D'Amay says that Linen was not common in the west in the 8th century; that tabic Linen was very rare in England in the 13th and 14th centuries ; and that La Flamma, a writer of the 14th century, says, the Emperors Frederick Barbarossa, and Frederick II. wore shirts of serge, not of Linen, at Milan. Sturtt observes that the manufacture of Linen in this country was not carried to any extent before the middle of the 17th century, and was in its infancy even in the times of Charles II. At that time it was imported from Flanders, and was very dear.
Gems were frequently inserted in Linen, and he says of cloth of Rayne, the " Head ihete of pery pigbt, With diamond, set tad rubies bright" Anderson, in his "History of Commerce," quoting from Richard Hakluyt, says, in 1430 England imported from Flanders, “fine cloth of Ypres and of Courtrai of all colors, much fustian, and also Linen cloth from Bretagne, " salt, wines, Linen, and canvas from Cologne, via Flanders, "thread, wool-cards, fustians, canvas and buckram from Brabant, " mercery, haberdashery, and grocery;" from Ireland, "hides, fish, wool, Linen cloth, and skins of wild beasts' The same author says, in 1579 " there are persons in Persia who stain Linen cloth. It hath been an old trade in England, whereof some excellent cloths yet remain, but the art is now lost in this realm."
The silk manufacture was introduced about the beginning of the 15th century. At this period, according to a curious pamphlet called the “Prologue of English Policy," crest-cloth or linen, and canvas were imported from Brittany; Flax, Hemp, thread, and canvas from Germany and Prussia. In an act passed in the twelfth year of the reign of King Henry VII., (1497), mention is made of the nature and extent of the foreign commerce of the country; Linen forms but a very small part of the exports, as it is scarcely mentioned; nor does it hold a more prominent place among the exports of 1511. About this time Linen, even the very coarsest dowlas, was derived from Flanders. The English had then a factory at Antwerp, whence they had removed it a few years before from Bruges. In “Nicholl’s Illustrations" is an inventory of the goods of “John Port, late the king's servant," who died in 1524. His house consisted of " a hall, parlor, buttery, and kitchen, with two chambers, and one smaller in the floor above, a napery or Linen room, and three garret* besides a shop." In 1531 the legislature seems to have become more alive to the importance of the Linen trade, a statute having been enacted requiring that, under certain penalties, " for every sixty acres of land fit for tillage, one rood should be sown with Flax and Hemp seed/' and in the register of Pulham, St Mary, fines paid for the non-fulfillment of this law are recorded. By the 5th Elizabeth, c. 5, that Queen had power by her proclamation to revive this law in such counties as she should judge proper, " for the better provision of nets for help and furtherance of fishing, and for eschewing of idleness," but no mention is made of the Linen manufacture.
About 1540 a trade was opened up by England with the Mediterranean and the coast of Africa, and the first article enumerated amongst the exports is Linen. In 1553 the trade between England and Russia was begun, and among the exports to Archangel, and also to Narva, coarse Linen cloth is mentioned. In 1588 the first voyage from London to Benin was made, and Linens are the first of the commodities named among the exports to that country. As related in Guiciardini's picture of Antwerp, in 1560, England, Scotland, and Ireland, in common with many other countries, drew supplies of Linen from that city, which was then the great emporium of the Linen of Flanders. Missenden, in his " Circle of Commerce, mentions that in 1612, among the principal imports into England from Europe, Linens held a prominent place, and that during a great part of the 16th and 17th centuries, they were largely imported. In the 17th century England imported vast quantities of Hemp, Flax, &c., from Carolina, in North America. About the middle of the 16th century the growing of Hemp and Flax met with more encouragement from the Government than that of hops, yet it appears to have totally failed. Toward the end of this century (1597), the monopoly of the “steelyard" was abolished. The foreign merchants, in revenge, managed to force the English merchants to remove their staple town on the continent from place to place, until at last they found a kind reception at Hamburg. To this city they exported woolen cloth, &c., and imported from the Hanse Towns, jewels, silk, Linen, tapestry, Ac. In 1552 an Act was passed confirming the manufacture of domocks, (coarse Linen diaper), and some other things to Norwich, and to all corporate and market towns in that county. To that and to the neighboring counties the persecuted Flemish manufacturers fled in crowds, scared by the inhumanities of the execrable Duke D' Alva, his popish priestly bloodhounds, and savage soldiery. This act, passed by the amiable Edward VI., enabled these poor people, some twenty years afterwards, the more easily to prosecute their diligent labors in these districts; and to their industrious pursuits, among which was the making of Linen, England owes much of her present superiority in manufactures, trade, and commerce.
The manufacture of sail-cloth was established in England in 1590, as appears by the preamble of 1st James I, " Whereas the cloth called Mildernix and Powd Davits, whereof sails and other furniture for the navy and shipping are made, were heretofore altogether brought out of France and other parts beyond sea, and the skill and art of making and weaving of the said cloths never known or used in England until about the thirty-second year of the late Queen Elizabeth, about what time and not before the perfect art or skill of making or weaving of the said cloths was attained to, and since practiced and continued in this realm, to the great benefit and commodity thereof." In 1622 a special commission was appointed to enquire into the decline of trade in England:—" Consider also that whereas our Eastland merchants did formerly load their ships with undressed Hemp and Flax in great quantities, which set great numbers of our people to work in dressing the same, and converting them into Linen cloth, which kind of trade, we understand, is of late almost given over by bringing in Hemp and Flax ready dressed, and that, for the most part, by strangers. How may this be redressed? And as much treasure is yearly spent in Linen cloth imported at dear rates, and for that of the fishery so much desired by us be thoroughly undertaken, and our shipping increased, it will require a much greater production of Hemp for cordage, &c, in the fishery, which would set an infinite number of our people to work. Consider how the sowing of Flax and Hemp may be encouraged." Parliament in 1643 laid a duty on damask table Linen. In 1663 statutes were passed for the encouragement of the Linen and tapestry manufactures of England, and the discouragement of the very great importation of foreign Linens and tapestry.
In 1668 England was almost wholly supplied with Linens from France. At this time the French Protestants settled at Ipswich made Linen at 15s per ell. In 1670 " the wear of flimsy muslin " was introduced into England, before which time our more natural and usual wear were cambric, Silesia canvas, and such kinds of Flaxen Linens from Flanders and Germany.
Table cloths were sometimes made of very valuable Linen. Mrs. Otter, in Ben Johnson's "Silent Women," mentions a damask tablecloth which cost £18. The good man of the house sat at the upper end of the board " with a fayre napkin layde before him on the table lyke a master." At the close of Henry VIII.'s reign, the breeches worn were trussed out to an enormous size with horse hair, and a law was made against thin In the pedigree of the English Gallant, related that a man who was cited for disobeying this law, gave ocular demonstration to the Judge that it was a storehouse for his spare Linen, and was dismissed. Shirts were articles of great expense and elegance. They were made of " Cainericke Holland lawn, or else of the finest cloth that may be got' and were so wrought with " needlework of silk and so curiously stitched, with other knache besides," that their price would sometimes amount to £10.
These short notices of the import and export of Linens show that the manufacture in this country had been on a very trifling scale, and on the whole not sufficient to supply the home demand, as the imports seem to have exceeded the exports. Indeed from the passing of the statute in 1531, already referred to, up to the year 1767 many attempts were made to extend and improve the cultivation of Flax in England, and protection was afforded to the grower of the plant in various ways. Success does not appear to have attended the efforts of the Government, and in the latter year £15,000 were proposed to be distributed among the successful cultivators of the plant. For fifteen years no candidate came forward to claim a premium, which shows that little interest was taken in the matter; and that little Flax was grown, notwithstanding the encouragement offered by Government About 1798 a bounty of 4d a stone for the encouragement of the growth of Flax in England, was given to claimants. Andrew Tarranton in a publication issued in 1677, entitled “England’s Improvement by Land and Sea," proposed " To outdo the Dutch without Fighting.
His plan was to establish the Linen manufacture in England, and by this means give employment to the people, and at the same time make the country independent of foreign nations. He mentions that vast quantities of Linens are yearly brought into England, some of it used there and the rest exported to our islands and other places; as well as threads, tapes, twines, for cordage and wrought Flax.
Flax, he says, was grown in the upper parts of Germany, Saxony, and Bohemia, where victuals were cheap, and as the pulling, watering, dressing, spinning and winding the Flax gave much employment, there were no beggars there. In all the towns in Germany there were schools for little girls from six years old and upwards, where they were taught to spin, and by this early training they were enabled to produce a very fine thread more easily than if they had learned when older. The wheels were moved by the foot, and went easily with a delightful motion, and the mode of teaching the children was as follows:—Around a large room a number of benches were placed, in which sat perhaps two hundred children spinning. In the centre stood a pulpit, in which the mistress sat with a long white wand in her hand, watching the spinners. When any one was seen idle she was tapped with the wand, but if that did not do a small bell was rung, which brought out a woman, to whom the offender was pointed out, and who took her into another room where she was chastised. All this was done without speaking a word, and this training, the author thought, would do good in England, where the young women were so given to chatting. In an adjoining room a woman prepared and put the Flax on the distaffs, and when a maid had spun off the Flax, the bell was rung, the rod pointed to her, another distaff given, and the bobbin with the threads removed, and put into a box with others of the same size to make cloth. As the children learned to spin finer, they were raised to higher benches, and great care was taken to sort the thread and keep it uniform, and so to make regular cloth. The thread or yarn was brought down the Elbe or Rhine in dry fats for Holland and Flanders, where it was weaved into fine Linen and bleached, and then exported. The people in these countries paid high rents for their houses and for provisions, but the weaving and bleaching of the cloth was not more than a tenth part of the labor, which made high charges for these processes less felt on the cloth.
This vast trade it was said would continue in Holland and Flanders unless the Linen trade were promoted in England, and due care taken of the sorting of the yarn there, which had not been the case. In England, a good housewife had six or eight spinners belonging to her; and sometimes she, her servants, and children span, the yarn being all put together, some for warp and some for weft to one piece of cloth, which made the Linen unequal throughout He recommended the training of the girls in spinning schools for three years as in Germany, which would teach them industrious habits, and by the time they reached their ninth year they would, he says, earn eight pence a day, and thus enrich their father instead of beggaring him, as they did when running about idle. The author had, from 1665 until he wrote the book in 1677, often travelled through Warwickshire on his way to London, and observed how suitable much of the soil there was for rearing Flax. He therefore recommended the establishment of the manufacture of Linens in Warwick, Leicester, Northampton, and Oxford-shires, because these countries had then no staple trade, and the land was rich and dry, and such as Flax grows best in. Bleach-fields, he says, should be put down by the banks of rivers near the great towns, as it then was in Southwark by the help of the flowing of the Thames. He recommended each county to raise money to start the manufacture at first. After it was established in these counties and encouraged by a public law, they would soon become what Germany was to Holland and Flanders, as the yarn would be sent down the navigable rivers to the several towns to be woven, along with such of the Flax as was not spun in the counties. In this way employment would be provided for the unemployed, of which there were so many in these counties, and at least two millions of money a year kept in the country, which was then sent out for Linen cloth. This, he supposed, would keep the people at home who then went beyond the seas, and it would make the country populous and rich, and greatly benefit the landlords and all classes of the community. He thus shows that bleaching had then been carried on by the side of the Thames in Southwark, and that the central counties in England had no trade, and no means of employing the population, excepting at agricultural labor and work incidental thereto; and as this did not yield employment to all the people, many had to emigrate to other lands. The author points to some large tracts of fine land suitable for growing Flax, and in one case mentions 3000 acres, near Stratford-upon-Avon, of the value of about £3000 a year, which exhibits the rent of such land at that period. This land, he says, would bear three of Flax an acre, which, well dressed, would make 1400 ells of cloth, worth three shillings the ell, or when manufactured sixty pounds an acre. Three people he says are required to manufacture the produce of an acre of Flax, and therefore these 3000 acres alone would employ 9000 persons. Thus by growing Flax extensively all the poor in England would be employed, and the country enriched. This is a very interesting account of the Linen trade at that period in Germany, Holland, &c., and it would have been of immense advantage to England had the recommendation of the author been carried out. The description of the spinning schools is curious. A regulation at one tame existed in England, something akin to the stamping of Linens in Scotland. It was called a commission for the sealing lace, buttons, and Linen cloths, and it appears to have been abolished by King Charles I., in the following proclamation, made at York in 1639:—" Whereas divers grants, licenses, privileges, and commissions had been procured from him. on pretence for the common good and profit of his subjects, which since, upon experience, have been found to be prejudicial and inconvenient to his people, and in their execution have been notoriously abused, he is now pleased, of his mere grace and favor, with the advice of the Privy Council, to declare these following to be utterly void and revoked."
In 1685, the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, by Louis XIV., drove about 600,000 Protestant artificers from France, of whom about 70,000 settled in England. There they introduced new manufactures and improved old ones, Linen, for which they had been long famous, being among the latter. An act was passed in 1678 prohibiting the importation of French merchandize; but on the accession of James II., who, for Popish ends, wished to conciliate Louis of France, this act was repealed, in consequence of which there was an inundation of French commodities. In 1686, as shown by the Custom House books, the value of Linen imported was £398,611 14s old, and the average annual importations of Linen for that and the two following years was estimated at £700,000. Anderson says that in 1696 " the English, Scotch, and Irish Linen manufactures met with all due encouragement, King William and the late Queen Mary honoring them with their names, which made their fame to rise. Abundance of people of condition came into them, some of lucre, and others from love to their country." In 1698 Dupin, one of the French refugees was instrumental in advancing the manufacture of fine Linen, thread, ropes, lace, &c. About the end of the 17th century it was doubtful if the Linen trade would prove successful in England, and it was then a question if it would be for the benefit of the country that it should, as it might interfere with what was called " our noble and ancient woolen manufacture " It was said that it required about 20 acres of land to breed wool for setting on work the same number of hands which an acre of Flax would employ, and yet in the end the woolen manufacture would be found to employ by far the greatest number of hands, and yield the most profit to the public, as well as to the manufacturers. Even in Holland, where the Linen manufacture was so prosperous, it was said the Dutch had only the easiest and most profitable part of the trade, the weaving and whitening of it. Most of the yarn was spun in Germany, Prussia, &c, where the people, being poor, could spin cheaper than the people of Holland or England can do. • But in countries where labor and land are cheap, as in Scotland and Ireland, the Linen manufacture had been found to be profitable to the community. In 1669 Linen yarn weighing 23,680 lbs. was imported into the port of London from Scotland. In the month of May 1730 London imported—fine Linen from Holland, 66,286 ells; from Hamburg and Bremen, 1,232,209 ells; Irish Linen, 179,114 yards; and Linen Tarn from Hamburg, 73,450 lbs. On 23d October, 1738,151,219 yards of Linen manufactured in Scotland, and 3000 sps. Of yarn were imported into London. In 1731 the quantity of all kinds of Linen imported into the port of London alone was nearly 14,000,000 ells, the greater part of which was again exported to the plantations in America, and to the factories in Africa. In 1703 a bounty of £6 a ton was allowed on the importation of Hemp from America. This must have been discontinued, because in order to obtain a cheaper and surer supply of Flax and Hemp, and to encourage their cultivation in the American colonies, the parliament granted a bounty of £8 on every ton of clean mercantile Hemp, or rough Flax, imported from the British American colonies from 24th June, 17C4, to 24th June, 1771, from thence to 22d June, 1778, £6; and thereafter to 24th June, 1785, £4. The pre-emption of all such Flax and Hemp being offered to the commanders of the navy, and twenty days allowed for their determination, before the importer could be at liberty to sell it to a private buyer. About 1605, Sir W. Morrison says that nearly all the nations of Europe, including England, took Flax, Hemp, &c, from the Turks, and in Munn's treatise in favor of the East India trade, published in 1621, he makes the same statement In 1717 the duty of 6d on every piece of forty ells of British made Linen exported, which had been laid on by the tonnage and poundage act, was taken off," the said manufacture employing many thousands of the poor of this kingdom." About 1720 great complaints were made by the weavers of the change of fashion in dress, caused by the French commercial treaty of 1713, and by the subsequent introduction of Indian cotton and cotton cloth. “The Weavers' True Cause" says that instead of the women of the gentry wearing English brocades and Venetians as of late, they were now clothed with outlawed India chintz. The common traders' wives hold changed their alight silk damasks for English and Dutch printed calicoes. The good country dames had superseded worsted damasks, flowered russets, and flowered calamancoes, with ordinary calicoes and printed Linens; and the meanest of them had given up plain worsted stuffs for ordinary printed Linens, whereby these famous branches of the weaving trade had almost become extinct. The weavers were stricken with horror at the growing frenzy of English women for printed calicoes, and declared that “the weaving of printed or painted commodities puts all degrees and orders of woman kind into disorder and confusion. The lady cannot be well known from her chambermaid. But when our womankind was clothed with silk and woolen commodities, these mistakes were avoided, and a tolerable order observed." However fallacious such reasoning, it was power enough to procure an enactment in 1721, which made it penal to sell or to weave calico. When that enactment was no longer tenable, it was in 1736 still penal to weave calico, unless the warp was wholly of Linen, and this continued to be British law until 1784. On Sunday, 30th Dec., 1722, a woman was seized near London Wall, in the city of London, for wearing a gown faced with calico, and being carried before a magistrate, and refusing to pay the penalty inflicted by the statute, she was committed to the Compter. So says a London newspaper, published on Tuesday, 1st January, 1723. To prevent the use of calicoes from interfering with the demand for Linens and woolens, a statute was passed in 1721 imposing a penalty of £5 upon the weaver, and £20 upon the seller, of a piece of calico. Fifteen years afterwards this statute was so far modified that calicoes manufactured in Great Britain were allowed to be worn, “provided the warp thereof was entirely made of Linen yarn." In 1774 a statute was passed allowing printed goods wholly made of cotton, to be used upon paying a duty of 3d a yard, Ac. The statute continued in force many years. In 1745, an act was passed, 18 Geo. II., c. 36, for the encouragement of the native Linen trade, by which it was enacted " that it shall not be lawful for any person in Great Britain to wear any cambric or French lawn under the penalty of £5, and the like penalty on the act, 21 Geo. II. c. 26, was passed for explaining, amending, and enforcing the previous act, by farther extending the penalties to the vendors, and also to the milliners making up such fabrics. These acts, like many other which still cumber the statute book, must have been, in a great measure, inoperative, if indeed they were ever seriously intended to be enforced, and they ought never to have been passed. In order still farther to encourage the manufacture of sailcloth in Great Britain, which was then in a prosperous and improved state, and had previously been fostered by many acts of parliament imposing duties on foreign cloth imported, Ac., an act was passed in 1746,19 Geo. IL, c 27, confirming previous acts, and ordaining that every vessel built in Great Britain, and in His Majesty's plantations in America, must, at her first sailing, be furnished with one full and complete set of new sails made of sail-cloth manufactured in Great Britain, under the penalty of £50: and any sail maker in Great Britain or the plantations shall on every new sail affix in words at length, a stamp of eight inches diameter, whereon his name and place of abode shall plainly appear, under the penalty of £10. A manufacture of cambric in imitation of the French cambric was established at Winchelsea in 1761. In 1764, the English Linen Company was established as a corporate body, chiefly for the purpose of making cambric and lawns of the kind called French Lawns, with a joint capital stock which should not exceed £100,000; the goods, in order to certify them to be of English manufacture, to be sealed at each end of the piece by proper officers before they were taken out of the loom. This company may have been intended to supply the void caused by the prohibition to wear French cambric by the acts of 1745. This year, 1764, a great improvement in the spinning-wheel was invented by Mr. Harrison, whereby it was said a “child may spin twice as much as a grown person can do with the common wheel" The Patriotic 8ociety for the encouragement of arts and commerce gave him a premium of £50. In 1764, Linens were exported from the following places in England, viz., as appears from a report made up at that time by Br Buscbing, of Gottengen—Stafford, in Staffordshire; Darlington, in Durham; Manchester and Warrington, in Lancashire " The Progress of Commerce from 1700 to 1800" it is mentioned that Great Britain imported Flax and Hemp, Ac., and exported Linen manufactures; that Ireland exported Linens to Portugal, and that German and Irish Linens were sent as far as to Timbuctoo For the establishment of a fund of £15,000 a year to encourage the cultivation and dressing of Hemp and Flax, additional duties were in 1767 laid on foreign canvas and lawns, to be repaid on such as should be exported. In 1770 it was enacted that £8000 of this sum should be for England, and £7000 for Scotland. Should the funds fall short of £15,000, England to have 8-15ths and Scotland 7-15ths of the amount collected. By the thirteenth Report of the Commissioners for Examining the Public Accounts, dated 18th March 1785, it appears that no claims had at that date been made from England, but that a few had been made from Scotland. In 1767 an additional duty of 3d was laid on every ell of drilling and Linen above one yard wide imported. Linens imported into England from foreign countries:— In 1773 there was great stagnation in the Linen trade throughout the United Elingdom, owing to serious over trading in 1771, both at home and abroad, the loaded state of the foreign markets from excessive exports in 1770, 1771, and 1772, and many failures in the latter year. Mr. Paine, Governor of the Bank of England, in his examination before the House of Commons, estimated that the importation of foreign Linens, which in 1772 had been 27,000,000 yards, had fallen in 1773 to 17,000,000 yards. By the Act 22 George III., cap. 40 (1782), the crime of cutting or destroying woolen, silk, cotton, or Linen goods, or of any utensils used in their manufacture, was made a felony without benefit of clergy. On an average of the three years, 1768 to 1770, the quantity of Flax seed imported from America was To Great BriUiD, 12,436 boahflli To Ireland, . 266,861 „ 268,287 „ at 2.3d £30,232 6a M. On the average of the three years from 1777 to 1779, the value of Flax seed imported from the Continent of Europe, chiefly from Holland and Russia, was To England, .... £239,869 6 3 To Scotland, .... 180,941 18 6 £426,811 3 9 From the period of the introduction of the cotton manufacture into England in the early part of the 17th century, down to the year 1773, the weft or transverse threads of the web only were of cotton, the warp, or longitudinal threads being wholly of Linen yarn, principally imported from Germany, Ireland, and Scotland. In the early stages of the manufacture, the weavers, dispersed in cottages throughout the country, provided the yarn for their webs, and carried them to the market when they were finished. About 1760, Manchester merchants began to send agents into the country, who employed weavers, and furnished them with the Linen yarn for warp, and raw cotton for weft, the latter having to be carded, and then spun with the common spindle and distaff by the weaver's family. The latter was perhaps an improvement on the former plan, but both were slow and tedious, and the quantity of cloth which could be so produced was necessarily of limited extent The invention of the spinning Jenny by James Hargraves, in 1767, superseded the spindle and distaff, and subsequent improvements on it, and the invention of the spinning frame by Richard Arkwright, in 1770, obviated the necessity of using Flax yarn for warp. After this period calicoes and other fabrics were made wholly of cotton, The introduction of the cotton manufacture into England was a severe blow to the Linen trade in that country, and since that period cotton and Linen have, in a great measure, been antagonistic to each other. The invention of machinery for spinning the cotton made the competition all the stronger, and gave cotton a great advantage over Flax. At first, cotton strong enough for warp could not be spun by machinery, and for some time calicoes were made with Linen warp and cotton weft. While this continued large quantities of Flax yarn were used, but Arkwright's invention, and improvements thereon, speedily enabled cotton spinners to produce yarn strong enough for warp, and Flax yarn was then discarded. After that period King Cotton ruled supreme, until the fratricidal war in America compelled him to bow his head, and give his rival Flax a moment's breathing space. This has been of immense benefit to the Linen trade, and may prove of permanent advantage to it, although in many markets it cannot be expected to supersede cotton, should that article go back to the prices of 1860 again. In a curious letter, signed Samuel Homespun, in the Gentleman's Magazine of 1742, some calculations are given to show the value of one acre of ground sown with Flax seed. He goes on to say " that though the quantity of Flax an acre will produce depends entirely upon the quality of the soil and cultivation of it, yet the fineness of the Flax depends almost solely on the conduct of reaping, watering, and grassing it. This fact is very little known, but it is absolutely certain. Great Britain produces not only the largest crop of Flax, but the toughest and finest of any in the world. Our soil is so proper for it, that unless the farmer mismanages his Flax in reaping, watering, or grassing, it is not in his power to raise coarse Flax.* On the supposition that the farmer employs suitable skill in choosing the land proper for a crop of Flax, an acre will pro* duce at a medium 50 stone Dutch weight of Flax. Some bad land will only produce 30 stone, but very superior he says will produce 100 stones. Suppose, he then says, the produce 50 stone Dutch weight of Flax per acre, this will produce 25 stone English of fine Flax, 12$ of medium, and 12$ of coarse. The 25 stone will yield 2000 spindles yarn, at 5 spindles in the m.; which wrought in the finest reed, viz., a 2400, will produce 2838 yards cambric at 10B a yard, or £1,194. The 12} stone second sort will produce 200 spindles yarn, which wrought in a 1500 reed will yield 452 yards Linen, at 2s 6d, or £56 10s. The 12} stone coarse spun into yam, at 2 lb. a spindle, and wove in a 600 reed, will yield 1129 yards Linen, at 8d, or £3210s, being in all £1,283 2s, as the produce of a single acre of Flax. If manufactured into coarser Linen, 50 stones of Flax will produce 25 stones of fine dressed Flax, 12} stone of medium, and 12} stone of coarse; 25 stone fine dressed Flax will yield 800 spindles of yarn, 2 spindles in the pound, which wrought in a 2100 reed, will yield 1238 yards of Linen, at4s 6d, or £278 lis; 12} stone medium will produce 100 spindles, at 40 cuts to the pound, which wrought in a 1200 reed, will produce 266 yards of Linen, at Is 8d, or £22 3s; 12} stone coarsest will produce 60 spindles, at two pounds of Flax per spindle, which wrought, in a 400 reed, will yield 576 yards of Linen, and tins made into buckram, at7dayard,is£1616B,orinall£317108anacre. Forthetruth of the yield of Flax to an acre he appealed to all the Flax raisers in Yorkshire and Lancashire; of the value of cambric he appealed to the linen drapers in London; and of the produce of the yards from the quantities of Flax and yarn, he appealed to all the spinsters and weavers in Great Britain. In 1781, the cultivation of Flax in England was recommended on the score of increasing the population, by inducing " numbers from the Continent to settle in England, as a great national advantage." In the same year, a Dorsetshire gentleman wrote the Bath Agricultural Society, strongly recommending the cultivation of Flax and Hemp on the rich marshy lands lying west of the Mendiss Hills, for which it was very suitable. He said the vast quantities of these plants which had been raised on the same kind of land in the Lincolnshire marches, and in the Fens of the Isle of Ely and Huntingdonshire, were a full proof of it. In these places much land, which for grazing was worth 20s to 25s per acre, had been readily let at £4 the first year, £3 the second, and £2 the third, and that the produce had been from 50 to 70 stone per acre, which, when dressed, brought from 7s to 9s a stone, or £24 an acre. Poor soils also grew Flax and Hemp well, and Spalding Moorin Lincolnshire, which although a barren sand, yet with proper care and culture produced the finest Hemp in England, and in large quantities. In the Isle of Axholme, in the same county, the culture and management of these fibres was the chief employ of the inhabitants, and large quantities were produced. According to Leland it was the same there so long ago as in the reign of Henry VIII. The writer goes on to say that the Hemp raised in this Kingdom is not of so dry and spongy a nature as that from St Petersburg, and does not take in so much tar, but that of equal dimensions it is stronger and more durable. One peculiar advantage, he says, attending the cultivation of Hemp and Flax is, that a crop of the former prepares the land for the latter, and therefore a crop of Hemp was a clear gain to the farmer. That these plants impoverish the soil is a mere vulgar notion, a prejudice devoid of all truth, and unsupported by any authority, as these crops really meliorate and improve the soil. He farther stated that the quantity of Flax and Hemp yearly imported into this Kingdom about the year 1763 was estimated at 11,000 tons, to raise which in this country would require about 60,000 acres of land, and which could be grown at home, in the manner suggested by him, without interfering much with other crops. A cultivator of Flax, in writing to the Dundee Advertiser, in February, 1803, recommends an extended cultivation of Flax, in order to give employment to women in weeding, Ac, and, as an inducement to do so, he says, " the trade in the west of England can at present get as much English Flax grown as they need, better and cheaper than St Petersburg 12-head. The extent to which the English have so successfully carried the raising the crops should encourage the folks here to do so also." Much has been said and written from time to time about the propriety of growing Flax more extensively in Britain, and it is asserted by Warnes that it would be a great saving to the farmer, and at same time enrich the country. To attempt to grow cotton here, he says, would be fruitless, but the cultivation of Flax would be highly advantageous. He also says Flax is " a plant for which, including the seed, oil, and cake, £400,000 per week are expended with foreigners." Samuel Druce, jun., of Evesham, furnishes the following statement of the produce and expenses of Flax grown by him in 1845, on 4 acres, 1 rood, and 24 poles of land Warncs says regarding this statement, " the cost of dressing the Flax is excessive, and the quantity of tow and consequent waste immense." The same author farther says that his late Royal Highness the Prince Consort at one time resolved to grow Flax upon his estates, not so much because the cultivation was in itself profit-able, as because it gave employment to the working classes, and if grown largely throughout the country would be highly advantageous to them, and also benefit the mercantile community, by providing the raw materials for their mills and factories. Marshall & Co. of Leeds, in writing to Warnes, says,—" We believe both the soil and climate of England are suitable for the plant. At one time the Flax grown in the east of Yorkshire was of as good quality as that grown in Belgium; but the growth since then has fallen very much off, chiefly owing to the farmers managing the cultivation and preparation in a slovenly manner, and partly to the landlords having a prejudice against the crop as an exhausting one, which would not be the case if your plan was adopted of using the seed for feeding cattle on the farm where the Flax was grown." They say the seed should be sown thick, (3 to 3} bushels per acre) to pro* duce fine Flax. The effect of retting on running water is to produce Flax of a light yellow color, but the same effect is produced in large ponds or lakes of fresh water. This Flax fetches a higher price in the market than when retted in stagnant pools, &c. This firm was reported to have imported Flax to the amount of one million sterling annually. Supposing the produce of an acre to be £20, it would thus take 50,000 acres to grow the Flax required by this one firm. Warnes calculated that it would require 500,000 acres annually to produce the Flax required in the United Kingdom. Warnes also calculated that a woman could spin 20s to 30s of yarn for fine lace, lawn, cambric, &c, out of 6d worth of Flax, which shows the immense amount of labor the manufacture of this description of goods, if largely prosecuted, would give to females throughout the country. For several years Warnes, both by precept and practice, urged the farmers of England to cultivate Flax, and he proved very satisfactorily that it was a highly profitable crop whether raised for its seed, or for its fiber, or for both. Notwithstanding his most laudable exertions, his very proper example has not been largely followed, and at the present time the quantity of Flax grown in England is insignificantly small. Many counties produce none at all; Dorset, Somerset, Norfolk, and a few others grow small quantities, and in certain portions of Yorkshire a little more attention is paid to the cultivation, but even there the crop is not appreciated, and although the quality of what is raised is good, the quantity is very much less than it ought to be. English grown Flax is very suitable for the mills of Leeds and other Linen manufacturing districts of the country, and it is there-fore surprising that so little has been done by those engaged in the trade to induce farmers to grow the plant. It is true, as already mentioned, that Government at different times insisted upon a certain quantity being grown annually, but it may well be doubted if compulsion be the best mode of accomplishing such an object A more legitimate plan is to show farmers that it is profitable to grow it, as the pocket is an excellent incentive, and the hope of gain would stimulate them to earn it. Much of the land of England is admirably adapted for raising Flax, and to the agriculturists individually it is undoubtedly a profitable crop, and in a national point of view it is a highly necessary and proper one. Unfortunately there are no national statistics to show the quantity grown, or the districts which produce it, and this is much to be regretted, as it keeps the country very much in the dark regarding what it is doing, and makes it all the more difficult to extend the growth of this truly valuable national crop. Mr. Baker, the factory inspector, in his annual report, says: — “We can neither produce from abroad nor induce our farmers to grow the raw material in sufficient quantity. The same complaint is made in the Federal States of America, where the production has fallen off enormously. It is to Ireland at present, and even eventually to India, that the Flax spinners are looking for a supply which, if ever the time arrives, is to render the Flax trade of comparative importance with cotton." Mr. Baker thinks there is yet much to be learned in the manufacture of machinery adapted for general fanning purposes, and to the scutching of Flax. He thinks the gradual introduction into Ireland of the Scotch and English system of tillage farming on a large scale, operates against an increase of Flax culture in Ireland. In his first half yearly report for 1863 he says:—"The growth of Flax appears to be decreasing everywhere whence we have hitherto been accustomed to be supplied; and though an annual knowledge of the acreage sown is as essential to the vitality of the Linen trade as where cotton is to come from is to the cotton trade, the growth of Flax is exciting no very extraordinary attention. The changes taking place in agriculture, and the diminution of cattier farms, which are peculiarly favorable to Flax cultivation, owing to the cheapness of home labor, and the facility with which Flax can be prepared in the first instance, make the matter more important In England we have no statistics of Flax; in Scotland they' have been given up: in Ireland they have been collected for years by Mr. Donelly in the most satisfactory manner—« proof of what might be done elsewhere. So with regard to English wool; we guess that there is a sheep to an acre on all the farm lands in England, but whether it is so or not we are totally in the dark. But for Australia, and, even with Australia, but for rags reduced to wool again, and re-manufactured, many of our woolen mills would long ago have been at a stand-still; and with regard to Flax, if there should be a Flax famine as there has been a cotton famine, we should again suffer extremely, with a consciousness that by a little timely forethought those sufferings might have been alleviated if not averted. A company was started in Yorkshire a few months ago, including some Flax mill owners, for the purpose of collecting Flax in this country from the farmers, and preparing it for the trade, but the company has been broken up for want of encouragement even from the trade itself." It would thus appear that the trade is highly culpable for their indifference on so vitally important a subject
Textile Manufactures in Early Modern England By Eric Kerridge