The London Lobbies in the Later Sixteenth Century

by Ian Archer
The London Lobbies in the Later Sixteenth Century
Ian Archer
The Historical Journal
Start Page: 
End Page: 
Select license: 
Select License

The Historical Journal, 31, I (1988), pp. 17-44 Printed in Great Britain


Givton College, Cambridge

Historians of Tudor government have tended to write about the relationship between rulers and ruled in terms of the ability of central government to impose on the localities things which they did not want, in particular the Reformation and taxes to fight wars. Students of the localities have written in terms of the local obstructions in the way of the enforcement of central directives.' Students of parliament have examined that institution in terms of its power to block government initiatives.' Students of the institutions of central government have explored their subject in tams of the degree of 'bureaucratic' development exhibited by these institutions, in other words, how well suited they were to the task of efficient government."ut there is another aspect to the functioning of Tudor government, and that is the ways in which subjects could secure their own objectives by use of its machinery. Recent research has begun to provide some insight into this neglected topic. It is axiomatic to revisionist writing on parliament that parliament was primarily concerned with legislation, and that legislation was as much a matter for localities and interest groups as it was for the crown.9iarmaid ~MacCulloch and Stephen Kershaw have pointed to the ways in which local communities turned to the central courts, and even the privy council, for support against aggressive landlordi~m.~

The accessibility of parliament, the council and the law courts, it may be argued, was a major factor behind the stability of English society in this period, offering a variety of fora within which redress of grievances might be pursued.

This paper treats the dealings of the London livery companies with parliament in the broader context of the pursuit of redress in other fora.

I would like to thank Dr G. \V. Bernard, Dr D. 14. Dean, Ds J. S. Morrill, and Dr P. H. \Villiams for their comments on eal-lier drafts of this article.
Haigh, Rejbrrnation aud resistance in Tudor Lancnshire (Cambridge, 1975) ; A. Hassell Smith, County and court: goz'ernment aud politics in .brfolk, 138-,603 (Oxford, 1974 I ; P. \Villiams, 'The crown and the counties', in C. Haigh (ed.'~,The reign of Elizabeth I :London, 19841, pp. I 25-46,
J. E. Neale, Elizabeth I and her parliamer~ts :I vols., London, 1953-7).

C. Coleman and D. Starke) (eds.), Reuoltitior~ ~eassessed: reuisiotis in tile histor~l of Titdor gorel?inierit

and adnzinistmtion (Oxford, I 986'1.
QG. (Cambridge, 1986 I

R. Elton, The pat.liamer2t of England rjj&rj81

D. MacCulloch, Suffolk and the Tudors: politics i211d religiou in or2 E~iglish coiozg, rgoo-1600 (Oxford, 1986'1, pp. 3"-3% S. Kershaw, 'The earl of Shsewsbury and the Glossopdale disputes', unpublished paper.



Although revisionists have emphasized the importance of local bills, there has been relatively little study of local bills in their local contexts to determine their relationship to grievances. Moreover their studies remain rather preoccupied with parliament as an institution in itself rather than with parliament as a part of government. Grievances are pursued from one parliament to another, but little effort made to explore activity in the intervals between session^.^ This is partly because of the difficulties of pursuing companies through the tangle of Tudor government, in particular because the chance discovery of fragments of evidence can easily alter one's interpretation of particular episodes. But the approach is essential because this was the way in which the companies approached 'government '. Councillors and courtiers, for example, could influence the outcome of suits both in parliament and the law courts. If redress was not obtained in one arena another could be tried. Failure in parliament was not necessarily the end of the road; prerogative solutions to company problems were a possibility.

An example is provided by the workings of the Vintners' lobby in the 1560s. The Vintners were seeking the repeal of a statute of 1553 which had imposed a ceiling on wine prices and limited the number of taverns in London to forty.' An attempt to repeal the statute in the session of 1566-7 failed, the bill being rejected at its third reading in the house of lords.8 But it is important to appreciate that the parliamentary campaign had been preceded by a suit for the renewal of the company's licence from the crown exempting members of the company from the operation of the statute, and that the failure in parliament was followed by a grant of the required licence, secured by careful attention to the earl of Leicester and his client, one Ellis who played a pivotal role in the negotiations.~oubtless a statutory solution would have been preferred because the prerogative solution left the company at the mercy of the crown's good pleasure and a potential target for courtiers on the make. But study of suits in parliament without reference to their full context will only succeed in exaggerating their futility. \Vorking in the broader context we might arrive at a subtler appreciation of the role played by company lobbying.

The local dimension is lacking in the most recent general treatment: hi. A. R. Gravcs, T11e Tudor parliaments :C~OZL'II, For studies of individual

Lords and Conzmons, 1485-1603 (London, I 98 5'1. pieces of legislation see G. R. Elton, 'Piscatorial politics in the eal-1) parlia~nents of Elizabeth I), in N. McKendrick and R. B. Outhwaite {eds.), Bit~iness/@ and piihlic polig: essays ill honour of

D. C. Colerrzan (Cambridge, 1986),pp 1-20; and D. hi. Dean, 'Public or private? London,

leather and legislatio~l in Elizabethan England', forthcomi~lg in the Histolicnl Jozi~~znl. Statutes of the Realm [S.R.], IV,7Ed. \'I, C. 5.

E. Green, 'The Vintners' lobby, I 552-1 568', Guildliall Studies in LOII~OJZHistofy, I {1974), 47-58;Conzmons Journals [C.3.1, I, 76, 7 7, 78;Lords Joitrnals [L. 3.1.I, 65I, 65% 63 ;Public Record Office [P.R.O.], SP 12/41/34;fos. 68-71For Cecil's arguments against the bill see ibid. 41/58, fos. I~I-~v,tentatively dated to I 581by Tawney and Power, but clearly relating to the I 566bill. Cf. R.H. Tawney and E. Power leds.), Tudor econonlic docunlents [T.E.D.] (3vols., London, 1924), 11, 124-7.

Calendar of patent rolls, Elzzabeth, III, 316;IV,128-9;Guildhall Library [G.L.], YIS 15333/1, pp 460, 483-9, 508-1 I.

The basic objectives of the lobbying of the companies were the maximum degree of control over their trades, the elimination of outside interference, and the maximization of employment prospects for members. Thus they sought to tighten restrictions on competitors, to defend the company against outside challenges, whether from prospective patentees, or from restrictions imposed in the name of the 'commonweal', and to limit exports of raw materials and semi-finished goods, or to discourage imports. In the pages which follow I shall elaborate on these basic aims, drawing initially on the evidence from their parliamentary campaigns, and then showing how this activity was comple- mented by the pursuit of prerogative solutions.

The largest number of bills promoted by the companies aimed to extend their control over those pursuing the trade who were not free of the company. They hoped to solve the problems arising from the custom of London and from the competition of non-free labour.1° Some of these bills simply prohibited persons not free of the company from practising the craft. Thus the Cutlers' bill of 1566-7 prohibited non-members from making swords and rapiers within a radius of three miles from the city," while in 1584-5 both the Curriers and Stationers promoted bills with similar provisions.12 Although we lack details of the 1601 bill to 'to restrain the multitude of idle people which flock to London', it was promoted by the merchant Tailors' Company whose artisans were agitating for the expulsion of all foreigners from the city, and to judge from the hostility of the house of commons its provisions were similarly sweeping.13 Other companies were more selective in their targets. A bill promoted by the Skinners' Company in 1566 included a clause prohibiting tailors from practising as skinners and furring garrnent~.~"imilarl~ the Painters' bills of 1597-8, 1601 and 1604 were directed against plasterers who had taken up the use of oil colours which the Painters claimed were proper to their own company members.15 Rather than banning the practice of the craft by those outside the company, others attempted to bring all engaged in the

lo These issues receive extended treatment in my forthcoming Oxford D. Phil. dissertation, 'Governors and governed in late sixteenth-century London, c. 1560-1603: studies in the achievement of stability '.

l1 C.J., I, 75; Calendar of state papers domestic, adderzda, 156679, p. 19.

l2 House of Lords Record Office [H.L.R.O.], Main Papers, 1582-1585, fos. 72 ff; Trinit) College Dublin [T.C.D], 14S 9.2.12, fo. 81. I have consulted Miss Helen Millel.'s transcripts of this diary at the History of Parliament Trust, and am grateful both to her for permission to use the transcript, and to P. TV. Hasler for his llospitality at the Trust.

l3 H. Townshend, Historical collectior~s, 1212 e.xi2ct acco~irzt of the lost foitrj1nrlii2mel1ts of Elizabetll :16801, pp. 206-7; Merchant Tailors' Company [R.I.T. Co.], Court Minutes [C.R.I.] III, fos. 439v, 440v, 441; V, PP 1-4.

l"C.J., I, 77; P.R.O., SP 12/41/18, fos. 35-6.

l5 S. D'Ewes, Thejoitrnals ofall thepnrliamenfs d~crillg the reign of Q~tee11 Eliinheth (16821, p. 571 :for

1597); Townshend, Historici21 collectiorzs, pp. 191, 245, 270; L.J., 11, 248, 255, 257-8; T.E.D., I,

136-40; H.L.R.O., Main Papers, 1597-1607, fos. 85-91 (for 1601) ; L.J., 11, 292, 294, 295, 297,

299, 305; C.J., I, 228, 239, 246; S.R., IV, I Jac.1, c. 20 :for 1604)


trade under their wing. In 1601 the Brewers promoted a bill 'for the reducing of those which be brewers within two miles of London into the said Company','' and the Clothworkers a bill to bring merchant-tailor cloth- workers into their company."

Another group of bills sought to give statutory sanctions to the search, and to give it greater definition than was provided by company ordinances. The Blacksmiths' and Armourers' companies competed for control of tlie recently established manufacture of calivers. A bill promoted by the Blacksmiths in 1572 required that all guns made within the city be marked by tlie manufacturer and that none set up in gunmaking unless licensed by 'certeync of' the science'." Another bill for 'true makinge proving and marking of calivers muskettes and small ordynaunce' was listed among the bills not read in 1576,'"he Armourers promoted their own measure in 1581 requiring the marking of all guns by the wardens of the Armourers' and Joiners' companie~.~" The Waxchandlers sought the search of drceitful wax made within a radius of forty miles from London with authority to burn what they judged to be deceitful." A successful bill in I 581 achieved these objectives, though without giving the company the arbitrary powers it had initially hoped for, by laying down standards for wax which it was open to the company to '4 statute of 1589 empowered the Coopers' Company to gauge imported casks giving them some sanction against the continental competition of substandard casks.23 Other bills sought to regulate the quality of raw materials, for producers often felt themselves to be at the mercy of unscrupulous dealers. Fcltmakers accused the iniporters of Spaiiish wools of mixing adulterated ~~ools concerning Spanish

with the good and of giving short weigl~t.2~ills ~vools in the sessions of 1563 and 1566-7 probably related to these abuses, although we have no direct evidence as to their content^.^' Certainly the feltmakers were campaigning for a patent in the later seventies which would have subjected imported wools to searcl~.~' A group of bills promoted by the Brewers' Company sought to maintain the quality of malt and hops. In 1581 they petitioned for rights of search over imported hops, and in 1584-5 obtained the revival of an Edwardian statute regulating malt making."

Another area of company endeavour lay in suits designed to maximize

l6Townshend, Historicnl collections. pp. 236, 332; G.L., &IS 5445/11, 3 Dec. 1601.

l7 Townshend, Historical collections, pp. 210, 222, 322; Clothworkers' Company [Cw. Co.],

C.M., 111, fo. 218.

ITT,E. Hartley {rd.!, Proceedir~gs in finrliar~~et~t in [he reign cf Elirabetlz I. :tol. I: rj5p1581

[Leicester, 1981,, pp. 372, 385, 388; P.R.O., SP 15/21/40, fo. 72; G.L., XIS 12065/2, foliated

from rear, fo. 27~.

l9 P.R.O., SP 12/1o;/jg, fo. 132, " Hartley (ed.1, P~oceeiiings,p. 530.

" Ibid. pp. 313, 384, 385, 4.02 " 2.R.. IV, 23 Eliz. I, c. 8.

23 Ibid. 31 Eliz. I, C. 8, renewed in subsequent parliarne~lts; G.L., AIS 5bob/2, fos. I 52-3,

192'-v. '"B.L., Lansdow~~e

X'IS 29/23, fos. 53-4.
25 C.J., I; 68; 71, 72, 77.
26 B.L.. La~lsdownr XISS 28/28-31, fos. 63-71; 29/23-27. fos. 53-61.

27 Hartlry (ed.), Proce~dings,pp. 531, 541, 547; L.3..11: qg, 50; C.L.K.O.. Rep. 20. fo. 184~;

G.L., LIS 5445/7, 9 FAb.1585; S.R.. IV, 27 Eliz. I, c. 14.

employment for members, usually either by curbing exports of raw materials or semi-finished products, or by restricting imports. The Pewterers were behind a series of bills to restrict the export of raw tin in the mid-Tudor parliaments, and again in 1593. They alleged that continental manufacturers were using English tin mixed with lead in products which they passed off as English goods.28 In other cases it was probably less the fears of continental competition than the immediate domestic consequence of increased raw material costs which lay behind the bills. A series of statutes banned the export of leather, hides and sheep skins reflecting anxieties about the rising cost of leather." The precise origins of these measures are difficult to establish from the surviving company records which are thin for the leather crafts lvhence many probably derived. Certainly the crafts were anxious to maintain these laws as their petitioning against licences to export the prohibited commodities indicate^.^' The employment of the long-form-enacting clause which Elton and Dean have established as an indication of unofficial origin, would appear

. .

to confirm the origin of the measures of 1559 and 1572 with sectional

interest^.^' The most important of the measures to restrict imports was the statute of 1563 which outlawed the import of specified haberdashery wares. Also bearing the long-form-enacting clause this statute probably originated with the crafts mentioned in its preamble.3%estrictions on the import of guns and pins were features of the bills promoted by the Blacksmiths in 1572 and by the Pinners in I jg7-8.33 Another approach to the maximization of employment opportunities lay in measures designed to ensure that the product remained in frequent use. Into this category fall a statute of 1571 requiring the wearing of woollen caps on Sundays34 and bills demanding the statutory use of pewter pots for drinking beer in 1566-7 and 1~93.~~

The Xrmourers sought to modify the outdated provisions of the 1558 Arms Act by substituting corslets and calivers for the now antique almain rivets and arquebuses which the existing law required for those assessed at more than £10 in the subsidy books. Their bill of 1584-5 included a provision to this effect, and the bill of 1597-8 'for the amendment of the statut for fyndeing of Armor' was probably similar in nature. The measure of I 584 also included a clause reviving the midsummer watches in the city to provide work for arm~urers.~~

" C.J.,1,1,2(for1547),8(forFeb.~jqg), 12(forNov. 15491, 18,19,20,21;L.J.,1,418,421 (for 1552); Corporation of London Records Ofice [C.L.R.O.], Repertory of the Court of Aldermen [Rep.] 13, fo. g4v (for 1553:; H.L.R.O., Main Papers, 27 Mar.-g Xpr. 1,593, fos. I 19-24 (for 1593). Expenditure on all the bills is recorded in the company's accounts; G.L., L'lSS 708612, fos. 12or-v, 128, 136, 154"-6, 176~;708613, fo. 179.

" S.R.,IV,I Eliz. 1,c. 1o;5Eliz. 1,c. 22; 14Eliz. 1,c.q; 13Eliz. 1,c.g.

30 See pp 3e3 I below.

31 G. R. Elton, 'Enacting clauses and legislative initiative, I 559-7 I ', Bulletin oJ the Institiile Historical Research [B.I.H.R.], LIII I 1980), 183-91 ; D, 1'1. Dean; 'Enacting clauses and legislative

initiative, 1584-1601 ', B.I.H.R., LVII (19841, 140-8, " S,R.,1v,5Eliz. 1,c. 7.

33 Hartley (ed.), Proceedings, p. 372 ; Historical R.Ianuscripts Commission [H.R.I.C.], Fourth

Report, p. 116; L.J., 11, 219.

3"S.R., IV, 13 Eliz. I, c. 19.

35 G.L., MS 708612, fo. 287; H.L.R.O., Main Papers, 27 Mnl-g .Apr. 1593, fos 119-2.$.

36 G.L., 14s 12071/2, p. 480; P.R.O., SP 12/8/2, fo. 3; G.L.. R.IS 12071/2, P. 609.


The most persistent lobby was undoubtedly that of the Clothworkers. Their aim was to reduce the export of undressed cloth which formed the bulk of the Merchant Adventurers' exports to the Low Countries and Germany. Earlier measures outlawing the export of undressed cloths above certain prices had been evaded by the grant of licences to the merchant Adventurers and to courtiers who sold their interest to the Ad~enturers.~'

In 1566-7 after intensive lobbying the company secured a statute requiring the dressing of every tenth cloth exported and banning all export of undressed Suffolk and Kentish cloths.38 This was fiercely resisted both by the Adventurers and the provincial manufacturers who sought in subsequent parliaments to repeal it. I11 1571 the Adventurers put in a bill 'for repeale of clotheworkers within the realme'.39 In 1571parliament also considered a proposal for the watering down of the provisions of the 1566-7 statute with regard to the export of undressed Kent and Suffolk cloths, in I 581 a measure that 'Suffolke and Kentish cloths may be carried over as other clothes be', and in 1584-5 a bill 'put in by the Suffolk men' to allow the export of undressed Suffolk cloths valued at over L5. 10s.~' Bills to revise the price ceilings below which undressed cloth might be exported in line with inflation provided another point of friction between merchants and artisans." But the parliamentary campaigns of the Cloth- workers after 1566-7 were not entirely defensive. In the first place they promoted measures designed to improve the enforcement of their statute. A bill in I 57 I 'to have the old lawe enlardged, and a greater paine' was one such measure." Later bills in 1581and 1589sought to give statutory authority to the letters patent of 1576which had empowered company representatives to inspect waterborne packs of cloth to determine whether the provisions of the statute had been observed by the merchants." Secondly, the company sought to extend the cloth dressing provisions by increasing the proportion of cloths to be dressed. Thus a bill in 1581 required that one fifth of the white Devonshires exported and half the kerseys should be dressed." The artisans may have co-operated with John Hastings' proposals in the session of 1584-5 for a phasing out of undressed cloth exports to the point at which equal proportions of dressed and undressed cloth would be exported. The bill vested

37 G. D. Ramsay, 'Industrial discontent in early Elizabethan Londo11: Clothworkers and Merchant Adventurers in conflict', London Journal, I (19751, 227-39.

38 S.K., IV, 8 Eliz. I, C. 6.

39 C.J., I, go; Hartley (ed.'~, Proceedi~zgs,p. 253.

40 Ibid. pp. 253, 545; T.C.D., 14s N.2.12, fos. 73, 74~; CW. CO., IVardens' Xccou~lts [IV.h.],

1584-5, fo. gv. "B.L., Cotton MS Titus FII, fa. 3ov; Calendar of state papers domestic, 1591-q, p. 321 ;Hatfield MSS 139/299, 13g/307; CW. CO., IV.X., 1592-3, fa. 8~ (for 1593) ;C.J., I, 155; P.R.O., SP I j/ 43& fos. 98-9


:for 16oql. Hartley (ed.), Proceedings, p. 208; C.L.R.O., Rep. 17, fos. 129~-30. 43 Calendar ofjxztent rolls, Elizabeth, VII, 22-3; CW. CO., \V. A,, I 580-1, fos. 8v-9; L.J., 11, 161, 163 (bill for co~lfirmatio~l of the letters patent of 18 Eliz.~; P.R.O., SP I~/Z~/IOI,

fos. 266-267~ (bill that 'the act of 8 El. be put in execucion any licence or restrainte to the contrar) notwithstanding ').

"Hartley (ed.), Proceedings, pp. 531, 533

powers of search in the company and was certainly in the best interests of the artisans." Thirdly there were several bills which sought to extend the provisioils for Suffolk and Kent cloths to all coloured cloths wherever produced on the grounds that since the making of the statute the manufacture of coloured cloths had spread to other counties. Bills to this effect were promoted in 1604 and 1606, and probably also in 1589." Such vigorous lobbying though unsuccessful in achieving its declared objectives nevertheless neutralised the efforts of the company's opponents.

Another common theme of the company lobbying was the effort to improve control over raw materials by curbing the activities of middlemen. The Tallow Chandlers' bill in 1566-7 against the engrossing of tallow should be seer1 in the context of the continual disputes between the chandlers and the butchers owr the sales of tallow by the latter." The Butchers were frequently accused of taking advantage of their control over tallow supplies by sending tallow out of the city, allowing its use in soap manufacture, and worse still, by exporting it. Their activities coiltributed to the increased cost of tallow in the city and made it inore difficult for the Tallow Chandlers to keep thc assize required by the aldermen.48 The Carpenters' Company doubtless lay behind the 1593 bill against wharfingers who engrossed timber coming to the city." The Skinners sought on several occasions to eliminatc non-practising skinners from the trade in skins. In the session of I 566-7 they promoted a bill proposing that no pedlar should sell any otter, fox or fitchet skins to any persons but skinners and furriers.50 Thereafter the Skinners were quiescent until the end of the century when the agitation broke out afresh. The practising skinners claimed that the trade in skins was now monopolized by the merchants of the Eastland Company who employed factors in the country to engross and forestall skins. Their skins were oftcn dressed by non-free skinners, and sometimes sold to alien merchants. Worse still, the skinners claimed that often they hacl to buy their skins from the m~rchants.~'

Bills in 1604 and 1606, the latter successfully, sought to curb mercantile involvement in the trade. The 1604 mcasure proposed that no one export skins unless they had been bought from a skinner, while chapmen in the country were only to sell to free skinners. These clauses, which if implemerited would have given the skinners a monopoly position, were qualified by a proviso allowillg the unrestrained export of grey coney skins and lamb skins provided that they were purchased 'merchantlike and in

46 'S.C.D.,RilS S.2.12, h.76; P.R.O., SP 12/175/1q, fo. 20.

4".,7.. 11, 161, 163; P.R.O., SP 1j/24/1o1, fos. 266-7v (for 1589) ;C.-7.,I, 160, 165 ,for 1604'' ; H.M.C., House ofLords, XI, 100-1; P.R.O., SP 14/20/9, fos. 24-8: C.,j., I, 273, 285, 208. 291; L.J., 11, 408, 409-10, 433-4 (for 1606).

47 C.j.,I, 74; G.L., MS 615211, fos. 137v, 139~.


C.L.R.O., Rep. 15, fos. 63, 65, 66, 4.40, .ljgv, 468v, 47 7; Rep. 16, fos. 42v, 3 jov; Journal of Common Council W.C.C.] 20, fos. 126~-7. 'W.L.R.O., Main Paprrs, 26 Feb.-24 SIar. I 593, fos. 74-6; D'Ewes, Joio~znls, pp. 518,

520. j0 P.R.O., SP 12/41/18, fob. 35-36. '' B.L., Cotton >IS Titus FIV, fo. 305; E. Veale, Tli? E?izIi,h Jl7-/,ndr in the Intr, mziJdlle (Ips

(Oxford, 1966), pp. I 77-80.


gross'." The attempt to confine the merchants to 'merchantlike' dealings lay at the core of the successful 1606 bill which laid down a minimum size on individual purchases in the hope of cutting out merchant dealings with the producers and petty chapmen.53

A final concern of the parliamentary activity of the London companies was the removal or prevention of irksome restrictions on production or trade introduced in the name of the commonwealth. The Vintners' campaign against the 1553 statute has already been mentioned. That other bulwark of the drink lobby, the Brewers' Company, as an unpopular group dominated by aliens and thought to be profiteering at the expense of the poor, was particularly vulnerable to such attempts at legislation. During the first half of the reign Common Council passed a series of acts designed to ensure supplies of cheap beer. The outlawing of so-called 'double double' beer was supposed to ensure that the most intoxicating and expensive of beverages were not available to the poor, while also limiting the consumption of grain. Brewers were to confine themselves to the production of single and double beer sold at prices set by the aldermen under the powers vested in them by a statute of 1532, and they were to ensure that their barrels were full on deliver-Y.'~ These measures were followed up by a series of bills in parliament. The parliamentary diarist Cromwell describes a bill in 1572 'restraining the bruing of double double ale or doble double beere within the Citie or iij miles thereof, and no beere to be sould above 4s. the barrel1 the strongest, and 2s. the single beere'.55 Another bill, the precise contents of which are unknown, followed in I 576. Its promotion by Thomas Cure, queen's saddler and hl.P. for Southwark and 'Mr. Joans late purveyor' indicates the dual source of the measures against the brewers in the dangerous combination of the corporation and the royal ho~sehold.~~

The text of measures promoted in I 584-5 and 1593 survive, the former in the company archives and the latter at the House of Lords Record Office. These bills attempted to tackle one of the weaknesses of the Henrician legislation, namely that there had been no precise regulations as to the quality of beer to be produced. They therefore laid down the number of barrels of each type of beer and ale the brewers were to produce from each quarter of grain, and gave the aldermen authority to assess prices according to the price of malt.57 All these measures were opposed by the vigorous lobbying of the company which played on the threat to the royal customs revenue that would result if only beer of the strengths suggested by the aldermen were brewed.5R The Coopers also found themselves adversely

52 B.L., Cotton MS Titus FIV, fos. 303-4; C.J., I, 189, 214, 233, 235, 237.

'"B.L., Cotton MS Titus FIV, fos. 305-7": L.J., 11, 388, 389, 399, 416. 417, 418; C.3.. I, 301. 304;S.R.,1~:3Jac. 1,c. 9.

54 C.L.R.O., J.C.C. 17, fo. 258; J.C.C. 18, fo. 271; J.C.C. 19, ~OS. 144~-j~,


55 Hartley (ed.),Proceedings, p. 387.

j6 Ibid. pp. 486, 487, 489; G.L., MS 544214, I 575-6 acct.

j7 G.L., MS 544517, g Feb. 1585; H.L.R.O., Main Papers, 2; Mar.-g Apr. 1593, fos.

I I 1-16.

58 G.L., hfSS 544215, 1584-5 acct., 1592-3 acct.; 544519, Apr. 1593.

affected by the Henrician legislation, and promoted bills in 1563 and 1566-7, on the latter occasion successfully, to repeal the provisions of the 1532 Act which had fixed the prices of casks, now rendered unrealistic by increases in the cost of materials. Henceforth prices were to be assessed by the local authorities5'

Other companies found themselves the victims of legislation directed against middlemen. The woolmen of London whose activities included the sale of wool to cappers and hatmakers in the city were hamstrung by a statute of 1552 which had restricted purchases of wool to cloth manufactures and the Merchants of the Staple. The Woolmen's Company promoted bills in 1563 and 1571 to secure their dispensation from the statute.60 The Curriers likewise fought hard to secure the repeal of that section of the I 563 Leather Act which had prevented them from buying leather for resale, introducing bills to this effect in I 566-7, 1576, I 584-5, 1586-7 and 1589, all of which measures were equally vigorously resisted by the Cordwainers' C~rnpany.'~

A special case is that of the Fishmongers who in 1581 became the victims of legislation against the import of foreign cured fish promoted by the Yarmouth herring fishing interest, a rare case of the victory of the provinces over the well-organized London lobbies and one achieved by the clever exploitation of Cecil's desire to increase native shipping. As if this was not enough the act also included a clause declaring void any ordinances made by the London Fishmongers to inhibit trade in fish within the realm.6"his seriously weakened the company's efforts to restrain the engrossing of fish by its wealthier members. When in 1596 most of the traders in fish petitioned the assistants for some restrictions on engrossing which increased prices and worked to the undoing of the retailers, they were answered 'that by reason of the acte of parliament made that restrayneth this companye for making or executyng any orders to restraine any persone from buying or sellyng of fishe this howse cannot entermedle therein'.63 It is clear that hostility to the act was universal in the company: importers were adversely affected by the restrictions on their trade, and retailers unable to secure measures to protect them against mercantile exploitation. Efforts to repeal it were made in every subsequent session until in 1597-8 the ban on imports was removed, and in 1601 the restraint on


59 G.L., MS 56061 I, fo. 2 j8v; C.J., I, 68, 71 (for 1563) ; G.L., MS 5606/ I, fos. 291 v, 292 r-v; C.J.,I, 74, 75; L.J.,I. 635, 636. 637.

P. Bowden, The u~ool trade in Tudor and Stual-1 England (London, 1962), pp. 121-3; C.J.,I, 65,

89. 1).M. Dean, 'Public or private?'. " G. R. Elton, 'Piscatorial politics'. 63 G. L., MS 557011, p. 102. 64 T.C.D., MS N2.12, fo. 74 (for 1584) ;C.L.R.O.. Rep. 21, fos. 393, 396v (for 1587) ; D'Ewes, Journalr, pp. 445-6 (for I 589);C.L.R.O., Rep. 23, fo. 31; D'Ewes, 3ournals, pp. 471,487,497, 500, 501; L.J.,It, 179, 180, 183 (for 1593); D'Ewes, Journals, pp. 356, 557, 558, 564; L.J.,11, 199, 200:

201 ;S.R., IV, 39 Eliz. I, c. to (for 1597) :Townshend, Historical collections, pp. 309-10; S.R., IV, 43 Eliz. I, c. 9 (for 1601).


How did this vigorous parliamentary lobbying relate to company activity in other arenas? In the first place it is important to appreciate that many of these bills sought to give statutory sanction to company rights already enjoyed by virtue of their charters and ordinarlces as approved by the lord chief justices, lord chancellor and lord treasurer. The statute of 1504 which had required the vetting of company ordinances by these officials had been intended to curb the abuses of the companies, in particular their efforts to fix prices." But in the long term it was probably useful to the companies to have their powers authorised by the law officers because only they (or alternatively parliament) could grant the powers that they sought outside the city liberties. The extension of compariy jurisdiction over the suburbs to match the growth of the metropolitan area is a noticeable feature of the ordinarlces of the later sixteenth century: rights of search were usually ceded over an area within a two to three mile radius of the city. The degree of control envisaged by ordinances was often very tight. Rights of search over imported wares, for example, were granted to the Armourers' and Broderers' C~rn~anies.~" Sometimes the crown might be persuaded to grant individual companies powers that were un\\-elcome to the corporation. Thus the incorporation of the White Bakers in 1569 attempted to cut the Gordian knot of several generations of disputes between the White Bakers and Brown Bakers over the types of bread they could bake by uniting the two companies." In subsequent years they encountered the hostility of the Bro~vn Bakers who feared the encroachments of the White Bakers on their trade, arid the mounting anxieties of the court of aldermen about the likely breach of regulations designed to ensure the production of wholesome bread by confining white arld brown bakers to the respective branches of their craft.68 Comparison of successive ordinances suggests a general weakening of corporation control over the companies: whereas the Plumbers' ordinances of 1520 had envisaged the close involvement of the city chamberlain and the aldermen in the company's affairs, the early seventeenth-century ordinances of the same company lack any mention of corporation involvement in trade regulation.Gg Thus the prer0gatix.e offered a means of bypassing the aldermen and the prospect of much strengthened control over competitors.

It is not surprising therefore that companies which found a parliamentary solution to their problems difficult to achiexre should have turned to the prerogative for help. The hatmakers had secured a statute in 1566-7 which required seven-year apprenticeships from all engaged in hat manufacture, limited the number of apprentices to be taken by those engaged in the trade, and vested the Haberdashers' Company of L,ondon with rights of search over

" S.R., 11, 19 Hen. VII: c. 7. 66 G.L.. hlSS 19110. 14789.
" Calend~r of pntozt rolls, Elizah~f/z, IV,360.
" 8. Thrupp, A short histoy ofthe M'ol-slzipJil Conzjxzrg of Biihets (Croydon, 1933'1,ell. VIII.
'W.L., hlS 2207.

the city and the surroundi~lg area." Unfortunately the statute had its defects, in particular the failure to allot a portion of the forfeitures to the informer. The company pushed for ameridments in a series of bills promoted in the parliaments of the seventies and early eightie~.~' But at the end of this period the company tried an alternative solution, as the feltmakers opened negotiations to obtain a grant from the crow11 of the penaltics arising from the 1566-7 statute for twenty-one years. These powers to regulate competitors were to be exercised over all England with the proviso that their activity in the immediate London area was to be subject to the supervisiorl of the parelit Haberdashers' C~mpany.~"t is probable that the feltmakers were seeking a deputation from a courtier, for the negotiations reveal that the patentee was to enjoy half the forfeitures and the Haberdasher's Company the other half.73 Certainly this was their intention in an earlier campaign to obtain the searching of imported Spanish wools used in the manufacture of felts as the deputies of the prospective patentee, Edward Schetz." The initiative of 1583 proving unsuccessful the company tried again with a bill in parliament in

1~84-575arid renewed the suit for a licence to enforce the statute in I j91." Again they were unsuccessful, but they did secure a warrant from the privy council in 1594 authorizirig them to apprehend persons disobedient to the company ordinances within the London area, and to discipline apprentices and journeymen who left service to set up hatmaking in the country.77 The Coopers' Company obtaiiied a similar warrant a year later."

It is striking just ho\v often statutory and prerogative solutions were seen as alternatives. The Skinners' bills of the first decade of the seventeenth century were preceded by an attempt in the early nineties to secure a licence from the crown to give members of the company a near mollopoly positioll in the trade in ~kins.~VM'hen the Fishmongers failed to secure the repeal of the 1581 Act in 1593, they tried to obtain a licence dispensing them from the statute.*' They were perhaps encouraged by the earlier successes of other companies in such suits. When the Curriers' Company failed to obtain the repeal of the legislation banning their participation in the leather trades as middlemen in

1566-7, they at once turned to the crown fbr a licence empowering them to purchase leather in markets forty miles or more distant from London.*' This was perhaps not quite as much as they had hoped for. The accounts for 1571-2 record the promise of a payment of £20 to Henry Jefferson, the city sealer of leather on condition that he should obtain a licence for the company to buy

70 S.R., I\', 8 Eliz. 1; C. 11

" Hartley ied.), Proceedings, pp. 2 18, 482, 535, 539; T.C.D., XIS N2.I 2: fos. 82, 89~.

''G.L., ?*IS 15842/1, fo. I ; B.L., Lansdowne MS 3814-5, fix. I 1-15.

73 Ibid. 31314, fos. I 1-16. 7"bid. 29/23, fos. 53-4.

G.L., >IS I 5842/1: fa. 12~; T.C.D., MS Nz.12, fos. 82, 89~.

76 G.L., %IS 158421 I, fo. 52~.

77 G.L., ?*IS 61 I 7, pp. 48-50.

7R Acts oj.the prig) council [A.P.C.]. xiv, 60-2.

7Q B.L., Lansdowne LIS 71/54-~7, fos I "7-23; j:3/16, fa. 53.

G.L., hlS 5570/1, p. 50.

C.J., I, 75, 76, 77 ; Calendar of' patent rolls, Eliznbeiii, IV, 7I.


and sell leather freely in all parts of the country.'' That there were legal doubts about the validity of the existing licence is suggested by the payment of 10s. to Edmund Plowden for counsel ' touchinge the ymperfeccion suspected to be in our graunte from the qwenes maie~tie'.'~ Hence the renewed effort to repeal the offensive legislation in 1576,'"ut again parliamentary failure was followed by a licence. The company was able to take advantage of the comprehensive powers to dispense from the 1563 statute granted to Edward Dyer to secure a wider dispensation than their own licence allowed The agreement with Dyer had the disadvantage of requiring members who wished to avail themselves of the grant to contribute to an annual payment of £13. 6s. 8d to the patentee, but this was compensated for by the fact that they were now able to buy leather within the forty-mile radius from London from which they had been excluded by their 1567 li~ence.'~

However, the payments to Dyer disappear on the 1584-5 account. This may have been related to the renewed efforts to repeal the statute in the sessions of the later eighties which came close to success in 1589: 'the companie were in great possybbylytie to be restored'.*' But once that parliament had ended a frantic round of negotiations at court began. The company spent far more money on this suit than on any preceding one, and finances were severely strained with loans and a heavy assessment on the membership. £30 was paid to Sir James Croft, controller of the household on the 1589-90 account; further payments of £20 to John Herbert, master of requests and £20 to Sergeant Popham follo~ved.*~

The account for the following year records that this suit was 'for the obteyninge of theire licence nowe in question to be gotten', but whereas hitherto attention had focused on Croft it now s~vitched back to Dyer." By the time of the 1592-3 account the composition payments to Dyer had resumed, this time at £20 p.a.'O A plausible interpretation of these payments is that the company had decided that the payments to Dyer were too expensive, and had therefore determined to try for a comprehensive licence of their own, but were defeated at court by Dyer and so forced into a new more expensive composition. The picture may be altered by further research, but the crucial point is that as the Vintners evaded a statute by means of a royal licence, so did the Curriers.

The Pewterers were also tempted by prerogative solutions. Their bill to require merchants exporting raw tin to export equal quantities of pewter ware had failed in the 1593 parliament. As exports of pewter ware were but a

G.L., MS 143461 I, fo. 65~ s3 Ibid. fo. 86.

Ibid. fos. 103"-5; C.L.R.O., Rep. 19, fos. 35, 40; C.J., I, 106, 110.

85 There is a problem here in that the licence to Dyer printed in the Calendn~ ofpateiit lolls gave power to dispense from the tanning regulations of the 1563 act, and not the pro\zisions relating to the Curriers. But the company accounts are explicit on the nature of the dispensation received from Dyer. LVas there anothes more comprehensi\ze licence not recorded on the patent rolls? Cnlendar of pntent rolls, Elizabeth, VII, 62~3, 69-71 ; G.L., hlS 1434611, fos. 105-6, I I I r-v.

86 Ihid. fos. II~V,

127, 133, 140, 145, 151.iZ, 156. " The events of these parliaments are subjected to close scrutiny by Dean, 'Public or pril~ate?' 88 G.L., hIS 1434611, fos. 198v, 203~-4, 205~ ff. '"hid. fos. 216, 219-220~. " Ibid. fos. 232~-233, 236,

fraction of those of raw tin this would have been a bold step which it is hard to envisage a government obsessed by its customs revenue seriously c~ntern~lating.~~

However there was an intermediate solution which would provide greater employment for London pewterers. A section of the company was employed in refining tin and casting it into bars for export. At least if tin could be exported in this semi-finished state rather than in blocks then company members would benefit.92 In the wake of the parliament the company entered into negotiations through court intermediaries for a licence to the effect that no tin should be exported except in bars. The suit was initially promoted by George Gifford, gentleman pensioner and subsequently by Henry Jackman, a London merchant with court connexi~ns.~~

Like the Haberdashers the Pewterers appear to have had few qualms about exploiting the licensing powers of the crown to act as deputies to courtiers who ~vould receive a rent or a portion of the forfeitures in return for their access to royal favour in obtaining the suit.

However, these approaches were probably made faute de ~nieux in appreciation

of the fact that parliamentary solutions Miere remote in view of the queen's

penchant for few parliaments and short sessions. The recourse to the

prerogative had its drawbacks, because courtiers increasingly used such

methods for their own advantage. Courtiers were ever on the look-out for

means to batten on the economy by grants from the crown, and they often

clashed with company interests. First, they might obtain licences authorizing

them to compound for breaches of penal statutes such as Thomas Cornwallis'

patent to licence gaming houses notwithstanding the fact that they had been

banned by an Henrician statute. Second, they might secure licences for the

export of prohibited commodities like leather or sheep skins for which the

grantee could levy licence money. Third, some sought the establishment of

offices for economic regulation with the inevitable accompanying fees usually

alleging the need to reform some deep-seated abuse. Edward Darcy's patent

for searching and sealing leather not covered by the 1563statute was one such

particularly controversial grant. Finally they might get monopolies for the

production of some commodity where they alleged either involvement in

invention like John Hastings' patent for frisado production, or an intention to

reform abuses in production such as Richard Drake's patent for a monopoly

of the production of beer and ale for use in the distillation of vinegar. ,411these

patents were opposed by London interests for various reasons.

Cornwallis' patent to licence unlawful games in the London area pointed

like the statutes to the decay of archery, suggesting that by means of a proper

licensing system the pursuit of extremely unathletic leisure activities like

O1 P.R.O., SP 12/2j3/23, fo. 178.

O2 C.LVelch, History of the Cl'orshipjul Conzpanz of Pewterers of the Cicv of Lo~zdon (2 vols., London, ~go~),

11, 14-15; B.L.,Lansdowne hlSS 86/68, fos. I 73-4; 86/71, fo. 180.
93 Ll'elch, Pewterers, 11, 12, 13-14, 21, 28; G.L.,hlS 5090/3, fo 92.


gambling might be curbed.94 Things worked out rather differently of course. When Cornwallis's successor in the patent petitioned James I for a renewal in 1604 claiming the support of the Bowyers' and Fletchers' companies, these two rather impoverished companies were outraged, alleging that the licensing powers had been abused so that bowling alleys and dicing houses flourished as never before.95

Licences to export prohibited commodities were widely perceived as contributing to high prices, especially as there was little machinery available to ensure that the beneficiaries confined themselves to the quantities laid down in their patents. Petitions from the affected crafts against such licences were frequent.96 hloreover, the agitation over licences in both the sessions of I 571 and 1576 owed much to company pressure. Robert Bell's motion against licences in I 57I is supposed to have singled out grants to four courtiers.97 The patent of 1570 granted to Brian Annesley and John Farnham, gentlemen pensioners for the export of rabbit skins is likely to have been among This was, as Gregor Duncan has shown, a particularly controversial grant because the commodities involved were not actually prohibited ones. As no one but those licensed by the patentees was to export rabbit skins for twenty- one years the effect of the licence was to enable the courtiers to corncr a long- established trade." The Skinners' Company helped finance litigation in the Exchequer which appears to have established the payment of licence money by the merchant exporters.100 What has not yet been appreciated is that the merchants involved also petitioned parliament making explicit the dangers that this grant would become a precedent for oth~rs.'~~

The lawyer Bell may well have been worked up about licences even without the petitioning by the merchants, but at the very least he had been provided with valuable ammunition from below. Similar pressures lay behind the parliamentary measures of the 1576 session. The renewal of the licence for the export of leather in 1574 had been accompanied by petitions from the leather craft^.'"^ Petitioning was renewed on the assembly of parliament in 1576. An extant petition complained that the provisions of'the 1559 statute against the export of leather, tallow and hides had been frustrated by grants of licences with the result that prices remained high.lo3 The result was a statute tightening the

" Calendar ojpafent rolls, Elizabeth, vrl, I I (for the grant of 1576) ; P.R.O., C66/ 1448, mm. 35-37

(for renewal of July 1596 with extended powers).

95 C.L.K.O.. Remembrancia, 11, no. 249; Rep. 25 fo. 34.

" Apart from the examples discussed below, cf. G.L., MS 7351/1, 160-1 acct.: B.L.,

Lansdowne MS 114/3g, fo. 136; P.R.O., SP rq/gh/zo, fo. 47.

97 Hartley ,ed.), Proceedings, p. 202; P. Hasler (ed.), Histov gfa~liament: the house of commons rjjff-1603 (3 vols., London, 1982i, I, 422. 9Valendar of patmt rulis, Elizabeth, v, 21." G, D. Duncan, 'Monopolies Under Elizabeth I, 1558-1585' (unpublished Ph.D. disserta- tion, Univer5ity of Cambridge, 1g76), pp 276-9.

loo Ibid.: Skinners' Company [Sk. Co.], C.M., 1, fos. IOV, I I v. B.L.. 1,ansdowne MS 71/56, fos. 121-2. lo' P.R.O.. SP 12/265/67, fos. 108-IOA; C.3., I, 86. lo2Calendar ofpat~nt rolLr, Elizabeth, VI, 230; G.L.. MS 14346/1, fo. pv. lo3 P.R.O., SP 12/41/75, fo. 195.

penalties of the I559 Act and increasing the customs duties on leather exported under licence.lo4 Another bill which had Burghley's sympathies sought to tighten the government's control of licensees by requiring annual declarations on oath before the barons of the Exchequer of the quantities exported, and banning the purchase of the licensed goods out of open market and without the endorsement of the licence with the amount of the purchase.lo5

The establishment of new officials to deal with supposedly neglected areas of economic regulation was a particularly sensitive issue because of the constitutional objections that might be raised to the taking of fees for search without statutory sanction. A potent objection to the project for the gauging of beer barrels successively promoted by Sir Thomas Gorges, the earl of Oxford and Sir Julius Caesar was that the fees would be compared with the Dutch excise. The prospective patentees were also threatening the interests both of the Coopers' Company which had been given statutory powers to gauge vessels by the act of 1532, and of the city corporation which had its own annually elected officials, the surveyors of the beer brewers to search out sub- standard products.106 Such interference with established rights was common. The extended powers to search and seal dice obtained by Thomas Cornwallis in his renewed grant of 1596 threatened the rights of the Haberdashers' Company. They were not inclined to co-operate, telling him that 'the Company cannot without greate preiudyce to theire owne charter geve any waie un to his graunt'.107 Nevertheless in this instance the aldermen negotiated a compromise whereby two or three 'discreet citizens' were to join with Cornwallis' deputies.'08

Compromise proved more difficult to achieve in the most controversial of these grants, that obtained by Sir Edward Darcy in 1592 for the searching and sealing of new types of leather not covered by the 1563 statute, in particular buffs and chamois leather. Darcy alleged that the artisans working the leather into goods for everyday use were exploited by the leathersellers who mixed up counterfeit leather with the good.log There may have been some truth in these charges as petitions from glovers about the environs of the city complained of engrossing and deceitful practices by the London leather seller^."^ The 1,eathersellers had obvious grounds for opposing the grant in that it interfered with the company's chartered rights of search, and threatened to put serious restraints on their freedom in the leather markets as they were to enter bonds not to buy unsealed leather."' The leather artificers also had grounds for

lo' S.R., rv, 18 Eliz. I, c. 9.

lo5 P.R.O., SP 12/107/60, fos. 133-7. It is listed among the bills 'in the lower howse chosen owte by the Lordes and recomended to be expedited': P.R.O., SP 12/107/63, fo. 145. The bill has the short form enacting clause and is therefore probably official in origin.

lo6 B.L., Lansdowne MSS 71/27-35, fos. 51-66; 71/41, fo. 79; 71/45, fo. 85; Additional MS

12497, ~OS.

406, 410, 41 I.

lo' P.R.O.. C66/1448, mm. 35-37; G.L., MS 1584211, fos. 87, 102~.

lo' C.L.R.O., Rep. 23, fos. 56ov, 570~; Rep. 24, fos. 349-50,

Io9 P.R.O., C66/1384, mm. 1-12; B.L., Lansdowne MSS 74/40, fo. 114; 74/47, fos.


Ibid. 74/50, fo. 143; 74/57, fo. 158r-~ 11' Ibid. 74/49, fo. 14ov


opposition. The rates for sealing were generally regarded as excessive, even by the glovers who supported some of the arguments on which the patent was based.'12 Furthermore sealing would put artisans to considerable trouble if there was no sealer available in their l~calit~.''~

Self-interest meshed with constitutional principle. The opponents of the grant 'marvelled' at the establishment of a machinery for the search of commodities not regulated by statute: 'he alsoe verie well knoweth and understandeth that hir maiestie ruleth hir Subiectes onelie by the lawes of the Realme, and will not deale with anie contrarie to Justice'.'l4 The rates to be taken were the equivalent of eight subsidies, doubtless a huge exaggeration, but again the point about the lack of statutory authority is driven home. The Leathersellers doubted 'whether the same taxe be meete or necessarie or convenient to be laide uppon the people, not beinge graunted by parliament nor warrantable by Lawe'. The bonds demanded by Darcy were unreasonable 'consideringe that throughe the whole course of the graunte yt appeareth there is noe lawe to warrant the same'.l15 Feelings were running high in the city. At a meeting between the aldermen and Darcy to negotiate a compromise, Darcy struck Sir George Barne on the face to the outrage of the grave city fathers. The aldermen warned of the dangers of popular disturbances: 'what great mischiefs have risen of lesse beginnings your Lordships can consider and experience hath taught us in this Citie beefore, whear popular multitudes beeing once incited & assembled togither can hardly bee suppressed & kept within obedience by any authoritie of magistrate what~oever'."~ In January 1595 the aldermen reiterated the danger, pointing to 'the grief & murmure of the people thoroughout this whole land against this his patent', a popular sensitivity, they added, that was increased by the current dearth."' But as we shall see the most significant thing about Darcy's patent was that the clamour against it eventually caused the patentee to give it up.

Although monopolies in the first half of the reign may have been granted with the sincere intention of fostering new industries, it is clear that in the eighties and nineties the crown was less scrupulous. What Joan Thirsk has called the 'scandalous phase' had begun."' Rather than claiming the benefit of new processes of invention patentees now obtained their grants on the basis of allegations of abuses in existing industries which would receive regulation by the patentee. Thus in 1594 Richard Drake obtained a patent giving him a monopoly for twenty-one years of the production of beer and ale for use in the distillation of vinegar, beereger and aleger. All producers of these spirits were to enter bonds to receive beer or ale only from Drake or his assignees and to mark their casks so that infringers of the patent might be better identified. There were some safeguards for the producers in that Drake was to be bound

112 Ibid. 74/44, fo 124~; 74/49, fos. 139\~-41, 74/50, fos. 143, 144~.
"3 Ibid. 74/49, fo. 140~. Ibid. 74/48, fo. 137.

Ibid. C.L.R.O., Rernembrancia, I, no. 651. "' C.L.R.O., Rerncmbrancia, 11, no. 82. "'J. Thirsk, Economic policy andprojects: the development ofa consumer society in early modern England

(Oxford, 1978).

to produce wholesome beer and ale, and not to sell above the prices current in London. The allegations on which the patent was based were that the spirits were being made of corrupt materials: 'the washing of tonnes, cowlebackes and other the brewers vessells before tyme solde and used to feede hogges and swyne and commonly called hogges washe'.'lg The brewers denied these allegations. On the contrary they claimed that the spirits made from the worte of beer were as wholesome as those made from beer and ale, and playing their own commonwealth card, pointed out that they were significantly cheaper and saved grain consumption.120 Moreover in practice Drake did no more than license the producers to carry on what they had been doing before in return for a payment of qd. for each barrel they produced.121 Legal objections were perhaps less prominent than in the opposition to Darcy's patent, but they nevertheless lurked in the background. The producers argued that it was hurtful for a subject 'to be bounden from the lawful1 use of his trade otherwise then by licence of the patente.. . and contrary to the lawe and libertie of a free subiecte to be compelled thereunto by any grante other then by act of parliament '.lZ2

The companies pursued their campaigns against the patents by methods as various as those they used to promote their own suits. There were individual acts of resistance, necessitating time-consuming litigation on the part of the patentee.'23 The support of the aldermen was mobilized against both the patents of Drake and Darcy, and a stream of petitions flowed in to the privy council against them.lZ4 The aldermen at times implied that their co-operation with the collection of military rates would depend on concessions from the court over noxious patents.'25 Sometimes the pressure from the opposition forced grants to be tried in the law courts. This was the fate of both Darcy's grants, for searching and sealing leather, and for playing cards. Darcy complained to Burghley in 1593 that the trial of this patent in the courts had cost him &500.126Although the judges had ruled that the rights of the Leathersellers' Company were void by non zlsej, the fact that their charter had not been specifically revoked by the crown continued to cause him problems, and the litigation did not cease, for the grant was being examined by the law officers again in October I j94.12i The opposition drew upon the most expert and spirited legal advice. It is interesting to observe in the campaigns against

'IQ P.R.O., C6611415,mm. 13-19,

G.L., RIS 544519,documents relating to Drake's patent at rear of minutes for 1593-4.

"' B.L., Lansdolvne 81 /2 I, fos. 54, 56~.

12' G.L., L'iS jqqgjg,doc. no. I at rear of minutes for 1593-4.

lZ3 Cf., for example, the legal proceedings taken by Darcy against individual opponents of his grant: B.L., Lansdolvne MS 74/42>fo. 118r-v.And see G.D. Duncan, 'Monopolies', chs. IV-v.

lZ4 C.L.R.O., Rep 23,fos. 329v, 346; Remembrancia, I, nos. 632, 651; 11, nos. 70, 82, 83, 84, 119, 126, 142 (for petitions against Darcy); Rep. 23,fo. 218;Remembrancia, 11, nos. 78, 159 (for petitions against Drake) ;Jour. 24,fo. 83 (for a petition from the Common Council against various grants in January I 596).

lZ5 C.L.R.O., J.C.C. 24,fo. 82v. '"B.L., Lansdo~vne MS 74/51,fo. 145.

'" Ibid. 71/66,fo. 168;C.L.R.O., Rep. 23,fo. 299.


34 the patents the recurrent involvement of Nicholas Fuller, the puritan lawyer and a clear opponent of the unrestrained prerogative if ever there was one. He was counsel to the Leathersellers against Darcy, advised the Brewers against Drake, aided the Pewterers in their campaign against the grant to Brigharn and Wemes of the preemption of tin, and argued for ,411en in the famous case which declared Darcy's playing-card patent void in 1602. He was doubtless responsible for injecting the controversies with the strong strain of constitutional argument which we have observed running through the opposition to these patents.lZ8 And, of course, the issues were vented in parliament. Darcy's patent was the subject of complaint in the parliamcrit of 1593, and Drake's among those attacked in 1601 .I2" So, to sum up thus far. Company lobbying was wide in scope, promoting a variety of suits for the benefit of the crafts to extend control over the trades in which their members were engaged and to secure a favourable place for their product in the market place. Solutions to their problerns were pursued in a variety of fora, before the city fathers, in parliament, before the privy council, and through courtiers. Their energies were often turned to defensive purposes, sometimes against other crafts with which they were in dispute, sometimes against what they saw as misguided commonwealth legislation, sometimes against the exploitation of prerogative powers by courtiers which frustrated legislation made for their benefit or interfered with the practice of their trades. Again a variety of tactics were used : passive resistance by individuals, petitions to the privy council, the enlistment ofthe support of the aldermen, litigation in the courts, and complaints in parliament.130 But there remains the crucial question of whether all this activity actually achieved very much. How sensitive, in practice, were the agencies of central government to the grievances of the crafts?

I?' The balance sheet is not at first sight impressive. Defeats at court and in parliament were commonplace. The Vintners and Curriers may hale secured their licences exempting them from the operation of dangerous statutes, but others were less successful. The feltmakers failed to secure either the licence for the search of wools or that for the penalties arising fi.orn infringements of the I 566 statute. The Pewterers did not obtain the licence to east tin into bars for export and. on the contrary, found themselves confronted by the re& a1 of the royal right of preemption of tin which threatened their control olrer the raw material. The Skinners never secured the monopoly of the trade in rabbit skins which they sought in 1590-2. The Armourers promoted bills in

C.L.R.O.?Rep. 23, So. 296v; Leathersrlicrs' Company. Liher Crrrtes, 11, fos. 54v, 65; G.L., hfS 54445, 1593-4 acct.; P.R.O., SP 14/6/79, fb. Ijjv; E. R. Foster (ed.!, Proceedings in parliament 1610 (2 VOIS., Londo~l, 1966;, 11, I 58. lZQ A.P.C., xx~v, 123; T.E.D., 11, 271, 281, 284, 285. Drake's patcnt was voided in the royal proclalnation which follo\vcd the parliamentary session: ihid. 293 130 I hope to deal in detail with the tactics of lobbying on another occasion.

parliament in 1563, I 581, 1584-5 and 1597-8, but none became statute. The Clothworkers failed to consolidate their parliamentary victory of 1566-7. Very few of the parliamentary measures to extend powers of search or to restrict the non-free were successful.

The pursuit of licences could be a highly frustrating business. If a suit was made through a courtier intermediary, then its fate might become bound up with the course of court politics, or the courtier's attention might be diverted by other more promising projects. The caution of some ministers could be time consuming. In April 1598 the Pewterers complained to the lord keeper about the tortuous course of their suit over the past four years. It had been referred to Burghley and Buckhurst who had insisted on inquiries as to its likely effects with the tinners, the merchant exporters and the non-London pewterers. Then there was the necessity of legal advice, and doubts about whether the charge ofid. per pound for melting and casting the tin was too high. The queen then hesitated before signing the book, taking further soundings from Raleigh as lord warden of the Stannaries, and the customs officials, Richard Carmarden and Thomas Middleton. At last the royal signature was applied, and the grant passed the privy seal and signet. But it never passed the great seal because the earl of Oxford made his own suit to have the benefit of the grant. In the hesitations which followed the Pewterers' suit was sabotaged.131 The letters patent of 1576 to the Clothworkers' Company giving them powers of search to enforce the statute of 15667 were nearly lost at the last moment when the Merchant Adventurers petitioned the lord treasurer: the accounts record the payment of L14. 17s. 2d. 'for charges in releasing the letters patent under the Great Seal being stayed by the Lord Treasurer at the suit of Mr Young customer and the Merchant Adventurers'.13' Other campaigns collapsed in the face of opposition from the city elite. The feltmakers' suit for the search of imported wools was opposed by the ruling assistants of the parent Haberdashers' Company who were anxious to avoid a threat to their own powers of search, and some of whom opposed the grant because of the interference with their own business interests.133 The Skinners' campaign in the early nineties petered out when the aldermen declared that the monopoly they sought was prejudicial to the customs of the

The causes of failure in parliament were varied. In the first place there was the simple fact that there were too many measures to handle in the short sessions to ensure that any more than a handful passed into law. The deluge of 'the bills of occupation, misteries and companies' was a matter for serious government concern, and the controls intermittently exercised by the aldermen over the measures coming before parliament were ineffective in thinning the number of bills.135 Bills were supposed to be submitted to the

13' National Register of Archives, 24601, Report on Elleslnere Manuscripts, nos. 2328, 2342 ;

B.L., Lansdowne MS 86/71, fo. 180.

13' CW. CO., QW.A., 15767, fo. 6.

'33 B.L., Lansdowne MS 29/15-27, fos. 57-61. 134 Ibid. 71/54, fo. I 17.

135 M.A. R. Graves, 'The management of the Elizabethan house of commons', Parliamentary

History, 11 (1983), 14-15

36 IA?; ARCHER aldermen for approval before their reading in parliament. Some companies voluntarily brought their bills forward, recognizing that the support of the city

M.P.s might be invaluable, but there are relatively few such instances in the records of the court of a1de1-men.l~~

Although it is possible that the Repertories do not record all such activity as approval might have been given out offormal sittings, company accounts also suggest infrequent compliance. Committees to consider the city's parliamentary programme were appointed by the aldermen in 1593, 1597 and 1601.'~~

A payment in the Bakers' Company accounts in 1593 to the lord mayor's officer 'for warening the Wardeins to be before the Comyttees whoe were appoincted by her l/Iaiesties Coullcell to knowe and heare the intentes of all the Companies' suggests that they were responding to conciliar pre~sure.'~' But whether the committees were effective in thinning the number of bills may be doubted. Certainly the 1601 parliament seems to have considered more London company bills than its predecessors.'" The result of weak control over the bills coming before parliament was that the companies faced stiff competition to get their measures read. Government measures took priority: hence the frantic lobbying to ensure that bills were


read; hence the occasional ex gratia payments to the Speaker for his favour at the second reading. In spite of a carefully prepared campaign in which the support of men of business and leading councillors was sought, the Armourers' bill of 1581 never got beyond its first reading, because on each occasion when the Speaker arranged another reading, government measures such as the subsidy and a bill for borders defence got in the way.'''

Another obstacle to the Armourers' bill was the opposition of the Blacksmiths' Company. Clashes between companies were frequent when bills sought to extend control over trades, the boundaries of which were imprecise. The 1581 bill attempted to regulate gun manufacture vesting search in the Armourers' Company. But there were many gunmakers in the Blacksmiths' Company, and they had promoted their own bill for gun manufacture in I 57 I. The Armourers themselves had opposed the Cutlers' bill of I 566-7, paying James Dalton 30s. for his advocacy, and coordinating the opposition of the non-free cutlers of Westminster and Southwark whose trades were also threatened.141 Disputes between the Armourers and Cutlers, and Armourers and Blacksmiths over rights of search of swords, daggers and guns punctuated Elizabeth's reign. Clothworkers and Merchant Adventurers, Curriers and Cordwainers, Plasterers and Painters, White Bakers and Brown Bakers all opposed each other in parliament. Even when the companies attempted to regulate those without guild organizations of their own, they might be

13' For example in the I 576 session the hills of the Curriers and the Haberdashers: C.L.R.O.,

Rep. 19, fos. 35, 45~. 13' C.L.R.O., Rep. 23, fo. 22~; Rep, 24, fos. 1j3\~-4; Rep, 23; fo. 275 13' G.L., MS 51 7413, fo 52. 13' D. ;LI. Dean, 'Bills and Acts, 1584-1601 ' (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of

Cambridge, 1984), p. 200.
14' G.L., 11s 1207112, pp. 414-15
'" G.L., MS 1206512, foliated from rear, fo. 8v; C.S.P.D., Addenda, 156679, p. 19.

confronted with vigorously organized protest in parliament, and the non-free were quite capable of promoting bills of their own.14' In these circumstances parliament tended to favour the status quo, and the most it would usually do was to refer the disputes back to the aldermen for settlement.

M.P.s had prejudices of their own which did not necessarily make them friendly to London proposals. Many doubtless shared the belief of Thomas Digges that 'London is the belly or if you will the head of england, yet I pray you lett the legges and hands lyve by it'.143 Such hostility to the capital's apparent domination of provincial life might fuel resentment at bills which appeared to promote merely sectional interests. This helps to explain the fate of most of the bills for extended powers of search, or for limitations on foreigners. Although the diaries and journals do not often give an impression of how measures were received by the house, it is striking how often indications of hostility occur in relation to bills limiting the non-free. Thus in 1601 we hear that the house cried 'Away with it' at the first reading of the Poulters' bill for rights of search within forty miles of the city; that the Merchant Tailors' bill for the restraint of foreigners was rejected at its second reading 'without anyone I, I, I, for the commitment, but only Mr Fetyplace one of the burgesses for London'; and that the Weavers' bill was opposed on the grounds that 'it was incroaching a liberty to have two miles compass.. .that the search was too general, and the forfeiture too great.. .that the search was general as well within the liberties as A hostility to monopoly runs through much of the recorded comments in debate on London bills. One of the objections to the ban on caliver imports proposed by the Blacksmiths in 1572 was that it would tend to create a monopoly in the company and increase prices.145 Amendments made to bills in the course of their passage are another indication of parliamentary anxieties. Among the provisos added to the Painters' successful bill of 1604 was one requiring that the painters should only take 16d. per day fbr their The Haberdashers' bill when finally successful in 1604 incorporated a proviso protecting the trades of existing practitioners.

Even if a bill did successfully pass through both houses, there was still the possibility that the opposition might secure a hearing at court and bring down the royal veto. This was the fate of the Coopers' legislation against exploitation by brewers in 1597-8, and apparently the Clothworkers' bill of 1589 against the adventurer^.'^^ The Fishmongers' Company's long campaign to secure

14' A.Pettegree, Foreign protestant communities in sixteenth-centuy London (Oxford, 1986), pp. 289--go.

B.L., Lansdowne MS 43/72, fo. 167v

144 Townshend, Historical collections, pp. 206--7, 261, 324-5.

145 Hartley (ed.), Proceedings, p. 372. Cf. comments in the same parliamrnt on the Waxchandlers' bill: ibid. p. 402.

146 S.R.,IV,I Jac. I, c. 20, compared with earlier version: H.L.R.O., Main Papers, 1597-1607, fos. 85-91.

14' S.R., IV, I Jac. I, r. 17 compared with earlier version: H.M.C., House of Lords, XI,63.

148 G.L., MS 5606/2, fo. 238v refers to royal veto. The Clothworkers' measure passed through

all it readings, but did not reach the statute book, L.J., 11, 161, 163.



the repeal of the 1581 legislation banning the import of foreign cured fish appeared successful in 1593. But the bill was vetoed at the instance of Thomas Vavasour, gentleman pensioner and the holder of a licence to import cod and ling notwithstanding the statute which would be voided if the Fishmongers were successful.149

However, appreciation of the frustrations of the legislative process should not lead us to the conclusion that parliamentary lobbying was largely pointless. In the first place there were the success stories. The Coopers, a relatively humble craft, a high proportion of whose wardens appear to have been illiterate, secured no less than three statutes in the Elizabethan period: in I 566-7 repealing the price fixing Henrician legislation, in I 598 establishing their right to gauge imported casks, and in 1593 to encourage the import of ~1a~board.l~~

The Clothworkers' Act of 1566-7, though not as much as the company wanted, was an important weapon against merchants, and they spent prodigiously in its enforcement.151 Failure in one parliament did not preclude the possibility of later success. The Fishmongers who had promoted bills for the repeal of the 1581 legislation in every subsequent session, eventually secured their goal in enactments of 1597-8 and 1601. The Haberdashers' campaign to revise their act of 1566-7, pursued in parliament in the seventies and eighties, and before the privy council in the eighties and nineties, resumed in parliament in 1601, and eventually reached the statute book in 1604. The Painters' campaign against the Plasterers, unsuccessful in 1597-8 and 1601, triumphed in 1604. The Skinners, though unsuccessful in their suits for a licence for the control of the trade in rabbit skins in the early nineties and for a statute to the same effect in 1604, nevertheless secured a statute limiting mercantile transactions in the inland trade in 1606.'~' Other companies could measure their parliamentary success in terms of the fate that they had averted. Parliament passed no further measures in Elizabeth's reign for the restraint of the drink trade in spite of the aldermen's efforts to tighten price controls on brewers. Other bills though unsuccessful at least had the effect of neutralizing the efforts of opponents. In I 581, for example, the bills of the Clothworkers and the Merchant Adventurers directed against each other piled up in the clothing committee ensuring that the status quo was maintained.153 For the same parliament bills were prepared by both the free and foreign joiners. Although neither was read, both parties could rest satisfied that at least their enemies had not advanced their p~sition."~

Furthermore the appreciation that parliament was only one of several fora in which redress might be obtained helps put the failure of bills into

14' C.L.R.O., Remembrancia, 11, no. 93.

'jO S.R., IV, 8 Eliz. I, c. 9; 31 Eliz. I, c. 8; 3 j Eliz. I, c. I I. Payments fbr the passage of all three measures are recorded in the company accounts.

l5' I hope to deal in detail with the question of enforcement on another occasion. In the meantime see G. D. Ramsay, 'Clothworkers, hlerchant Adventurers and Richard Hakluyt', English Historical Review, xcrr ( 19771, 504-2 I .

'j2 S.R., IV, 39 Eliz. I, c. 10; 43 Eliz. I, c. 9, $7; I Jac. I, cc. 17, 20; 3 Jac I, c. 9.


C.J.,I, 122, 123, 128. P.R.O., SP 12/148/1, fo. 3v.


39 perspective. The licences obtained by the Curriers and Vintrlers in 1567 arc but two examples of the way in which the aims of parliamentary lobbying could be at least partly realised elsewhere. X failure in parliament was by no means the end of the road. This was recognized when bills were referred from parliament to the city authorities for settlement. Thus in 1567 the Speaker despatched to the aldermen bills preferred by the Skinners, Cutlers, Butchers, and Joiners.'55 The court of aldermen appointed committees to consider how their grievances might be redressed.15' There is no record of subsequent action by the aldermen, but it is possible that much could be achieved by less formal means, especially by city officials like the chamberlain who exercised some control over the informations in the lord mayor's court and was often involved in arbitrations between companies in dispute. Sometimes the privy council itself took remedial action in response to a suit in parliament. The Bakers prepared a bill against unsized bread for thf session of I 586-7 which may not in fact have been read, but it was followed by the mobilization of the support of the privy council through John Powell, clerk of the market of England, which resulted in the issue of orders against the abuse of 1~~0,~~~

Although the company continued to lobby parliament for a statute, the orders were at least a half way house, and the company accounts regularly record expenditure on their enforcement in the nineties. Two further brief case studies from the Woolmen's and Armourers' companies will illustrate the range of alternatives.

The Woolmen's Company found that a royal proclamation could achieve some of the objectives sought by bills in parliament. The Woolmen claimed powers of supervision over all persons engaged in the xvinding of wools, and were particularly worried about those who took up the trade without training. Bills to tighten their control were prornoted in the sessions of I 581 and I 584-5. Both appear to have required that woolwinders throughout England be sworn before the wardens of the company, and laid down penalties for those who mixed in dross to make their packs liea~ier."~ Both bills failed. The company then turned its attention to securing new ordinances in 1587.These were not explicit about the regulation of country members, although they referred to oaths to be taken to wind wools truly from persons not free of the company.'" They might have hoped for rather morr, but their resources were not exhausted, for they now turned to lobbying the privy council for a reissue of an Edwardian proclamation regulating the trade. It looks as if an abortive attempt was made in 1588-9 (the accounts record petitions to the privy council and the lord treasurer and a payment for 'writing the proclamations'j, and the suit renewed in r5g3.1G0Over the next three years the company paid

'j5 C.L.K.O., Rep. 16, fo. 26'~~-V.

156 Ibid. fo. 277.

'" G.L., MS 5174/3, fos. 3jv; 45~-6.

15s Hartley (ed.), Proceedings, pp. 537, 539; T.C.D.; LIS 92.12, fa. 87~; G.L., LIS 6901 fo.

zgr-V, and acct. in urlfoliated section for 1585. The later measure wai actually introduced by tile

;Llrrchants of the Staple, though probably with the full support of the Woolmen's Company.

'" G.L., AISS 6901, accts for 1587; 6907.

'" G.L., >IS 6901, 1588-9 acct.; A.P.C., xx~v, 294.


careful attention to Attorney General Coke, John Herbert master of requests, and William Wade clerk to the privy ~ouncil.'~'In 1596 the desired proclamation \\,as secured, the cost of the writs and printing being borne by the company. Its provisiolis largely repeated the co~itellts of the parliamentary bills: were to be liceiised by the company wardens and sworn before the mayor of the staple to wind wools truly, while the enforcement of a statute of 1532 for the true washing of wools was demanded.'6' This proclamation was reissued with stifI'er penalties in Jurie 1604, again at the suit of the company.'63 011 both occasions the proclamatiolls had a discernible effect 011 the level of company control. In 1596-8, 44 country members were sworn, compared with 12 and 5 in the previous t~vo-year accounting periods. In 1604-6, 68 and in 1606-8, 73 were so sworn compared with g and 14 in previous accountirig periods.'64

A prerogative solution was also secured by the Armourers in 1585. 111tlie spring of 1584 Sir Francis Knollys and Sir \\!illiam Pelha~n were appointed to consider the petition of the Armourers' Company for an annual show of

. .

armour to secure the better enforcement of the statutory obligations. This suit had proved abortive because the privy council preferred a more rxpensive solution in the form of a revival of training, which the company recognized would not make them popular in the city.'" But when parliament assembled ill November the campaign was resumed in the form of a bill for tlie revival of the midsummer watches and the revisioll of the armour obligations of the Marian statute. On the advice of Kobert Beale clerk to the privy council they showed their bill to councillors beihre introducirig it. Walsingham told the wardens that 'the Lords likid nott of the bill for that itt telldid to Innovation and the Quene would have no Inriovatiori and therfor we must not put it in'. However he indicated that they were favourable to a revival of the shows at the royal discretion.'" Letters were therefore issued ill April 1585 ordering the aldermen to revive the watches to supplement the training then in progress in the city.'" In the event the Armourers' victory was only temporary because the aldermen successfully petitioned against the shows in view of the high cost of training, but the significant point lies in the revelation of a pote~ltial for redress outside parliament.'68 Moreover lobbying brought other benefits less easily measured. The Armourers had forged links with Sir FIenry Lee in their suit to parliament in 1581. Lee's advocacy on behalf of the company was to be important both in the defeat of a proposed patent 'for the moulding of

G.L., MS 6901, 1593-6 accts. The company paid Coke L2 in July I 593 for drawing up the

proclamation, hut delays appear to have bceu caused by Simon Bowyes, patentee fur olTellces

against the I 552 statute. with whom the company was suhsecjilently in licgotiation.

lfi2P. L. Hughes and J. F. Larkin (eds.1, Ttlitdor ~oynlp,oclan~ntio~is (3vols., Sew Ha\.ctl, 1964-s);,

111, I 62-4.

lfi3P. L. Hughes aud J. F. L.arkin (eds.), .Stuart ro~nl proclnmatior~s (2 ~01s.. Oxford, 1973-831,

I, 82-84; G.L.: MS 6901. 1602-4 acct.

'"G.L.. MS 6901, accts. as stated.

lfi%.L., MS 12071/2~ pp, 4.46, 476. 16G Ibid, p. 480; P.R.O.. SP 12/8/2, fo. 3.

lG7G.L., hlS 12071/2, pp. 4.81-2. Ifia Ibid. p. 483.

armour' in 1589, and in the success of another suit for the contract for the armour delivered into the Tower stores in 1590.~~'

Both these suits involved lobbying the courlcil again, and it is arguable that their sympathies were mobilised as a result of earlier company activity. Ensuring that a company's plight was frequently brought to the attention of those in authority could pay long-term dividends, even if objectives were not immediately secured.

The willingness of the crown to grant monopolies and licences against the best interests of the companies might be taken to seriously weaken the case for a government that was responsive to pressure from below. Licences for the export of leather and undressed cloths had the effect of seriously weakening statutory advances the crafts had made, while other grants interfered with rights of search and established forms of production and distribution. MTe should not underestimate the predatory nature of Elizabeth's court, but some qualifications are necessary. First, there is the fact that the crown turned some grants down. The suit of an unnamed courtier in 1594 for the establishment of an office for the gauging of wine with fees of 16d. per ton was defeated by the objections of the Vintners' Company.1i0 Successive suits for a similar office for the survey and gauging of beer were also unsuccessful.1i1 Secondly, although licences hurtful to the interests of clothworkers and leather artificers were issued, it is arguable that without their protests and lobbying the situation would have been worse. This is, of course, a difficult point to prove. But it is significant, for example, that no licence was issued to MTilliam Littlestone who petitioned for grant for the export of calf skins in 1575, perhaps because of the agitation of the leather crafts against the licence granted to the lord admiral and afterwards sold to Thomas i-llle11.~~~

i-1 close examination of the licences to export undressed cloths reveals some significant variations in the statutes from which the merchants (as the ultimate beneficiaries) secured exemption. Cobham's licence of I 568 for the export of 2,000 undressed Kentish cloths per annum rendered inoperative the clause of the recent statute for the dressing of all Kent but the council was more hesitant about exemptions from the cause concerning Suffolk cloths and the dressing of the tenth cloth. Although several of the smaller grants included the 1566 statute among those from which the merchants secured exemp- tion,li"he largest licences, in particular those to Walsingham in 1577 (30,000

leg H. A. Dillon, 'A letter of Sir Henry Lee! 1590 on the trial of iron for arrrlour', A~chneologia, LI (1888): 167-72; B.L., Lansdowne MS 6315, fos. 19-20; G.L.? MS 12071/2, pp. 538, 539-40,


B.L., Lansdowne MS 76/42, fo. 91 ; 76/44, fo. gj; G.L.? MS 11j333/2, p. 200.

See reference in n. 106 above.

17' B.L., Lansdowne blS 2013, fos. 6-8; G.L., MS 14346/1~ fo. 92". Cf. early Stuart pressure

from the leather crafts which resulted in a proclamation in 1608 revoking leather licences: C.J.,

I, 200; P.R.0.: SP 1q/gA/20~ fo. 47; Stuart rcyal ,broclamations, I, 182-3.

173 Calendar oypntent rolls, Eli~abet/r, IV, 199.

17' Cnlendar oJpatent rolls, Elizabeth, v, 6 (Sir Henry Neville, 1570, 8,000 cloths), 18 (Thomas

Blount, 1570, ~o,ooo;, 407 (Burghley, 1572, 12~000);VI?281 (\Valsingham, 1574, 8,000) ;VII,21-2

(Huntingdon, I 376, 8,oooi, 80 (Lord Howard, 1576, 4,000); P.R.O., C66/1320, mm. 19-11

(Raleigh, 1588, 8,000;; C66/1325, mm. 39-42 (Hunsdon, 1589, 20,ooo).


cloths), 1579 (7o,ooo), and 1582 (IOO,OOO),

and to Lord Howard in 1589 (100,ooo) only exempted the merchants from the Henrician statutes, and left in force the requirement of the 1566 statute for the dressing of the tenth cloth, leaving the Clothworkers with a source of employment provided that they could prevent mercantile evasion of the statute.175 Unfortunately, the discussions behind the making of these grants cannot be recaptured, but one strongly suspects that the Clothworkers' continual pressure for employment for their artisans played a role in government thinking.

But the most significant instances of the role of company pressure come in the form of the modification and even withdrawal of controversial licences. Gregor Duncan has demonstrated the sustained harassment to which monopolists could be subjected in the law courts. He describes the opposition of the clothiers of Essex working in conjunction with the Clothworkers' and Drapers' Companies of London to the monopoly for the manufacture of frisadoes granted to John Hastings in 1569. The opposition claimed that the grant did not cover cloths manufactured in England before his grant, and contested his seizure of Essex cloths on the grounds that they were not of the type covered by the grant. Hastings found it impossible to restrain the Essex bay makers and the London retailers.176 It is not the only such example. Richard Mathewe's grant for the manufacture of 'turkey hafts' for knives and weapons was successfully opposed by the Cutlers' Company before the privy council on the grounds that there was only a slight difference in the hafts made by Mathewe from those normally pr0d~ced.l~~

The greatest triumph was that won over Sir Edward Darcy's patent for sealing leather. Almost as soon as the grant was issued the council recognised that the rates for sealing were far too high, and attempted to negotiate a compromise settlement. When Darcy's grant was revised in March 1594 the fees were reduced. Other concessions were the removal of an offensive clause empowering Darcy to prosecute those who refused to enter bonds to seal their leather, for offences against the Statute of Artificers, and the insertion of a proviso to protect the rights of search of the Skinners' Company over furs.17' The concessions were not, however enough for Darcy's opponents in the city who continued to petition that the grant receive trial at common law.17' But the round of frantic lobbying and the references in the city archives end in 1596 when the aldermen rejected Darcy's

175 Calender ofpatent rolls, Elizabeth, VII, 345; VIII, 134; IX? 289; P.R.O., C66/132j, mm. 39-41; C66/13302 mm. 3-2. But note that Cumberland's 1601 licence which was without limitation as to the number of cloths to be exported, allowed the export of all undressed cloth, except Kent and Suffolk cloths. The reasons behind the change in government thinking are not altogether clear, but were probably a mixture of fiscalism (Cumberland offered ,61,ooo p.a. rent), and anxieties about the future of the cloth trade at the turn of the century because ofdisputes with the emperor: P.R.O., SP 12/281/44, fos. 88-9.

176 G.D. Duncan, 'Monopolies', pp. 188-94; P.R.O., SP 12/286/48, fo. 129.

177 Calendar ofpatenf rolls, Elizabetlr, v, 273; C.L.R.O., Rep. I 7, fos. 232, 262~; P.R.O., SP 121

286148, fo. 129.

17' P.R.O., C6611384: mm 1-12; C6611418: mm. 1-4. For the Skinners' objections! see Sk.

Co., C.M.11, fos. 208v, ~II;U'.A. IV, fos. 395r-\': 410.

C.L.R.O., Remembrancia, 11: nos. 14, 70, 78, 82: I 19, 126.

offer to sell his interest to the city for i(;q,o~o."~ The silence of the sources thereafter is perplexing. There is no record that the £4,000 was ever paid, and such a sum could not have been raised without taxation of the commons. But Nicholas Fuller, who was counsel to the Leathersellers' Company in this campaign, recalled many years later that the grant was adjudged to be void by the opinion of the judges in Star Chamber and subsequently revoked.181 This was perhaps not quite as much as the city wanted, as it was not a

judgement at common law, but the noxious patent had been defeated.

The foregoing arguments might be used to support several general conclusions. Those sceptical of the coherence of 'government policies' towards the economy will be impressed by the variety of measures which reflected not the dictates of economic planners, but the lobbying of interest groups. Historians sceptical of the overblown importance of parliament can take comfort in the demonstration that parliament was only one of a variety of fora within which redress of grievances might be explored. But what I wish to emphasize is that the study of lobbying shows how responsive those in authority were to pressure from below. The objectives of lobbying, in particular the measures to curb unlicensed non-free labour and those designed to promote the use of the company's product or cheapen raw materials, reflected the preoccupations of the small producer. The campaigns therefore served to focus loyalties to the companies. The sense of a community of interest was even stronger when the campaigns involved companies in clashes with outside interests, such as other companies or patentees. It is true that where the companies were divided between a ruling body dominated by merchants and a rank and file composed of artisans, the ruling assistants often needed prodding from below. Thus the Clothworkers' campaigns were usually promoted by the yeomanry organiza- tion of the artisans, apparently with little involvement by the wardens beyond the provision of campaign funds. This might lead to criticism of the wardens where support was felt to have been lacking: this is the explanation for the highly embittered feelings of the artisan skinners towards their rulers in the first decade of the seventeenth But the ruling assistants were usually sufficiently responsive to pressures from the artisans to retain their loyalty, and there was very little conflict over the objectives of suits. i\,loreover, the voice of the artisans was heeded not only in the company halls, but also often at Westminster. The wide range of opportunities for redress meant that the weaknesses of parliament as a legislative machine did not preclude the possibility of a more limited success being achieved elsewhere. Campaigns in parliament must be seen as part of a continuum in which redress was explored in a variety of ways, of which parliament was not necessarily the most

lso Ibid. no. 142.

Foster (ed.),Proceedings, 11: I j8 18' Sk. CO., C.iLI., I, ~OS.88-9.


important. Because some companies did achieve successes by the exploitation of the machinery of central government, others probably appreciated the possibility of success whatever their current frustrations might have suggested. Here, then, is another illustration of the way in which the institutions of central government served as points of contact and contributed to the stability of the English polity.

  • Recommend Us