury, and Marlborough, (fn. 182) and some fleeting revival of industrial prosperity now came to this region. In the latter part of the 15th century woad was occasionally consigned direct from Southampton to Marlborough, (fn. 183) and that much dyeing was carried on there is also suggested by the lease of a house in Marlborough (c. 1460) to a dyer of Newbury; certain alterations were to be made in it and a furnace and vats provided. (fn. 184) Possibly there was also some production of broadcloth in this district; at any rate Kitson occasionally purchased it from Hungerford, only just over the border.
Nevertheless, though clothmaking was carried on in some of the towns and villages of southern and eastern Wiltshire, in none of them, save possibly Salisbury, was it the mainstay of the inhabitants as it was in those little market-towns of the western industrial area, which had grown almost wholly by clothing. Leland, travelling through England in the latter years of Henry VIII's reign, leaves no doubt as to the impact of industry on western Wiltshire since the close of the Hundred Years War. Touring Wiltshire, most probably in 1542, (fn. 185) he was impressed above all by the activity of Bradford and Trowbridge, and by the wealth and well-being which clothmaking had brought to these hitherto small and insignificant places, scarcely yet really urban in character. 'Al the toune of Bradeford stondith by clooth making', he wrote, and he described Bradford as that 'praty clothinge towne on Avon', remarking that it was 'made al of stone', as many less prosperous towns evidently were not, even in this region of good building stone. (fn. 186) Of Trowbridge also he wrote that it was 'very welle buildid of stone, and florishith by drapery', and he proceeded to speak of James Terumber, that 'very rich clothier', whose memory was still green, though he had been dead for over half a century, and of his chantry and almshouse where dwelt '6 poore folkes having a 3 pence a peace by the week toward their finding'. (fn. 187)
The successful business men of his own, and of the immediately preceding generation, interested Leland no less than such bygone worthies, and in his pages we catch a vivid glimpse of the most prominent among the many clothiers of the BradfordTrowbridge region in that boom period for clothiers, the first half of the 16th century. Three names stand out. They are those of 'Horton a riche clothier' who, Leland tells us, built 'a very fair house' close to the church at Bradford, 'a goodly large chirch house' there also ex lapide quadrato, and 'dyvers fair houses' in Trowbridge; 'Old Bayllie, a rich clothiar', who 'buildid also of late' in Trowbridge; and 'One Alexandre', 'now a great clothier in the toun'. (fn. 188)
As we trace in the records of the time the three clothiers whom Leland singles out in the Bradford and Trowbridge area we see that each ran a cloth-manufacturing business which continued in the family for at least three generations—a business closely linked with the possession of fulling-mills—and that each built up a modest fortune which was invested in land, house-property, and mills, besides a certain amount of plate and treasure, and which was intended to provide security for his old age and that of his wife, as well as a patrimony for his children.
Thomas Horton had been in business as a clothier when Leland was born, in the year of Henry VIII's accession, when he was described as 'of Iford and Bradford in Wilts, and of London', which suggests that his dealings in the metropolis were not inconsiderable. (fn. 189) His father before him had been a clothier who, coming from Lullington on the Somerset side of the Frome, had settled at Iford on the Wiltshire side, close to Bradford, and had there died in 1497, leaving three sons. (fn. 190) The youngest son went into the church (fn. 191) while Thomas, the second, prospered as a manufacturer, accumulating a considerable property at Bradford, Trowbridge, Keevil, Chippenham, Box, and elsewhere. (fn. 192) Some of his profits were also invested in the houses that he built in Bradford and Trowbridge, and some too almost certainly in the lovely and unpretentious early 16th-century house at Westwood close to Iford with its spacious hall, its many pleasant bedrooms, and its parlour where his initials may be seen carved upon the fireplace, as they may be seen on the stately tower which he probably added to Westwood's tiny church close by. (fn. 193) There he died, in rural seclusion, in 1530, though he was buried alongside his father in Bradford church, where he and his wife may be seen depicted on their memorial brass. (fn. 194) Long before his death he had retired from business. Anxious, like Terumber, to provide for his last years in this world and his eternal welfare in the world to come, he set aside a portion of his property for the endowment of a chantry in Bradford, (fn. 195) with a school attached, and put the rest in trust to provide a pension for himself, and later a patrimony for his heir—his nephew Thomas Horton. (fn. 196) This Thomas, who married the daughter of a wealthy Keevil clothier, made a home for his aunt (fn. 197) and continued in the family business. The fullingmills that he held both in Bradford and at Iford may well have been his uncle's, and one, very likely, his grandfather's; (fn. 198) that at Iford belonged to the priory of Hinton Charterhouse (Som.). A man of the new age, he doubtless welcomed the dissolution of the religious houses and also that of the chantries, which brought back into the family inheritance the lands with which his father's chantry had been endowed. (fn. 199) Unlike his uncle, he seems to have died while still active as a clothier, for his will (1549) was made hurriedly on the very day of his death when he was in London, doubtless on business, and it was made in the presence of two notable west country clothiers and several London merchants. (fn. 200) To his son Edward he left the house and mill in Bradford, and to his son William the Hinton Charterhouse property in Iford and Westwood. (fn. 201)
'Old Bayllie', or Thomas Bailey of Trowbridge 'clothman', must already have been a prosperous clothier when he lent £50 to Henry VIII in 1522. (fn. 202) He marketed his cloth in London, as Horton doubtless did, selling broad white woollens once to merchants of the Hanse, (fn. 203) as well as to the Adventurers, (fn. 204) and in Wiltshire he carried on business both in Trowbridge and down on the Frome at Stowford. There, after the Dissolution, he acquired the house and garden and the fulling-mills—'four under one roof'—once leased from the Abbot of Keynsham by Terumber's friend William Stowford, together with the whole extensive manor of Wingfield. (fn. 205) He had many investments also in houses and lands in Trowbridge, Westwood, Steeple Ashton, Rowde, and Devizes, and at his death in 1543 he left 1,000 marks to his wife, with the profits of the Trowbridge property for life; £100 to an unmarried daughter; and money, plate, and a 'packe of clothes of the crosse marke' to his three married daughters. (fn. 206) The Stowford house and mills he had already handed over to his second son Christopher, known as Christopher Bailey of Stowford; (fn. 207) hence Leland's remark: 'Bailies sun now drapeth yn the toun, and also a 2 miles out of it at a place yn the way to Farley-castel'. (fn. 208) His eldest son, known as 'William Bailly of Keevil,' (fn. 209) came into possession of the rest of the property. He probably already carried on business as a 'clothman' with his centre of operations at Keevil, where he had taken Gayford mill on a long lease from Romsey Abbey. (fn. 210) In his turn he handed over Gayford mill during his life-time to his eldest son William, who as a young man of 25 inherited most of the property at his father's death in 1552 and carried on business as a 'clothman' for yet a third generation. (fn. 211)
Other clothier members of the Bailey family, known as the Baileys 'of Baldenham in Keevil', (fn. 212) held the old-established 'Baldenham's mill' (fn. 213) and that called Heynocke's. A William Bailey held Baldenham's from Romsey Abbey in 1501–2, (fn. 214) bequeathing his lease in 1516 to his son William, (fn. 215) who in his turn bequeathed it in 1536, together with his lease of Heynocke's, to his son Thomas. (fn. 216)
Yet other Baileys were among the many clothiers doing business at Devizes, which Leland described then as being 'most occupied by clothiars'. Of Steeple Ashton he said: 'It standithe muche by clothiars', and of Westbury: 'the towne stondithe moste by clothiers'. (fn. 217) In none of these three places did he mention any clothiers by name except two of a former generation—Long and Lucas of Steeple Ashton. (fn. 218)
Leland's 'Alexandre' was undoubtedly Alexander Langford (or Longford) 'of Trowbridge, clothier', (fn. 219) who carried on a lively business, selling much broadcloth to London merchants like Kitson, as did his sons Alexander and Edward. He had fulling-mills both in Trowbridge, held of the king, (fn. 220) and at Ludcombe in Freshford (Som.), held of Hinton Charterhouse. (fn. 221) The Trowbridge mills were already in 1544 held jointly with his son Alexander, to whom they passed altogether at his death in 1545, while the Freshford mill went to his son Edward. (fn. 222) His will provided also for an annual pension to his widow and for masses to be said for his soul and those of his immediate family and friends. Edward, a clothier like his brother and his father, (fn. 223) devised Freshford mill in 1551 to his wife until his own son Alexander came of age. (fn. 224)
The clothier's business was thus based on his fulling-mills, so much so indeed that it was possible to speak of cloths as being 'made in the mill', as did William Bailey of Baldenham's when, after bequeathing to his son Thomas his lease of Heynocke's mill, he left to a son-in-law 45 cloths a year 'made in the same mill' on condition that he paid £30 each year to the costs of the mill and fetched the cloths away himself. (fn. 225) Many of the mills were held on long leases of as much as 99 years. (fn. 226) Those on monastic lands often, like the Stowford mills, came into the actual ownership of the clothiers after the Dissolution, together with whole manors round them, sometimes by direct purchase from the Crown. So John Adlam of Westbury bought the manor of Westbury Leigh where was a fulling-mill then in the tenure of John Bath, alias Whitaker. (fn. 227) Both Adlam and Bath supplied Kitson with broadcloth. So too did Robert Bath, alias Whitaker. Brother-in-law of the last Abbess of Lacock, Robert held a 99-year lease of the abbey's mills and other properties at Bishopstrow, and at the Dissolution bought the whole manor from the Crown, with its corn-mill, its fulling-mill, and its gig-mill, its lands, meadows, pastures, and farm buildings. There he lived as clothier, farmer, and lord of the manor, bequeathing to his five children not only lands, mills, and tenements, money, plate and jewels, feather-beds, bolsters, and bed-clothes, and his stock of cloth, wool, yarn, and oil, but also horses, sheep, and oxen, and corn that was stowed in his barns, or in ricks, or still growing in the fields. (fn. 228) His industrial interests were widespread, for he held property in Calne with a fulling-mill nearby at Calstone, (fn. 229) which he devised to his son William, while his son John had the Bishopstrow mills. (fn. 230)
Other than monastic mills were bought at this time, together with whole manors, by clothiers who preferred to live in wholly rural surroundings, combining clothmaking with farming and the life of a country gentleman. So Henry Long, 'clothier', bought the manor of Whaddon with its fulling-mill from Andrew Baynton, and there farmed, bequeathing to his wife, in 1558, ewes and rams, cows and a bull, a plough of 8 oxen, a wagon, and 'all the corne that is out of the rekes'. A wealthy man at his death, he bequeathed over £1,000 in cash to his eight children and his child yet unborn, in addition to lands and tenements, and he left small sums for distribution to his weavers, to every householder in Whaddon, to all the poor in the villages round about, and to the almshouses of Bradford and Trowbridge, and the prisoners at Salisbury and Fisherton. (fn. 231)
The clothier's life was an active one, necessitating much travelling to and fro, whether for the management of his often widely scattered properties, for the marketing of his cloth in London or elsewhere, or for the procuring of his raw materials. Clothiers might, and indeed often did, keep sheep on open or inclosed pastures and meadows, as they had done from time immemorial. Thomas Horton had pasture for 350 sheep on Lavington downs; (fn. 232) Robert Whitaker once bought about 160 acres of inclosed pasture with a sheep-house at Westbury and bequeathed all his 'sheepe and sheepe pasture' to his son Clement. (fn. 233) But local flocks, whether their own or those of others, were quite insufficient for their needs. They were drawing from far and wide, wherever fine white wool or yarn was to be obtained. Sometimes they bought in Cotswold markets like Tetbury and Cirencester—markets which had doubtless built up their reputation on Cotswold wool, but which were now attracting wool and yarn from a much wider area, from Northamptonshire, for example, or from the marches of Wales. So John Dickson, a leading Northampton citizen, sent yarn to be sold in Cirencester market, where it was bought by celebrated Wiltshire clothiers such as Matthew King of Malmesbury. (fn. 234) Sometimes they purchased direct from Wiltshire or Cotswold graziers, or from those middlemen wool-dealers on whom such obloquy was heaped in the 16th century. (fn. 235) But sometimes they journeyed themselves far beyond Wiltshire in search of it. Thus Alexander Langford's friend and fellow clothman Christopher Pyarde of Trowbridge went to Northampton in the summer of 1521 to purchase wool, and while there was stricken and died, apparently still in the prime of life, leaving four young children under age and a wife expecting another. Dictating his will to the parson of St. Mary's, Northampton, he directed that 40s., a mare and a colt, and 'the best cowe excepte ij of ix' should be given to George Colle for explaining to his wife about 'the parcellis of wulle bought and to helpe to gether them inne'. (fn. 236) It was his friend Alexander Langford who, years later, made provision for masses to be said for his soul. (fn. 237) Pyarde's widely dispersed interests are shown by the fact that he held property in the Stroud valley, including both a corn-mill and a fulling-mill at Stroud. (fn. 238)
If clothiers sometimes bought wool already prepared and spun into yarn, (fn. 239) more often they prepared it themselves, sorting, cleaning, and oiling it on their own premises and then putting it out to spinners working at home, as Robert Whitaker with his store of wool and oil must have done. So too they put the yarn out to be woven by weavers, whose wealth and status probably varied as much in the 16th as in the 14th and 15th centuries. (fn. 240) Some were prosperous property-owning folk merging imperceptibly into the lower ranks of the clothiers. Robert Chesham, 'weaver', held a tenement with lands, meadows, and pastures in Chippenham; (fn. 241) Stephen Bowle of Keevil, 'weaver', owned 100 acres of land and other property in Lacock, held jointly with several other men including a clothier, Anthony Passion. (fn. 242) Others were humbler folk, wholly dependent often upon a particular clothier and not too proud to receive from him the same tiny legacy that was bestowed upon his spinners. So Thomas Scott of Chippenham, clothier, left to each of his weavers and spinners living in Chippenham 12d. (fn. 243) Henry Long, on the other hand, made no mention of spinners in his will, but left 'to my weavers that nowe doth weave to me nowe at this present tyme ijs. a pece'. (fn. 244) Sometimes the weavers did not even possess the loom on which they worked in their own homes, and often, like the spinners, they fell into debt to their employers. Christopher Pyarde when dying willed 'that all my mony that ys owyng unto me of my spynners and my wevers the whiche do owe me mony as myche as ys under xijd. a pece I forgeve them all, and as myche dettis as they do owe to me above xijd. a pece I forgeve them half'. The broadloom that he left to his apprentice John Tanner was probably out on hire in the house of a weaver; it is described as 'stondyng in a housse of the fefferis of Jamyse Terymber in the whiche tenement dwellith oone whoys name ys caulid Smawlle'. (fn. 245)
Clothiers frequently owned one or more looms, sometimes, like Pyarde, in addition to one or more fulling-mills. Martin Fleming, 'clothear', of Castle Combe and Trowbridge, (fn. 246) mentioned two 'brode lomys' in his will; (fn. 247) Nicholas Affernwell (alias Goldney) of Chippenham, 'clothman', bequeathed three looms with all their 'apparell' including a 'warpyngbarr', as well as his fulling-mill in Stanley. (fn. 248) John Flower, the younger, clothier of Potterne, declared that he had been so impoverished as the result of a highway robbery and his attempts to bring the criminals to justice that he had 'ben compelled to leave the occupacon of iiij loomes to make brode clothes wherby a grete nomber of the kynges subiectes dyd gete honest lyvynges at his handes'. (fn. 249) These four looms must have kept eight weavers, as many fullers, and very many times that number of carders and spinners busy, in addition to those employed in the preliminary processes of sorting, beating, washing, and oiling the wool, and in such humbler tasks as bobbin-winding.
No one pattern of organization prevailed in the Wiltshire industry. Many a clothier employed a diverse throng of craftsmen, some in his own wool-sheds, mills, and tenteryards—sorting, cleaning, and preparing the wool and milling the woven cloth, and some in their own homes—carding, spinning, and weaving. Others ran a less complex business, buying yarn ready spun, perhaps in remote regions, or even cloth ready woven, and putting cloth out to be fulled on commission at mills which they did not themselves own. Yet others, on the contrary, concentrated the business even more closely in their own hands, setting up looms on their own premises, thus bringing the weaving of the cloth under their immediate supervision. Best known of such clothmakers is William Stumpe of Malmesbury, 'an exceding riche clothiar', whom Leland singles out for special mention among contemporary clothiers in addition to Horton, Bailey, and Langford.
William Stumpe was a second-generation clothier, if we may believe Aubrey. (fn. 250) He must already have built up a flourishing business by 1524, when he was one of the four wealthiest men in Malmesbury, (fn. 251) and he sat for the borough in the Reformation Parliament. (fn. 252) In 1537 he was made receiver for North Wales to the Court of Augmentations, and in 1538 and for many years thereafter he was a Justice of the Peace. (fn. 253) Much of his cloth was by this time finding its way to London, where he kept his own factor to do business for him. (fn. 254) Some was sold as white broadcloth to Merchant Adventurers such as Kitson. (fn. 255) Some was very likely dyed and finished in the capital, like the 32 red woollen cloths 'called stopp listes', which Stumpe once asked a London clothworker to sell for him. (fn. 256) Early in the 1540's, when Leland visited Malmesbury, (fn. 257) Stumpe's business was evidently still expanding, and he was conceiving projects on a scale more grandiose than any yet known in this region. He had bought from the Crown, at the great price of £1,517 15s. 2½d., the whole site of Malmesbury Abbey, with the abbey buildings, gardens, dovecotes, fishponds, meadows, water-courses, and water-mills—both cornmills and fulling-mills. (fn. 258) Here, inside the walls of the ancient abbey, he built a pleasant mansion for himself, while he filled 'every corner of the vaste houses of office that belongid to thabbay' with 'lumbes to weve clooth yn', and also planned to build a street or two of houses for clothiers in the vacant ground at the back of the abbey; the great nave of the abbey church, mainly owing to him, became henceforward the chief parish church of the town. (fn. 259) According to Leland there were now made every year in Malmesbury some 3,000 cloths. (fn. 260) Even this did not content Stumpe, for before long he was negotiating with the city of Oxford to take over all the empty buildings of Osney Abbey, promising to find employment there for 2,000 skilled operatives. (fn. 261)
Like most wealthy Wiltshire clothiers Stumpe did not plough all his profits back into the business, but invested widely in land and house-property in many parts of Wiltshire and the Cotswold country, building up there an immense estate. (fn. 262) The bulk of this passed to his eldest son James, who was already knighted and established as a country gentleman in his father's lifetime, and in due course it provided handsome portions for Stumpe's three great-granddaughters who married the earls of Suffolk, Lincoln, and Rutland. (fn. 263) But the family business was still carried on for at least a third generation. At his death in 1552 Stumpe left to his second son John several houses and ten broad looms, while to his third son William he left all the residue of his looms; John, at any rate, lived on as a clothier in Malmesbury. (fn. 264) As he bequeathed his looms in his will, so Stumpe also remembered his weavers, and forgave them all their debts. (fn. 265)
Stumpe never carried through his ambitious scheme for converting Osney Abbey into a woollen factory employing some 2,000 workers. Perhaps the times were not, after all, propitious for such a venture. At any rate at the moment when he was negotiating to take over the building, in 1546, the Wiltshire textile industry was probably reaching, if it had not already reached, the climax of its late medieval and early modern expansion. No precise measurement of Wiltshire's production is possible. But we know that the first half of the 16th century had seen a meteoric rise in the total export of English woollen cloth, (fn. 266) particularly in broadcloth exported from London, and we know that thereafter, in the third quarter of the century, exports contracted, and it became more and more difficult to sell English cloth in the Low Countries. (fn. 267) The English woollen industry fell a victim to chronic depression as well as to catastrophic slumps, and just as Wiltshire's people had shared in the prosperity resulting from the immense expansion of the sales of English woollens on the markets of Europe, so now, dependent as never before on the wages of industry, they came to know poverty and destitution resulting from industrial unemployment.