The journal of design and manufactures
Original papers: The manufacturing centres of the United Kingdom. (For Birmingham, see vol. ii. p. 1. Spitalfields, vol. ii. p. 168. Norwich, vol. iii. p. 9.) Kidderminster. No. I., pp. 129-132
THE MANUF&CTURING CENTRES OF THE UNITED KINGDOM. (For Bigham, see vol. ii. p. 1. Spitaluld , vol. U. p. 168. N orwich, vol. ii. p. 9.) Kidderminster. Yo. I. To those who delight in the poring over musty records, and penetrating into dark portions of the earlier history of our manufactures, we leave the not over-profitable task of disclosing what preceded the period at which we commence our notice of the Manufactures of Kidderminster. We are confident that posterior to the time of the Third Henry any information relative thereto must be of an extremely questionable kind, but that the fabrication of woollen clothing was carried on in the district at an earlier period we have no doubt. For all practical purposes it is sufficient for us to know that the first authentic information we have upon the matter is to be found in an old legal document bearing date somewhere about the beginning of the thirteenth century, relating to "a messuage and land," granted by one Alured, son of Ketelbern, a " fuller" of Kidderminster. Whether the said "fuller" was a descendant of some of the Norman followers who came across with the Conqueror, and to whom we are largely indebted for sowing the seeds of that widely-spread spirit of in- dustry which pervades the length and breadth of our land, we leave others to determine ; the existence of the craft of cloth-making and woollen manufactures in the locality is at once demonstrated, or receives strong additional confirm- atory proof, from the circumstance, trifling as it is, which we have alluded to. Curiously girt about with privileges, which we at the present day might feel disposed to ridicule, the ancient guilds doubtless served a wise and im- portant purpose in allowing only those to practise a craft or trade who had prepared themselves by an apprenticeship to do so ; equally peculiar is it to us in this nineteenth century, in the hey-day of free-trade, to scan the restric- tions which hemmed around and regulated the importation or exportation of raw products, wool in particular ; and numberless were the dilemmas, as con- sequences, which king, commons, and merchants, were not unfrequently placed in. During the reign of Edward III. we hear of the first enactment for prohi- biting the export of wool, though he scrupled not to avail himself of the privilege of selling in the dearest market; the concluding portion of his sway was marked with contests, many and long, with the merchants respecting his grants of wool, the duty on that sold, and the prohibition on exportation. Certain cities only were entitled to the right of being "staples" for the purchase and sale of wool. Officers were appointed to put a seal on every sack sold, and the customs' duty varied as to whether the purchaser was a dweller in the town or an "alien ;" the right of exportation was limited to strangers or to the merchants of the Hanse towns. Though we do not find Kidderminster enumerated among those towns to which the privilege of being a "staple" for the purchase of wool was con- ceded, we find its inhabitants engaged in the craft of cloth-making, and, in common with one or two towns in the county, having the exclusive right of producing and selling woollen goods; its manufacturers also enjoyed an im- munity respecting the rents of their dwellings and workshops, under the pain of a heavy penalty ; these enactments occur somewhere about the 25th year of the reign of Henry VIII., until which period, upon the authority of the local historian Nash, they had but little trade. The Reformation, while it broke apparently the reign of spiritual despotism, seems also to have dissipated the incubus which held down the artists of commerce and manufactures. The regulation alluded to we find expressed as follows,-that after "the first of September, 1536, no person, of what degree or condition so ever he or they be, shall make or cause to be made within the shire of Worcester any manner of woollen cloths to be sold, except only such persons as shall be dwelling within the city of Worcester, the boroughs and towns of Kidderminster, Eveshan, Journal of Design. No. 17, July, 1850.
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