London, Volume 3

Knight, Charles

1842

LXXIII.-The Corn Exchange.

LXXIII.-The Corn Exchange.

 

 

 

Some of the heartiest vituperations, perhaps, in the language, are to be found in the racy and entertaining of the late William Cobbett; but they are hurled with more especial vigour against thee all-devouring

Wen,

as he was accustomed to call this great city, which, according to him, drew into its capacious stomach all the cattle, sheep, corn, and other good things raised by the labour of the country. Besides this, he entertained a pretty general contempt for that class of dealers who merely hand the produce of the land from to another, and who do not by their industry change the state of the commodity which they buy and sell. No would have been more active in putting in force the statutes of the century against the

corn badgers

or dealers, who were described as persons

seeking only to live easily and to leave their honest labour,

and their proceedings as

very hurtful to the commonwealth of this realm, as well by enhancing the price of corn and grain, as also by the diminishing of good and necessary husbandmen.

[n.353.1]  This useful class of men Cobbett would have sent to the plough. We believe we may state with perfect truth that

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the prejudices against them have entirely passed away within the last years; but so recently as Lord Kenyon thundered from the bench, and denounced the

full vengeance of the law

against the corn-dealers. Slow as may be the progress of political knowledge, no considerable number of persons would now applaud such anathemas as these, which, at the time, were loudly re-echoed amongst all classes.

When England was almost exclusively an agricultural country the process of obtaining a loaf of bread was a very simple . The farmer threshed out as much corn as he wanted and carried it to the miller, and the townsman went into the pitched market and bought a sack of wheat, and he also had direct dealings with the miller. The great number of towns in which markets were once held, and which contained only a very scanty population, show how general were the means of maintaining direct dealings between the producer and consumer. In these days, at least in London, a man neither buys wheat, nor deals with the miller, nor bakes his own bread, so complete is the subdivision of employment. A comparison of the extent to which the principle is carried in the metropolis and in a large provincial town, so far as concerns the supply of bread, may be found in the Population Returns for , which show that in and Sheffield, each with a population exceeding , and with a difference of less than between them, there were bakers in the former place and only in the latter, from which it is plain that in the northern town a great majority of families dispense with the services of bakers. The relative price of fuel in the places may in some slight degree partly account for this. But the simple as well as the complicated is equally natural in the different circumstances in which they occur. If the millions of population now concentrated within a circle of miles round were dispersed over an extensive country, with a small number of towns of from to inhabitants scattered here and there, or containing more than that number, and the capital with perhaps or inhabitants, the process of supplying the same amount of population with the staff of life would, under these circumstances, be totally changed. Producers and consumers would be brought generally into contact with each other, and few intermediate dealers would be necessary. But the immense supply of corn and grain which London requires for its own consumption, both for men and animals, is probably drawn from farms comprising between and million acres, or the total produce of or farms of large size; but, considering that other markets are to be supplied, and that something is required for local consumption, it may be said that many thousands of farms contribute some portion of their produce to the supply of London. Now, as it would be totally impossible for the producers in every case to bring their corn to London, it can only reach us through the services of innumerable agents, whose useful operations were denounced by the statutes of the century. Some of the corn-merchants of London turn over in a year capital amounting to nearly a million and a half sterling, and it is obvious that they cannot themselves attend all the markets from which the supply is in the instance collected, and yet, unless it chiefly reached London in great bulks, the process of supplying it would be very expensive. They purchase of the merchants at some shipping port, and these again deal with others whose transactions

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are on a still smaller scale, and who buy directly of the grower. Each watches within his own district the opportunities of profit to be made from supplying the scarcity of part of the country out of the abundance of another. Dr. Whately, the Archbishop of Dublin, has clearly pointed out the value of such services:

The apprehension, on the

one

hand, of not realizing all the profit he might, and, on the other hand, of having his goods left on his hands, either by his laying in too large a stock, or by his rivals underselling him--these, acting like antagonist muscles, regulate the extent of his dealings, and the prices at which he buys and sells. An abundant supply causes him to lower his prices, and thus enables the public to enjoy that abundance, while he is guided only by the apprehension of being undersold; and, on the other hand, an actual or apprehended scarcity causes him to demand a higher price, or to keep back his goods in expectation of a rise. For doing this, corn-dealers in particular are often exposed to odium, as if they were the cause of the scarcity; while in reality they are performing the important service of husbanding the supply in proportion to the deficiency, and thus warding off the calamity of famine; in the same manner as the commander of a garrison or a ship regulates the allowances according to the stock and the time it is to last. But the dealers deserve neither censure for the scarcity which they are ignorantly supposed to produce, nor credit for the important public service which they in reality perform. They are merely occupied in gaining a fair livelihood.

The importation of foreign corn, which, in wheat alone, has amounted to about million quarters in the last years, involves a more extended chain of operations, which reaches from the countinghouse of the London merchant to the growers in the heart of central Europe, the cultivator in the Steppes of Southern Russia, the settler who has cleared a patch of land in the forests of Canada, and the American farmer on the Ohio. What ploughing, and sowing, and reaping-what threshing, winnowing, and measuring-before a single grain leaves the spot where it is produced, and how variously are all these processes conducted in the different countries which supply London. What chafferings in hundreds of markets before this supply gets out of the hands of the producer, in its stage towards the all-devouring metropolis of England! How various are the modes of transport to the place of shipment, and how greattare the contrasts they present: in case the train of rude bullock-waggons crossing the Russian Steppes, in another the equally rude barge on the Vistula, with its cargo protected only by an exterior coating of sprouted corn impenetrable to the elements! Nearly all the maritime ports of England, Scotland, and Ireland, contribute some portion towards our supply. In the months of July and , there arrived in London vessels from foreign parts laden with foreign corn, being British and foreign.

Kent and Essex were at period almost the only counties from which London drew its supply of corn and grain; but before even the century this was no longer the case. Stow remarked that London

maintaineth in flourishing estate the counties of Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Kent, and Sussex, which, as they lie in the face of our most puissant neighbour, so ought they, above others, to be considered as the greatest strength and riches; and these, it is well known, stand not so much on the benefit of their own soil as by the neighbourhood and nearness

they have to London.

The total importation of corn, grain, and seeds into London averages at the present time about and a half million quarters, or about bushels, annually, besides about tons of flour and meal, the weight altogether being at least tons. What a vast amount and variety of industry is involved in the creation of this large quantity of agricultural produce and in the preparation of it for consumption! Next to coal, the trade in corn gives the most extensive employment to shipping in the port of London of any other commodity.

Without the stimulus of self-interest the task of supplying London would be beyond the reach of human effort; and the operations of the

speculator

conduce, in the end, solely to the public advantage. The slightest interference with him is not unattended with danger; but the jealous spirit of the century, if it were now possible to give effect to it, would once more place London at the risk of those serious dearths in the necessary of life which were of frequent occurrence, and for which, in part, corn-dealers were ignorantly blamed, We may notice here a few of the restrictions under which the corn-dealers were placed centuries ago, and also or regulations which attempted to deal with the producers in the same spirit. In , a proclamation was issued which prohibited corn-dealers from having more than quarters in their possession at time; and it directed justices of the peace to look into the barns, and so much as to them seemed superfluous was to be sold at a reasonable price, persons being appointed to attend in every market to see that this was done.[n.356.1]  years afterwards the substance of the above proclamation was embodied in a statute [n.356.2]  which subjected persons buying corn to sell again to heavy penalties. Farmers buying corn for seed were required to sell an equal quantity of their corn in store. When wheat was under the quarter it might then be bought by dealers, but they were not to enhance the price or prevent the supply of the market. Corn

badgers,

licensed by justices of the peace, were permitted to buy in open fairs and markets for the supply of cities and towns. In there was another statute passed which affected them. [n.356.3]  They were to be householders, not less than years of age, and either married or widowers, and the licence was to be only an annual , to be granted by the magistrates in quarter-sessions. The dealers were also to give securities not to be guilty of engrossing or forestalling, and not to buy out of open market, except under an express licence. These restrictions could not well be maintained without leading to other artificial arrangements, some of which, so far as they relate to the corn-market of London, we shall briefly notice.

For upwards of centuries the authorities of the City and the principal Livery Companies were accustomed constantly to provide a store of corn against seasons of scarcity, and when prices rose the city granaries were opened for the purpose of keeping them moderate. This was doing nothing more than individuals would have done; but whey large floating capitals ready for employment at a moment's notice were not quite so abundant as in these days, it was perhaps wise as well as benevolent in the City looking with a provident eye towards the means of mitigating the dearths which were so frequently occurring. The Lord

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Mayor, as the head of the City, could not but extend his care to those who on such occasions were ready to perish but for his assistance; and it is most probable that the practice of forming stores of corn commenced immediately after some severe dearth; and humanity forbade it to be hastily abandoned.

Sir Stephen Brown, in , appears to have been of the earliest, and most-likely was the , Mayor of London who established a public granary, for which he is eulogised both by Stow and Fuller. The latter says of him, that

during a great dearth in his mayoralty he charitably relieved the wants of the poor citizens, by sending ships at his own expense to Dantzic, which returned laden with rye, and which seasonable supply soon sunk grain to reasonable rates;

and he adds,

he is beheld as

one

of the

first

merchants who, during a want of corn, showed the Londoners the way to the barn-door, I mean Spurmland, prompted by charity, not covetousness, to this adventure.

About the same period Sir Simon Eyre, another Lord Mayor, established a public granary at Leadenhall. Nearly a century afterwards () a succeeding Mayor found the city granaries almost empty.

There were not,

says Stow,

one hundred

quarters of wheat in all the garners of the city, either within the liberties or near adjoining, through the which scarcity, when the carts of

Stratford

came laden with bread to the city (as they had been accustomed), there was such press about them, that

one

man was ready to destroy another, in striving to be served for their money: but this scarcity lasted not long; for the Mayor in short time made such provision of wheat, that the bakers both of London and

Stratford

were weary from making it up, and were forced to take much more than they would, and for the rest the Mayor stowed it up in Leadenhall and other garners of the city. The Mayor also kept the market so well, that he would be at Leadenhall by

four

o clock in the summer mornings, and from thence he went to other markets, to the great comfort of the citizens.

Occasional memoranda in the City records show the manner in which the City authorities applied: their stores of corn to reduce prices in the markets. In aldermen were appointed weekly in rotation to purvey and to see that the markets were well supplied. In there is an order for the City's store to be ground and sold to the citizens. In the bridgemaster is directed to put to sale in the markets every market-day quarters of the City's wheat-meal at the bushel, and bushels of maslin (a mixture of wheat and rye) at the bushel. A memorandum appears in the year , instructing the Lord Mayor and Aldermen not to allow corn belonging to the City to be sold

better cheap

than the cost price, with all losses and charges added, nor lower than from to the bushel under the market-price, unless with the consent of the City companies, and taking an equal quantity of each company. The part which the companies took in this matter will be hereafter noticed. In the companies were required to send into the market of quarters of meal per week, till they had disposed of all their old corn at the market-price; and a fresh stock was then to be provided. In , on account of the high prices, they were directed to take into the market at , every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, quarters of wheat, well ground, and to retail it at the bushel,

and not more, at their peril.

The companies were called upon at different periods in to purchase quarters of corn. This would

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supply persons for calendar month. In they were ordered to supply the markets at the bushel under the market prices. Under such a system the operations of private traders would often be attended with great hazard, and this of itself would create the deficiency and the consequent high prices which the City authorities endeavoured to remedy.

The money to purchase corn and grain for the City granaries was raised by loans and contributions from the Mayor and Aldermen, from the City Companies, and sometimes from the citizens. In there is a resolution in the City records to the effect that

the Chamberlain should become bound to persons lending money for provision of corn for the City;

and in another entry of the same year the bridgemaster is ordered to make the necessary purchases of wheat. This officer appears to have been intrusted with the office of buying the City's corn, which was at period entirely stored at the Bridge-house. Mr. Herbert, in his

History of the Livery Companies,

says that the Companies were required to assist in provisioning the City in . The Common Council passed an act

for

1000l.

to be borrowed on account of the great dearth and scarcity of wheat which had then lately been, and was more like to ensue, if good and politic provision were not shortly made and had;

and it was in consequence agreed that

in all goodly haste the said sum should be levied and paid by the Fellowships of sundry mysteries and crafts of this City, by way of a prest and loant.

The Lord Mayor and Aldermen fixed the sums to be contributed by each Company; and the Wardens of the Companies were to assess the members of their respective Fellowships. In the Aldermen agreed to advance a sum of each towards raising a permanent corn-fund. About the same time the Companies were called upon to assist in purchasing

the wheat that is now come beyond sea.

There being need of a further provision, a application was made to certain of the Companies, in consequence of an offer made to the Common Council, from an English grower probably, who was

minded to send

certain wheat,

if he might be ascertained of the price thereof.

He was offered the quarter for as much

good and sound wheat

as he could supply. The following year the Wardens of the principal Companies offered, on the part of their respective Fellowships, to provide certain sums of money towards purchasing wheat from abroad. In , the Wardens of the greater part of the Companies, in obedience to the precepts of the Common Council,

did lovingly grant, assent, and agree to disburse and lay out, by the way of loan, for the provision and buying of certain wheat in France to and for the City's use,

the several sums respectively agreed upon. In June they were again called upon to buy

some of the rye then at the water-side.

The Companies were not, however, always in a complaisant humour, and often grumbled sorely when their money was not repaid. The Drapers' Company, in , having shown some reluctance to comply with a corn-precept, were peremptorily ordered by the Lord Mayor to collect and pay over the sum of , being the amount of their assessment. Next year they asked for a return of their money, but were offered instead wheat out of the Bridge-house at the quarter; and if this offer were refused, the Wardens were

to move and persuade them gently to forbear their said money

until the corn in the Bridge-house could be conveniently sold. In the Common Council called upon the Companies for

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a larger sum than usual for the purchase of wheat, urging the existence of present scarcity, and the necessity of preventing

extremities;

and, as the following extract from the precept shows, the Companies were threatened with the quoteueen's displeasure in case of refusal:

By the Mayor.-Forasmuch as all common policy requireth the prevention of extremities, and considering, as you know, the urgent and present necessity, and the lack of provision and other grain for furniture of this so great and populous city, of the want whereof the quoteueen's Majesty and her most honourable Council are not ignorant, but, having special care and regard to the same, are not a little offended and displeased, with some grief that there hath been no better provision heretofore made, and that presently the city should be no better stored, by reason whereof the prices of corn and grain are much dearer in this city than in any other part of this realm, have not only at sundry times and with gentle means, but also with some terror, as well in the Star Chamber as in other places afore the Council, given as admonition that the same her Majesty's city and chamber may not be unfurnished for lack of good provision.

In reply to this the Companies complained that former loans were still unpaid; but the City pleaded that losses had been sustained from the bad quality of some of the wheat they had purchased, and offered to repay the Companies in quarters of good wheat from Sussex, and the same quantity from their last year's stores.

In it was debated whether the City should provide stores of corn on loans from the Companies, by orders from the Court of Aldermen, or whether the Companies should provide and keep their own stores; and the result of negotiations on the subject was that the Companies were to find their own stores, which were to be laid up at the Bridge-house, and to be subject to the control of the Lord Mayor and Aldermen. Mr. Herbert, in the work already quoted, says that the garners at the Bridge-house were divided into parts, which were appropriated by lots to each of the great Companies. They took possession on the ; and days afterwards were required to purchase their annual stock, amounting to quarters, at the quarter. The City had ovens at this place; of large size, and the remainder half less. of the Sheriffs left in towards building these ovens. In , the Companies built granaries at their own halls. years before there was a prospect of-scarcity, and, as there had been large importations of wheat and rye from abroad, Sir John Spencer, the Lord Mayor, obtained an order from the quoteueen's Council to compel the Companies to purchase some of this foreign supply, but about the same time Sir John Hawkins applied for the use of the City granaries and ovens at the Bridge for the navy. The Lord Mayor urged that, if this request were granted, the Companies would cease to make provision of corn, on the ground that they had no place for storing it; and, for greater security in future, the Companies adopted the plan of keeping their stock at their respective halls.

Soon after the commencement of the century, the difficulty of keeping up the ancient practice of providing a store of corn appears greatly to have increased.. In the Companies were to forfeit to the poor for every bushel which they had neglected to provide according to their due proportion. In , when ordered to buy wheat and rye from abroad, they refused.

360

In the Wardens of some of the Companies who had neglected to store their granaries were committed. With the Tudors had departed many of those restrictions which perhaps had some use in their day; but the greater freedom of trade no longer rendered it necessary for the authorities to supersede the transactions of private dealers. At length, when the system had become almost entirely exhausted and worn out, the Great Fire destroyed the granaries, mills, and ovens at the Bridge and in other parts of the City, and the custom of providing stores of corn was not again resumed.

In undertaking the task of regulating prices in the markets the City authorities were under the necessity of imposing restrictions and framing arbitrary regulations, which at once created the, excuse for their interference, and increased the difficulty of doing so in a beneficial manner. The general internal commerce of the country Bws subject to a host of impediments. Thus at time the Lord Mayor and Aldermen could not contract with a person at Harwich to purchase wheat for the City in the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk, without obtaining a licence from the Lords of the Council. Licences were at the same time required to enable them to contract

with other discreet persons,,who were to purchase corn in other parts of the realm where they thought best.

In year of scarcity () the magistrates in the country round London attempted to keep the supply of corn for the consumption of their respective neighborhoods, and hindered its being brought to London. Stripe says that on this occasion the Lord Mayor applied for redress to Lord Burleigh, who was regarded as the City's patron. In the Lord Mayor wrote to the Lords of the Council to borrow a quarters of wheat for victualling the City, and prayed that it might be exempted from the grasp of the purveyors. The Council agreed to lend the above quantity for months. To carry out their plans fully, it was necessary for the City to pry narrowly into the operations of the bakers and others. In year

straight commandment

was given to the bakers not to buy any meal but of the City's store at the Bridge-house, when the quantity which each of them was allowed to take, and the price, were fixed by the Lord Mayor. In there is an entry to the effect that Henry Hoke, brewer, is to have but quarters of the wheat to be bought of the merchants of the Steel-yard,

albeit that they have sold him more, as they say.

These merchants were at period the sole importers of foreign corn, and in times of scarcity were not allowed to sell either to bakers or brewers without the City's licence. In no chandler or other person was to harbour in his house any corn but for his own spending, merchants importing corn excepted.

In the Court came into the City as borrowers of corn. The letter addressed on this occasion by the Duke of Lennox to the Wardens of the Grocers' Company is given in Mr. Herbert's

History of the Companies;

and we here reprint it, as a curious illustration of the times:--

To our loving Friends the Wardens and Assistants of the Company of Grocers of the City of London. After our hearty commendations: Whereas, by the neglect of his Majesty's purveyors, his house is at this time altogether unfurnished with wheat, by means whereof there is a present want of

one hundred

quarters of wheat for the service of his household: we do therefore pray and desire you that out of your stock his Majesty may be supplied with

thirty

or

forty

quarters of your best and sweetest wheat

until his own provision may be brought in, the which we do faithfully promise shall be paid unto you again in November next at the furthest; and because it is intended that by the exchange thereof you shall have no loss, we have therefore committed the care thereof to Mr. Harvey,

one

of his Majesty's officers of the Green-cloth, who shall see the same duly answered and brought into your granary at the time appointed; and so, not doubting of your willing performance upon so present and needful an occasion, we bid you heartily farewell. Your loving friends, Lennox, T. Edmond, J. Sucklinge.

Whitehall

,

27th September, 1622

.

The Wardens had either no great quantity of wheat in their granary, or had very little faith in the promises of courtiers, for they debated on the subject a considerable time; and Mr. Harvey, who was in attendance, being called in, he promised

so to mediate that

ten

quarters should be taken in satisfaction of the whole demand.

Whether the loan was repaid or not does not appear.

The following trick was very likely to occur in transactions amongst parties who had not the strong impulse of personal interest to open their eyes to imposition and fraudulent collusions. In some cunning speculators, who had imported a quantity of rye which did not sell very readily, obtained the ear of the Lords of the Council; and the Lord Mayor being applied to by them, he wrote to the Companies, urging them to buy the importer's stock. He stated that

divers merchants trading to the east countries had of late brought into the kingdom great quantities of corn, being rye, which for quality was as good or better than the growth of this kingdom, though they had no need for it;

but, on the suggestion of the Lords of the Privy Council, the importers were contented to sell it at per bushel less than it cost them; and, for the encouragement of future speculators, the said Lords recommended the Lord Mayor to press the City Companies to buy it at the prices offered, and blamed him for not having compelled them to do so. The Lord Mayor accordingly directed the Companies to buy some of this rye. The Grocers' Company, in reply, prayed to be excused, on the ground that the act of Common Council orders the provision of wheat only, and not rye; they had already furnished the markets at a loss of , and had still quarters in store; and they stated that, even in times of dearth, the poor would not eat barley or rye, either alone or mixed with twothirds wheat, so that quarters of rye, the proportion they were now called upon to purchase, would require quarters of wheat to mix with it; and they added that the stores mixed in this way were still on hand; and, lastly, they remarked that both Dutch and English merchants were offering rye at a lower price than that which they were urged to buy.

The ancient ports for landing corn were and , where the customs duties were paid. According to an inquisition in , bakers and others buying corn at paid . for the metage, porterage, and carriage. There was a principal meter and master-porters, each of whom had porters under him, who were bound to provide each a horse with sacks for carrying the corn away when purchased. The charge for metage and for porterage as far as Newgate, Fleet Bridge, Cripplegate, &c., was ., and for places nearer a smaller sum.[n.361.1]  A new warehouse was built at

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during the century for stowing the corn craned out of the barges and lighters, to the building of which Sir John Lion, who had filled the office of Lord Mayor, left the sum of in . In this warehouse was enlarged at the cost of the City. It appears, however, that quite at the close of the century the corn-market at was nearly deserted, and the meters and porters no longer

lived well of their labours,

as they had formerly done. Stow says, writing at this time, that

the bakers of London and other citizens travel into the countries, and buy their corn of the farmers after the farmers' prices.

The corn-market on , which gives its name to of the City wards, and that of St. Michael-le-quoteuern were the ancient corn-markets of the City. Stow speaks of the on as having been time out of mind there holden.

The proper name of the other was St. Michael-ad-Bladum, or at the Corn,

because,

says Stow,

in place thereof was sometime a corn-market.

It was at the west-end of

Cheapside

; and the parish is now united to that of St. Vedast in

Foster Lane

.

, which also gives its name to of the wards of the City, was anciently the market for bread, though in Stow's time it was wholly inhabited by

rich merchants, and divers fair inns be there.

Stow had read, but where he does not state, that in , a little to the eastward of , was once called the Bakehouse,

whether meant for the king's bakehouse, or of bakers dwelling there and baking bread to serve the market in

Bread Street

, where the bread was sold, I know not.

To force traders of all kinds to vend their commodities as far as possible in the open market was the common policy of the middle ages, founded upon a considerate regard for the interests of the poorer classes of consumers; and the tolls were, no doubt, an object of some importance. In , according to Stow, the bakers of London

were bounden to sell no bread in their shops or houses, but in the market.

An ordinance of the year states that they were bound to take the bread in a basket into the King's market, so that, if it were not

competent according to the market of corn, the baker's body should answer for it.

The Fellowship of Bakers held hall-motes during the year to determine respecting

enormities

of which the members of their craft had been guilty. In a baker, for making bread less than the assize, was drawn on a hurdle through the streets of the City, with a fool's-cap on his head, and about his neck were suspended his loaves of deficient weight. In the Assize of Bread, given in Arnold's

Chronicle,

the penny wheat-loaf of Stratford-le-Bow was to weigh ounces more than the penny wheat-loaf of London, and the penny loaf of was to be equal in weight to the -halfpenny wheat-loaf of London. The object of the assize of bread was to compel the bakers to increase the size of their loaves in proportion to the fall in the price of wheat. Thus, according to the assize fixed at the commencement of the last century, when wheat was the quarter the penny loaf was to weigh rather more than ounces; and when wheat rose to , the weight of the penny loaf was reduced to about ounces; a margin of the quarter being allowed for the cost of baking and other charges. The assize of bread for the City of London was regulated by statute in the reign of quoteueen Anne, and was finally abolished in . It was an ancient

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custom of the Bakers' Company to present a loaf of wastel and of cocket out of the oven to the Lord Mayor and Aldermen, in which state it was to be weighed. The materials were purchased by

sworn and discreet men

in the sack, upon the pavement, in each of the ets of Gross-church, St. Botolph, Bishopsgate, and ,--a--quarter of bread-corn or meal being purchased at each market. The bakers of London were forbidden by ancient ordinances to bake loaves of household bread to sell at more than twopence each, except at Christmas, under the penalty of forfeiting such larger loaves to the poor; and neither they nor others were to utter or sell by retail, except at funerals and at Easter and Christmas, either spice-cakes, buns, biscuits, or other spice-bread.

The bakers of , to whom allusion has been made, were for several centuries engaged in supplying the city with bread, but they had ceased to frequent it about years before Stow wrote. They bought the corn which came by the river Lea. Stow gives the following account of them :--

Ye shall understand that of old time the bakers of bread at

Stratford

were allowed to bring daily (except the Sabbath and principal feasts) divers long carts laden with bread, the same being

two

ounces in the penny wheat-loaf heavier than the penny wheat-loaf baked in the city, the same to be sold in Cheap,

three

or

four

carts standing there, between Gutherans (

Gutter) Lane

and

Foster Lane

, and

one

cart on

Cornhill

, by the Conduit, and

one

other in Grass Street.

The Cheap, or market (now ), presented scenes as varied and animated during the middle ages as the Toledo of Naples in the present day. The shops in the Cheap resembled sheds, and many of the dealers had simply stalls or standings, for which they paid a rent of from ls. to a-year. Around the old cross of Cheap the mercers sold their spices, drugs, toys, and small wares generally. A number of other dealers had their shops or stalls in the street of Cheap, the appearance of which in the century resembled a market or fair. In a time of scarcity the bread-carts would be surrounded by a clamorous throng, or there would be uproarious hilarity at the sight of the dishonest baker drawn on a hurdle through the busy thoroughfare.

Of the other class whose avocation brings them to the corn-market-the millers--we have not much information. The monks of Rochester had a mill at before the Conquest, and the Templars had mills on the River Fleet, which, on the complaint of the citizens, were removed in , after inspection by the Mayor and the Constable of the Tower, in consequence of their diverting the stream. In there were floating mills for grinding corn on the Thames, which were set in motion by the tide. In the Lord Mayor permitted corn-mills to be erected on the river at the Bridge-house.

The other ancient corn-markets, besides those of and St. Michael-le- quoteuern, were those at Leadenhall, Newgate, , Graschurch, and . The situation of the City granaries has already been mentioned. they were at Leadenhall and the Bridge-house; at the latter place in the instance for the City only, and then for the great companies, until they kept their stores of corn at their own halls. At time the City had granaries at and at Christchurch.

At the beginning of the last century the metropolitan cr^market was held

364

at Bear quoteuay, in ; was the great market for flour and meal; and the White Horse Inn meal-market, near Bridge, is mentioned, and is doubtless the alluded to by Strype as appointed to be held near the river Fleet. The present system of factorage in the corn-trade is stated to have existed only about years. The traditional report of its origin ascribes it to the custom of a number of Essex. farmers, who frequented an inn at Whitechapel, leaving with the landlord or waiter samples of the corn and grain, of which they had small parcels unsold, with a commission to sell for them, and thus they were not compelled to attend the next market. The predecessor of of the oldest houses now in the trade, in beginning to sell by commission, had a stand on , and in the course of a few years the number who were profitably engaged in the same way had so much increased, that the old in was projected and opened in . years afterwards a was contemplated, and was opened in . The buildings adjoin each other, in .

The lower part of the Old consists of an open colonnade, with modern Doric pillars very singularly placed. There are windows in the stories forming the upper part of the building. The interior forms a court in which the factors have their stands. In a critical work on the

Edifices of London,

by W. H. Leeds, Esq., it is remarked of this building that it might pass for the model of the , or place of audience, in a Pompeian house, with its (the space in the centre in which the rain fell). The New is in the Grecian Doric style. It is favourably situated for so narrow a locality, being placed at a bend of the street, so that the stranger comes upon it unawares, and it presents several features of originality in design and other points of interest to the architectural student, which are elaborately criticised in the work of. Mr. Leeds just alluded to. The interior is lighted by a lantern with vertical lights in the centre space within the columns, and the compartments on each side have skylights in their ceilings. The stands of the corn-factors, to the number of and upwards, are along the sides of the building. On them are placed small bags and wooden bowls with samples of different kinds of grain, and behind is a desk for the factor or his clerk, with something of the convenience of a counting-house. Lightermen and granary-keepers have stands as well as corn-merchants, factors, and millers. The seed market is held in another part of the building. In the north wing is a tavern and coffee-room, and the opening in the south side of the other wing communicates with the Old .

The metropolitan market for corn, grain, and seeds is now entirely confined to . The market-days are Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, the being by far the busiest day of the ; and the hours of business are from to . A bargain does not become valid until an hour after the commencement of business on the next market-day. The general commercial reader will perhaps be interested in knowing that wheat is paid for in bills at month, and all other descriptions of corn and grain in bills' at months. But the Kentish

hoymen,

who may be distinguished by their sailors' jackets, are privileged by the custom of the market to sell for ready money, though of course they sell only what they bring up themselves. They have stands free of expense, and pay less for metage and dues than others. The Essex dealers also enjoy some privileges.

365

Their origin, in both cases, is said to have been in consideration of the men of Kent and Essex having continued to supply the City at a time when it was ravaged by the plague.

On the arrival of a cargo of corn or grain in. the river it is subject to a variety of regulations which are but little known out of the trade. Whether it be from our own ports or from a foreign country, a number of dues are collected by the City authorities, under the several heads of water-bailliage, groundage, Lord Mayor's and cocket dues. The city claims by prescription the right of measuring corn, as well as several other articles which enter the port of London, and the crew are not permitted to undertake this duty, but it is performed by the sworn corn-meters and the fellowship porters. In the total charge upon the public for metage of corn was , out of which the City derived a net profit of The number of corn-meters is . They are appointed by a committee of the corporation of London, called the Coal and Corn Committee, and attend daily at their office in and Brook's Wharf, to be at all times ready for whoever requires their services. The senior meters have the choice of work, and the junior is obliged to undertake whatever is offered, though he may sometimes be a loser by the job, as he may be required to measure a small quantity of corn in any part of the river between Staines and Yantlet Creek. The fellowship porters are in number, and are appointed by the Alderman of Ward, who is ex-officio Governor of the Fellowship. They have a prescriptive right to the porterage of all corn, fruit, salt, potatoes, &c., coming into the port of London; and the number always at work is about . The seniors have the choice of work in the same manner as the coal-meters. These bodies show what the ancient state of industry was in England when nearly each sort of employment was surrounded by certain privileges and monopolies. A provision is made for the corn-meters when they-become old and infirm, and this is done out of the metage charges. All the corn and grain from Kent, most part of that from Essex, and part of that from Suffolk, is brought to London in sacks. Foreign and Irish corn, English oats and barley, and peas and beans, are brought in loose bulk. The quantity brought in each ship varies from to as many as quarters, and even quarters. The vessels from Kent and Essex bring from to quarters at a time; those from Norfolk and Suffolk average or quarters; and from Ireland

366

the quantity varies from to or quarters. The largest cargoes are brought from the Baltic and Odessa. About - bushels of wheat, or quarters bushels, weigh a ton--about bushels of barley, and or bushels of oats, while, beans and peas are rather heavier than wheat. The cargo of a Kentish hoy sometimes belongs to as many as different farmers.

When the ship is ready for delivery, the meter, and or sometimes of the fellowship porters, go on board. of the latter dip into the bulk with their concave wooden shovels, and the meter completes the filling up of the bushel, when of the porters passes the strike over the surface, and a holds, the sack into which the other pour the contents of the bushel, which is hoisted up by the porters on the deck, of whom bears it over the ship's side. It is shot into the lighter in loose bulk, and, on arriving at the granary, it is again measured, and carried in sacks to the floor where it is intended to be stored, when it is again shot loose. When sold, the buyer sends sacks for it to the granary, and another measuring takes place. The meter and his attendants are able to measure or quarters of oats a-day, and even quarters a-day are occasionally measured; but it is a good day's work to measure quarters of barley or quarters of wheat. When wheat arrives in sacks it is measured at the rate of an hour, containing quarters. To accomplish this the meter and his or men are required to be very active. men are employed in the hold, and men and the meter are on deck. of the former raise the sack, and at the same instant the other place the slings under it, and immediately those on deck hoist it up, the contents are poured into the bushel, and the meter passes the strike over the surface. of the men hold the bushel, the holds the sack, which, as soon as filled, is hoisted over the side of the vessel.

The granaries are lofty and spacious buildings of or floors or stories, those of the largest kind being capable of holding from to quarters of corn on each floor; but the granaries, of course, vary in size, some only being able to contain or quarters. They are numerous about and , where the largest are; but there are granaries on each side of the river from Greenwich to . Those in which foreign corn is bonded are places of greater security, and admit of the regulations of the being strictly followed. The granaries adjacent to the are chiefly used for foreign corn, and some, though not any large quantity, is stored in the warehouses at each of the docks. The peculiar restrictions relating to the importation of foreign corn sometimes render it expedient to keep it in the granary for several years, the fluctuating duty ranging so high that, with all the charges upon it, it cannot be liberated at a profit. or years ago above quarters of wheat were thrown into the river rather than the owners would submit to pay the high duty or keep it for a longer period subject to granary rent and other charges. In the last years the duty has sunk to the lowest point during week in each year, and this event being foreseen, or perhaps being designedly brought about by the merchants and importers withholding supplies in anticipation of the rise of prices and the fall of duty, an immense quantity of corn is suddenly taken out of bond the moment the duty sinks. Above million quarters of wheat were

367

liberated in September and , a large proportion of which would be bonded in the port of London. The week in which the duty falls to the lowest point is the harvest of the speculator, to which he has long looked anxiously forward. The arrival of ships from abroad is now an object of the utmost solicitude, as a few hours may make a difference of several to a large importer. The number of corn-vessels which do arrive is so great that warehouses, granaries, and the river itself in many places, is completely blocked up; but the large quantity suddenly brought into the market depresses prices, the duty mounts again, and a vessel which arrives on a Friday instead of a Thursday not only loses the advantage of the low duty and high prices, but the cargo may have to remain for months in the granary. The expense of granary-rent and fire-insurance is about per week on quarters of wheat. Corn and grain, the produce of our own soil, is kept in the granary as well to improve its condition as to wait the chance of favourable markets. By being frequently turned. and screened it becomes hard and better adapted for grinding, and though it loses in measure it gains in weight. The expense of turning and screening a quarters of wheat is about per week.

The number of establishments which are engaged in supplying the metropolis with corn and grain, seeds, malt, flour, meat, and bread is as follows, according to the Post-Office Directory for ---Corn-merchants ; corn and flour factors ; corn-dealers ; millers ; bakers ; confectioners . The number of bakers in Paris is about , and, the population of London being twice as great, there is about the same proportion of bakers to the inhabitants in each capital; but the proportion of the latter is rather greater in Paris, and the baker there does not enjoy that profitable part of the business which his brethren in London do, namely, that of baking the dinners of thousands of families, but he confines himself to his loaves and

fancy

breads. The bakers of Paris are compelled to have a certain quantity of flour in store at the Grenier de Reserve ou d'Abondance, besides keeping up the stock in their shops to a fixed amount. This is the commercial policy of an age which has not yet learnt to rely upon the ever-active agency of self-interest. All such regulations are mischievous, since they are attempts to supersede a principle which operates more advantageously for society than any artificial rules devised by human wisdom. Dr. Whately remarks of this principle, that,

if the time should ever arrive when the structure of human society, and all the phenomena connected with it, shall be as well understood as astronomy and physiology, it will be: regarded as exhibiting even more striking instances of Divine wisdom;

and he bids us mark the insuperable difficulties which ensue when an attempt is made to set it aside, and the admirable order which results from its being allowed perfect freedom of action in all commercial operations.

Let any

one

,

he says,

propose to himself the problem of supplying with daily provisions of all kinds such a city as our metropolis. Any considerable failure in the supply, even for a single day, might produce the most frightful distress, since the spot on which they are cantoned produces absolutely nothing. Some, indeed, of the articles consumed admit of being reserved in public or private stores for a considerable time; but many, including most articles of animal food, and many of vegetable, are of the most perishable nature. As a deficient supply of these, even for a few days,

would occasion great inconvenience, so a redundancy of them would produce a corresponding waste. Moreover, it is essential that the supplies should be distributed among the different quarters, so as to be brought almost to the doors of the inhabitants; at least within such a distance that they may, without an inconvenient waste of time and labour, procure their daily shares. Moreover, whereas the supply of provisions for an army or garrison is comparatively uniform in kind, here the greatest possible

variety

is required, suitable to the wants of various classes of consumers. Again, this immense population is extremely fluctuating in numbers; and the increase or diminution depends on causes, of which, though some may, others cannot, be distinctly foreseen. Lastly, and above all, the daily supplies of each article must be as nicely adjusted to the stock from which it is drawn--to the scanty, or more or less abundant, harvest-importation-or other source of supply--to the interval which is to elapse before a fresh stock can be furnished, and to the probable abundance of the new supply, that as little distress as possible may be undergone; that, on the

one

hand, the population may not unnecessarily be put upon short allowance of any article, and that, on the other hand, they may be preserved from the more dreadful risk of famine, which would ensue from their continuing a free consumption when the store was insufficient to hold out.

 
 
 
Footnotes:

[n.353.1] Preamble of 5 Eliz. c. 12.

[n.356.1] Turner's Hist. Eng. vol. i. p. 1720

[n.356.2] 5 and 6 Edw, VI c. 14.

[n.356.3] 5 Eliz. c. 12.

[n.361.1] See No. L., The Custom House, vol, ii. p. 404.