We are now ready to be ushered into the England of the Tudors and the beginning
of Modern history in the 16th century. Under the Plantagenets there
had been a rigid distinction between titled folk, not to mention the hierarchy
of the Church, and the generality of the under and non-privileged commons.
But when, not long after the passing of Edward IV, Henry VII defeated the last of them on Bosworth Field in 1485 and filched dead Richard III's crown, he was determined to curb the power of the nobility who had made a shambles of the kingdom during the interminable Wars of the Roses His reign marks the division between Mediaeval and Modern history, and the beginnmgs of a settled order under a strong monarchy in England.
Hitherto Britain had more often than not been a weak land and throughout her early history she had been tossed as a tennis ball from conqueror to conqueror. Boadicea had withstood the Roman legions only to die among them at the last. He who was half-myth and half-man, Arthur, strove against the Saxons until the last great battle in the West had swept him away. Alfred had pitted himself against the Danes all his days. And at Senlac Harold Godwinson had likewise uselessly given of his lifeblood against William of Normandy.1 Since then Britain had lain under her Norman and Angevin Kings from France and their high-stomached nobles, and been constantly troubled by Scottish inroads. Indeed Edward III who ruled during the 14th century - the Age of Chaucer, the father of English poetry - was the first Plantagenet to speak the English tongue. She had been embroiled in dynastic fighting in France during the Hundred Years' War2, and then finally had followed the Wars of the Roses of the 15th century between the rival Houses of York and Lancaster.
Henry VII was determined to give his country peace, with a strong central government. The most dangerous nobles were banished or fled to France. To make sure, the new king limited the number of armed retainers a nobleman could have, so that they had to disband their private armies. Cannon had become deadly weapons to which stone castles were now vulnerable, and the king owned all the cannon there were in England.
With his encouragement of merchants and explorers, with the Renalssance,
the new printing3 and his patronage providing opportunities of
learning for the sons of solid citizens, Henry Tudor opened up life for those
who knew how to profit by it. His promotion of English trade benefited
the West Riding in particular. By his commercial treaty, the 'Intercursus
Magnus', 1496, Henry established free trade between England and Flanders,
with important consequences for the woollen industry and the introduction
of new skil!s. A second commercial treaty, a decade later, gave English
wool merchants great privileges in the Low Countries to the detriment of
the Netherlands, who termed it the , ' Malus intercursus',
The transition to the new order of life in England, political, economic and social was a gradual one and, like all changes, not without trials and tribulations. No douht the most momentous , the gradual dissolution of the monasteries, chantries and guilds under his successor Henry VIII began to change the face of England. This action fol!owed the Act of Supremacy estalilishing the King's authority over the English Church in 1534 By thus switching much of the economic power to the Crown, Henry VIII temporarily replenished the Royal Treasury, for the enormous fortune amassed by his father for the nation's need through the imposition of fines upon the nobility, the sale of benefices and offices, had been dissipated by the son's extravagance. profligate finance and foolish wars in France 4 it must not be forgotten that Church reformers had turned to the Kingly power and Parliament demanding a large disendowment of the Church, which had swallowed so much land from countless generations of benefactors and given not an acre back. The House of Commons was only too glad thereby to avoid the unpopularity of voting taxation of their constituents. In building up a despotic monarchy the Crown reduced Parliament to a subservient role.5
In 1536. the lesser monasteries, with less than £200 per annum, totalling altogether 376 religious houses, were suppressed, mostly in Yorkshire and Lincoinshire. In 1539 the greater monasteries to the number of 645 were dissolved. The closing of these institutions defiitely marked the end of the Middle Ages. It meant the end also of the charity which, on the whole, they had dispensed largely and well, and for many years until Elizabeth's system of Poor relief there was nothing to take their place. Very many thousands of people were disbanded, The monks themselves received pensions, but the homeless peasant dependants took to the roads in sombre, penniless groups or erected makeshift dwellings on some waste common land near their old homes now enclosed, These commututies grew up in the shadow of poverty and crime, and they nurtured their frequent offspring in the hourly menace of the gallows. The disendowment of hospitals was even more injurious to the poor. St Mary Bethlehem, St Thomas of Southwark and St Bartholomew were closed till the end of Henry's reign and the inmates turned loose on the streets. The Beggars' Brotherhood had arrived and the Whip, the Pillory and the Gallows started on their endless work.
Circumstances were not much different from the days of the Sturdy Beggars after the ravages of the Black Death, and vagabondage continued for a hundred years well into Stuart times, Though these religious institutions had been numerous in Yorkshire there were none of any consequence in and about Halifax Parish, which therefore had no homeless proletariat. In the course of the spoliation Thomas Cromwell received from the King the Priory of Lewes including its rights in Halifax Parish, yet the matter of tithes was settled and payment in money in lieu of in kind was agreed upon Incidentally the beautiful Abbey of Lewes in Sussex was ruthlessly destroyed as were many other fine religious houses during the Dissolution, so ruthlessly engineered by Henry VIII and his instrument Thomas Cromwell.
The immediate effect of Thomas Cromwell's visitation and suppression of the monasteries was to spark off the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1537, as the jargon of the day called that foredoomed crusade, when men of the older faith refused to acknwledge the king as supreme head of the Church and rose bravely to protest against destructive reforming zeal. These institutions though not popular in
cities and viewed with jealousy by the secular clergy, the parish priests,
provided in many country districts the only existing charitable and educational
organisations. They were much more lenient landlords than the average
The insurgents were headed by a very remarkable Yorkshireman of good family, a lawyer named Robert Aske with half the nobility and gentry of the North seriously implicated. Apart from the restoration of the monasteries, they sought the removal of "evil councillors", not only such as Thomas Cromwell, who was responsible for the martyrdom of Bishop Fisher and Sir Thomas More, but also the advanced bishops such as Cranmer and Latimer, the remission of the tax granted in 1534 which a commission was collecting: and the repeal of a recent land act which had increased the difficulty of providing younger sons with sufficient endowments.
Over all the North, cities and strongholds, including Pontefract Castle, fe!l into the hands of Aske's followers almost without a blow. Skipton Castle alone held out for the King. With 30,000 well equipped and fairly disciplined troops Aske advanced to the Don, where he was subsequently beguiled and the rising suppressed with executions and hangings freely resorted to. Aske and other honest leaders were executed, and so many were known to have sympathised that it was easy for Cromwell in that age of sneaks and tell-tales to bring suspicion on many a family up and down the country whose estates were confiscated. Incidentally the sons of those sympathisers who survived suffered similarly in their turn when they schemed later that century in the Rising of the North, to remove Elizabeth and to put Mary, Queen of Scots, in her place and restore the Old Faith. These episodes and the Civil Wars of the next century all affected the land-owning families of Yorkshire.
The storm which broke over the Anglican Church when Henry VIII married Anne Boleyn and became Supreme Head in direct opposition to the Pope's authority did not pass over Calder Valley without creating some disturbance.6 On two occasions Royal Commissions visited Heptonstall in search of gain but found lean pickings.7 Neither goods nor plate were available which indicates that the Heptonstall inhabitants were one jump ahead of the King's men! Many chantry chapels were closed in the Halifax Parish such as Coley, Lightcliffe, Rastrick and Sowerby, but the Heptonstall Chapel and Luddenden were allowed to remain open through the influence of the Saviles to meet the needs of the population.
Mention has already been made of feuds between the great barons and their followers, with particular reference to the Elland feud in the Halifax district in the 14th century. There were further serious affrays there in Henry's reign this time between the rival knights Sir Richard Tempest, the steward of the Wakefield manor, and Sir Harry Savile, steward of the honour of Pontefract, who was made a Knight of the Bath at the coronation of Anne Boleyn. There was a fight at Halifax Fair on Midsummer Day 1533 when the deputy bailiff of Halifax and one of Savile's men mortally wounded each other. There were other cases of the bitter enmity between the two parties who now took opposite sides in the great national dispute over the dissolution of the monasteries. Sir Richard Tempest was one of the supporters of the Pilgrimage of Grace, dying later in the Tower, as were his son-in-law and bailiff, John Lacy, and Henry Farrer of Ewood Hall in Midgley Township. Sir Henry Savile and his retinue however joined the royal forces under the Duke of Norfolk at Nottingham where, as stated above, Robert Aske was beguiled by the truce and false promises of redress of grievances.
Meanwhile Dr Holdsworth who had succeeded (Archbishop) Rokeby as vicar of Halifax, took Savile's side, not because he approved of the spoliation of the monasteries but because of the local feud. Just before the truce John Lacy and his adherents looted the Halifax vicarage. Altogether it was looted five times during the Reformation and on the last occasion, in May 1556, the aged priest himself was brutally murdered. The real sigificance of the Dissolution of the Monasteries, not least from the point of view of this narrative, was that it released very extensive areas
of Church land. Not only did Henry's supporters receive by purchase
large grants of the land that became available but the new emergent prosperous
middle class, which Tudor rule begat, was also able to acquire estates. A
vast traffic in land - 'the largest transference of land ownership since Domesday'
was carried on by all classes of society, but the most effectively by the
strongest competitors for survival, successful yeomen, merchants and the
gentry, lesser and greater. Thus came about the rise to dominance of
the new land-owning gentry whose word was law in the English countryside for
centuries to come.8
A study of the Tudor period culminating in the "Spacious times of great Elizabeth" reveals a society in which there is not only an increasing degree of mobility, but in which social classes are also changing their relations. In it the nobility are becoming less important than the gentry as a whole who were going from strength to strength, recruiting considerable elements from the yeomanry. Not that there was any downward trend for the aristocracy even if the gentry were coming up. Both Henrys devoted themselves to subjugating a class which, possessing power. had made such a nuisance of itself in the 15th century Wars of the Roses. Now that it was reduced to submission and was no longer a danger, the Crown could afford to conserve and protect its interests. The aristocracy had to carry immense burdens and charges, to maintain a standard of living with large establishments, to entertain the Queen on her rounds and to serve at Court.
The rise of the gentry was the dominant feature of Elizabethan society. They were extending their hold in almost every parish in the land. At the same time as the yeomen were going up and joining the ranks of the gentry their own class was not exhausted by the process, So also were many freeholders and leasehold tenants becoming prosperous yeoman farmers.9
In the first half of this 16th century economic differences were not yet
reflected in rural standards of housing and domestic comfort. The rich
yeoman's wealth lay in the field, in his crops. The surplus he spent
in adding to his holdings and buying more livestock. He lived like
any husbandman in the same kind of small house in the village street with
a singular absence of comfort, a few pots and pans, a trestle table, a few
stools but no chairs, with straw pallets and boards to lie on and the privy-tub
against a wall.10 Beds were beginning to come in for better-off
yeomen to lie in, but few yet possessed feather beds and hangings.
Solid tables, chairs, carpets and matting appeared in the following century.
Originally all the houses were built of oak for oak trees were plentiful and timber was easier to get and work than stone. The poorer people were housed in very small cabins without any privacy, but none of those miserable one-roomed houses remain for inspection. Nowadays the vast majority of people live in rows of houses. To build a house several pairs of large oak posts or "crooks" were chosen. These were so cut from the tree that they curved inwards from the top. A low stone wall was built for a foundation, with larger stones placed where the posts had to stand. The "'crooks" were reared upright and joined with horizontal beams. This framework of post and beams carried the roof. Until chimneys were built the smoke escaped through a louver in the roof, The spaces between the main timbers of the wall were framed up with oak battens. All this oak framing ,posts, beams and battens makes the black lines in these magpie buildings. However oak does not last for ever, so when the posts began to show signs of decay, it became the custom to build a stone exterior encasing the house.
In Elizabeth's reign (1558 - 1603) there was money now - the purity of the currency was early restored11 for a good many of the gentry in particular to improve their houses and a great period of house buildmg in England began, coinciding with the years in which the same class was making its most extensive purchases of land. There was as yet no sharp line between wage earners andindepndent producers and the number of the latter was surprisingly large in proportio to employees. Tis was a matter of fundamental importance when
one considers the smallness of the population and the abundance of land
available. Hence in a society that was strictly hierarchical and particularly
authoritarian we note that independence of spirit which has nevertheless characterised
English-men throughout their history. From these ranks came Oliver
Cromwell's russet-coats who defeated the flower of the aristocracy when it
came to the test in the following century.12
There is no direct evidence that the rank and file of the West Riding in contrast with their lot in the Civil War of the next century or that any members of the Midgley family for that matter, played any extensive part, however humble, in the stirring events associated with the voyages of discovery and resulting from the rivalry with Spain which culminated in the defeat of the Armada, 1588. They simply pursued the even tenor of their way while the undertakings of Richard Chancellor, Hawkins, Drake, Gilbert, Grenville and Raleigh were manned by the Devonshire "sea-dogs" and other men of the maritime counties of the South. True, Martin Frobisher was a Yorkshireman [born Altofts Hall near Noranton-T.M.] and the Horsfalls of Stansfield sailed with Drake against the Armada, whilst George, third Earl of Cumberland (1558 - 1605), grandson of Clifford, eleventh Lord of Skipton, who took a principal command at the battle of Flodden Field against the Scots in 1513, sailed the high seas as a privateer against the Spaniards, fitting out in all nine expeditions which devoured his revenues.
Mobility was naturally not so conspicuous in moorland parishes and remote upland places such as Midgley, but even here the profits in wool provided the wherewithal to invest their gains in land. It is therefore timely to describe at some length the growth of the woollen industry in the West Riding generally and with particular reference to the Calder Valley.
Land on the Calder uplands was not good for agriculture and the one hope for the farmer lay in the possession of sheep farms and the production of woollen cloth. The making of cloth had been an age long home occupation for each family made itself the cloth it needed for its own clothes. It is not surprising therefore that from early times every farmer was interested in the woollen trade and that the great feature of the district was the development of this industry. There was an abundance of sheep pasture and as there were practically no factories in the area until towards the end of the. 18th century, the whole of the work from clipping the sheep to producing the finished cloth was done on the Calder uplands.
At first the cloth trade of the West Riding was concerned only with the coarser manufactures. 13 The Yorkshire kerseys of Halifax Parish, and of course Bradford, Leeds, Huddersfield and Wakefield, supplied the needs of the common folk, who could not afford the fine broadcloth of the south-western counties, and even attracted customers as far afield as Russia. Wool combing, spinning wheels and websters looms formed part of the equipment of every farmstead. Fulling and dyeing mills were built in different parts of the district and these for the most part gained their power from the steep drop of the hillside streams which drove the water wheels. There were 'tentercrofts' outside each hamlet where the tenter or frame stood on which woollen cloth was stretched and dried. Cloth halls were built at Heptonstall and Halifax and were crowded each market day.
In a world that takes the mechanisation of every process for granted it is hot easy to picture the cloth producers of the days when primitive improvisation was the only tool. The sorting and cleaning of the wool was done by hand; the combing and the carding, now done by elaborate machines, was performed by bent wires on crude wooden frames; drawing and spinning the yarn was originally a woman's task with the spinning wheel and distaff; warping was a tedious hand-labour; and weaving, done by the men on heavy hand-looms, was a day-long and night-long task. They were craftsmen then, skilled to a high degree, rough but capable, with little or no book learning, but shrewd and pungent in their wit, contributing much to that Yorkshire 'character' which is so easy to recognise and so hard to define but which still lingers in the small towns and villages of this textile region.14
From all this activity two distinct classes emerged. There was the
smaller class of market dealers or clothiers who bought raw wool and sold
it as finished cloth. The second and larger class was that of the woolcombers,
spinners, weavers and dyers whom the clothiers supplied with wool and paid
for the various processes of manufacture. The capitalist clothiers
made money rapidly and continually bought up estates for instance in return
for money payments James I surrendered all Crown rights in Erringden to four
During this period also a vast number of guilds were formed in the large towns, which in a broad sense were the forerunners of the present "closed shop" practice. Merchants and craftsmen were grouped into different associations and regulated the trade in their own industry to prevent competition. This did not apply however in Halifax Parish and the Calder uplands where there were no guilds and the woollen industry developed without such restrictions. The cloth was readily disposed of throughout England and abroad at the various long established fairs, and this trade even the great guilds of the Merchant adventurers of London failed to stop. Among such fairs were St Bartholomew's Fair in London and Sturbridge Fair near Cambridge. When Daniel Defoe visited the latter in 1724 he was told that 100,000 pounds worth of woollen manufacture was sold in the Duddery there in a week's time. The Exchange, where cloth was bought and sold in London, was at Blackwell Hall.
Some of the "wide boys" in the West Riding had previously gained notoriety for making inferior clooth but Henry VIII sent commissioners to find and punish those using "flock, chalk, flour and starch" in cloth making. Indeed, in a list of men charged with this offence in the Halifax Parish as many as 182 clothiers. including 62 from Heptonstall, had from half-a-piece to three pieces each condemned. Royal officers known as "ulnagers" were duly appointed to measure and seal pieces of cloth manufactured and to receive a tax (ulnage) levied by the Crown. Cloth was then measured by the ell, an ell (Latin ulna) being 45 inches in length In James I's reign a dispute arose as to the amount of tax being paid, Instead of the old tax of one penny, a tax of five farthings was imposed and later increased to three half pence for each piece, and naturally the clothiers protested. John Farrer of Brearley Hall in Midgley complained of intimidation by agents of the ulnagers who sought to compel the payment of a higher rate of ulnage.
The home making of wollen goods began to grow apace and documents relating
to Midgley Estates refer either to looms or tentercrofts. Almost every
house had a spinning wheel or a loom or both. The making of broadcloth
and kerseys was on such a scale around what is now Midgley Town that a communal
stretchergate was made in the upper part of Cow Lane - against what is now
the bus stop. The upper portion of this lane is six feet wider than
the lower half and, until the present sewerage scheme was introduced, this
stretchergate stood as a raised causeway nearly two feet above the level
of the lane,
Midgley Township owed a great deal of its burgeoning prosperity to the fact that an ancient byway from Whalley Abbey to Wakefield passed through it down Old Lane. This 'long causeway' was followed by the woolmen and their pack-horses as they proceeded from Whalley and Burnley in Lancashire over the Pennine border. Thence it ran past Blackshaw Head and Heptonstall down across Hebden Bridge and up Heights Road, Wadsworth, through Midgley on to Halifax. Throughout the daylight hours pack-horses crossed the uplands of Calder Valley winding their snakelike way slowly along the shoulders of the hills, On market days they were joined by men and women carrying cloth to thee "piece room" in the home of the master clothier, or by those travelling to Halifax and Rochdale to sell their own pieces. Similarly a narrow paved lane was the Magna Via from Halifax to Wakefield. Up and down this way came the monks from Lewes and the early priests of the Parish church. The earls of Warren rode along it to their hunting in Sowerby. Thousands of pack-horses carrying cloth to the Fairs and to London and returning with wool from the Southern counties have worn this paved track
The oollen workers of Calder Vale were often farmers as well as
weavers or clothiers, and they mixed the two industries quite happily.
The hours of labour in field and workshop were long, but men rested on Sundays
and on an indefinite number of Saints' Days. Whenever no outside work
could be done on their small farmsteads, "with at least a cow apiece on the
stony hillsides of Halifax", they worked at their looms. They were
their own carriers too, if the raw wool was not brought on the jagger's ponies
to the weaver's house. Likewise they took the cloth on pony-back to be sold
in the cloth halls previously mentioned which were springing up in all the
West Riding towns. Under the 'domestic system" 16 not only
was the cloth manufactured but also turned increasingly into clothes which
found a ready market at Leeds and Bradford and later led to the establishment
of great clothing industries there.
Daniel Defoe (1659 - 1730) in his book entitled "A Tour through the whole island of Great.Britain" gave a vivid picture of life in the Calder Valley uplands.
|'In the course of our road among the houses we found at every one of
them a little rill of running water, and at every considerable house a manufactury.
The sides of the hills which were very steep everywhere were spread with
houses, for the land was divided into small enclosures from two to seven
acres each, seldom more, every three or four pieces of land had a house belonging
to them. We could see at every house a tenter, and on almost every
tenter a piece of cloth, kersey or shalloon which were three articles of
this country's labour. Though we met few people out of doors,
yet within we saw the houses full of lusty fellows, some at the dye
vat, some at the looms,
others dressing the cloth the women and children were carding; all employed. from the youngest to the oldest, scarce anything above five years old but its hands were sufficient for its own support."
Defoe's record of how he saw cloth drying on tenters round almost
every house in Halifax reminds one of the old Tramps' Litany " From Hull,
Halifax and Hell, good Lord deliver us".17 Hull was known
very early in its h istory as a town of good government. An order of
1599 required each alderman to take account of all vagabonds, idle persons,
sharpers and beggars in each ward and to punish them severely. Incidentally
absentees from divine service on Sundays were also to be punished
The place thus acquired a "bad name" among the easy-going and the tramps of
the time. As regards Halifax the saying referred to the severe laws
against felons in districts where so much valuable property was left readily
accessible under the old domestic system.
Halifax has probably been a centre of the woollen industry longer and more completely than any other town in the West Riding. A rather indistinct carving of a pair of cloth shears in the Parish Church porch marks where a cloth worker was buried as long ago as A. D. 1150 and old manorial records mention 'fullers' and weavers and dyers in Halifax in the 13th century. Before the close of the 15th century Halifax stood first among Yorkshire towns for cloth manufacture, with Ripon its nearest rival.18 Between 1473 and 1475 Halifax sales reached the figure of 1,500 pieces of cloth, whilst Leeds and Bradford sold respectively only 320 and 170 pieces. It held its premier position for more than three centuries.
The Halifax Gibbet Law provided that if a felon was taken with stolen goods to the value of more than thirteen and a half pence in his possession, according to the assessment of four constables, he should be beheaded on the first market day within three days, and, if we are to believe the old chroniclers, heads fell almost as fast in Gibbet Lane as outside the Bastille in Paris. This law was derived from the royalty originally granted by the
King to Earl Warren, as to other great Norman lords, to execute thieves and other criminals caught within the bounds of the manor. When the population amounted to a few score people, no man cared to be branded as a hangman by his neighbours
The Halifax gibbet, however, did not need a hangman for all that was necessary
was to pull out the pin that held the axe aloft. Then it slid down
the grooves of the tall posts on to the culprit's neck. If it was a
case of stealing a horse or a sheep the animal was yoked to the pin
in order to dislodge it.19
In the five years 1645 - 1650 five men were "headed" by the gibbet axe, and after that the local law was abolished. John Breardiffe, who was Constable of Halifax in 1650, wrote an account of the last trial defending what he called the Prudent', Christian and Neighbourly Proceedings." Three men of Sowerby were taken into custody by the Bailiff of Halifax on charges of stealing cloth from tenters in Luddenden Dean and at Brearley Hall, both in Midgley Township, and each of the Constables of Sowerby, Warley, Halifax and Skircoat were required to bring four good men to form the jury.20 Two of the accused were found guilty and executed on 30th April.
In his speech to the Second Protectorate Parliament on 17th September, 1656, Oliver Cromwell referred to the reform of the law:
|"There is one general Grievance of the Nation .... There are wicked and abominable Laws, which it will be in your power to alter. To hang a man for Six-and-eight pence, and I know not what .... this is a thing God will reckon for. This hath been a great grief to many honest hearts and conscientious people; and I hope it is in all your hearts to rectify it.21|
The moral conscience of the nation had been blunted and little was done
to change the scandalous condition of the criminal law, though in effect juries
became reluctant to convict for petty offences when conviction might cost
the offender his life. At the beginning of the 19th century for no
fewer than 200 offences the death penalty could still be legally inflicted,
but during Sir Robert Peel's tenure of the Home Office in the 1820s one hundred
felonies were removed from the category of capital offences and the death
penalty could no longer be pronounced, much less enforced, except upon offenders
convicted of serious crime.
Before the end of Elizabeth's reign, as will now have been appreciated, the profits from the woollen trade enabled West Riding farmers and merchants to command the ready money wherewith to secure small estates from the older yeomanry and gentry who had lands but no great amount of capital.22 Not a few families had younger sons in business as lawyers and merchants in London and Hull who became immensely wealthy. They could now afford to lead the life of gentlemen. There are many Latin deeds of transfer and feoffment of record in this later 16th century 'in his fine handwriting as usual of lawyer Midgley. The Midgleys were the greatest Conveyancers of theof these parts of Airedale and Calderdale for many years, and wrote a beautiful hand.23 In those days writing was a rare accomplishment and moreover few people could read.
The process of climbing up to the degree of gentleman,24 and
bringirig up the children accordingly, was at first more marked a feature
of the home counties, those nearest London, in Elizabeth's time, and only
later spread more widely in remoter counties, such as the West Riding of Yorkshire.
Here they did not as a rule aspire to the lesser or greater aristocracy but
were generally one-manor men, the head of the house signing himself proudly
"esquire". 'Gentility is nothing but ancient riches' wrote Lord Burghley
in his precepts to his son. No nonsense about blue blood, or the status
of a caste, and one admires the good common sense of it.
The rise of the gentry is interestingly reflected in the growth of heraldry and the corresponding importance of the College of Arms. Henry VIII was a great patron. He was prodigal of arms to his wives though he deprived them of their heads He loved a full shield, so like a Renaissance prince, though before that time simplicity characterised the arms of the nobility. The Dissolution of the monasteries led to the idea of the heraldic visitations of the country, verifying grants of arms and recording pedigrees. Hitherto the
monasteries had been the repositories of genealogical concerns.
The fondness of nobility and gentry for everything relating to heraldry, and the mob of people pressing in an advancing society for grants of arms, brought great prosperity to the College. An Act of 1566 confirmed it in its privileges and regulated its orders. Under Elizabeth there was a conscious attempt, in keeping with the Queen's determination to maintain a conservative social order, to control the traffic and keep it within bounds. By proclamation she forbade the inferior gentry to assume the title of esquire, while those who had no pretensions to arms by descent were commanded not to use them unless legally procured from the College.25 Nevertheless the traffic went merrily forward, providing evidence of the increasing wealth of people who could support the rank and live like gentlemen. Nor were there wanting people who lived by dealing illegally in arms and making pedigrees, but these were written down as "ignobilis" on the heralds' visitations.
2. Not entirely for dynastic ambitions and military plunder, but also to keep open the market for her wool and cloth trade in Flanders and France. The tribute and plunder of France had revolutionised the primitive economy of the English feudal household.
3. Caxton's improved methods of printing, even using woodcut illustrations, began to turn out more books in a month than was done in years by the tedious script of monks and was bringing the world's literature within the reach of all.
4. Before and after the futile Field of the Cloth of Gold 1520.
Henry VIII was also guilty of debasing the coinage.
5. The Tudor monarchy was popular because it was strong and could "bridle stout noblemen and gentlemen", stop the terrorising of honest folk and the corruption and intimidation of the law courts. Simon Fish's pamphlet "The Supplication of the Beggars" had been read by Henry.
6. Anne came to Court in 1522. Henry married her in December 1532 or Jan. 1533- Act of Supreme Head 1534. Anne was executed on 19th May, 1536. She had borne Henry a daughter [Elizabeth] and a still-born son.
7. Earlier that century Gilbert Brooksbank, a Heptonstall priest, was killed by one of Sir Richard Tempest's officers because he had displeased the great man in some way.
8. If Henry had not been bankrupt, he might never have dissoved the monasteries at all, or he might have kept all their lands and tithes for the Crown, or he might have given more of their wealth to education and charity, had not his financial needs been so pressing. As it was he founded Trinity College on a larger scale than any other at Cambridge. G.M. Trevelyan - Chap. V.
9. A.L. Rowse "The Englandof Elizabeth" - Chap VI Social Classes.
10. The humble farmstead comprised in line abreast a small living room, barn and cattle-house i.e. a housebody, laithe, and mistal related to the Norse winterhouse. In Ayrshire on 18.7.1968 I inspected the humblest crofter's house of this design where Robert Burns was born. The hoyusebody later varied in dimensions according to the needs and status of the occupants. Of course large blocks of flats are now features of large industrial towns.
11. In Sept.1560 Elizabeth called on the existing currency of debased coins of her father's reign.
12. While the English custom of primogenitature forbade the younger sons to live on the family estate, they were not forbidden, like the children of noble families on the Continent, to seek their fortunes in commerce. It must be remembered that there was a leaven among the Parliamentary town forces of the sons of gentlemen brought up in manor houses of the countryside.
13. About the middle of the 18th century the finer worsted trade found its way into the West Riding through a family called Horsfall who had estates at Haworth and Denholme, and at first took hold at Halifax, where Samuel Hill of Making Place in Soyland set out to capture it.. Under the Domestic System the yarn was laboriously spun by hand a single thread at a time. With the mechanical inventions of the 18th century the workmen moved into the factory towns.
14. For centuries the making of cloth occupied man's daily thoughts. English literature and common speech aquired many phrases and metaphors borrowed from the manufacture of cloth, such as thread of discourse, spin a yarn, unravel a mystery, web of life, fine-drawn, homespun, tease, while all unmarried women were put down as spinsters.
15. The descendants of clothiers, who purchased old lands with new money, or of the richer yeomen who "gentletised" their sons were sooner or later accepted into the circle of families, many of whom had risen in the same way after the Black Death or the fall of the monasteries. A poor gentleman was sometimes glad to save his estate by marrying his sons to the dowries which a wealthy yeoman could provide for his daughters. See G.M. Trevalyn.
16. The various workmen in their own homes owned their own tools and plant. The clothier of course had to provide the warehouse.
17. H.J. Scott p. 179. Defoe wrote part of Robinson Crusoe while staying
at the Rose and Crown in Halifax.
"There is a Proverb, and a prayer withal,
That we not to three strange places fall:
From Hull, from Halifax, from Hell 'tis thus,
From all these three, good Lord deliver us".
John Taylor 'A very-merry-wherry-ferry voyage'.
18. In a quaint little shop in Ripon I bought a copy of Saxton's map of Yorkshire 1577.
19. The Halifax gibbet was one of the precursors of the French guillotine. Alister Kershaw p.21, T.W. Hanson p.29
20. England has given to the world her heritage of political and religious liberty as we shall indicate in subsequent pages. She has bequeathed to all English-speaking peoples not only her love of freedom, but the safeguards for its preservation. Among these priceless legacies the right of trial by jury is the most valuable and of all things in England, the most English.. Trial by jury is the trial of a citizen by his fellow citizens. In them and them alone is vested the supreme power of determining the guilt or innocence of the accused. No judge can pronounce sentence until a jury has first spoken. If the verdict is "Not guilty", no matter what a judge may think, the prisoner must go free. Rather a guilty man escape, than an innocent man be hanged. The Jury System, long debilitated and enervated by exemptions in our Republic, has now been abolished, rightly or wrongly depending upon one's point of view.
21. Letters and Speeches edited by Thomas Carlyle in the Minerva Library of Famous Books.
22. After the loss of Calais in Mary's reign 1558, England was left with the ancient trade routes of Bruges and Antwerp in the Netherlands until Granville and Alva forbade the English to sell their cloth there. This meant finding markets farther afield. By a seies ofdeceptions and political opportunism Elizabeth was was fortunately enabled to avoid involvement in the Continent for most of her long reign.
23. Horsfall Turner p.238. The numbers of lawyers who had made their fortunes were perpetually recruiting the ranks of the landed gentry, even more so than clothiers.
24.Some scholars from Halifax Parish in the 16th century noted by T.W. Hanson are these two: Henry Savile, who was born at Bradley Hall in Stainland in 1549, was Greek tutor to Queen Elizabeth, and Henry Briggs of logarithms fame and a Savilian professor at Oxford, was born at Daisy Bank near Mytholmroyd in 1561.
25. Shakespeare took an early opportunity of success in London to sue out
a coat of arms for his father, impaling those of his mother's family, the
Ardens. He diplays his usual wise acceptance of the arrangements of society.
The real hero of "King John" is the honest gentleman, the bastard Faulconbridge.:
through him speaks the English soil. Read also the dispute between the two
brothers in "As You Like It" Act I, scene I. A.L. Rowse, page 281.
More can be found out in his plays about the real relations between the sexes,
the position and character of Elizabethan women. The letters of the 17th
century show wives and daughters as intelligent advisers of their menfolk.
In reality the majority of women were treated but little the better despite the new ideal. Woman was still a chattel to be treated brutally or fondly according to the whims of men. For instance the "ducking-stool" was for long evidently a favorite instrument in use, judging by the expense account of the Constable of Calverly 1728, for correcting 'scolds', as was the whip for those of the other sex. The ducking-stool appears to be of Saxon origin and consisted of a chair or stool on which the offender was placed and by the use of a long pole was let down into the water as a punishment for her vixenish propensities.
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