The Manor and The Bishop/Town Industry and Crafts

Chapter III: Town Industry and Crafts

As families grew larger, and mechanical devises became available - to increase farm production, spare labour had to be found work. To start a cottage industry adapting skills and applying new ones small businesses began to appear. Shoes, metalwork, basket weaving, straw dollies, leather goods all gave a basis for work. The carter transported the work to market and local shops, and operated a door-to-door service. These industries included putting out cloth. Whole families combined to weave and spin, crochet and knit – children carding wool, women spinning it into yarn, and men weaving the thread. Cottages would be altered to accommodate the industry and families cooperated to form a production line. The Tatworth watermill sold meal and flour both for the local farmer and from further afield. He also provided the results of his labour to a mealman who was the middleman in the transaction. The grinding of corn continued until it proved to be uneconomic.

In the 1620s, the price for fine wool collapsed due to over production and the demand for undyed wool from the continent was banned. Six years earlier the London dyers persuaded the government to ban all undyed cloth. All the small south coast exporters felt the pinch from this ban and one by one faced extinction. Those that were worse off were the cottage industries especially those that served the export trade. Initially they built up stocks hoping that the government would realise their predicament but eventually this failed.

Within the first quarter of the century the summers were recorded as poor… this affected the harvests… corn prices shot up. Many of the farmers still struggling from enclosures lost their livelihoods. In 1622, the cloth trade was in ruins. Broadcloth went out of fashion. Lighter weaves and cloths that are more colourful were in demand. Because the previous ban on undyed cloth had choked off the export trade, the continental weavers had made their own. Now the call was for quality cloth…

This area of England was firmly behind Parliament and Cromwell. That does not mean to say that pockets of Royalists were not to be found close to stately homes, castles and the houses of landed gentry. Even so, the tenants, in-house servants, land-workers and tradesmen, of these rich men, were parliamentarians. Royalists were referred to as 'malignant' and high churchmen as 'scandalous' - and the bishop of Bath owned Chard manor. By 1646, there were a number of minority religions. There were the: Baptist, Ranters, Muggletonians, Quakers, and Congregationalists - a new movement. The Congregationalists were members of the puritan Presbyterian communion; some of these were called Independents of the New Independent Church.

By the end of the year, the First Civil War ended. The unpaid royalist army collapsed and the men made their way back home. Their reception was hostile and businesses taken over or torn down. Many of these disfranchised soldiers immigrated to Spain continuing their royalist sympathies. In 1649 The Monarchy, the House of Lords, and the Anglican Church were abolished… All lands sized by the Parliamentarians, now subject to the law of the land - were restored and boroughs regained their old charters. Parliament passed the Act of Uniformity, which made the Church of England the official religion.

By about 1650, some yeomen were letting their houses to people outside the borough boundaries. We can make a judgement that this was the last century that yeomen farmers farmed their own land that includes copyhold or freehold land. Their status gave them automatic rights to pronounce on village matters, run the lord’s farms and to be the leaders in the community. Gradually outsiders replaced them some selling their holdings and others renting out. Their time was waning and so was the influence of the manor court. The medieval system with its emphasis on residence and inheritance lost out to new owners looking on their holdings as investments. They were not interested in maintaining the manor, the lord or his rights. It was the foundation being laid for industrialization. The agricultural sector was operating at a time of low prices, in a society, which was vibrant and expanding. Machines were needed to provide greater productivity.

Cromwell died in 1658… soon afterwards The Restoration took place bringing Charles II to the throne… The Commonwealth passed and the House of Stuart restored. In a lifetime Darby’s coke, smelting process revolutionized the iron industry and Watt’s steam engines did the same for mining, weaving and lace making. Meanwhile the fashion was flippancy and lace.

The new charter granted to the borough by Charles II in 1661, restored old liberties and rights. The Tory party lead by Earl Poulett stood shoulder to shoulder behind the new charter but it was too late. The Poulett family obtained a rent from the church for stewardship of the estate. There was a deduction from their rent for their undertaking. This agreement continued until the confiscation of the estate by the Chromwellian government – giving it to Colonel Nathaniel Whetham for services rendered eventually the estate was granted back by Charles II and the Colonel recompensed. By judicious handling, the Pouletts gained much of the freehold land and buildings. Their manipulation of the leases allowing them to let the land out to tender. A managerial control not well received by the farmers.

William III and Mary invited to rule the Country in 1689… almost immediately they scrapped the Hearth Tax. With the new royal family came permanent toleration for nonconformist religions - by way of the Toleration Act… quickly Meeting Houses were built and congregations formed. The religious non-conformists insisted upon having a mayor or officer answerable to the community… they won the day a portreeve was installed. [Today Chard is lead by the Town Clerk]. The Dissenters were not averse to using the church for baptisms and burials… at times they attended with everyone else on Sundays ever bearing their responsibilities becoming churchwardens or trustees. Church rates provided the money to look after the church fabric. There were a number of householders who paid rent for church lands and a number of non-residents. Burials inside and outside could be bought and kept over if not used. The Parish outgoing covered the repair of the roof, keeping the graveyard tidy and maintaining the tower. Gravediggers were provided from the populace, as were mourners and headstone carvers. From Reformation times the care of the poor and needy became the duty of the parish and a number of bequests were made to help provide clothes and sustenance.

The court leet was to be held annually, to deal with town nuisances, drunks, highwaymen, field regulations, assizes of bread and ale. Gradually these concerns fell away leaving land registry their main consideration. The town’s budget rested on rents taken from ‘capital burgesses’ properties. Although there were seventy-five tenancies including by then shops, alehouses, businesses, and arable land etc., it was not always a fair levy. High rents due to the Lord of the Manor, who at this time was Lord Poulett, the income was not enough to maintain the town’s services.

The shops paying rent to the portreeve are difficult to research. The court only occasionally fined shops and then mostly those selling bread or ale. This was to do with the contents and weight. The production of saleable goods – made in one place and sold in another, was allowed by statute but only then to badgers or kidders who were licensed by the county court. The rapid rise in the number of shops took business away from the established markets. The innkeeper did not just sell ale. Food in the form of bread, vegetables, and fruit was also sold. Only later, the village victualler or grocer became the badger and he sold by license all the common goods. These shopkeepers were from yeoman families. By the end of the 17th century, the badger became the grocer or chandler… In some places, the chandler was originally the tallow-chandler - the candlestick maker and seller. Having a reliable outlet he also sold provisions, such as: twine, string, rope, belts, nails and all manner of metal and wooden goods – to become the hardware store. In other towns provided linen, woollen goods, lace, and knitwear. Having a general store came from the entrepreneurial spirit of the owner who traded in anything that would provide an income.

The Enclosure Act 1760 – 1844, saw the removal of the balks and the fields divided into blocks, hedges planted and greater consideration made to drain and fertilize the fields. Up to 1844 in some areas the open-field - three-field system, was still working. Enclosure was not just a matter of individuals putting up fences around their strips in the common-field. That is far too simple and almost reasonable. No, it was about the removal of everybody’s rights in the field and with those stolen rights the reallocation of the land to another. The ‘Act of Parliament for the Inclosing of the Open and Common Fields, Commons and Waste Grounds within the Parish of Chard’, went ahead. There were 1,611 Enclosure Acts between 1760-93. It was done to make better use of the land - which could not be disputed. It was to whom it was allocated was the rub. The land was to go to those claimants who could use it properly… persons who already had land under cultivation - land that they owned.

The lord of the manor and the Bishop, who already owned the largest land areas, had in proportion the largest share, commensurate with their holdings. This occurred down the hierarchy – those who had the most got the most but they had to give up the right to allocate the waste, lost the tithe. We do not know how the Commissioners measured those rights, what weighting given to common field land, pasture rights, existing enclosed land and house plots. We do not know about the deduction of corn rent, land usage, mineral rights, wasteland or spoils of the forest were. In fact, the new owners should have made some sort of payment to those who did not retain any land. The suppression of common and grazing rights caused hardship and often riots.

Chard, and its satellite villages, was fortunate: they were close to commercial trade routes. Both the town’s rivers provided substantial amounts of water for industrial use. The local watermills gave power… the rich pastureland provided food for the cows, and the sheep supplied wool for weaving and hides. Above all, the farmers tilled the soil that provided harvests to feed the population… and the land gave yet more… The extraction of stone, gravel, clay and lime from rocky outcrops, quarries, opencast and underground mines kept pace with house and road building and allied trades – it was an expanding business through the centuries, although influenced by fashions and foreign competition. The wealth of the land was recognised in the Iron and Bronze Age. The Romans, who further developed the industry, knew about its potential well before setting out across the channel. Traders from Europe and from further afield, dealt in extracted minerals and the smelted ore. The quarrying of stone, recorded in 1235, was used for building. Both dressed and hewed stone, and knapped flints- seen on buildings today.

In Tatworth, the extracted stone was a slightly different colour recorded in the field survey of 1599. The relatively small clay pit in Perry Street close to the brickworks suggests that local building materials were manufactured and used in the area. The Romans first introduced brick making to Britain in 43AD. The techniques they used were developed from brickworks in the Mediterranean.

The term ‘brick’ was not used until the middle of the 1400s. Previously it was difficult to differentiate between descriptive words for tile or brick, the word tegula does for both. The nearest recorded word is ‘brick stone’ used in 1483 and ‘brickstonys’ in 1670. Buildings for the wealthy have always been made to be long lasting and secure. Homes for the lower classes were constructed to last ‘their lifetime’. The cost dictated style, endurance and comfort. The poor had their huts and hovels, which with a bit of work and a call for more space became a cottage that eventually became upgraded to a house…

At first, all dwellings were made out of wood – as pole and timber framed houses, with wattle and daub as an infill. To ensure a more substantial structure a base of stone was used, perhaps, up to the first floor. When the hall-house had the central fire enclosed and the space partitioned into separate rooms load bearing walls were built. The expense of carting stone suggested a cheaper product. Cob took the place of stone, which was made out of a compacted mixture of clay, mud, limestone, and sand to make blocks, or the mixture tamped down between shuttering. A longer lasting item were bricks bedded in mortar. All these building materials were found on-site or close-to. When bricks were used, these too were fashioned on-site especially if the building large or a number of houses built in the same place. Making bricks was not an unusual practice. Many villages and towns had their own brickworks in the 1700s and later.

A satisfactory composition for brick making is clay and sand. The term clay refers to fine-textured, silky material with a high alumina content with a consistency when wet of plasticene. This material mixed with a suitable silicate makes when fired bricks, tiles, drainpipes and domestic pottery. In general, brickyards are placed where there is suitable bed of loam, the clay, and sand carted from a local site. On three adjoining field there maybe three distinct types of clay, each composition suitable for a different job.

In the 18th-century local bricks were kiln-burnt. The kilns were built in a similar style to those used by the Romans - straight sided, open-topped and, similar to lime kilns, built into the side of an earth bank or outcrop. Building into a bank gave the structure substance and insulation. Two tunnels were made at the base to set the fire in and the bricks for firing placed opposite at a higher level above vents, which extended the whole width of the kiln. The bricks for firing stacked in a manner to allow hot gasses to circulate. When the kiln was full a layer of burnt bricks placed over the top to form a roof. The faggots pushed down the firing tunnels to reach the back and lit allowing a gentle heat at first to dissipate the excess moisture in the bricks. Gradually the heat is raised and maintained for at least forty-eight hours.

Brick making was a seasonal activity. Brick earth was dug in the autumn and left standing to ‘temper’ in the wind, rain and frosts. Moulding could only begin when there was no danger from freezing weather damaging the drying bricks. The moulds had to be sanded, to stop the clay from sticking to the moulds sides. The hods had to be scraped clean ready for the next day’s work. A brickmaker could make by hand a thousand bricks a day. The baking of bricks took place after mid-summer until the autumn when the whole operation started again. There was much to do to stack and care for the bricks, rebuild the kiln, gather wood, and order in other materials. It was not unusual to have in the same yard a limekiln. Chalk was either extracted at the site or carted in. As wood became scarce and the transport of coal made easier wood kilns were adapted to use a different material for firing. Conical extensions were built to regulate the draught. The manufacture of bricks, tiles and pipes often coinciding with the burning of lime formed an easy alliance. The transport of materials by road, canal and rail stimulated trade and ancillary businesses. Extracting unused minerals gave the road maker an easy source of ballast and surface grade materials. The mining industry involved a number of stages: extraction, grading, storage and shipment within these basic parts the production of power, the removal of water and development of the necessary winding gear, essential for the working of the mine.

The Tatworth Middle Field Report shows five land survey maps through the ages. Not only was stone quarried in and around Chard, but flints, sand, lime and clay. In the 1700s, it is recorded that a brick kiln built and clay pit dug - for the manufacture of bricks. There was reputed to be a similar construction in Perry Street, a little later that same century. It is interesting to speculate what quality this clay was and if it used purely for brick making.

From previous records, it seems that few brick makers served an apprenticeship, which suggests that these places were family run affairs. By the late 1700s, the first mechanical method to come into general use was the pug mill for mixing the clay. This consisted of a vertical shaft with several blades attached, which revolves inside a drum. The wet clay, ash, breeze or sand fed into the top, churned and extruded from the bottom. The vertical shaft turned by a beam harnessed to a horse. Previously this mixing was done by hand, using a spade or treading with bare feet. Later, the wooden barrel replaced by metal and the horse by steam engine. To make drainpipes extruded pugged clay through a die to produce a ready shaped pipe

The 1800 – 1840 Field Patterns clearly identify the considerable lime workings north of Church Path or Chard Road - up from the A358 to Witney Lane, an area previously known as Church Lane furlong. In 1898, there was an extraction of chalk in the eastern section and thirty years later an enlargement northwards. Both these quarries had attendant limekilns. Builders use lime on its own and in conjunction with other materials to make cob, daub, external coating, and infill, and as a pointing material and mortar… it was an improvement on mud, sand and clay. Lime is a caustic solid of calcium made into a dry white powder by baking chalk to a high temperature then crushing. Close to the extraction point, the kiln worker would construct an oven and bake the chalkstone, which would, when crushed to produce caustic lime.

Farmers had known since the middle of the eighteenth century that an application of lime to the soil improved its fertility – replacing minerals washed out of the soil and over production. Just digging out chalk and spreading it onto fields was not sufficient… it had to be crushed –to a powdered form, spread onto the soil and left - to be taken into the soil by wind and rain, before ploughing.

Another product of mining was the extraction of clay. As for lime, clay has many uses other than as a building material… pottery, papermaking, electrical insulators and clay tobacco pipes. Clay pipe making started in the 1500s when Sir Walter Raleigh introduced tobacco to England. The clay necessary to make successful castings is easily mouldable white clay, which has a large proportion of kaolinite. This clay was described as Ball Clay. Previous clay extractors - usually farmers, were not aware of the finer qualities of the material. They dug the clay out of pits with a spade and the result used for any number of projects. Most of these pits were centred on Newton Abbot working clay that had been eroded from Dartmoor. In transportation, the dug out blocks or cubes lost their edges - becoming a lump of clay, further handling turned the lumps into a rough ball. Clay tobacco pipe producers wanted this fine clay from Newton Abbot - for its known fired strength. This particular clay was identified as ‘ball’ clay - and it came from pits centred on Devon and Dorset.

The bulk of clay production, for making building products, porcelain, paper and textile finishes, began in the late 1700s – about the same time that mechanical pumping gear was installed in the mines - which brought the clay to the surface with the water… The pumped water had the metal impurities separated in ‘settling pits’, allowing the pure clay to continue to pore into drying pans, to be left to settle. The water was left to evaporate naturally over a period of six months. The resulting solidified clay - still with large water content, was cut into blocks… allowed to further dry out in the open air, or in sheds, then dressed, and stacked. Then, before being sold and shipped, the outsides of the blocks scrapped clean… and finally packaged. The material most suitable to achieve these aims was clay with a large component of decomposed feldspar – aluminium silicates, plus other rock particles - clay that was finely grained, even sized and uncontaminated. The difference between the clay used by ceramic producers and pipe manufacturers is particle size not necessarily component mineral. Both the pipe maker and potter used a quantity of the other’s material. Around 1770, Wedgwood needed an equal amount of ball clay and china clay to make his ‘cream ware’. The prepared clay is placed in the mould to be fired…

The separation of clay from the pumped water and the working of kilns for the extracted lime provided additional profitable lines for the mining operation. Having the means to transport the ore and other extracts needed a linked transport system – using packhorses, wagons, canals and railways. The closer these could be brought to the mineshaft, the better. For transportation to inland industrial sites and for export, barges and ships were used – requiring quays, ports or a shelving beach. Lyme Bay became the nearest port of call for south Somerset, Dorset and Devon. Records from the census give the 1860s as the peak for production… thereafter, a slow decline to almost extinction.

The earliest documented clay pipemaker in Chard was Edward Collins, and his son Trustrum, who produced tobacco pipes, (bowl heel impressed, E.C., about the same time as one other pipe producer named George Webb. Both these pipe manufacturers worked out of Chard, in the 1650s. It is agreed by experts that clay pipe manufacture began in the late sixteenth century and became popular over the next hundred years. Pipe smokers could use and discard half a dozen pipes a day. This suggests the need for large manufacturing industry - to keep pace. This recorded industry, believed to be situated towards the southeast end of Fore Street had links to the manufacture of pewter and the skills necessary for the manufacture of moulds for pipe bowls and stems. The Collins team developed a range of bowl designs unusual to clay pipe manufacture. Having the knowledge how to make a suitable mould for pipe manufacture was essential and pewter was the ideal metal to use for making the mould. Edward Collins received his clay by the same route as that taken by lace and wool traders. The extraction of clay – a by-product of the many mines in and around Devon and Cornwall, became an industrial partnership between the miner, industrialist, lime producer and potter and had been going on for years. The mechanization of the mining industry spilled over to the needs of other industries.

The extracted clay was transported to suitable beaches and port quays, perhaps, Lyme Bay, Morwellham, or Totnes… then by packhorse to neighbouring villages and towns being by far the most convenient and cheapest method. On receipt, he submerged the balls of clay in water - awaiting attention by the plug mill – mixed by beating and pummelling to remove excess water, air pockets, and lumps - ensuring consistency of material before cut into pieces - suitable to be shaped into rolls - thick one end - for the bowl, and thin the other for the stem. A needle, inserted - by pulling the clay over the needle - gave an airway. The roughly shaped clay pipe, with threaded stem, then covered in oil, to allow easy extraction – placed into the mould. The potter, clay pipe maker and kiln operator, needed the material to hold its shape when left in the sun or taken out of the kiln. For the manufacture of tobacco pipes, the moulded article had to be capable of sustaining its shape - whilst drying out, prior to firing, and when fired, the pipe should display its original moulded shape… The product also had to be strong enough to stand reasonable handling and attractive enough - in colour and design, to be sellable, and presentable when used in public.

In the West Country, the mining of tin and lead and their smelting developed pewter for plates and mugs. The skill of setting molten metal into prepared shapes was suitable for all manner of everyday items… This use of local minerals by the Collins was opportune. They had the knowledge and foresight to adapt those materials, which were on hand, to produce a much-needed item. They knew that pewter was an alloy of mainly tin and lead, and other minerals – tin always being the greater component, and was an ideal material for making moulds. Tin was, and is mined, mainly in Cornwall and west Devon; there are also mines on the nearby continent… All their production was transported to English manufacturing areas by sea, to the nearest port - closest to the point of manufacture. Tin has always been a prized metal, the addition of copper instead of lead - produces bronze. It is recorded, that there was a manufacturer of pewter working in Chard between the dates 1635-41. Pewterers set up shop in mainly market towns close to water, wood and other industrial necessities. The pewter industry suffered a decline from 1740 onwards because of the production of porcelain – the use of clay as a cheap plentiful product promoted the popularity of pottery ware, rather than pewter…

In 1828 John Wightman, a farmer who understood the need for metal farm implements started an iron moulding business, he was later joined by ironmonger Charles Dening in 1842. In 1883, they employed fifty-three workers - demonstrating that this was no small concern but a thriving industry, which continued until after The Second World War. Their yard was packed with all kinds of agricultural machinery and implements – cultivators, horse-ploughs, reapers and binders, threshing machines all sorts of drills, harrows, horse-rakes and tucked into a corner massive elevators, wagons, tractors, and combines. The discarded scrap found its way into the furnace to be made into ingots and the cast iron re-worked by the smithy. The foundry staffs who work in close harmony with the smith adapted, devised, reshaped and reworked to save as much material and time as possible… mainly to forge iron tools for farming, iron and brass mouldings for engines and turning and fittings for pipes and rods… work that needed the skills of white and coppersmiths, blacksmiths and engineers.

Another - John Smith soon joined these Ironmasters, in 1839, which expanded the industry into brass and iron foundry work, which became the Phoenix Engineering Company and still operates today. Concerns that deal with everyday farm machinery know that the work has to be carried out quickly and cheaply. The throughput of work is great, relying on a storeroom carrying all manner of spares and ancillary items. Increasingly it was found, after the age of the horse, that a qualified agricultural engineer and motor fitter were necessary skills to offer to the farming industry.

Five years before, the town watermill was sold to John Deane, onetime owner of Parrocks Lodge. He converted the mill’s floor space to house weaving looms – using the power generated by the watermill. It was a time of poor harvests and bitter winters, which together forced up the price of bread. The poor relied upon handouts of bread, which were not always forthcoming. Families were issued with bread based upon the number of dependants. The French Revolutionary Wars created inflation that further drained the town’s wealth – harmed domestic producers and agricultural interests. John Deane’s family had been prominent clothiers in the 1500s, and thereafter for a further two hundred years. When John Deane died Benjamin Coles took over the ailing weaving house - trying to reinvigorate the business. Three years later, Coles, in 1818, gave up the unequal struggle and sold the mill. The new owner converted the wool weaving looms into the manufacture of lace.

The second most popular trade for the poor was shoe making. Shoes were to the farm labourer a fashion accessory. Boots, on the other hand, were part of everyday life. To the researcher shoe is a basic descriptive term covering both shoes and boots. As part of his stock in trade the shoemaker made gaiters, aprons, belts and a range of other leather goods associated with farming and farmers. It would have been rare, for him to be asked to produce a pair of shoes or top boots. Boots for best and boots for working were straight and blunt toed. Hobnails were adopted as standard wear for work… It would take another twenty years before rights and lefts, pointed and oval toed, and heels were to be added. Later, metal eyelets invented to take the laces. The prosperity of the shoemaker was very reliant upon the well-being of the farmer… when he had hard times so did the shoemaker, cobbler and snob.

By the middle of the nineteenth century, heels returned, as built-up leather pieces, to give a platform of about an inch. The penultimate operation of the shoemaker was to use a heated iron to take out the wrinkles and tighten up the grain surface, before applying the wax. As with most of the cottage industries, the market fluctuates according to fashion and the state of the local economy. When the shoe trade faltered bags, slippers, straps and gaiters filled the books. All these items were passed to the local carrier to take on his round to sell to those unable to come to the shoemakers shop. The village Carrier’s cart would hold all these items and many more including, baskets and besom brooms to sell on… making a percentage of the price for his labour.

It was a similar story for the lace trade… Chard’s connection with the ‘bone lace’, trade goes back to Charles II and the Restoration period – a period of exceptional expansion dictated by the return to flippancy in wearing apparel and the dictates of a boasting aristocracy. On the continent, the craft goes back a further hundred years.