The Deep History of Folk & Cows in Rural Cheshire
This is a story about the deep history of Cheshire and the Gandys, the Hindleys & the Birchalls who lived there. It is distorted by the mists of time and perhaps by personal prejudices, but nevertheless the tale is inspirational because deeply buried amongst the myths & contentions there are some robust & resilient insights ... otherwise the story wouldn't have survived ... would it? ...
Strangers approached Cheshire with care, the folk there were difficult to understand, but most left Cheshire with reluctance once they did understand ...
Frandley, Sevenoaks, Antrobus, Barnton and Acton Bridge are villages on the fertile low lying Cheshire plain between the Pennines & the Clwyd hills of North Wales (58 miles Wirral tip to Longdendale tip) and between the Mersey & the Whitchurch moraines (40 miles north to south) ... an auspicious plain bounded by the rivers Mersey & Dee, drained by the River Weaver, warmed by the Atlantic Gulf Stream and watered by the reliable rain from the prevailing South Westerly's.
Cheshire was a farming paradise ... however the meadows & dales of the topography and the comparatively damp conditions in the lee of the Welsh hills always tended to favour the pasturing of live stock over the cultivation of grains. Once the forests had been cleared Cheshire grass was plentiful, cheap and excellent quality fodder ... and it grew well into the autumn ... Cheshire was cow country.
But where do we start? Time has been going on for obscure ages ... but time was always seamlessly linked by Darwin's 'inheritance with modification' ... the deeper the history, perhaps, the deeper the understanding?
Charles Darwin understood about deep deep history and the tree of life ... he explained it all with an idea ... 'natural selection', aided by a little sketch on page 36 of his notebook and in 2008 Leonard Eisenberg turned Darwin's sketch into a superb history ... economic historians should remember 'we are related not only to every living thing, but also to every thing that has ever lived' ... wow!
... but how far back to go? ... some said, why not begin at the beginning? ... but which beginning? ...
In geological time keuper marl was the underlay of the Cheshire area with stiff and variable bolder clay on top. The landscape had been ravaged by glaciers, in rampage and in retreat. Apart from several beds of sand and occasional sandstone outcrops the significant geological inheritance of the region were the two layers of extensive rock salt, found at depths of 100 & 300 feet. From the early days salt had a significant impact on the economic history of Cheshire ... but less well recognised was the importance of marl ... Cheshire was renowned for its lucrative deposits of agricultural marl which were found throughout the shire ... and marl made the grass grow.
Cheshire was remote and distant from the early land bridges from the continent and the maritime influences affecting the English south. The rivers flowed north into the Irish Sea contrasting with the Shropshire rivers which flowed South; the glacial moraines from Ellesmere to Madeley made a natural watershed and barrier. The forests were dense & damp and numerous meres and flashes were a feature of the landscape. These were 'kettle holes' formed from huge blocks from the melting glaciers, helped by natural and unintentional subsidence and erosion of the salt which lay in such abundance under the plain. Cheshire topography was broken into five distinct areas, each with its own characteristics - the Dee & Wirral, the sandstone ridge & Weaver, the Southern Whitchurch moraines, the north Mersey plain and the Pennine edge.
For sure in 500,000 BC, in Palaeolithic times, Neanderthals had been around but they were a different species and didn't manage survival ... maybe, about 30,000 BC, the first Homo Sapiens appeared but the ice age of the Mesolithic age put paid to them ... then around 10,000 BC as the ice faded, the glaciers retreated and the sea level rose, a new breed of hunter gatherers appeared and eventually ventured into Cheshire from the south ... this was late in the day perhaps around 5,000 BC ... these were the folk who had originally learned their survival skills way back in Africa.
When they touched Cheshire they discovered oak wood forests nurtured on rich clays & loams, an ancient woodland which hosted a luxurious variety of animals ... folk thrived on the concentrated proteins which resulted from their predatory confrontation with red deer, wild boar and the wildfowl found on the meres. Trout were abundant in the rivers and fishing was a rewarding skill for those close to the fast flowing Dee, the lazy Weaver, and the Gowy, Dane, Wheelock, Bollin, Goyt, Etherow, Tame and Mersey ... rivers were everywhere ... and it was the rivers & streams which moulded the landscape into hills & hollows and fed the bog land, mosses and associated sphagnum peat. There were oak trees in Cheshire, supplemented by alders, willows and birch found by the mossy, peaty waters, with ash and some elm on the higher slopes. Hazels and hollies were in every wood and the hazel nuts were a boon ... and, much later, hawthorn hedgerows surrounded the fields ... the Cheshire plain was rarely monotonous, it always offered diversity and constant delight.
Over the centuries, animals and folk became locked into an intense symbiotic relationship as an ongoing co-evolution started with hunting and progressed to domestication ... man made animals ... Charles Darwin introduced his 'Origin of Species' with a description of the selection process from which new varieties of domesticated animals emerged, thus emphasising the reality of a complex interdependency which dominated life in Cheshire from the dark of history to the present.
The hunting of animals sparked deep emotional responses in folk, emotions first experienced by ancient ancestors hunting on the African savannah. Folk had begun to depend on the animal protein that was essential to feed growing brains, essential for survival ... and this importance dominated cultural behaviour and was reflected in universal practices ... perhaps one of the first was the sacrifice of animals to appease the Gods?
In Neolithic times, around 3,000 BC, the hunters settled in communities, cleared bits of the forests and ceased their nomadic life ... their relationship with animals intensified. Animal husbandry, together with the crop cultivation necessary to feed the animals (as well as the folk!) became even more central to survival.
It seemed settled farmers everywhere were always involved in selective breeding and domestication of animals ... dogs, cats, sheep, goats, hogs, cattle, fowl, honey bees, silk worms, reindeer, camels & horses and even elephants & ferrets ... these beasts provided not only nourishment but also help ... horsepower, transport, cavalry, shepherding, vermin control ... and don't forget the animals also provided milk, eggs, wool, silk & leather ... and perhaps companionship & ornament should be added. Big benefits for folks and big benefits for the cows ... they wouldn't even exist without selective breeding ... would they? And as Edward Hindley realised much later; from animals and their carcasses a galaxy of other goodies were discovered.
The domestication of animals was a natural process, 'artificial selection' was a confusing term, domestication was Darwin's 'natural selection' in operation. As folk settled in communities animals which failed to show a propensity to become tame simply did not survive. Wild animals were disruptive and spoilt the party, they were hunted out of town. On the other hand, tame animals were protected and encouraged to breed ... slowly over time, with predators and herbivore competitors eliminated ... docile, beefy, gushing, milk production units and shaggy fleeced sheep were proliferating ... in this way, only the rich cooperative animals had surviving off-springs ... and the off-springs were also rich and cooperative.
The man made character of the animals was matched by similar man made crops which included grains, pulses & fruits, all carefully selected to increase yield & nutrition. And more ... as the forests were cleared and the marshes drained, the hills fortified and the rivers bridged, the houses built and the graves dug, the clay ploughed and the hay made, the roads worn and the fields enclosed, the streams damned and the marl pits emptied, the brine pumped and the canals dug ... the character of the countryside itself was massaged into shape by man's efforts ... just like the beaver's dam ... the evolutionary scientists have words for it - 'niche construction' ... folk themselves were an increasing power in the environment that shaped their own lives.
As the farmers invested in land and stocks, their cattle had to be protected from acquisitive neighbours ... thieving & feuding over the cows stunted progress ... and progress was essential, there were hungry mouths to be filled. The word cattle itself came from 'caput', head, and was associated with 'chattels', moveable property, and 'capital', economic property ... in Cheshire, more than anywhere, wealth meant cows.
But this co-evolution and man & animals produced a relationship fraught with emotional entanglements. The dominion over animals which was essential for survival, clashed with a deep empathy for living creatures and an instinctive aversion to slaughter. This ongoing evolutionary battle of the emotions has mixed & messed many contentious issues over the years - from life sustaining protein & horse power, to religious sacrifice, killing, butchery, vegetarianism, vivisection, environmentalism & all manner of waste disposal problems ... masses of economic issues and externalities ...
Intriguingly over the vast scales of evolutionary time, selective breeding of animals was matched by selective breeding of folk ... perhaps big brains and lactose tolerance, would never have become survival traits without the domestication of animals? So there we have it ... cows were man made animals ... but ... folk were cow made animals ... it was impossible to separate nature from nurture ... nurture 'fed back' and influenced the survival chances of natures germ cells ... think about it?
Perhaps man's interaction with animals was all about cooperation and synergy rather than exploitation? Was the economics of cooperation - 2 + 2 = 5 - driving the social behaviour of folk from the very beginnings of cultural evolution as universal behavioural patterns emerged?
Cooperative behavioural patterns were inherited by Cheshire folk from their ancient ancestors beyond Africa -
gender specialisations - cooperation; the girls couldn't hunt like the men but the girls could gather fruits & seeds while they grew their babies
social team work - cooperation; different complementary specialised skills were required for hunting team work; running, tracking and spear throwing were all involved in the big kill
food sharing - cooperation; the carcase from the big kill was too big for one; it rotted or was stolen if not shared and eaten quickly
farmer/warrior defence specialisations - cooperation; investment in stocks required protection of property against parasites & predators - the farmers farmed and the warriors took bigger risks ... death up front ... but the warriors reaped bigger rewards for their bigger risks ... plunder and the pick of the girls ... and so it was the warriors who became the kings
religious ethics - cooperation; deep down in the skull emotional propensities for cooperation rather than confrontation emerged ... survival chances improved
trade - cooperation; deep down in the skull emotional propensities to truck, barter & exchange emerged, specialised skills required exchange in market centres ... no use specialising if you can't exchange
tort laws - cooperation; generally accepted behavioural norms; ownership rights & obligations avoided costly fights & feuds
scale - cooperation; economies of scale pressured farms & skills; small units were high cost and impossible to defend, communities grew from hamlets to towns to parishes to cities, to nation states ... from tithings to hundreds to shires
and ... what about production economics; how do you organise efforts to cope with scarcity, complexity, conflict and change?
social & organisational innovations - intensified cooperative interactions - division of labour expanded with the size of the market
technological innovations - intensified cooperative interactions - hitherto unconnected connections ... the methods of science; observation, theory, hypothesis, experimental validation & peer review ... improved productivity, transport, storage & logistics as rural farming prospered and customers massed in urban centres
and ... more ... health & hygiene and nutrition & disease - those folk that didn't develop better social cooperative interactions died out - drinking tea made from boiled water was a more effective survival aid than the rain dance ...
In this way cooperative cultural behaviours were inherited by Cheshire folk (and other folk!), they were behavioural alternatives to crass violence ... empathy & language, rights & obligations, property ownership & exchange and a generally accepted system of behavioural rules & laws cashed in on the synergies of specialisation & scale. These were universal issues that had to be solved wherever and whenever folk settled in agricultural communities. Communities in Cheshire evolved in the same way as others had centuries before in the great river civilisations in Mesopotamia. Folk in Cheshire were late arriving & settling but they were not exceptional, they followed the economic necessities of civilised communities, they were social animals cooperating to exploit synergies ... and significantly the cooperation extended to the animals they pastured ...
Cheshire folk survived because of cows ... and cows survived because of folk ... in 2009 the bovine was the first animal to have its genome fully mapped.
Remember that these ancient ancestors of the Gandys, the Hindleys & the Birchalls were sophisticated folk with fully developed brains and cultures just like their later descendants ... evolution didn't move quickly, but the advantage descendants had was access to additional survival 'know how' that had been painfully accumulated over the generations by their ancestors ...
The Brits & the Celts
So who were these Cheshire folk? Any distinction between the Brits & the Celts was an unnecessary complication. As with all settlers in Cheshire and elsewhere, the ancient folk and their cultures were not lost ... the genes mixed, we can be sure of that, that was the way boys & girls behaved ... everywhere!
Prior to the arrival of the Romans from the south, inaccessibility and difficulty of travel resulted in relatively low levels of land use and settlement in Cheshire. The earliest known settlements, like the Eddisbury hill fort, were probably bronze age communities from around 1000 BC but evidence was sparse. Nailing the history Eddisbury always seemed to be a work in progress ... but excavations in 2010 confirmed the dramatic role of the hill fort from the BC years. It appeared feasts and ale imbibing may have been central to the development of the human species ... cementing the social relationships which were essential to secure the economies of scale associated with trade specialisations. No wonder beer drinking remained popular around Eddisbury and its environs!
Eddisbury was an impressive site, in scale and position, 13 acres at 500 feet, on the top of the central sandstone ridge of Cheshire with panoramic views to the North & West and dominating the old roads to Chester from Northwich in the South & East. The great fortress with a double ring of ramparts and ditches was so inspiring a site that it hosted a succession of communities.
The Romans inherited the fortress from AD 50 and later in 914 Alfred's daughter, Ethelfleda, established a burh there as part of the English defensive strategy against the Danes.
The Norman feudal system had no requirement for hill forts but sport in the Royal Forest of Delamere was a priority and established the ongoing importance of the rich local environment.
The Black Prince built the Chamber in the Forest in the Eastern corner of the Eddisbury site as a royal hunting lodge and administrative centre.
Ormerod described the Eddisbury Hill Fort in 1819 -
respect to the camp of Eddisbury we have the authority of the old chronicles
for its being formed by Ethelfleda in the year 914, at the time when Chester
was newly fortified and enlarged by her husband Ethelred.
It is erected at a point calculated to command the British road, as well as the Roman road from Condate to Deva. The form is nearly oval, and its situation within the enclosure called the old pale, on the summit of the hill which gives name to the Hundred. It contains 11 acres, 3 roods, and 10 poles, of statute measure, and extends 250 yards in breadth, and 400 in length, exclusive of the projection of rock at the south east angle. The eastern side is irregular, being defended by a natural precipice, the other parts, being accessible by a gentle slope, are defended by a ditch and double rampart, with an entrance to the West. The ditch is about twelve yards wide, the ramparts, which are constructed with red stone, now buried under the soil accumulated by the lapse of centuries, are still fourteen feet high in some places. No other vestiges of buildings are distinguishable'.
However we get ahead of ourselves ...
The Celtic Diaspora was late coming to Cheshire but eventually a peripheral tribal group did establish themselves. The Cornovii tribe, perhaps from 'corain' meaning 'winding' and 'aiv' meaning 'streams' were originally 'sons of the river Dee'? Whatever they eventually sallied out and spread their dominions over the rest of the county. They were at first narrowly ensconced on the central ridge, with Brigantes to the north of the Mersey and Ordovices west of the Dee trading their lead from Halkyn and the Lutudarensis from the southern Pennines. Chester (Deva) & Northwich (Condate) and then Wroxeter (Viroconium Cornoviorum) were centres before the arrival of the Romans but it was on the central highlands that the forest clearing was easier and the forts impregnable. Eventually land degradation forced folk down on to the fertile plains and the hill forts became refuges for folk and their animals. Their name, perhaps from 'corn' meaning a 'horn', implies the Cornovii were pasturing live stock as they cleared the forest. Horse power was also needed if the ploughs were to turn the heavy clay soils. In this way the animals established their indispensible position early on. Furthermore the agricultural methods must have been successfully producing surpluses at this time to pay for the defences. The hill forts became centres for the warrior elites, metal works, food stores and trade.
It was the Cornovii who started to modify the landscape, the productive activities of these early farmers and their animals cleared the land, nurtured the meadows and laid down the tracks. The ley lines were established and the tracks carefully avoided the mosses and meres and crossed the rivers at the fords. The early Cheshire trading was not only in agricultural surpluses, there were richer agricultural pastures on the Berkshire downs ... it was salt that was traded along the ancient saltways to neighbours and beyond ...
Salt, one of the first necessities of life, was one of the first of all traded goods ... the ancient saltways established not only Cheshire's road network but also the shape of the shire itself ... the 'teapot' shape enabled unrestricted access to Flintshire, Denbighshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Derbyshire, Yorkshire and Lancashire ... it was the saltway to Yorkshire through Tintwhistle & Longdendale that gave Cheshire its distinctive 'teapot spout' with three counties, Cheshire - Yorkshire - Derbyshire, all homing in on Salters Brook Bridge ... and, as Ormerod suggested, these were British roads established long before the arrival of Rome ...
The exploitation of Cheshire salt and its distribution network gave the Cornovii some wealth, which was multiplied by cattle breeding, herding & trading.
The Romans approached Cheshire from the South to Chester through the Midland Gate (the relatively narrow plain between the south west Pennines and the Shropshire hills, the route through Stafford, followed by much later by the Trent & Mersey Canal, the railway & the motorway). They then pushed their way via North Wales to Holyhead and Ireland, and via the Warrington and Stockport crossing routes into Lancashire and the North West.
When the Romans arrived they found the Celtic tribes with agricultural surpluses and organised defences with trade in metals and salt. But, unlike Boadicea's Iceni in the south, there was little resistance to the invasion in Cheshire, the Cornovii were too few and far between and they had heard what had happened to the richer tribes in the south!
Fortified Chester and Wroxeter were established around 70AD in sparsely populated trouble free territory. The new roads largely followed the old saltways. Watling Street ran from Wroxeter to Chester before turning east and crossing the Cheshire plain via Kelsall & Northwich to Manchester and eventually on to York. King Street was a more direct route north by passing Chester and running from Whitchurch via Northwich to Warrington and on to Lancashire and the north.
From 200AD Chester slowly declined and with it all the supporting trade, markets and bureaucratic infrastructure. Internal feuding in Rome, barbarian attacks on extensive boundaries and diminishing returns from land & taxation meant that it was increasingly difficult to maintain a standing army garrisoned in Chester. The Romans left Chester around 380AD and Cheshire returned to a remote economic hinterland ... with the possible exception of salt?
The Cornovii found themselves in the vacuum of the Dark Ages. Middlewich & Northwich were second to Chester as a market towns but it was Wroxeter that emerged as a main organisational centre. The Cornovii lands were extensive & sparse, including Cheshire, parts of Flintshire, Shropshire and west Staffordshire ...
The Anglo Saxons didn't make it to Cheshire until around 600AD and when they did they took over a going concern. Like the Romans before them the English met little British resistance ... was there perhaps a cooperative diplomatic resolution?
Undoubtedly the British didn't all run off to the hills and the culture of Mercia may have been attractive to folk in Cheshire -
defence - swapping Wroxeter for Tamworth was no big deal, defensive scale was an essential prerequisite if folk in the villages were to be protected so they could get on with the job. Cheshire Mercia was borderland, the 'wild west', the Marcher Lords like Offa confronting the raiders from Wales.
laws - community based customary law and local organisation replaced the Roman imposition, local order generated by cooperation in local communities was the attractive Anglo Saxon way ... decentralised diversity ... between the Thames & Humber the Tribal Hidage identified some 34 significant traditional 'kingdoms' with succession via popular support from groups of 'hides'
church - a continuity of the Christian belief system, did Christianity persisted in Cheshire from Constantine's edict of 313AD until Augustine of Canterbury converted Mercia in 655AD? ... the Christian God was a better boss than some Roman upstart or a king who won wars and imposed taxes whereas the church accumulated funds through deals & endowments?
language - trade was with the rich English speaking south where wool was making money, the way of doing deals was in the vernacular ... by 750 coastal & estuary trading settlements, 'minsters', had emerged ...
The attractiveness and lasting strength of the English organisation was that it was built 'bottom up' from the grass roots over the centuries by local farmers & warriors and their churches.
Beowulf tells the story of the early culture which developed outside of Imperial Rome in the Dark Ages -
heroic folk confronting formidable foes and a hostile environment with strength, courage & wisdom ...
immense loyalty to the natural cooperative groupings, the communities based on family & tribal lineage ...
deep commitment & respect for the heroic warriors who protected the farmers so they could get on with the job ...
reciprocal rights & obligations, debts owed and repaid, embedded in wergild and compensation for injury & harm ...
coping with social complexity with a generally acceptable customary law as inevitable rivalries emerged between Bishop & Lord and between central cores and diverse peripheral resources ...
The Bishops emerged in the church hierarchy to tend to matters of the soul, taking the lead in promoting the social behaviour necessary for peace - administration, care and education.
The Lords emerged in the warrior hierarchy to protect folk and their property from predators ...
Each manor had its church ...
Sooooo ... relatively undisturbed the Cheshire folk on the periphery of England embraced this old tradition of local organisation - groups of ten farming families, the tithings, cooperated and shared to exploit the specialisation & scale synergies in the land and the animals. The tithings in turn grouped into hundreds to take further advantage of scale in peace keeping and market exchange ... the Cheshire Hundreds were understandable; everybody knew their local networks and the hundreds ebbed & flowed, changed & evolved to suit the favoured local interactions - Chester was a 'county of itself'; then eventually emerging were seven Hundreds - Broxton - Bucklow - Eddisbury - Macclesfield - Nantwich - Northwich & Wirral ... back in rural Cheshire there were communities; the Brits and Anglo Saxons lived together, traded, mixed their genes and focused on cattle, sheep, wool & salt ... they got on with the job.
The Vikings & Danes
Around 850 Viking raids from the Irish sea were common and place names on the Wirral confirm their early presence in Mercia, there were stocks to pillage! But these folk were not necessarily the violent savages of rapacious purpose that have been conventionally depicted? The Wirral settlements were quite extensive and sophisticated with a seaport at Meols and an administration centre, 'Thing', at Thingwall ... and recent DNA analysis suggests the local girls loved the handsome blonde seafarers who earned a reputation for washing and combing their hair ...
It was also rumoured that King Canute conducted his famous demonstration of the limited power of kings from a chair on the beach at Meols ...
However the main Danish thrust into England was from the north east to the south once again leaving Cheshire on the periphery.
Alfred's defensive integration of the country established a 'burh' at Chester to protect an important port and flourishing markets which led naturally to the shiring of the hundreds of Cheshire in 980. Alfred did a good job. The burhs of the 10th century maintained the integrity of Cheshire with the Mersey forming the frontier with Danelaw with burhs at Chester, Eddisbury, Runcorn, Thelwall and Manchester. Cheshire became an essential English bridgehead holding the Welsh at bay to the west and the Danes to the north & east. The shiring formalised the deal - an obligation to pay tax in return for the right to protection on Mercia's northwest frontier - it seemed the Welsh from the hills and Vikings from the North were a persistent threat.
The piratical Danes annoyed the shores and where & when the Danish communities settled they did so alongside the English. Place names in Cheshire seem to indicate new villages, may be on the tributaries of the rivers, with the English settlements undisturbed. There was plenty of space ... and plenty of assimilation ...
By 1066 the rural economy was full of potential, the breeding of domesticated animals and the cultivation of grains were producing surpluses to fund other profitable crafts - pottery, metal working, spinning, weaving, milling, baking & brewing were all prospering ... there was specialisation and interdependency, folk were busy and economically successful, a recognisable rural economy was emerging in Cheshire.
But this was normal bog standard development. Additionally new Cheshire specialisations were beginning to evolve. Salt making was undoubtedly the economic leader but dairy farming and horse breeding were widespread together with other activities associated with the cow dead or alive - milk, meat, butchering, tanning ... & shoemaking ... and slowly the folk and the cows really began to prosper as milk and salt flowed into prized cheese.
Nevertheless although Chester and Cheshire were strategically important for defence and the trading of salt, the countryside was on the outskirts of Mercia and still only sparsely populated. Interminable woods and forests lead us to guess that at this time Antrobus was populated largely by trees and scrub ...
The Norman invaders ruthlessly usurped & then exploited a well oiled Mercian economic system.
Unlike previous assimilations of alien invasions into Cheshire, this time Earl Edwin's 'Chester-men' fought ferociously. After all, the confrontations with the Welsh and the Danes had been largely successful and English pride was at stake. But this time was different as William ruthlessly prevailed and built his castle at Chester. Whole swathes of land were destroyed, villages razed, crops burnt, livestock slaughtered and people rendered landless, homeless and dispossessed. In particular, in 1069 a last ditch attempt at local resistance was bitterly put down and draconian measures taken to impress on native Anglo Saxons the futility of future resistance.
Much had been laid waste by the severity and brutality of Norman imposition. Domesday records Cheshire as a potentially rich farming community stretching far beyond its modern borders. But although it had potential it was currently rated a 'wasta, abandoned and useless land'. For sure this assessment reflected the scorched earth policy of the Norman armies but also perhaps the tendency for Domesday to focus on plough lands and less on the meadows and pastures. Cheshire folk were specialising in rich gazing facilities for their cows.
In 1071 the potential of Cheshire & Chester as a centre was confirmed as Hugh Lupus became The Earl of Chester and Cheshire was declared a County Palatine. The Earl prospered with an independent administration of law makers with eight key fiefdoms - the Barons - Nigel of Halton, Robert Montalt of Mold & Hawarden, William Malbank of Nantwich, Richard Vernon of Shipbrooke, Robert Fitzhugh of Malpas, Mamon Massie of Dunham, Gilbert Venables of Kinderton & Nicholas of Stockport and seven Lords Spiritual - the Bishops of Lichfield & Bangor, the Abbot of Chester, the Augustine Prior of Norton, the Benedictine Prior of Birkenhead, the Cistercian Abbots of Stanlow & Combermere. Hugh arrived in Chester with this entourage of Lords replete with the spoils of war - the land and the folk who worked the land ... the county proved to be rich and taxable, and an important strategic defensive bulwark ... and crucially independent from the shenanigans in London ... Cheshire men have never lost their independent bent ...
The English in Cheshire were now serfs, labourers, bound to the land economically, socially and legally through property rights. The Lords owned the land, the land owned villeins and the villeins owned the cattle. The value of the Lord's estate was measured by the villeins he owned, and thus the number of cattle he owned. But the value of the cow lay in the techniques of breeding & husbandry and the 'know how' associated with the production of milk, butter, cheese, meat & leather ... and this 'know how' was embedded in the customs & practices of the villeins.
The feudal Lords didn't trade, they were a rent seeking elite, motivated to maintain tax revenues and accumulate capital in larger estates ... a feudal culture in a mercantilist world where they sought to -
maximise the rents from their estates through property rights to wealth created by others and
maximise the size of their estates through propitious marriage to heiresses and the custom of primogeniture which avoided the break up of estates on inheritance ...
In contrast the villeins were instinctive traders ... unlike slaves, they had their own strips of land and access to commons grazing. They were motivated to innovate, to increase productivity, to generate surpluses ... a business culture in a competitive world of diversity and choice where they sought to experiment to survive through -
technological innovation and
trade of their surpluses in markets
... but the English lost the war and inevitably, the villeins were taxed back into poverty ... what was the point? ... the tragic result was stagnating subsistence with no incentive for betterment ... life's a sod then you die ... and then in 1349 came the Black Death ...
Perhaps, far too simplistically, the story can be summarised by the centuries as Anglo Saxon freedoms slowly emerged from sorry Norman feudalism -
11th century - Feudalism - the Normans brutally confiscated Edwin's social system which involved warrior/farmer technological specialisation and king/warrior defensive scale supported by an administrative system of customary law and revenue collection for defence.
12th century - Common Law - Anglo Saxon servitude but William's feudal lords failed to turn Edwin's 'bottom up' cooperative trading structure into a 'top down' rent seeking, plunder & tribute system as English common law re-emerged and the English vernacular survived ...
13th century - Markets & Fairs - Anglo Saxon resilience as their customary laws protected some freedoms and trading of agricultural surpluses increased ... the English trade in raw fine quality wool for Hanseatic weavers in Flanders prospered ... Bruges & the Hanseatic League overtook the Champagne fairs in economic importance ...
14th century - Hard Times - Black Death, Great Famine & 100 Years War further broke up the old social order, wealth creation stalled and there was a shortage folk & their dependent sheep & cows ... the wool trade was overshadowed by the long war with France and a shortage of tax revenues ... and the banks went bankrupt ...
15th century - Renaissance - humanists, voyages of discovery, printing as more and more opportunities opened up for trade, technological innovation, surpluses & markets ... crowd trouble festered and resentment built up against the impositions of kings and the remnants of a medieval, scholastic, feudal system as folk confronted its iniquitous failure ... at the coalface the wool trade recovered, flocks of sheep with few shepherds were a better bet than labour intensive arable farming ... central control of economic activities proved difficult ...
16th century - Reformation - the Anglo Saxon culture of individual freedom re-established itself, crowd trouble was now directed against the insistent authority and a distant Pope ... central control of personal beliefs proved difficult ...
17th century - Revolution and modern times ...
All the time there was inevitable rivalry between Lords and Abbots over access to the output of the sheep & cows ... and at the end of the day the feudal Norman Lords of Chester and their side kicks were able to pocket their taxes only because of the resilience of the Cheshire farmers and their cows. But there were diminishing returns from taxes. A complex battle was played out as the Feudal Lords attempted to tax any success, only to see the growth of enterprise stifled and subsequent revenues decline ... killing the goose that laid the golden egg ... this was the 'tax paradox' which eventually broke the feudal system.
Cheshire as a County Palatine, and places like Northwich with Borough status had a degree of independence which spawned economic growth as some freedoms were protected and rents tended to be lower. Relatively free from tyranny & oppression Edwin's men with their cows and their salt continued to get on with the work.
Cheshire folk always seemed to be late arriving at the party, but they knew about learning. It was not a case of 'better late than never' but learning that 'the second mouse got the cheese'!
Emerging Anglo Saxon Culture, Markets & Fairs
It would take the best part of two centuries for the characteristic English culture to re-emerge from the oppressive Norman feudal system. New rights & obligations were established by Magna Carta, confirmed by parliamentary scrutiny, flourished as a widely accepted behavioural code became enshrined in English Common Law ... and the English vernacular was proving all pervasive when sealing deals and trading surpluses with more & more folk on more & more distant exchanges.
Make no mistake the commercial trail blazer in England was the sheep not the cow ... it was fine quality raw wool that dominated the trade in surpluses in Medieval times ... the towns and cities of England couldn't grow without agriculture and above all that meant wool ... Cheshire's opportunity came later when increased populations needed more and more food ... the Lord Chancellor sat on a woolsack and Eileen Power recalled some wag who had suggested -
"I praise God and ever shall
it is the sheep hath paid for all"
... specifically the fine long woolen Cotswolds & Lincolns ... but progress was fraught with difficulties, described superbly in Eileen's story about the taxation of wool - the guilds vied with parliament over the collection of the king's tax in return for a licensed monopoly of the wool trade. Inevitably tax & monopoly destroyed the diversity & choice involved in economic growth and stunted the wool trade ... the whole community suffered a deadweight loss as output was restricted and 'mal-investment' distorted economic activities. Resources were diverted from successful sheep farming into expensive wars ... Edward III's wool trade shenanigans presented stark economic lessons which were later all too often forgotten?
Back in Cheshire times were hard, no one said it was easy, then the black death decimated the population ... but the fiercely independent Anglo Saxon culture which had been simmering beneath the surface of Norman oppression, emerged in important ways ... wool in the Cotswolds & the Fens, and then in Cheshire, technological innovation and the production of cows & cow goods for markets -
enclosure of land in Cheshire was gradual and started early as the feudal lords were keen to turn the wastes and marshes into productive capacity and cows needed enclosures otherwise milking would be a nightmare. The economic arguments were clear, the lords took advantage of enclosure to add to their capital accumulation at the expense of the small farmers, the villeins, who lost their rights. However property rights worked their magic for everyone as productivity took off. Instead of the 'tragedy of the commons', overstocking & underfeeding, investment flowed into animal husbandry, crop cultivation, drainage, reclamation, marling, manuring & liming ...
land tenures changed as remote preoccupied landlords & unfunded wars were confronted by squatters rights & customary law which provided opportunities for the innovative underdog ... 'customary tenants' on the farms traded rights & obligations, through custom & practice as they secured rights of tenure from meeting an obligation to pay the rent for protection ... surpluses to pay the rent came from trading their cows, milk, butter and cheese in the local markets ...
twin technologies of improved livestock breeding and improved cultivation of food & fodder were slowly turning the domesticated cow into a specialised milk & cheese production unit on an unprecedented scale ...
'free men' not only secured the freehold of their farms in the countryside but also 'free men' in the towns purchased their freedom from serfdom - this was another device used by the lords to instantly swell their coffers. However 'freedom' sparked an avalanche of exchange deals in innovative technology and unleashed Adam Smith's instinctive human propensities for wealth creation - instinctive moral sentiments to truck, barter & exchange ...
Things now began to move; synergistic deals were everywhere as the customary tenants and freemen exchanged their surpluses and inventions. With these economic advances Cheshire recovered from the destruction of the Norman Conquerors in good nick ... rent seeking from land ownership was beginning to be replaced by profit seeking from technological innovation ... the zero sum games of the feudal system started to be edged out by positive sum activities ... from the tyranny & oppression of shackled self-sufficiency to the pedlars, markets & fairs of exchange ... these emerging micro systems of capitalism were everywhere, not specific to Cheshire, nor Anglo Saxons, nor Nation States ... but the growth of these micro systems seemed to require positive feedback loops which had to be culturally embedded in communities ... self organising institutions which rewarded co-operative wealth creation and weeded out competitive failures ... effectively speeding up natural selection with unhindered diversity & choice ...
It was such bottom up institutions in Anglo Saxon culture which were able to overcome the insidious tendency of Bishops, Princes, Generals & bureaucracies to impose top down hierarchies on hapless folk ...
Beowulf had a well established niche as an exemplar of Anglo Saxon culture, perhaps less well know, but just as crucial to evolving Anglo Saxon behaviour was Godric. Godric was a pedlar, but a pedlar with a difference ... he knew about compound interest and became a saint!
The growth of trade in the middle ages was of overwhelming significance. It was the expansion of trade in a later age which pushed England into the industrial revolution. The written word had been the domain of the king's court and the clerics, so there were few accounts of trade and the early merchants. Godric of Finchale was an exception ...
Godric of Finchale (1065-1170) was born in the Fen country, from stock 'both of slender rank & wealth, but abundant in righteousness & virtue'. He was an itinerant but finally settled in Finchale by the River Wear. So Godric was not a Cheshire man but undoubtedly his peers were also hawking their goods around the Weaver valley ... and we can be sure the ubiquitous pedlar was a popular visitor to villages like Antrobus, bringing scarce surprises of trinkets & toys and intriguing silks, spices & drugs ... and also bringing news, gossip & unbelievable yarns of happenings elsewhere ... wot excitement ... no way could Antrobus continue as a sleepy rural backwater, things were on the move.
We don't know the names of the pedlars who visited the Cheshire villages but we do know the stories they told because Reginald of Durham & Frederick Buechner have recorded Godric's story ... and wot a story ...
Of course, the pedlars, just like the Jews, the bankers & the 'fat cats' were often despised for their profits and castigated as swindlers with ill gotten gains, to be hounded out of town and squeezed until the pips squeaked ... and no doubt some sellers of snake oil got their just deserts ... but others were purveyors of good goodies and prospered. The success of the pedlars came from their ability to quickly bring to the rural areas not only the newest items for sale but also tales of exciting exotic urban life.
The pedlars survived but they were only a small part of the exchange scene. Markets for trading surpluses had existed in Chester, Middlewich and Nantwich well before 1066. And slowly in the 13th century the more exotic goodies began to appear in the markets ... spices from the East came through Venice & Genoa into the great trading network of the Hanseatic League into Bruges and onto London and some found their way into Cheshire. Twenty-three official markets were known in medieval Cheshire, but there were probably twice that number of unofficial markets where specialised skills could be exchanged and folk could make a living.
Apart from market days, trades were also promoted several times a year when townships of any size held fairs for business and entertainment (wherever hard work was successful there was always much pleasuring ...). In Cheshire the fairs were dominated by cattle and horses but other crafts servicing the farms became established. Water wheels were powering corn milling. Lead and iron ores were brought down from Flintshire to supply the local craftsmen in local smithies and the sheep were never far away ... then there were the clowns, dancers & singers who came from everywhere to enjoy their share of the feasting & merrymaking. The exchanges were quite a contrast to the stark imposition of tithes & taxes ...
Not far from Antrobus, Northwich was a prosperous market centre with two fairs each year and every Friday was a market day ... Cheshire farmers were investing and improving ... a 'middle class' was emerging ... and a slow inevitable recognition that the feudal Lords must guard against any obstruction of the exchanges ... there was money to be made from the new activities ...
By 1345 the Pepperers & Spicers of Sopers Lane in London (now Queen's Street, Cheapside) were already dealing in such an 'immense commonality of mysteries' that a new 'Grocers Company' was formed to promote an increasing complexity & variety of goods & services, to 'control' monopolistic activities and to pressurise 'the powers that be' ... no doubt cognisant of the stupidity that occurred during the Great Famine of 1315 when it was a naively enacted, 'that all articles of food should be sold at certain prescribed prices, with a view to relieving the famine then existing among the people' ... this, of course, had the opposite effect to that intended ... low prices resulted in low production!
By 1351 taxes for the new Northwich bridge over the Weaver were raised at the fairs from an increasing variety of goods - wheat, barley, rye, flour, cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, fleeces, hides, tallows, fish, wine, cloth, nails, horseshoes, ploughshares, tin, brass, copper, lead and white & coloured glass ... and, of course, salt.
In 1381 Wat Tyler successfully pushed at the open door of economic reality in Fobbing, Essex ... and things were much the same in Cheshire. Wealth was created by hard work & ingenuity and not by a new fangled Poll Tax which threatened to ruin everything. The Lords could not collect their rent unless the farms produced their goods and from the earliest of times surpluses were traded in the markets which were natural complements to the manorial economy.
In 1481 Chief Justice Brian ruled that, 'tenants at the will of their Lord had rights' ... they could not be arbitrarily manipulated. The payment of their customary rent protected the tenant from eviction by a trespassing Lord. The obligation to pay the rent involved a right to undisturbed use of the property. This was Common Law evolving, what appeared at the time to be trivial, had far reaching implications. The Englishman's home was his castle ... folk could now get on with the job of cow & cheese production and the trading of surpluses ... trespassing was not on.
In 1536 The Pilgrimage of Grace was another reminder that the king was accountable to the people and people in Yorkshire were different. England was now confronting a thorny issue, in matters of belief it was impossible to obtain a consensus, some folk were Catholic some were Protestant ... folk were different ... and as Joseph Rees noted, 'in accordance with all evolutionary processes the constituent parts began to be more and more highly differentiated' ... as with beliefs so with specialised trade ... first the victualler traders hung together in a natural separation of differentiated eatables from clothing & tooling ... then came the baker, barber, blacksmith, brewer, butcher, carpenter, cheesemonger, cooper, cook, draper, dyer, fishmonger, fuller, girdler, goldsmith, haberdasher, ironmonger, lorimer, marmer, mason, miller, pepperer, shipwright, shoemaker, smiths, spicer, tailor, tanner, tiler, vintner, weaver, wheelwright ... and all sorts of separate and distinct trades specialised their way into prominence.
In 1541 Henry VIII was in shtook with the girls. The Anglo Saxon free spirit demanded free choice, imposition from a distant Pope in Rome was not on. A radical change followed as Cheshire's palatinate status collapsed and the vast estates of the Abbots of Norton and Vale Royal were broken up and lands redistributed, unleashing a new wave of new ownership and new investment. But dissolution of the local church was not on, folk wanted their own church in their own parish, more opportunities for the farmers in new churches of their choice ... Chester became a cathedral city and The King's School was founded! But as fast as specialisations proliferated restrictions grew and Chester's Aldermen jealously protected the monopolistic feuding craft guilds from strangers and upstarts by imposing restrictive practices, inspectors, apprenticeships and fees in return for an exclusive right to trade ... in this way 'freedom to trade' was invariably accompanied by its enemy 'restraint of trade' ... in the name of improving standards the Chester Guilds became licensed monopolies ... from the enlightened self interest of quality control, the guilds were transmogrified into to restrictive revenue raising devices ... revenues for the craftsmen and Aldermen alike, at a cost to the consumer.
In 1549 Bishop Latimer was persuasive; a quadrupling of the rent on his father's farm had had catastrophic effects, 'he was not able to do anything for his prince, for himself, nor for his children, nor give a cup of drink to the poor' ... 'restraint of trade' appeared in many guises.
In 1557 in an atmosphere of slow emancipation the ancient salt production system in Northwich matured ... and Sir John Dean founded his school! But as if a object lesson on the baleful influence taxation, the infamous salt tax held back production and innovation until it was repealed in 1825 with salutary effect.
The revival of learning and the growing market freedoms of the Renaissance were matched by new religious freedoms of the Reformation. The English Reformation was essentially a cultural phenomenon; the Anglo Saxon independent free thinkers were thinking differently ... all of them ... they got on their horses and rode off in all directions! In this sense the Reformation and the later Civil War were not about Catholics verses Protestants but rather about free choice versus imposition ... and nothing curtailed free choice more than price rigging which distorted deals and perpetuated the current elitist prejudice ... everyone hated taxes ... except the king.
A clear pattern had emerged by this time. The descendants of the ancient Norman Feudal Lords were still destined to be Jacobite supporters of the Young Pretender, still ensconced in their manors and still owners of great tracts of the land. Land that was originally the spoil of war had been passed on from generation to generation, nurtured, swapped, sold, squandered, abused & purchased, back & forth amongst the same elite families, and always the subject of propitious marriages for the ambitious. But something had changed, these relics of the past were in office but not in power; a new middle class had an obligation to pay their taxes for protection but had also established a right to choose.
And in the cities it was the grocer who was emerging from the Medieval period as a force to be reckoned with ... from the building of the London Grocers Hall in 1427 to the industrious garblers of the guild monopolies, the grocery trade went from strength to strength, summarised eloquently by Joseph Rees -
'Towards the end of the Medieval period, whilst England was becoming a great commercial country, a nation of shopkeepers, a land of great & fair cities, the grocer had his full share in the life of the time, whether as a merchant, or as a sharer in municipal honours. He was incorporated in his charter Company; he regulated trade & the purity & quality of goods sold; he ordained that a severe apprenticeship of seven long years should be the mode of entrance into the trade; and he had a good conceit of himself. Moreover he was jealous for the well being & privileges of the trade; he watched over its honour & integrity and suffered no knavery or chicanery. He was also deeply religious putting his trade under the protection of a patron saint - St Anthony. The world was on the eve of great discoveries, the great seaports were soon to witness the arrival of argosies laden with the golden spoil of east & west, in far greater quantity than ever before ... in the reign of Elizabeth the youth from the country continually turned to the city whose streets had been fabled to be paved with gold with hope of fortune & advancement' ...
And at the grass roots, in the villages, far from the politics of the kings courts, the Anglo Saxon system of customary law and their vernacular prospered ... the archetypical English heroes; Hereward the Wake, Robin Hood & Wat Tyler built on and extended the tradition of Beowulf & Godric and these heroes surely had equivalents amongst Edwin's 'Chester men' ... and by now this culture was a deeply ingrained, impossible to snuff out with the sword ... the future of Cheshire became Anglo Saxon custom & practice, a culture of individual freedom and intense loyalty to family & friends which led to the relentless erosion of the Norman feudal system.
A flavour of the Cheshire environment at the time can be gleaned from the shenanigans of Robert Nixon who was born in 1467 and farmed not far from Frandley in Over; land that fell Sir Thomas Holcroft's way after Harry Eight sorted out Vale Royal Abbey in 1544. Robert, a man of few words, gained a reputation for his prophetical utterances at a time when superstition was at its zenith and plunder & rapine were carried on under the sanction of religion. He spoke of the pathetic rivalry between the Augustinian Canons of Norton and the Cistercians at Vale Royal which was resolved only when the stones from the ruins of these local institutions were combined to build the bridge over the Weaver at Acton. He mentioned the menace of the Lord Holcroft heriot, the fascinating scenes in Delamere Forest and the floods in Northwich from rivers and salt trade subsidence. Robert gained some national fame when news of Harry Seven's win at Bosworth Field filtered through to rural Cheshire and confirmed his ridiculous predictions. The king himself was impressed ... but perhaps, Robert was just a rural lad who mulled things over to try and make sense of the world and lessen the hurt of his toil by entertaining his friends ... he would have added good value to the gossip in the coffee houses and the suppings in taverns in later years ...
In Great Budworth in the Bucklow Hundred, the Duttons of Dutton, the Lord Warbutons of Arley, the Marburys, Savages & Barrymores from Marbury and later the Lord Leycesters of Tabley were not daft, they had to go with the flow of economic reality ... the perverse effects of penal rents on output were ameliorated as 'customary tenants' with 'efficient' rents began to improve the productivity of their farms and take advantage of the 'fair' prices in the markets ... it seemed fair rents & taxes increased the flow of cows to the markets ... rights in land tenure evolved in English Common Law, effectively transferring wealth creation to farmers who invested in their husbandry & cultivation skills and increased cow output ... no one could squeeze blood out of a stone, this was evolution, survival, iron laws, supply & demand ... and so in this way the folk in Antrobus worked hard and developed their skills, they made their farms more productive, that was the only survival method they knew ... hard work, honesty & thrift ... chasing profits and cutting losses ... and this was the environment that William Gandy inherited when he was born in Frandley in 1545 ...
Cheshire during the 17th Century of Revolution
The Gandys fight for opportunities? Freeholders, dissenters & cheese makers!
William Gandy (1545-1616) was Margaret Gandy's great great great great grandfather, and in 1769 Margaret married George Hindley, a cordwainer living in Antrobus. And from this fortuitous union a cascade of Gandyised Hindleys spread around the far & wide ... Gandy genes were good, destined to power many generations of Cheshire Hindleys and, of course, after 1935, some Birchalls ... but first there was 100 years of heavy lifting during the 1600s ...
When William Gandy was born in 1545 there were three aspects of the Antrobus environment which dominated his every move ... issues which are difficult to comprehend in today's global turmoil -
survival itself was a big problem - immense poverty and infant mortality were everywhere ... how to eek out a living ...
only God had the answer - the pious nature of communities and the central importance of the church dominated activities in the rural parishes ... that's where it all happened ...
change seemed imperceptible - prior to the self sustaining economic growth of the industrial revolution there appeared to be just endless cycles of deprivation and hopeful meagre survival ...
William Gandy was a yeoman of repute, an established Sevenoaks farmer. Folk working the land didn't move very far in those days and thanks to research by Dave Jowitt eight generations of Gandy farmers from around the Sevenoaks, Antrobus & Great Budworth environs can be traced.
William's ancestral Gandys were villeins of the feudal system. They had been in a cleft stick, no oath of fealty to the Norman Lord meant they had no land and no cows ... and without cows there was no survival in Cheshire ... for anyone ... so they accepted their lot and got stuck into to their husbandry and honed their skills. The survival of the family depended on the output from the farm which was dominated by the milk yields, excellent butter, juicy beef and scrumptious cheese from the Gandy cows ... sheep, fowl & hogs were useful but the Gandy success was based on cows.
Between AD 500 and 1500 there were many changes in animal husbandry in northwest Europe but things were slow. The most important change culminated in the transition from an agricultural subsistence economy to a cash commodity economy, where the production of surpluses and long distance trade became indispensible opportunities. After surviving the plague and the famines, the population of England nearly doubled between 1541 and 1651, and this was the time the Gandys got their act together. There was nothing more central to economics and social history than food, and the Gandys were first and foremost farmers, producers of food ...
In 1545 the Gandys were in better nick than they had been for ages and they were now bent on exercising their initiative. William took after his dad (who else?), he was hungry and burning with the idea of betterment. And after 1545 opportunities started to open up for a new 'middle class' ... the church and the crown began to lose some of their land ownership wealth to established sitting tenants ...
William Gandy (1566-1623) junior was the only son of William, he married Marie Brodhurst and more diversity was injected into the Gandy genes. He inherited the family farm. Everybody seemed to live on a small farm in the Bucklow Hundred and the Gandys were at Frandley, Sevenoaks near Antrobus in the middle of the Whitley Lordship. The Gandy farm was around 23 acres on the wholesome Cheshire plain, it included a cottage, access to the commons and a 'moss room' for peat fuel. Only 10-15% of their land was growing grain, this was cow country. It was hard physical work as living beasts constantly demanded attention, but there were new opportunities ... the Gandys were 'customary tenants' and they rented their land from the Crown. They started to enjoy some relief from oppressive rents, and a magical mixture of low costs and high produce prices in the Northwich markets enabled them to accumulate some capital to fund their innovations. There was every incentive for profits to be reinvested in stock.
In 1612 a Royal Commission on tenancies noted -
'William Gandye houldeth one messuage and eleven acres in meadow, pasture and arable land and one cottage upon the same land and one mosse reeome on parke mosse, the yearly rent is 13s-11d'.
The Gandys were 'tenants at will', but London was far away and Cheshire had an independent tradition as a County Palatine. In accordance with custom, generations of Gandys had transferred their land at the Manor Court, passing their holdings down to their children, they were 'copyholders', their tenure 'copied' into the Court roll ... then in 1612 something dramatic happened ...
As sitting tenants who paid their rent the Gandys jumped at an opportunity to become 'fee farmers' as the 'freehold' of their farm was offered for sale ... for as little as £1 an acre their customary rent was fixed and they secured tenure for ever ... good old Anglo Saxon custom & practice delivered a legally binding deal ... and what a deal, 1612 was a birthday for the Gandys ...
In 1673 Sir Peter Leycester recorded the deal ... 'so now they be all fee farmers in Over Whitley' ... a few years earlier, in 1662, Sir Peter had valued a good farm like the Gandy's at Frandley in Sevenoaks at £540 ... it had been purchased for just £23 some 50 years earlier ... this was about a fifth of the market value ... perhaps James 1st was too preoccupied with religious matters to bother about economics? He was stymied, he badly needed money for his wars but he was unable to raise rents to compensate for his inflation because of the law of the land! Selling freeholds was his last resort option to raise some cash. Presumably the equivalent of the Canaletto had already gone? Or was he just frit of crowd trouble?
These opportunities, which were open to many small farmers in Cheshire, were unusual, they were not as common in the larger arable farms in the south and certainly not common in other European countries, except perhaps Holland & Sweden. The economic significance of these developments were that a diversity of small working farmers owned their own land and became vitally interested in competitive technological innovation and the return on their investment. The magic of property broke the stranglehold of kings & church.
When William senior died in 1616 his will tells a story and includes -
Twenty shillings to repair the road between his house
and Gibb Hill.
Forty shillings to his sister Elizabeth Devyas.
Eleven shillings and thirteen pence to repairs for Great Budworth church.
Standing bed and accompaniments to his grandson and god son William Gandy.
Fifty pounds to be shared between John, Hugh, Thomas, Marie and Matilda Gandy, his grandchildren.
One cow, forty shillings and silver 'which was her grandmother's' to Katherine Eaton, his daughter's child if and when she married by the consent of his son William.
Twenty shillings to William Fernely his kinsman.
Napie and lynens to be shared between his wife Maude and his daughter in law Marie Gandy.
Husbandry ware, iron ware and implements of husbandry to his son William.
Best coat, doublet and best pair of Breeches to George Fernely.
Best hat to his wife Maude.
Gowne to his son William.
Remainder shared between Maude and his son William.
Maude and William executors.
William junior also left a will -
Money and property of quite substantial amounts were left to his wife, older sons and daughters and money in trust for his younger children to be paid when they reached 21. Various other bequests to relations and friends and including the poor of the parish. Ready money of £107 as well as £300 owing to him and another £300 in chattels.
It is from these snippets that we can glimpse the very 'local' nature of life in Sevenoaks, the devotion to family & friends, the importance of husbandry, the obligation to help with the church, the poor and the community roads ... and the value of what is now a very basic possession ... a prized hat!
The custom was to divide wealth equally between the children, although the eldest son tended to continue with the farm, there were opportunities for the others to continue their education and acquire 'professional' skills in the church, in law and in the city. And no longer was it necessary to venture to London as rewarding opportunities were opening up in Warrington and Manchester. In these circumstances further pressure was put on the farm for hard work and cost innovations if capital commitments to all the siblings were to be met. The production of marketable surpluses became essential. The important outcome was to spread opportunity widely and increase the chances of success in the family. A far cry from the gentry practice of primogeniture which recklessly pinned all the family accumulations on the eldest son with the existing farm ... and sometimes the second generation became a slothful pampered rogue?
Underpinning all the trading activities in Cheshire, and everywhere else, was the economic principle of 'comparative advantage', no one had articulated the principle but it illuminated the reality of life in Sevenoaks. Cheshire folk were specialising in salt and cows. Trade in the markets was built on exchanges of specialisations and the Gandys soon discovered that their time was much better spent on their special skills in husbandry & cheese than any deluded attempt at self sufficiency.
In 1545 when William Gandy senior was born the Gandy farm in Sevenoaks was starting to trade its special surpluses ... producing Cheshire cheese. With the milk from their gushing cows and the local Northwich salt, it was scrumptious and the surplus cheese always sold well in the Northwich market ... confirmed in 1612, the Gandy farm became an income producing investment, a capital asset which could be used as collateral for credit and further investment ... capital was accumulated and diversified into specialised businesses ... it was a fascinating success story.
Similar specialisations were to develop elsewhere; arable farms in the South; sheep, worsted & wool in the Cotswolds, Yorkshire & Lincolnshire; South Lancashire became coal country; Stockport, Macclesfield & Congleton went into silk throwing; across the Dee in North Wales, sheep & lead and later in Manchester there was cotton ... folk slowly began to feel they were part of a trading business community ... Cheshire was no longer a remote economic hinterland ...
'Young' William Gandy (1602-1639) was a 3rd William, the eldest son and he inherited the farm but died when he was only 37. There was no will but an inventory of monies owed to him has survived including -
William Whattikars for 12 measures of oats - £ 0. 13s.
John Hall - £10. 0s. 0d.
Rich. Withers & Tho. Ludlow - £3. 5s. 0d.
William Holbro - £29. 0s. 0d.
Young William married Mary Hall, a girl from Latchford, their eldest son was the 4th William Gandy ...
William Gandy (1625-1683) was the first Gandy Quaker. The four Williams were all Christened at St Mary & All Saints at Great Budworth, and the first three were buried there but the 4th William became a Quaker ...
Around 1654 he married Katherine in Frandley and they had two surviving daughters and many lost babies -
Sarah Gandy (1658-??) married John Cawley in 1678.
Ellen Gandy (1661-??) married Henry Thorpe in 1681. In 1682 Ellen was reported to have sailed on the 'Welcome' with William Penn to the Delaware River & America?
William had a second wife Gulieluia Maria (1668-1668) but no issue ...
Backed by the steady income from the farm William had the time to fry other fish ... he established and built the Quaker meeting house in Frandley in 1654 and later a burial ground where he himself was interred.
The main road from London ran through Frandley and George Fox himself visited William several times, including one occasion when Fox noted in his journal there were 2,000 people present. The Chester Historic Society recorded these visits in 1885. This, of course, was a time of political and religious strife and William and the Frandley Quakers did not escape trauma ... in the end, of course, the cause of religious and political freedom won the century and the Frandley meeting is still active today ... 'The British Friend' of 1884 reported on the Gandy sufferings and bi-centenary of the Frandley Meeting House ...
The present Quaker meeting house, built in 1882, is adjacent to the site of the Gandy farm. The burial ground established in 1657 and a Booke of Burialls for the county of Chester, commencing 3rd of ye 11th month 1656, suggests that there were well over 200 people buried there.
William Gandy the 4th, although an active Quaker was also an active farmer. Charles Foster has told the story of how William's beliefs must have supported his growing business and on October 10th 1670 he shipped a cargo of 30 tons of Cheshire Cheese to London in the 'Ann of Brighton'. This was the first year that cheese ships departed from a spanking new 'Z' shaped warehouse in Sutton Weaver beside the Frodsham Bridge. Built by Sir George Warburton, this was a masterful investment, helping the new entrepreneurs and their lucrative trade with his 'old capital'.
Frodsham and Sankey became the important shipping points for the Cheshire cheese trade. As the Dee silts constantly curtailed shipping, the cheese trade started to move from Chester to the Mersey. These inland Mersey ports prospered until challenged by Liverpool with its deeper water facilities in the 18th century. As the Arley Hall map shows the Frodsham shipments were thriving in 1753.
In 1795 John Aikin wrote -
'Frodsham bridge, over the Weaver, is near a mile to the east of the town. From a warehouse near it, much cheese is shipped for Liverpool. A work for the refining of rock salt is at some distance on the bank of the river. The channel here is deep and clayey, and a disagreeable object at low water'.
Clearly from 1670 Cheshire Cheese was manufactured in Frandley by the Gandys and shipped in quantity from the new facilities at Frodsham for the nourishment of the hungry hoards in the big city.
Interestingly William does not appear to have sent another cargo in his own name, but he was probably one of the partners in 'Thomas Hall & Partners' who shipped cheese to London from Sutton Weaver throughout the 1670s. His mother, of course, was Mary Hall and William's will mentions -
- his loving friend Thomas
Hall of Brownslow in Budworth and
- executors, Edward Gandy, Thomas Hall of Brownslow & John Halford
The will also records property and lands in Frandley, Cogshall and Sevenoaks. William was obviously a wealthy man and this is confirmed by the Hearth Tax return of 1674 where he is shown to have the largest house in Sevenoaks.
The Gandy wealth appeared to have been enhanced by providing a money lending service to their less well off neighbours; William junior (died 1625) and young William (died 1639) were each owed considerable amounts of money at the time of their death and by the death of the fourth William in 1683 quite extensive lands and properties had been amassed.
At the grass roots, in the villages, a picture emerges of the four William Gandys; a picture of survival on the farms and the immensity of religion as the focus of village life. These were pious times. As the Gandys wrestled with their personal beliefs, the work, effort & fear involved is clear. Folk looked to their church and their local community for help and guidance. Wars and affairs of State must have seemed remote distractions for some rural folk because local organisation of local affaires was the custom & practice, whatever the kings had to say!
Of course the Lords recruited their armies and rivalries were rife; almost invariably spats over territorial ambitions and access to tax revenues. And certainly rivalries in the churches were nothing new; they had been clear throughout history ... altercations between Peter & Paul, Crusades & Jihads and now Catholics & Protestants ... and the Gandys would have heard about Emperors and Bishops in cahoots at Nicaea, way back in 325AD, when ordinary folk were instructed what to believe by rote. This ongoing tendency of Kings & Popes and Lords & Abbots to interfere in questions of belief and matters of the soul must have been terrifying for some who were desperately trying to survive and follow their own deep emotional mindsets ...
For sure the William Gandys looked to their church community for help & inspiration with their daily toil on the farm. And for three generations that community was a community of Friends. Quakerism had its beginnings in the North of England, it was based on the personal introspection of a shoemaker's apprentice, George Fox. The Society of Friends had their own strictly independent relentless beliefs -
Gods way was through internal mediation deep down in every individual ... God was present in every single individual human soul, as an inner light, an emotional, not conscious, moral urgency & empathy which mediated & guided all decisions ... freely accessible deep down in the skull to everyone through faith & introspection ... anyone and everyone was free to help and preach in his own way ... this was a very basic re-emphasis of the individual freedom long part of the Anglo Saxon culture ... such beliefs were inaccessible to manipulation by others ...
they had no truck with preachers who were arrogant in their elitist beliefs claiming to have privileged access to God and 'know how' with their formal creeds, imposed rules of behaviour, displays of opulence and threats of damnation or imprisonment ...
the imposition of beliefs must be opposed ... tithes and cow towing were evil impositions and perpetuated the current immoral authoritarian elitist prejudices and the persecution of dissenting minorities ...
the simplicity of survival for family & friends was through education & investment in hard work, honesty & thrift ...
It appeared that it was hard work, honesty & thrift that made Gandy cheese!
The Friends often refused to swear oaths and pay tithes so inevitably they suffered 'legal' persecution. Rather like the Jews before them, they were often denied 'orthodox' careers so many triumphed in the alternative business of business ... and many emigrated to the New World ...
Although Cromwell and some Puritans approved of George Fox and his Friends, from 1654 when they built their Meeting House, the Gandy Quakers were still faced with persecution. They were Dissenters, Nonconformists and almost inevitably the powers that be tried to control & impose ... William Gandy together with eighty eight others, were imprisoned in Chester goal, the grounds for imprisonment was refusing to take the oath of allegiance ... and at Frandley William Gandy suffered from visitations and the Conventicle Acts ... but the Friends had the nous and the confidence from the fruits of their own labour to confront these intolerable impositions ... it was not on ... they had their own different ways of learning and educating the youngsters ...
So what do you think would Hobson do if he believed the payment of tithes & taxes perpetuated the current immoral authoritarian elitist prejudices and the persecution of dissenting minorities? William Gandy had many like minded friends, Stella Davies recounts the amusing attempts of another Cheshire Dissenter, John Norbury from nearby Nether Alderley, to keep the taxman's shovel out of his store ...
But the lasting legacy of George Fox and William Gandy was not the Society of Friends but their relentless pursuit of individual freedom of choice & conscience ... after all the Gandy Quakers only lasted for three generations before they chose back again ... but freedom to choose lasted and lasted ...
So the 4th William grasped the new opportunities now available to the emergent middle class. The family farm was now an income generating investment enabling William to pursue other activities, not only preaching but also commercial cheese making ... he was making money in the expanding trading complex of the North West of England.
Cheshire was different, a rural 'business' culture developed and the high status 'gentry' rent seeking culture was resisted ... and over in New England a similar culture developed and fostered strong trading links ... a 'special relationship'. It was individual families who made their way to a new life across the Atlantic, not soldiers in search of booty but folks, like the Gandys, in search of new opportunities ... and to avoid persecution.
William's younger brother Richard upset his Quaker Friends with his habit of disorderly drinking but he had spirit which he passed on to his enterprising daughter Katherine. Kate was a devout Quaker who ventured to Chester, Pennsylvania, after marrying Isaac Richardson, a husbandman from Curdley, Lancashire in 1707 ... perhaps one of the first Cheshire Gandys in the new world?
Of course William Penn himself (1644–1718), champion of democracy & religious freedom, had ventured to Pennsylvania in 1682 ... and with him went his world shattering introspections,
'God's communication comes to each individual directly'
Hence the most important principle of modern political history, the rights of the individual, upon which modern democracies were founded. Penn's philosophy attracted not only the Quakers, but other persecuted minorities ... Huguenots, Mennonites, Amish, Lutherans & Jews from England, France, Holland, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Ireland and Wales ... other Quakers from Cheshire settled on the Delaware River and it was rumoured that in 1682 it was William Penn who changed the name of the original Swedish settlement of 'Upland' ... to 'Chester' ...
Kate Gandy Richardson was in good company, not only William Penn but also lots of tasty Cheshire cheese went across the Atlantic to Pennsylvania ...
Edward Gandy (1627-1709) was young William's second son, he married a Margaret ??? but unfortunately we know nothing about her genes. Edward stayed close to the family and followed his elder brother and became a Quaker. He also inherited the farms or the proceeds of sale after the 4th William died in 1683 without a son & heir.
A pillar in the local community Edward became 'Overseer of the Poor' in Sevenoaks & Cogshall, right in the middle of the local Parish where the church looked after all the essentials - education, law enforcement, roads and the poor ... and perhaps, we should add that the church was also in control of the farmers worst enemy ... vermin ... that is if we accept the good Lord was in charge of that other enemy of the farmers ... the weather ...
The origins of poor relief go way back to the ancient obligation and the duty of care which had confronted all communities since ... for ever. As the feudal system broke down and the monasteries dissolved, the local church accepted these duties of care at the parish level. Two factors had been in play in the Whitley Lordship -
during the 16th century the best land had filled up with self-sufficient farming families and inevitably some folk were unable to find land or tenancies to farm and a new group of poor appeared then
during the 17th century those with land, like the Gandys became more supportive of the poor as their wealth accumulated.
The responsibilities of the 'Overseer of the Poor' were formalised in 1601 by an Act for the Relief of the Poor. Later, as the many headed monster of the poor refused to be slain, future generations of Gandys and Hindleys became involved Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 Act which led to the infamous Dutton Workhouse, built in 1857, servicing the Great Budworth villages and the Weaver Valley ... the able bodied were to be 'offered the house', and nothing else ...
Of course the major support for the poor had always been the provision of food in the markets and the provision of labouring jobs with the cows and the dairies ... in this way the poor were included in as stakeholders as real wages escalated ... but inevitably there were always the orphans and the infirm ... and always charity ...
The charity work in Edward's day as 'Overseer' involved handouts of cash, housing, food, fuel, furniture, sick care, clothing and weddings, births & funerals. There was some responsibility for the poor from other Parishes but with repatriation obligations. This system may have adversely restricted labour mobility & risk taking but moral hazard tended to be minimised as the 'infirm' were easily distinguished from the 'able bodied' within the intimate local community when they appealed for either help or employment. The 'idle' poor were usually sent packing as there were now plenty of ways of earning a living - servants, labouring, fishing and all the other ancient crafts supplying goods for the markets ... including shoemaking (later we will meet young Allen Berry from Aston, a poor boy who became apprenticed to George Hindley in 1829) ... the bustling streets of Warrington also offered further opportunities ... and there was always salt in nearby Northwich ... enough for everyone? ... there must have been ... that's why the population exploded?
Nevertheless the Poor Rates were a thorny issue for the persecuted Quakers of Frandley ... Henry Holland summed up the dilemma, with an eloquent description of moral hazard ... an issue still unsolved when he wrote in 1808 -
'in successful rural Cheshire the Poor Rates, annihilate the spirit of honest independence, affording a refuge to the idle, the profligate and the abandoned, to contribute to the extension of every species of vice & immorality. The Poor Rates will in a short time alter the whole character of the English nation; the honest industrious labourer cannot be said to have one advantage. The overseer must relieve all who have wants, and the magistrate should he hesitate, must order him to do so. This facility of being maintained destroys every stimulant to exertion, and honesty having no advantage, the rogue laughs at the honest man. All means of inflicting moderate punishment are laid aside; and imprisonment in the public jails alone is resorted to, which always adds to the depravity of the offender.' ...
The Gandy Quakers believed Cheshire cheese production was the result of hard work, honest & thrift ... idleness, dishonesty & waste were the enemies of progress ... so the Poor Rates were a real problem for the Gandys ... for sure they knew that many others believed success was just the luck of the draw, an accident of birth or providence ... in which case 'entitlements' which eroded hard work, honest & thrift, made sense? ... and folk were free to follow their own beliefs? ... 'moral hazard' was mental anguish for Edward Gandy?
Some 200 years later strange echoes of Henry Holland's words and Edward Gandy's anguished beliefs reverberated around Westminster & the Woodchurch Estate in Birkenhead ... was the ancient obligation of a community towards its own poor slowly acquiring the divisive status of a lawful right, an entitlement to 'free' handouts?
Municipal duties extended to a second officer of the parishes & townships ... the 'Constable' or 'Burley Man'. The Gandys, qualified by the property they held, would have taken their turn in this office.
The constable was a legal representative and responsible for a bewildering array of taxes on land, windows and even dogs. Petty restrictions & regulations were everywhere - papists & 'dangerous' persons were hounded, licences had to be obtained for ale ... and stocks, dead bodies, vagrants, vermin and stray cattle often required attention ... there was a lot to do. It was not all sweetness & light in the parishes even after 1688.
With borough status Northwich had its own Quarter Sessions and the folk of Great Budworth were happy to have lawful remedies close at hand when the Petty Sessions failed to deliver justice. Some of the ancient principles of wergild were formalised in Acts of Parliament but access to common law through the torts and victim compensation had been eroded over the years by the use of criminal fines as revenue raising devices for the authorities. Much to the chagrin of thrifty, honest, hard workers like the Gandys, compensation no longer went to the victims but to the powers that be ...
A third officer looked after the highways and may have been responsible for Edward and his elder brother William appearing before the Knutsford Quarter Session on 16th of November 1658 ...
Presentments - 'Also one stone bridge called Waterless Bridge standing in the highway betwixt Great Budworth & Knutsford to be out of repair. Also William Gandy of Over Whitley, Yeoman, & Edward his brother for that they, or their servants, with 1 cart and 3 horses laden with lime about 21st October last past did goe over and part of the aforesaid bridge did break downe to the great danger of the fall of the whole Bridge'.
Edward Gandy (1670-1744) was Edward's only son. He inherited the family Yeoman status and was tempted into marriage by Sarah Eaton and thus he stirred up a storm ... young Sarah was not of the faith. A standing passion has no conscience and young Edward stuck to his guns and to Sarah ... he was expelled from the Quakers on the 4th of July 1963 ...
All did not go well for the fraught union as Sarah died without a child a few months later and was buried at St Mary's on January 3rd 1694. Not long after this Edward caused further consternation by courting Mary Crosby (1671-1741) the eldest daughter of local Quakers John & Christian Crosby.
The family of Friends apparently forgave young Edward's indiscretions and he rekindled his commitment and eventually became a Quaker Minister. A comforting confirmation that life in Frandley still centred around the Meeting House and the farm ... but more importantly a confirmation that Edward was an independent spirit and felt free to follow his own beliefs and marry the girl of his dreams ... Mary Crosby chose well and the Crosby genes proved to be resilient ... Mary & Edward had a son John who's daughter Margaret Gandy married an Antrobus shoemaker, George Hindley ... (hmmm I have some of those resilient Crosby genes!)
Luckily a lot is known about Edward's life as a Quaker minister and much about son John's life as a grocer in Warrington because of John (1676-1744) & Samuel (1715-1772) Fothergill ... see later ...
There were fascinating parallels in the lives of Edward & John Gandy of Sevenoaks and John & Samuel Fothergill of Carr End - both the fathers were Quaker ministers and the boys were both grocers in Warrington. The Fothergill story was recorded in detail in 'Memoires of the Life & Gospel Labours of Samuel Fothergill with Selections from his Correspondence & also an Account of the Life & Travels of his Father John Fothergill and Notices of some of His Descendants' by George Crosfield (1754-1820) ... (hmmm I worked at the Crosfield factory in Warrington!)
Around the time Edward was born there was turmoil in Frandley, in fact there had been a century of turmoil in the country at large and the Gandys and Frandley had been in the middle of all the heavy lifting ...
During the 17th century of revolution crowd trouble erupted as England slowly sorted out the tyranny & oppression from centuries of Bishops, Princes, Generals and all manner of authorities who claimed all manner of reasons why they should be top peck. By the early 1600s palatine Cheshire had established its own gentry, and although many were descended from Norman stock they had made their money from the Anglo Saxon farms and culture. Nevertheless eternal vigilance was necessary if tyranny & oppression and constant backsliding were to be avoided. The English Civil War in 1642 was a showdown as divided loyalties tore apart the emerging cohesive social fabric. Peasant and aristocrat allied with either Royalist or Parliamentarian causes according to conscience and almost irrespective of social status. The county, like many others, saw vicious battles fought on its lands ... notably in Cheshire, the sieges of Nantwich and Chester caused extensive devastation and the bloody battles in townships like Northwich & Middlewich wrought havoc in the surrounding countryside of central Cheshire. It was a bloody passionate affair as folk were fighting for their beliefs ... for their souls ...
Chester, of course, was a Royalist stronghold, while the market towns of Stockport, Knutsford, Nantwich, Congleton, Middlewich and Northwich remained in Parliamentarian hands.
Did the religious persuasion of the king matter more than the king himself? Should the Pope and the church hierarchy hold sway over the diversity of individual beliefs? Could hard work, honesty & thrift triumph over priestly intervention? Did a century of civil war, restoration and revolution resolve the passionate differences in beliefs and the quest for freedom?
There had been a lot of hard work - the Barons at Runneymede in 1215, Simon de Montfort's Parliament in 1265 and the pugnacity of Harry Eight in the 1534 when the Pope lost his cows together with the persistence of Oliver Cromwell in 1649 when the King lost his head - for sure some of the arbitrary authoritarian powers had been curtailed and some semblance of individual freedom emerged towards the end of the 17th century after the Glorious Revolution of 1688 ... it was only then that folk began to feel that they could choose for themselves ... and in those times choosing your own king and choosing your own beliefs was really something special ...
The triumph of the 17th century revolution was a constitutional settlement which set families like the Gandys free from state & church sponsored imposition. Checks & balances were around, the king answered to parliament and parliament answered to the people and a Bill of Rights & an Act of Toleration protected some individual diversity ... diversity which was the essential feedstock of cultural evolution.
In this way the fortunes of Lords & Bishops which had always been an important part of Cheshire history, were changing ... but those fortunes were now more explicitly linked to the economics of the farms -
access to tax revenues depended on rival claims of Lords & Bishops and the patronage of Kings & Popes
but maintenance of tax revenues depended on the profitable surpluses from the farms ...
The Gandys now had an exciting new confidence to invest in their beliefs, their business and their cows ... by the end of the century, building on ancient traditions, folk now believed what they wished and were free to get on with the job for the benefit of themselves and their community ... the Gandys were not alone, other Cheshire farming families survived and delivered the goods in the same old homespun way ...
'As many Leighs as fleas, Masseys as asses,
Crewes as crows and Davenports as dog's tales ...'
But centuries of relative continuity for the farmers were about to change again ... from a slow almost imperceptible evolution, where generations of Gandys and their ancient ancestors had worked the land and nurtured their cows with a repetitious regularity, the stage was set for the self sustaining economic growth of the industrial revolution ...
The Glorious Revolution led to more & more freedoms in more & more cities, the tyrannies & oppressions of the old order collapsed in an explosion of self confidence ... the culmination of centuries of hard evolution came to fruition ... technological inventions galore ... and the Gandys would have been particularly pleased with the Statute of Monopolies in 1624 which provided Patent Law protection for the rewards from science & innovation ... rewards accruing from the 'know how' of Cheshire cheese production were more secure ...
The Gandy contribution to this revolution was significant. In spite of Princes, Bishops, Generals & bureaucrats, the Gandys, four Williams and then two Edwards, secured the freehold of their farm, free expression of their beliefs and the freedom to accumulate the skills of Cheshire cheese production ... this 'know how' provided jobs and goodies which proved to be valuable in the London markets and the Gandys were now rich way beyond the dreams of their villein ancestors ... Edward junior, the Quaker Minister, now had a lot of grist for his influential sermons -
'deep down in the skull there was a free will imperative which motivated everyone (not just a chosen few), to aspirations of betterment for themselves, their family & their friends (and strangers and even cows?) ... but there was no freedom to harm others by violent imposition or confiscation (sins of anger & envy?), nor by taking more than a fair share (sins of gluttony & greed?) nor by arrogant assumptions of control over future outcomes (sins of pride & sloth?) ... these parasitic & predatory instincts were always mediated by powerful countervailing emotions from within, the manifestation of God (the bad conscience?) ... empathy, love, cooperation & exchange (synergistic survival emotions which had become hard wired in the brain over aeons of evolution?) ... these inner emotions were universal direct experiences for everyone and a much safer guide for behaviour than the agendas of soothsayers & priests with their rants, rituals and scriptures ... and these beliefs were bang in the middle of everything ... a life style'
... and it came to pass this new spirit of independence & love gripped Edward junior's young son, John ... and around 1720 John Gandy & his new wife packed their bags and walked away from farming to try their luck in the big city of Warrington ... there they hoped to discover new riches ... they planned to have a family ...
... but the rich folk in the cities needed a food supply ...
Antrobus in the 18th century
The Gandys seize the opportunities? An agricultural revolution to supply food to the burgeoning cites!
In 1612 the Gandy family were rewarded for their rent paying diligence by the windfall acquisition of the freehold of their Frandley farm. The magic of property was unleashed ...
Around the time of the four Williams, the Gandy farm was largely self sufficient in food; grain for folk & hay for animals ... it was also becoming well practiced at the specialisations which produced useful trading surpluses. All the farms processed hemp & flax into twine, ropes & linen. Wool was available in the markets of Macclesfield & Congleton where the plain met the sheep hills but relatively little wool was processed locally in Sevenoaks. Richard Dewsbury, the first retail grocer selling a variety in goods, some imported, appeared in Great Budworth around this time, and certainly specialist builders, tailors, butchers, wood workers, leather workers and blacksmiths were established. Agricultural surpluses became more readily available in the markets to feed these new artisans.
By 1700 this new middle class had blossomed on the Antrobus scene. The armada had been defeated and an overseas trading empire was prospering and with it the port of Liverpool was girding its loins. Scotland joined the English success in 1707 and a little later in 1776 James Watt would be busy putting a condenser on his steam engine. Things were changing, the structure of the middle classes was becoming complex. In addition to the landowning and tenanted farmers and associated artisans, the multitude of products in the markets reflected a host of new industrialised trades which now included imports.
The time was ripe for agriculture to really start pulling its weight. The farmers and their animals got bigger & bigger and better & better.
Once again there was something different about Cheshire. As the population of London increased, food supplies had to be brought in from further and further away. The grain growing areas of the south east had started growing marketable surpluses in the 16th century as old methods had been swept away and large arable commercial farms and associated seasonal labour had taken over causing widespread social unrest. Change was never easy. In one sense the north west was catching up but the Cheshire men had developed a quality product, differentiated from competitors and a 'brand' everyone recognised.
But why Sevenoaks? Why Cheshire? Pinning down the factors responsible for the success of this specialisation & scale was difficult ... it was not by the design of kings, that was for certain ... but rather by an accident of Anglo Saxon customary evolution in the autonomous Palatinate which undoubtedly included several elements -
a remote and distant crown, a massive Great Budworth parish (36,000 acres) which seeded a decentralised peripheral and sometimes dissenting independent diversity
an unusually strife free transfer of opportunity for capital accumulation from a traditionally feudal rent seeking crown & a gratuitously rich church via the customary courts of the existing Manor to diverse family freeholder farms
incentives for betterment from an emergent Anglo Saxon culture of independence, hard work, honesty & thrift which respected the skills and technology needed to move freehold farms from self sufficiency to surplus creating production units
a traditional trading hub at the interface with Wales, Danelaw & the Atlantic with access to markets, local and overseas.
enclosure of open arable fields, wastes & mosses and reorganisation into larger units
cheap water born distribution system from Chester and then Frodsham & Liverpool
enlightened self interest of established landowners who encouraged tenants who paid good rents and made good profits from their technology
embrace of the efficient market system in an orderly and tranquil way
alternative jobs close at hand as Warrington grew with coal & metals in Flintshire & St Helens and textiles in Stockport, Macclesfield & Congleton, all provided better paid alternatives for workers as the farm sizes increased.
marled meadows produced rich Cheshire grass which pushed the Cheshire dairymen into a cow boom, there were fewer sheep than other counties, 'because their ground served better to other purpose' ... an eloquent testimony to the fact that milk products had overtaken wool in profitability in Cheshire.
Initially Cheese was produced for home & local consumption, probably processing the surplus milk from the summer months into tasty morsels for the winters ... and then starting with the shipments in 1670, in much larger quantities ...
The Gandys specialised in cows. The Gandy cows were mongrels, crossbreeds, strong conglomerate mixtures of Lancashire longhorns, Yorkshire short horns, Welsh blacks, Holderness and ... anything that milked and later found a home at the butchers. But all the time there were breeding 'improvements', the best milkers had the most calves for next year. No point in breeding off a dry cow ... is there? So in Cheshire it was the milking shorthorn that became the cheese cow ... beasts that had been successfully crossed with other dairy breeds to quickly incorporate the desired traits.
The milking shorthorn breed was the most versatile of all breeds, one of its greatest attributes. The shorthorn was a docile animal which efficiently converted fodder into milk and had a long productive long life, at the end of which the large cows had a high salvage value. They were harmless, very quiet and consequently much approved of for pasture feeding. In addition, their healthy calves born each year on regular calving intervals were spunky at birth, grew rapidly, and those not kept for breeding stock and herd replacement made efficient gains and hung very desirable carcasses. Dairy Shorthorns had very few problems with feet and legs, allowing the producer to cut out the expenses of lost milk production, veterinary bills, and replacement animals. Both cows and heifers were easy and excellent mothers, substantially decreasing calf mortality. The average butterfat of the milk was more than 3% but breeders focused on the cheese components - protein & solids not fat. For cheese the quantity & quality of the curds produced was of greater importance than the quantity of milk. The most favourable protein/fat ratio was an added plus when producing milk for cheese ... well managed cows of this breed produced from ten to twelve pounds of cheese per week ... wow ... wot a super breed ...
Robert William Ashburner in 'The Shorthorn Herds of England, 1885' suggested that, 'Cheshire has long been famous for its dairy produce and the fine herds of cattle which give the milk from which the celebrated cheese is made. Dairy Shorthorns were the most profitable kind of stock to be kept upon Cheshire farms'.
Frandley was a centre of excellence as mans relationship with animals took a leap forward ... an agricultural revolution ... there were cows everywhere - cows, bulls, calves, bullocks, heifers, stirks, yearlings, steers, oxen, neats, pollards, beasts, beeves, slinkers and milches ...
Milch cows now became the priority, calving was managed in a succession from February & March and some of the calves were rushed off to the butchers after only 3 weeks to increase the flow of milk for cheese. Remember cows were hungry during the winter and the autumn cull was avoided only with abundant hay and later Mr Townsend's turnips. The beef cattle sometimes took preference, they had to be fattened up for market ... but when Londoners developed a taste for Cheshire cheese the battle between the meat calves and the dairy maids was settled by economics ... there was simply more money to be made shipping cheese to London!
The heifers were put to the bull at two years and dropped their calves around May. Calves for rearing were fed on the surplus whey from the cheese process. The milch cows were kept covered and contented waiting for the spring flush when the newly introduced red clover would put a spring in their step and a gush from their udders. From about 1670 the Cheshire farmers were in clover ... literally!
Hay was needed for the cows from mid November for overwintering and haymaking was a carefully practised art. Cutting was done the hard way with sickle & scythe; and tedded, turned, raked and stacked with the pikel. Timing and the weather were the key to success, wet rotting hay was of no use to the Gandys, the saccharine secretions and fermentation of the drying grass had to be 'just right' for healthy beasts.
Green fodder and stall feeding during the worst of the winter weather greatly improved the ongoing quest for more milk gallonage.
As for grain supplements, their cultivation was also done the hard way ... the first horse drawn threshing machines did not arrive in Antrobus until 1887. And no sign of a steamer like 'Little Dot' until 1892. It was flails and sweat ...
And then the calves needed to be nurtured, all manner of ailments and pestilences were around ... for sure the vets were getting better, blood letting was not the answer to sickness ... but then in 1749 the Cheshire herds were decimated by foot & mouth, a highly contagious disease ... and the recommended policy was slaughter ... the outbreak was traumatic for generations of Gandys who knew every cow they owned by name.
Over the generations the Cheshire Gandys took advantage of their opportunities and steadily bettered their condition. Crucially the margins on Cheshire cheese were high and prices rose as volumes rose. Everybody was benefitting. The Frandley farm was revolutionised. There was money to be made from provisioning the cities. Innovations came thick and fast ... fields were enclosed, crops were rotated in a 4 field system, controlled grazing was introduced, clover (1670) and Turnip Townsend (1730) provided plentiful fodder; manures came readily wherever the cows were ... marl ('the old fertiliser' from the middle ages), lime ('the new fertiliser' from 1800 after the canals were built) & bone dust (1830 after Sir Humphrey Davy) improved the fertility and tilth of the clays ... 80% of the farm acreage was used for grazing cattle, 20% was ploughed for supporting crops. 5% wheat for the bread, 7% oats for the horses and winter supplements for the cows, maybe 3% barley for beer and 5% fallow awaiting the next rotation. Turnips for the cows became a common crop and flax & hemp remained useful. Pigs and chickens survived on waste and scavenging on every farm.
The water mill at Cogshall would produce flour when the damp of Cheshire didn't reduce wheat yields ... but the cows had the advantage ...
Charles Foster records how the Gandys were leading the fray -
'only about eight of the families who had paid James I to secure their titles in 1612 seem to have still owned exactly the same land in 1662. Most of the families had divided or sold part of their land, while others like Gandy has bought land. In 1612 it seems likely that most of the farms were the family homes of their owners, by 1662 these farms seem to have become the capital investments of a group of families living across North Cheshire'.
When young John Gandy packed his bags and left farming for Warrington in 1720 he didn't leave a sinking ship. Cheshire cheese production was a very profitable business. John inherited his share of the accumulated Gandy capital and invested in a new opportunity in the grocery trade.
John Gandy (1699-1765) was Edward's eldest son. A son of the manse ... John's intended marriage to Mary Nickson (1704-76) was debated at the Frandley meetings in August & September 1721, and the Friends had no objections. Mary came from a yeoman family in Kechwick, Runcorn, her grandparents Mathew & Alice were Quakers and not inclined to pay tithes -
'Mathew Nixon of Keckwick was fined at Halton Court by John Daniel of Daresbury Esq. for three tythe calves, but Mathew Nixon knowing they were not due denyed to pay them'
Mary's father, Mordicai Nickson (1680-1715), had some form. Dave Jowitt recorded -
'A surgeon/apothecary by profession he was not a practicing Quaker, having been 'denied the truth' in 1701 for 'several gross miscarriages as drunkness and debaucherie' . I get the impression that he could not care less! Mordicai was not a wealthy man he died at Halton and, despite his gross miscarriages, was buried with the Quakers at Whitley burial ground'.
Mary Nickson was a good spirited catch, and John knew it!
But John remembered that his mother, Mary Crosby, was 'a young woman of another persuasion' and had had big trouble with the Friends before she married his dad ...
Perhaps John losing patience with these intrusions into private lives? John moved from the rural farms of Sevenoaks to be a grocer in urban Warrington when he married Mary in 1721. Maybe life in the big town and the enthusiasms of The Glorious Revolution had given John some self confidence and independence, perhaps he felt he could cope without pressure from the Friends? He certainly rejoiced at the defeat of the Young Pretender at Culloden in 1746 and no doubt thanked William and George Fox for their sacrifices in the fight for freedom of choice but when he died in 1765, although buried in the Frandley ground, it was noted that he was 'one not in unity'. It is also significant that his daughter Margaret and son Edward both became members of the Church of England in 1759.
No doubt John reflected on the paradoxical joy associated with his freedom to choose to worship with The Friends at Frandley only to find The Friends themselves were intruding on his freedom to choose a wife! Swapping one dictator to find the replacement was another dictator was not John's idea of fun.
Perhaps John also reflected on the economies of scale involved in the cheese business and the Gandy decision to cash in on the rising value of their land and sell their free-holdings and share their wealth amongst the family. Time to move on? In 1721 the Gandys were not large landowners, they were business men & preachers. It seemed each generation had to establish a niche of its own through hard work, honesty & thrift, there was no slothful inheritance of lasting wealth ... too many children had equal shares .... however there were new opportunities and new trades ...
A new found confidence was evident as young people like John left their roots to seek fame & fortune in a wide range of careers in the cities. This was especially true of Quakers who had no truck with authority and used business as a profitable means of protecting & nurturing family & friends in a hostile environment and not as a route to a higher social status in the gentry culture. The 1673 Test Act specifically barred dissenters from many occupations, including the church, the armed forces, the civil service and the law ... business became one of the available opportunities ... an alternative, of course, was to emigrate to the New World ...
So why did John head for Warrington and why did he choose to be a grocer?
There was a well trodden Quaker route from Frandley meeting house to Warrington, which was just up the road from Northwich and full of business folk.
Bewsey Hall had housed important landed families, the Botelers, the Lilfords ... but Warrington was primarily a business town, they were no law courts, no branch of government, no cathedral, no barracks and no Lord of the Manor ... just the Pattens, the Blackburnes, the Ashtons, the Parrs, the Lyons ... and the Quakers ... Warrington was full of successful & influential Quaker businessmen ... a network of trust which fostered trade, not only within the town but with more distant Friends in London ...
Samuel Fothergill (1715-1772) was a contemporary of John Gandy in Warrington and both were shop keepers with a remarkably parallel ancestral history ...
Charles Foster describes how the Fothergills of Carr End came from Wensleydale, where they were customary tenants of the Crown when they originally obtained their freehold. Samuel's father John Fothergill (1676-1744) had been brought up in the Faith by his father who had been converted by George Fox. John became a devout travelling preacher like Edward, and 'believed it right to dispose of his business and to let his land, that he might be more at liberty' ... but he had always been truthful & diligent as he built his business ... clearly John Fothergill and John Gandy's dad Edward had much in common and would have known each other ... Edward was 6 years older than John but they died the same year 1744 ...
In 1709 John Fothergill married a likely lass from Cheshire, Margaret Hough. The Houghs were businessmen and at the centre of the remarkable network of Warrington Quakers. The family farm, Marshgate Farm at Sutton Weaver, was right next to Frodsham Bridge and Sir George Warburton's cheese warehouse. The Houghs were almost certainly involved in the cheese trade as we know the Pattens and the Lyons also sent cargoes to London. The other lucrative trading activity was, of course, salt ... Sir George had also built lime kilns at Sutton in 1670 ... the opportunities were growing as they were spurred by the Frodsham quay which was a major part of the port of Liverpool complex which also included Sankey Bridges just up the river ...
Margaret Hough's mum was Ellin the daughter of William Barnes of Great Sankey, whose house was the venue for the Warrington Friends ... Charles Foster claims, 'William Gandy of Sevenoaks was a similar figure to William Barnes of Great Sankey' ... such was the tightly knit network of action ...
John & Margaret Fothergill had four sons, Alexander, the eldest, married and settled at Carr End. Dr John Fothergill (1712-80) served his apprenticeship with a Bradford apothecary, studied medicine in Edinburg and Leyden before practicing in London. Medicines were sourced from plants at this time and John became an enthusiastic botanist. Joseph (1713-61), the third son, married Hannah Kelsall, another Warrington Quaker, and he settled into business in Horsemarket Street as an ironmonger, flogging tools, locks, hinges, screws ...
Samuel Fothergill, John's fourth surviving son, was born at Carr End on the 9th of Nov 1715, and after the early decease of his mum Margaret in 1719 he spent time with his maternal uncle Thomas Hough at Sutton while his dad continued his travelling ... would he have known John Gandy not far away at Frandley? Later his uncle fixed him up with an apprenticeship with a Stockport shopkeeper. At 17 years of age in Stockport, Samuel, 'yielded to temptation and and indulged his evil passions, abandoning himself to the pursuit of folly & dissipation' ... at the time John Gandy was 15 years older than Samuel and married, so he was not associated with these wanton activities!
Samuel was bailed out of his adolescent experiments and was moved to shelter with Joseph in Warrington and his uncle at Sutton. His father's stern entreaties and a Damascusian epiphany gave him the strength to mend his ways ... or was Samuel persuaded by a 23 year old local Warrington girl Susanna Croudson, a Quaker minister, who he married in 1738?
A reformed Samuel set up his own business in Warrington as a shopkeeper and tea merchant. Samuel's business was variously described as grocer, tea dealer, American merchant ... Quaker links were particularly strong with William Penn's Pennsylvania and the Delaware River and trade flourished, a massive stimulus for North West England as raw materials were imported in exchange for exports of manufactures ... Samuel wrote in 1767,'My affection for Friends in Philadelphia is strong' ... and remember Kate Gandy ventured to Chester, Pennsylvania, after marrying Isaac Richardson in 1707 ... Samuel traded as a retailer and wholesaler and included American tobacco in his wares ... it was a prosperous business.
Samuel's shop was in Sankey Street, and out of this commonplace shop in a quiet street of what was then a country town came, perhaps, the most eloquent Quaker minister of the 18th century ... Samuel was best know for his relentless work to arrest the decline of Quakerism in England, Scotland, Ireland and America ... by 1765 his ministry had become his priority and he left his business to able others ...
The Fothergills were a powerful family ...
Interestingly, after Samuel Fothergill's death his grocery business continued to be run by his executors, who employed a young 23 year old George Crosfield (1754-1820), first as an assistant, then manager and eventually he bought the shop. George came from a Quaker family in Kendal, and served his apprenticeship in that town. Bailey's Northern Directory of 1781 shows 'Crosfield George, grocer', among the Warrington tradesmen. He was know to periodically visit Liverpool on horseback to arrange purchase of goods, often staying overnight with Quaker friends. The goods were conveyed to Warrington up the river on sailing barges or 'flats'. He certainly also used the Bridgewater canal for his Manchester trade and records of his accounts with Parr's Bank have survived. With his Liverpool connections he became a managing partner in a sugar refining operation in Lancaster and despite setbacks of a fire in 1801 & the French revolutionary wars, the business was successfully maintained. George had four surviving sons and they developed the sugar & grocery business into Harrison & Crosfield Ltd of Liverpool. One son, Joseph, went into soap making and established his soap works at Bank Quay, Warrington, on the site of Patten's famous copper works ... an enterprise which later became an important part of the William Lever empire ...
John Gandy & Samuel Fothergill's ventures in Warrington groceries were part of the dynamic success of the Quaker network of businessmen.
Why a grocer?
John Gandy would have heard stories of the ancient medieval grocers of Sopers Lane, their guilds, monopolies, apprenticeships, politics & pageants and their exotic wares from far away spice islands. He could see social history unfolding through a sequence of grocery goodies ... starting with local salt then pepper, spices, dried fruits, sugar, tea, coffee & cocoa ... all handled by the great trading companies, The Levant Company in 1581, The East India Company in 1600 ... and others granted expensive monopolies by the King who was ever keen to get in on the act, especially if money was being made? ... John suspected that 'the flag followed trade' rather than the conventional wisdom that 'trade followed the flag'. He would also have known that successful rural grocers were providing services in Great Budworth as early as the start of the 17th century. Records survive indicating Richard Dewsbury, who died in 1612, established a grocery business in the village where he sold whatever was available ... which included candles which he manufactured himself. However the pack horse supply route to Great Budworth was primitive and the breakthrough for Cheshire grocers came with cheap coastal shipping and a flurry of exotic imports ...
Abundant peppers which lay rotting on the ground on the spice islands, when transported to London, were transformed in value. They found a welcome market. Spices were in demand to flavour the salty dried food which was the only way to survive through the winter ... the economists call it arbitrage, a win win opportunity ...
The initial shipments of Gandy cheese from Frodsham in 1670 involved return trips for the 30 ton ketches. The ships did not return empty, they were chock-a with a host of riches purchased in London - spices & tea from the far east, calicos from India, currents & silks from the Mediterranean, coffee, sugar & dyes from America, maybe wines from Bordeaux & Portugal, timber from Norway and other goodies from more local ports, Amsterdam, Bristol & Dublin - chemicals & metals, hops & paper, pins, soap, candles, starch, ribbons, buttons, thread, lace and linen. The previous trickle of goods carried by pack horses on treacherous roads became a flood as cheap coastal transport from & to the North West encouraged this trade. New businesses mushroomed and the grocers shops in the area were well stocked with exotics ... and there was an increasingly rich middle class who had the money to buy.
John Gandy's move into the grocery trade was accompanied by tea. A new beverage was competing with ale & wine for fashionable notice. For starters it was the coffee houses, or perhaps the apothecaries, who introduced the beverage to the British public but soon, as Aubrey Rees informs us, despite the endless restraints on trade and despite the inevitable tax slapped on warm beverages and despite the East India Company's monopoly supply and despite the smuggling and adulteration ... consumption of tea rose rapidly and the grocers were quick to take over distribution ... in 1710 Thomas Twining established his tea dealership at Tom's Coffee House in the Strand ... a little later Joseph Fry was to do similarly for cocoa in Bristol ...
John Gandy chose his trade well. Mary Nickson was well aware of her father's weakness for ale and his unexploited potential and she gently moulded John into a caring husband for they were to have five surviving children out of nine births. John Gandy knew the baser wits supped ale and succumbed to tittle-tattle, while others visited the coffee houses and distilled the news from the Rialto for real. He was troubled by stories of The Conventicle Act of 1664 and always had his two pennyworth in the debates in The Old Coffee House at No 13 Horsemarket Street in Warrington ... he relished the new business of business and resented the intrusion of tax into his affairs just as much his grandfather-in-law had resented the tithes ...
Everything in the grocer's shop was taxed but the mad popularity of tea inevitably attracted the most onerous tax. Relief had to wait for the 1784 Commutation Act when the tax on tea was reduced from 119% to 12.5%. William Pitt the Younger, on the advice of Richard Twining, introduced the act which increased revenues by ending 100 years of punitive tea taxes. Low tax rates resulted in consumption growth, less smuggling and increased tax revenues.
The new fangled imports of tea, coffee, cocoa, sugar & tobacco not only attracted tax but also in 1706, the opprobrium of staid medical practitioners ... a source of cholick & diabetes rather than an aide to digestion? a remedy for scurvy? and not least to 'reconcile men to sobriety'?
But nothing could stop the growth, the English loved their tea and by 1700 the grocery trade in Warrington was rapidly graduating from a collection of insignificant traders with limited stocks into a flourishing distribution business providing mass access to a plethora of new products. Although the sea shipments were disrupted during the 1689-1713 war, the cheese and grocery trades were well established and there was money to be made ... and Aubrey Rees sussed it out ... a silent grocery revolution ... and Warrington was included in. In 1726 Daniel Defoe chipped in with his book, 'The Complete English Tradesman', he pointed out that the estates of many of the nobility had recently been acquired by prosperous tradesmen ... Napoleon was right, the English were a nation of shopkeepers, but he was wrong to misunderstand the great benefits of the wealth creating work of the grocers.
John Gandy was no fool, his decision was propitious, there were several themes of change emerging in Warrington & in groceries after 1720 -
urban populations were growing and real wages were growing, a double whammy of opportunity. By 1800 wages in the North West towns & cities for adult males were 24s per week, more than double the agricultural wage in the south of England ... but not only adult males ... there were increasing opportunities for the girls & kids to earn real money ... to spend on convenient excitement in the shops ...
Roger Scola noted the excitement described in Mrs Gaskell's Mary Barton -
'then cam a long whispering and the clinking
of money that all related to the preparations for hospitality ... run, Mary dear, just around the corner,
and get some fresh eggs at Tippings, and see if he has any fresh cut ham,
and Mary, you must get a pennyworth of milk & a loaf of bread, mind you, get
it fresh and new, no that's not all, get six pennyworth of rum to warm the
tea, get that at The Grapes next door ... '
- the possibility of famine had long since been removed, nor did any significant element of planning enter into the process, market forces had responded not only to ever increasing numbers of potential customers, but also to rising incomes ...
- this sits uneasily alongside the impression, powerfully entrenched in the public mind, that the period was a time of misery'?
old markets were changing, quality & variety of goods were improving, there was a differentiation between the distribution of 'fresh', perishable foods, where time & quality were interdependent (meat, milk, vegetables, fish) and 'provisions' (spices, flour, cheese, metal goods, textiles) where quality was determined at production
distribution chains were beginning to involve more middle men, like the cheese mongers, with a wholesale / retail specialisation ... and on the new waterways as coal flowed down food was hauled up ...
tax & regulation of markets was traditionally the preserve of manorial rights, but things became increasingly fractious as the congestion and the shambles in the cities became intolerable ... slowly resentment built up and with it pressure for local organisation of the markets by municipal councils ... anything would be better than the out of touch Lord of the Manor? ... but taxes remained and reinforced the by-passing of markets and the escape route directly into shops
centralised markets and producer retailers were slowly being replaced by more shops which followed populations into the suburbs, first groceries & the wares of settled itinerant pedlars ... only later came the fresh produce ... the butchers, green grocers, fishmongers ... an ongoing choreography of scale economies, price, quality & service vying with convenience & ease of access ...
distribution chains involved stocks and their financing, credit was becoming necessary ... and usury was still endlessly debated
there was an ever widening range of sources of supply & alternatives ... longer distances and more variety were reducing seasonality and price fluctuations and the adverse risk of famine & hardship ... in this respect the organisation of cheese production & its distribution was a notable early example of reliable efficiency ... and latterly foreign food imports flooded in to pay for the manufactured exports ... this increased efficiency in the supply of groceries involved a radical move in importance & value from agricultural production to urban manufacturing which was inevitably traumatic for some ... (as was the later move from manufacturing to services?)
more competitive exchange required attention to honesty, reputation & innovation to secure repeat sales ... an example was the use of money 'tokens' which were required for small value exchanges ... this was long before regulation of weights & measures
some things remained ... the attraction of the general market atmosphere ... the social occasion, the happy bustle, the music & clowning, the booze & pies, the competitive diversity, the haggle, the cons, the adulteration, the congestion, the rowdyism, 90% shopping 10% buying ... caveat emptor ... and sclerotic taxes
some things were new ... the interesting problem of the urban pig, as extra nutrition from converted kitchen waste created still further waste and new sanitary issues ... the intolerable middens and the markets in night soil ... and the unbearable invasion of cholera & tuberculosis ... and unemployment as fashions changed ...
In 1700 there were 60,000 Quakers in England, by 1800 as the total population quadrupled the number declined to 20,000 ... certainly the Quakers that remained of the faith were driven men ... Charles Osborn (1775-1850) began a ministry in Tennessee in 1794. He was the father of the Quaker abolitionists and his account of a visit to Frandley in 1832 reminds us of the detailed extent of the Quaker records and also illuminates the nature of the Friends' meetings ...
So why the Quaker exodus? ... perhaps John Gandy just went with the flow; sick of social exclusion, mad at the interference in his marriage choice and troubled by pacifism after the glorious success of the Parliamentarians ... whatever, by 1759 John was an enthusiastic evangelical at Great Budworth ... to make a mark as a grocer in cosmopolitan Warrington Quakerism was now quaintly irrelevant ... after winning the battle of ideas in the 17th century as dissenters against the imposed authority of the powers that be, the Quakers had turned in on themselves and failed to win the peace ... they had failed to innovated and modernise? ... but the grocers were going from strength to strength ...
So when there was an opportunity to choose perhaps John just seized the moment, exercised his choice and abandoned the family farm, the cows and the cheese for the bright lights of the big city of Warrington and the grocery trade? Or perhaps he was just a 'normal' rebellious adolescent!
Margaret Gandy (1743-1821) was born a Quaker on April 17th 1743, but on 9 Aug 1759, when she was 16, she was Christened into the C of E at St Mary's All Saints, Great Budworth, Cheshire.
Although John Gandy worked in Warrington, after Margaret's mum & dad were married the family lived at Whitley and later Antrobus, and it was in Antrobus that Margaret met her future husband.
Antrobus Life & rivers of change.
On the 17th of June 1769 Margaret Gandy a radiant 26 year old from good Cheshire farming stock married George Hindley, a Cordwainer from Antrobus ... George & Margaret must have been overjoyed to be together in a union celebrating the cow ... a marriage made in heaven ... as cheese makers and shoe makers merged both ends of the cow into a clever union of udder and hide ...
Was there a marriage settlement? The Gandys were a big family and George had good trade. From Elizabethan times the settlements were reciprocal arrangements but the father in law, John, would be anxious that his daughter should not lose the benefits of his contribution and it would be compulsory for the investment to be used only for the children of the marriage in question and not for any other children of a subsequent marriage. And should the couple be childless, and the husband survived the wife, the onus was on him to return the money back to the family.
There was a lot happening when George Hindley started his cordwainer business in Antrobus. With the revolution in agriculture came more work for the animal crafts ... not only cheese makers, but also blacksmiths & tanners ... and the cordwainers ... populations in the northern cities were exploding as the industrial revolution gathered pace ... they all needed shoes and George was skilled at his ancient craft.
George worked hard and played hard, the ales brewed and served in the local 'Wheatsheaf Inn' (1760) on a Saturday night were invigorating. No doubt he also savoured the beer from the nearby Wilderspool Brewery, which was then the 'Saracen's Head', a three-life lease on this establishment had been purchased in 1761 by three Hart brothers who diversified their Warrington linen drapers & sailcloth business. In 1786 this brewery became the start of the local Greenalls empire. Opportunities & specialisations in Warrington now included sailcloth & brewing ... as well as groceries.
Fox hunting at
Dutton, Arley, Marbury & Tabley were great social events, and it was
rumoured that George and Margaret first met at a gathering of the Tarporley Hunt in
1769. The Tarporley Hunt Club was founded in 1762 and was the oldest
surviving society in England, and possibly the oldest in the world. The club
met twice annually with each meeting lasting seven days ... unimaginably
popular social occasions. At first the club organised hare coursing, but its
focus quickly switched to fox hunting and in the early years this was largely
within Delamere Forest.
The club's headquarters became the Swan Hotel, Tarporley which dates from 1769. The club owned the first pack of foxhounds in Cheshire, whose master was John Smith-Barry, son of the fourth Earl of Barrymore, of Marbury Hall. Among the hounds was the famed Blue Cap.
The renowned 'Blue Cap Inn' remains a lasting reminder to travellers of one of the most famous stories from Cheshire hunting history. Blue Cap was a foxhound owned and bred by Mr John Smith-Barry at Marbury and in 1762 the hound took part in a famous race, at Newmarket, for a 500-guinea wager with Hugo Meynell, the Master of the Quorn Hunt. Blue Cap won and became a local hero and a monument to him was built at the Cheshire Kennels. Later the old 'Sandiway Head Inn' was renamed the 'Blue Cap Inn'. A day out to visit the 'Blue Cap Inn' across the Weaver in Sandiway was always a special occasion for generations of Antrobus folk. After John Smith-Barry's death in 1784, the hunt used a pack kept by Sir Peter Warburton of Arley Hall, which later became known as the Cheshire Hounds. The Cheshire Hounds built their kennels in Sandiway in 1798, and in 1834 they were replaced on the same site, by a new establishment, the Cheshire Forest Kennels.
Everyone who was anyone was a member of the hunt or an enthusiastic hanger on ... binding the social fabric of rural Cheshire together in fun and usefulness. Members of the Egerton, Cholmondeley, Grosvenor and other prominent local families joined not long after the club's foundation. Rowland Egerton-Warburton, from Arley Hall, was president in 1838 and later one of the club's few honorary members, he was remembered as the club's poet laureate. He immortalised some of its members' exploits in his Hunting Songs, and also wrote a history of the club to accompany an edition of the verses.
The rural traditions of the Tarporley Hunt still flourish, and the Boxing Day meet at The Goshawk, Mouldsworth, is a special social occasion, par excellence, where the local community gather for mulled wine and chatter and even a nip of the 'holy water' when the weather is particularly inclement ... or not ...
The Smith-Barrys excelled with their animals, not only was Blue Cap bred locally, but Marbury Hall was the home of 'Marbury Dun'. According to folklore this exceptional mare ran from London to Marbury between the hours of sunrise and sunset. A feat still celebrated on All Saints Day in the soulcaking tales.
In addition to following the hounds, George sought further excitement in the local countryside with rabbiting, coursing and above all fishing. Maybe not as exciting as cockfighting but generations of the Hindleys were great fishermen. The many rivers, the meres, brooks and marl pits were full of sport and protein. Roach, perch and 'snigs' or eels were everywhere, bream were in the meres and sometime in the 18th century, carp were introduced. The predator pike and the tasty trout completed Cheshire's array of fish.
George was comforted by a pinch of snuff and his clay pipe and even an occasional game of dominos. Margaret loved a cup of China tea but unfortunately such luxury didn't become affordable until 1784 when William Pitt the younger drastically reduced the tea tax. It was also possible, but unconfirmed, that Margaret enjoyed growing gooseberries ... not for pies but for fun!
George & Margaret would have been contented with their lot ... a strapping family & trusted friends, profitable skills, and access to justice close by at the Northwich Quarter Sessions. As God fearing folk they would walk with the family the 3 miles to St Mary's All Saints in Great Budworth for the Sunday service, the church where George was buried in 1839. At times they would have ruminated on the stories they had heard about their great grandfathers and their mates, like the 4th William, and all the heavy lifting that they had done so long ago ... after all they had lived through the Glorious Revolution of 1688 ... they had established once and for all the freedom to worship in their own churches of choice and they had invited Orange William to be their king. Choosing your own king and choosing your own church was something really special in those days ... no wonder they called it a 'glorious revolution' ... and the Dissenters and the Gandy Quakers had been at its heart ... some stalwart folk simply refused to be told what to believe.
For sure the farmers and the cordwainers were doing well but it was the river Weaver that was central to the future development of progress in Cheshire from the 18th century on and it wasn't agriculture and the ancient crafts that benefitted most but salt and associated chemicals.
In 1721 Acts of Parliament launched the Weaver Navigation which was opened in 1734. Later the Anderton Boat Lift (1875) linked the Weaver to the Trent and Mersey Canal built in 1777. These were primarily salt highways and led to the rise and rise of Northwich and Winsford. And with the Navigation the Mersey ports were accessible from mid Cheshire ... and salt & associated chemicals flowed ...
Henry Holland noted -
'from the facility of communication with the port of Liverpool afforded by the Weaver, this river constitutes a most important object in the political economy of Cheshire' ...
In 1776 the Duke of Bridgewater's canal enabled Worsley coal to reach the Weaver and opened up the Manchester - Liverpool route. It was in 1779 that the Trent & Mersey Canal connected rural Cheshire directly to the industrial Midlands and beyond and brought Cheshire cheese into national consciousness ... finally in 1795 the Ellesmere canal, Chester to the Mersey at Ellesmere Port opened ... by 1800 Cheshire was blessed with the finest canal system in the country.
Out of this history emerged the industrial significance of the River Weaver for water power and transport, a small window of opportunity before the progress of steam & railways took over ... a window big enough to establish three new manufactories around 1800 which impacted on Acton Bridge ... the Northwich Cotton Mill, the Marston Forge and the Forge at Acton Bridge ...
Victorian Antrobus in the 19th Century
Riparian manufactories on the River Weaver and salt!
By 1800 the numbers employed in trade in Cheshire outstripped those employed in agriculture. In 1801 Britton & Brayley identified the trend; commercial capital was buying into farms and estates were 'congregating' into larger units.
In the 17th century, after the civil war, land enclosures accelerated, many large estates were reorganised and boundaries redrawn. With enclosure came investment; clearing, draining, fencing, ploughing, fertilising, rotating and mechanisation ... and rising productivity with rising populations. The urban masses had to be fed and economies of scale pushed farms into bigger estates. By 1870, some estates were enormous, John Tollemache's estate at Peckforton was over 25,000 acres, the Marquess of Cholmondeley's lands were nearly 17,000 acres and those of the Duke of Westminster just over 15,000 acres.
So Cheshire was a wealthy county in the 19th century. It is estimated that there were more more fine 18th and 19th century country houses in Cheshire than any other English county. The wealthy landowning Egerton family built their impressive country seat at Tatton between 1760 and 1820, set in its own magnificent parkland and exotic gardens, and the 17th century house at Dunham Massey saw significant 19th century development and expansion into its present imposing state. Dorfold Hall & Bostock Hall were other examples.
Such magnificence was, of course, built up by folk like the Gandys who farmed the land and embraced the new technologies ... the rents that built Dutton, Arley & Marbury Halls and Tabley House were funded by the productive output sold in the local markets and the Cheshire Cheese sold in London ... and the Gandys made a lot of money from their excellent cheese. It was the innovative technology sponsored by restless entrepreneurs that mattered not the identity of the land owners ... in fact the Duttons at Dutton, the Warburtons at Arley, the Smith Barrys at Marbury and the Leycesters at Tabley were all affectionately respected by the yeoman farmers like the Gandys ... and these landowners positively encouraged the increase in productivity of the land ...
Encouragement of technological innovation was often through Agricultural Societies and Friendly Societies ... self help groups ... the Gandys were on board, this was a much better bet than paying tithes and taxes? ... Stella Davies, again tells this story of efforts in Cheshire.
Improvement was essential ... the economics were simple & relentless - freeholders, enclosures, drainage, cheese specialisation, scale economies, investment capital & new technology led to productivity improvement and food supplies to feed the cities ... the agricultural revolution was an essential precursor to the industrial revolution ...
Everybody seemed to progress, there were two pressures - the money made from trade brought new ownership capital into farming, at the same time old capital was eroded by taxation ... the economics changed from what Charles Foster called the 'Gentry' culture of capital accumulation from rent seeking to the 'Entrepreneur' culture of capital accumulation from trade in technological innovation ... the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1836 was the final nail in the coffin of the 'Gentry' culture ... certainly the lesser landowners had every incentive for hard work, honesty & thrift ... they could join the Cheshire cheese band wagon ...
Henry Holland noted in 1808 -
'land when transferred, is generally improved by its new possessor. A more enlightened view brings the disposition to try experiments, and the spirit and example stimulates all around to increase exertions. The tenure in this county is almost universally freehold'.
This 'magic of property' was the same motivational vigour which propelled William Gandy to greater things when he acquired his freehold in 1612.
Cheshire was a gold mine, but hasten to add, the advantage was not in the soil; it was in the high price of cheese sold in London and in close by Liverpool & Manchester which inspired the experiments and new technologies, and paid for the necessary investments in the extra farm buildings and equipment necessary for the production of dairy products ... associated rents and wages rose ... investment in the canals had also been an important part in the virtuous circle ... Cheshire was rich.
Of course there were taxes ... but the farmers could now get on with the job, they were no longer required to pay by personal services, all tithes were now paid in money. Nevertheless, without care, the virtuous circle of better production to feed the cities was undermined ... Henry Holland again -
'that tithes do oppose a very material hindrance to agricultural improvement must be allowed by every unprejudiced person, whether any mode of commutation could be devised which would remove this evil is a question about which there exists a considerable degree of doubt'.
Success was taxed; no way was ever devised to tax failure!
With increasing specialisation, scale and technology Cheshire's farming had blossomed with the teeming urban populations. Not only cheese & potatoes but other products & services; leather & shoes! The urban masses of the North West had to be fed & shod. George Hindley found himself in the right place at the right time when he married Margaret Gandy in 1769. Farming, leather and shoemaking thrived.
1670 (what a year!) this year marked the culmination of the agricultural revolution and the start of the industrial revolution -
1670 shipments of Cheshire cheese to London from Frodsham. Following success in London, cheese increasingly fed the urban masses of Liverpool & the south Lancashire coalfields ... and the rise of Manchester ...
1670 the discovery of rock salt at Marbury. This led to the Liverpool refineries, the Weaver Navigation, the Sankey Canal and the first triangular trade ... and the rise of Liverpool ...
Manufacturing in Cheshire was not all salt & cheese (but it was nearly so!). In addition to salt & cheese it appeared there had always been cottage linen and cloth!
In England in the older days, wool had prospered because of the prolific domesticated sheep and the cold climate ... then copious supplies of water, fuel and latterly iron, mixed with laws that protected person & property to open up markets for centralised production of linen and silk in factories ... then around 1800 it was the turn of cotton ... and how to compete with the delicate printed fabrics imported from India?
During the 18th century a few innovations finally pushed North West England into the industrial revolution -
1733 - John Kay and his flying shuttle
1738 - Lewis Paul & John Wyatt and their spinning rollers for carding
1764 - Jonathan Haworth introduced London calico bleaching & printing technology into Blackburn
1764 - James Hargreaves and his spinning jenny produced the cotton weft which released hours and hours of tiresome toil in the cottages for more innovative pursuits in the textile mills ... power looms, bleaching, printing ...
1769 - Richard Arkwright and his water frame produced the cotton warp which was now strong enough to replace the linen
1779 - Samuel Crompton and his mule, the fine Muslin Wheel
1785 - Edmund Cartwright and his power loom
1776 - James Watt's steam engine which powered the factories at the expense of water and the working horses ... horse power had a new meaning ... and then the transport systems ...
1829 - the railways, an innovation that didn't hatch until George Stephenson's 'Rocket' linked Manchester to Liverpool & the world ... but why not Birmingham to Bristol? ... or Paris to Toulouse??
Stockport had been into silk from 1732, then Macclesfield and Congleton followed ... silk throwing was a Cheshire success story in the 18th century ... industrialisation in the mill towns of Cheshire and Lancashire saw many rural workers urban trekking to 'a better living' ... in 1780 William Cockshott built his cotton mill on the Weaver at Northwich ...
The pace of change dulled perspective, running faster and faster to maintain progress was not understood, it was a constant source of surprise that developments easily taken for granted were of very recent origin. The ox cabbage and green fodder did not appear in Antrobus until 1800, cotton 1812, chemical fertilisers 1813, tiled drains & iron ploughs 1830, haymakers or tedders 1840 ...
Central to the story of Cheshire farming and the Gandys & Hindleys was Sir Humphrey Davy. In 1813 Sir Humphrey recommended the use of bones as a form of manure. Chemistry was being applied to farming. The importance of the nitrogen, potassium and phosphates balance in the soil to increase yields was being pinned down and bone meals, acid phosphates and sulphate of ammonia began to appear as chemical manures ... from around 1830 were the farmers were buying 'chemical' bone dust for their fields.
Clarice Stella Spencer Davies confirmed both the impact of Sir Humphrey Davy's recommendations and the economic benefits. By 1845 Palin noted -
'no county in England has so improved its pastures that the dairy stock has been doubled ....'
New opportunities appeared, the bone grinders were in a lucrative business ... and sometime around 1850 the Acton Bridge forge which had started with water driven bellows & hammers, then moved into zinc rolling in the 1840s, started to grind bones ...
New technology & organisation were helping with more & more urban congestion problems ... not only food but distribution & sales ... from 1776 the canals, from 1830 the railways, from 1844 there was always the Rochdale Co-op if you didn't like the competition ... the free trade bonanza was confirmed in 1846 ... cholera was tamed in 1854 ... although the tuberculosis bacillus was not identified until 1882 ...
And then in 1873 a Weaver riparian site at Winnington became particularly attractive to John Brunner & Ludwig Mond and their new technology for alkali production ... salt eclipsed agriculture and powered a new phase of the industrial revolution around Northwich ... and around Cheshire & South Lancashire ... and England ... and Europe ... and the world ...
Of course there was unwanted change as general benefit led to some individual distress ... Stella Davies suggests -
'on the effects of enclosure contemporary opinion was divided, the almost unanimity of approval in the 1780s was modified after the Napoleonic Wars, when enclosure of common and waste was aggravating the problem of agrarian distress' ...
From general unanimity to individual dissent. But Arthur Young got it right in 1793, he wrote memorably, 'The Example of France a Warning to England' as 'the magic of property turned sand into gold'. And the 1688 revolution was all about property ...
Of course it was not clear to George & Margaret at the time, but the Gandys moved out of cheese making at an appropriate time ... Roger Scola explained -
'The commitment to cheese making was deep rooted. The equipment needed, the expertise acquired over time, the degree of family involvement, the combination of rearing pigs fed on the whey meant it was a well integrated system, an ancient tradition not lightly abandoned. Over the years the switch to milk production became increasingly attractive. The was not because of a change in the relative prices of cheese and milk, since those paid to the Cheshire cheese makers generally held up well. Rather milk production was a lot less bother than cheese making, requiring less equipment, expertise and labour. In addition milk production provided a much more frequent source of income. In Cheshire the dairy farms in the north were the first to abandon cheese, but once the railway offered improved access to Manchester, more farms in the east followed suit. The frontiers of of Cheshire cheese making were steadily pushed back to the middle and south of the county, and even there, by the 1880s, the railways were opening up the tempting prospect of milk trade in the customarily slack time of winter. The total quantity of Cheshire cheese remained relatively static at around 12,000 tons but Manchester's need were always very small, the London market long dominated the Cheshire cheese trade ... the final factor in the process of reorientation of the trade was the growing significance of imported cheese in the London market'
In Cheshire the plough was the servant of the milk pail, so the price of grain after the war and the repeal of the Corn Laws were not big issues, using the plough to follow the pail led to considerable gain ... Cheshire farmers chased profits and exploited their comparative advantage ... agrarian distress was, puzzlingly, the result of comparative advantage ebbing away from farming ... everybody in Cheshire knew of the outstanding success of farms like Crewood Hall and agonised over the eventual inexplicable demise ... how was the excellence of Cheshire farming eroded by the merchants of Liverpool and the creative destruction of the industrial revolution? What was going on?
Towards the end of the 19th century leather & shoemaking had also been industrialised and George Hindley's great grand son, Edward, found himself with a trade but without a job ... but the bone grinders were on a roll ... and he found a good bet by the Weaver at Acton Bridge ... Edward went into manufacturing ... bone grinding et al ... which led inexorably to the success of The Weaver Refining Company.
Any additional information gratefully received contact john p birchall
back to Edward Hindley
back to The Weaver Refining Company