Category Archives: 17th Century

London – Markets – Fruit & Veg

 

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This is the second part of our article on the early provision consumption of London – the article is from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

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London – Markets – Fruit & Veg

The fruits and vegetables consumed in the metropolis are principally produced in the environs; and it is calculated that there are upwards of 6000 acres of ground cultivated as gardens within twelve miles of the metropolis, giving employment to 30,000 persons in winter, and three times that number in summer. It is the opinion of the intelligent author of the Pomarium Britannicum, that gardening has conferred a great blessing on the metropolis, in the prevention of pestilential diseases, by making cleanliness a matter of profit, and giving a ready sale and liberal price for the soil, which might otherwise be suffered to accumulate.

Numerous calculations have been made of the annual consumption of food in the metropolis, but this is not easily ascertained with any degree of accuracy, as, although we may know the number of cattle and sheep, yet we have no means of learning their weight, which, by the modern improvement in feeding, has been considerably increased. Of the quantity of cattle sold in Smithfield market, we have the most accurate returns, and find that in the year [1822], the numbers were 149,885 beasts, 24,609 calves, 1,507,096 sheep, and 20,020 pigs. This does not, however, by any means form the total consumed in London, as large quantities of meat in carcases, particularly pork, are almost daily brought from the counties around the metropolis. It would appear that the inhabitants of London have become more partial to mutton than formerly, for the quantity of cattle consumed has not increased in proportion to that of sheep; the quantity of cattle sold at Smithfield in the year 1701, being 88,304, or more than half the number sold in [1822], while the number of sheep was only 480,000, or less than a third sold in the latter year. The total value of the cattle sold in Smithfield is calculated at £8,500,000. It is supposed that a million a year is expended in fruit and vegetables; the consumption of wheat amounts to a million of quarters annually; of this, four-fifths are supposed to be made into bread, being a consumption of 64 millions of quartern loaves every year in the metropolis alone. Until within the last few years the price of bread was regulated by assize, and it may afford some idea of the vast amount of money paid for this ‘staff of life,’ when it is stated, that an advance of one farthing on the quartern loaf formed an aggregate increase in expense for this article alone, in London, of upwards of £13,000 a week.

Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

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Further reading and external links

Cheapside and London Retail Trade in the 18th Century

Sholto and Reuben Percy

London – Markets – Provision Consumption

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 This is the first part of our article on the early provision consumption of London – the article is from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

Read other posts in this series

Read other posts in the London series

London – Markets – Provision Consumption

Great as the population of London is, there is no city “so drained and so supplied” with all the necessaries, comforts, and even luxuries of life. In Paris, where the population and the consequent consumption is much less, the supply of provisions is regulated by the government, and there are greniers de reserve for storing up grain, in order that bread may be kept at a moderate price: a rather necessary policy on the part of a government which has to pay a certain sum annually, in order to keep the price of bread lower in Paris than in the provinces. In London, freedom of trade and the spirit of competition render the interference of government as unnecessary as it would be considered unconstitutional, and without any regulation, the metropolis has a constant and an abundant supply.

Although there is scarcely a street, with the exception of those occupied by persons of fortune at the west end of the town, that is without a dealer in some article of provisions, yet there are large markets for the more general sale. Smithfield is the grand mart for the sale of live stock, which is held on Mondays and Fridays. Newgate and Leadenhall markets take the lead for butcher’s meat, poultry, etc. although there are several other markets in various parts of the metropolis, where the business is equally respectable though not so extensive. Covent Garden market is celebrated for the early and abundant supply of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers. The only fish market in London is that of Billingsgate, which is supposed to have derived its name from Belinus, the son of Dunwallo, who built a gate here, which he ordered to be surmounted with an urn containing his ashes, after his death. It has long been a matter of regret that the sale of fish should be confined to one market, as, owing to the monopoly thus established, the supply of that article is neither so abundant nor so reasonable as it would otherwise be. In the mackarel season, if that fish is very plentiful, the dealers will rather throw their cargo over-board, or sell it for manure, than, by bringing it to town, reduce the price.

Salmon, which is often very plentiful and sold as cheap as at Berwick, or in Yorkshire, and Durham, whence it is supplied, is brought to London packed in ice. Turbot, though caught in great quantities on the Yorkshire coast, and sold there at about fourpence a lb., is always extravagantly dear in London;  so dear, indeed, as to render it a luxury attainable only to the wealthy.

Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

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Further reading and external links

Cheapside and London Retail Trade in the 18th Century

Sholto and Reuben Percy

London – RETAIL TRADERS – Haberdashers

This is the second part of our article on the early retail trade of London – the article is from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

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London – RETAIL TRADERS – Haberdashers

Of all the retail traders, the Haberdashers, though dealing in such small wares, seem to carry on business to the greatest extent. One single house in the city is known to take on an average, a million and a half sterling a year, or more than four thousand guineas a day; one half of this vast sum is received in cash for-goods sold at the counter, and the other, wholesale at a short credit. There are at least two other houses in the same business whose returns are £1000 a day.

The proprietor of one of these establishments, which is necessarily large on account of the business being almost wholly retail, always gives the  persons in his employment an extra allowance for supper when the receipts of the day amount to £1000: thus expressing his own gratitude, and rewarding and encouraging the exertions of those around him. Nor are haberdashers the only tradesmen who carry on extensive business, or amass large fortunes; there is Exeter Change, long celebrated for its cutlery and hardwares, etc. where the Prince of retail dealers, the eccentric Thomas Clark, amassed a million of money, and while he paid £7000 a year to government as income tax, spent only a shilling on his own dinner.

About ten or dozen years ago a number of establishments somewhat similar to Exeter Change, which is not confined to any one particular branch of trade, sprung up in London, to which the oriental term of Bazar was given, which literally means a market. Of these, only two remain; the Western Bazar, in Bond Street, and that of Mr. Trotter, in Soho-square. The latter is a very extensive and well regulated establishment. Several large rooms are fitted up with counters, drawer, shelves, etc. for the sale of almost every species of light articles, where between five and six hundred females attend and trade on their own account; in the various articles of domestic manufacture. The price paid is in proportion to the space occupied. The utmost care is taken that none but persons of the strictest moral character are admitted, and that they shall not be subject to any insult from the idle and dissolute loungers of the other sex.

Two other marts for retail trade have been formed, the Burlington Arcade, in Piccadilly, and the Royal Arcade, in Pall Mall; both are elegant architectural improvements but they are too recently established to enable us to speak decisively of their success.

The streets most celebrated for retail trade are Fleet Street, Ludgate Hill, St. Paul’s church-yard, Cheapside, the Poultry, and Cornhill, in the city; in the Strand, King Street, and Henrietta Street, Covent Garden; Cockspup Street, Pall Mall, St. James’s Street, Piccadilly, Oxford Street, and Bond Street, at the west end of the town. The recent improvements, in opening a communication from Carlton House to the Regent’s Park, has created a new and spacious street for retail business, called Regent Street; and the Regent’s-quadrant, which has on each side a grand colonade.

Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

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Further reading and external links

Cheapside and London Retail Trade in the 18th Century

Sholto and Reuben Percy

 

 

London – RETAIL TRADERS – Poverty to Fortune

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 We had a ‘dig’ around in our library on the history of the retail trade of London and their origins and discovered this interesting article which we will publish in two parts – the second part which we will publish tomorrow – the article is from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

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Read other posts in the London series

London – RETAIL TRADERS – Poverty to Fortune

A foreigner, in looking over a London Directory, and finding a list of between thirty and forty thousand trading firms, will be apt to consider the assertion of Bonaparte, “that we are a nation of shop-keepers,” true to the letter; and if he is informed that this list, numerous as it seems, does not contain more than one third of the shopkeepers in the metropolis, he will suspect that there are almost as many sellers as buyers. Stiil more would a stranger be astonished at learning how lucrative a business shop-keeping is in London; where a pastry-cook has been known to die worth a hundred thousand pounds, and a dealer in shell fish, who spent the best years of his life in selling oysters in public-houses, has left to his heirs a sum of 40,000. Yet, such is the case, nor are these solitary instances of success in life. Many a Lord Mayor in London has risen from the humble office of a porter;  others have worn a livery, or served as a drawer or errand boy at a tavern. Not to enumerate living characters, and yet to refer to those who are recollected by the living, it may be mentioned that Walker, the sugar-baker, who died worth a quarter of a million of money a few years ago, was originally porter to a wax chandler, with a salary of £16 a year; that Alderman Kennet, afterwards Lord Mayor, was once a waiter at the Hoop and Bunch of Grapes public house in Hatton Garden; that Alderman Bates kept a public house, as did the late amiable Alderman Thomas Smith, after living servant with a gentleman, and officiating as an exciseman; that Crosby, the spoon maker, who died worth £60,000, was a charcoal boy to Chawner; and that a living pavior, who has amassed a fortune of a quarter of a million, and who can neither read nor, write, was once a common labourer, who added to his daily earnings by officiating as a watchman in the night. The list, of individuals, who have risen from poverty and obscurity to high rank and splendid fortunes, would “stretch to the crack o’doom,” and it is unnecessary to quote more instances, nor are these named invidiously selected, but to show that in London, the road to preferment, honour and fortune is open to the humblest aspirant.

That such fortunes are amassed in London, is the more astonishing, when it is considered the great expense with which large establishments are maintained; that the rent and taxes of many a retail trader amount to more than a thousand a year, and that the smallest house, if in a great thoroughfare, will let at the most extravagant rate. A shop, not more than three yards square, with a room above it of the same dimensions, has been known to be let as a snuff shop at a rental of £80 a year, and several other houses equally dear.

Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

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Further reading and external links

Cheapside and London Retail Trade in the 18th Century

Sholto and Reuben Percy

London – Manufactures

We discovered this interesting article on the history of London manufacturing – the article is from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery.

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London Manufactures

The manufactures of London are in proportion to its commerce; and notwithstanding the advanced rate of living, and the high price of house-rent, coals, and every thing that can affect the artisan and mechanic, the manufactures of London are great and flourishing, surpassing in quality those of any other part of the country, so much, that any article warranted “town-made” is certain of obtaining an advanced price. In the silk trade alone 50,000 persons, or one-sixtieth of the whole population, are employed in London, and in most of the light manufactures the number is proportionably great. It is no disparagement to the rest of the country, that London excels in its manufactures, since where the best price is paid the best workmen will be attracted; and it is due to the country to say, that to it is London constantly indebted for a succession of artists and mechanics, by whose ingenuity she is not only rendered celebrated but enriched.

Many years ago Sheffield, justly celebrated for its cutlery, challenged London to a trial of skill, by sending a knife of a very curious construction to the Cutlers’ company, with an insertion on one of the blades, defying competition. The London cutlers, ambitious for the honour of their trade, made a penknife, containing one well-tempered blade, in which was introduced a piece of straw. On the blade were some lines, stating the fact; and the Sheffield cutlers, who might well feel incredulous, broke the blade, and found the straw entire and unsinged; a piece of ingenious art for which they acknowledged themselves unable to account; and yet Sheffield was celebrated for its cutlery so far back as the time of Chaucer, whose monk “a Sheffield whittle bore he in his hose.”

In the more scientific manufactures, such as machinery, optical and mathematical instruments, London has always been celebrated. It was in the metropolis that Mr. Penn made his celebrated burning glass, of such power, that iron, steel, flint, stone, and even the diamond itself yielded to its almost magic power; and here Dollond carried into effect, if he did not originate, that most important scientific discovery the achromatic glasses; and a Mudge, an Arnold, and a Brock bank, made chronometers, which seem to have approached perfection as far as it can possibly be attained.

It is highly honorable to the operative mechanics and artists of the metropolis, that amidst all the fluctuation of trade “such a thing as a journeyman, tradesman, or any of his family begging is almost unknown, and may with certainty be pronounced as one of the rarest of contingent events.”

Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

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Further reading and external links

Sholto and Reuben Percy

The Bank of England – Part III

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Part III of our series on the origins of the Bank of England – its from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery.

Read other posts in this series on the Bank of England

Read other posts in the London series

The Bank of England – Part III

A more imminent danger threatened the bank, which had been steadily increasing in prosperity and consequently in capital, during the fanatical riots of [1780]. Fortunately, this great establishment was not the object of attack at the commencement of those daring outrages; for, unprepared as it then was, it is almost certain that it would have been entirely despoiled.  Dr. Johnson, in his Letters to Mrs. Thrale, when giving what he calls a journal of “a week’s defiance of government,” unhesitatingly states that if the mob had attacked the bank “at the height of the panic,” on Tuesday instead of the Wednesday night, “when no resistance had been prepared, they might have carried irrecoverably away whatever they had found.”  Wilkes headed the party who drove the rioters away, and this was the first effectual resistance they encountered. Since this period, a guard of soldiers has been regularly sent every evening from the Horse Guards, or from the Tower, and lodged in the bank for its protection.

The punctuality with which the interest on the bank stock, and the dividends on government securities were paid, and the facility with which the principal is obtained, soon pointed out the funds as the most convenient, and often the most advantageous modes of investing capital, and to such an extent was this done, that in the year [1791], when government called for a return of the unclaimed dividends which had accumulated in the bank, they were found to amount to £660,000 of which half a million was advanced to government without interest.

When the French revolution, that pivot on which so much of European history turns, was extending its principles to neighbouring states, and strong symptoms of attachment to them had been, manifested in England, the stability of the government, and consequently of the bank, began to be questioned, and several persons withdrew their confidence and their money from the public funds; this had been done to such an extent, that in the year 1797, the bank felt some difficulty in obtaining the requisite quantity of specie, which had been drained out of the country by loans and subsidies, to meet the demand, The bank had also been so liberal in its advances to government, that it had felt some inconveniences on this account; but the minister still sued for aid, and the directors, though protesting against further advances, could not refuse them. At length, when the wants of the government and the demands of the public threatened to drain the bank of its last guinea, the directors sent a deputation to Mr. Pitt, then Premier, on the 24th of February, 1797, to represent the state in which they had been placed, and to ask him “how far he thought the bank might go on paying cash, and when he would think it necessary to interfere before their cash was so reduced as might be detrimental to the immediate service, of the state.” Mr. Pitt was not the minister to hesitate on such an occasion; a meeting of the Privy Council was held two days afterwards, who passed an order, declaring it necessary for the public service, that “the Directors of the Bank of England should forbear issuing any cash in payment until the sense of Parliament could he taken on the subject.”

This order was extensively circulated, accompanied by a notice from the Secretary of the bank, stating, “that the general concerns of the bank were in the most affluent and prosperous situation.” The merchants and bankers of London, with that generous confidence which has always marked their conduct, again assembled, as in the year 1745, to declare their confidence in the Bank of England, and their determination to receive bank notes on all occasions. Upwards of four thousand of the most eminent mercantile men in London signed this declaration, but the panic had spread to the country, and a great shock was given to public credit. A parliamentary committee was soon afterwards appointed to examine into the affairs of the bank, when it was ascertained that the company had a surplus of £3,826,890 beyond all their debts, exclusive of a sum of £11,686,800. due to them from government, forming a total net capital of £15,513,690.  

This assurance was deemed satisfactory, though it was some time before the funds recovered the shock they had received. In consequence of cash payments being abolished, it became necessary to substitute a paper currency in notes of smaller sums than had been hitherto issued. Until the year [1759] no bank notes of less than £20. had been circulated, but in that year, others of £10 and £15 were used; in [1790], bank notes for £5 were put in circulation, and in 1797, when it was no longer obligatory on the bank to pay in cash, notes of £1 and £2 were issued, and continued in circulation until the year [1822], when they were wholly withdrawn, and cash payments resumed, an event which sadly disconcerted political economists, who declared that a return to cash payments was totally impossible. Although in 1797, a paper succeeded a metallic currency, yet the actual amount of bank notes in circulation in the month of December in that year did not exceed those issued in February by more than two millions, and the sum was altogether less, by about three millions, than in [1795].

The run on the Bank, as the call for cash in 1797 is generally called, reduced the issues of bank notes very considerably; and at the moment that the Bank was relieved from the necessity of cash payments, the amount in circulation was only £8,601,964. From this period, however, the issues were continually augmented, and they appear to have reached their maximum in the month of August, [1817], when the Bank had actually in circulation, bank-notes and bank post bills, to the amount of £30,099,908.

Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

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Further reading and external links

The Bank of England on Wikipedia 

The Bank of England Archives

The Bank of England – Part II

Part II of our series on the origins of the Bank of England – its from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery.

Read other posts in this series on the Bank of England

The Bank of England – Part II

The relief of Parliament became necessary, and a new act was passed, authorizing the bank to increase its capital to £2,201,171.10s and other privileges being granted to the company, its credit was completely restored; so much so that the bank stock, which had been given in exchange for exchequer tallies, then at a discount of from forty to fifty per cent rose twelve per cent, above par. The exchequer tallies were afterwards paid off by the bank, at par, by which means many persons, who had bought them when at a great discount, amassed large fortunes: one gentleman, Sir Gilbert Heathcote, is said to have gained £60,000. by the fluctuation.

The bank had hitherto been a corporation, assisting, but not connected with the State further than in the relation of a lender to a borrower, but in the year [1706], it became the direct and immediate agent of government by undertaking to issue exchequer bills to the amount of a million and a half, which paid as in later times an interest of two-pence per diem for every £100.

The Bank of England now became prosperous; and the act passed in 1708, for preventing more than six persons engaging in a firm, though now a law of questionable policy, did much service to the company, so that in the following year, when the bank was empowered to double its capital, the sum of £2,201,171,10s was subscribed in the course of five hours, at an advance of fifteen per cent. This advance in the price of bank stock was however nothing to what took place when the South Sea bubble had frenzied the British capitalists, and bank stock was actually sold at 260 per cent.

Successive acts of Parliament were passed to enable the bank to increase its capital, and on all occasions when the government required aid, the bank was willing to accommodate it on terms of reciprocal advantage. The affairs of the company were highly prosperous, and its capital stock more than ten millions when the rebellion of 1745 threatened to paralyse its operations. In the first moment of alarm, persons became anxious to obtain cash for their notes, and crowded to the bank for that purpose. Unfortunately the bank was not at that time very well supplied with the precious metals, and certainly not, in any thing like the quantity necessary to exchange the notes issued: some expedient was necessary, and in order to gain time, the directors paid the notes in silver, and wherever they could in sixpences, which rendered the process slow and tedious. But although the demands on the bank were numerous they were not very heavy, and the merchants and bankers in London felt so assured of its stability, that eleven hundred of the most respectable signed a declaration, expressive of their confidence in the safety of the bank, and of their determination to support its credit by receiving the notes in all payments, and circulating them on all occasions.

Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

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Further reading and external links

The Bank of England on Wikipedia 

The Bank of England Archives

The Bank of England – 1694 – Part I

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We had a ‘dig’ around in our library on the history of the Bank of England and discovered this interesting article which we will publish in several parts over the next few days – its from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery.

Read other posts in this series on the Bank of England

Read other posts in the London series

The Bank of England – 1694

It was an observation of the father of political economists,  Dr. Adam Smith, that ‘the stability of the Bank of England is equal to that of the British government’ and the history of this establishment has proved that the remark is just: it is an institution whose welfare is so intimately connected with that of the state, that they must stand or fall together; not that the State is dependent on the bank which it enriches, but that the obligation and services are reciprocal. The bank is the agency house through which the government pays the greatest portion of-its creditors, allowing a liberal sum as a compensation for the trouble, which has of late years been somewhat reduced in amount.

The origin of the banking system has been traced by more than one historian to the time of Pharoah, when Joseph gathered all the money in Egypt to the house of his master, thus manifesting a partiality for the precious metals which the descendants of his tribe and nation have preserved unimpaired to the present day. Among the moderns Venice, the cradle of European commerce, was the first to form one of those institutions, which have since been found so advantageous to its progress. The first bank in this flourishing republic was established so early as the twelfth century, when a bureau, called the Chamber of Loans, was opened for receiving the deposits of a forced contribution, which the pressing necessities of the republic rendered necessary, and paying the interest of four per cent. Such was the origin of the first national bank in Europe, which continued to flourish until the invasion of France, in 1797, when the independence of this republic was overthrown.

Venice was so much in advance of the other states of Europe in commerce, that it was long before her example was followed. Amsterdam was the next, but the bank was not established there until the year [1609]. London was still later in adopting so excellent an institution, the Bank of England not having been established until the year 1694. Not that the merchants of London were ignorant of the principles of banking, for considerable business had long been carried on in that line by private individuals, particularly the Lombard merchants. It has already been stated, [vol. 1.] p. 323.) that the goldsmiths were the first regular bankers in London, and it exhibits a singular instance of what may be termed the longevity of prosperous commerce, that the descendants of the first two bankers still carry on the business, and that, too, where they first commenced. In an old tract, printed in [1675], entitled “The Mystery of the new-fashioned Goldsmiths or Bankers discovered,” the adoption of banking in England is attributed to the distrust which was generated in the reign of Charles I, when the merchants and tradesmen, who before trusted their cash to their servants and apprentices found it no longer safe to do so; neither did they dare to leave it in the Mint at the Tower, on account of the distress of majesty itself.  It is, however, rather to be wondered at, that banks were not established long before, than that they were only adopted in the year [1645]. The first regular banker in London was Mr. Francis Child, a goldsmith, who kept a shop in Fleet-street, Temple-bar, where the business of the respectable firm of Messrs. Child and Co. is still carried on. The next bankers were Messrs. Snow and Denne, whose shop is said to have been a few doors west, and on or near the site of the banking house of Messrs. Snow and Paull.

Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

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Further reading and external links

The Bank of England on Wikipedia 

The Bank of England Archives

The Progress of Farnworth

 

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Earlier in our blog we posted three articles on Farnworth Park and how it was donated by a local family – The Barnes – in the 1860s,  the opening ceremony,  and  Mr Gladstone’s speech.  Below is a little background information about the town and the Barnes family.

The Progress of Farnworth

The progress of Farnworth is indicated by the following facts: The population in the year [1801] was 1,439; in [1811] it was 1,798; in [1821] it was 2,044; in [1831] it was 3,006; in [1841] it was 4,829; in [1851] it was 6,389; in [1861] it was 8,720; and it is now about 10,000. (Today in 2012 the population is about 25,000).

The assessment to the poors’ rate which was in [1821] only £2,709 was in [1840] £14,509; in [1850] £16,301; and is now about £25,000.  Before the introduction of cotton spinning and manufactures the people of the district were very poor, and depended for subsistence mainly upon mining and farming.

Mr. J.R. Barnes, the father of Mr. Thomas Barnes, [M.P.], was the first to inaugurate a new order of things.  He began business about 55 years ago, and employed then about 50 hand-loom weavers.  The warehouse in which he commenced was comparatively a small building; but, in his case, the work of the diligent prospered.  In [1828] he erected a loom shop, in which he placed 192 looms, and a 14-horse power steam engine.  In [1831] a five-storey mill was built; and in [1834] a second large mill at Dixon Green.  In these buildings about 1,000 operatives found employment.  Mr. Barnes was followed in these enterprises by the late firm of Joseph and Robert Lord, of Kearsley, and by these individuals the cotton trade, which has been so great an advantage to the district, was fostered and encouraged.  There are now in the locality between 20 and 30 cotton mills, besides foundries, spindle shops, and other works, which give employment to upwards of 4,000 hands.

Excerpt from Proceedings at the Opening of Farnworth Park – 1864

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Further Reading and External Links

Farnworth Park Archive Pictures 

Richard Bancroft – Archbishop of Canterbury

Christmas Eve and The Yule Clog

 

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It’s Christmas Eve and in the spirit of the season we are highlighting topical and festive books from our library – today we feature an excerpt from a book published in 1849 called Observations on the Popular Antiquities of Great Britain by John Brand – here we learn about the tradition of the Yule Clog or Log during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

Christmas Eve and The Yule Clog

Christmas Day, in the primitive church, was always observed as the Sabbath-day, and like that preceded by an eve, or vigil.  Hence our present Christmas Eve.

On the night of this eve our ancestors were wont to light up candles of an uncommon size, called Christmas Candles, and lay a log of wood upon the fire, called a Yule-Clog or Christmas-block, to illuminate the house, and, as it were, to turn night into day.  This custom is, in some measure, still kept up in the North of England.

In the buttery of St. John’s College, Oxford, an ancient candle-socket of stone still remains ornamented with the figure of the Holy Lamb. It was formerly used to burn the Christmas Candle in, on the high table at supper, during the twelve nights of that festival.  This candle is thus alluded to in a very rare tract, called the Country Farmer’s Catechism, [1703]:

“She ne’er has no fits, nor uses no cold tea, as the Ladies Catechism saves, but keeps her body in health with working all the week, and goes to church on Sundays: my daughter don’t look with sickly pale looks, like an unlit Christmas Candle; they don’t eat oatmeal, lime, or ashes, for pain at their stomachs.

There is an old Scotch proverb:

“He’ s as bare as the birk at Yule E’en,”

which, perhaps, alludes to the Yule-log; the birk meaning a block of the birch-tree, stripped of its bark and dried against Yule Even. It is spoken of one who is exceedingly poor. A clergyman of Devonshire informed me that the custom of burning the Christmas-block, i.e. the Yule-Clog, still continues in that county. In Poor Robin’s Almanack for [1677], in the beginning of December, he observes:

“Now blocks to cleave this time requires,
‘Gainst Christmas for to make good fires.”

Excerpt from Observations on the Popular Antiquities of Great Britain Volume 1 by John Brand – 1849

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Further Reading and External Links

History of the Yule Log