Page images

erset and York, (except Craven) £6; Northampton and Nottingham, £5 138. 4d.; Warwick, £5 6s. Ed. All inferior wool as they could agree. These prices, settled by the king, were doubtless below the value of the wool. In the reign of Queen Elizabeth, Ginciardini, in his “Epitome of the Imports and Exports of Antwerp," writes : "And, from England, Antwerp receives vast quantities of fine and coarse draperies, fringes, and other things of that kind, of great value; also the finest wool.” Smith, in his “Memoirs of Wool," (vol. 1, p. 102) shows that the annual export of woolen goods alone, at this period, from England to Antwerp, amounted to £750,000 sterling. In the reign of Henry the Second, the weavers who mixed Spanish wool with English were under the penalty of having the fabric produced burned. This clearly establishes the high quality of Eng. lish wool; and although we must admit that the Spanish wool was likely to be improved by the introduction of English sheep into Spain, by permission of Edward the Third, still we find that wool from England was imported into Spain for the manufacture of the best cloth then produced; and, as we know, that Spain and England were then the only wool-growing countries in the world, it is a natural inference that England produced the finest quality. Hence, also, the importation into Flanders, which country then produced a higher quality of woolen fabric than any other.

I am now led to consider what kind of wool it is most likely we exported, and I have come to the conclusion it was our Norfolk long wool, as best fitted for making worsted. Again I refer to Mr. James, who quotes from Lord Herbert's life of Henry the Eighth : “That it was provided that no unwrought wool should be exported out of the kingdom." Yet the statute book at this period did not contain any prohibition against the ex. portation of unwrought wool, except that of Norfolk sheep. For ages extreme attention had been paid to the improvement of the fleece of this breed, upon which depended the staple trade of the district; and because of the fineness and length of the staple, and its particular adaption for making worsted, it had been much sought after by the continental weavers of worsted, and by various illegal means carried out of the country. Now, however, the export had become so extensive to supply the foreign makers of says, Russels, worsted, &c., as to threaten the extinction of the home manufacture; and a law was passed in the sixth year of Henry the Eighth, which tended greatly to revive and encourage the drooping domes. tic manufacture, whereby it was declared “That none should carry beyond the sea any Norfolk wool meet for making worsted stammins, upon forfeiture of 40s. for every stone of wool so carried beyond the sea." In 1554, a statute concerning Russels' satins and satin reverses recites, “That for late years past there used to be manufactured beyond the sea (of Norfolk wool) and then imported into England, whereby the mysteries of worsted-making and weaving and the merchants and inhabitants of Norwich, which were formerly well maintained by the weaving and making of worsteds, were reduced very much, such worsted being brought out of estimation and of very little worth either in this realm or foreign countries, the said satios being worn in lieu thereof. To remedy this, the mayor and certain citizens and merchants (whose names are mentioned) have at their great costs in bringing over strangers, and in making looms for them to work with, produced of Norfolk wool, Russels' satins, and satin reverses, and fustians of Naples, to be hereafter called Norwich satins and Norwich fustians." Then follows, “That in consideration of these good services of the mayor and his colleagues, an act was passed creating a fellowship, granting powers to the wardens diligently to view and search and see all the Russels, &c., those truly and workmanlike wrought to be sealed with a seal of lead, whereby it might be known to buyers and merchants that the same are allowed to be truly made; such as were defective to be cut in two." James says at page 103, “What these peculiar fabrics, now for the first time made in Norwich, were, it is not easy to determine." The satins were perhaps, judging from their name, a glossy article, somewhat resembling bombazin, whose manufacture it seems to be settled the Dutch imported hither in the reign of Queen Elizabeth.

Naples was unquestionably noted at this period, 1554, for the luxury of the dress of its inhabitants, and the making of fine worsteds. Hence it may be inferred that these fustians of Naples, afterwards designated Norwich fustians, were of fine texture. I cannot define exactly what these particular fabrics were; but the bombazin and Norwich crapes were forty years ago both durable, and the Norwich crape elegant. The bombazin was in texture much like French merino to the eye, but not to the touchto the touch it was rigid; but Norwich crape to the eye was perfection, and came as near to plain Irish poplin as anything I can conceive. In 1622 (James I.) a proclamation was issued, which declared that the exportation of wool and woolen yarn, &c., increased foreign manufactures, and brought about the decline and decrease in the sale of our home manufactures. This proclamation forbade exportation altogether, and is the first for total prohibition. Edward III., for his own royal convenience, only occasionally prohibited exportation; for it would appear that, conjointly with his ordinances, he granted licenses to export, to certain persons. In the reign of James I., wool fell from 333. to 189. per tod. This created such alarm that a special commission inquired into the cause: 1. Why wool had fallen in price? 2. How to prevent the export of wool and woolen yarn? 3. How cloths and stuffs made of our wool might be more

he says,

generally worn? McPherson (vol. 1, p. 481) writes, “That during the reign of Edward III., the exportation of wool had been prohibited, except by Royal license, which was very liberally made use of; but now (Charles II.) there was a general statutory prohibition in express terms. “This,"

"was the first statute prohibiting the export of wool; but an exception was made in favor of the Channel Islands, whither it was allowed to export 3,300 tods of uncombed wools, each tod to contain 32 lbs. The stocking manufacture, which had now sprung up in these islands, was no doubt the reason of the indulgence. Sundry penalties were inflicted for the exportation of wool, but still very much found its way into France, where the worsted manufacture could not be sustained without, and every stratagem was used to obtain the wool of England. Long and soft in the staple, it was now, indeed, as necessary for the French manufacture (worsted) as it had formerly been for that of Flanders.” The laws prohibiting the export of wool have never answered the end contemplated; for 'where there is demand and gain, the contraband trade will continue.

Fortery's pamphlet, “England's interest by trade asserted,” printed in 1671, contains many interesting particulars respecting the contraband trade, carried on by the French in our combing wools, and the evils resulting therefrom. Take, for instance, the following passage : "Every pack of wool sent to France doth prevent us not only the benefit of the manufacture thereof, but of two packs more besides itself, viz, thus: it being combing and combed wool fur the most part exported thither. The French, having no wools of their own, but such as are very coarse, are not able to make fine cloths or stuffs, there being none in all the world fit for that purpose but ours only, except in North Holland, and that a small quantity of fine woo), all others being likewise coarse, but Spanish wool, and that much too fine, especially for worsted stuffs, and not in any wise fit for combing, so that, without English or Irish wools, there can be no quan: tity of tine worsted stuffs nor a middle sort of cloth made in the world.” The act of 10th and 11th William III., chap. 10th, recites "that wool, and woolen manufactures, cloth, serge, baize, kerseys, and other stuffs, made or mixed with wool, are the greatest and most profitable commodities of the kingdom. The value of land and the trade of the nation do chiefly depend thereon, and great quantities of the like manufactures have been of late made, and are daily increasing in the kingdom of Ireland and in the English plantations in America, and are exported thence into foreign markets beretofore supplied from England, and which will inevitably sink the value of lands, and tend to the ruin of the trade of the woolen manufactures of this realm."

Enactments were passed subjecting the vessels freighted with such goods from such places to forfeiture, besides inflicting upon all persons aiding or abetting in the export a fine of $500. Do not overlook the fact that there was no prohibition to the export from Ireland, and the American planta: tions to England; it was especially against the export from these coun. tries to foreign States, establishing the fact that the government was jeal. ously alive, as they thought, to the importance of supporting and protecting the wool growers and woolen manufactures. Dr. Davenant, a writer of the “Reports to the Commissioners of Accounts,” says, “The annual income on which the whole population subsisted, and of which taxes of all kinds were paid; amounted to about £43,000,000, and the yearly rent of the land to £10,000,000.” Mr. James thus expresses himself: "What a grand, what an astonishing impression this conveys of the wealth accruing from the handicraft employed in wool-producing merchandise, nearly equal to one-fifth of the whole annual income of the realm, and almost approaching to the value of the land." Gregory King, at this period, valued the whole of the wool shorn in England at £6,000,000, and with the value of the materials at £8,000,000. This estimate is vouched by Dr. Davenant. A manufacturer of Northamptonshire, in 1739, in the reign of George II., says, “The wools of Warwickshire, Northampton, shire, Lincolnshire and Rutlandshire, part of Hunks, Beds, Bucks, Cam. bridgeshire and Romney Marshes, with some parts of Norfolk, have been accounted the longest and finest combing wool. But of late (by the im. provement in the breed of sheep and different kind of feeding) there is some large fine combing wool to be found in most of the counties in Eng land.” He then speaks of the wool of certain districts in Ireland—Tippe, rary, Limerick, Kilkenny, Kerry, Waterford, Connaught and Cork—as no way inferior to the long wool of England, except a small quantity of wool that grew in some parts of Leicester and the south marshes of Lincoln . shire, which was longer than any wool grown in any part of England be sides, and was of a beautiful shining color, although long, yet very fine and soft, and bearing an exceeding good gloss, superior to that of any of the wool of Ireland.

In the year 1749 the woolen trade was prosperous, and artizans in this manufacture were fully employed. I find from a table of the average price of Lincolnshire wool from 1700 to 1749, that the highest price was 23s. in 1717 per tod of 28 lbs., and the lowest 138. In 1749 the price was 198., 6d. At this period a great change was taking place in the quality of wool grown in England. Long-wooled sheep were more general throughout the kingdom. They were to be found in Lincolnshire, Leicestershire, Devon: shire, Durham, Yorkshire, Cambridgeshire, Notts, Warwickshire and other counties.

Except in the marsh lands long wool has ceased to be a peculiar growth of Norfolk, which now, by a strange metamorphosis, supplies excellent materials for cloth.

I think I have shown clearly that wool has ever been a most important article of commerce, both in its raw state and when manufactured. Nay, I may say the fact is established that wool may be considered the only national staple we possess. Italy has its staple-silk; Portugal and Spain, wine (the vine), as also France and the Rhenish provinces; whilst to Spain we may point at an early period of our history as a country competing with us in wool and also woolen manufactures.

In the slight historical sketch I have given, you will recollect I pointed out to you that Spain had greatly benefitted by the introduction of our breed of sheep, in the reign of Edwards Third and Fourth. These facts being established, the importance to agriculturists of the question, how we can supply a rising demand for a particular kind of wool—"the lustre wool" is apparent. To the agriculturists I dare not offer a word of advice touching the encouragement to be given to this or that breed of sheep. I can only convey to them, as a worsted spinner and manufacturer, a knowledge of the want of this particular kind of wool at the present day. To them I also point out the fact, that our woolen trade has greatly increased, and would still more largely increase had we sufficient of the raw material. To establish this, I draw attention to a circular issued by the Chamber of Commerce of Bradford and the woolen districts, on March 25th, 1859. It commences thus: "The very high price of combing wool has led to the con. sideration, whether it is not possible to encourage its growth, the high price being attributable to the consumption of this kind of wool gaining upon its growth.” It further states that the Chamber of Commerce is of opinion that no large additional supply can be expected from the home growers (this I hope our home growers will prove is an erroneous opinion); points out from whence supplies might be obtained, and invites the organization of societies, to disseminate amongst the inhabitants of such countries the information on management already at command. In the appendix to this circular is the following declaration :-"This Chamber is conscious that the peculiar excellences of our long-wools are dependent upon our temperate and humid climate and succulent grasses."

In February, 1861, another circular was issued, entitled "Address of the Wool-Supply Association of the Bradford and Halifax Chamber of Commerce, to all Parties interested in the Growth of Colonial and other Foreign Wools." In this document they again speak of an adequate supply of long-wool. The wool required should, they say, have a staple from four

« PreviousContinue »