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 61 of 67)
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Potcome, the carrier, engages to bring six pipes of wine from
Southampton to Oxford. The distance is between seventy
and eighty miles Three carts are employed, and six horses go to
each cart. The whole cost is 24s. iod., i.e. a little over 8s. yi.
the journey for each cart. The journey takes ten days, a length
of time which plainly implies that the carrier started from
Oxford, and includes his out journey in the charge. But the
payment, neglecting all account of the out journey, is only a
fraction over id. the mile. Again, in the same year, and also
in 1452 and 1470, the pannus of cloth is carried from
Winchester, nearly seventy miles, for 6d. It could hardly have
weighed less than half-a-hundredweight, and was therefore
carried at less than 2d. a ton per mile. If we take six of
these panni to have supplied twenty-one liveries, the cost of the
carriage of them to London from Oxford in 1409 is at about
the same rate.

In 1413 goods by the carrier were at a little over is. i\d.
the cwt. from Oxford to London. In 1437 they are at 2s. id.,
in 1488 at 2s. zd. } in 1497 at 2s. id., in 1501 at is. 2\d.,
in 1517 at is. 2d., in 1523 at 2s. 3d., in 1535 at is. 4d.,
* n 1538 at i*. yd., in 1539 at an average of 2s. $d., in 1540 at
is. 4d., the fact being noted that one of the two entries at this
rate was in the winter. The average of these entries is nearly
is. 8\d. In 1494, 64 gallons of oil was carried from Oxford
to London : the old road was nearly sixty miles long, and the
payment made is y. 4//. Now such an amount of oil with the

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cask could hardly weigh less than six hundredweight, and was
probably more. The rate is thus a little over ad. per ton per
mile. It is a little less than one third the average price charged
for the carriage of goods by the carrier from Oxford to London.

In 1542 the cost of carrying glass from London is is. ad. the
cwt. In 1543 goods are conveyed at is. 5^/., in 1545 at is. 4^.,
in 1546 at as. 4d., in 1548 again at is. 4^., in 1549 at about
as. 4d., in 1550 at about is. gd, in 1551 at is. 8d.> in 1557 at
as. 4d. } in 1559 at as., in 1560 at as., in 1570 at as. Sd.

The distance from Oxford to Cambridge is eighty miles. In
1556 goods were conveyed from Stourbridge fair, a mile to the
east of Cambridge, to Oxford, at is. 6\d. the cwt. This year
contains the dearest corn prices of the whole period.

In 1472 a hogshead of vinegar is carried from Cambridge to
London. The charge is high, 4s. 4^., and is a considerable
item in the price of the article as delivered, for the purchase is
1 1 s. The hogshead contained probably as much as the cask of
oil referred to above, and weighed more. The cost of carriage
is much higher. But in 151 2 carriage is only lod. the cwt.
from Cambridge, and this at the end of November. In 1554
and 1555 barrels of eels, each weighing about 2£cwts., are
carried from London to Cambridge for 4^. ad. and 4*. nd.,
and in 1557 the cost of carriage from London to the same
place was as. 6d. the cwt. In 1560 it is as.; in 1562, as. 4d. ; in
1577, as. These prices are higher than those for carriage from
London to Oxford, and suggest that transit was not so regular
and customary between Cambridge and London as it was
between Oxford and London, since the distance is shorter. In
1428 a pipe of red wine is carried to Hoxne from Yarmouth,
twenty-five miles, for js.

It is less easy to interpret other carriages. In 141 o a mill-
stone is carried from London to Oxford for $s. The cost of
carrying the five millstones from London to Cuxham, a place
twelve miles short of Oxford, was nearly 7*. each in 1330 (see
Vol. I, p. 426). In 1429 a pair of millstones are carried from
Bridgewater to Taunton, a distance of about twelve miles, for

z z 2

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6s. 4d. In 1446 a millstone is carried from Colchester to Takley,
and thence to Hornchurch, about seventy miles, for 13^. 8d.
In 1448 a millstone is carried from Lymington to Roydon,
probably one of the places of this name in Essex, and therefore
perhaps by water, for 8s. In 1454 another is conveyed from
London to Horsham for $s. id. The distance is about forty-
eight miles. In 1499 another is carried from Henley-on-
Thames to Mildenhall in Suffolk, a place near a hundred miles
away, for \\s. 8d. In 1529 a great stone mortar is carried to
Sion from Wilton for 3.*. ^d. In 1540 two millstones are con-
veyed from London to Birchanger at 6s. 8d. each. The
distance is about thirty-three miles. In 155a two millstones
are carried from Banbury to Oxford, twenty-two and a half
miles, for 5$-. But between 1567 and 158 1 the cost of carrying
six millstones from London to Oxford (supra, p. 426) is 38^. lod.
each. I cannot but infer that in this case the conveyance was
entirely by land. In 1535 the Charterhouse pays 8s. for the
conveyance of two 'fardels' to Hull, and $s. $d. for two
fardels from Hull. It is not clear whether this carriage is by
land or water.

Cart Hire by the Day. Thirty-three entries of this
service, sometimes described as of cart and horses and two
men, sometimes as cart in harvest time, occasionally as timber
cart, give, between 1401 and 1536, an average of a little over
is. $\d. a day. Carts in harvest, at timber carriage, and those
hired occasionally, are at higher rates than those for common
work, or for continuous employment. There are slight differences
traceable to locality. The Heyford hirings are at low rates, as
low as lod. a day, once (1416) for eight days at 8d* London
prices are slightly higher. Altogether, we may conclude that a
cart and two horses, with one or two men, was expected to go
and return about 15 to zo miles in a day for is. $\d.

I have found no direct evidence of carts by the day in the
later period. But it may be inferred that the price paid for
cart hire during the last forty-two years was not quite double
the rate of the above average. Journeys from London to

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Bristol or Westchester were naturally more costly, as the
carters had to be lodged.

There are a few entries of the rate paid by the pound sterling
for the carriage of money. In 1480, 148a, and 1488, Merton
College, Oxford, pays Sd. in the pound for the carriage of various
sums from its Northumberland property. In 156a the Treasury
sends a large sum to Portsmouth, but gets the service done at
a far lower rate, at 305. the £1000. I conceive that in the
former cases the carrier undertook the full responsibilities of a
bailee, and that had he lost the money on the road he would
have been compellable to reimburse the parties who had con-
tracted with him. In 1579 New College paid 4*/. in the pound for
the carriage of £50, but the account does not give the distance.
In any case, the entries are significant of the fact that in thip
early time the machinery for the transmission of money from
distant parts of the country was in existence, effective, and was
t^ken advantage of at fixed rates.

From the numerous entries quoted and commented on in
the foregoing pages, it will be seen that the cost of carrying
known quantities over measurable distances, when the distance
traversed was from sixteen to twenty-four miles a day, was
generally a penny a ton per mile. Sometimes it is i\d. and i\d.,
occasionally ifrf. and 2d. But these discrepancies are, I con-
ceive, to be accounted for by the prospect which the carrier had
before him of conveying something by return, and by the
probability that such engagements being known, the opportunity
of hiring the wains or carts for the journey to or fro, as the
case might be, would be communicated and made use of. The
more remote and disconnected the places were, the more likely
would it be that higher rates would be demanded, as, for in-
stance, between Henley and Oxford, where there is indeed
a road, and a road which certainly existed in ancient times,
but one which is difficult and hilly, and in a district which was
thinly peopled. It is possible, too, that the journey from Henley
to Oxford may have required two days,

The last year of these cheap rates is 154a, though carriage is

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not particularly dear in 1557 and 1558. Afterwards it ranges
from yl. to over $d. per ton per mile, though in 1567 a journey
is made at 1 \d. On the whole the cost of carriage by the mile
is more than doubled in the last forty years of my enquiry.

The following entries are of the cost of carrying goods by
the ton, when the service is plainly performed by the common
carrier, They are all from Oxford or Cambridge accounts,
most frequently the former. Cambridge was about 54 miles
from London, Oxford 59, by the roads then in use. The
entries which have c before them are conveyances from

s. d.

*. d.

*. d.

*. d.


43 4


31 8


26 8




24 2


48 4


46 8




c 16 8


26 8


33 8


C46 8


26 8


23 4


33 4


53 4


*3 4


29 2


53 4






26 8




26 8


46 8


46 8

It will be seen that in one of the years, 1557, the carriage
from both Oxford and Cambridge is given, and that the charge
is slightly higher at Cambridge. But it is not easy to in-
terpret the great variety in the charge, particularly as on one
occasion, 1540, when the rate is low, the carriage is said to be
in winter and at Easter, the rate being the same for both
parcels, one of a single hundredweight, the other of three
hundredweights. Competition seems to be an anachronism, and
there appear to be open only two explanations, special bargain,
and return carriage rates 1 . Up to 1549 the average is nearly
32,?., afterwards it is 42J. 2d.

1 In 1488 the goods are cloth ; in 1503, wax ; in 1509 the article is a • fardel/
weighing 2J cwti. ; in 1523, the quantity 349 lbs. is not further described ; in 1535 it
is glass ; in 1539, wax ; in 1540 again wax. In 1542 it is a large quantity, 55 cwts.
In 1535 it is wax. In 1560 and 1562 it is salt eels; in 1570, salt ling; in 1577, a
large copper.

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carrier's charges, communications. 711

It is by no means improbable that some of these cheaper car-
riages — the cheapest, it may be observed, nearly ^d. per mile —
were effected by return carts or waggons, which, having brought
produce to the great fairs held at Oxford and Cambridge, the
latter by far the most famous, and disposed of what they had
brought for sale, would be willing to bargain at rates lower
than ordinary carriers were accustomed to demand for back
freightage. Occasionally, too, the price paid will not divide
exactly into a rate per hundredweight, though far more fre-
quently the price per hundredweight is given in the account
or is manifestly implied. Such indivisible sums suggest that
bargains were made by higgling.

That communication was neither so cheap nor so easy after
the Reformation and the dissolution of the monasteries, is
probable, quite apart from the effects which the base coinages
of Henry and Edward, and the permanent stiffening of prices
induced. The custom of pilgrimage ceased, and shrines which
had been frequented by a host of devotees were desecrated.
To a city like Canterbury, which was visited by thousands
annually, such changes in sentiment and Church rule must
have been particularly disastrous. The abbot and his friars no
longer appeared on circuit, inspecting the estates which they
possessed, and buying large quantities of produce at the
markets and fairs. Needy adventurers had taken their place
and their property. The Universities were now a shadow of
their former selves, though they certainly became more learned
and austere. The high price of all articles of necessary use
made the purchase of luxuries, in so far as they were known,
rare and more stinted* Internal trade was discouraged, the
people were generally poor, and the middle classes were
obliged to forego much with which they were familiar a
generation before. As the markets were straitened, the roads
naturally fell into decay, or were neglected. The desire to
have good communications was weakened, and the highways
went from bad to worse, until it was necessary to devise
some means by which they should be restored, when in the

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eighteenth century trade grew rapidly, and agriculture greatly
prospered. The most obvious and the most attractive form of
remedy was to cast the cost on travellers, and the turnpike was
adopted, though often enough the tolls were not devoted to the
purpose for which they were collected.

Tolls were always levied on markets and approaches to
markets. The earliest example of a road toll levied by the
King's authority, is said to be that of 1346, when ad valorem
tolls were collected for the repair of certain highways leading to
London (Rymer, v. 525, 575, 774). Such tolls were extended
to the roads from Highgate and Uxbridge in ,1363. The first
Act of Parliament for mending a highway is 14 & 15 Hen. VIII,
cap. 6. In 1555, 2 & 3 Philip and Mary, cap. 8, the obligation
of mending its roads, and of appointing two surveyors an-
nually, is cast on every parish. Many such acts are found in
Elizabeth's reign. The first Statute by which tolls were exacted,
and toll-gates erected, was 15 Car. II, cap. 1. But the prin-
cipal legislation on the subject, and the general extension of
the system, is in the eighteenth century, and particularly the
Act of 1773, 13 Geo. Ill, cap. 84.

I have found no instance of charges incurred for the carriage
of letters. The conveyance of the new statutes of King's
College, Cambridge, in 1454, is the nearest approach to such
an entry. The college paid 6s. lid. for this service. It was
not the last revision, for we read that the statutes received the
latest expression of the founder's will, and were sealed in
1458-9, the occasion, doubtless, on which the followers of
Pecok as well as the Lollards were excluded from the benefits
of the foundation. On this occasion, Rotheram and another
fellow were sent 'ad concilium Angliae ad Coventriam,' by
which is probably meant the famous Parliament of Nov. 20 and
Dec. 20, 1459, these fellows having been deputed to the duty
in the year Sept. 1458-Sept. 1459. * n I 4^°> during the
summer between June 26 and July 8, messages are sent eight
times, pro novis audiendis. It was indeed a time of anxiety
for the fellows of Henry's foundation, for York was preparing

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to summon that Parliament, which, after the victory of North-
ampton, was to hear and acknowledge the title of Richard to
the throne. Another incident of the times, and contained in
the notes of the same year, is the payment of is. Sd. made to
Joseph Mann, who had been despoiled at Northampton \

1 Under the year 1470 (Vol. Ill, p. 679, ii) is an entry from the Norwich register of
1470-1, in which an account is given of the assistance sent by the Corporation to the
King at the battle of Tewkesbury. In this passage the following remarkable words
occur : — • Ubi adjudicatus £uit Edvardus filius Henrici nuper regis Anglise, et mater ejus
capta.' The use of this participle seems to me to imply that there was a military trial
of the unfortunate youth, and that he was executed after the battle was over. One
•of the forty archers whom Norwich equipped and paid was probably the authority
for the clerk's, eutry. See Lingard's note in his history of the event.

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I HAVE now dealt with the several facts which have been
collected, and have commented on them in order. I have drawn
averages for each year in which I have been able to note
particulars, and have further collected the annual averages into
decennial averages. I have then taken a third set of averages,
in two portions ; the first, for the first hundred and forty years
of the enquiry ; the second, for the last forty-two. The reader
will find that a notable but variable rise is effected in every
commodity but one during the later period. This exception
is glass, the price of which is slightly lower in the second
division. This fact, concurrently with others, will be found to
supply a valuable corrective to the inferences which are to be
derived from the general aggregate of evidence.

The division of the period comprised in these volumes
into the two quantities of a hundred and forty and forty-two
years, is in a sense arbitrary. There had been, during the last
half of Henry VIIFs reign, a gradual exaltation in the price of
all provisions, on which I shall hereafter comment, and at first
I thought of dividing at the year in which Henry made the
last reduction in the sterling currency. Had I taken this as
my point, the average prices of corn would have been less than
they were in the period comprised in the first two volumes,
and those of cattle only slightly in excess. But I abandoned
this purpose, partly because it seemed to me that the slight
rise which occurs at and after 1537, does not indicate any
relation to the change from 1*55 to 1*378, the difference
between the intrinsic value of Edward IV's coinage and
Henry VIIFs, partly because I was convinced that the real

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cause of the permanent rise was the first debasement of 1545,
and the successive issues of similar and even worse coinages.
It was, however, convenient to take 1541 as the beginning of
the new epoch, though undoubtedly to commence it at so early
a date is to depress the later average. The shrewdest men of
the time saw that the base money was the cause of the dearth.
The reversal of Henry's disgraceful fraud on his people was
desired by Edward and Mary. But the camarilla of courtiers
prevented it during the boy's life, and the Spanish marriage
postponed it during that of his elder sister. It was achieved
by Elizabeth at the beginning of her reign. But sixteen years
of base money, and that of variable debasement, had produced
their effect on prices, and the hope which Elizabeth enter-
tained, that old money values would be restored, proved abor-
tive. I shall, in a later part of this chapter, comment on such
evidence of a general rise or fall in correlated articles as may
appear manifest in the course of the whole period contained
and examined in these volumes.

Again, upon several articles of the first importance, there is
a marked decline in the price from the average of 1 261-1400
to that of 1401-1540. This would have been more con-
spicuous, if I had in my earlier volumes compared all prices
from 1261 to 1350 with those of 1 351-1400. But even over
the whole range, every kind of grain, except wheat and peas, is
dearer in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries than it is in
the first hundred and forty years of the present period, and had
I taken the* average price of wheat during the last fifty years
of the fourteenth century, it would have been (6s. i$d.) dearer
than the average of 1401-1540 (5s. 11 $</.), heightened as this
is by the dearness of the last thirteen years. It seemed,
therefore, in view of the inferences derived from the first two
volumes, that the limit taken in these for the period in which
prices are assumed to have suffered no material change from
those which had ruled before, was judicious, and has supplied
fairly accurate results.

The comparison of such prices as are contained in these

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volumes, and are contrasted in the two periods which have
been taken, must be made in certain subdivisions. The most
obvious of these are the prices of home and of foreign products.
Under home prices we may take other divisions, those of pro-
visions, of labour, and of manufactures. Manufactures, again,
may be distinguished according to the importance or dearness
of the raw material, and as they derive their value from the
labour actually expended in making them immediately mer-
chantable. Examples of the former kind are manufactured
metals; of the latter, tiles and bricks, stone and boards. The
labour, as before, is that of the husbandman or of the artisan ;
provisions are vegetable, as corn and hay ; or animal ; or
mineral, as salt. Again, manufactured goods are often of
foreign origin, and occasionally there is a competition between
the English and the foreign producer. Lastly, there are certain
articles which are distinctly cheapened by improvements in the
process of manufacture. Of these the most noteworthy is glass.
But the relative prices of iron and iron goods suggest similar

It will be most convenient, in comparing the two epochs, to
take provisions first, and to deal with those under the two
heads of animal and vegetable products. In all the tables
given, the first column is the average between 1401-1540, the
second that of 1541-82, the third is the ratio of the rise in the
later period, approximately calculated to two places of decimals,
the first column being taken as unity. It should be observed,
that, in giving the prices of those products which have been
most enhanced in value, the entry is of the best price of the
year in oxen, calves, muttons, boars, and poultry.

Oxen 20 7 70 7J 3.43

Calves 2 3 8 3 3.59

Boars 8 6J 23 7$ 2-52















Muttons 2 2f 6 4 2.84

Ewes 1 5} 3 8 2.51

Hoggs 1 7 4 5 2.79

Lambs o 11J 3 2f 3.37

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x. </. s. d.
Saddle Horses 5811} 13a 5$ a.59

Capons o 6f I if 2-04

Geese o 4} o 10 a-Jo

Hens o a| o* 4} a. 11

Chickens o ij ,. o 3 a.40

Ducks o a| o 4J a-ii

Swans a 9$ 5 I i»8i

Pigeons, doz o 5} I I 3*36

Rabbits, couple ... o 5 o ?| 1*55

Oxen, calves, and lambs are the only articles, the average
price of which, in the last forty-two years, rises to more than
three times the old average. It is possible that the breeds of
sheep were improved ; we know how very many varieties there
were of wool. It is perhaps the case that, most of my later
entries of cattle and sheep being tilken from the records of
consumption, the quality and size of the animals has to be
reckoned in the enhanced price, and thereupon in part ac-
counts for it. It is also possible that cattle were improved by
selection. The rise in the other articles will not be found to
differ materially from that discoverable in other provisions,
with two exceptions, swans and rabbits. The entries of the
former of these are not numerous, and come mainly from the
eastern counties, where swans were common. Rabbits, I make
no doubt, became commoner than they were in early times.
They were very scarce and dear in the thirteenth and four-
teenth centuries; they multiply later on, and in the six-
teenth century became a nuisance against which legislation
was directed.

The average rise in three items, oxen, calves, and lambs, is
3*46. The average of the residue, excluding swans and rabbits,
is 2*44. The difference is marked, but it would have been
more significant if I had taken poultry only, when the rise
would be found to be only v 18. The explanation of the fact
must be found in the general maintenance of poultry by the
peasants and small occupiers, and the consequent cheapness of
the produce.

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Ox-hides rise proportionately to the price of oxen, as
follows — 2s. 5d. t 8s., 3*31.

The rise in the price of the quarter of grain is represented
by the following figures —

s. d. x. d.
Wheat 5 II j 13 10J 2.32

Barley 3 8f 8 5J 2-37

Oats 2 2$ 5 i\ 2.40

Beans 3 9} 9 ij 236

Peas.' 3 10 8 8 2.26

Malt 4 I 10 5 2.55

Oatmeal 7 9$ 20 10J 2.67

In the previous 140 years the prices of these articles by the
quarter are 5s. iofrf., 4s. tfd, %s. 5f</., 4s. 3^., y. gd., 4s. 3! d.,
8s. o±d., as will be seen inJ/ol. I, pp. 245, 247.

The average rise in the price of the different kinds of corn
is 2*40. The least rise is in peas and barley, but the reader
will discern that in each case the quantity is but slightly
in excess of, or below, the average rise of the whole taken

Closely connected with the price of grain of various kinds

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 61 of 67)