H. D. (Henry Duff) Traill.

Social England; a record of the progress of the people in religion, laws, learning, arts, industry, commerce, science, literature and manners, from the earliest times to the present day (Volume 3) online

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Carders became a powerful body, and were able to secure
legislative protection against the importation of foreign cards
for wool. There was much rivalry between clothiers in large
towns and those in country places. The latter enjoyed far
more liberty, and this seems often to have balanced the
advantages of concentration, and the greater facilities for
manufacturing on a large scale. Parliament frequently tried


(Dartford Church, Kent.)

to confine the trade to special towns, probably from a belief
that the quality of the goods could be better kept up, owing
to the greater ease of supervision ; but their efforts to preserve
the monopoly for a few towns were not very successful.

The working-up of wool into worsted was a staple of the
Eastern Counties, especially of Norfolk (Vol. II., p. 564). This
was a flourishing industry before the coming of the Protestant
refugees. As early as 1554 foreign artisans were engaged
by the mayor and some of the chief workmen to teach
Norwich weavers certain branches of the trade. The result
was the famous Norwich satins and fustians. To illustrate



the nature of English manufactures, and the growing con-
sumption of luxuries, we may quote here an interesting list
imports that L. Guicciardini gives of the imports and exports between
Exports. England and Antwerp, which was the port with which we did
the greatest trade. " To England," he says, " Antwerp sends
jewels and precious stones, silver, bullion, quicksilver, wrought
silks, cloth of gold and silver, gold and silver thread, carnblets,
grograms, spices, drugs, sugar, cotton, cummin galls, linen fine
and coarse, serges, demi-ostades, tapestry, madder, hops in great
quantity, glass, salt-fish, metallic and other merceries of all
sorts to a great value, arms of all kinds, ammunition for war,
and household furniture. From England Antwerp receives
vast quantities of fine and coarse draperies, fringes, and other
things of that kind to a great value, the finest wool, excellent
saffron in small quantities, a great quantity of lead and tin,
sheep and rabbit skins without number, and various other
sorts of fine peltry and leather, beer, cheese, and other sorts of
provisions ; also Malmsey wines, which the English import
from Candia."

It will be noticed that English exports were still mostly in
the form of raw, or almost raw, material. Much of the
English cloths, stuffs, and wools were exported again from
Antwerp to Italy, Scandinavia, and other parts of Europe.

The above list, referring only to the Antwerp trade, must
not be regarded as a complete enumeration either of our
exports or of our imports in the sixteenth century. From
India, Persia, and Turkey, from Sweden, Russia, and the New
World, luxuries unknown to earlier generations of Englishmen
were being brought in, and many of the elders feared that
a demoralisation of the national character would certainly

ensue. 1


The English foreign trade was mainly in the hands of
Merchant certain great companies, who enjoyed the legal monopoly of
panies. the commerce with various parts of the world. The earlier
of these companies were not conducted on joint stock
principles. They were associations of merchants, each of

1 Among the things first introduced into England between 1518 and i:>78
we may mention carp, pippins, apricots, turkeys, hops, and tobacco. 4i Women's
inaskes, buskes. mufs, fanns, periwigs, and bodkins" were brought into our
country about 1532.

3^.rt.t3F sTASsy^s
f.^S-tW SarfiEVifaSf^

^ ~*S1 S iff -"-SSi^SiSS^SS

*, J'B

N>a &332**!>. ~ fjciiK/rHS-.-T^sSsii-ss; ^^^*sg



(Braiiii and Hohenberg, " t'ii/ttotes y/-6is



whom nii^lit trade with his own capita.], and at his own risk,
provided that lie was a member of the company, and conformed
to its rules.

The earliest of these companies was that of the Merchant
Adventurers, who have been spoken of in a former volume
(II., pp. 552, 748); but in the period with Avhich we arc now
dealing, several very important fresh companies were in-
corporated. Thus the Russia Company received its first
charter in 1555. It thereby obtained a monopoly of the trade
with Russia, and with any new countries its servants might
discover (cf. p. 322, seq.).

The Czar Ivan the Terrible soon gave these merchants
free access to all his dominions, and they tried to open up a new
trade route through Russia to Persia. An Act of Parliament
in 1556 extended their monopoly to include most of the
trade with Armenia, Media, Hyrcania, Persia, and the Caspian
Sea, conditionally on the trade being carried on only in
English ships, and the majority of each crew being English.
The company was very successful till about 1571. Then it
began to decay, partly through the fluctuating policy of the
Czar, but partly through the company's greed. Dutch and
German traders secured much of the Russian trade, and
private English merchants managed to elude the monopoly in
various ways.

Of the other companies we will only mention here the
Eastland Company, which traded in the Baltic, and the Levant,
which traded with Turkey, Syria, and Asia Minor. By the
close of Elizabeth's reign, France was almost the only country
with which English merchants could trade without being
members of a company.

The system thus built up was open to many of the abuses
that accompany monopolies. It may, however, be noticed
that it is doubtful whether, in Elizabeth's reign, freedom of
foreign traffic was desirable. It was the prospect of obtaining
special privileges which encouraged merchants to open up
new and hazardous markets, and the organisation of such
merchants into companies provided a means of protection
against the oppressions of the foreign, and often half-barbarous
powers, with whose subjects the merchants wished to trade.
Among other indications of the growth of English wealth



and commerce in the first half of Elizabeth's reign two facts Growth of
may be mentioned here. The first of these was the building znl com
of the Royal Exchange. Hitherto the London merchants had merce.
conducted their exchange transactions in Lombard Street, in
the open air. But in 1556 the building of the Royal Exchange
began. This was chiefly due to the liberality of Sir Thomas
Gresham, the merchant who conducted the Queen's mercantile


(From an engraving of 1647 by Hollar.)

and financial dealings with foreigners. But it was a feeling
of the inadequacy of the existing accommodation for the
increasing commercial transactions of London which prompted
Gresham's offer to defray the cost of the building, if the
corporation would provide the site. The other illustration of
the growing wealth of England is that when the Government


wanted to borrow in 1569, they were able, for the first time,
to obtain their loan in England, instead of having to apply
to foreign capitalists.

THE year 1580 is notable in the history of London for the CHARLES

,. i T i r 1.1 CREIGHTON.

adoption of a deliberate policy of State, by the advice of the The Health
Privy Council and at the instigation of the mayor, aldermen, aud Growth

J . . of London.

and other the grave wise men in and about the city, to
confine the capital, as far as was then possible, to the old
inhabited area within and immediately without the walls, by
prohibiting the erection of buildings on new sites in the


[1558 1584

Liberties and out-parishes, or within three miles of the city
gates, as well as the sub-division of houses into numerous
tenements. The ordinance took the form of a royal pro-
clamation, signed by the Queen at Nonesuch, near Epsom, on
the 7th of July, 1580, and was meant to serve only until such
time as some further good order should be devised for remedy
by Parliament or otherwise ; however, the royal proclamation
remained for nearly a century the form by which it was sought
to give effect to the policy of checking the growth of London.
The reason alleged for this remarkable ordinance was " that
great multitudes of people were brought to inhabit in small
rooms, whereof a great part are seen very poor ; yea, such
must live by begging, or of worse means, and they heaped
up together and in a sort smothered with many families ot
children and servants in one house or small tenement." This
was, doubtless, the special effect upon London of the vagrancy
and pauperism which had begun in rural England under the
first Tudors in consequence of the rage for pasture-farming,
had grown owing to early and improvident marriages and the
removal of all other medieval checks to population which the
Reformation had brought with it, and had become so fixed a
part of the national life as to require, before the end of
Elizabeth's reign, the formal adoption of the Poor Law.
Vagrants and " landless men " naturally found their way to
London, although they were not freely admitted within the
walls. In a dialogue of the year 1564, a beggar stops before
the door of a citizen and says the Lord's Prayer, or a jargon
of it, in a canting Northumbrian accent. " How got you in
at the gates ? " asks Civis ; whereupon the mendicant explains
that the Beadle of the Beggars was a countryman of his own,
and had softened towards him on hearing his Northumbrian
speech. In one way or another the Liberties or skirts of
London, all round the walls, had filled up with a comparatively
poor and often vicious class, dwelling in mean tenements, who
" must live by begging or of worse means/' Many incon-
veniences, said the proclamation of 1580, were seen already,
and more were like to follow, the most specific danger alleged
being the spreading of plague into the City itself and all over
the realm. The jurisdiction of the mayor and aldermen
extended to these skirts of the city, as far as the Bars (Temple






over the


of Slums.

The Popu-
lation of


Bar, Holborn Bar, the bar in West jSniithrjeld, and so all round
the semi-circle to the bar on the Whitechapel highway). l!ut
the ann of the law did not reach to the Liberties as it did
to the well-ordered and regularly built City; and it is

Cj / \

probable that the extramural part of the capital was be-
coming unmanageable in other respects than in the matter
of plague. One of the academic themes of the time, which
occupies an appendix to John Stow's " Survey of London,"
was touching the most convenient size of a civic community.
Stow's essayist cites the opinion of the Greek architect
Hippodamus, better known to modern readers through
Aristotle's " Politics," that ten thousand persons was the
largest community that could be well governed, fed, and
kept in health.

The repressive policy which was adopted in 1580, on the
initiative of the mayor and aldermen, was formally adhered to
for nearly a century, during which time London quadrupled
in numbers and area. A letter of 27th of June, 1602, gives
us a glimpse of how the ordinance worked : " The council
have spied an inconvenient increase of housing in and about
London, by building in odd corners, in gardens, and over
stables. They have begun to pull down one here and there,
lighting in almost every parish on the unluckiest, which is far
from removing the mischief." Also householders were now
and then indicted at the Sessions for subletting, but only in
very bad cases : thus, at the Middlesex Sessions in May, 1687,
a house was indicted which contained eleven married couples
and fifteen single persons. London continued to grow ; only it
grew after a most irregular and unwholesome fashion, because
no provision was made for its orderly expansion. But the
question that here concerns us is the actual numbers of the capital
at the time when the Queen's Government ordered that no more
houses should be built within a radius of three miles of the
City gates.

It happens that we have the means of reckoning the
population of London in that very year, 1580, with a high
degree of accuracy. During the trouble from plague in 1582,
when the Privy Council were blaming the City authorities, and
the City authorities were retorting upon the Council and the
Court, it occurred to Lord Burghley to get from the mayor a




series of the weekly burials from plague and from all other
causes, and of the weekly christenings. The mayor was able to get
the figures from the books of the Company of Parish Clerks, who
had begun as early as the reign of Henry YIII. to compile
weekly bills of mortality in special times of plague, and had
gradually assumed the office of registrars of births and deaths,
which they held in London until the Registration Act of 1837.
The result of the Lord Treasurer's application was a neatly
written tabular abstract, on ten or more pages quarto (pre-
served among the Cecil papers at Hatfield), showing a long series
of weekly burials from
plague and from ordin-
ary causes, and of the
weekly christenings,
together with columns
of still-births, and of
the number of parishes
that were free of plague
in each week. The
tables cover a period
of five years, from 1578
to 1582 inclusive, with
the five first weeks of
1583. It is not quite
clear how many
parishes w T cre included
in the return ; but it
is probable (from the
known precedents of
1503 and 1574) that
the statistics are those of one hundred and eight parishes,
of which ninety-seven w^ere within the walls (mostly small),
and eleven without the walls and in the Liberties, in-
cluding the gate-parishes of Aldgate, Bishopsgate, Cripple-
gate, and Aldersgate, which were partly within and partly
without. In the 1563 figures there were eleven out-
parishes besides the one hundred and eight, including Hack-
ney, Stoke Newington, Islington, the Westminster parishes,
Lambeth and Stepney ; if these had not been included in the
tables for 1578-82 we should have to increase the following

LONDON BRIDGE IN 1575 (MS. Douce 68).
(Bodleian Library, Oxford.)





estimates by about one-seventh. The note gives a summary. 1
The annual average of burials is 33 per cent, more, owing to
the severity of plague in four out of the five years ; but in
the year 1580, when there was little plague (128 deaths),
the christenings were 3,568 and the burials only 2,873, the
former being 24 per cent, in excess. With the christenings
(in a year without the disturbance of plague) one-fourth more
than the burials, we may assume that the birth-rate and the
death-rate had both been favourable, say 29 per 1,000 inhabitants
for the former and 23 per 1,000 for the latter, which would
give a population of some 123,000.

It is probable that the numbers thus reckoned for 1580
were twice as many as the population of London would have

amounted to at the
time of the Reforma-
tion, or at the dis-
solution of the
monasteries, and that
they were three times
the average popula-
tion throughout the
Avhole medieval
period. The earliest
known estimate is
one -that was made
in the time of Richard I. by the Archdeacon of London,
Peter of Blois. The Archdeacon was as likely a person as
any to know : he gives the number of parish churches at 120
(they must have been mostly chapels), besides thirteen greater
conventual churches, and the number of inhabitants at 40,000.
These figures he gives in a letter to the Pope, so as to bring-
out the extent of his ill-paid archidiaconal duty. When the
poll-tax of 1377 was taken, 23,314 above the age of fourteen
years were assessed in London for their groat each, which,
by the ordinary allowances for evasions and for children,


1 1.">7S 3.568

i:.79 629

List i 12S

l.')Sl (4:> wks.only) 1(87
i:,S2 (_:,1 wks.only) 2.976


Other Deaths.

All Deaths.




















would give a population of some 45,000. Nearly all these
had resided within the walls or at the gates. It was a few years
after that date (in 1393) that the Western Liberty, or the ward of
Farringdon Without, was created. The two extant bills of
mortality of Henry YIII.'s reign may easily mislead as to
population, being each for a single week in a time of plague ;
but it is probable from a study of their figures, that the popu-
lation about 1532-35 was some 60,000, of which 20,000 would
have been in the parishes outside the Avails. The deaths for
1563 are a better basis of reckoning, the christenings also
being known (fifty-one) for a single week of July, suggesting
a population of some 90,000, which would probably have

THE PLAGUE (1574).

included a' few thousands in the out-parishes beyond the Bars
of the Freedom. It is true that the Venetian ambassador,
in a long despatch to his Government in 1554, gives the
population of London at just double that (180,000) ; but he
shows his vague sense of numbers in two or three other
instances which can be checked, such as the deaths by the
sweating sickness of 1551, and the size of the liveried retinues
of certain nobles, which are roundly exaggerated beyond Stow's
precise numbers.

At that time the science of political arithmetic did not Political
exist ; even Lord Burghley's exact and clerkly tables of births Aritllinetic -
and deaths for the five years (1578-82) would hardly have been
used, as we can use them now, to reckon the population.
The first attempt of the kind was made by John Graunt, of



Birchin Liuic, in 16(52. He had been long deterred from making
it 1'V the "misunderstood example of David," in the last
chapter of II. Samuel (if he could have foreseen the Great
Plague of 1005 he would hardly have succeeded in overcoming
his scruples at all) ; but as he heard aldermen and other grave
Avise men of the City stating the population after the Restoration
at so many millions, he at length gained courage to apply the
rule-of-three to the christenings and burials, and found that
the whole number of inhabitants Avas about 400,000, of Avhich
a fifth part was within the Avails, a fifth part in the parishes
furthest out, and three-fifths in the Liberties and in the ring
of out-parishes next to them. That population of the old
City, some 90,000 in the year 1002, was perhaps the maximum
of its overcrowding. Its area Avas 380 acres, the narroAV strip
of Liberties all round it having about 300. But the City,
which in the time of Sir Thomas More had orchards and
gardens behind the houses, green graveyards round many of
the churches, and public gardens on ToAver Hill, had to sacrifice
every foot of open space before it could hold 90,000. Perhaps
the last of these sacrifices Avas in building the tAventy houses
of Cullum Street, after the fire of 10(50, upon the site of an
old mansion and garden which had stood intact until then
betAveen Lime Street and Fenchurch Street.

GEORGE ALTHOUGH it is beyond all doubt impossible to assign to any

EUzabeSS Y ' sm gl e nioment such things as the rise of a middle class or

society. the general extension of commerce, it is equally undoubted

that the general notion, Avhich more or less dates and attributes

these things in Eno-Lmd from and to the reign of Elizabeth,

o o o

is roughly and roundly correct. At no time had a middle
class been Avanting; at no time had there been no such
thing as commerce. But until the fifteenth century, or there-
abouts, England had had little to export but AVOO! ; and her
imports had not been of a kind to encourage a very extensive
and varied class of merchants. The influences Avhich, Avith
increasing force and speed, changed all this at the end of the
fifteenth century, and ever more and more during the sixteenth,
have been partly traced already: but may be conveniently
summed up here. There Avere, at home, the increase of


(Bi/ permission of the Right Hon. Earl Brownlow.)


of Trans-


'/'///: .V /:!!' ORDER,


population after the cessation of tin; violent checks imposed
liv tin' I Hack Death, the Hundred Years' War, and the
Wars of the Roses : the tendency towards breaking up pasture
and towards enclosing: the dissolution of the monasteries, and
the consequent disturbance and reshaping of national life
(i he placid vocation of monasticism and the employments
which it gave being henceforth closed); the advance in
domestic refinement and luxury : the Press ; and the great
development given by these things and others to the secular
side of the profession of the law. Abroad there was, before

(I:// permission <\f II". F. ]\'!tmtii-ti. />/.)

everything, the immense revolution and stimulus communicated

/ o

and kept going by the discovery of America and of the
sea-route to the East ; the additional energy infused into the
prosecution of trade in these directions by the ever-growing
religious and patriotic enmity between England and the great
Powers of the Continent especially Spain and her soon-to-be
dependency Portugal and the openings given to merely Euro-
pean trade, partly by the new communications with Russia
and Turkey, partly by the continual disturbance of "Western
Europe, and the religious and political changes which occasioned
or resulted from them. If a more general and less particular
account may be desired, it would almost be enough to say
that the extension of commerce (and the rise of a middle

.,, - ,;

Permission of the Kt. Hon. the Marquis of Salisbury.)

[Tfi fucf.p. 514.




class, which it necessarily
brought with it) was simply
one of the most obvious results
of the indefinable spirit of in-
novation arid change which
distinguished the sixteenth cen-
tury after Christ, more perhaps
than any single age in the entire
known history of the world.

The abundant remains which The
T i -i r ^i r i *. Literary

we luckily possess or the light Evidence.

literature of the time the first
time in English annals when
light literature can properly be
said to have become abundant
enable us to perceive the
changes which had come or
Avere coming over society with

AN ENGLISH N015LEM.YN. fc eage and v i v idneSS. Ill

(Wngel,"Habittisprcecipuorum,popidoru,m,"15l<.') , . ,

the plays of the tune above
all, in the very remarkable
and valuable series of pam-
phlets (mainly, indeed, by
writers of the later Eliza-
bethan and early Jacobean
time, but partly by fore-
runners of theirs who are
enough to save us from
danger of anachronism), in
many passages of graver
works, in religious controver-
sies, in set biographies, and
in the nascent kind of de-
scriptions and travels by
Englishmen and foreigners,
we are pretty well furnished
with the means of noting
the changes and the addi-
tions which had been made AN ENGLISH GENTLEMAN.

111 the types and forces of (Weigel, " Habitus pravipuorum populorum," Iffi.)






English public and private life since Chaucer and Langland
with vigour not inferior to any Elizabethan's, but with a far
narrower canvas and a far simpler palette limned the types
and the figures of a hundred and fifty years earlier.

'II le grades or classes of society, in one sense more distinct,
were in another much more intermingled than at the present
day. It \vas not till the introduction of German etiquette in
the second decade of the eighteenth century that the Court
was sharply shut off from the people; and a delightful if

1 i/ 11

not very decorous poem of Dorset's shows us how, even under
the later Stuarts, persons of any character or of no character
at all could safely venture into the presence uninvited, and
uninterfered with unless they misbehaved themselves. In
Elizabeth's own time, the constant pageants and progresses
threw Court and people into pretty close company ; and the
Queen notoriously retained not a little of her father's disposition

Online LibraryH. D. (Henry Duff) TraillSocial England; a record of the progress of the people in religion, laws, learning, arts, industry, commerce, science, literature and manners, from the earliest times to the present day (Volume 3) → online text (page 44 of 68)