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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sabine Johnson - the Tudor Merchant's Wife


In August 2006, Jane and the boys and I visited England for a three-week holiday. On arriving at Heathrow, we picked up a hire car and followed the winding itinerary that I had mapped out in my head.

It was designed to overcome the reservations that Jane had developed about England on her Kiwi OE (Overseas Experience) during which time she had worked, for example, in a bookshop in Cambridge - feeling impoverished, marginalized and, dare I say it, different and ‘colonial'.

So we struck off for Cheshire from Heathrow taking the scenic route via Salisbury, Bath and Ludlow. My ploy was to introduce lots of beautiful rolling English countryside, fine old market towns and plenty of ruins, monuments and stately relics.

This plan also had the merit that it largely avoided the motorways, which to me are a never-ending hell somewhere between riding dodgem cars at the fairground and driving go-kart circuits.

My stratagem did not entirely work. As a devotee of Midsomer Murders, she eyed picture book scenes and the numerous English characters, identities and eccentrics that we encountered with apprehension.

For the greater part of the holiday, we stayed in tourist accommodation that had been developed on a farm at Cholmondeley, Cheshire – which was OK except that Jane got lost driving the hire car in the back streets of the nearby market town of Whitchurch, and again in the high-hedged back lanes on the way home on her one solo venture.

As for me, having feasted myself on sagging doorways, low-hanging beams and pork scratchings, I too became a little bit allergic to the closeness of everything and the preoccupation in modern rural England with leaving no nook un-knick-knacked.

However, we took the same approach to travel when we left to return to Heathrow but this time it was via Oundle and Oakham, as I wanted to spend some time with my eldest son Matthew (known locally as Kiwi) who was working on a farm at Draughton in Northamptonshire.

And as our route took us close to the village of Glapthorn (just outside Oundle) I took the time to try to catch up with an old girlfriend.

I can still remember it as yesterday – a rainy day on 25th August 2006. Diplomatically, Jane and the boys stayed in the car while I pushed open the old oak door and surveyed the scene, before kneeling quietly and muttering a prayer for time past and loves lost.

Before you surmise too much dear reader about my insensitivity to my wife, I should explain that the object of my affection died in the 1590s.

But the tiny country church that I had entered – St Leonard’s, Glapthorn – was where this headstrong, whimsical but practical lady had regularly worshipped with her children Charity (b.1542), Rachel (b.1544), Faith (b.1548), Evangelist (b.1550) and Edward (bca 1552) – and more occasionally with her frequently absent husband John Johnson, merchant of the wool staple in Calais, England.


Sabine Saunders (born around 1520) was the daughter of Thomas Saunders of Sibbertoft, Leicestershire and Margaret Cave. In 1541, she married John Johnson (c.1514-1590), who had been apprenticed to her uncle, Anthony Cave. John Johnson was a draper and a stapler whose business was centred in Calais. He also traded in a wide range of other items apart from wool, including wine, herring, grain, cloth, and canvas.

Sabine’s letters from 1542-1552 have been preserved along with those of her husband – and it is from these that we catch sight of a lively and loving lady. John, Sabine’s husband, was bankrupted in 1553, and following the conclusion of the legal proceedings, his letters were stored in the Tower of London until they were transferred to the Public Record Office in London some 300 years later.

The story of the Johnsons is told engagingly if in a somewhat episodic manner in Barbara Winchester’s "Tudor Family Portrait" (1955). This provides excerpts from some of the most interesting letters.

For example, in 1551, John Johnson wrote that he wished: ‘it had pleased God so to have provided for me that I might with less embracing of business have passed my times in the world. But God having appointed me to be a merchant (and such one as cannot live only to myself or for myself) I am compelled to enter into much business, and to take money and much things in hand’.

In 1544, John had been asked by Sir Thomas Brudenell of Deene, one of the wealthiest local aristocratic landowners, whether he would like to take up the tenancy of the Old Manor House (known locally as Browns’ Manor) in the small village of Glapthorn, Northamptonshire. This he did and Sabine set up and ran an extensive household there while John pursued his business interests in Calais.

From the letters, we know that there was a good deal of banter between John and Sabine, with some of it being of a slightly salacious nature.

In December 1545, John wrote from Calais:

‘If but one man in the whole world should be kept from death, it might be I, if it pleased God. Then the women of this town would keep me perforce from you. By Saint Mary! I should have much ado to please so many women! God save me from being troubled by many women, for I have much ado to please you alone, as ye know!

To which Sabine replied from Glapthorn:

‘Husband do not write there be many fair widows in Calais that would be glad of you. The truth is that I had rather they had everyone of them two husbands than you should be troubled with them!

Your promise made to me I will not say but you kept, and so have I, and will do the uttermost, without any bond or allegation. And, when it please God to send you home, I put no doubts that we shall agree very well these cold nights.’

We also know that she had a particular yen for red wine when she was pregnant and that she loved riding ‘her little black mare’ (which was much more tractable than one of the horses that her husband had unwisely purchased for himself which was ‘a pretty horse but fair unrid in the head’).


When I dodged the rain to look around the tiny white-washed church of St Leonard’s at Glapthorn, I picked up a small pamphlet there that had been produced about its architecture and history – leaving a couple of pounds in return in the gift box (or what we in New Zealand would call the ‘koha’ box). Apparently, the church was originally a Chapel of Ease of nearby Cotterstock.

The pamphlet points out that one of the moulded archway capitals is dated to 1160 and that despite the small size of the church, building and refurbishment can be detected from the succeeding 200 years.

‘Also note the exterior east window is decorated with a stone sow and her piglets – a reminder of when Glapthorn was known as ‘pig village’ and everyone kept a pig in their yard’.

As for the history of the village, there is a terse note that in 1512, ‘Robert Brudenell acquired the Manor of Glapthorn, beginning a long family association with the village. In 1815, the fields were enclosed but field names like Casteepings, Hanging Baulk, Stemborough, Hens and Chickens and Milking Stool remind us of agricultural life from Saxon times to the present day’.

There is no mention of Glapthorn’s most famous residents the Johnsons, though there is mention that the tenor bell weighing five and a half hundredweights was cast by a London foundry in the 15th century – which opens the possibility that it was donated by John and Sabine.

It is interesting then to pick up Glapthorn and its church as it was some 450 years ago.

Browns’ Manor was a relatively small property of around 250 acres which consisted of a hundred acres of arable and pasture ‘lying scattered in all the fields of Glapthorn and Cotterstock’ (i.e. strips of land pre-enclosure), besides which were a number of large and valuable enclosures in Glapthorn itself – Willow Row Close, Bodger’s Close, the Great Close amounting to 30 arable acres and Caies Stybbing, the forty acre meadow where the horses were put out to graze.

Clearly, Caies Stybbing is what the villagers now call Casteepings.

Initially, John seems to have seen the estate as a rural, gentlemanly retreat. However, it wasn’t long before he started to use his growing local knowledge to further his interests as a wool trader. The vicissitudes of this business are illustrated by the inflation in wool prices that followed the succession of rainy springs and autumns in the 1540s which decimated lambings and led to ‘murrain’ and foot-rot.

In April 1545, John refused to pay 12s (shillings) per tod (28 lbs) for the wool of his neighbour Mr Belcher but by autumn he was thankful to have it for 13s. By 1546, wool was only to be bought for 14s per tod in Rutland and 16s per tod in Northampton. And so prices continued to rise, with Lady Brudenell getting 24s per tod for her wool in 1550.

Not surprisingly, as a wool merchant John soon went into wool production, clearing and enclosing as much of his land as he could. In 1550, he spent nearly forty pounds on buying in sheep from Essex and he soon owned 1,000 sheep. However, the local price of wool hit a high of 30s per tod in 1551 and fell thereafter, putting John’s venture at risk.

Not only that, his entry into local trading set him at odds with the regional wool staple (i.e. trading guild) based in Norwich which then also threatened his legitimate registration with the more powerful London Staple.

The Johnsons then, although an apparently happy and cheerful couple, were not exactly popular in Northamptonshire – what with encroaching on the arable land of the cottagers and offending local merchants and traders.

Moreover, they soon fell foul of the local clergy as John through his connections with Lord Cromwell and Sir Thomas Brudenell helped in 1548 to clean up the remaining chantry and church property that had been plundered after Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries.

And the lease that Sir Thomas had given John had effectively privatized the tithes payable on lands associated with St Leonard’s. Parson Saxby of Glapthorn was unsurprisingly miffed about this and a long and costly law suit ensued.

This led Sabine to write to John in Calais ‘desiring him with all her heart to make speed to come home considering how I am troubled with a Sir Priest and have great need of help’. In one letter she confided to John that ‘our priest is a very K, as our last was’ (no one seems sure exactly what that meant, but in all probability it wasn’t polite).

Sabine also much resented Saxby’s lawyer Nicholas Walker, dubbing him ‘the crafty child Nicol Walk-a-Knave’.

The villagers sided with the clergy and in 1548 there was ‘a kind of seditious uproar’ at mass at St Leonard’s. This coincided with the introduction of the new Book of Prayer and the switch of rites from the Catholic to an evangelical form.

So a change of faith was accompanied by some profit realization by those who gained in power and influence, with it being noted that John Broughton, John Desborough and Richard Trusse had been the ringleaders of a ‘great disturbance and disorder in Glapthorn’ and the suggestion being made that ‘the offenders should be committed to prison for a season, until they be taught to study and apply to quietness and godliness’.

I’ll leave it there for the time being. I had intended to review the economic and political milieu of the Johnsons’ lives – and its parallels to some of the problems that we face today but it is quite a big draught to distill and one that must wait for another day.

But it has been a delight to write about Sabine – even though her husband may have had more than an eye for the main chance (and quite possibly the odd Calais widow).


Incidentally, while I was searching in the period 2002-2008 for my own non-existent Johnson ancestors, I developed all kinds of lines of inquiry and interests in Johnson genealogies and family histories. The Tudor Johnsons of Calais and Glapthorn are by far the most interesting, at least as far as England is concerned

As I have already mentioned. The Johnsons’ business went into bankruptcy in 1553, and in 1555 John Johnson was committed to the Fleet Prison for debt. He was not released until 1557. Sabine was allowed to remain at Glapthorn with their children but after his release there was little money to support the family in the manner to which they had become accustomed.

With the help of William Cecil, Johnson obtained a post as a secretary to Lord Paget. This lasted until 1561 and during that time the family shared a house in Lombard Street with John’s widowed sister-in-law, Maria.

During this period, John became a consultant and lobbyist for the relocation of the English Wool Staple from the Continent, following the loss of Calais by Queen Mary I. He wrote a consulting report at this time with the catchy and for that era very short title of ‘Antwerp in England’.

In 1562, John and Sabine moved into the parsonage at West Wickham, Kent, renting it and the accompanying farm for £8 a year. Later they moved back to London. Sabine seems to have survived her husband who died around 1590.

It struck me on my visit that there might still be Johnsons in the Oundle area that were descended from John and Sabine and I asked about this, inter alia, at the town’s best butcher’s shop ‘Johnsons’ (it does fantastic Melton Mowbray type pork pies).

Nobody it seems had heard of the tenants of the Old Manor House and no one claimed descent.

But when I told Mr Johnson that I was from New Zealand and that I had an interest in family history, he jumped at the chance of employing even the most distant relative. Sadly, I had to admit that I had no skills whatsoever in boning and butchering and that for better or for worse I had to stick to my trade as an economist.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Wendy & Tarquin - Some reflections on the National Party's 2010 NZ Budget

INTRODUCING WENDY & TARQUIN (as portrayed initially in the Dominion Post)


Wendy is a nurse earning $50,000 per year – about the average wage. She pays $200 per week for her mortgage and manages to save $50 per week. She does not get any government income assistance.

Under the May Budget, she gets an Income Tax Cut of $29.42 per week but she pays an extra $11.73 per week in GST (i.e. Goods and Services Tax). Wendy is ostensibly $17.69 per week or $919.88 a year better off.


Tarquin is a consultant / executive earning $180,000 a year. He pays $500 a year for his mortgage and saves a further $500 per year. He spends the rest of his after-tax income on items that attract GST.

Under the May Budget, he gets an Income Tax Cut of $146.73 per week but he pays an extra $29.93 per week in GST. Tarquin is $116.80 per week or $6,073.60 a year better off.


Treasury expects inflation to be 5.9 percent in 2011, and 2.4 percent in 2012 and 2013. That is the consumer price level in 2013 will be 11 percent higher in 2013 than consumers face in 2010.

Treasury also expects Real GDP to grow by 3.2 percent in 2011, 3.1 per cent in 2012 and 2.9 percent in 2013. That is the economy as a whole will be 9.5 percent bigger in real terms in 2013 than it is in 2010. This growth will be distributed between earnings, rents and profits but it is reasonable to assume that earnings in the private sector (and in therefore in economic consultancies like Tarquin’s firm) will rise in line, by 9.5 percent.

By contrast, Wendy has been told that there is ‘no more money in the kitty’ and that public sector pay has been capped - she cannot therefore expect a salary raise over the next 3 years.

The overall results are that:

Wendy’s after-tax (income tax + GST) income will rise from $32,819 per year Pre-Budget to $33,739 per year Post-Budget in 2010. But inflation will reduce Wendy’s net after-tax income (in 2010 $) to $28,738 per year by 2013. She will be about 12.5 percent worse off in real terms

In contrast, Tarquin’s after-tax income will rise from $98,843 per year Pre-Budget to $104,916 per year Post-Budget in 2010. However, as inflation will only be partly offset by expected salary rises growth over the coming three years, Tarquin will see his after-tax income gradually fall. By 2013 he will be receiving slightly below what he was getting Pre-Budget in 2010 in net terms (though the difference in spending power of $367 is largely immaterial at his salary).


Wendy has only been a qualified nurse for 2 years. She received a BA in History and Politics from Otago and worked as a Librarian for 4 years. She was made redundant and switched to nursing. She went back to university in Wellington to get the mandatory Bachelor of Nursing qualification.

She is highly idealistic about nursing though shell-shocked by work-loads, seemingly arbitrary management practices and the increasingly micro-regulated and litigious professional environment.

Well aware of the roles that the welfare state and the benefits system play in the lives of marginalized groups, including children and old people, she is concerned about future cuts in health sector expenditure.

She has ageing parents. Her dad was a teacher and her mum was a nurse in Southland. The family has been there since the 1880s. She has talked with her parents about moving to Gore to help look after them as they become infirm – though a new man and rapidly unfolding events may well change that.

And she is worried that her mortgage costs are likely as the Reserve Bank will have to raise interest rates and expects that she will have to tighten her belt and shelve her superannuation saving plan.

She is also aware that rises in user charges are also planned for many government services – and that she will be asked to deal more and more with private sector providers who are purely profit-motivated and free of any responsibility for delivering public goods across all sections of society.

She sees and deals with dreadful things everyday but she is generally cheerful and smiles a lot.

Tarquin came to New Zealand as a child. His parents are from the elite in a Developing Country. They wanted a 'better life' for their children, unchallenged by being surrounded by visible poverty. They had accumulated money back home both from their aristocratic inheritances and their business ventures in collusion with government officials.

They were able to buy a large house in Fendalton and remain independently wealthy. They were indifferent about exactly which of the English-speaking countries they settled in – but were very happy to be accepted as business migrants to New Zealand.

He was privately educated at Christ’s College, Christchurch and received a Bachelor of Commerce degree from Lincoln University. He is also a Chartered Accountant.

After leaving university he worked for several years for a major financial services group in New York that has recently been implicated in some of the shenanigans associated with the global recession.

Asked about the Budget, Tarquin’s view is that it ‘was the most positive change in direction for a decade’.

Tarquin regards himself as a marketable commodity that commands a world price. He is well aware that he can secure high-paying jobs elsewhere in the English-speaking world and has already successfully worked in Australia as well as the USA.

He has little interest in the history and evolution of institutions in countries such as New Zealand or in the political balances that provide the relative social stability and freedom of expression that he and his parents take so much for granted.

He is unimpressed with the notion that voting provides a means of revealing the preferences of society as a whole, with respect to trade-offs between economic growth and social objectives. He believes that enlightened bureaucrats and advisors are much better at making public choices, as the velvet gloves of Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand – linked arm in arm with the business community.

He is endlessly affable, urbane and charming, though slightly condescending.

Despite the fact that he went to Lincoln University he has never been on a New Zealand farm. Nor has he ever visited poor suburbs of Christchurch like Aranui. However, he is well-liked by the Members of the NZ Round Table who are major clients of his employers.

He has already spent the extra money that he expects from the Budget on overseas travel, taking advantage of the high value of the exchange rate. Most of his $26,000 per year saving, he places abroad in a portfolio that mixes North American and Asian financial instruments.

He is currently a bit at sixes and sevens though as a result of a romantic entanglement.

Asked to contribute to the Health Policy course at Victoria University, he gave a series of lectures on the economics of morbidity. In the audience was a young nurse doing some of her mandatory annual training. She was chubby, blond, cheerful and down to earth. The rest as they say is ‘history’.

Having recently been offered an appointment by the World Bank, Tarquin has plucked up the courage to invite Wendy Connor to accompany him to Washington as his partner. She has said ‘yes’. There is only one problem – she will not be able to work in the USA.

Fortunately, her BA in History and Politics (for which she received a First) has come back into play and she has been accepted on the doctoral program at Georgetown University – she and Tarquin will go halves on the fees.

It’s not quite settled yet but she has been corresponding in advance with her supervisor. The working title for her PhD thesis is:

‘Growth, Distribution and Fairness in the Fiscal Process – with special reference to New Zealand’

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Then and Now - Flashback to Canberra in 1971

From the ANU Reporter (Australian National University Alumni Magazine) Winter 2010


Who said that news goes stale as soon as the ink hits the page? In this column we open the vault on past editions of ANU Reporter and compare the coverage with campus today.

In 1971 the Assistant Registrar thought that the apartments would foster interdisciplinary conversations, given that the residents would be studying in diverse areas. Yet for the head of the research students groups, the residence was more exciting as a development in self-determination.

ANU Reporter for 12 March 1971 tells of the opening of a new “postgraduate motel-type residence in Northbourne Avenue”, consisting of “100 single and eight double self-contained flats”. The building at the corner of north Canberra’s main thoroughfare and Barry Drive was given the working title of Northbourne Hall but would eventually be christened Graduate House.

The article reports that Assistant Registrar G E Dicker, thought the “new postgraduate hall would be an interesting place to live in” as “[t]here would be cross-fertilisation of academic interests and ideas because the residents would come from an extremely wide range of interests.”

The President of the Research Students’ Association, on the other hand, was promoting governance by the students, for the students. Mr M H Worthington “told the Reporter that postgraduate students were happy with the way the new hall had developed. He said the concept of a self-controlling residence had been achieved despite the wishes of some that it should have been a master-student establishment of the University House type.

Mr Worthington said it was desirable that a committee composed mainly of residents should decide on rules and then have responsibility for enforcing them.”

The original Graduate House was sold by the University in the late 1990s. Today, new private apartments stand at the site. The name Graduate House now applies to a postgraduate residence built downhill from University House and opened in 1998 – yet this is not the latest in postgraduate accommodation on campus. That honour belongs to the Laurus Wing, part of Ursula College that was opened for business at the start of semester one this year.

The Laurus Wing is Australia’s first university student residence built from modular apartments. The shipping container apartment units are purpose built in China, where their interiors are furnished ready for occupation. This allows for speedier construction, minimising impact on the University campus and hastening the addition of extra student accommodation spaces at ANU'.


It's kind of shocking and intriguing to suddenly see a photograph of yourself as you were 40 years ago. I am standing at the back with arms folded, in the black and white.

Sam (aged 7) could barely shift his head from watching Scooby-Doo on the TV but said 'it's you'. My wife Jane's comment was 'you have the same thing going on with the open mouth that you still do'.

The photo reminds me of my activist days as a student and I was one of the stirrers who got Graduate Hall built as 'a self-controlling residence had been achieved despite the wishes of some that it should have been a master-student establishment of the University House type'.

We also demonstrated against Springbok-Wallaby internationals; in favour of aboriginal rights; and against the Vietnam War. Inviting Peter Cook and Dudley Moore to speak was also regarded as pretty subversive.

My overall impression though is that the University authorities were tacitly tolerant of activism and even supportive of student involvement in governance in what was a very new institution that had been given an opportunity to do things differently.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Confessions of a New Zealand Blogger

April 10

Terrible events demand something of those of us who make a living from the written word. Previous posts feature my reflections on September 11th, the Bali bombing, the New Year’s Day tsunami, Hiroshima, Gallipoli, the Black Death and the death of Sir Peter Blake up the Amazon.

Today’s post marks the 40th anniversary of the Wahine Disaster. Everyone in New Zealand was caught up in the tragedy on that dark day in 1968. I was three years old living in Huntly and it rained. The very thought of it still makes me sad but the great thing about a blog is that I am able to share the feeling.

Already I feel better, it’s 3.14am and I think I’ll make myself a nice hot cup of tea. Previous posts feature my thoughts on the comparative merits of Choysa, Earl Grey and English Breakfast.

April 11

So I’m a midnight snack and notice that although the toaster speaks to my router, it doesn’t pick up a DHCP address – and without that, I can’t download the USB driver onto my Ethernet LAN port, even though the service is ADSL2+ offering up to 24Mbit/s downstream and 2 Mbit/s upstream.

Note: Eat cereal instead.

My feet are cold – must be a way round that, especially in barely weather tight flats like mine.

April 12

Notice that one of my feet is bigger than the other. It is things like this that make us human. Later I find and put on a pair of socks and this sets off a whole new train of thought.

Where do the odd socks go when they disappear? Watching the Fisher & Paykel advert on the TV, it seems that they have taken responsibility. It is nice to know that modern corporate New Zealand is able to stand up and apologise to the public – makes Toyota look cheap by comparison.

April 13

It’s 2.56am and I’ve been reading an interesting thread on the failings of the mainstream media. I agree with others who say there is too much trivia and almost no coverage of the things that really matter.

Here’s a good example. For a couple of years I was forced to use IE(4 & 5) until Firefox appeared. Since then, Windows Updates are the only things I’ve touched IE for. So how can I transfer the files from my OS9 Mac to OSX?

But I’ve just listened to the 3am news, and they didn’t even mention the issue.

Incidentally, what happened to all the red socks that were bought by people who supported Team New Zealand in the America’s Cup? There must be a trail of red lint somewhere.

April 15

So I’m looking at the back of a shampoo bottle. And thinking there’s bound to be something to blog about. But I just can’t see it. So I read it again and re-read it and re-read it till 6am – and then have a shower and wash my hair.

Wrote a post about Kiwi hero Sir Peter Blake, mentioning that he worked his unwashed socks off to win the America’s Cup:

‘Born in 1948, Blake grew up in a wooden bungalow in Bayswater on the northern flanks of Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour.

His father, Brian, had been a gunboat captain in the Royal Navy during WWII. Throughout their marriage, Brian and Joyce Blake owned gunboats and the Blake children grew up with the sea as their playground. They rarely wore socks or shoes.

During the 1995 America’s Cup series, Blake became famous for his lucky red socks. A gift from his wife, he wore the same pair throughout the entire 1995 America's Cup challenge.

This seems to give the lie to the Fisher & Paykel TV advert!

Governor General Catherine Tizard described the 1995 America's Cup win as New Zealand's proudest day since Sir Edmund Hillary's conquest of Everest in 1953, even though the latter didn’t use a boat.

After the 2000 success, Sir Peter Blake stood down from Team New Zealand.

Pete said:

‘To win, you have to believe you can do it. You have to be passionate about it. You have to really "want" the result. The hardest part of any big project is to begin. We have begun.’

After purchasing Antarctic Explorer from the society, he renamed it Seamaster - using it to lead expeditions to the Amazon during 2001.

On 5 December 2001, pirates shot and killed Blake while he was on an environmental exploration trip in South America, monitoring global warming and pollution for the United Nations.

The two-month expedition was anchored off Macapá, at the mouth of the Amazon delta, waiting to clear customs. At around 9pm, a group of six to eight armed, masked robbers boarded the Seamaster.

As one of the robbers held a gun to the head of a crewmember, Blake sprang from the cabin wielding a rifle used to ward off polar bears. He shot one of the assailants in the hand before the rifle malfunctioned.

The Sir Peter Blake Trust was established - with the support of the Blake family - in December 2003 with the aim of helping New Zealanders "to make a positive difference for the planet”.

Sir Peter Blake’s headstone carries the words: "I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and sky, and all I ask ..." from poet John Masefield's famous Sea Fever - describing a life inseparable from the sea (or river).

May 4

The saddest sentence in the blogosphere is ZERO COMMENTS. It has been two years since anyone commented on my Blog but in all that time I’ve contributed countless times to threads on other Blogs, particularly with respect to yachts, washing machines, polar bears, and socks of various hues.

So I’m looking at the back at the shampoo bottle and it’s speaking to my router – and I don’t altogether like what it is saying.

Seems to me it has also established a protocol with the F & P Smart Drive down at the Laundrette.

I have seen a few articles about using these Fisher & Paykel Smart Drive washing machine motors as a starting point to make a wind generator. Once modified it looks to be a great inexpensive means to make electricity.

Randy’s Workshop has some good documentation on how to modify these motors to be used as a generator.

[a collaborative effort with Steve Braunias]

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Tea Party, the American Constitution, the Jacobites & the Deep Homology of Memes


As reported by Carl Zimmer in the New York Times of 26th April 2010:

"Dr Edward M. Marcotte is looking for drugs that can kill tumours by stopping blood vessel growth, and he and his colleagues at the University of Texas at Austin recently found some good targets — five human genes that are essential for that growth. Now they’re hunting for drugs that can stop those genes from working.

Strangely, though, Dr. Marcotte did not discover the new genes in the human genome, nor in lab mice or even fruit flies. He and his colleagues found the genes in yeast.

“On the face of it, it’s just crazy,” Dr. Marcotte said. After all, these single-cell fungi don’t make blood vessels. They don’t even make blood. In yeast, it turns out, these five genes work together on a completely unrelated task: fixing cell walls.

Crazier still, Dr. Marcotte and his colleagues have discovered hundreds of other genes involved in human disorders by looking at distantly related species. They have found genes associated with deafness in plants, for example, and genes associated with breast cancer in nematode worms.

The scientists are taking advantage of a peculiar feature of our evolutionary history. In our distant, amoeba-like ancestors, clusters of genes were already forming to work together on building cell walls and on other very basic tasks essential to life. Many of those genes still work together in those same clusters, over a billion years later, but on different tasks in different organisms.

When scientists started sequencing DNA, they were able to find homologies between genes as well. From generation to generation, genes sometimes get accidentally copied. Each copy goes on to pick up unique mutations. But their sequence remains similar enough to reveal their shared ancestry.

A trait like an arm is encoded in many genes, which cooperate with one another to build it. Some genes produce proteins that physically join together to do a job. In other cases, a protein encoded by one gene is required to switch on other genes.

It turns out that clusters of these genes — sometimes called modules — tend to keep working together over the course of millions of years. But they get rewired along the way. They respond to new signals, and act to help build new traits.

In an influential 1997 paper, Sean B. Carroll of the University of Wisconsin, Neil Shubin of the University of Chicago and Cliff Tabin of Harvard Medical School coined a term for these borrowed modules: “Deep Homology.”

This set my mind spinning in its usual elliptical fashion on the possibility of a Deep Homology of Memes – in particular those inherited patterns of thought that manifest themselves in modern politics.

And I set myself to apply the concept to advancing my understanding of what, for nearly all non-Americans, is a virtually impenetrable, imponderable and incomprehensible issue – the appeal of the TEA Party.


In an article in the New York Times of 16th April, ‘Tea Party Supporters Doing Fine, but Angry Nonetheless’, Kate Zernike makes the following comments:

‘It makes sense that people would take to the streets to protest government spending and enormous deficits during the Great Recession, when they are feeling economic pain most acutely. But the Tea Party supporters now taking to the streets aren’t the ones feeling the pain.

In the results of the latest New York Times/CBS News poll, they are better educated and wealthier than the general public. They are just as likely to be employed, and more likely to describe their economic situation as very or fairly good.

Yet they are disproportionately pessimistic about the economy and the nation. A breathtaking 92 percent said the country is on the wrong track.

What accounts for this gap between how they are faring and how they feel the country is faring? History offers some lessons. The poll reveals a deep conviction among Tea Party supporters that the country is being run by people who do not share their values, for the benefit of people who are not like them.

That is a recurring theme of the previous half-century — conservatives in liberal eras declaring the imperative to “Take America Back.”

“The story they’re telling is that somehow the authentic, real America is being polluted”.

Rick Shenkman, a history professor at George Mason University, said in some respects, he is inclined to take the Tea Party supporters at their word, that they see themselves like the founding fathers in fighting an ideological battle.

Conversations with Tea Party supporters often wind their way into nostalgia. Even those out of work aren’t mourning the loss of a job so much as what they see as a loss of an era.

Perhaps, the most telling evidence that these avowed critics of big government are really mourning an America of the past is in their shifting attitude toward George W. Bush. Only a short time ago, he was reviled on the right for his spendthrift ways (his Medicare expansion), his federalizing of education standards (No Child Left Behind) and his creation of a vast new government agency, Homeland Security.

At rallies, Tea Party supporters often nod to President Bush’s role in creating the deficit. Yet in the poll, 57 percent of them view Mr. Bush favourably — about the same percentage in the general population that has an unfavourable view.

In the new world led by President Obama, Mr. Bush is apparently a figure these new populists can pine for.


Noting the common themes of indignation, nostalgia and reaction, I then started to play with the fanciful notion that there were links to the British Jacobites who pined, plotted and bungled for the return of the Stuart branch of the British royal family in the 18th century.

To my enormous surprise, this was not entirely off the wall as far as all the king’s horses and all the king’s men were concerned. Others had made tentative steps to identifying a Jacobite strand in American politics.

This strand apparently can be traced indirectly in the ideas of Thomas Jefferson who idealized the independent yeoman farmer as exemplar of republican virtues, distrusted cities and financiers, and favoured states' rights and a strictly limited federal government.

But as a political philosopher, Jefferson was also a man of the Enlightenment and as such was influenced by the ideas that emanated from contemporary Scotland – of which more later.

Daniel Larison writing about American Conservatism on the Eunomia website in 2006 under the heading ‘Onward Jeffersonian Jacobites’ makes much of the ideas of Henry St John, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke (16 September 1678 – 12 December 1751).

Bolingbroke was an English politician and philosopher who contributed substantially to the development of the concept of a loyal parliamentary opposition, even though his sympathies lay with the restoration of the Stuart dynasty.

As such, he can be seen as one of the founders of the English Conservative or Tory Party, though he himself used the term Country Party.

He instructed the members of the Country Party to "Wrest the power of government, if you can, out of the hands that employed it weakly and wickedly"

In the late 20th century, he was rediscovered by historians as a major influence on Voltaire, and on American thinkers, especially John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.

It seems that his works were widely read in the American colonies, which were generally loyal to the London government throughout the 1715 and 1745 Jacobite Rebellions in Britain but which also shared concerns about the commitment of Westminster to plurality and power sharing.

Taking up the story, Larison has the following to say:

"The Country opposition finds its first definite exponent in Bolingbroke, who had inherited the ideology of resistance of the Jacobites after the 1715 rising collapsed in defeat, and who drew on the thought of Harrington to support his critiques of the Hanoverian dynasty and Whig establishment in terms of the establishment’s “corruption” (in this time the term referred specifically to the Crown’s buying of men in Parliament and more general attempts to create a network of placemen and patronage that would provide the Court with trusty lackeys).

'For those loyal to these ideals of widespread landownership by middling landowners, the mixed constitution of monarchy, aristocracy and republican government, and the diffusion of power, 1688 was a black year that virtually signalled the permanent exile of men with Country sentiments from positions of influence within England.

'This will seem counterintuitive to those used to remembering 1688, if they remember it at all, as a blow against absolutism (when it was, in fact, nothing more than the empowerment of a Whig oligarchy and the end of any possibility of Catholic revival in Britain with the abdication of James II), but there should be no doubt that the victory of William III and the party of treason simply secured the concentration of power in a different set of hands far more likely to abuse it.

'The colonies, for their part, were naturally predisposed to embrace the Country view, as they were as far removed from the metropole and the Court as could be and saw any greater concentration of power in London as a threat to their own rights.

'First the Antifederalists and then the Jeffersonian Republicans took up the same themes in their hostility to consolidation, with the Jeffersonians particularly fearing the collusion of finance and government and the power of the “moneyed interest” during the clashes with the Federalists in the 1790s over the creation of the Reserve Bank.

'If we brought together the entire Country tradition under another label, my preference would be to call those who adhere to it Jeffersonian Jacobites, capturing at once a hostility to consolidation and the Whigs of the 17th and 18th centuries.

'Understanding the Constitution as a mechanism for restraining state power, as Dr. Wilson wrote of the Populists, is one of the things that all real conservatives share – no doctrines of implication and construction for us, thank you very much.

'This hostility to consolidation and centralising elites has nothing to do with “libertarianism” (which has no American representatives before the 20th century and is almost entirely a transplant from central Europe) and everything to do with loyalty to family, community and the states which have been the real countries of Americans for most of our history.

'Separately, those who belittle the revival of this American Populism and the Country tradition in this country mark themselves out as friends of the forces of consolidation and enemies of the decentralist, agrarian and conservative traditions of this country.

'That Bolingbroke and his Opposition appeared to later radicals with a radical face is neither surprising nor difficult to reconcile with his basic conservatism.

'Part of the ideological dynamic of his politics was “populist,” even though an early and most aristocratic populist manifestation, and inherent in populism is a force at once intensely radical and reactionary. It is always “the people,” be they yeoman farmers, urban small traders, or failing gentry who are being victimized by the small conspiratorial financial interests.

'Bolingbroke’s conservatism stands not only as the fons et origo of Country-Jeffersonian-Republican agrarian resistance to the new Court of the Federalists and Whigs, but perhaps even as the core of the entire Anglo-American populist tradition.

'I will go so far as to say that, as good as Burke can be, it is the Viscount Bolingbroke and not the Irish Whig who represents the real source of Anglo-American conservatism. It is especially to him that we should look as “the reactionary imperative” becomes ever more imperative.

'Bolingbroke’s reactionary radical combination of defending the people and their liberties against the usurpations of the government and the moneyed interest, the Opposition’s rejection of the standing army, and its aversion to war and foreign entanglements all anticipate many of the themes developed by American agrarians in their arguments and taken up again by their latter-day populist inheritors.

Look homewards, America – and look to Bolingbroke".

Not surprising perhaps then that although the ‘Jacobite Lament’ is monarchist through and through the best modern version has been done by a republican group, the Clancy brothers.


Well, with respect to the American Constitution, I guess we have to filter out some of the meme DNA that originated with the Scottish Enlightenment - entangled as this is with the romanticism of 'the true King across the water'.

Brian Skea [“Tension of the Opposites in the Cultural Self of Scotland: Polis versus Ethnos” (2006)] notes that:

‘The Jacobite rebellions of 1715 and 1745 were “nostalgic yearnings for a traditional social order in which everyone supposedly knew his or her ordained place and stayed in it”. A constantly changing and capitalist society offers opportunity and individual freedom, but is anxiety provoking and competitive, with not everyone succeeding'.

But the romantic side of the Scottish character was both the inherent subject of study by rationalist fellow Scots and a tendency that needed to be checked and balanced - with reason forging passion into an instrument of progress. Walter Scott put it this way: “The Scottish mind is made up of poetry and strong common sense, and the very strength of the latter gives perpetuity and luxuriance to the former.”

Skea draws heavily on Arthur Herman’s book, 'How the Scots Invented the Modern Mind' (2001), noting that:

The Scottish Enlightenment presented man as the product of history; that human character is constantly evolving, shaped by environmental forces. These forces are not arbitrary but follow discernible patterns.

Thus the study of man is ultimately a scientific study, and Herman considers the Scots as the true inventors of what we today call the social sciences: anthropology, ethnography, sociology, psychology, history and economics. For example, the first edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica was printed in Edinburgh in 1768.

Even before the American Revolutionary War many Scots had emigrated to the Colonies and Canada. They were soldiers, clergymen, government officials, physicians, teachers, farmers and merchants.

During the war some fought with the British, some with the rebels. One third of the signers of the Declaration were of Scottish or Ulster Scot extraction.

Drawing on Herman’s work Skea suggests that the Scots had a profound influence on the American Constitution, citing the writings of Frances Hutcheson, Lord Kames, David Hume, Adam Smith, Thomas Reid and Adam Ferguson.

The links that have been observed are as follows:

Francis Hutcheson postulated that all human beings are born with an innate moral sense, and not just as coerced by strict religious or political laws. “It is expressed through our feelings and emotions. The most important is love, particularly love for others, which is the starting point of all morality. Love also proves man is not inherently selfish. The happiness of others is also our happiness, such that self-interest and altruism do not have to be at odds.

This “pursuit of happiness” would show up in the American Declaration of Independence when Jefferson added it to his list of inalienable rights of man. Underlying such pursuit of happiness was the concept of the right to universal freedom, that the desire to be free survives, even in the face of the demands for cooperation with others in society.

Lord Kames looked at the need for laws from a historical perspective in his Sketches of the History of Man. He organized human history into four distinct stages:

• the hunting/fishing/gathering stage, (family units)
• the pastoral /nomadic stage (clans and tribes)
• the agricultural stage (cooperation of specialists, ploughman, carpenter, blacksmith etc, feudal hierarchy, landlord/tenant, master/slave), and
• commercial society (from village to market town, city and seaport, involving manufacturers, merchants, bankers and lawyers as well as trades people).

Kames therefore provided the basis for claiming that the common laws of England and its unwritten constitution were outdated and that the American Colonies needed a clear overarching constitutional document and codified laws as it became a commercial society.

David Hume stressed that learning by studying cause and effect develops into habitual modes of finding ways of meeting our needs. Self-interest, the desire for self-gratification is the most basic human passion, and is the basis for any system of morality, and any system of government. Instead of plundering ones neighbor, why not open a bank! The Golden Rule is: I won’t disturb your self-interest, if you won’t disturb mine.

In his Political Discourses (1752) David Hume wrote that “in all governments there is a perpetual intestine struggle, open or secret, between Authority and Liberty, and neither of them can ever absolutely prevail in the contest.” Liberty preserves individuals, while authority preserves society. Absolute authority as in a totalitarian state destroys society, while absolute individual freedom creates anarchy. Balance and mutual sacrifice is required.

In drawing up the Constitution Madison is held to have relied on the writings of David Hume above all others, in creating a system based on gridlock, checks and balances between the institutions of power, thus preserving liberty at the private level.

Adam Smith coined the term “fellow feeling”, a natural sense of identification with other human beings, as ‘society acts as a mirror to our inner self, by reflecting back to us the reactions of others, and becomes our guide to what is good and evil in the world’ and he was well aware of many of the problems that arise out of a narrow focus on self-improvement through material acquisition.

Of course he made a strong case for the natural creation of wealth through the development of economies of scale and specialization, guided by the invisible hand of the free market but this was ultimately dependent on the pursuit of enlightened liberalism by government. And he saw that a moral life is a matter of imagination such that a society that impoverished its citizenry would not be one that could rally effective citizens to its defence in times of threat.

Thomas Reid was associated with the philosophy of “common sense” which tells us that the more we know about that outside world, the better we can act on it, both as individuals and as members of a community. He coined the term “self-evident truths” which was taken up by Thomas Jefferson, and used in the Declaration.

Finally, Adam Ferguson stressed the need for free societies to develop a heroic spirit of honour, valour and self-sacrifice as an antidote to materialism, proposing in his ‘Essay on the History of Civil Society’ that “free people needed to keep and bear arms in order to defend their liberty”.


So the American constitution was a pure product of the Enlightenment?

Perhaps - but as we have seen, there is also some evidence that true blue British conservatism from the shires played a part in its parentage - fostered by the romanticism of the Jacobites.

Having sifted and centrifuged the memetic DNA that contributed to the American Constitution, we may be left with some that harks to a less enlightened, more rustic and Tory origin. Perhaps the Tea Party does draw some of its memes quite legitimately from this source - feeding its themes of indignation, nostalgia and reaction.

But as for Bolingbroke, the British verdict is that ‘his writings and career of make a far weaker impression upon posterity than they made on contemporaries. His genius and character were superficial; his abilities were exercised upon ephemeral objects, and not inspired by lasting or universal ideas.’

Let's leave it there.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Middling Sort - the Mallinsons of Calderdale


One of the fascinating and sometimes slightly disturbing dimensions of family history is the discovery of shared space fractured by time. This is the realization that one has visited, lived in or worked in a town or locality that has already been the setting for the lives of previously unrecognized ancestors.

Hence we find that we have walked in the lost imprint of ghostly but familiar past steps.

In the period 1984 to 1991, I worked as a University Lecturer at Bradford University in West Yorkshire. During this spell, I started a family and we made visited many of the towns and historic sites, as well as making frequent trips to the magnificent Yorkshire Dales.

I became acquainted of course with the Bronte Country and pondered on Victorian life in the mill towns – including of course the role of the sweeping but still grimy and grim landscapes in moulding character and culture.

On one occasion, I remember a visit to Halifax and its extraordinary Piece Hall built in 1779 (pictures above).

I did not know then that I have a real connection with the area and the evolution of the Industrial Revolution in West Yorkshire.

Recently, following my research into my family, I have discovered that I was walking in the steps of the Mallinson branch of my own family.

My father’s paternal great grandfathers were Walter Shorrocks born 1824 (married Ann Collinge) and William Wheelhouse Mallinson born 1831 (married Eliza Jackson). Both families were from what has been termed the ‘Middling Sort’ touched by the Industrial Revolution – that is they were Northerners who ran their own small businesses.

The Shorrocks’ were Brush Manufacturers in Salford, Lancashire and it appears that the Mallinsons were Wire Drawers and Wool Manufacturers in West Yorkshire.

The oldest Mallinson ancestor that can be traced is Joseph who must have been born around 1780 – he is recorded in a marriage certificate as having been a ‘Manufacturer’ in Rastrick but the 1841 and 1851 censuses suggest that he had close relatives who were Wire Drawers living in Hipperholme cum Brighouse.

Joseph’s son Daniel was born 25th November 1806, in Rastrick, West Yorkshire and he died 29 April 1861, at his home 34 John Street, Pendleton, Salford, Lancashire. It seems that he was a Book-keeper by profession. He married my great great grandmother Elizabeth Wheelhouse 19th June 1828 in St Bartholomews Church in Colne, Lancashire (Elizabeth’s father Stephen is recorded as a Corn Miller in Rochdale in the 1841 census).

William Wheelhouse Mallinson married Eliza Jackson in 1854 – she was the daughter of William Francis Jackson who was a stationer. Like his father, William was also a book-keeper. His only child Fanny Eliza Mallinson (my great grandmother) was born in Salford in 1856. She is recorded as the only child of William and Eliza Mallinson in the 1861 census and it appears that her father died when she was 12 years old. By the time of the 1871 census, her mother had remarried to a Henry Hargraves and she is recorded as his step-daughter.

There was obviously a synergy within families between the craftsmen and entrepreneurs on the one hand and the book-keepers and clerks on the other.

Within the businesses it was vital that there was someone who could handle the paper work associated with ordering inputs, invoicing sales and tallying returns. And the roles were often interchanged. For example, my great grandfather Robert Edwin Shorrocks is variously recorded in the censuses as a Foreman Brush Manufacturer, Book-keeper, and Brush Salesman.

But all of them felt themselves to be of the Middling Sort – that is from an independent lower middle class bound together by sayings such as ‘Love your enemies, trust but few – and always paddle your own canoe’ (this motto was prominently displayed on the broken earthenware pot that housed the pens and which sat on the window sill of the kitchen at the farm where I grew up).


The production of woven textiles was at the heart of the Calderdale economy from as early as the 12th Century. Apparently, in the south porch of the medieval Parish Church of St. John’s Halifax, there is a grave cover, dating from around 1150, depicting a pair of cropper’s shears, which provides the earliest surviving evidence of the textile industry in the area.

The poor quality of the topsoil and the cold and wet Calderdale climate created unfavourable conditions for arable farming but proved to be ideal land for sheep grazing and this stimulated the development of woollen textiles production as a supplementary economic activity to subsistence agriculture.

The evolution of a distinctive dual economy of farming and textiles on the uplands surrounding the valley of the river Calder was assisted by another geographical advantage, a proliferation of swift-flowing moorland streams, which provided abundant supplies of soft water for the dyeing and finishing of the woollen cloth.

In the centuries before the Industrial Revolution, cloth was produced by handloom weavers from hand-spun yarn in their own cottages. The production was labour intensive and involved the whole family. The process began with the shearing of the sheep. The raw wool was first picked clean and then greased to protect it during the abrasive carding and spinning operation.

Carding untangled the knotty mass of wool with special cards studded with iron pins which teased and fluffed out the fibres. The resulting fleecy slivers were then spun into yarn on the great wheel by the women and children – as many as half a dozen spinsters would be needed to keep one weaver working full time. When farm work allowed, the men would weave the yarn prepared by their families.

The cards required pins which were produced by Card Makers who were also often Wire Drawers, as the wire-making process could be adapted to producing combing pins.

At the time of the construction of the Piece Hall in Halifax in 1779, improvements to handloom technology, notably the invention of the Flying Shuttle in 1773 by John Kay, allowed a cloth maker to prepare and weave a ‘piece’ of kersey (a coarse, narrow woollen cloth – one of many different types woven) in time for the weekly market.

After the cloth had been woven, it was taken to a water-powered fulling mill, where it was pounded, scoured and textured by heavy wooden stocks, before being hung outdoors on tenterframes to dry.

The ‘piece’ of cloth represented a significant value and this led to a daunting penalty in the Halifax area for anyone caught stealing cloth from tenterframes. Thieves were subject to summary trial and execution on the Halifax Gibbet, a notorious mechanical guillotine, prompting the town’s inclusion in the well known ‘beggars litany’ – "From Hell, Hull and Halifax, may the good Lord deliver us".

Weavers in Halifax and the Calder valley specialized in making kersey which was a relatively coarse but hardwearing and inexpensive fabric that was always in high demand. Because it was so hard wearing, it was used extensively for military uniforms. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Napoleon’s armies were reputed to have been clad in kersey fabric produced in the Halifax region.

The importance of the domestic and export trade in textiles can hardly be overestimated. By 1700, the British textile industry accounted for 70% of all domestic exports and employed more people than any other industry. At that time, the estimated total value of the national production was £5 million, of which West Yorkshire production was put at £1million, i.e. 20%, significantly larger than any other area of the country.

By the early 1770’s, national production had doubled to £10 million, with growth being most marked in the West Riding of Yorkshire, increasing to £3.275 million, i.e. 33% of total manufacture. Within this, the Halifax area was the pre-eminent producing zone in the region, meaning that Halifax was at the pinnacle of this key element of the national economy. The vast majority of its citizens were engaged in the production and marketing of locally produced woven textiles.


Daniel Defoe writing in 1724 comments on the Halifax of his day as follows:

‘The houses and farms are scattered across this landscape, each farm having a few small enclosures . . . from two acres to six or seven acres each.

‘The air is fresh and sharp, but good and wholesome, not subject to any epidemical diseases to corrupt its salubrity; a true specimen (evidence) whereof may be received from the clear and sound complexion of the natives, together with their compact and well-built bodies.

'Their tempers and dispositions are debonnair and ingenious, generally inclined to good manners and hospitality, giving civil and respectful reception not only to strangers, but unto all others with whom they have occasion to converse.

'On Saturday mornings merchants from Leeds or their factors do buy great quantities of white dressed kersies, which they transport to Hamburg and Holland. Furthermore, for the more effectual providing of the cloth trade, there are in this town three market days, chiefly for corn and wool (that is to say, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays).

There, tradesmen may be plentifully furnished, both to manage their callings and to make provision for their families), at which times very great returns are made, which may sufficiently discover the vastness of the cloth trade, which hath here been managed, and is still carried on, through the blessing of God upon men's honest endeavours.

'Nothing remains more worthy of the reader's consideration than a short description of the benefit which accrues to the town by the small river which skirts it at the east end. This river hath its current from two small rivulets, which unite at a place called Lee-Brigg, about a quarter of a mile from the town, and run in a semicircle stream from that place to the river Calder, which may contain in length not above four miles.

'During which space there is erected or the use and service of the town, in the carrying on of their trade, twenty-four mills all of them constantly carried about by the strength of the stream.

'Namely, eight fulling mills to prepare raw cloth for the dressers; two woollen mills for grinding all sorts of wood that is used by dyers, whose trade it is to dye both wool and cloth; one paper mill, chiefly employed in making such paper as is proper and useful to cloth- workers; one shear-grinder's forge, managed by an accomplished workman, for making and grinding of shears for the use of the cloth-dressers; and one mill for the friezing of cloth, which is so well performed that few come nigh it for fineness and firmness of work.

Defoe also illustrates the complex patterns of trade that developed within England as West Yorkshire’s successful specialization in exports stimulated domestic demand:

'Their corn comes up in great quantities out of Lincoln, Nottingham, and the East Riding; their black cattle and horses from the North Riding; their sheep and mutton from the adjoining counties every way; their butter from the East and North Riding; their cheese out of Cheshire and Warwickshire; more black cattle also from Lancashire; and here the breeders, the feeders, the farmers, and country people find money flowing in plenty from manufactures and commerce.

Thus this one trading, manufacturing part of the country supports all the counties round it, and numbers of people settle here "as bees about a hive."


The story of the Piece Hall is told as follows by local historians:

‘At the close of the first American war, when trade again began to advance rapidly, the old piece hall of Halifax became insufficient for the wants of the town, and about the year 1780-5 a much larger and handsomer piece hall was erected. It was built of free-stone, stood in the lower part of the town, and was erected at a cost of £12,000.

This hall is a large quadrangle, occupying the space of 10,000 square yards. It has a rustic basement story, and above that two other stories fronted with colonnades, within which were spacious walks leading to arched rooms, where the goods of the respective manufacturers in the unfinished state were deposited, and exhibited for sale to the merchants every Saturday, from ten to twelve o'clock.

This building was considered to unite elegance, convenience, and security. It contains 315 separate rooms, and has the merit of being proof both against fire and thieves’.

‘When it was built, the Piece Hall was a highly visible statement of the great wealth, pride and ambition of the cloth manufacturers. Although built for trade, it also embodied the most cultured sensitivities of the Enlightenment; these bluff northern manufacturers deliberately chose a design for their building which adapted the neo-classical orders of architecture derived originally from the Romans, illustrating their fascinating mix of purpose and idealism’.


Taking up the story:

‘About the beginning of the nineteenth century the steam-engine, and a great variety of new and improved machines for spinning and weaving cloth, began to be introduced in this part of the country. From the abundance of water-power, the introduction of steam was less rapid here than in some other places.

Fortunately for Halifax, it possessed abundant supplies of coal as well as of water, and gradually the steam-engine established itself here as the rival, the ally, or the successor of the water-mill.

The check given to the industry of Halifax by the change in the motive power soon passed away, and in the year 1821 the population of the town, including those parts of it which extend into the townships of Northowram and Southowram, had risen to 14,064 persons, of whom 12,628 were in the township of Halifax.

At that time, 1821, the population of the wider parish of Halifax amounted to 93,050 persons, having considerably more than doubled during the sixty years which had elapsed from the commencement of the reign of King George III in 1760, when it amounted in round numbers to 40,000 persons.

It is also central that many of the inhabitants were Dissenters, with Quakers being a prominent group in the 17th century and Methodists being important in the 18th century. Both of these churches emphasized self-reliance and modest living.

They also put great store on education - and the need to provide small businesses with family members who could keep the books.

So the immense wealth generated by the wool industry in the 17th and 18th centuries was built to no small degree on the frugality and thrift shown by the inhabitants of West Yorkshire.

From the trade grew complex systems of consignment ordering and consolidation and payment. London provided the apex of these chains of advances and payments as it was well-placed to store and ship orders to Europe and the American Colonies (receiving inward movements by canal and pack-horse).

At the same time, the financial surpluses generated by the wool trade fuelled the rise of modern banking and accounting. As the industry moved from water power to coal powered textile mills, economies of scale became attractive and overdraft facilities were provided to fund innovation and larger plants. Cheque accounts were also developed to facilitate financial settlements.

At the local level, the habit of saving was reinforced by the development of building societies (e.g. Halifax, Bradford and Bingley, and Leeds) to provide revolving funds for the purchase and construction of new houses for members.

Cooperative societies were also formed to pass on economies of scale in the purchase of household necessities (e.g. the Rochdale Pioneers) and simple saving accounts (e.g. the Penny Bank) were also provided.


John Smail has analyzed the complex social and economic interrelationships that underpinned development. These include:

• A self-reinforcing history of innovation and willingness to adopt new manufacturing practices
• The emergence of a business-friendly and business-like popular culture
• The development of a complementary money market
• The emergence of more demanding patterns of consumption that percolated down from the elite.

Smail also draws attention to what may be termed investments in 'Social Capital':

‘One of the most striking features of Halifax's history in the decades after 1750 is the host of associations that were formed to accomplish specific projects - to reorganize a workhouse, build a canal, start a library.

As John Brewer has noted, such voluntary associations were a new political form in the eighteenth century, and they enabled provincial merchants, tradesmen, and professionals "to exercise collectively an influence in the community far beyond that conferred by their individual incomes."

They were therefore a form particularly suited to the needs of the commercial and professional elites in places such as Halifax. Since English society denied this group structured opportunities to exercise their influence and meaningful acknowledgment of their social prestige, they had to create their own institutions and these institutions helped to create class identity’.

Smail goes on to sketch the widening chasm which separated the widespread Middling Sort of the 17th century (the large and loosely defined congeries of independent rural artisans and small landholders) from the true upper Middle Class that developed as large-scale manufacturing gradually reduced the descendants of most of the original families to the status of wage labourers working for large-scale textile firms.

Well in a of course, there is some truth in this interpretation even though it has a somewhat Marxist ring.

But there is another reality that comes through family history. That is that the thrift, enterprise and self-sufficiency of the 17th century artisans formed a foundation for some of the best strands in modern society – in terms of both their notions of what can be achieved by self-help and their commitments to building a civil society.

And these ideas also live on in families that pay their way, and in middle-way politics where caring about community is balanced with caring about cost.


From 1812-13 much of the West Riding was the scene of riots, murder and pitched battles as bands of armed Luddites went on the rampage. In Yorkshire the majority of Luddites were croppers, tough and highly skilled men who earned good wages cropping and finishing wool using heavy hand-held shears.

In a time of economic depression and food shortages, the livelihoods of the croppers were threatened by the invention of new shearing machines that made their once-prized skills obsolete.

In February 1812 unemployed croppers began to hold secret meetings and form societies to plan attacks on the hated frames. The meetings were held at the St Crispin Inn, Halifax with the connivance of the landlord John Baines, who hoped to turn the local discontent into a revolution that would topple the monarchy.

New recruits were obliged to swear an oath of secrecy known as ‘twisting in’, and throughout February, March and April Luddite disturbances became increasingly frequent. Mills and workshops all over the West Riding were attacked, and the hapless owners had to stand aside as their new frames were destroyed by gangs of men armed with sledgehammers and crowbars.

In April a gathering of Luddites led by a cropper named George Mellor descended upon Rawfold’s Mill in the Spen Valley, but were driven off by musket fire. Several Luddites were wounded, two later dying from their injuries, and the defeat brought about a change in Luddite strategy.

Up until now they had confined themselves to attacking the frames and leaving the owners unmolested, but the hard-nosed Mellor gave his followers new orders: ‘Leave the machines but shoot the masters’.

This led to the murder of a mill owner named William Horsfall, who had unwisely denounced the Luddites as cowards and sworn that he would ride up to his breeches in their blood. On the afternoon of 12th April Mellor and his cronies William Thorpe, Thomas Smith and Benjamin Walker lay in wait for their man in some woodland on Crosland Moor. When Horsfall rode by on his way home from Huddersfield market the gang burst out of cover and shot him dead.

The murder of Horsfall changed the character of the Luddite disturbances, and from then on they became increasingly violent. Following the assassination of the Prime Minister, Spencer Percival, at Westminster in May a new government was formed that took a merciless attitude towards civil disorder. Troops were poured into West Yorkshire and by the summer of 1812 over a thousand red-coated soldiers were stationed in the area.

George Mellor and his gang were soon captured and subjected to a show trial at York. Though there was little doubt that Mellor was guilty, his case became notorious for the corrupt methods used against him. The end came when one of the gang, Benjamin Walker, turned king’s evidence and supplied damning evidence against the rest of the gang. Thirty-six hours after conviction (which meant no time for an appeal) he, Thorpe and Smith were executed before a silent crowd.

Sixty-three other Luddites were tried before the same Commission and another fourteen executed. Others including the republican host of the Crispin Inn, John Baines, were sentenced to be transported to the colonies, and there were only seven acquittals.

The heavy sentences demonstrated that the Luddites were considered to be more than mere criminals, and that the government was determined to crush the threat they posed to the established order - as was done with the Peterloo Massacre of Chartist demonstrators in Manchester in 1819 and the containment of the agrarian Swing Riots that followed in the southern and midland counties of England in 1830.

But the ideals of these movements lived on in accumulating demands for the extension of the voting franchise and the foundation of modern labour unionism.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Barca face tough choices

Their Champions League dreams over, Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola will need to pick his players up quickly or risk seeing their hopes of Primera Division glory suffer a major setback as well as the Catalan giants make the tricky trip to Villarreal this weekend.

Barca won all six trophies available to them last year but they are in danger of ending 2010 empty-handed unless they can put last night's disappointing Champions League semi-final exit to Inter Milan behind them.

Currently, the reigning champions are a point ahead of Real Madrid at the top of the Primera Division standings with four games remaining.

However, Barca look to have the much trickier task this weekend as, while Madrid look to make it 17 home wins out of 18 when they host mid-table Osasuna.

Guardiola's men have to go to improving Villarreal. Villarreal, who have lost just twice at home this season, have won five of their last six matches to climb up to sixth in the standings.

Barca winger Pedro Rodriguez said following his side's European exit: "We have to raise our heads, continue forward, because there is still the league.

Wellington - What's first: Lively or Liveable?

There are a growing number of decisions by Wellington City Council that expose a rift between encouraging outside visitors to the benefit of the businesses and meeting the needs of local residents in a caring and cost-effective way.

Take the brand shift from the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary to ‘Zealandia’ as a case in point. What started as a wholly laudable attempt to create an urban refuge for native wildlife, to the benefit of both birds and residents has become transformed into an ‘attraction’ to lure high-spending outside visitors - accompanied by a $10 million interest free loan funded by ratepayers and a rise in fees from $28 for adults, $14 for children and $70 for family passes.

And the ongoing shift in the rates burden from commercial to residential rate payers makes it much more difficult to justify for shifting spending away from community facilities to ‘attractions’. In the coming year, homeowners are likely to see a 6.5% real increase in their rates while rates in the commercial sector will be close to zero.

Equity alone suggests that gold-plating costs should lie primarily with those that they benefit in the business sector - and that greater care in spending is due to homeowners who are being co-opted as funders and guarantors.

Not only that, the market for ‘attractions’ is limited and often a matter of beggar-thy-neighbour politics that only benefits a limited number of local businessmen. Wellington steals the Wearable Arts Show from Nelson; Auckland tries to steal the Rugby Sevens from Wellington. And so it goes on, there is no overall gain – just a reallocation of spending.

As for international visitors, there is increasing evidence that events like the South African Soccer World Cup and the forthcoming London Olympics put frightening amounts of public money at risk for very uncertain and sporadic returns. In fact one recent study has cast doubt on the possibility of any net benefits from these kinds of shenanigans in most cases, particularly in a world economy with tightening travel budgets.

So let our outside visitors share what we can reasonably afford to provide for our residents – investments that reflect community values and that meet local needs and aspirations. After all, this is probably what most outside visitors are seeking – the possibility of sharing something local, real and thoroughly Kiwi – which of course also includes Zealandia’s native birds.

Also give residents a break from funding big ticket ‘attractions’. It is time in the current economic climate to close off the wish-list for the while in favour of making sure that our local communities can work together and thrive. Let’s park any talk of a $26 million Marine Education Centre or the current Mayor's favourite an Ice Rink, until we can properly fund libraries and integrated public transport.

And please, we don’t need a statue or work of art in every nook on the Waterfront when communities like Berhampore are desperate for Council assistance in tidying up leaky and derelict buildings that tear the heart out of local enterprise and community self-confidence.