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John Kirkland.

Three centuries of prices of wheat, flour and bread. War prices and their causes online

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really happened is that the product hitherto called white flour has been
by clever mechanical contrivances graded into two or three or even four
qualities of white flour, the darkest of which is probably whiter than the
whitest of that of the early eighteenth century, and different entirely in
colour from that of the time for which prices are first given. Com-
parisons to the detriment of the character or quality of the old-time
bread may not appear just, in the light of the estimate of quality, as made
by contemporary judges, but only because they could not anticipate the
changes that have taken place. In any case, the average prices for the
early periods were evidently not maximum prices, for there seems to
have been variety enough in that day. There is no better description
of the bread in the days of Elizabeth than that written by a country
parson of the time — Wm. Harrison.* He wTites : " The bread through-
out the land is made of such grain as the soil yieldeth ; nevertheless, the
gentility commonly provide themselves sufficiently of wheat for their
own tables, whilst their household, and poor neighbours, in some shires,
are forced to content themselves with rye, or barley, yea, and in time of
dearth, many with bread made of beans, peas, or oats, or of all together
and some acorns among, of whicli scourge the poorest do soonest taste, sith
they are least able to provide themselves of better. I will not say that
this extremity is oft so well to be seen in time of plenty as of dearth, but
if I should, I could easily bring my trial. For, albeit that there be much
more ground eared now almost in every place than hath been of late
years, yet such a price of corn continueth in each town and market
without any just cause (except it be that landlords do get licences to carry
corn out of the land, only to keep up the prices for their own private
gains and ruin of the Commonwealth), that the artificer and poor labour-
ing man is not able to reach unto it, but is driven to content himself

* Work published as first volume of Holinshed's Chronicle in 1577 entitled " An
Historical description of the Island of Britain, in three books." Has been reprinted
in Camelot Series with the title " Elizabethan England." Walter Scott & Co., London.



BREAD PRICES. 25

with horse corn — I mean beans, peas, oats, tares, and lentils ; and
therefore, it is a true proverb, and never so well verified as now, that
" Hunger setteth his first foot into the horse-manger." If the world last
awhile after this rate, wheat and rye will be no grain for poor men to
feed on ; and some caterpillars there are that can say so much already.

Of bread made of wheat we have sundry sorts daily brought to the
table, whereof the first and most excellent is the manchet, which we
commonly call white bread, in Latin primarins pants. Whereof Budeus
also speaketh, in his first book De asse ; and our good workmen deliver
commonly such proportion that of the flour of one bushel with another
they make forty cast of manchet, of which every loaf weigheth eight
ounces into the oven, and six ounces out as I have been informed. The
second is the cheat or wheaten bread, so named because the colour thereof
resembleth the gray or yellowish wheat, being clean and well dressed,
and out of this is the coarsest of the bran (usually called gurgeons or
pollard) taken. The ra vailed is a kind of cheat bread also, but it retaineth
more of the gross, and less of the pure substance of the wheat ; and this,
being more slightly wrought up, is used in the halls of the nobility and
gentry only, whereas the other either is or should be baked in good
towns of an appointed size (assize) according to such price as the corn
doth bear, and by a statute provided by King John in that behalf. The
size (assize) of bread is very ill-kept, or not at all looked unto in the
country towns and markets. The ra vailed cheat is generally so made,
that out of one bushel of meal, after two and twenty pounds of bran be
sifted and taken from it (whereunto they add the gurgeons that rise
from the manchet) they make thirty cast, every loaf weighing eighteen
ounces into the oven and sixteen ounces out ; and besides this, they so
handle the matter that to every bushel of meal they add only two and
twenty, or three and twenty pounds of water, washing also, in some
houses, their corn before it go to the mill, whereby their manchet bread
is more excellent in colour, and pleasing to the eye, than otherwise it
would be. The next sort is named brown bread, of the colour of which
we have two sorts, one baked up as it cometh from the mill, so that
neither the bran nor the flour are any whit diminished ; this Celsus
called aiUopirus panis, lib. 2, and putteth it in a second place of nourish-
ment. The other hath no flour left therein at all, howbeit he called it
Partem Ciharium, and it is not only the worst and weakest of all the



26 THREE HUNDRED YEARS PRICES.

other sorts, but also appointed in all time for servants, slaves, and the
inferior kind of people to feed upon. Hereunto hkewise, because it is
dry and brittle in the working (for it will hardly be made up handsomely
into loaves), some add a portion of rye meal in our time, whereby the
rough dr^Tiess or dry roughness thereof is somewhat quahfied, and then
it is named miscelin, that is bread made of mingled corn, albeit that
divers do sow or mingle wheat and rye of set purpose at the mill, or
before it comes there, and sell the same at the markets under the aforesaid
name." From this interesting detailed description it appears that where
there was money to pay there were alwa^'S dear goods to sell ; expedients
of one sort or another were discovered for satisfying the taste of the
fastidious. Now the variety of bread is considerably greater, but except
in the case of special and fancy breads, the different quahties are not
now distinguished by special names. The different grades of flour already
referred to are all made into what is called plain bread, altliough of very
different quahty in one district compared with another. The quality
or kind called " fancy bread," was only distinguished from plain bread
at the beginning of the nineteenth century by being baked rather crusty in
tins and rasped after it was taken from the oven. For convenience the
weight of this sort was not determined by statute even when plain bread
was, but it was sold generally in smaller pieces than the plain at the same
price per loaf. The bread now recognised by bakers as fancy bread
is that made of different shape, or by some other means easily distin-
guished, from plain ; or if additions of expensive materials like butter,
or milk, or sugar, or a concentrated malt extract are made to the dough
during manufacture, the resultant bread is recognised as fancy and is
either sold at a higher price than plain bread or at same price for a smaller
quantity. Within the last forty years there has been a large trade done
in what are called " proprietary^ " and " patent " breads. The merchant
or proprietor of such bread sells the recipe to the baker, and in most
cases also sells the material from which the bread is made. In some
sorts this is a mixture of fine flour and wheat germ prepared in a par-
ticular way, the latter also in excessive proportion above that in which
it naturally exists in the wheat. In other cases wholemeal, wheat,
semolina and a special malt extract are the essential ingredients. For
others a meal is prepared containing a greater or less quantity of malted
grain, either barley or wheat. As these special breads all contain material
more expensive than ordinary flour or meal, they are, of course, sold at a



WHEAT. FLOUR AND BREAD PRICES.



27



price higher than that of plain bread. Here again for convenience the
adjustment in value is generally made by selling a less weight of these
sorts for a certain sum, than of plain, bread. The tables of bread prices
given refer for each period to the kind of bread accepted for the moment
as standard quality for the lower middle classes, and fancy bread how-
ever defmed is not considered.

PRICES WITH NOTES FOR THREE
HUNDRED and SEVENTEEN YEARS.





Average


Average


Average








Price of


Price of


Price






Year.


Wheat


Flour


of


Reigning


Events Likely to Influence Prices




per


per Sack


Bread,


Monarchs.


and Notes.




quarter.


(280 lb.)


per 41b.








S. d.


s. d.


d.






1600


28


21


4.02


Ehzabeth
1558 to


Allowance to bakers 1598 to 1628
= 6s. lod. per qr. of wheat.


1601


30 II


23 3


4-3


1603




1602


21 10


16 5


3


3






1603


22 II


17 3


3


4


James




1604


22 8


17


3


4


VII. of




1605


27 10


20 II


4





Scotland




1606


24 2


18 2


3


6


and I. of




1607


28 8


21 6


4


I


England




1608


34 2


25 8


4


7


1603 to




1609


45 8


34 3


5


8


1625




1610


30 3


22 9


4


2






1611


31 6


23 8


4


4






1612


35 9


26 10


4


9






1613


38 8


29


5


2






1614


42 8


32


5


7






1615


35


26 3


4


8






1616


36 8


27 6


5









1617


39


29 3


5


3






1618


40 8


30 6


5


5






1619


29 10


22 5


4


2






1620


22 3


16 II


3


35






1621


21 6


16 2


3


27






1622


37


27 3


5


05






1623


48 10


36 8


6


4






1624


35 II


27 9


5









1625


40 3


30 3


5


4


Charles I.




1626


47 2


35 5


6


2


1625 to




1627


31 6


23 8


4


4


1649




1628


.22 6


16 II


3-38







28



THREE HUNDRED YEARS PRICES.



Average


Average


Average




Price of


Price of


Price




Wheat


Flour


of


Reigning


per


per Sack


Bread,


Monarchs


quarter.


(280 lb.)


per 41b.





Events Likely to Influence Prices
and Notes.



30 3

36 8
61 10
40 10
42 6
40 10
42 8
42
36 II
46 8
34 9



27 9
35 8

31
29 2

32 8
^2 10



48 o
73 8
85 o
80 o
76 8
73- 4

49 6
35 6
26

33 4

43 o

46 8

65 o



s. d.

22 9

27 6

46 5

30 8

31 II

30 8

32 o

31 6
27 9
35 o
26 3

20 10
26 9

23 3

21 II

24 6
24 8



36 o
51 9
63 9
60 o

57 ^

55

37 2
26 8
19 6
25 o
32 3
35 o
48 9



66 o ! 49 6



56


6


42


5


70





52


6


74





55


6


57





42


9



2
o
8

4
6

4
6

54
o
o
7

9

8

27

05
46
48



6.2

9

10

9
9
9
6

4
3
4
5
6



D

9

5

15

4

78

6

53
6

07

2



7.2
8.7



Common-
v/ealth
1649 to

1653
0. Crom-
well
Protector
1653 to
1658
R. Crom-
well
Protector
Common-
wealth
Charles
II. 1660
to 1685



2
27



Allowance to bakers 1629 to 1688 =
6s. per qr. of wheat.

Owing to mcrease of English trade,
through troubled condition of
Continent, there was a gr eat wave
of prosperity before the Civil War.



Opening of Civil War.



During Civil War there was much
poverty : very many were im- \
prisoned for debt and a great^&i"
number in constant hiding.

Population of Great Britain about
6,000,000.

Labourers' wages at this period
8s. per week ; carpenters' wages
9s. per week.







WHEAT,


FLOUR, AND BREAD PRICES. 29




Average


Average


Average




"




Price of


Price of


Price






Year.


Wheat


Flour


of


Reigning


Events Likely to Influence Prices




per


per Sack


Bread,


Monarchs


and Notes.


1 quarter.


(280 lb.)


per 41b.








s. d,


S. d.


d.






1664


40 6


30 5


5-36






1665


49 5


37 I


6


•4




Plague in London 1664 to 1666.


1666


36


27


4


.8




Great Fire in London 1666.


1667


36


27


4


.8






1668


40


30


5


•3






1669


44 4


33 3


5


.8






1670


41 8


31 3


5


•5






'1671


42


31 6


5


•53






1672


41


30 9


5


•4






1673


46 8


35


6


.07






1674


68 8


31 6


8


.6






1675


64 8


48 6


8


.1






1676


38


28 6


5


.07






1677


44


31 6


5


•7






1678


59


44 3


7


5






1679 1 60


45


7


.6






1680 40


30


5


3






1681 41 5


31 I


5


4






J682 39 I


29 4


5


2






4683 35 6


26 8


4


8






1684 39 I


29 4


5


2




,


1685 41 5


31 I


5


4


James II.




1686


30 2


22 8


4


I


1685 to




1687


22 4


16 9


3


2


1688




1688


40 10


30 8


5


4


Interreg-
num


Revolution in England.


1689 26 8


20. 0:4


2


William


Great European war starts for 9 yrs.


1690 30 9


23 I 4


7


III. and


Allowance to bakers from 1689 to


1691 30 2


22 8


4


6


Mary II.


1709 fixed at los. per qr. of wheat.


1692


41 5


31 I


5


9


1689 to




1693


60 I


45 I


8


08


1695




1694


56 10


42 8


7


7






1695


47 I


35 4


6


5


William




1696


63 I


47 4


8


4


III. 1695




1697


53 4


40


7


3


to 1702




1698


60 9


45 7


8


I






1699


56 10


42 8


7-


7






1700


35 6


26 8


5-


2




Labourers' wages at this period


1701


33 5


25 I


5-







8s. 6d. per week. ; carpenters'


1702


26 2


19 8


4-


I


x\nne


wages I2S. 9d. per week.


1703


32


24


4-


8


1702 to


Great storms : fearful loss of life,


1704


41 4


31


5-


9


1714


ships and cattle.


1705


26 8


20


4.2







30



THREE HUNDRED YEARS PRICES.





Average


Average


Average






Price of


Price of


Price .- .




Year,


Wheat


Flour


of


Keigning


Events Likely to Influence Prices




per


per Sack


Bread,


Monarchs


and Notes.




quarter.


(280 lb.)


per 41b.


1




S.


d.


S. d.


d.




1706


32


I


17 4


Z-7




1707


25


4


19


4


I




Union of England and Scotland.


1708


36


10


27 8


5


4






1709


69


9


52 4


9


2




New Bread Act and new tables of


1710


69


4


52 3


9


16




Assize. " Allowance " to bakers


171I


48





36


6


92




raised to 12s. per qr. of wheat.


1712


41


2


30 II


6


I




Population of Great Britain


1713


45


4


34


6


6




9,429,000 (1712)


1714


44


9


33 7


6


54


George I.


First Bread Act passed which


1715


38


2


28 8


5


8


1714 to


authorised the manufacture of


1716


42


8


32


6


3


1727


definite " sized " loaves, viz.,


1717


40


7


30 6


6


06




peck, half peck, quartern and


1718


34


6


25 II


5


36




half quartern, and it fixed the


1719


31


3


23 4


5







weight of the peck at 171b 6 oz.


1720


32


10


24 8


5


I




From 1720 to 1755 was a period


1721


33


4 ! 25


5


2




of great prosperity.


1722


32


; 24


5


07






1723


30


10


23 2


4


9






1724


32


10


24 8


5


I






1725


43


I


32 4


6


35






1726


40


10


30 8


6


09






1727


Zl


4


28


5


7


George




1728


48


5


36 4


7





II. 1727




1729


41


7


31 3


6


18


to 1760




1730


32


5


24 4


4


9






1731


29


2


21 II


4


5






1732


23


8


17 9


3


88






1733


25


2


18 II


4


05






1734


30


9


23 2


4


7






1735


38


2 1 28 8


5


07






1736


35


10 I 26 II


5-


3




Public credit firmly established,


1737


33


9


25 4


5-


07




agriculture improved and value of


1738


31


6


23 8


5-


3




land increased. Immense sums


1739


34


2


25 8


5-


52




expended in enclosures of waste


1740


45


I


33 10


7-







land for cultivation.


174I


41


5


31 I


4-


83






1742


30


2


22 8


4-


Zl






1743


22


I


16 7


4-


00






1744


22


I


16 7


4-


00






1745


24


5


18 4


4-


37




War with France : Chas. Edward


1746


34


8


26


5-


07




rebellion in Scotland.


1747


30


II


23 3


4-


70






1748


?>2


10


24 8


5-


52













WHEAT,


FLOUR, AND BREAD PRICES. 31




Average


Average


Average








Price of


Price of


Price






Year.


Wheat


Flour


of


Reigning


Events Likely to Influence Prices




per


per Sack


Bread ,


Monarclis


and Notes.




quarter.


(280


ib.)|


per 41b.






S.


d.


S.


d.


d.






1749 32


10


24


8


4-83




Seven years peace starts.


1750 i 28


10


21


8


4


70






1751 34


2


25


8


5


52






1752 37


2


27


II


5


07






1753 i 39


8


29


9


5


52






1754


30


9


23


I


4


70






1755


30


I


22


7


4


70




War starts with France.


1576


40


I


30


I


7









1757


53


4


40





7







Bread Act which provides for assiz-


1758


44


5


33


4


5


52




ing and pricing two sorts of bread.


1759


3=1


3


26


6


4


70




This Act was passed because of


1760 32


5


24


5


5


07


George


difliculty in keeping the law, and


1761 1 26


9


20


I


4


14


III. 1760


to satisfy bakers and mealmen


1762 34


8


26





5


07


to 1820


(1758).


1763


36


i


27


I


5


52






1764


41


5


31


I


6


00






1765


48





36





6


44






1766


43


I


32


4


7


4






1767


47


4


35


6


7


9






1768


53


9


40


I


6









1769


40


7


30


6


5


52




1769 — Steam Engine Patented.


1770


43


6


32


8


6







1770 — Corn Registration Act.


1771


47


2


35


5


6


67






1772


50


8


38





7


4






1773


51





38


3


7







New Bread Act to remove Anoma-
















lies of 8th Anne.


1774


52


8


39


6


7-4




War of American Independence
starts 1774. Declaration of In-
dependence 1776.


1775


48


4


36


3


6.0






1776


38


2


28


8


6.0






1777


45


6


34


2


6.2






1778


42





31


6


5-75






1779


33


8


25


3


4-83






1780


36





27





7.0




Population of Great Britain


1781


40


6


30


6


6.44




12,560,000 (1780).


1782


49


3


'il





7-9




From 1782 to 1792 there was ten


1783


54


3


40


9


6.67




years of peace. Thorold Rogers
writes, that the period between
1782 and 1821 was the worst in
Enghsh history for manual
workers, while merchants and
manufacturers accumulated for-
tunes rapidly.



32



THREE HUNDRED YEARS PRICES.



Year



A.verage j Average
Price of I Price of
Wheat Flour

per per Sack
quarter. (280 lb.)



Average

Price

of

Bread,

per 41b.



Reigning
Monarchs



Events Likely to Influence Prices
and Notes.



s. d.



1784 50

1785 43

1786 40



42
46
52



1787
1788
1789

1790 I 54

1791 48

1792 40

1793 49

1794 52

1795 ' 75

1796 7^



d.



37 9

32 4

30 o

31 10
34 9
39 7
41 I



36
30



37 o

39 3

56 5

59



1797 53 9 40 I

1798 : 51 10 38 II 7

1799 ; 69 o 51 9 12

1800 ,113 10 85 5 14



7.0
6.6

5-52

6.0

6.0

7.14

6.67

6.0

6.67

6.67

6.67

11.28

8.06



1801 119 6

1802 69 10

1803 58 10

1804 62 3

1805 , 89 9



89 8

52 5

44 2

46 9

67 4



1806 79

1807 75

1808 81

1809 97

1810 106

1811 95

1812 126

1813 109

1814 74

1815 65

1816 78



59
56
61

73

79 10
71 6

94 II
82 4

55 9
49 3
58 II 10



51
4
o
09

27

75

01

o

12.13



14



10.77
10. o
10.68
12.6

13 17
13.0
16.0
14.46
10.5
9-5



Very severe winter (1784-5).
Cartwright patents Steam Power
Loom.

French Revolution began.



French Revolution and great unrest
Beginning of Napoleonic Wars.

Very deficient Harvest.

New Bread Act setting Assize

table by wheat or by flour prices.

Allowance to bakers raised to

14s. per qr. of wheat.
Panic because of suspension of

gold, and notes made legal tender
Union of Ireland (1800).
Population of Great Britain

16,000,000 (1801).

From 1801 to 1815 was the period
of the Great French War. There
was a succession of bad harvests :
land was badly cultivated, and,
through stormy weather and
attacks by the French at sea, rehef
supplies from abroad could not
be obtained.

Battle of Trafalgar (1806).



Very severe winter, 1812. "Allow-
ance " to bakers at this time
was i6s. 9d. per qr. of wheat.

Abolition of Assize of Bread Laws.

From 1815 to 1845, in which



WHEAT, FLOUR, AND BREAD PRICES.



33



Average ; Average

[ Price of Price of

Year Wheat Flour

I per per Sack

quarter (280 lb.)



Average!
price

of
Bread
per 4lb



Reigning
Monarchs



Events Likely to Influence Prices
and Notes.



' s. d.

1817 ' 96 II

1818 ! 86 3

1819 I 74 6

1820 67 10

1821 I 56 I



44 7
53 4

63 II
68 6
58 8
58 6



60
66

64
66

58
52 II
46 2

39 4
48 6

55 10
64 7
70 8



66
64
57
50
51
50



s. d. I d. I
72 9 113 -16
62 9 I 10.86



55 II
50 8
42 I



54 8



33 6

40 o

48 o
51 5

44 o

43 II

45 4

49 9

48 3

49 9

44 o
39 9

34 8
29 6

36 5

41 II

48 6
53 o

49 9
48 3
43 o

37 7

38 6

37 7

41 o



9-5
9.4

8.5



George
IV. 1820
to 1830



William
IV. 1830
to 1837



Victoria
1837 to
1901



period the average price of wheat
was 61S. 2d. or 23s. per quarter
lower than that for the previous
15 years there were graduated
duties levied on imported corn.
The Corn Law of 1815 prohibited
the delivery for home consump-
tion of Colonial wheat when
quarterly average price of British
wheat was below 69s. igd. per
Imperial quarter and prohibited
Foreign wheat when the price
was below 82s. 6d. At or above
those prices Colonial and Foreign
wheats were admitted duty free.

Population of Great Britain
21,272,000 (1821).

Present London Bread Act passed
(1S32).



Population of Great
24,392,485 (1831).



Britain



Bread Act passed for Provincial Eng-
land, Wales and Scotland (1836),

Bread Act for Ireland passed
(1838).



Population of Great
27.057.923 (1841)-



Britain



From 1845 to 1873 the average
price of wheat was 53s. 2d. Al-



34



THREE HUNDRED YEARS PRICES.



Year


Average
Price of
Wheat

per
quarter


Average
Price of
Flour
per Sack
(280 lb.)


Average
Price

of
Bread
per 41b


Reigning
Monarchs


Events Likely to Influence
and Notes.


Prices



s. d.

69 9

50 6

44 3

40 3



s. d.
52 4

Z'i 3



! 30 3

1

1


: 28 II 1


30 7 !


1 49 3 i


i 54 4


56


1 51 II


' 42 3


33 2


' -^2 10


40 1


41 6 i


1 41 7


; 33 7


- 30 2


i 30 9


: 37 6


1 48 4


1 47 10


36 2 .


35 3


42 6 '


: 42 9 1


44 1


41 10


: 33 10


' 34 8


, 42 7 ;


34 II !


32 II


?>Z 4



d.

II -5

7-5

7.0

6.8



o -



though farmers had not the pro-
tection of import duties there
was comparatively little foreign
competition. Thickly-populated
countries had httle to export and
virgin soils not yet developed.
Com duties supended for 13 months
to 1847.
Population of Great Britain

27.745.949 (1851)-
From 1st Feb., 1849, to 31st Aug.
1864, the duty on imported corn
war fixed at is. per qr.



Population of Great

29,321,288 (1861).



Britain



From ist Sept., 1864, to 31st May,
1869, duty fixed on wheat at 3d.
per cwt.



Com imported duty free from ist
June, 1869, to 14th April, 1902.

Franco-Prussian War 1870-1.

Population of Great Britain
31,845,379 (1871).

From 1873 up to the present, with
slight exception, there have been
no import duties on wheat and
foreign competition has been
wholly free. Immense wheat
areas have been opened up in
America. India, Australia, etc.,
induced by cheap transit of pro-



* Average wheat prices for cereal year 1853-54 of 72/11 as given in notes on
\\Tieat Prices (P. 39) does not compare with average given here which is that for
calendar year, the other being for cereal year.



APPRECIATION OF WAR PRICES, WHEAT, ETC. 35



Average
Price of

Wheat
per

quarter



Average
Price of

Flour
per sack
(280 lb.)



Average
Price

of
Bread

per 4lb



Reigning
Monarchs


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