James E. Thorold (James Edwin Thorold) Rogers.

A history of agriculture and prices in England : from the year after the Oxford parliament (1259) to the commencement of the continental war (1793) online

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Online LibraryJames E. Thorold (James Edwin Thorold) RogersA history of agriculture and prices in England : from the year after the Oxford parliament (1259) to the commencement of the continental war (1793) → online text (page 12 of 67)
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Il6 ON THE DISTRIBUTION OF WEALTH IN ENGLAND,

enacting, but with little success, that the old rate of wages
should be retained, and denounced penalties on the giver as
well as on the receiver of excess wages. The lords tried to
reverse the old bargains which they had made with their serfs
for the commutation of labour rents, and as a consequence had
to encounter the prodigious social convulsion of Tyler's and
Littlestreet's insurrection. Notwithstanding the indignant
assertion that the charters of manumission were revoked, and
that the concessions made to the rebels were annulled, the
serfs virtually obtained that for which they had contended,
and the money commutations became a settled and irrevocable
agreement 1 . Thenceforward the grievances of employers are
embodied in petitions to Parliament, in complaints that the
Statute of Labourers is not kept, and in the efforts which the
framers of the parliamentary statute made in its various
chapters to give effect to the prayer of the petitioners. They
constantly complain that the wages of labour are excessive
and, to them, ruinous.

By the 12 Ric II, masters and servants in husbandry who
paid or received more than the statutable rate of wages were
rendered liable to be fined in the excess, and after a second
conviction to be amerced in double the excess, and if convicted
a third time, in three times, payment of the fine being enforced
by a penalty of forty days' imprisonment in default. In the next
year, 13 Ric. II, in order to bring wages still more under con-
trol, the justices of the county were empowered to fix the rate
of wages which labourers in husbandry and artisans were to
receive with or without board and clothing. This was the
machinery adopted and in force at the commencement of the
fifteenth century.

By 4 Henry IV, cap. 14, labourers were to receive no hire
for holidays nor on the eves of feasts, when it seems they were

1 The suggestion which I made first in my first volume, that the real cause of the insur-
rection of 1 38 1 was a determination to maintain the commutation of the labour rents,
was accepted by the late Mr. Tom Taylor, who told me that he had long meditated
writing a drama on the subject of Wat Tyler, but did not, till he read what I had stated,
see the cause of the outbreak. See Vol. i. p. 81.



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DURING THE FIFTEENTH AND SIXTEENTH CENTURIES. 117

constrained to leave off work after noon, for more than half the
day, under a penalty of twenty shillings. It is clear, however,
from the account of the building of Merton College tower, that
the statute was inoperative, for the labourers are paid full
wages during some of the weeks in which the most sacred
holidays of the church occur.

The 7 Hen. IV asserts that there is great scarcity of
labourers in husbandry, and that the gentlemen are greatly
impoverished by the charge of wages. It discovers the cause
of this scarcity in the general practice of apprenticeship, by
which is probably meant that at this time great numbers of
persons were becoming weavers, since from various acts of
Parliament it is manifest that the weaver's craft had extended
into all parts of the kingdom. The statute then enacts that no
servant in husbandry who has pursued that calling up to twelve
years of age shall be capable of being bound apprentice, and
that no person who was not possessed of at least twenty shil-
lings a year in land should be at liberty to bind his son, though
he might send him to school. The proof of such an income
from land shall be in the certificate of the justices of the peace,
and the transgression of the statute shall be visited by a fine of
a hundred shillings. It is probable that this statute was in-
operative, but it is remarkable as anticipating one which was
effectually operative more than a century and a half later. But
the earlier statutes were very indifferently kept, unless they
referred to rights over land, to forms of conveyance, and to
other similar proceedings of which the judges at once took
cognisance, and on which they rapidly formed precedents.
Besides, it was a theory long with lawyers that statute law was
merely expository of common law, to say nothing of the fact
that parliamentary ordinances were very frequently limited to
the time before Parliament might meet again. It is well
known that many statutes enacted in Parliament were obsolete
from the very day that they were published in county court
by the sheriff.

By the 4 Hen. V, cap. 4, the Statute of Labourers is re-



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Il8 ON THE DISTRIBUTION OF WEALTH IN ENGLAND,

enacted. But a much more serious blow was struck by
3 Hen. VI, cap. i, which, reciting that the yearly congrega-
tions and confederacies of masons in general chapters and
assemblies lead to breaches of the Statute of Labourers, makes
the creation of such chapters a felony. Whether theso institu-
tions are the origin of masonic gatherings, I do not know, but
it is clear that they were looked on with the gravest suspicion,
when so formidable a penalty was denounced against them.

In 6 Hen. VI, cap. 3, after reciting the statutes of
Richard II, which have been mentioned above, the penalties
inflicted on masters who give higher wages than the statute
allows are remitted, experimentally it seems (for the duration
of the statute is defined to be till the next Parliament, when it
is renewed, 8 Hen. VI, cap. 8), on the ground that masters can
get no servants unless they make themselves liable to the
penalty, and also because there is no penalty contained in the
act of 13 Ric. II. We must, it appears, interpret this plea
to mean either that the labourers, by an understanding among
each other, declined to serve unless on higher wages, and then
silenced employers by pointing out the risk they ran of a
common punishment, or that the employers designed to trap
the men by a new statute which would leave them, when they
demanded extra wages, alone to the severity of the law.
But the act must have been inoperative, since Chichele's own
accounts of the building of All Souls', which was commenced
in 1437, bear testimony to the payment of wages which were
far in excess of customary rates.

The 33 Hen. VI, cap. 13, is the first statute which defines
the rate of wages in all callings. Farm servants were com-
monly boarded and clothed. Their wages are as follows: a
bailiff in husbandry 23s. 4//., and clothing to the value of $s. ;
a hind, carter, or shepherd 20s. and 4^. ; a common servant 15s.
and 3J. 4//.; a woman servant 10s. and 4s.; a child under
fourteen years of age 6s. and $s. ' Such as deserve less shall
take less, and when less is given less shall be given hence-
forth.' But at Hornchurch the bailiff receives double these



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DURING THE FIFTEENTH AND SIXTEENTH CENTURIES. 119

wages, and other servants also in certain years what is greatly
in excess of these rates.

The wages of mechanics are at two rates, those from Easter
to Michaelmas, and those from Michaelmas to Easter. They
vary also as the mechanic is boarded or not. The freemason
and master carpenter are to receive during the longer days $±d.
or 4//., during the shorter ^\d. or 3*/. ; the master tiler and
slater, the rough mason, mean carpenter and other persons
engaged in building, ^\d. or $d. in the longer days, ^d. or %\d.
in the shorter; common labour 3^. or ad., and 3d. or i^d.;
the lower sums in each period being the payments made when
the labourer is boarded, the maintenance of an adult being
reckoned throughout at i\d. a day. During harvest time
wages are raised. The mower receives 6d. or 4*/., the reaper
and carter $d. or 3*/., women and others ^\d. or z\d. The
estimate of board at harvest time is twopence a day. In
the time of Elizabeth, the crown constantly contracts for the
board of labourers employed by it, at the rate of 8d. or yd. a day.
It is very doubtful whether the statute was kept; it is certain that
piecework becomes frequent during the fifteenth and sixteenth
centuries, and this in agricultural as well as in other labour.

The Statute of Wages was re-enacted in most of its par-
ticulars by 11 Hen. VII, cap. 22, and by 6 Hen. VIII, cap. 3,
the provisions of the later statute being as fellows : the bailiff
is to have 26s. 8d. and $s. ; the carter and shepherd 20s* and
$s. ; the common servant 16s. 8d. and 4^.; women 10s. and 4^.;
children under fourteen 6s. 8d. and 4^. There is a slight rise
of the money wages and clothing in the case of some.

The wages of mechanics are to be as follows : the master
mason is to receive yd. or *yd. ; the freemason, master carpenter,
rough mason, bricklayer, master tiler, plumber, glazier, carver,
and joiner, are to have 6d. or 4*/. from Easter to Michaelmas,
and $d. or $d. from Michaelmas to Easter. Ordinary labourers
are to have ^d. or %d. and $d. or 1 \d.

But a new class of labour is regulated, that of shipwrights,
and another division of time, from Candlemas to Michaelmas,



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120 ON THE DISTRIBUTION OF WEALTH IN ENGLAND,

and from Michaelmas to Candlemas, is recognised. The master
shipwright is to have yd. or $d. and 6d. or ^d. ; the ship carpenter
or hewer 6d. or ^d. and $d. or $d. ; the able clincher $d. or yi.
and ^\d. or %\d.\ the holder 4^/. or 2d. and 3*/. or i£rf. ; the
master caulker 6d. or ^d. and 5*/. or $d. ; the mean caulker
5^. or 3^/. and 4^. or 2 \d. ; the tide caulker qd. a tide with
food.

The agricultural labourers in harvest are to have : mowers
6d. or 4d. 9 reapers and carters 5*/. or 3*/., women and others
^d. or 2\d. No wages are to be paid for holidays or half-days.

By 7 Hen. VIII, cap. 6, artisans and labourers in London
are allowed to take higher wages in consideration of their high
house-rent, the greater cost of food, and their liability to the
offices of constable and scavenger, and the charge of scot
and lot.

It will be noticed that these rates differ from those of
23 Hen. VI almost entirely by the larger margin allowed for
board. I shall reserve the comment on the efficiency of these
statutes till I deal with the wages actually paid for labour by
king and subject.

The provisions of 7 Hen. IV were re-enacted by 5 Eliz.,
and were now made effectual, at least as far as regards
the regularity with which the magistrates in quarter sessions
fixed the rate of wages to be paid to agricultural latjpurers.
I had hoped to be able to find some record of the various rates
as fixed by these officials in the several counties, as in such a
case one would have b^een able to infer to the comparative
condition of these several localities. But the archives of
quarter sessions for so early a date have seldom or never been
preserved, and I have had no satisfactory answer to my in-
quiries on this point. I can however supply from Elizabeth's
proclamations the following for the county of Rutland. It was
certainly imitated by at least the neighbouring counties.

A certificate of the rates of wages of artificers, labourers, and
servants rated and served by the justices of peace, within the county
of Rutland, the seventh day of the month of June [i.e. 1563], in the



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DURING THE FIFTEENTH AND SIXTEENTH CENTURIES. 131

fifth year of the reign of our Sovereign Lady, Elizabeth, by the grace
of God, of England, France, and Ireland, Queen, defender of the
faith, &c, according to the statute in jhat case provided, upon con-
sideration of the great prices of linen, woollen, leather, corn, and
other victuals, &c.

A bailiff in husbandry, having charge of two ploughlands at the
least, may have in wages by the year 40s., and for his livery 8s.

A chief servant in husbandry of the best sort, which can eire,
sow, mow, thrash, make a rick, thatch, and hedge the same, and can
kill and dress a hog, sheep, and calf, may have in wages by the year
40s., and for his livery 6s .

A common servant in husbandry, which can mow, sow, thrash, and
load a cart, and cannot expertly make a rick, hedge, and thatch the
same, and cannot kill and dress hog, sheep, and calf, may have in
wages by the year 33J. 4<£, and for his livery 5*.

A mean servant in husbandry which can drive the plough, pitch
the cart, and thrash, and cannot expertly sow, mow, nor make a rick,
nor thatch the same, may have for his wages by the year 24s., and for
his livery 5*.

A mean child under the age of 16 years may have for his wages by
the year 1 6s., and for his livery 4s.

A chief woman servant being a cook, and can bake, brew, make
white bread and malt, and able to oversee other servants, may have
for her wages by the year 20s., and for her livery 6s. &d.

A second woman servant which cannot dress meat, bake, brew, nor
make malt of the best sort, may have for her wages by the year i8j.,
and for her livery &r.

A mean or simple woman servant, which can do but outworks and
drudgery, may have for her wages by the year 1 2 s., and for her livery
4s.

A woman child under the age of sixteen years may have for her
wages by the year 10s., and for her livery 4*.

A chief miller, which can expertly beat, lay, grind, and govern his
mill, may have for his wages by the year 40s., and for his livery 6s.

A common miller, which cannot beat, nor lay, but grind only, may
have for his wages by the year 26s. $d., and for his livery 5^.

A chief shepherd, which is skilful in the ordering of his cattle, both
winter and summer, may have for his wages by the year 20s., and for
his livery 51.

A common shepherd may have for his wages by the year 16s., and
for his livery 4^.



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l%% ON THE DISTRIBUTION OF WEALTH IN ENGLAND,

The wages of artificers, labourers, and servants, from Easter to
Michaelmas as followeth : —

A mower by the day, with meat 5</., without meat lod.

A man reaper by the day, with meat \d., without meat $d.

A woman reaper by the day, with meat 3d., without meat, 6d.

A man haymaker by the day, with meat 3d,, without meat 6d.

A woman haymaker by the day, with meat 2d., without meat $d.

A chief joiner by the day, with meat 6d., without meat lod.

A joiner's prentice which hath not served four years, by the day, with
meat 3*/., without meat jd.

A sawyer by the day, with meat 4*/., without meat yd.

A ploughwright by the day, with meat 5*/., without meat gd.

A thatcher by the day, with meat $<L, without meat gd.

A hurdle maker by the day, with meat 5</., without meat gd.

A horse collar maker by the day, with meat $d., without meat gd.

Item, among other labourers not before named, by the day, harvest
excepted, with meat 3d., without meat *]d.

A freemason which can draw his plat work, and set cunningly,
having charge over others, by the day, with meat Sd. t without meat

13^

A rough mason which taketh charge over others, by the day, with
meat sd., without meat gd.

A master carpenter being able to draw his plat, and to be master of
works over others, by the day, with meat &d., without meat 1 2d.

An expert carpenter by the day, with meat 5</., without meat gd.

A carpenter's prentice which hath not been prentice four years, by
the day, with meat 3d., without meat id.

A bricklayer by the day, with meat §d., without meat gd.

A bricklayer prentice by the day, with meat 3d., without meat id.

A tiler or slater by the day, with meat $d., without meat gd.

A tiler's or slater's prentice by the day, with meat 3d., without
meat *jd.

A plumber by the day, with meat 6d. f without meat lod.

A plumber's prentice not serving as prentice four years, by the day,
with meat 3d., without meat jd.

A glazier by the day, with meat 6d., without meat lod.

A glazier's prentice which hath not served four years, by the day,
with meat 3d., without meat jd.

The wages of artificers, labourers, and servants, from Michaelmas
to Easter as followeth : —

A chief joiner by the day, with meat \d., without meat Sd.



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DURING THE FIFTEENTH AND SIXTEENTH CENTURIES. 12$

A joiner's prentice which hath not served four years, by the day,
with meat 2d, without meat 6d.

A sawyer by the day, with meat 4*/., without meat Sd.

A ploughwright by the day, with meat 4*/., without meat Sd.

A thatcher by the day, with meat 4</., without meat Sd.

A hurdle maker by the day, with meat 4*/., without meat Sd.

A horse collar maker by the day, with meat ^d., without meat Sd.

Item, every other labourer not before named, by the day, harvest
excepted, with meat 2d., without meat 6d.

A free mason which can draw his plat work, and set cunningly,
having charge over others, by the day, with meat 6d., without meat
lod.

A rough mason which taketh charge over others, by the day, with
meat 4</., without meat Sd.

A master carpenter being able to draw his plat, and to be*master of
works over others, by the day, with meat 6d., without meat lod.

An expert carpenter by the day, with meat 4*/., without meat Sd.

A carpenter's prentice that hath not been prentice four years by the
day, with meat 2d., without meat 6d.

A bricklayer by the day, with meat \d., without meat Sd.

A bricklayer's prentice by the day, with meat 2d., without meat 6d.

A tiler or slater by the day, with meat 4*/., without meat Sd.

A tiler's or slater's prentice by the day, with meat 2d., without
meat 6d.

A plumber by the day, with meat 5*/., without meat gd.

A plumber's prentice not serving four years, by the day, with meat
2d., without meat 6d.

A glazier by the day, with meat \d., without meat Sd.

A glazier's prentice which hath not served four years, by the day,
with meat 2d., without meat 6d.

God save the Queen.

Imprinted at London in Paul's Churchyard, by Richard Jugge and
John Cawood, printers to the Queen's Majesty.

Cum privilegio Regiae Majestatis.

Changes in the social system, or interruptions in the ordinary
course of social life, whether they were due to the action of
government, or to altered conditions of trade, or to usurpa-
tions on the part of the more powerful classes, were energeti-
cally resented, and generally ascribed to maladministration or



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124 ON THE DISTRIBUTION OF WEALTH IN ENGLAND,

negligence on the part of government. The insurrection of
Flammock and Joseph in Cornwall may have been little more
than a survival of those troublesome times which a previous
generation had experienced. Henry found his Parliament in
1523 exceedingly reluctant to burden the country with a
subsidy, and had to encounter the very serious outbreak of
1536, which is known as the Pilgrimage of Grace, when Henry
succeeded in dispersing the insurgents by making promises
which he never intended to fulfil. But the most alarming
outbreak was Ket's rising in Norfolk, a rising which was only
a part of what was very general, though the ruin which Ket and
his followers brought on the flourishing town of Norwich made
his doings more memorable than that of the other insurgents.

Ket's chief complaint was the practice of enclosures, and the
injury which had been done to the poor by the encroachments
of the rich. But the discontent which his outbreak indicated,
the desperate manner in which the struggle was carried on,
the mischief and loss which -followed it, and the leniency with
which the insurgents were treated, show that the movement
was due to deep-seated and serious causes. It is remarkable
as being the last attempt which the English labourers have made
to secure what they believed to be justice by force of arms ;
and it is very probable that the singular phenomenon of the
English poor law, though it was enacted more than half a
century after the last outbreak of the English labourer, was
due as much to the conviction that there must be some com-
pensation given to destitution, in order to obviate the danger
of discontent, as to any feeling of humanity in the minds of
Elizabeth and of her counsellors.

I have referred to the practice common among the members
of the various guilds in the chartered towns, of devising part
of their substance to the guild for charity or the common feast,
after the charge for saying mass had been satisfied. The
byelaws of these guilds had excited some suspicion, for by
15 Hen. VI it was enacted that their ordinances were to be
certified and apparently registered by the justices of the peace



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DURING THE FIFTEENTH AND SIXTEENTH CENTURIES. 1 25

or the chief magistrates of cities and towns, under a penalty
of jfio 1 . The property possessed by these institutions was
considerable enough to stimulate the rapacity of Henry the
Eighth, who in the last year of his reign procured a statute,
the width of which included every foundation in the kingdom,
from the Universities and Colleges of Oxford and Cambridge to
the poorest charity which gave occupation to a priest and bread
to a broken-down artisan. He died before this last act of rapine
could be perpetrated, and the guild lands were devoured by
Edward's guardians. The Universities and Colleges and a
few of the schools escaped, but the benefit funds of the guilds
were appropriated, except in the city of London, which the
Court it seems dared not touch, for history proved that it was
dangerous to drive the city to extremities.

New College, Oxford, possessed a considerable amount of
house property in this city. I have printed one among the
many accounts of the Oxford estate, as an illustration of the
value which such property was to the possessor, and of the
charges on it. It will be seen that the rents of assize
amount to £58 is. id., and that the sum paid by the tenant
was liable to increase, in case money were expended on
the building and any person were willing to pay an enhanced
rent.

These gross receipts are subject to heavy deductions. The
College is liable to payments amounting to £\% 11s. yd., these
being probably fixed or fee farm rents issuing out of the free-
holds which the College had purchased. It will be seen that
most of these are payable to the heads of monastic establish-
ments ; as the prior of Merton, the abbot of Osney, the abbot
of Eynsham, the prioress of Studley, and the prior of St.
Frideswide in Oxford. One payment made to Sir John

1 In Heath's account of the Grocers* Company, mention is made of a fine of £10
levied on two of the * fellowship ' for a breach of the following ordinance : — • It is
ordained by the common assent of this fraternity that no man of the fraternity take his
neighbour's house that is of the same fraternity, or enhance the rent against the will of
the said neighbour. Who that is found in the default shall pay at the time £10, that
is to weten £5 to the fraternity, and £5 to him that is thus p t out of his house.'



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126 ON THE DISTRIBUTION OF WEALTH IN ENGLAND,

Charcler is plainly made to a mass priest who had a chantry
in All Saints' Church, Oxford. Some payments are made to
the authorities of the town, the bailiffs and chamberlain, and
some to private individuals. It was an exceedingly common,
one might say an almost universal practice in the middle
ages, to charge an estate with a pension, which future pur-
chasers had to pay on acquiring the property, and such a
custom, when the charge meant a solid interest to the pos-
sessor, must have singularly interlocked various individuals in
common purposes. Wykeham purchased the manor of Heyford
Warren, when he founded his College, and with it the liability
charged by its former owners on the estate, of paying five
quarters of wheat on All Saints' day to the abbey of Bicester.
As the payment continued long after the College had ceased
to cultivate the estate, and as the accounts of this estate have
been singularly well preserved, these payments of corn, pur-
chased by the bailiff of Heyford, or, as is likely, reckoned in
money at the market value of corn in that day, have supplied
me with a nearly unbroken series of wheat prices till the
College commuted the varying charge for an average payment
of %6s. 8d. It was not infrequently the case that charitable
foundations were almost entirely supported by rent charges.
Such was the original foundation of the King's Hall in the
University of Cambridge.

The collector it will be seen was charged with the gross sum
payable for all the tenements, and even with the arrears of his
predecessors in office. These are explained on the back of the
roll. Two sums of iSs. and 6ay. appear to have been paid
after the account, and after the sums allowed in the audit of
the collector's moneys for charges due, but unpaid when the



Online LibraryJames E. Thorold (James Edwin Thorold) RogersA history of agriculture and prices in England : from the year after the Oxford parliament (1259) to the commencement of the continental war (1793) → online text (page 12 of 67)