Statutes from Magna Carta to End of Reign of George II bearing on the Woollen Trade in Devon

Sketch of Ashburton and the Woollen Trade. Trans. Devon. Assoc. vol. 8 (1876), pp. 338-350.


P.F.S. Amery

Prepared by Michael Steer

After the Norman Conquest in 1066, Britain's main economy was in the export wool, and the European textile markets were heavily dependent upon the supply of raw English wool, which made trading in wool a highly profitable means of making money. Sheep farmers and small cottagers scattered throughout the country all contributed towards the overall total, for it was very much a cottage industry. The Wool merchants of Devon very quickly became wealthy; they bought their fleeces from the small farmers or from middlemen employed by the farmers. Their wool collectors journeyed around all the local farms collecting the fleeces, and loading them onto a string of laden packhorses, before finally taking their loads to wool markets. These Markets were held on specific dates at strategic towns where the local merchants would meet with merchant traders from across Europe, especially from France, Flanders or Italy. This industry reached its peak by the 1820s and depended heavily on access through the East India Company to the Chinese market. Mechanisation in the early 18th century and the dumping of serge onto the world markets by the East India Company brought the death knell to the industry. This Appendix to Amery’s article on Ashburton and The Woollen Trade provides a comprehensive record of statutes affecting the woollen trade in Devon and Cornwall from Magna Carta to George II. Google with the Archive Organization has sponsored the digitisation of books from several libraries. The Internet Archive makes available, in its Community Texts Collection (originally known as Open Source Books), books that have been digitised by Google from a number of libraries. These are books on which copyright has expired, and are available free for educational and research use. This rare book is available from the Internet Archive.

The MAGNA CHARTA, 9th Henry III, c 30. Encourages and welcomes all merchant strangers, promising safe conduct to come and go, to buy and sell without any manner of evil tolls, by the old and rightful customs, except in time of war.

25th EDWARD I, c. 7, 1299.
On a petition from the people, a release of toll taken by the king on wool is granted, and a grant that neither he nor his heirs will take the like without common consent and good wilL

34th EDWARD I, c. 3, 1306.
Nothing from henceforth shall be taken of sacks of wool by colour or occasion of male-tent.

9th EDWARD III, c. 1, 1335.
Enacts that all merchant strangers may buy and sell within the realm without disturbance, and a punishment inflicted on those who molest them.

11th EDWARD III {war with France), 1335.
C. 1. Made it felony to carry any wool out of the realm until it be otherwise ordained.
C. 3. Enacts that no cloth made beyond the seas shall be brought into the realm.
C. 5. That foreign cloth-workers may come into the realm from any country and have the king's protection,

14th EDWARD III, 1340.
C. 20. Parliament granted the king a subsidy of the ninth lamb and the ninth fleece for two years, to enable him to carry on the war with France.
C. 21. Also a subsidy of forty shillings on every sack of wool exported.

17th EDWARD III, 1341.In seven chapters, re-arranges the lamb and wool subsidy, returning the fleeces and allowing for the lambs already taken in the second year, and arranged for the collecting of any future subsidy.
This may have been the effect of the naval victory over the French off Sluys in 1340.

18th EDWARD III., c. 3, 1342.
Enacts that ordinances made before this time upon the price of wools be wholly annulled, and that every man from henceforth buy as he may agree with the seller, and that the sea be open to all manner of merchants to pass with their merchandize as it may please them.

25th EDWARD III., c. 2, 1350
Confirms Act of 9th Edward III., which allows all strangers, except the king's enemies, to trade freely in gross or at retail at will in our markets, repealing any charter or proclamation made to the contrary.

27th EWARD III., 1353.
S. 1. C. 4. As many merchants had withdrawn themselves to come with cloth to England because the king's aulneger (collector) had arrested cloths which did not come up to standard dimensions, the great men and commons pray the king to release such forfeitures for a convenient recompense to be paid him. In answer, the king released all such forfeitures and grants for him and his heirs, that there shall be no cloths forfeit, but the king's aulneger shall measure all cloth, and mark the same, by which may be known the quantity; for which the parliament granted the king a subsidy on each cloth.
S. 2. C. 1. Fixes ten cities in England, among which are Bristol and Exeter, as the only staples from which wool, hides, and lead may be sold for exportation, but only to be exported by foreigners.
C. 3. Allows merchants to buy wool, hides, and lead, so they bring them to the staple; but makes it felony for an Englishman to transport them. There shall be no exchange of merchandize of the staple, but payment in silver. Every man may carry his own wool to the staple.

28th EDWARD III, c. 13, 1354.
Confirms previous acts of 27th Edward III., and makes regulations concerning warranty of packing of wools, orders in case of dispute an inquest ''de medietate linguae," one-half foreigners, if possible, when a foreigner is party to any trial.
C. 14, 15. Enacts that all wool staples shall be open every day except Sundays and solemn feasts, and that no wool be exposed for sale within three miles of the staple, except wool of a man's own growing in his own house or where he pleases. The staple shall extend to the whole city or town, whether enclosed by walls or not

31st EDWARD III, 1357.
S. 1, C. 2. No wool shall be bought by fraud to abate the price thereof.
S. 1, G. 8. Allows wool, and hides, and leather to be exported to places which be of the king's amity by paying fifty shillings for each sack of wool, &c
47th EDWARD III, c. 1, 1373. Fixes the dimensions of certain cloths if offered for sale, but not to apply to those made for private use.

50th EDWARD III, c. 7, 1376.
Enacts that no woollen cloth shall be exported before that it is fulled,

2nd RICHARD II, c. 3, 1378.
That all merchants from Genoa, Venice, Catalonia, Arragon, and other lands toward the west, that come with merchandize to our western ports, may sell freely, and re-charge their vessels with wool, skins, and tin, or other goods, and freely take them toward the west, but paying at the port of departure all dues as they would pay at the staple at Calais, and give security that they go no place eastward except to Calais.

5th RICHARD II., s. 2, c. 2, 1382,
Enacts that wool and skins may be exported by any merchant, foreign or denizen, to any country except to France for the next year, provided the custom or subsidies are paid before hand, for which the king will allow a discount

11th RICHARD II, c. 7, 1387.
Confirms statutes of Edward III. relating to freedom for foreign merchants to trade, fixes penalties for those who disturb them, and allows all merchants to sell either by gross or by retail.

14th RICHARD II, c. 4, 1390.
Enacts that no wool shall be bought except of owners of sheep or of the tithes, except in the staple, and that no person buy wool but for his own use, or to make cloth of. This remained in force until 21st James I.

17th Richard II, c. 2, 1393.
Cloth may be made of any dimensions, but must be measured and sealed by the aulneger, and be made without deceit.
C. 3. Allows certain worsteds to be exported.

5th HENRY IV., c. 9, 1403.
Merchant strangers to employ their money on commodities of this realm, and shall sell their goods within a quarter of a year on their coming. One alien shall not sell to another alien.

7th HENRY IV., c. 10, 1405.
Orders forfeiture to the king of all cloths of ray and coloured cloths if found deficient in dimensions.

9th HENRY IV., c. 2, 1407.
Believes Kendal doth from duty.

llth HENRY IV., c. 6, 1409.
That cloths shall be in whole pieces; and not tacked together, before sealing by the aulneger.

13th HENRY IV., c. 4, 1411.
Confirms statutes of 7th and 11th Henry IV. touching dimensions of ray and coloured cloths.

2nd HENRY V, s. 2, c. 6, 1414
Merchandise of the staple not to be exported without the king's license, until they have first been brought to the staple; but does not repeal 2 Richard II. s. i., c. 3.

4th HENRY V., c. 5, 1416.
Confirms statute of 5th Henry IV. concerning the treatment of merchant strangers.

2nd HENRY VI., c. 4, 5, 1422.
All merchandise of the staple exported shall be carried to Calais as long as the staple shall be in Calais.

8th HENRY VI., c. 17, 1429.
Orders forfeiture of wools, fells, &c., shipped out of England for any place but Calais, except by merchants of Genoa, Venice, Tuscany, Lombardy, Florence, and Catalonia, to be taken to their own country toward the west,
C. 18. Regulates the prices and mode of payment for wools and woolfels in the staple at Calais.
C. 20. Calais merchants not to buy abroad merchandise of the staple, such as wool, woolfels, &c.
C. 23. Neither thrums nor woollen yarn shall be exported. C. 24 English merchants to receive ready money of aliens.

9th HENRY VI., c. 2, 1430.
Enacts that for the king's pleasure, English merchants may, notwithstanding 8 Henry VI., c. 24, which shall still stand in force, sell their cloths to aliens, to be paid in merchandise, or upon loan of payment, to be made in six months.

10th HENRY VI., c. 7, 1432.
A more stringent statute, enforcing that wools, woolfels, &c. shall be exported only to Calais.

llth HENRY VI., c. 9, 1433.
Defines and regulates the dimensions of cloths.

14th HENRY VI., c. 2, 1435.
Makes special exceptions in favour of the king and his council, and Italian merchants for the export of wools and woolfels other than to Calais.

15th HENRY VI., c. 8, 1436.
Declares that wools and woolfels shall only be shipped at certain quays and warfs to ensure their being carried to Calais.

18th HENRY VI, c. 15, 1439.
Makes it felony for any person to export wools or woolfels, save to Calais, without the king's license.
C. 16. That cloth shall be measured by the yard and inch only throughout the realm, and not by the yard and handful, according to the London merchants.

20th HENRY VI, c. 4, 1442.
That English merchants shipping wools to any other place than the king's staples shall pay same customs as foreigners; but not to interfere with those holding the king's letters patent to export wools, woolfels, and tin to other places than Calais.

23rd HENRY VI, c. 3. 1444.
Any person who shall pack or ship thrums or woollen thread for export for the next three years shall forfeit the same, and be imprisoned for one year.

27th HENRY VI, c. 2, 1448.
No license shall be available to carry wools, woolfels, or tin to any place out of the realm but Calais.

31st HENRY VI, c. 8, 1452.
An arrangement with the king for a subsidy on exported wool, wbolfels, and cloth for his life.

3rd Edward IV., c. 1, 1463.
No alien shall export wool, land certain rules to be observed by denizens exporting thereof.

4th Edward IV., c. 1, 1464.
To prevent deceit in the woollen trade, this statute sets forth a series of minute rules to be observed in every branch of the trade, fixing the dimensions of the various fabrics. It prohibits the mixing of lamb's-wool, flock, or cork with other wools in the same cloth, but allows cloth to be made of lamb's-wool only. Orders that all labourers shall be paid in money, provides for the viewing and sealing of all finished fabrics, renews the statute of Edward III. prohibiting foreign cloths to be sold in England.
C. 2. To ensure the going to Calais of all wools and woolfels exported, nine ports are appointed, of which Pool is the most westerly, from which places alone wools of any kind can be shipped.
C. 4. That in seventeen counties (in which Devon is not included) for three years no wool is to be contracted for before it is shorn, except by makers of cloth or yarn.

7th EDWARD IV., c. 2, 1467.
Upon the prayer of the inhabitants of the hundreds of Lifton, Tavistock, and Rowburgh, in Devonshire, allows them, on account of ancient custom, and by reason of the grossness and stubbornness of the wools of their districts, to mix as much lamb's-wool and flock with their wool as may be required to work it, and to expose the cloth thus made to sale notwithstanding the ordinance of 4 Edward IV. c. 1.
C. 3. Re-enacts 50 Edward III. c. 7, which prohibits the exportation of woollen yams and unfinished cloth.

12th EDWARD IV., c. 5, 1472.
Allows for five years the wool grown in certain northern counties to be shipped from Newcastle to Calais, or to New Middleborough in Flanders, and there to be sold.

14th EDWARD IV., c. 3, 1474.
The town of Berwick, in Brabant, was substituted for New Middleborough, in Flanders, to receive north-country wools.

1st RICHARD III, c. 8, 1483.
Gives detailed dimensions for various cloths; enters into the process of dying; and orders that no inferior cloth or refuse wool be exported.
C. 9. That Italian merchants shall sell in gross only, and employ their money on commodities of this realm. All strangers shall sell their wares within eight months after their arrival; they may carry away what they cannot sell in that time. Aliens shall not buy or sell woollen cloth, or make woollen cloth in this realm, or deliver wool to be made into cloth.

1st HENRY VII., c. 8, 1485.
Revokes the penalties of Richard III. against Italian merchants.

3rd HENRY VII., c. 11, 1486.
It having been shown that former acts did not mention that cloths should be rowed or shorn as well as fulled, before exportation, whereby outlandish nations set at work on them, to their enriching and injury of his Majesty's subjects; enacts that all woollen cloths above forty shillings shall be barbed, rowed, and shorn before exported.

4th HENRY VII., c. 11, 1487.
None but those who make yarn, or cloth thereof, shall for ten years buy or bargain for any wool grown in eighteen named counties before the Assumption of our Lady (l5th August); nor any strangers before the Purification (2nd February),

12th HENRY VII., c. 6, 1496.
It having been shown that the exactions of the fraternity of Londoners were so great, that all merchants not of the confederacy withdrew themselves from foreign markets, whereby the woollen cloths of this realm were not sold, save to Londoners, for under the price that they were worth, and sometimes they were not paid for a long time, or not at all, enacts that every Englishman from henceforth may resort to foreign countries without exactions of the fraternity of Londoners, to trade there, and make his exchanges freely, at his pleasure.

5th HENRY VIII, c. 2, 1513.
Entitled an act for the true making of cloths in Devon called white-straits. Owing to cloths being badly made and under measure, enacts that after the feast of Pentecost all white-straits shall be of certain dimensions; that every maker shall set his special mark on each.
C. 3. Repeals part of act 3 Henry VII. c. 9, forbidding exportation of unfinished cloths under forty shillings in value, by allowing any white cloth of five marks and under to be exported.
C. 4 That for next seven years no worsteds shall be dry calandered; and that only persons properly apprenticed shall calander by the old or wet process.

6th HENRY VIII, c. 9, 1514
Enacts that a certain allowance shall be made for waste in the weight of wool delivered to break, comb, card, or spin.
That the same wool waste alone excepted - shall be returned to the clothier without fraud.
That every weaver shall weave into the cloth all the same yam delivered to him, or restore the remainder to the clothier with the cloth without any oil, moisture, dust, or sand.
That coloured wool, or woollen yarn, be bought in open market only.
That the walker or fuller shall do his work without any deceit
That the clothier shall not offer for sale any cloth which when wet shall shrink more than one yard in length and one quarter in breadth; cloths called narrows or straits after the same rate.
That purchasers of cloths should not stretch them in length or breadth, except when wet.
That no flocks or deceivable thing should be worked into woollen cloths.
That all cloths be sold by their true contents; one inch to be added for every yard.
That cloths called tostocks made in Devon, and all woollen cloths made in Cornwall, were to be exempt from the above statute.

22nd HENRY VIII, c. 1, 1530.
Renews acts of Edward IV. and Henry VII. relating to the purchase of wool in certain counties by other than makers of yam or cloth.

23rd HENRY VIII, c. 17, 1531.
Orders that all wool shall be washed before winding into fleeces, except in such counties where it is not customary, or when fleeces are sold by tale.

24th HENRY VIII, c. 2, 1532.
An act concerning dying of woollen goods.

25th HENRY VIII., c. 13, 1533.
The price of wool having been forced up by sheep-holders, limits the number of sheep to be kept by one man to two thousand, counting one hundred and twenty to each hundred; lambs under one year old not to count

27th HENRY VIII, c. 12, 1535.
Regulates the dimensions of certain cloths; but exempts cloths called tavestocks, western dozens, frizes, kendals, and all manner of coarse cloths.

33rd HENRY VIII., c. 19, 1541.
Regulates the value of white cloths and unfinished cloths to be exported.

37th HENRY VIII., c. 15, 1545.
On the sale of wool in open markets. C. 23. Continues act of 23 Henry VIII, c. 17, concerning the washing of wool

3rd and 4th EDWARD VI, c. 2, 1549.
Orders appointment of overseers to prevent fraud in the woollen trade, and carry out former acts; and reproducing with many additions the act of 6 Henry VIII, also orders all cloths to be marked before exposing for sale with the letter E, crowned.

5th and 6th EDWARD VI., c. 6, 1552.
An. act for the true making of woollen cloths, enters minutely into the whole trade
Fixes dimensions of Devonshire kersies called dozens.
Orders that no flock, hair, or yarn of lamb's-wool shall be put into any cloth, kersey, or frize.
All cloths offered for sale to be sealed with a seal of lead, having the arms of such city, town, or borough where offered for sale.
Names the colours which cloths shall be dyed.
Exempts all cloths made at Tavistock, in Devon, or elsewhere in Devon, cloths called tavistocks, from this act.
C. 8. Orders that only those who had served an apprenticeship of seven years should weave doth, or put cloth out to weave
C. 22. Enacts that gig mills shall not be used in the workmanship of woollen cloth.

7th EDWARD VI, c. 9, 1553.
Fixes size and weight of pieces of cloth called white-pinned straits, and allows hair, flocks, and lamb's -wool to be put into any of them made in Devon or Cornwall

1st MARY, c. 7, 1553.
On a petition from divers cities, boroughs, and towns, showing how trade was injured by 5 and 6 Edward VI. c. 8, enacts that any residents in cities, boroughs, &c. where cloth has been made, may continue to do so without hindrance

2nd and 3rd MARY, c. 11, 1555.
On a petition from the weavers, certain restrictions were ordered, as to number of apprentices, looms, &c., kept by persons not residing in cities, boroughs, corporate towns, or market towns, and that no new loom should be put up except in such towns.

4th and 5th MARY, c. 7, 1557.
On a petition, allows certain latitude to the restrictions under acts of Edward VI., allowing variation in dimensions of certain cloths, so as weight be retained.
That Devonshire kersies or dozens, instead of being obliged when finished to weigh 141bs., shall weigh after the rate of one pound per yard.
Allows other colours than those ordered by Edward VI. to be used for cloths.
Prohibits cloth being made to sell except in cities, boroughs, or market towns where it used to be made; except in certain northern counties, in Wales, Suffolk, Kent, and Cornwall, where cloth has been made for the last twenty years. Repealed by 21 James I. c. 28.

5th ELIZABETH, c. 4, 1562.
That only sons of weavers, and those whose parents possess land to value of sixty shillings per annum, shall be taken as apprentices to woollen weavers, except in cities, boroughs, corporate towns, and market towns.
Repealed by 5th and 6th WILLIAM and MARY, c. 9.

8th ELIZABETH, c. 6, 1565.
Enacts, that in case any license should be granted to export cloths in an unfinished state, for every nine pieces so exported, one similar in every respect, but perfectly finished, should accompany them, but not be included in the license. That no license should extend to unfinished Suffolk or Kentish cloth.

14th ELIZABETH, c. 10, 1572.
Fixes the dimensions of kersies.

23rd ELIZABETH, c. 9, 1581.
Regulates the dying of cloths.

27th ELIZABETH, c. 18, 1585.
Regulates the making of coarse cloths in Devonshire and Cornwall, repealing 7th Edward VI., c. 9, and allowing all inhabitants of those counties, whether dwelling in towns or elsewhere, to weave and make plain white-straits and pinned white-straits; and to use in their making flocks, hair, and lamb's-wool yarn; and to keep and use three looms; and to make them of such dimensions as the merchant shall like, and shall be most acceptable to the people where the same shall be transported.

39th ELIZABETH, c. 11, 1597.
Strengthening former statutes concerning deceit in dying wools or yarn.

43rd ELIZABETH, c. 10, 1601.
Enters minutely into each branch of the woollen trade, and fixes dimensions and weight of various fabrics made in different parts of the realm.

3rd JAMES I., c. 14, 1605.
Repeals statute 14 Elizabeth, c. 10, and again regulates the dimensions of kersies.

4th JAMES I, c. 2, 1606.
An act for true making of woollen cloths. Clause 8 relates to dimensions and weight of Devonshire kersies called dozens.

12th CHARLES II., c. 32, 1660.
An act prohibiting the exportation of wool, wool-fels, yarn, woolstocks, fuller's earth, &c.

13th and 14th CHARLES II., c. 18, 1662.
Prohibition to export sheep, wool, yarns, &c., made more stringent.
C. 19. Renews acts 3 Edward IV., 39 Elizabeth, c. 14, prohibiting the importation of foreign wool cards.

15th CHARLES II, c. 4, 1666.
To encourage the woollen manufacturer, orders none to be buried but in woollen. Amended by 30 Charles II, c. 3, and again 32 Charles II., c. 1.

1st WILLIAM and MARY, c. 32, 1688.
Appoints a commission to execute and enforce act of 12 Charles II, c. 32, to prevent the exportation of wool, and to encourage the woollen trade of the realm.
Allows Irish wool to be imported at certain western ports, among which are Barnstaple, Bideford, and Exeter.
Continued by 4th and 5th William and Mary, c. 24, for three years, but provides that no wool shall be imported from Ireland into port of Exeter. Further continued by 7th and 8th William III, c. 28.

9th and 10th William III, c. 40, 1698.
An act for the better execution of former laws against the export of wool, &c.

10th WILLIAM III, c. 2, 1698.
Prohibits the making or selling cloth or serge buttons, because they interfered with the trade of making silk and mohair buttons; and as the silk and mohair comes from Turkey in exchange for our woollen goods, that trade is also injured.

10th and 11th WILLIAM III, c. 10, 1699.
A very stringent act to prevent the exportation of wool or woollen goods from Ireland save as provided for in 4th and 5th WILLIAM and MARY, c. 24.

llth and 12th WILLIAM III, c. 11, 1700.
To repeal the laws against the importation of Flemish lace three months after the prohibition of English woollen goods into Flanders shall be taken off.

11th and 12th WILLIAM III, c. 20, 1700.
Relieves woollen goods from export duty.

1st ANN, s. 2, c. 18, 1701.
An act to prevent frauds by persons employed in the working of wool made perpetual by 9 Ann.

6th ANN, c. 9, 1707.
The privilege of exporting white cloths, finished or unfinished, granted by patents from Queen Elizabeth and Charles II. The latter having expired, it was enacted that all woollen cloth whatever made in Great Britain may be exported.

9th ANN, c. 30, 1710.
Revives act of 1 ANN to prevent frauds in the woollen trade.

10th ANN, c. 16, 1710.
Orders all payment of wages by clothiers to be in money, and not in kind, under penalty of twenty shillings.

5th GEORGE I, c. 11, 1718.
That provisions, 1st WILLIAM and MARY, c. 32, preventing the exportation of wool, to extend to woolfels, mortlings, shortlings, woollen yarns, and wool flocks.

12th GEORGE I, c. 34, 1725.
Combinations of workmen in the woollen trade, either for advance of wages, or for shorter hours, or for quitting service before the time for which hired, or spoiling work, made punishable.

13th GEORGE I, c. 23, 1726.
Enjoins that masters serve out all materials by 16 ounces to the pound; and to pay the weaver by the length of the chains; not to work up ends and use again.

5th GEORGE II, c. 21, 1731.
That three war-ships and eight armed sloops cruise on the coast of Great Britain and Ireland, to prevent exportation of wool.

12th GEORGE II, c. 21, 1738.
That woollen goods so slightly made as to be reduced and used as wool again, incur the same forfeiture as exporting wool.

22nd GEORGE II, c. 27, 1748.
Persons receiving woollen material from workmen to forfeit £20.

25th GEORGE II, c. 14, 1751.
The port of Lancaster opened to import wool from Ireland.

26th GEORGE II, c. 8, 1752.
The port of Exeter opened to import wool from Ireland.

30th GEORGE II, c. 12, 1756.
Clothiers to pay their weavers within two days of delivery of goods.