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By a statute of Edward I., no bread was to be sold at the place where it was baked, or in any secret place, but in "the king's markets." The markets were open for the sale of bread as well as meat on Sundays. A considerable sale of bread, however, took place through female retail dealers, “regratresses,” or, as they were afterwards called, “hucksters," who carried it from door to door, and made their legitimate profit on the thirteen batches for twelve which they were privileged to receive, besides an illegal honorarium of sixpence every Monday morning from the baker with whom they dealt. The country bakers of Stratford, we find, undersold their London brethren by giving two ounces more in the pennyworth of bread. The baker's bread, like the breweress's ale, was subject to inspection; and early in the reign of Edward III. we find that “some bakers in the City, for the purpose of avoiding this assay, follow their business stealthily, and skulk like foxes, so as not to be found by the officers of the City, in case their loaves should be found deficient." There were wholesale markets for the sale of corn, malt, and salt, at Billingsgate and Queen Hythe. Stratford was the great repository for corn and flour; while the City mills appear to have been possessed by the lords of certain sites or extensive jurisdictions within the City. Each mill was worked, it would seem, by one horse, and the miller paid partly in meal, partly in money. The City millers appear to have fully justified the character for gross peculation given them by medieval satirists.
Fish was a very staple commodity in old London, being consumed to a much greater extent than butcher's meat. The variety of fish was very considerable, including most of those familiar to us at the present day, with the exception of lobsters, crabs, and shrimps, which are never mentioned. Fish, besides being sold in the public markets, was retailed by hucksters in a similar manner to bread. Boats with oysters, whelks, mussels, and soles, were only allowed to stay for the purposes of sale for two ebbs and a flood, on pain of forfeiting the fish. Stranger still is the royal ordinance in the time of Henry III., that the first boat in the season with fresh herrings from Yarmouth should pay double customs! This, unless it were a gratuitous piece of royal extortion, looks as if this first fishfreight of the season sold for special and extraordinary prices. Perhaps, however, it was practically equivalent to confiscating it to the use of the king's own table. The fishmongers, like all other traders, were sharply looked after by this Argus-eyed trade-police of the City. If they sold fish in any quantity, it was to be done in baskets of a certain size ; and they were not allowed to mix different sorts of fish in the same basket, or to make the under layers of inferior fish. Citizens of London might buy fish at the boat; but apprentices were strictly forbidden to do so. Fishmongers were not to buy fresh fish till after mass sung (probably at sunrise) at the chapel at London Bridge, or at the church of St. Martin; and no one was allowed to sell fish upon the quay by retail. A special privilege was reserved to the Abbot of St. Albans of buying fish direct from the fishermen. The regulations for the sale of butcher's meat were conceived in a similar spirit; but it is not necessary to refer to them further, except to observe that in the reign of Edward III. the shambles of St. Nicholas, the predecessors of our Newgate Market, were taken in hand; and it was ordered, among other things, that large cattle should be slaughtered in future without the City. The poulterers, who were also under strict regulations as to mode and prices of sale, dealt in rabbits, game, eggs, and poultry, but not, it would seem, in butter. The only vegetables mentioned are onions, garlic, and leeks. The fruits are apples, pears, and walnuts. Cheese was brought in carts from the neighbouring villages, and was also imported by the Hanse merchants. Butter was little used in London at this period, and was sold in liquid measures.
Weaving was extensively carried on in the City, and weavers flocked thither from Flanders and Brabant. The tailors made dresses for either sex ; their prices being regulated by public enactment. Suits of furs were much in fashion, and were made the basis of certain penal distinctions in the case of a certain class of offenders. Leather dresses were also much in vogue, the leather being dressed with tan, and sometimes with alumn. The shoemakers, we find, were in the habit of substituting basil, or dressed sheepskin, for tanned or tawed ox-leather, which was the legitimate material. “Cappes” for the head are mentioned as an article of import at an early period, and were probably made of coarse woollen materials. There were also "hattes" and "hures," the latter the inferior sort, so called from the “hure,” or shaggy head of an animal. “Gloves” were early in fashion, and the “glovers” were already an established craft. Breeches or tight pantaloons were also in use, those who made them being called “braellers.” Belts or girdles for both sexes were made by the “girdlers," and from these belts hung the wearer's “pouch,” or purse. “Cutpurses” were already, we find, in full pursuit of their vocation. Buttons and clasps were used, and "pynners” or pins, probably of wood, bone, or ivory. An unwary horseman in those days was exposed to a danger from which we are now happily exempt. “Each saddle-bow, fore and hind, when duly and properly made, seems to have been formed of a quarter—and not less than a quarter-of the horizontal section of the trunk of a tree, hollowed out, of course, to fit the horse's back ; the wood too, in justice to the customer, was to be perfectly dry before it was placed in the painter's hands. To the no small detriment, however, of the honest members of the craft, “bad apprentices, who had run away from their masters, and other false men,' were in the frequent habit of betaking themselves to the forests, which in those days densely surrounded the metropolis on almost every side, and there patching up spurious saddle-bows of pieces of wood smaller than quarters, hastily glued together. These worthless articles they would smuggle into the City by night, certain painters and false saddlers receiving them for sale, sometimes painting the wood in an absolutely green state, and sometimes after the pieces had been glued together; the result of which malpractices, we are told, was, that when these materials were used by great lords or by strangers,' on a sudden emergency, i. e. without previous examination, the saddle would warp upon the wood becoming dry, and, to the no small inconvenience, of course, of the said
great lords' and others, the materials would fall to pieces. With the view of putting an end to such proceedings as these, upon complaint being made to the mayor of London, at the date before mentioned, every joiner was ordered from thenceforth to have his own mark for marking each saddle-bow of his workmanship; no joiner, too, was to do any work in the woods ; and due provision was made that all joiner's work that should be found to be spurious should be brought to the Guildhall, condemned, and thence carried into Cheap and burnt. No joiner from thenceforth was to work at his trade by night, or to forestal any timber on its way to the City that unto joinery pertained, whether in the woods or elsewhere ; nor was he to be found with any old saddle-bow in pieces in his possession. Painters also were forbidden to put paint or colours upon saddle-bows made out of the City before they had been viewed and proved, and duly marked, by certain persons appointed by the mystery for the purpose. Indeed, it would almost seem that the principal occupation of the painters in these days was the painting of saddles, old and new.” Last of all we come to the “fripperers" or "old-clothesmen” of those days, whose “honesty seems not to have stood particularly high in civic estimation.”
The River had, of course, its own set of regulations; and the prices at which boatmen were to take passengers between Billingsgate and Gravesend are expressly named. Travellingbags, “males," were in common use, and travellers carried their linen either in them or in panyers or baskets. From a
passage in one of the Guildhall Letter-books, speaking of travellers arriving at St. Botolph's wharf from Gravesend, it appears that they were to be allowed to land their luggage free of wharfage if carried under the arm, and if only containing things “for back and bed” (“ a doos et a lyť"). From the latter word Mr. Riley infers that nightgowns were then in use, as the sheets would be too bulky to carry in this way under the arm. It will be seen from the above that the life of the Old-London citizen had a few points of resemblance as well as its general broad contrast to that of his successor of the present day.
We have already alluded to some of the restrictions on his freedom of movement. He was not allowed to carry arms by night, or to appear in the street masked. Walkers by night had to give a satisfactory account of themselves, or they were carried off to the “Tun" prison; and all respectable persons were expected to carry lights with them. Each of the City gates was granted to a sergeant-at-arms, who was expected to keep watch night and day, being assisted by a man who was paid by himself. In some cases the bedel was authorised to summon the men of the ward to watch the gate armed, those absent having to find substitutes at their own expense. The mayor had not the right of inflicting capital punishment. The principal and frequent penalty seems to have been the pillory, to which in many cases the offender was conducted attended by music, probably of a rather “rough” description. We read of a case in the time of Edward III. in which a person convicted of propagating lies and scandal'was condemned to be imprisoned a year and day, and to stand at the end of each quarter for three hours in the pillory, with a whetstone hanging from his neck !
The character of the London lawyers at the latter end of the thirteenth century does not seem to have stood high, if we may judge from a code of civic ordinances contained in the Liber Custumarum :
“The least guilty of these offenders, who, not without good reason, had incurred the heavy displeasure of Sir Gregory de Rokesley, Mayor,
his Aldermen, and the other reputable men of the City,' had been in the habit of setting themselves up as Countors,* while in reality they knew nothing whatever about their profession, nor had they ever learnt it;' the result of which was, that the reputable men of the City well perceived that, by reason of their ignorance, both impleader and impleaded lost their pleas and their suits, as well in the Court of Hustings as in the houses of the Sheriffs, and that some persons had even been disinherited by reason of their foolish conduct :-a thing, however, that we need not be at all surprised at, when we are further informed that, in these times, 'every one made himself a countor at his will; sometimes, indeed, such a person as did not know how to speak
• A certain class of pleaders at the bar.
in proper language.' Others again, following the same independent line of action, took upon themselves the duties of pleaders, attorneys, and essoiners,* and sometimes even got themselves appointed assessors in the Sheriffs' Court. To add, if possible, to the confusion caused by this state of things, although the lines of demarcation no doubt were laid down plainly enough, a countor was sometimes to be found encroaching upon the domain of the attorney or the essoiner, and an essoiner, by way of reprisal, upon that of the countor or the attorney.
These delinquencies, however, serious as they really were, appear to have been mild in comparison with others that evidently formed part of the practice of the black sheep of the profession. It was not at all an unheard-of thing, it would seem, for a countor to undertake a suit on the understanding that he was to have a partnership in the profits; while an even greater rogue would take the money of his client, and of course make himself acquainted with his case, and then with consummate effrontery pocket the hire, and conduct the cause of the other side. Disgraceful language, ugly words, and scandalous calumnies, appear to have been the rhetoric employed by some; while in other instances, sergeants, as well as attorneys, would seem to have been in the habit of coolly passing from their respective seats, or moving far beyond the bar of the Court, and trying to earwig the judges and thrust their services upon them as assessors. Indeed, so poor an opinion does Gregory de Rokesley and his worthy Aldermen appear to have entertained of the whole fraternity, that we absolutely find it among the rules made at the above-mentioned date, that in case a member were requested to act as assessor to a judge, he should first make oath that he would favour neither one side nor the other.
It is to be hoped, however, and indeed there seems reason to believe, that there were some men of respectability to save the character of the London branch of the profession; seeing that the rules and regulations made on this occasion were promulgated, as we are informed,
at the request of the Sergeants and Countors who understood their profession, and who felt themselves greatly aggrieved therein.' As to the severe but wholesome penalties enacted for these malpractices, after due warning given to the higher members of the profession, the attorneys also are duly cautioned that if they enter into any partnership in the moneys demanded by their clients, they shall be .for ever suspended ;' and that if, by any default or negligence of their own, they shall lose the suits of their clients, imprisonment according to the statute will be the result.
The lawyers of the metropolis, however, were probably little, if at all, worse than their neighbours; for corruption of this nature seems to have so universally prevailed, that, at a distance of twelve years from the above date, we meet with a statute, promulgated by royal authority, to the effect that, although it had been unmistakably forbidden by previous statutes that any member of the King's Court, or
* The essoiner proffered essoins in court, or legitimate excuses for nonattendance.
+ The word is “lower," • hire' or 'pay,' not ‘fee' in the modern sense.