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Help and advice for Gloucestershire: Tobacco growing in the Cotswolds

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Tobacco Growing in the Vale of Evesham,
Winchcombe and District,
and John Stratford.
By Gerald H. Stratford.

CHAPTER 8.

This is regarding a Privy Council Petition, made by John Stratford Esquire, a Gentleman and Salter of London, and dated 1626.

By the King's Protection, in the year 1623, John Stratford Esquire, he sowed four hundred and two acres of Flax, and kept in work, two hundred people, about Winchcombe, in County Gloucestershire, to their great relief, and his great profit. This, plus the sale of his London Goods, enabled him to pay eight thousand pounds off of his Debts,

The Royal Protection, ended in April 1624, and John Stratford, has since by the extremity of Creditors, compelled to leave that course, his house, and all other possessions, for that employment, being taken from him. This decay just happened, therefore, restraint on growing tobacco, after he had planted the first one hundred acres, and provided for further planting, to his great charge. He used the Protection from His Majesty, to pay off his Debts, and paid a further eight hundred pounds. He hereto, set down the Particular of the whole Estate, in an Affidavit, and offered it to his Creditors, which they refused to accept.

Therefore, John Stratford, Esquire, asked for another years Royal Protection, so that he could get in his Debts, and proceed with the growing of Flax, to pay the rest of his Debts, and relieve his wife, and children, who otherwise, are like to perish, and also, to relieve the poor inhabitants in these parts, where he hath began to work, for which purpose, he hath provided seed, which by longer keeping, will be lost. He promises at the end of the year, that he will Account for all the Debts, he is able to discharge.

14th of March 1626/7.

I, John Hooker, of London, Gentleman, aged thirty years, Make Oath, that two years ago, John Stratford, Esquire, late Citizen and Salter of London, having draw a Particular of his Estate, in the Debts he owed, and were owing him, and made Oath before Sir Robert Rich, one of the Masters in Chancery. John Stratford Esquire, retained John Hooker, to make offer of his whole Estate, in the said Particular Auditors, or, if they should not accept thereof, towards the Debts, to mediate, with his Creditors, for a Letter of Licence, for some time, to be granted to him.

John Hooker, tendered this Particular to the Chief Creditors, who refused to meddle therewith. John Hooker then asked for a Letter of Licence, which they likewise denied him. Lastly, John Stratford, Esquire, being warned with the Restraint of Liberty, willed John Hooker, to declare to his Creditors, his willingness, to submit himself to any Cause, though it were to a Commission of Bankruptcy, so his Creditors might have what Estate he had, amongst them, and it might not be wasted by his Restraint, and his not being able to Recover and Manage it. But his Creditors, have not taken any action to give Liberty to John Stratford Esquire.
This Document is signed by Sir Robert Rich.

Then follows the following Testimony.

That, John Stratford Esquire, was born in the Parish of Winchcombe, in the County of Gloucestershire, and effecting the good and poor, which do much abound in these parts. He has for many years, employed them in divers work, to their great relief. About six years ago, he planted one hundred acres of tobacco, but was Restrained the following year by Royal Prohibition and Proclamation, and having then, in his hands, a great quantity of tobacco, amounting to forty thousand hundred weight, and upwards. He could not sell it England, but had to sell it beyond the Seas, to his very great loss.

And, having taken Land, for further Planting, for certain years, at seven or eight pounds per acre, the Owners of the Lands, hold him to pay these Great Rents, and he was obliged to seek relief thereof, in His Majesty's Courts of Equity, to his further great Charge and Hindrance.

And, now for four years, since John Stratford Esquire, continuing his good resolve, for the relief of the poor, and to pay his Debts, sowed about forty acres of Flax, with seed, which he had from beyond the Seas, the work whereof was redownded, to benefit of the poor, more than all his former work, employing sometimes two hundred people upon a day. But, being molested by his Creditors, he was forced to ask His Majesty's Protection, which he obtained, and for which continued for one year, until the April of 1624. In that year, he paid off one thousand pounds, or thereabouts, of his Debts. But, now he cannot get in his Debts, or sell his unsold tobacco, or proceed in his Industry of Sowing Flax. Therefore, Prosecution of Creditors.

Therefore, he asks for Protection again, to pay his Debts, and recover the former Estates and Signatory, by the knowledge and Certification of the Town Bailiffs Support.
This is John Stratford's Plea.
The Signatures herewith are.
John Button.
Tim Gaytes.
Sir John Tracy.
William Higford.
Thomas Rich.

Thomas Rich, was of North Cerney, County Gloucestershire, and died on the 27th of October 1647, aged seventy nine years, and had married Anne, the daughter of Thomas Bouchier, of Barnsley, County Gloucestershire.

The Following Testimony, is dated the 31st of January 1626/7.

The Bailiffs, and Inhabitants of Winchcombe, in County Gloucestershire, Certify, that the poor of Winchcombe, are very mean, who have formerly, for the most part, lived by knitting woollen stockings, which employment, being of late, much decayed, and very little helpful, unto them.

Mr John Stratford, of the City of London, a Salter, had for divers years employed them. And, for the last four years, to the great comfort and relief, he has often set two hundred Of them at work, sowing and dressing Flax, upon the crop of four hundred acres of ground. Whereby necessities have been greatly supplied, who otherwise, might have perished for the want of Sustenance. The said crop of Flax, as we understand, will employ at least five hundred persons, in daily labour, the whole year or there about. They ask the Privy Council, to help John Stratford Esquire, to continue his work, so that many distressed people, may be continually comforted, and John Stratford, Esquire, to make benefit to himself, which will encourage others to do the like good. Signed by the following.
John Bestpitch Clerk.
Ralph Kemp Bailiff.
John Barksdale Former Bailiff.
Arthur Black Former Bailiff.
William Barksdale Church Warden.
Mathias Barksdale
Nicholas Jarrets.

 

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Data transcribed by Colin Hinson from:
A document written by
Gerald H. Stratford in 1988.
Reproduced here by permission
© Gerald H. Stratford.