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 33 of 67)
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honey is compared with other saccharine matters, it is singu-
larly low. Entries of the price of beehives will be found among
sundry articles; in 147a, 1531, 1522, and 1524 at 4*/., in 1487
and 151 8 at 3*/., in 1530 at a little over 3*/., in 5515 at 3^.,
in 1527 at $d. In 153a Sion buys two and a-half dozen of
these articles for 9*.

Cider and Fruit. In my first volumes I was able to give



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36a ON THE PRICE OF FARM PRODUCE.

a short table of these and cognate articles. But cider occurs
very rarely in the accounts of the 15th and 16th centuries. I
have been able to make only six entries in the first period
between 140a and 1463, the price steadily falling from 6s. $d.
and 5s. to 3s. ^d. the pipe. Once, 1414, it is sold by the tun
of two pipes. Verjuice and crabs are bought frequently, and
at very various prices. A pipe of the former is bought in 1504
at 16s., another in 1524 at 20s., a hogshead in 1516 at 10s. 6d. s
another in 1529 at 6s. 8d., others in 1550 at 9^ in 1569
at 8 s. 6d. 9 in 1579 at 10s. It is bought by the gallon in
1488 at 2d., in 1510 at $\d. 9 in 1573 at is. i\d. Crabs vary
in price from y. 6d. the quarter to Hd. Arbitri, in 15 10-
15 *5j are probably crabs, as Ompharium in 157 a is perhaps
verjuice.

Apples are bought by the quarter or bushel, when the fruit is
of the common sort, by the hundred when it is intended for
the table. The former are found at is. 4*/. the quarter in 1401,
at 8d. in 141a, at 4*. in 1494, at 3s. 6d. in 1518, at is. Sd. in
1521, at n\d. in 1538. But costard apples are bought at ^d.
the hundred, and pippins at #£., in 1485. By the same measure
they are purchased at y±d. in 1519, at 4*/. in 1522, at 6\d. in
1524, at 6d. in 1529. So twenty deusans are bought for 8d.
in 1569, 12 pippins at id. each, 20 costards for 3d. But
orchards were common, and these purchases were made for
occasional feasts when home supplies ran short.

The entries of pears, either under this name or described as
wardens and volemi, are more common. The first which has
come under my notice is a hundred and a-half wardens bought
(1417) in Cambridge at Sd. The next is 3000 volemi in 1467,
bought between Michaelmas and Feb. 20, for 12s. 4\d., 300
pears at 4*/., 350 wardens for is. iod., and a bushel of medlars
in 1494, 400 at 6d. in 1515, 250 in 1517 at 2s. 2d. the hundred,
these being volemi, 200 at $d. and 100 at 3d. in 1520, 500 at
4d. in 152 1, and a pannier at 8d. 9 1000 for $s. 4^., and another
1000 for 2s. 4d. in 1522, a hundred wardens for 4^., and a
bushel at the same price in the same year, when I find also the



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ON THE PRICE OF FARM PRODUCE. 363

entry of a pot of strawberries, the first mention of this fruit, at
4\d. In 1535 I find strawberries at is., iod., and 8d. the
gallon, and fourteen pounds of cherries bought for is. In 1537,
at the Windsor feast, 200 wardens are bought on Feb. 25, 1528,
at as. 6d. the hundred ; in 1529, 100 pears at is., 400 at 6d. 9
600 at ^d. ; in 1530 a bushel of wardens at is. ad., a hundred at
5d. In 1532 I find a bushel of walnuts at Durham bought for
$s. 4d. 9 and five bushels of wardens at Sion at is. %\d. In
1536 I find oranges and cucumbers at Birling in Essex, priced
without quantities, and seven bushels of wardens in Oxford at
is. Sion in 1537 buys the same quantity at is. 6d. In 1557-8
cherries are bought in London (July) at id. the lb., and next
year, at the same place and time, at yi. In 1569 quinces are
found for the first time, 31 being bought for y. Sd. In 1575
100 pears cost 6d., and 200 wardens are bought at is. 6d. the
hundred. These are the last entries of fruit.

GREASE AND Fat. The accounts contain entries of various
kinds of hard and soft fats, the former being generally known as
cebum, cepum, and latterly tallow, the latter pinguedo or lard.
The principal use of the latter was for sheep dressing, when it
is bought in large quantities to mix with tar, and is some*
times called pinguedo alba. It is bought by the gallon
and the pound, sometimes by the wey and stone, the stone
being occasionally 8 lbs. in weight, and the wey containing 20
such stones. In the Coleshull account of 1499 the gallon of
pinguedo is said to contain 12 lbs. The price varies from a\d.
to id. the lb., though the commonest price in the early period is
id. Thirty entries of pinguedo between 1426 and 1499 8* ve an
average of is. $\d. the dozen pounds, nine entries of pinguedo
or unctum by the gallon give an average of io\d. An average
of 25 entries of cepum or hard fat by the stone is nearly 8|rf.,
and as the wey contains twenty such stones, it appears that the
stone should be a little over 1 1 lbs. But, as I have stated, at
Cambridge and S. Osyth in 1502 and 152 1, it is said that the
stone is 8 lbs., and in this case the wey of tallow would be
160 lbs. Cebum is sometimes sold to shoemakers and at a



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364 OJV THE PRICE OF FARM PRODUCE.

high price. After 1540 three entries give an average of 2s. $\d.
the stone.

Tallow is bought at is. 6d. the stone at Pershore, and at gd.
at Canons Ashby in the years 1434 and 1453, at J ^« ^ e Ik
in 146 1 at Restormel. But it is also purchased by the cwt
An average of nine entries between 146a and 1^41 inclu-
sive gives a price of 7*. the cwt. for tallow, an average of
eleven entries after that date gives 22s. 6\d. for the same
quantity.

Entries of flotas or kitchen grease generally come from the
Sion accounts. It is sold by the barrel, and occasionally by the
kilderkin or half barrel. In the first two years, 1452-1453, it
is sold at 6s. Sd. The remaining seven entries realise 10s. or
a little more. The average is 9^. 2d.

Sagmen, occurring at Durham only, appears to be the same as
lard, as the swine grease is of 1463, where the petra is of 8 lbs.
Lard is sold under this name in the Hatfield account of 1551,
and at the great pound of 8 lbs. So also is the sumen of 1558,
which is sold by the litttle pound at 2d.

Fifteen entries of suet give an average, between 1555-1582,
of 2J. io\d. the dozen lbs. There is an entry of suet before
this time from Mary Tudor's wardrobe in 1527, at lod. the
petra, and two others at is. 3d. and is. 6d. the dozen from
London and Birling in 1534 and 1536. It does not appear
that, on the whole, the price of fats rose so rapidly, after the
increase of prices occurred, as that of other agricultural pro-
duce did. To this general fact tallow appears to be an
exception.

A few entries of train oil purchased for the use of the navy
in the latter part of the period give an average of J2s. the tun.
The crown also purchased a tun of l caulking* oil for Rochester
dockyard at £10 10s. in 1561.

Wax and Oil. Information as to the price of wax, chiefly
used for church purposes, and later in the period for the do*
mestic use of the king's or queen's household, is very abundant,
<>nly twelve years out of the whole 183 being unrepresented



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ON THE PRICE OF FARM PRODUCE. 365

in the accounts. It occurs in two forms, by the pound and by
the hundredweight, the price of the article being naturally
cheaper when the purchase is made in bulk. In the later years
of the period it is very often purchased by the cwt. only, and
the price by the dozen lbs., which has been taken in order to
avoid the fractions which would result from drawing the
averages from numerous entries, has been estimated from the
sales in bulk.

Much of the wax purchased by monasteries and parish
churches was of home origin. But it was also imported, princi-
pally from the Baltic. It is likewise probable that large purchases
made at fairs, as at Stourbridge and Ely, were of foreign origin.
This foreign wax is known in the accounts as 'Boleyn,* or
'Poleyn' (1460-1461, etc.), and is known to have been a pro-
duct of Livonia, and other districts east of the Elbe. Some-
times the wax is purchased made up for consumption, and entries
are frequently found of waste wax or droppings, and of the cost
of making it either from the raw material or the re-melted and
purified waste. The accounts in the pre-reformation times also
contain numerous entries of an article cheaper than wax,
known as torch, and of lichinum, which appears to be wick.
Cotton, raw or twisted, is also to be found, and several entries
have been copied into the list of sundries.

The average price of wax in the early part, i. e. the first 140
years, is 6s. yl. the dozen, and scarcely varies from that which
was derived from the averages of the period contained in the
first two volumes. The slight rise of a third only is effected
in the last 43 years, and this mainly, during the last 33 years.
Even here, however, the rise is little more than that of 10
to 6. It is highly probable that north-eastern Europe, from
which this article was obtained, did not feel the effect of the
fall in the value of silver till long after western Europe was
brought under its influence.

The cessation in the use of wax for ecclesiastical purposes
in all countries where the Reformation became dominant, i. e.
;n north-western Europe ? must have affected the price of this



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366 ON THE PRICE OF FARM PRODUCE.

article. It was used to a great extent in the domestic con-
sumption of monarchs and nobles. But this consumption was
in the aggregate nothing as compared with its universal use in
churches, as an offering at shrines and altars. The annual
cost of the article in colleges and monasteries is a very large
sum, though it was constantly compensated by the other offer-
ings made by the penitent, or in the profits made by the sale.
Thus Oriel College, in Oxford, to which the offerings made in
St. Mary's Church were a considerable source of income, buys
wax largely for religious offices, and sells tapers at a profit to
the worshippers.

There are a few entries of red wax for seals, but chiefly in
the later period. In early times the corporation probably
manufactured this article, by melting wai with vermilion, red
lead, and other pigments.

Frequent purchases of oil are made, olive and rape, for
light and culinary purposes, but chiefly for the former. In the
pre-reformation period, most years are represented by these
articles, in the later they become scanty. But decennial aver-
ages by the gallon have been obtained. The price in the
earlier period is very uniform, the average being is. z\d. the
gallon. In the latter it rises to is. %\d. Oil is frequently
bought in small quantities.

Oil is also bought by the barrel, or cask, the casks being
small. One of six gallons is given under 1403, and another of
under 5$ gallons in 1406. But it does not follow that these
were full barrels. A barrel of rape oil is bought in 1450 for
% 1 s., half a 'cade* of oil in 1456 at 30^. 8d., another in 1480 at
7 j., and others in 148 1 at 5^., in 1483 at 5?. yd., in 1483 at 4*.,
in 1484 at Ss. These are bought at Finchale. But the same
priory gives 33^. 44/. for a barrel in i486.

In 1488 Magdalen College buys a doleum for 23s. 4d. Sion
in 1489 a barrel of rape oil containing 16 gallons 1 quart
1 pint for 59^. lod. Two years afterwards it buys two barrels
at 33^. 4$d. But in 1494, these measures are even more con-
fusing. A 'cade' of oil containing 64 gallons is bought in



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ON THE PRICE OF FARM PRODUCE. 367

Oxford, a barrel of 13 gallons at Sion, two others of 16J gal-
lons, and a hogshead of lamp oil, the quantity of which is not
noted. The barrel of rape oil costs 2js. 2d. in 1496, 26s. id.

in i499> 3 6s - % d - in I 5°4> 3 2s - in 1 5 I 9# 3 os - in l 5*°> 33 s - 4**-
in 1521, 32s. in 152a, 2$s. 4d. in 1526, 40s. in 1530, 32s. $d.
in 1537. The average of the last ten entries is 31s. io|rf.

Oil, called 'meat oil/ is purchased at Hickling in 1509 and
151 1. This seems to mean the same as salad oil.

Candles. The information obtained as to the price of
candles is much more copious in the later period than it was
in the former, evidence being deficient for only eleven years
out of the 182 contained in this period. The price of candles
therefore supplies what is wanting in the record of the price of
hard fats, the more because the annual record is almost
unbroken during the sixteenth century, and entirely so during
that part of the period in which the rise in prices was effected.

The entries have been reckoned by the dozen pounds.
Candles are frequently bought at this rate, and occasionally, as
at Hornchurch in 1407, and Cambridge in 1414, thirteen
pounds are reckoned to the dozen. Candles are much cheaper
in the fifteenth century than they were in the fourteenth, and
the price, lower in the last decade of the fifteenth century,
keeps falling from the commencement of this period. The
general average in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries was
is. n%d. From 1401 to 1530 the general average is only
is. sld., and in the decade 1491-1500 it is as low as is. o\d.,
the article being frequently purchased at is. the dozen, and
even less.

The price of candles is, of course, the price of manufactured
mutton fat ; and the low range of these prices is a proof that
sheepfarming was profitable, that meat was cheap, that a
generous diet was within the reach of most people, including the
labouring classes, and that artificial light was also more within
the means of the many than it had been a century before.
During that period it seemed that the use of candles must have
been rare among the poorer and farming classes, and that, as a



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368 ON THE PRICE OF FARM PRODUCE.

rule, they must have used rushes stripped on two sides, and
dipped in grease for occasional light 1 . But with increased
wages and cheaper articles, artificial light was far more acces-
sible in the fifteenth century.

The New College accounts give certain entries of lichinum,
that is, of loosely plaited wick. This is of two qualities,
described as melius and pejus> and is generally bought at id.
and \\d. the lb. Wick is also purchased under the English
name in other places and at the same prices.

Cotton for wicks, of which there are thirteen entries in the
tables of sundry articles, was very dear, though not so costly as
it was in the fourteenth century. It fluctuates considerably;
6s. 8d. and 6s. qd. the dozen lbs. in 1455, 8s. 6d. in 1459, *js.
in 1460, 4s. in 146a, when it is called wick yarn, nearly 10s. in
1466, *js. in 1482, 3X. yd. in 1494, 6s. in 1518, 1521, and 1524, in
which last year it is also bought at 5s. 4*/., 5s. 8d. in 1522, 8s*
in 1529 and 1530. But in 157 1 it is bought for 3^.

Candles are frequently described as of Paris, especially in the
middle part of the period. These are sometimes dearer than
English produce, though frequently of the same price. But they
are not found in the later part. The purchases are occasionally
very laige, probably because it was known that candles are the
better for keeping. Thus Sion Abbey buys between 100
and 200 dozen in the year, and at one time. Metingham
College purchases 406 dozen in 1528. Cambridge (King's
College) 120 dozen in 1547.

Metingham College buys candles by thecwt., and in the two
years' account of this college pays 8s. 6d. and 8s. yd. for the
hundred. The hundred-weight is also used at Kirling, which
gives late information (in 1577 the cwt. is 25s., in 1578 and
1579 32*., in 1580 30s.), and at Cambridge in 158 1, where it
is 2,5s. By this time the price had risen to $s. and 3*. 6d. the
dozen, though occasionally purchases are made at cheaper
rates.

The rise in the price is exceedingly suggestive, but com-

1 Candle rushes may be found ia Vol. III. p. 565 i, 566 i, &c.



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ON THE PRICE OF FARM PRODUCE. 369

ments on it will be best reserved, till the whole range of prices
are subjected to analysis in a later chapter. A candle-mould
will be found in vol. iii. p. 577, priced at 5*.

Fuel. It is convenient to include fuel under the head of
farm produce, as underwood was regularly cultivated for fuel;
and the produce was sold under various names. The labour
is in some of the articles included in the price of fuel, the
principal element of value ; but, as was stated before, no land
in the fifteenth century was without an owner, and the privi-
lege of cutting even the cheapest kinds of fuel was either a
common right, or granted on payment for a licence, even to
dig turf or mow sedge.

The accounts contain several entries of the sale of under-
wood and trees by the acre. The value varies exceedingly.
Thus in 1401 the sales at Heghtredebury give prices varying from
24s. to ys. the acre, while at Anesty a sale is affected at 4s.
Two acres of wood are sold at Takley at 50?., while one at
Birchanger fetches 40^. In 1409, 1410, 141a, 1432, 1424-7,
143a, 1435, the Takley copse is sold at 4?., while the Heyford
reaches 12s. 6d. In 141 1 the Takley wood is also sold at 6s.,
in 141 7 at $s. 4d. In 1423 large sales are made at rates from 15*.
to 10s. the acre in 1456, and at 8s. in 1457, at Folkingham.
But in 1474, Peterhouse, Cambridge, buys an acre for 26s. 8d.,
and in 148 1 Swaffham sells a quarter of an acre at 16s. In
Kimbolton 23^ acres are sold at 13^. ^d. in 1495, 2in ^ 3i at
Wiveton are bought at 8s. In 1500, 3! acres are sold at Farley
at 6s. 8d. In 1503 Heghtredebury sells an acre at 20s. But
none of these entries give any account of the produce. Sales of
wood are effected in 1540 and in 1542 at prices varying from
26s. 8d. to 106s. 8d., and of underwood in the latter year at
20s. and 16s. the acre. In 1438 the highest prices of under-
wood are reached.

More significant is the purchase at Norwich in 151 1 of an

acre of wood seven miles from the city. This produced 1700

faggots, and was bought for 40s. The cutting and tying these

faggots cost 1 2 s. gd., the carriage was 17^., which gives a little

VOL. IV. B b



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370 ON THE PRICE OF FARM PRODUCE.

over 4s. yd. the hundred delivered. Now in Cambridge about
this time faggots are worth by the hundred about 6s. Sd. In
1512, at Eton in Norfolk, the cost is 4*. But faggots by the
hundred are universally far dearer in the fifteenth than they
were in the fourteenth century. The average is 2s. $\d. from
1260 to 1400, 7*. nd. from 1401 to 1540. Part of this exalta-
tion is undoubtedly due to the high prices which Cambridge
gives, and probably denotes that the faggot was large in this
district.

Faggots are sold from Hornchurch at from 4s. to 5?., and
even at lower prices ; in other places at 4?., $s., and zs. &/.,
at which the Heveningland sales are made. Once, in 1473,
King's College buys at $s. 2d. ; but this is an exception. They
are sold as low as is. 2d. at Walsham, in 1501. Faggots are
rarely bought at Oxford, charcoal being the fuel generally used.
After 1540 the price of faggots by the hundred rises consider-
ably, though not as much as other commodities do.

In my first volume (p. 426) I reckoned, from information
which I had received, that underwood produces from 300 to 600
faggots by the acre. But the Norwich purchase of 151 1
yielded 1700, and must have therefore been exceptionally
good. Still, as compared with the rates at which underwood
was ordinarily sold (such underwood yielding about 400 faggots
the acre in the fourteenth century), the price paid for the
Norfolk purchase is high, and indicates increasing dearness for
fuel.

Faggots are also sold by the load. The load appears to have
contained, to judge from its price, about a quarter of a hundred.
This measure is not so common as that by tale.

Other names are Bobbelyns (Cambridge, 1408) ; Shrof faggots
(Elham, 1414), one quarter the price of ordinary faggots from the
same place ; ascels 1 , or astells, kydes, or kedys (Heveningland),
tosards, bavins (a cheap article), and brushwood.

Fuel, focafia, is also sold by the hundred, as are tall wood,

1 Those in 1434 are said to be bought for burning tiles. The word is very widely
used.



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ON THE PRICE OF FARM PRODUCE. 37 1

standards, shides, sheddings, billets, pole wood, great wood, and
furze. Fuel by the hundred, or by the load, is generally about
the price of faggots. A hundred of tall wood is about half the
price of a hundred of faggots.

Charcoal is very commonly used, both for cooking and for
warmth. It is bought by the quarter, the load, and the sack ;
by the first generally, by the load frequently at Cambridge. It
varies from 6d. to i6d. the quarter, but is occasionally much
dearer. The average price before 1540 is y{d.> afterwards it
rises to is. old. The rise is far less than in the case of most
other articles, but the chief element in the value of charcoal
was labour, and labour, as we shall see hereafter, did not rise in
price as other articles rose 1 . The seam is also found, and the
skep at York.

To judge from comparative prices, the load of charcoal Con-
tained from ten to twelve quarters, probably the latter, as is
suggested by the decennial and general averages. It was likely
to be a little dearer when bought by the smaller quantity.
In 1490 the Cambridge load is said to contain thirteen
quarters.

In 1524, 1525, 1527, 1529, 1530, charcoal is bought at Sion
by the byn, a measure unknown to me, and apparently to the
glossaries. The average of this quantity in the first year is 33^.,
in the second 37$. 6d., in the third apparently 38^., in the
fourth 34*. iid. 9 in the fifth 37 s. nd. In the first and second
year the price of the load is 9*. at Sion, in the third it cannot
be exactly discovered, in the fourth it is gs*, in the fifth it is
10s. It would seem then that this anomalous and exceptional
measure contained from three to three and a-half loads.

Another singular measure is found in 1454 at Cambridge;
the tuntyte. It looks like the third of a load.

Sea-coal is found more frequently than in the earlier period,
being bought by the chalder or chaldron, the fother, the quarter,

1 It may be stated here that the proportion in the above prices (31 to 51) represents
a ratio between the rise in the necessaries of life (generally 3 to 7) and that of wages
(generally a to 3) before and after 1540.

B b 2



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372 ON THE PRICE OF FARM PRODUCE.

and the bushel. It varies, as may be expected, greatly in price
according to its proximity to the coal-field. It is purchased in
York by the chaldron in 1402-1404 at 5?., in 1415 at 5*. 4*/.,
in 1418 at 4s. 4//., and 4^. in 1419 ; at is. id. the skep at the same
place in 1432 ; at is. 4d. the quarter in 1472, the fuel being here
designated as Raby coal ; at is. id. the quarter in 1498. But at
Windsor, in 1405, it costs y. 8d. the quarter; in 1408, 6d. the
bushel ; in 1414, $d.

At Jarrow and Wearmouth it is much cheaper. It is is.4id.
the chaldron at the former place in 1433, io\d* * n I 45 I >
1*. %\d. in 1453, ls ' 4d* in *454> is- *d* in J 4 66 > in *53 l
as. At Wearmouth it is bought by the fother in 1448,
1449, at 2j., in 1450 at 6d. } in 1453 at yd., in 1452 at %s. old.

The Howard accounts of 1467, 1469 contain purchases at
6s. id. the chaldron. It is bought by Sion for the first time in
1489 at js., in 1497 at 5^. 8d, in 1507 at 4s. $ld., in 1508 at
5$*., in 1515 at 5s., in 1516 at 4s. 8d. 9 in 1517 at 6j. 4*/., in
1518 at 6s. 8d. 9 in 1522 at gs. 8\d., in 1523 at 4s. 6d. % 5?., and
9*. 4*/., in 1529 at 6s. 8d., in 1534 at 6s. 8d.

It is bought at Peterhouse, Cambridge, in 1502, when 20
bushels cost 3^. 8d., and 1503, when the same quantity costs
3*. In 1519, 1520 it is bought at %\d. the bushel, and in
1521, at %\d.

A chalder is purchased at Hickling in 1517 at $s. ; seven
in 152 1 at Hunstanton at 5^., three at 5s. 4*/., and half a
chaldron at 6s.] next year at the same place, nine are bought
at 5j., four at 5^. 4d. In the next year twenty chalders from
Newcastle are purchased at $s. 4d., and in 1527, dated pur-
chases from March to Feb. give $s. 4*/., 4^. 8d., $s., 5s. 4*/., 6s.
The Nuns of Swyn buy thirteen chaldrons in 1528 at 5^. lid.,
and nine chaldrons are bought at Hunstanton in 1533 at 5 s -
In 1548, fifty-seven chaldrons are bought at is. 6d. in New-
castle, and sold as sixty-eight and a-half Ipswich chaldrons at
ios. 9 an enormous profit. In 1549, at Hunstanton, twelve and
a-half chalders, two bolls are bought at 10s., and eighteen
chaldrons are sold at Newcastle at 2j. iofrf. In 1562, ten



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ON THE PRICE OF FARM PRODUCE. 373

chaldrons are bought at Deptford at 1 ii. 4*/., and eighteen and
a-half in London at us. In 1569 the dockyard at Gillingham



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 33 of 67)