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Matrimonial cause in Lichfield Consistory court 1472/73.

I have not yet checked to see if this cause is cited or edited by Helmholz but I’ll place it here now and correct later. There are almost no late-medieval cause papers for the (Coventry and) Lichfield Consistory court (which was convened always in the secular chapter at Lichfield, never, of course, the regular at Coventry). The registers, however, occasionally and erratically include memoranda about causes.

Staffordshire Record Office Lichfield Diocesan Records B/C/1/2, fo. 95v

Memorandum quod Johannes Raue comparuit coram Magistro Thoma Raynald officio Consistorii Episcopalis lich’ in Ecclesia Cathedrali lich’ in loco Consistorii eiusdem xix die Mensis Januarii Anno domini Millesimo CCCClxxijo et ibidem Confessus est quod ipse pro matrimonio contraxit cum felicia grene pro ut mulier Dixit *pro vij annis elapsis* et <postea dix> de eadem sussitauit Duos proles et postea Dixit quod precontraxit cum Margeria Worthynton’ et ad hoc probandum produxit duos testes videlicet^ Willelmum Hyll et Henricum Browne quos iudex admisit et iureri fecit de dicendo omnem veritatem in Dicta causa

* sic

^ superscript with caret

<> cancelled

Law and arbitration: causes in a consistory court

* sic

<> cancelled (struck through)

^ ^superscript with caret

+ one word illegible

Staffordshire Record Office Lichfield Diocesan Records B/C/1/1 fo. 248r

Memorandum quod quarto die ^mensis^ Julii Anno Domini Millesimo CCCCmo lxmo nono <comparuerunt> Johannes Haryson’ ^Harys^ de Thomworth’ et <Will> Margareta Parsons ^et Willelmus Hochyns pro at * dicte Margarete Parsons^ de parochia de Sutton’ in Colflyld* in loco Consistorii ecclesie Cathedralis lich’ personaliter comparuerunt <Dictos> coram venerabili viro Magistro Johanne Fox legum Doctore ac Dicti Consistorii officio et pro bono pacis et concordie dictorum Johannis et Margarete compromiserunt in quatuor probos et honestes <vr> viros videlicet Auerey* Marschalld* Thomam Baker Dominum Willelmum Flecher Capellanum de Sutton’ in Colflyd* et Ricardum Malpas arbitratores Inter dictum Johannem et Margaretam electos de et super expensis et denariis temporibus* inter dictos Johannem et Margaretam factis habitis et receptis et quo ad materiam ecclesiasticam eam videlicet causam principalem matrimonii dicti partes debent expectare summam dicti iudicis ^+^ partes quia predicti iurauerunt super sancta Dei Euangelia et per ipsos tacta ^et dictus Willelmus Hochyns pro filia sua ad sancta Dei euangelia et per ipsum tacta iurauit^ de stando laudo et arbitrio ordinacione* in alto et in basso Dictorum arbitrorum <sub pena> in Dictis expensis et denariis sub pena xxs decem solidos soluendos parti presenti a parte non parenti et alterum* decem soluendos fabrice ecclesie Cathedralis lich’ prouiso tamen quod dicti quatuor arbitri infra dictum tempus minime laudauerint <p> tunc partes predicte unanimiter compromiserint in venerabiles viros Dominos Thomam Ferres* et Willelmum Harcowrt … (illegible) ^milites^ imperes indifferentes electos prouiso tamen quod ipsi laudum ferant citra festum Corporis christi proximum futurum et si dicti impares non terminauerint siue laudum tulerint <t> tunc stet causa inter ipsos mota in statu in quo erat tempore huiusmodi compromissi Quo die adueniente quidem Johannes Bradeburne comparuit et certificauit Judici quod Dicti quatuor arbitri siue Abbitratores* ad invicem non ^erant concordati^ <co> concordauerunt Dicte partes eo quod Thomas Baker unus dictorum iiijorum arbitratorum non erat Domi* ex quo materia erat posita Ius compromissi ideo iudex cum consensu procuratorum dictas partes* videlicet Margaretam Parsons dedit longiorem diem videlicet in diem <q> Martis proximum post festum Apostolorum Petri et pauli Quo die adueniente materia est finita <ac> per dictos arbitros de et super denariis et expensis ut promittitur

Staffordshire Record Office Lichfield Diocesan Records B/C/1/1, fo. 281v

In causa Diffamacionis mota inter Dominum Willelmum Flecher vicarium de Crudeworth’ partem actricem r’ per paynell’ contra Ricardum Ley de Stutton* in Colfyld partem ream partem ream* personaliter Quo die adueniente oblate libelle pro parte Dicti Domini Willelmi et per Dictum Ricardum recepte et incontinente post(ea) dicte partes compromiserunt in quatuor viros videlicet Willelmum segeweke Willelmum Chatteake Ricardum Malpas et Thomam Feysy ^arbitratores^ inter dictas partes inter electos et dicte partes videlicet Dominus Willelmus Flecher et Ricardus Ley I iurarunt super sancta Dei euangelia et per eos tacta De stando arbitrio ordinacionis in alto et in basso Dictorum arbitratorum de omnibus materiis et causis inter Dictos Willelmum et Ricardum ab origine mundi motis seu mouere …+ sub pena <l> x librarum dimidium soluendum parti parenti de parte non parenti et dimidium fabrice ecclesie cathedralis lich’ Prouiso tamen quod huiusmodi arbitrium siue laudum feretur citra dominicam in medio quadragesime Et si Contingat quod Dictos quatuor arbitratores infra Dictum tempus minime laudauerint quod tunc partes predicte unanimiter compromiserint in venerabiles viros Magistrum Ricardum Brakynbrogh \Rectorem de Sutton’ et Dominum Willelmum Harcowrt militem vel aliquem alium loco Dicti Magistri Ricardi et per dictas partes electos impares indiferentes electos prouiso tamen quod ipsi laudum ferant citra festum pasche proximum futurum / et si Dicti impares non terminauerint siue laudum tulerint tunc stet causa inter eos mota in statu in quo erat tempore huiusmodi compromissi

Currently pursuing the implications of this case.

Staffordshire Record Office Lichfield Diocesan Records B/C/1/1, fo. 283r

Memorandum quod x Die Mensis Aprilis Anno Domini Millesimo CCCC lxxmo in ecclesia Cathedrali lich’ in loco Consistorii eiusdem comparuerunt Thomas Toffte et Johannam* uxorem* Henrici Hordren’ et <co> ipsi compromiserunt in quatuor viros videlicet Thomam Plonte et Willelmum Alcoke Ricardum Sutton’ et Jacobum Sutton’ arbitratores indifferentes inter ipsos electos De <er> et super omnibus omnimodis accionibus querelis in Concistorio Episcopalis* pendentibus prouiso quod Dicti quatuor <ab> arbitri siue arbitratores sic electi finem facient in et De Dictis accionibus citra proximum Concistorium et si contingat quod Dicti quatuor arbitri laudum tulerint post[ea] partes predicte iurauerint super sancta Dei euangelia et per ipsos + De stando laudo arbitrio ordinacione* in alto et in Basso dictorum arbitrorum in Dicta Causa pendenti sub pena C s dimidio soluendo parti parenti a parte non parenti et altero dimidio fabrice <parochie de> ecclesiarum parochiarum de Bydull’ et leke prousio tamen quod huiusmodum arbitrium siue laudum feratur citra proximum Concistorium proximum futurum et si contingat quod Dicti quatuor arbitri infra Dictum tempus minime laudauerint quod tunc <partes predicte> stet materia in statu in quo est in proximo Concistorio videlicet post Dominicam + +

(Defamation cause initiated on 27 Sept. 1468)

Staffordshire Record Office Lichfield Diocesan Records B/C/1/2, fo, 46v

(14 April 1472)

Memorandum quod Alicia Henley et Radulphus Smyth compromiserunt in quatuor viros videlicet Willelmum Wytby Johannem Welbe Radulphum Horchard et Thomam Pase arbitratores inter ipsos indiferentes electos …

(testamentary cause initiated 17 Feb. 1472; expenses declared at 26s. 8d. on 19 Jan. 1473 – fo. 96r)

Staffordshire Record Office Lichfield Diocesan Records B/C/1/2, unfoliated leaf

[20 October 1473]

Memorandum quod in presenti concistorio Elena Tylston’ Margareta Tylston’ et dominus Thomas Tylston’ iurarunt et eorum quilibet iurarit de Stando laudo et arbitrio iiij* virorum domini Willelmi Ypers capellani Thome Wyxtyd seniore*de* arbitrorum inter Dictos communiter electorum

Staffordshire Record Office Lichfield Diocesan Records B/C/1/2, unfoliated leaf

[13 March 1473/74] (Gesnoke c. Hunt in defamation)

Quo die adueniente dicte partes compromiserunt in quatuor virores inferius nominatos

(Initiated 9 November 1473; sentence 14 June 1474 when expenses assessed at 40s.)

Staffordshire Record Office Lichfield Diocesan Records B/C/1/2, unfoliated leaf

Memorandum quod xxvij die Mensis Junii Anno Domini Millesimo CCCCmo lxxiiijor comparuerunt Rogerus Segeweke et Ricardus ley pater Willelmi ley in Ecclesie* Cathedrali lich’ pro bono pacis et concordie Dicti Rogerus et <Willelmus> Ricardus nomine dicti Willelmi filii sui compromiserunt in iiijor viros videlicet Johannem Sutton’ Thomam Feyse Willelmum Depyng de Sutton’ et Johannem Madoke arbitratores pro ipsis electos partes que predicti iurarunt super sancta Dei Euangelia et per ipsos corporaliter tacta de Stando ludo* ordinacione* in alto et in basso Dictorum quatuor arbitratorum sic inter ipsos electorum in omnibus causis que debendent* in lege sub pena xl s xx s parti parenti et reliquos xx s fabrice ecclesie Cathedralis soluendos Prouiso tamen quod huiusmodi arbitrium siue laudum feratur <sancti> Citra Concistorium proximum post festum sancti Mathie Apostoli proximum futurum Et si contingat quod <hui> Dicti iiijor compromissam non terminauerint seu laudum tulerint tunc set* causa inter ipsos mota in statu in quo erat tempore huiusmodi compromissa

Staffordshire Record Office Lichfield Diocesan Records B/C/1/2, unfoliated leaf

Memorandum quod ixo die Mensis Augusti Anno Domini Millesimo CCCC lxxiiijor comparuerunt Dominus Willelmus <Wolf> Wedrufe Capellanus et Johannes Stafford ^junior^ de Cryche in Comitatu Derbeie in ecclesia Cathedrali lich’ et pro bono pacis et concordie <int> dicti Dominus Willelmus et Johannes compromiserunt in quatuor ^viros^ videlicet Radulphum Sacheuerll’ Henricum punte arbitratores pro parte dicti Domini Willelmi electos Henricum Columbell’ ^seniorem^ et Ricardum Page arbitratores pro parte dicti Johannis electos et que causa (+) inieccionis manuum violentarum in dictum Dominum Willelmum Capellanum partem actricem ex parte una et dictum Johannem Stafford juniorem partem ream ex altera que adhuc pendet indecisa partes que predicti iurarunt super sancta Dei Euangelia et per ipsos corporaliter tacta de Stando laudo arbitrio ordinacione* in alto et in Basso dictorum quatuor (+) arbitratorum sic inter ipsos electos in omnibus causis que dependent in lege et que sunt extra legem pro se et omnibus suis ac pro Roberto Marchall’ sub pena xcim librorum quinque libras ^parti^ parenti et reliquas quinque libras fabrice ecclesie Cathedrali lich’ soluendas prouiso tamen quod huiusmodi arbitrium siue laudum feratur citra festum natiuitatis beate marie virginis proxime futurum Et si contingat quod dicti quattuot arbitratores infra dictum tempus minime laudauerunt adtunc predicte partes unanimiter concensierunt ut Dicti arbitratores eligunt in se imperam promise quod ipse imper (+) laudum ferat citra dominicam ante festum Malie* Apostoli <proxime futurum> proxime ^ex^tunc sequentem et si contingat quod dictus imper non terminauerit seu laudum tulerit tunc set* causa inter ipsos mota in statu in quo erat termpore huiusmodi compromisi

Staffordshire Record Office Lichfield Diocesan Records B/C/1/2, unfoliated leaf

Memorandum quod xxviij die mensis Septembris Anno Domini Millesimo CCCClxxiiijto comparuerunt <coram> Willelmus Tayler et Willelmus Peyner Rogerus S* Willelmus Ruscheton’ et Rogerus Beynys et Johannes Tayler nomine parochianorum de Dalley et Ricardum Thurtulkoke de eadem compromiserunt in iiijor* videlicet Thomas Belivant Willelmum pedmore parte dictorum parochianorum et Dominum Ricardum Fewhed vicarium de Madley et Johannem ley de Welynton’ in ecclesia Cathedrali lich’ pro bono pacis habendo inter eosdem arbitratrores inter ipsos electos et (blotch) iurauerunt ad standum dei Euangelia <de Stando> et per ipsos tacta de Stando laudo arbitrio in alto et in basso Dictorum quatuor arbitratorum in omnibus causis inter ipsos parochianos et et* Ricardum Thurtulkoke prouiso tamen quod huiusmodi laudum feratur citra festum omnium sanctorum proxime futurum et >finna> finatione per eos ideo non finita tunc stet in statu in quo &c est

Staffordshire Record Office Lichfield Diocesan Records B/C/1/2, unfoliated leaf

Memorandum quod Anno Domini Millesimo CCCC lxxvto comparuerunt coram Magistro Thoma Reynall in utroque iure Bacellario ac presedenti Concistorii Episcopalis lich’ ixo die mensis Maij in <co> loco Concistorii eiusdem et ibidem compromiserunt in iiijor viros videlicet dominum Radulphum Calcrofte vicarium de Chesturfeld et dominum Henricum Wedurhed vicarium de Dronfeld pro parte Willelmi Turner Rectoris de Clowne et Rectorem de Whytewell’ pro parte Roberti Rotherham de stando*

Staffordshire Record Office Lichfield Diocesan Records B/C/1/2, unfoliated leaf

Memorandum quod xxixno Die mensis Maij Anno Domini Millesimo CCCClxxvjo Comparuerunt personaliter in iudicio coram Magistro Thoma Raynald Concistorii aepiscopalis lich’ presidenti Dominus Thomas Cownur de Staffordia Capellanus et Thomas frebanke de Denbeia pro bono pacis et concordie inter Dictos Dominum Thomam et Thomam Frebanke et uxorem eiusdem/ dicti Dominus Thomas et Thomas nomine suo et uxoris sue compromiserunt in sex viros videlicet Willelmum offley Johannem Day et Edmundum Robyns arbitratores pro parte dicti Domini Thome/ Robertum Rowe Johannem Stepulford et Robertum Wendall’ arbitratores pro parte dicti Thome et uxoris sue in quadam causa testamentaria inter Dictos Dominum Thomam partem actricem ex parte una & dictum Thomam et uxorem eiusdem partem ream ex altera que ad huc pendet indecisa partes que predicte videlicet Dominus Thomas et Thomas nomine suo et uxoris sue iurarunt et eorum uterque iurauit super sancta dei Euangelia et per personam Corporaliter tacta de Stando laudo arbitrio ordinacionis in alto et in basso dictorum sex arbitratorum sic inter eos electorum in predicta causa que pendet in lege et omnibus aliis causis inter dictas partes pendentibus sub pena xx li decem parti parenti et reliquas decem libras fabrice ecclesie Cathedralis lich’ soluendas prouiso tamen quod huiusmodi arbitrium siue laudum feratur citra festum sancti Mathei Apostoli proxime futurum et si contingat quod <huiusmodi> predicti sex arbitratores siue amicabiles compositores Dicta onera ac alias materias inter ipsos pendentes non terminauerint seu laudum tulerint tunc set* (recte stet?) causa predicta inter ipsos Dominum Thomam et Thomam et uxorem eius mota in statu in quo erat tempore huiusmodi compromissa

Staffordshire Record Office Lichfield Diocesan Records B/C/1/2, unfoliated leaf

[undated]

Memorandum quod Jacobus Maynewaryng et Thomas Bestoke compromiserunt in iiijor viros viros* videlicet Radulphum Bestoke et Thomam Rede pro parte Dicti Dicti* Jacobi et Hugonem Dauenport et Reginaldum legh pro parte Thome prouiso quod materia finetur citra festum sancti Johannis Baptiste et aliter stet in eodem statu in quo &c &c

A late-medieval ecclesiastical court

Image: courtesy of Staffordshire Record Office

Just performing some research into some aspects of the late-medieval ecclesiastical courts on a vague whim. To date, I’ve perused the equivalent of three years (March 1468-June 1471) in the Lichfield consistory court. The data are held in a LibreOffice Base database. A quick and dirty examination produces these numbers.

Total causes284
fidei laesio79
defamation51
testamentary44
detinue of church goods24
matrimonial22
divorce a mensa et thoro17
tithes16
adherence to marital vows6
usury2

The rest are sundries.

Updating the numbers for 30 March 1468 now to 10 April 1473.

Total causes493
fidei laesio157
defamation76
testamentary74
detinue of church goods31
matrimonial37
divorce a mensa et thoro41
tithes25
adherence to marital vows11
usury7

Cultures of Exclusion

Advancing the corpus linguistics, looking specifically at tragedy, the emphasis is on banish and banishment because of the political context.  Exclude/exclusion are not encountered at all.  (Corpora obtained from ProjectGutenberg and run through TextSTAT).

Duchess of Malfi: banished x5; banishment x2. Inc. ANTONIO: ‘My banishment, feeding my melancholy…’

The White Devil: banish/ed 3; banishment 3.  Opening with Ludovico’s exclamation ‘Banished!’.

Although the term is not encountered in A Woman Killed with Kindness, banishment is effectively the fate of Anne (Nan).

Banishment was the sense invoked by urban authorities in their exclusion of their own members who had allegedly contravened expected norms.

Cultures of Exclusion Conference

So to other obvious observations.  OED has two strands for exclusion: one is tantamount to structural exclusion (i.e. not being admitted); the other to removal – more regularly banishment or ostracism.  The noun exclusion seems fairly rare in literature (I did a brief concordance analysis of Jonson, for example; OED has earliest occurrence in 14th century).  The first concept leads in many directions about rituals of inclusion and exclusion, qualifying status, and access to resources.  The second can be analyzed on various levels from Durkheim’s sacredness of society through functionalism to the latter’s insistence on reintegration and the restoration of harmony – or, more likely, enmity and low-level self-help, continuing ostracism and acrimony.

Cultures of Exclusion Conference

Here’s another thought prompted by work being conducted by Charmian Mansell.  It returns me to thinking about Social Network Analysis.  One precept which is being neglected now is Time, which used to be taken into account in the earlier literature (esp. in Social Forces).  Time is important for establishing social networks, esp. as support networks.  One might then a priori expect a difference in the capability of domestic servants and servants in husbandry to establish support networks in their place of occupation.  Domestic servants have the Time, but servants in husbandry do not (one-year contracts).  This thought is also apposite for some work which I am undertaking on bankrupts who migrated (London Gazette notices), for their failures disallowed them from making strong support networks and compelled them to move on or, quite often, circular migration back to their place of origin where they had kinship support networks.  What to do about Mark Granovetter’s ‘weak links’ is a constant challenge.

Cultures of exclusion conference

As this Warwick conference approaches, my thoughts return to social interactionism and symbolic interactionism, although the latter (Mead, Blumer) may be a stretch too far.  This consideration has been stimulated too by a recent event in my life, subjective as it may seem in the historical prospectus.  Recently, my college alma mater communicated that this year it would entertain 50th-anniversary recruits (matriculands, as it has it) for its annual dinner.  The insistence, however, on black tie is anathema to some of us (well, me).  I consequently declined to attend.  Is this self-exclusion?  I suggest not entirely.  In part, the culpability rests with the college which is inflexible in allowing lounge suits (those who wish could still retain black tie).  The exclusion is a consequence of interactionism or, as I re-read it, Goffman’s Behavior in Public Places (1963).  It approximates to the expected rules which are not legislative but to which people are expected to conform.  It is not quite a question of Goffman’s ‘situational proprieties’, which are matters of etiquette.  It would be interesting if the participants in their papers address this wider issue: ‘situational proprieties’ (how people who do not respond in the anticipated fashion in face-to-face (public) situations become excluded).

“Thrift” and the working-class economy, 1858-1903

Recent investigation has directed attention again to the deposit accounts of savings banks as an indicator of the ability of and propensity for the working class to save (not least through management of the household economy (Perriton and Maltby; Maltby). In one sense, this recourse to savings banks complied with ideological constraints of social control and reflected inversely the different standards imposed on or associated with middle class and working class (Paul Johnson). There is the possibility, consequently, that deposits in savings banks miss aspects of a working-class independent ethos. Such a potential difference – one of necessity, but also choice – was illustrated by Robert Noonan in The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists and is also well attested through the relationships with pawn brokers (Tebbutt): that working class people “invested” in household goods (‘assets’) which temporarily improved their lives, but were “realisable”, in the sense that they were capital which could be liquidated in times of necessity. Accordingly, we might then examine the probate calendars introduced in 1858 for the ability of the working class to accumulate as a prospective form of saving. The following comments are based on an interim sample of more than 20,000 probate records for Leicestershire. (All the data – some 24k records – have been collected, but are still being input into the database, which has now progressed to 22k). There are obvious caveats. The valuation occurred at death, at the end of the lifecourse, but we might suspect little adherence to a Chayanovian life-cycle relinquishing of goods in later life, for they still provided a capital reserve. Secondly, the deceased have been divided into various categories of work, but we know from Noonan’s description of building work in Hastings that the employment of the various building craftsmen was often not in their particular skill, but whatever work was available, usually at lower rates. Thirdly, the numbers involved are low. The reason is that a vast realm of deceased has been excluded because it is uncertain whether they were employed or self-employed, so, for example, all painters, plumbers, glaziers, and so on, have been excised. The concentration is thus on unskilled (as far as any work lacks acquired skills) (labourers), semi-skilled (framework knitters), and skilled (bricklayers). What the data indicate is the possibility for the fortunate, diligent, but minority of, working-class employees to accumulate, in many cases comparable with the capacity of the lower-middle-class retailer, who depended on their aggregate demand (a massive contrast with Jack London’s East End in The People of the Abyss and even Noonan’s Hastings) . There are other categories which illumine the range of working-class opportunity. Workers in extractive industry had very poor potential. The new railway industry, in contrast, elevated a new ‘labour aristocracy’.

The division before and after 1881 is explained by W. D. Rubinstein, Men of Property: The Very Wealthy in Britain Since the Industrial Revolution (New edn, London, 2006), p. 20.

Linda Perriton and Josephine Maltby, “Working-class households and savings in England, 1850-1880”, Enterprise and Society 16 (2015), 413-45.

Maltby, “‘The wife’s administration of the earnings’? Working-class women and savings in the mid-nineteenth century”, Continuity and Change 26 (2011), 187-217.

Paul Johnson, “Class law in Victorian England”, Past & Present 141 (1993), 147-69.

Melanie Tebbutt, Making Ends Meet: Pawnbroking and Working-Class Credit (London, 1983).

Jack London, The People of the Abyss (London, 1903).

‘Robert Tressell’, The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists ed. Peter Miles (Oxford, 2005).

1 Farm labourers after 1881

N

37

mean

156.5

Standard deviation

204.77

median

85

Before 1881: 7, ranged <£20 to <£100.

2a Bricklayers before 1881

Under £

Leicester

Town

Rural

20

0

2

2

50

1

1

1

100

5

2

9

200

0

0

2

300

2

0

3

450

0

0

3

600

0

1

1

1500

1

0

0

2b Bricklayers after 1881

Leicester

Town

Rural

N

24

5

18

mean

233

189

212

Standard deviation

236.2

174.7

259.2

median

133

93

87

3a FWKs before 1881

Under £s

Leicester

Town

Rural

5

0

0

2

20

3

2

27

50

1

1

5

100

7

8

34

200

6

3

8

300

2

1

2

450

0

1

7

500

0

0

1

600

0

0

1

800

1

0

0

3b FWKs after 1881

Leicester

Town

Rural

N

51

30

75

mean

169

166

168.5

Standard deviation

170.9

227.1

229.0

Median

97

99.5

60

4a Labourers before 1881

Under £

Leicester

Town

Rural

10

0

0

1

20

0

2

17

40

0

1

0

50

2

0

5

60

0

0

1

70

0

0

1

80

0

0

1

90

0

0

1

100

9

12

48

200

1

5

39

300

1

0

9

400

0

0

2

450

0

2

4

600

0

0

1

4b Labourers after 1881

Leicester

Town

Rural

N

36

22

174

Mean

209.2

272.9

128.4

Standard deviation

272.4

462.5

145.7

Median

92.5

166.5

81.5

Gentlemen and capitalism: some questions

Gentlemen and capitalism: some questions

Consequent upon Wiener’s and Rubinstein’s research respectively into culture and industrial capital and ‘men of wealth’, Cain et al. embarked upon the elucidation of ‘gentlemanly capitalism’, which has become a paradigm of English entrepreneurship, status and the performance of the economy.(1) Perhaps, however, we can illustrate a dichotomy by reference to contemporary literature and ethnographic writing. Ostensibly, Henry Wilcox represents this ethos of gentlemanly capitalism, although his company is a commercial enterprise rather than industrial. We should recollect, however, that, although he purchased the Onibury estate (Clun, Shropshire), he really was not enamoured of the countryside, visited the estate rarely, and abandoned it when an unpleasant incident occurred there. Nor was he especially attracted to his wife’s Howards End. His countenance of both arose from expectations of status and family rather than a desire to enjoy the lifestyle of the country elite. His natural environment was the City.(2) In contrast, Jack London excoriated the 400,000 gentlemen in the 1881 census, ‘of no occupation’ and ‘unprofitable’.(3) Such a number could not have been composed of either retired industrialists or ‘men of wealth’.

The character of the urban gentleman

The following data are extracted from the National Probate Register. The database from which they derive concerns probate valuations for all entries for Leicestershire from the initiation of civil registration of probate in 1858 to 1903. The timescale accords with Piketty’s concentration of wealth in England, but he did not have recourse to these data.(4) The terminus ad quem is also aligned with the Distress Act of 1905 (thus with renewed recession), Noonan’s The Ragged Trousered Philanthopists (also indicative of that economic crisis, in Hastings), London’s The People of the Abyss (although poignantly and narrowly directed to the East End of the capital), the 1910 land valuation and new income taxes.(5) The database is in progress. Although all the data have been accumulated, only surnames A-O have been entered into the database, comprising just under 16,000 data records, 620 (just under 4 percent) of which concern deceased described as gentleman or esquire in the borough of Leicester. The data are divided into two cohorts: before April 1881 and after 1881, determined by the transition in the probate valuation from an estimated round number (e.g. under £450) to a precise valuation, often re-sworn, and sometimes prescribed to a halfpenny.(6) There is a coincidental advantage in this sectioning, since it mitigates any impact of inflation, although Piketty estimates zero inflation in the long nineteenth century.(7)

Commencing with the data prior to April 1881, we have 290 data records, the minimum and maximum consisting of under £20 (six deceased) and under £60,000. Another two deceased were estimated to have estate valued at less than £50, but 30 less than £100, 23 less than £200, 14 less than £300, one less than £400, and 23 under £450 (the next amount is less than £600). About 13 percent of gentleman thus possessed estate valued at less than £100 and more than a fifth less than £200, levels of estate which were not beyond accrual by labourers (another analysis is in progress on these data of unskilled and skilled workpeople).

The post-1881 data present a similar pattern, allowing for some upward inflation of the values. We have 330 data records, with a minimum of £3 and a maximum of £224,567. If we conduct an assessment of the Gini coefficient, as an artifice, on these data, the result is 0.78 (to two decimal places): a wide divergence in inequality in the cohort of gentlemen and esquires. The mean and median are something of another artifice, however, at £5,080 and £1,011, but note the standard deviation of 15759 and interquartile range of 3437 (to the nearest integer). More interestingly, the fifth percentile occurs at £44. If we consider rank order, 112 (over a third) owned estate valued at less than £499. The estate of 14 percent was evaluated at below £100.

What existed then was a wide disparity in the wealth of those with the status of gentleman in the urban context. Very many conducted a marginal existence in terms of financial status. Undoubtedly, some (perhaps not many) received financial support from kinship, but the meagre valuations of their estate reflect a rather mean quotidian lifestyle and household content. These data, it must be explained, exclude many industrialists who, as will be explained below, were described by occupation rather than status at their demise.

Business wealth

The second issue concerns directly industrial wealth. The question here is whether businessmen withdrew capital from their enterprise and to what extent. A considerable proportion of business consisted of partnerships. The extent of these partnerships in any industrial locality can be gauged in records of dissolution in The London Gazette. What needs to be established is what amount of capital was extracted by the retiring partner. In the case of family partnerships, it is possible that the retiring partner left capital in the business and only withdrew what was necessary for an expected lifestyle.

Mittelstand

Associated with that question of capital diversion is the issue of the size of the business. Hitherto, concentration has been on the ‘very wealthiest’. The late-Victorian equivalent of the SME or mittelstand has been somewhat neglected, but the majority of the hosiery and boot and shoe manufacturers in the East Midlands pertained to that category, affluent, but not the ‘very wealthiest’. The NPR material reveals that these manufacturers retained as their denomination their industrial occupation at death/probate rather than the status of gentlemen. It equally demonstrates that they did not aspire to country estates and pursuits, but congregated in the new (highly selective and salubrious) suburban developments, particularly Knighton.(8) Whilst cadet siblings accepted the style of ‘gentleman’ and existed on more slender means in the urban location, the eldest continued the enterprise and retained the style of industrialist/manufacturer.

Origins of some gentlemen: lower middle class

One other benefit of the NPR is that, very occasionally, it reveals the background of those who did aspire to the title of ‘gentleman’ from a different background. These instances are monopolized by lower-middle-class traders relinquishing their occupation for the status of ‘gentleman’, on slender means. In 1869, John Smith possessed estate valued at below £200, described as a gentleman of 7, Northgate Street, Leicester, but he had a former existence as a grocer in Wellington Street.(9)

The connection between capitalism and gentlemen is thus complicated. The questions advanced here are speculative, but the final database will provide the basis of a more granular dissection of the character of ‘gentleman’ in the provincial, urban, capitalist context. One category consisted of ‘poor’ urban gentlemen with slender resources, some from lower-middle-class local backgrounds, upwardly-mobile in pretended status, if not means.

1 M. J. Wiener, English Culture and the Decline of Industrial Spirit, 1850-1980 (new edn, Cambridge, 2004; first edn 1981); W. D. Rubinstein, Men or Property: The Very Wealthy in Britain Since the Industrial Revolution (London, 2006 edn; first edn 1981); P. J. Cain and A. G. Hopkins, British Imperialism (London, 1993); F. M. L. Thompson, Gentrification and Enterprise Culture: Britain, 1780-1980 (Oxford, 2001).

2 E. M. Forster, Howards End (London, 1910).

3 Jack London, The People of the Abyss (London, 1903), p. 315.

4 T. Piketty, Capital in the Twenty-first Century (Cambridge, MA, 2014), p. 117.

5 Robert Tressell, The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists (published posthumously); M. J. Daunton, Just Taxes: The Politics of Taxation in Britain. 1914-1979 (Cambridge, 2008).

6 For the differentiation in 1881 and in general for the NPR, Rubinstein, Men of Wealth, pp. 18-24

7 Piketty, Capital, p. 131.

8 R. M. Pritchard, Housing and the Spatial Structure of the City: Residential Mobility and the Housing Market in an English City Since the Industrial Revolution (Cambridge, 1976), p. 136 (although not acquiring City status until 1919). Knighton was incorporated into the borough of Leicester by boundary extension considerably after its initial suburban development.

9 National Probate Register, 1869 Sabben-Squires, p. 248.