« AnteriorContinuar »
sides of high mountains, near half a mile from the vein. The one at the top of the vein, which appeared by daylight, was sulphurous, but in sinking deeper the vein got more moisture, and the ore improved in goodness. The ore got by gin under level was so rich in silver that Queen Elizabeth sued for it and recovered it from Earl Percy (lord of the manor) for a royal vein. The most judicious chemists of England were concerned in the trial, either as of the jury or evidence. The verdict was given for the queen: and, as the German books give account, a hundred tons of ore was entered upon by the queen's agents.'
When the German miners died out, or migrated elsewhere, the works fell into decay, and the mines ceased to be worked. Fuller, the Church historian, writing in 1684, after thev had been ' laid in,' quaintly surmised that 'probablv the bury ins: of so much steel in the bowels of men during the late Civil Wars, hath hindered the further digging of copper out of the bowels of the earth.' In consequence of the shortness in the home supply of the metal, England for a long time imported its copper principally from Hungary and Sweden, while English calamine, from which brass is principallv made, was exported as ballast.— 'copper,' says Plot, 'comeing cheaper from Sweden than they could make it here.'
While the Germans were actively employed among us as miners from an early period, they also started manv important branches of manufactures in metal. One Christopher Schutze, from Annaburg, in Saxony, besides being extensively employed in mining operations, established in 15(35 the first wire-drawmg mill in England. About the same time another foreigner, a Dutchman, named Joseph Laban, erected a second wire work m the neighbourhood of Tintcrn Abbey, and the descendants of the family are still traceable in the neighbourhood. Godtrey Box, of Liege, began the same business at Esher in Surrey, where it was afterwards continued by two Germans, Mommer and Demetrius; while the art of needle-making was introduced by another German, named Elias Crowse. Stow says that before Lis time a Spanish negro made needles in Cheapside, but held his art a secret. The Germans were more open, and taught their art to the native workmen, thereby establishing a considerable branch of industry.* Although
* The art of pin-making must have been practised in England long before, for English pins were famous even on the Continent, superseding skewers of bone, wood, and silver. In 1400 the Duchess of Orleans is stated to have purchased from her 'epinglier' at Paris five hundred pins of English make ('de la faeon d'Angleterre'}. They cost a considerable sum, and were such expensive luxuries that the use of them led to the custom of allowing the wife 'pin-money.' The English must, however, have fallen behind in the art of din-rnakine a century and
Although various foreign branches of industry thus became planted in England, the foreign artisans residing here were for a long time wholly unable to supply the demand for articles in ordinary use, which continued to be imported from abroad in large quantities. Cloth, leather, hats, and various ornamental fabrics were brought from Flanders and France; Delft ware from Holland ; stone drinking pots from Cologne; cutlery from Nuremberg; glass from Venice; and millinery from Milan. The milaners of London constituted a special class of retail dealers. They sold not only French and Flemish cloths, but Spanish gloves and girdles, Milan caps, swords, daggers, knives and cutlery, needles, pins, porcelain, glass, and various articles of foreign manufacture. All that remains of this once important class of tradesmen is but their name of 'milliner,' which is still applied to dealers in ladies' caps and bonnets.
To carry on the extensive business connected with the import and sale of foreign commodities, the merchants of many countries established agencies in England, and special privileges were usually granted to the 'merchant strangers.' Most of the Italian republics were thus represented; the Lombards principally residing in Lombard Street, which still retains their name. But when the Italian republics became a prey to anarchy, their commercial importance rapidly declined, and the great Hanse towns of Germany rose upon their ruins.
The foreign trade of Britain then fell almost entirely into the hands of the German merchants, whom Pennant styles 'our masters in the art of commerce.' They were first known among ns as the Esterlings—the name still surviving in our sterling money, the coin paid by the Hanse merchants in exchange lor English wool being especially esteemed for its purity.* A branch of this great confederacy was established in London, where it was known as 'The Steelyard Company of Foreign Merchants.' Their guildhall and storehouses were situated in Dovrngard (now Dowgate) Ward, in Upper Thames Street. The buildings occupied a large space of ground, and extended to the river side. They were enclosed within high and strong
i half later, for we find Fuller, writing of the year 1542, saying, ' it may easily be prcved that about this time strangers have sold in this land pinnes to the value of t'aree score thousand pounds a yeare.' The manufacture teems to have been re-established by the help of Flemish artizans in the reign of James I.
* Camden says—' In the time of King Richard the First, monie coined in the east parts of Germauie began to be of especiall request in England for the puritie thereof, and was called Ewsterling monie, as all the inhabitants of those parts were ealled Eatterlhigt; and shortly after, some of that commie skilful in mint matters andalloies, were sent for into this realme to bring the coins to perfection, which »iice that time was called of them sterling, for liutlerling.'
walls, and barricaded with stout iron gates, like a fortress. For a long time nearly the whole foreign trade of the country was conducted by these Steelyard merchants, who bought up and exported our English wool, and imported foreign iron and steel, besides metal wares of all kinds, paying the customary toll at Billingsgate in fine cloth, gloves, pepper, and vinegar. On more than one occasion their fortress had to stand a siege by the turbulent London populace. In 1381 they resisted the assault of Wat Tyler and his men until the authorities recovered from their panic ;-but a century later, in 1493, the mob were more successful, for they broke into the place and completely gutted it.
The Steelyard merchants were also in great peril during the serious riot which broke out on ' Evil May Day,' 1517. Large numbers of foreign artisans then inhabited the suburbs, where they made and sold a variety of articles to the supposed detriment of the English workmen. The Flemings especially abounded in Southwark, Westminster, and St . Catherine's, all outside 'the freedom of the city;' and there were so many French in Tottenham, that 'Tottenham is turned French' passed into a proverb. Hall, in his 'Life of Henry VIII.' says, ' there were such numbers of foreigners employed as artificers that the English could get no work.' It was also alleged that 'they export so much wool, tin, and lead, that English adventurers can have no living;' and the Dutch, or Germans, were especially complained against because of thehimportations of large quantities of ' iron, timber, and leather, ready manufactured, and nails, locks, baskets, cupboards, stools, tables, chests, girdles, saddles, and painted cloths.' ,
Most probably, the real secret of the popular outcry was, that the foreign artisans were more industrious, and manufactured better and cheaper things than the English could then do; and hence the riot of 'Evil May Day,' the object of which was the expulsion or destruction of the foreigners. The latter, being forewarned of the outbreak, took the precaution of retiring into the villages round London, so that the rioters were left to expend their fury upon their dwellings, which were for the most part pillaged and destroyed. The Steelyard merchants barred their gates, and successfully resisted all assaults, until help arrived. The authorities acted in the matter with creditable promptitude. Lincoln and Bell, two of the most prominent leaders in the riot, were seized and hanged with ten others. Peace was thus restored, and the city was compelled by the king (Henry VIII.) to make good the losses sustained by the foreign artisans.
The Steelvard Company continued to flourish until the reign of Edward VI., when their privileges were withdrawn; and in the reign of Elizabeth (1597), the Emperor Rodolph of Germany havmg issued a mandate ordering the factories of the English merchant adventurers in Germany to be shut up, the queen took advantage of the circumstance to order the lord mayor and sheriffs of London to shut up the premises occupied by the merchants of the Steelyard, which put an end to the existence of the Company. But though no longer protected by privilege, the Hanse Town merchants long continued to carry on their trade, and as late as 1790, Pennant described the Steelyard as * the great repository of imported iron, which furnishes our metropolis with that necessary material; the quantity of bars that fills the yards and warehouses of this quarter strikes with astonishment the most indifferent beholder.'* To this, it may be added, that the Steelyard continued the property of the Hanse Towns corporation of merchants until within the last few years, when it was sold by them to the Victoria Dock Company; and the whole of the buildings have only recently been cleared away to make room for the Cannon Street Station of the South Eastern Railway, which now covers the whole of the site of the ancient Steelyard.
It is scarcely necessary to point out the striking contrast presented by the England of to-day with the England of a few centuries ago. We have long since ceased to depend upon foreign skill, and have now quite as much knowledge to impart to as to gain from German metallurgists. Instead .of having our manufactures conducted by foreign artizans, and our commerce by foreign merchants in foreign ships, t we have ourselves become the greatest manufacturing, commercial, and maritime people on the face of the globe. The rapid growth of British commerce is the theme of the glowing eloquence of the Chancellor -of the Exchequer in each succeeding session of Parliament. In his last Budget speech Mr. Gladstone said: 'There is a race between nations in industry and enterprise, and there can be no -doubt which nation is foremost in the race—it is the United Kingdom. The external commerce of this country is as great as the commerce of France and America combined — the two countries which come next; that is, with our thirty millions
* Pennant's ' Account of London,' p. 309.
t Before the reign of Henry VIII. the carrying trade of England was almost «ntirely conducted in foreign vessels. Even the royal navy consisted principally of ships hired from the Venetians, Genoese, the Hanse Towns, and other trading p»opte. Henry resolved on forming a permanent navy, and established regular buildisg-yards at Woolwich, Deptford, and Chatham, in which Italian shipwrights were for the most part first employed. But it was not till the reign of Elizabeth that England (to use the words of Purchas) was ' freed from Easterlings' and Lombards' borrowed legs,' and began to conduct her carrying trade for the most part in English-built ships.
Of of population we have as great a commerce as France and America with their seventy millions of population.' Thus, in little more than a century, the former state of things has become entirely reversed.
In 1731, Joshua Gee stated that England was the best customer in Europe for the iron of Sweden and Russia, importing from those countries between two and three hundred thousand pounds worth yearly; and he urged that Great Britain should encourage the making of pig-iron in our American colonies (where fuel of wood was abundant and cheap), so as thereby to become independent of foreign nations.* In 1750, according to a MS. statement drawn up by Abraham Darby of Colebrookedale, we imported 23,000 tons of iron from Sweden, 10,000 tons from Russia, and 5000 tons from Spain, while the whole make ol England was only 13,000 tons. Compare this with the state of things now. Although in 1864 we imported 53,918 tons ot charcoal bar-iron of the value of 025,283/. (mostly for the purposes of the Sheffield steel manufacture), we in the same year exported 1,494,030 tons of iron and steel in various forms, wrought and unwrought, of the value of 13,214,294/., besides steam-engines and machinery of the value of 4,854,190/., in addition to the iron, steel, engines, and machinery, manufactured for our own use at home.
To what are we to attribute this astonishing increase? 'What, asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his late speech, 'has given us this advantage? Our geographical position and the character of our people are great advantages; but these are the same now as they were centuries ago, and centuries ago England did not lead the commerce of the world. The cause of our present pre-eminence is, no doubt, the possession of mineral treasures, and especially of coal; and not merely the possession of coal, but its possession in such a position that Ave can raise it to the surface at a lower price than any other country in the world.' To this Mr. Gladstone might have added the great mechanical inventions which have distinguished this country during the last century— such as the spinning-jenny, the mule, the power-loom, the steamhammer, but above all the steam-engine, which has so enormouslv added to our productive power, and given us that start which, helped by our natural advantages, as well as by the enterprise and industry of our people, have enabled us to keep ' the foremost in the race' until the present time.
The facility which exists in this country for manufacturmg
* 'The Trade and Navigation of Great Britain considered.' By Joshua Gee. 1731.