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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.


This is a Bill of Complaint, by John Stratford, and Ralph Stratford, Esquire's, and dated 1623.

John Stratford, and Ralph Stratford, Esquire's, Citizens and Salter's of the City of London, say, that they have jointly continued the trade of soap boiling, and have dealt in tallow, kitchen stuff, potashes, and soap ashes, oils, and the such like. And, John Stratford, has a house in Thames Street, in the City of London, fit, and necessary, for the same employment, and provided with vessels of all sorts, being acquainted with John Olyffe, of London, soap boiler, and a Kinsman of your said Subjects, and reputed to be skilled in the Trade of soap making. And, did at about Christmas 1617, join in Partnership with John Olyffe, and a Thomas Lane, also of London, a Salter, and did use John Stratford and Thomas Lane's stock, for about five years, but, John Olyffe, had no stock, being a very poor man, and having a great charge of a wife and children, but was joined with him, for the natural affection that John Stratford felt towards him.

Many times John Stratford and Thomas Lane, found John Olyffe, dealing badly, and falling short in his Accounting, to the extent of two thousand pounds, altogether, selling their soap, and receiving money, which he then put to his own use. They disliked this, and Thomas Lane refused to continue in the Partnership. So, the Partnership ended at Christmas, in the year 1621, and John Stratford Esquire, continued soap boiling in his own house in Thames Street, London, and formed only with his brother, Ralph Stratford, with him as his Partner, and agreed to employ John Olyffe, as a Servant, receiving Wages, to boil soap, and not to buy, and sell, as formerly, for he was not to be trusted, and was also greatly indebted, which Debts, he paid with John Stratford's money.

Finding that John Olyffe neglected his Trade, and had joined with as Partner with Richard Hynds, and others, in a Brewhouse, and Beer Brewing, and had encouraged Richard Hynds to continual saying that he did not want money, and John Olyffe, and Richard Hynds, received five hundred pounds, off of John Stratford Esquire, and Thomas Lane, and used them in the Brew House, without ever repaying them, and through Beer Brewing, he neglected the soap boiling, and the soap was made bad, and sent by Sea and Land, to divers oars of the Realm, and was returned to them, therefore of it's badness, and to their great loss in carrying forth and back again, so their Customers left them, and their business decayed.

Now, John Olyffe, has had much underhand clearing with a Richard Loreabond, who hath, or late had, a pan and fates for the boiling of soap, in his possession, and to whom John Olyffe, often sent oil and potash to the value of two hundred pounds. These were the property of John and Ralph Stratford Esquire's.

Richard Loreabond, gave Credit and Bonds to John Olyffe, and John Olyffe owed him thirty pounds. Richard Loreabond then came to John and Ralph Stratford, and asked to buy their soap, in return for Cash, and Kitchen Stuff. He delivered the Kitchen Stuff, but not the Cash, saying that John Olyffe, had had the Cash, that is to say thirty two pounds. So John Olyffe and Richard Loreabond between them, are defrauding your Orators of Thirty Two pounds.

Richard Loreabond, replied on the 12th of July 1623, and in March 1624, saying that. John Stratford hath given out heartening speeches, stating that he will have the Purpose of the Defendant, or spend himself, to the shoes of his feet.

Richard Loreabond, says, that he never knew, that when he cleat with John Olyffe, that he was not a Partner with John and Ralph Stratford, until last Christmas, when he was ordered not to give him any Money. He says, that he has heard that Thomas Lane, gave up the Partnership with the Stratford Brothers, therefore he was doubtful of John Stratford's Estates, therefore ran into many great Debts, and mischief, by Purchasing of Lands with Interest Monies, dealing with tobacco, for many thousands of pounds, and other Trades, wherein his Skill did fail, and that he charged himself with too many Trades, and Occupations, which plainly appeared, for as soon as Mr. Thomas Lane left the Partnership, and after a while shuffling, they fell flat, and utterly failed in Credit, and Reputation, as procured a Protection.

And, as the Complainant, he explained against John Olyffe, so John Olyffe was explained against John Stratford.

John Olyffe explains in his Recital, that, whilst he was a copartner with John Stratford, and since, John Stratford, used John Olyffe, to take up money, in Interest, as if it was bona fide for John Olyffe, when in actual truth, it was for the benefit of John and Ralph Stratford, and John Olyffe had no money of his own. And, to continue the false hood, John Stratford would cause John Olyffe, to Seal his Counter Bond, to save him harmless, and, John Stratford, would say to his Creditors and Brokers, that he entered the Bonds in loath, to relieve John Olyffe, his Kinsman. And, since the time the Complainant cracked his Credit, they used John Olyffe, to Bail them from arrest.

John Olyffe, stands Bail for John Stratford, for one thousand, five hundred pounds. And, when their Credit is cracked, and their false and fly shifts have failed, they accuse on others, and seek to spoil honest men.

In the Bill of Complaint, they say that John Olyffe, was only a Servant, but, in the Cross Complaint, they say he was a Servant and Partner, as in Truth, they made him to serve their own ends, and when Credit and Shifts, would serve them no longer, they turned him out of doors, and deny any such acquaintances, as before time, when they were in good Credit, they always accepted.

The Defendant, says that his house, in Whitechapel, London, was before he bought it a Soap Boiler's House, and had a pan and fats, but he never used them in his life, directly or indirectly as a Partner. He agrees that he lent money to John Olyffe, but he was never Bond for him, except once for Tallow valued at one hundred and six pounds, which was employed in the joint trade of John Olyffe and the Complainant, and by his great good luck, he had this repaid, just before the Complainant's Credit cracked. Otherwise, such a loss would have spoiled the Defendant. He thinks that he got repayment, through the efforts of John Olyffe, who knew what was afoot, and this made Richard Loreabond bear him still more love and appreciation to John Olyffe, for John Olyffe was generally reputed to be honest, before he was infected with the usual Shifts, and the Complainant, +and John Olyffe was indebted to him for the sum of thirty two pounds, but he was found, on cashing up the Account, that he in fact owed John Olyffe the sum of forty four pounds. So, John Olyffe gave him an Acquittance for the thirty two pounds, and promised to pay him the remaining twelve pounds, when ever John Olyffe, should demand it, as formerly, upon other reckoning, he had done the like to John Stratford's Claims that have Bonds.

That they had to buy soap, to get their money back, was untrue, therefore, his other Debts were outstanding between them.

Richard Loreabond, says, that at different times' he bought John and Ralph Stratford's soap, to the value of two thousand pounds, but it was not good value, as often he knew of them as honest Dealers, they wanted to be rid of the Trade, and as then, accept, that he should more or less quit, and when Ralph Stratford Esquire, offered him half of the last soap, he told Ralph Stratford, he would not deal further with them, or words to that effect, and because of the Conversation John Stratford Esquire, has put in Suit.

Richard Loreabond, claims that he also put in a Cross Suit, in this Court, to be relieved of the alleged Debt.

The reason he continued to deal with John Olyffe, when he might have got better soap, and cheaper else where, was therefore six or seven years ago, when Richard Loreabond entered into dealing for himself, and, had but a little stock, and John Olyffe, gave him Credit to him for soap, to the vale of thirty or forty pounds, though at a hard Rate. But, as a result, Richard Loreabond prospered and paid John Olyffe back.

The Document, also refers to a Charge to Ralph Stratford Esquire against Richard Loreabond in the Sheriffs Court in the City of London.

John Olyffe's reply, some of which is illegible.

He says, that John Stratford Esquire, offered him sixty pounds per annum, wages, as a Soap Boiler. John Stratford, is his natural Uncle, and Ralph Stratford, is his half Uncle. During the first five years of their Partnership, one thousand eight hundred and thirty two pounds, were saved, besides, seven hundred and two pounds, used out of Stock Trading. And in 1619, all Accounts Cast up, he John Olyffe, was indebted for only one hundred and twenty three pounds, thirteen shillings and two pence, to the Complainant. He says that he certainly never received two thousand pounds, as alleged by John Stratford, but the Trade was rather spoiled by John Stratford of boiling soap, by Purchasing Lands and Buildings, with Interest Money, intended to put into planting and bartering, for English tobacco, for many thousands of pounds.

Through John Olyffe, entering into Debt, for John Stratford, he lacked the means to support his own wife and children. It is certainly not part of another of then decay, he was their slave. He has had to remain indoors for the fear of being arrested for the Debts of John Stratford.

John Olyffe says that he is free of Debts on his own Account, and has been offered a job, by Nathaniel Edwards, Esquire, who has the Patent for Soap Boiling in Scotland, for fifty pounds per year, plus meat, drink, and lodgings. John Stratford's Debts, so soon as the date of the Royal Protection, shall be out, which shall be Easter next. Then John Stratford Esquire, will say, that John Olyffe, has fled this Realm, and their Estates. He is deeply distressed. His Estates will always be at the mercy of John Stratford's Creditors.

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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.