Wool Trade
An extract from Rev. Jones History of Bradford on Avon, 1859:

A notice of Bradford would be incomplete without a few words on the subject of the wool-trade, in which, from an early period, some of its principal inhabitants were engaged. For many centuries, the words of Leland have been true, 'Al the toun of Bradeford stondith by clooth-making."1 Anyone who has at all studied the early history of our country, must be well aware that, at one time, the trade in wool was of the greatest importance ; in fact our commerce was almost confined to the exportation of wool, the great staple commodity of England, upon which, more than any other, in its raw or manufactured state, our national wealth has been founded. So that Fuller was quite right when he said, " Well might the French ambassador return 'France, France, France,' reiterated to every petty title of the King of Spain; and our English 'wool, wool, wool ' may counterpoise the numerous but inconsiderable commodities of other countries."2
Originally our wool was exported to Flanders for the most Part, and there made into cloth. In the time of Edward III, however, a different plan began to be adopted. In 1331, he took advantage of the discontent among the merchants of Flanders to invite them as settlers in his dominions, and they brought hither some manufactures of cloth, which up to that time had been unknown in England. He thus became the Father of English Commerce, a title not more glorious, but by which he may perhaps claim more of our gratitude, than as the hero of Crecy. From that time the occupation of a merchant became honorable ; immense fortunes were made, and in many instances nobly spent, for we owe some of our finest churches, best endowed schools, and other charities, to merchants of the staple. As the duty on wool still formed a principal source of the king's revenue, by an act passed in the 27th year of his reign, certain towns were appointed as stapks or markets for wool, and to one or other of these all wool was henceforth to be taken, that there the tax on it might be duly collected.1 Our staple or wool-market was at Bristol. So profitable was the trade that some of the nobles were even tempted at times to engage in it. In the earlier parts of the 15th century, we find amongst those who indulged in this speculation the august names of the then Duke of Suffolk, the Prior of Bridlington, and Margaret of Anjou, the spirited Queen of Henry VI.2
Whether any of the Hall family, like their namesake John Hall, of Salisbury, were merchants of the staple, we cannot say, but it is not improbable. As years rolled on, they wondrously increased their wealth and their possessions. At the close of the 15th century (as appears by a deed dated 21st Edward IV.) Henry Hall, who then had lately succeeded to the estates of his father, Nicholas Hall, had lands in Bradford, Lye, Troll Parva, Slade, Ford, Wraxhall, Holt, Broughton,Marlborough, Okebourn Meysey, in Wilts, and at Freshford, Iford, Mitford, Frome, Fleete, Widcombe, Portishead, and ther places in Somerset. At all events, we know that both Horton and Lucas were thriving clothiers here before the Reformation. And the words of Leland, already quoted, imply, that in the middle of the sixteenth century ' cloth-making ' was very general here; the means, in fact, by which the town was supported. And from that time to the present, the history of our town is little more than a record of steady and often successful pursuit of the clothing trade ; of large fortunes made, and frequently generously spent; in more instances than one, of coronets obtained by descendants of our wealthy manufacturers. Of some of them we shall speak presently; meanwhile we must resume the regular course of our narrative.
The energy of the ' Methwins ' and the ' Cams ' bore good fruit in the great increase of the trade of the town ;-indeed Aubrey bears witness that "Mr. Paul Methwin of Bradford was the greatest cloathier of his time." Nor should we forget to mention Anthony and William Druce, whose name is still preserved in ' Druce's Hill' (before called 'The Green'), a spot of ground no great distance from the church-yard, and who belonged to the Society of Quakers, then numerous here as in other towns in Wiltshire; and John Curll, whose memory must ever be held in affectionate esteem in a parish whose poor inhabitants benefit yearly through his munificense.
By the efforts of these and others Bradford enlarged to a great degree the extent of its manufactures. Cottages sprang up in every quarter, each one furnished with o loom and plenty of work to secure its constant employment Our town, in fact, became a steady-going,-- businesslike money-making place. Cloth-making was lucrative, and so a large amount of capital was year by year invested in it. In the year 1723, we find no less than twenty-five clothiers in the parish of Bradford, the greater part of them in the town itself and the value of their stock-in-trade was computed at £40,000, a sum relatively much larger than it would be deemed at present, but one which, even thus reckoned, would bear a small proportion to the capital employed at the commencement of the 19th century. Amongst the clothiers of that day, we find the well known names of Heyleyn, - Thresher, - Methuen, - Druce, - Baskerville, - Halliday, - Shewell, - Shrapnell, - Bush, - Self, - and Yerbury.
[Meanwhile the population increased considerably. Adopting the author's computation, we have for
Average Probable burials population
10 years ending 1640, per annum 39.6 probable poulation 1980.
6 years ending 1645, per annum 57.1 probable poulation 2855.
8 years ending1670, per annum 42.1 probable poulation 2105.
10 years ending 1680, per annum 50.9 probable poulation 2545
10 years ending 1690, per annum 52.5 probable poulation 2625
10 years ending 1700, per annum 67.2 probable poulation 3360
10 years ending 1710, per annum 82.2probable poulation 4110
10 years ending 1720, per annum 76.5 probable poulation 3825
10 years ending 1730, per annum 82.9 probable poulation 4145

Mark here the reduction consequent on the civil war. Bradford was then the biggest town in Wiltshire, except Salisbury, Marlborough, and Corsley! (?) Devizes being doubtful.
In 1752-3 a slight check must have been given to the prosperity of Bradford by an epidemic of small-pox. It lasted from July till the following May. There died 189; 1367 are said to have recovered, and 127 to have been inoculated. We may conjecture tJiat about one third of the population were attacked; but the ratio of deaths to attaclcs, 12-98 per cent., was not nearly so high as is usjtal in unvaccinated persons iiowadays.]
The rest of the history of our town may be shortly told. From the middle of the18th century till 1840, it is hardly more than a continued record of successful industry. Iu the course of years one improvement after another was introduced into tho manufacture of cloth. Trade increased,- our manufacturers became wealthy,- employment attracted numbers to our town. So abundant, indeed, was employment, that the wool after having undergone various processes to fit it to be spun into yarn was carried for that purpose to spinners residing not only in all the neighbouring villages, but as far as Salisbury Plain. The names of Tugwell, - Atwood, - [Cam,] - Head [with the unusual preuomen of Jehoshaphat],-Bethel,-Strawbridge,- Stevens,- Phelphs,- &c. ;-names not yet forgotten in the town,-bear ample testimony to the success that in the latter portion of the last century attended the spirit and industry of the clothiers of Bradford.
[Other names of interest, or which still occur in the town, may be found in the lists of jurymen at the local courts, or of the manorial officers ; thus in 1747, Daniel Cluttcrbuck, steward of the manor, Thos. Saunders, bailiff; in 1765, Edward Orpin, coroner of the market (the subject of Gainsborough's of " The Parish Clerk"); also Deverell, Timbrell, Dory,Moore, Spencer, Gaisford, Rudman, Gerrish, Renison, Sartain, Spender, Pitman. In 1747 the tithingman for Holt was Thomas Tartanweaver: was this a new surname coined for Scotch immigrant, and was tartan popular here while forbidden in the Highlands ? In the same, year we find also the following still extant names on the Roll of the Borough, viz., Batchelor, Batten, Bendal, Blanchard, Baily, Beverstock, Bull, Burgess, Burcombe, Coles, Crook, Edwards, Ellet (Elliot), Ferris, Huntley, Kemp, Kite, Miles, Milsom, Morris, Price, Ptarce, Porch, Silby, Skrine, Sparks, Stillman, Tucker.
Then came the introduction of machinery, and with it the Factory System. Then the weavers and others employed in the manufacture of cloth, instead of plying their craft, as heretofore, in their own cottages were collected into large buildings, many of them erected for the special purpose of receiving them. At the commencement of th 19th century, no less than thirty-two of these were at work in our town, every building, in fact, which could bo converted to the purpose being made one of these hives of industry.1 Even the "Chapel of out Lady " on Tory could not escape such a doom in an age, when utility, so far as money-making was concerned, was the sole standard by which all things were judged. And yet what more striking monitor could there be than the ceaseless ' click ' of the' weaver's shuttle' that life is far too short, too uncertain, to allow us safely to engross our energies in the pursuit of earthly riches!
It was not, indeed, without a struggle that the employers tus brought in a new order of things. On the introduction of the spinning jennies, and the carding machines, no disturbance had arisen, however much men may secretly have murmured them. But when a step further was taken, then their broke out iuto open resistance. On the evening of 14, 1791, a tumultuous mob of nearly 500 persons
assembled before the house of Mr. Phelps1 an eminent clothier of the town. The matter of complaint was, that he had converted one of his old carding engines into a scribbling machine, which the hand-scribblers believed would eventually throw them out of employ. A demand was, therefore, made by the mob that Mr. Phelps should deliver up the machine into their hands, or else pledge himself never more to work it. On his refusing to do so the rioters began to throw stones, whereby many who by this time had come to the assistance of Mr. Phelps were seriously wounded. They continued their assault until not only all the windows of the house were broken, but much of the furniture damaged. Feeling that their lives were in danger, Mr. Phelps and his friends fired on the mob, and a man, a woman, and a boy were killed, and two others dangerously wounded. Still the tumult was unappeased, and, as the only means whereby to save the further effusion of blood, Mr. Phelps surrendered the obnoxious machine into their hands, and they burnt it upon the bridge. Some of the principal rioters were subsequently captured, and sent to take their trial at the ensuing assizes. The coroner's inquest which sat on the slain bodies, returned a verdict of ' justifiable homicide.'2
The check given by these disturbances to the onward progress of our town was but momentary. For half a century after that time the stream of prosperity flowed steadily on.The parish during that period numbered more than 10,000 souls within its borders. [In the Landscape Album, published late as 1834, and in which is a view of Bradford Town Bridge by Westall, of date about 1819, the place is distinguished as Great Bradford, and is described as "a large town, the houses " (of which) " chiefly built of stone, form the central residence of the greatest clothiers in Europe, this place being famous for the best manufacture of superfine woollen cloths. It is also noted for having been the spot where kerseymeres were first made." (Kerseymere, a twilled cloth of fine wool: the name is a corruption of cashmere, cassimere. See Skeat's Dictionary, p. 313).]
At last the tide began to turn. In the year 1841, the failure pf the local Bank and of several of the largest manufacturers threw hundreds out of work, and cast an abiding gloom over our town, the effect of which has hardly yet passed away. Then no less than 400 were forced to seek shelter within the walls of the workhouse, a number much beyond the capabilities of the then existing buildings properly to accommodate, and the limit allowed by law. Added to these, 300 able-bodied men were employed in out-door labour, in making roads or other parochial improvements. For the payment of these last-named poor persons, for some time no less than £70 was required weekly. Poor rates rose to ten shillings in the pound; distress was universal. Many noble efforts were made to meet the exigencies of the distressed weavers. An emigration fund of large amount was formed, by which many of them were enabled to seek in foreign lands employment which here was no longer to be obtained. By degrees others were helped on their way to Wales or to the North of England, or to other Peaces more in our immediate neighbourhood, that there they nught earn subsistence by the labour of their hands for them-yes and their families. For several years there was in some sort of "exodus' of its working population engaged in Manufactures from the town of Bradford. In the short space
ten years its population had decreased nearly 25 per cent and in 1851 the number of factories was less than a fifth of those at work in fifty years before.