Merchant Adventurers

From Chesterwiki
Jump to navigationJump to search

(still work in progress)

  • "Krieg ist die Fortsetzung des Geschäfts mit anderen Mitteln" ("War is the forwarding of business with other means" - after Clausewitz)

On the front of Bishop Lloyd's House in Watergate Street Chester can be seen a coat of arms relating to the Merchant Adventurers of Chester. This is their story from 1554 to 1639 and explores their possible connection with the "East India Company", an organisation which helped to paint large parts of the map of the world red. Much of this article covers the period around the Tudor/Stuart transition when a major economic shift began to take place from the control of trade being in the hands of local individuals to the establishment of "multi-national" companies which were jointly financed by large groups of people. For more on these two periods see Tudor Chester and Stuart Chester.

Bishop Lloyd's House dates from the middle of the Age of Discovery or the Age of Exploration, part of the early modern period and largely overlapping with the Age of Sail, a period from approximately the 15th century to the 17th century, during which seafarers from a number of European countries explored, colonized, and conquered regions across the globe. The extensive overseas exploration, particularly the European colonisation of the Americas, with the Spanish and Portuguese at the forefront, later joined by the Dutch, English, and French, marked an increased adoption of colonialism as a government policy in several European states.

In 1571 the people of Liverpool sent a memorial to Queen Elizabeth I, praying relief from a subsidy which they thought themselves unable to bear, wherein they styled themselves "her majesty's poor decayed town of Liverpool". Some time towards the close of this reign, Henry Stanley, 4th Earl of Derby, on his way to the Isle of Man, stayed at his house. By the end of the sixteenth century, Liverpool began to be able to take advantage of economic revival and the problems of the River Dee to win trade, mainly from Chester, to Ireland, the Isle of Man and elsewhere. In 1626, King Charles I gave Liverpool a new and improved charter. Chester's port declined with most of the ships going from the colonies now going to Liverpool, although it was still the major port of passenger embarkation for Ireland until the early 19th century. A new port for Chester was established on the Wirral at Parkgate, but this also fell out of use.

In York, the Merchant Adventurers' Hall is a unique building in the heart of the city. The Merchant Adventurers' Hall on Fossgate was largely built between 1357 and 1368 on the site of a Norman mansion as the communal meeting hall, chapel and, after 1371, undercroft hospital of the Fraternity of the Holy Trinity. It was granted the status of the Company of Merchant Adventurers of the City of York by Queen Elizabeth I in 1581. The principal parts of the building are the Great Hall, the chapel and the undercroft. The Great Hall is a timber-framed structure and was built over a five-year period. It is the largest timber-framed building in the UK still standing and used for its original purpose. The Hall belongs to and is still regularly used by The Company of Merchant Adventurers of the City of York, who, although no longer dedicated to mercantile activities are prominent in York and still exist as a charitable membership group. Bishop Lloyd's House (or Palace) in Chester has been proposed as the local equivalent.

Bishop Lloyd's House is named after Bishop George Lloyd (1560– 1 August 1615). He was born at Llanelian-yn-Rhos, near the present day Colwyn Bay. His association with Chester probably began when, between June 1575 and September 1579, he was a King’s Scholar at Chester Cathedral. It has been suggested that his brother, the increasingly influential David Lloyd, could have organised this education as he was living in Chester at the time. George attended Jesus College, Cambridge from 1579 to 1582, gaining his degree, and his MA in 1586. In 1596 he gained his DD. He was thirty-six years old and became Divinity Lecturer at Chester Cathedral. The Divinity Lecturer was bound to give two prelections weekly, for which he received a stipend of £40. He was appointed Rector of Heswall in 1597 and appears to have lived there.

George Lloyd was consecrated as Bishop of Sodor and Man in late 1599 (Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Elizabeth, 1598-1601 p. 360) being presented 18 December by William Stanley, 6th earl of Derby. Royal assent by Queen Elizabeth is said to have been signified to the archbishop of York (Matthew Hutton) on 23rd December 1600. Chester and Man were both in the provence of York since an Act of 1541. The State papers make no mention of the Earl’s nomination, and are so worded as to convey the impression that the Queen herself presented Lloyd to the Bishopric. If this were the case, it looks like a decided encroachment on the Earl’s rights, as the original grant of the island to Sir John Stanley conveys the patronage of the See absolutely.

"Bishop Lloyd's House" in Watergate Street (2014) after "restoration" by Lockwood.

William Stanley (see Shakespeare and Chester) was educated at St John's College, Oxford. In 1582 he travelled to the continent to study in university towns in France and may also have attended Henry of Navarre's academy at Château de Nérac. In 1585 he returned home but was once more sent to Paris as part of an embassy to Henry III of France. He then remained on the continent for a further three years of personal travels before returning home once more. After the death of his father in 1593, William as the second son was bequeathed a number of Manors and Lordships while his elder brother Ferdinando Stanley, 5th Earl of Derby, inherited the Earldom and its estates. From his marriage to Alice Spencer, Ferdinando had his eldest daughter, Anne Stanley, Countess of Castlehaven, in 1580. Henry VIII's will would have made her queen in 1603 as heiress of Henry's younger sister Mary Tudor (Queen of France); Elizabeth was actually succeeded by James VI of Scotland, the heir of Henry's older sister, Margaret Tudor. Ferdinando died (probably murdered) in April 1594, leaving three daughters but no sons.

Like most of his predecessors, Lloyd rarely visited the Isle of Man and there is only one recorded visit in 1603 where he attended a Consistory Court where several offenders against the "Spiritual Laws of the Isle of Man" were punished. The pastoral oversight of the See of Man was no enviable post in the 17th century, it was spoken of as "a place of banishment"; "a melancholy retreat"; "a Patmos"; and "a disconsolate residence." The episcopal income, moreover, was miserably inadequate.

In 1605 he exchanged the seat of Sodor and Man for that of Chester. Between these dates of 1601 and 1605 only, he was entitled to use the arms which appear on Bishop Lloyds house. During his tenure as Bishop of Chester, he reversed the anti-Puritan policies of his predecessor Richard Vaughan, who had by then become Bishop of London. Lloyd was succeed in Man by John Phillips. Lloyd died 1st August 1615. However it is worh mentioning one local history story about Phillips and a Manx Witch Trial. 15th Cent. Ranulf Higden of the Polychronicon had written:

  • "in the Ilonde of Mann is sortilege and witchcraft used, for women there sell to shipmen wynde as it were closed under htree knotte of threde, so that the more wynde he would have the more knottes he must undo"

Phillips tried the case of Margaret Inequane (or Ine Quay) whose precise crime is unknown but was related to withchcraft. After being found guilty in the ecclesiastical court by a jury of six drawn from the parishes affected by their alleged practices they were, according to law, handed over to the temporal power by the Bishop’s chief executive officer, the General Sumner. When the jury found the accused guilty Bishop Phillip, who occupied a place among the judges, left the Court to avoid being involved in the shedding of blood. After the departure of the Bishop sentence was pronounced:

  • "That she be brought by the Coroner of Glen Faba to the place of execution, there to be burned till life depart from her body."

The burnings of 1617 mark the only time, in the Isle of Man, when the extreme penalty was exacted there for sorcery. And was the subject of the film "Solace in Wicca".

The fact that the plaque bears the arms of the Bishop of Sodor and Man admits an argument which allows it to be dated to the period 1601-1605. The dating could be the subject of considerable debate. It cannot be before he was made Bishop. Were it later, Lloyd would have displayed the arms of the Bishopric of Chester, which was a more important post. There is a second plaque on the front of Bishop Lloyds House which is concerned with James I, who came to the English throne in March 1603. If the two plaques date from the same time then they must have been installed Mid 1603 to 1605 in the very first years of James' rule in England. But the problem with this interpretation is that the second plaque appears to refer to the Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester, which dates it after Henry Frederick became Prince and Earl. With his father's accession to the throne of England in 1603, Henry at once became Duke of Cornwall. In 1610 he was further invested as Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester, thus for the first time uniting the six automatic and two traditional Scottish and English titles held by heirs-apparent to the two thrones. As Henry Frederick died of typhoid on 6th November 1612 this would appear to put the plaque between his investiture in 1610 and his death in 1612. As noted above, Bishop Lloyd lived until 1615.

This article looks at the Merchant Adventures in general and in particular at their association with three instances of royal succession and their relation to the economy of Chester. These are roughly 100 years apart and are:

  • The transition from Richard II to Henry IV (c 1400): the late 13th and early 14th century probably saw the peak of the city's prosperity in the Middle Ages. Henry was a usurper with a "legal" claim to the throne so weak that that it is almost ridiculous that it should be proposed. His real claim to the throne was that he gained it "by conquest", or as it might have been put "Divine Right". Chester will play a significant role in the downfall of Richard.
  • The succession from Richard III to Henry VII (c 1500): for much of the period the city was far from prosperous, and occasionally, as in the 1450s, in considerable decay. The citizens claimed in 1484 that it was 'wholly destroyed' because of the silting of the harbour, and in 1486 that it was 'thoroughly ruined . . . nearly one quarter destroyed' because access for shipping had been impossible for 200 years and Welsh traders avoided it because of high tolls. By the 1490s, however, there were signs of revival and in the early 16th century Chester prospered. Chester will play an indirect role through it's association with the Stanley's, and also with Arthur Tudor the new Earl of Chester.
  • The series of succession up to and including James I (c1600); Chester's economy grew steadily from 1550 to c. 1600, not least because in the early 1580s and later 1590s the passage of troops bound for Ireland created more demand for goods and services. Recovery from the plagues of 1603-5 was hampered by national economic difficulties and by recurrent, though limited, local epidemics, but from the mid 1620s prosperity returned. Bishop Lloyd and his house in Chester are involved with this.

First however, a brief look at the history of the River Dee which was so vital to the trade of Chester. As always, this is not intended to elevate Chester to an importance which it does not have, but to illustrate the general trends of history with reference to the familiar, bearing in mind that there may be unique local factors that apply. The "failure" of the port of Chester is one such factor but many other medieval ports declined and were replaced by new anchorages. Factors especially prevalent in Chester include its relative geographical isolation as regards land commerce, its history as a Palatinate/Earldom with significant elements of independence especially from Parliament, and at times the lack of a powerful local Earl.

The Ruin of the River

Roman Chester, like around Caerleon and at Roman York was a Roman legionary fortress as opposed to a city. All three of these were located some distance from the sea but were connected to it by river and estuarine links. Before the advent of canals and later railways, Road Transport was restricted to routes which were often in poor condition. As they moved along these highways, travellers would meet packhorses, carts,and wagons bearing to the towns the produce of the manors or returning sometimes empty or with goods purchased in the market. Drovers might use separate routes to shift cattle and sheep. Some settlements also made use of water transport. Inland rivers and maritime routes, particularly coastal routes, were important. There was a ratio in costs per ton-mile from land transport to river transport to sea transport of roughly 8:4:1. That is, sending goods by land cost twice as much per unit weight per mile than sending it by inland waterways, and eight more times than sending it by coastal or "narrow seas" shipping. It cost more to transport wine 50 miles on land than to send it nearly 1,000 miles from Bordeaux to Chester. There are several reasons for this: costs for transporting goods over roads included feeding hungry animals; they had to be relieved of their loads each evening and reloaded in the morning; fewer men were needed on boats and per weight of cargo they were cheaper to run than a cart.

The Romans had found Chester to have an adequate natural harbour at the Roodee. This could be used to bring in wine, grain and other supplies to Roman Chester. The harbour was still important long after the Romans departed with Æthelflæd establishing the City as a "Burh"-type settlement, with a harbour and a mint. Edgar the Pacific (c943-975) was noted for bringing his fleet there and taking a boat trip on the River Dee. The city was important in resistance following the Norman Invasion. About the year 1171 Henry II granted permission to the Burgesses of Chester to buy and sell at Dublin:

A section of the Braun and Hogenberg map of 1581 showing the port facilities. North of the Watertower a sizable ship is moored at the "Portpool". Whereas smaller vessels are shown tied-up close to the Watergate.
  • "having and observing the same customs which they observed in the time of King Henry my grandfather."

This not only suggests an earlier charter from the time of Henry I, but shows that there existed a considerable trade, even at this early period, between the two ports. The "Irish Trade" had in fact probably been continuous through the "Dark Ages", as is shown by the spread of coins minted at Chester.

Ranulf de Blondeville (Earl 1181-1232) granted:

  • "to the men of Chester of my domain, and their heirs, that no one may buy or sell any kind of merchandise, which shall come to the city of Chester by sea or by land, but them or their heirs, or by their favour, save at the fairs appointed."

These fairs were appointed to be held at the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, June 24th, and the Feast of St. Michael, September 29th. The same Earl de Blondeville granted by charter:

  • "to all my citizens of Chester their Gild Merchant with all the liberties and free customs which they have ever had, better and more freely and more quietly in the times of my ancestors, in the aforesaid Gild"

By the 1230s when Ranulf de Blondeville died Chester was a prosperous trading centre with a market of regional importance, two fairs, and a port. Its economy continued to expand, stimulated by royal interest and its role as a supply centre for royal enterprises in Wales, especially those of Edward I, which more than compensated the economy for the resultant temporary interruptions to the Welsh trade. The late 13th and early 14th century (Edward I and II) probably saw the peak of the city's relative prosperity in the Middle Ages.

Some relatively modern historians have also argued that the port of Chester was ruined or "manifestly decayed" by 1600. In fact Chester's trade during the 16th century was larger than ever before. In the first half of the century trade with Ireland followed a modestly rising trend while trade with both France and Spain expanded significantly to a peak in the 1530s. Following a boom in the early 1580s Chester's continental trade flagged somewhat because of the difficult conditions created by the outbreak of the Anglo-Spanish conflict in 1585. To offset this, however, the volume of goods shipped to Ireland from Chester continued to expand during the last decade or so of Elizabeth's reign.


The idea that the Port of Chester then sufferred a decline due to silting is a common one in the histories of Chester and was established as a pattern for the course of history by the first "modern historians" of Chester. Hemingway (Vol II, page 301) records the following as regards the port of Chester:

  • That the Dee was navigable for vessels of great burden from the sea up to Chester in very ancient times is beyond all doubt and it is equally certain that early in the 14th century the navigation had been materially impeded by the shifting of the sands. The first notice we have of the latter circumstance is contained in letters patent of Richard II who releaseth to the citizens £73 10s 8d parcel of the £100 for the fee farm reserved by the charter of Edward I which the city was in arrears in which also is assigned as the reason of this indulgence the ruinous estate of the city and of the haven. Henry VI in confirming all the former charters of the city recites what great concourse in times past as well by strangers as others has been made with merchandise into this city by reason of the goodness of the port thereof and also what great trading for victuals into and out of Wales to the great profit of the city and then shows how the same port of Chester was lamentably decayed by reason of the abundance of sands which had choaked the creek and for these considerations released to the city £10 of the fee farm reserved by Edward I.

Frequently-cited historical records show that the people of Chester had long been compaining about the state of the River Dee. In the style of Medieval petitioners they would undoubtedly exaggerated their woes. Charters which authorised reduction in taxes in response to this must have relied of the information provided in petitions from the city. The first of these charters, after a preamble which recalls that in 1300, when the fee-farm was first granted, and that "there was a good harbour to the said city", proceeds to elaborate on the difficulties experienced in 1445:

  • "And now it is so, and for forty years now last past it has been, that the great flow of water at the said port by which our said merchants had a course and return with their ships and merchandise to our said city is taken away from the harbour by the wreck of sea-sand so that the said harbour is wholly destroyed and cannot be recovered: so that no merchant ship can approach within twelve miles and more of the said city, and thus no merchant ship belongs nor has belonged to our said city, but they in default of the aforesaid harbour are wholly destroyed and wasted, to the great detriment, desolation and impoverishment of our said city and citizens."

The charter of 1486 implies an even greater disaster, now claiming two hundred years of ruin:

  • "And afterwards the channel of the same port became and is at present obstructed as much by the vehement influx of sand and silting up of gravel that merchants with their ships were by no means able to reach the aforesaid city for the space of twelve miles for two hundred years now last passed, but betake themselves to other ports and places in the same country where they may more easily unload their merchandise and re-load. And the walls of the same city have fallen in decay and ruin. Besides, the aforesaid city, which of old had been wont to be inhabited fully by merchants and others rich artificers, is so thorougly ruined and prostrated to the ground that nearly one fourth part of the same city at present is destroyed and desolate."

There have been many explanations put forward as to why the port "failed". It was at times believed by many that the weir at Chester was in part responsible for reducing the tidal scour, but not all the evidence points to this historical theory of decline through river silt. Variants on this theory place the blame on fishermen using nets or incoming ships dropping ballast. However, ships were becoming larger such that they would draw more water. A case can be made out that it was not so much a decline as a failure to grow, perhaps in part due to the limitations of the river, and that major silting of the estuary only occurred after, and possibly as a result of, efforts to improve the navigation in the 18th Century. Even after these improvements one great drawback for Chester was that large vessels took two tides to reach the City from the open sea and two tides to get out. This was not a problem for shipbuilding at Chester but was a major impediment to trade.

While there are natural variations in sea levels due to the extent of polar ice, sea temperature and isostatic adjustment these may be additive or counteract each other. The average tidal volume change in the Dee is a tenth of a cubic kilometer, representing a volumetric increase of over 80% between mean low water and mean high water. Mean river discharge is nowadays comparatively small, about 0.35% of the tidal movement but may have been as high as 2% before the river was used as a source of water, so the dominant forces acting today are the tides. The transport of silt by the tides is presently "flood dominant", so tides tend to fill in the estuary. This may well be common after an "ice age", with estuaries such as the Dee actually only having a transitory lifetime of a few thousand years. Time for a port to develop, but nothing on a geological timescale.

A fanciful depiction of Edgar as cox on the Dee - Chester did not have a castle and walls (including the Watertower - built in 1323) like this at the time, and Edgar is heading in the wrong direction. The 19thC print is by James Doyle - a close relative of Arthur Conan Doyle. Chester was a significant port with a good harbour in Edgar's time.

Many other medieval ports have been destroyed by silting or erosion. Some have put this down to climate change in general or specific storms in particular. Anthropogenic causes have also been suggested: such as the aforementioned building of a weir at Chester, upland deforestation increasing the sediment load or general apathy of the inhabitants when it came to maintaining the port. The Dee estuary is also one of four areas in Britain to witness the greatest extent of land reclamation, together with the Wantsum Channel in Kent, the Fenland embayment on the southern North Sea coast, and the wetlands of the Humber Estuary. The human modifications to the Dee have caused major changes to the fortunes of ports on the estuarine bank, most notably on the English side.

Thus, the commonplace explanation that the Dee was blocked by silting is only a part of the explanation of why the extent of trade through Chester varied over the history of the port.


The Port Books and Customs Records of Chester provide insights into the details of trade, but the coverage is patchy.

Before the middle of the sixteenth century royal exchequer and chancery sources yield infrequent matter on the port of Chester and it is the financial records of the palatinate that provide details of customs collection in the port. Before 1301 financial records relating to the Earldom of Chester are meagre. and little is known about the customs taken at Chester in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. During the period of the earldom's independence from the crown (1071 - 1237) nothing has survived to illustrate the workings of the regional Exchequer of Chester. Despite the lack of evidence some customs duties were collected in the port at this time. A rudimentary form of customs organization is know to have existed in the time of Edward the Confessor. As described in the Domesday Books, in relation to laws existing in Chester, ships arriving or departing without royal licence paid a fine of 4d. to the king and earl and a duty of 4d. was taken on every "last" of merchandise shipped out of the port. The was also an early form of what was to become the "common bargain": if ships brought marten skins, the King's officers were to have first offer on them, and if this opportunity were not afforded, their owner was to forfeit fourty shillings.

  • "Si sine licentia regis ad portum ciuitatis naues uenirent uel a portu recederent, de unoquoque homine qui in nauibus esset xl solidos habebant rex et comes. Si contra pacem regis et super eius prohibitionem nauis adueniret, tarn ipsam quam homines cum omnibus quae ibi erant habebant rex et comes. Si uero cum pace et licentia regis uenisset, qui in ea erant quiete uendebant quae habebant. Sed cum discederet iiii denari os de unoquoque lesth habebant rex et comes. Si habentibus martrinas pelles iuberet praepositus regis ut nulli uenderent donee sibi prius ostensas compareret, qui hoc non obseruabat xl solidis emendabat." (If a ship came against the king’s peace and in spite of his prohibition, the king and the earl had both the ship and the men and all that was in it. But if it should have come in the peace of the king and with his license, those who were on board sold what they had undisturbed. When it left, however, the king and the earl took 4 pence from each last. If the king’s reeve ordered those who had marten pelts not to sell to anyone until they had first been shown to him and he had bought, whoever neglected this paid a fine of 40 shillings.)

The areas covered by the medieval English customs jurisdictions varied over time. In the first recorded customs tax described in detail, a fifteenth assessed on overseas imports and exports from 20 July 1202 to 30 November 1204, 22 ports were noted. However Chester was not at this time part of the national customs system. Like them it had a system of "headports" and "outports". By the late fourteenth century, there were 13 customs headports: Boston, Bristol, Chichester, Exeter, Hull, Ipswich, London, Lynn, Melcombe/Weymouth, Newcastle, Sandwich, Southampton, and Yarmouth. Bridgwater was usually included in Bristol, but sometimes accounted separately. Several other ports served as temporary headports in the late fourteenth century: Cumberland/Carlisle, Liverpool, Queenborough, and Scarborough. First as an independent earldom, and then as a county palatine, Chester, in the main, lay outside the scope of the central administration throughout the Middle Ages. Its accounts, drawn up by the Chamberlain, were audited by the royal Exchequer and enrolled on the pipe rolls only during vacancies when no Chancellor was in place at Chester. After the transfer of the earldom into royal hands its financial institutions were further strengthened. The Cheshire accounts were again audited at Westminster when the king was earl, but in the years 1254-1272, when the Lord Edward held Cheshire, the county's finances were administered and audited at the Exchequer of Chester. These early exactions of duties were paid in kind rather than currency. In the year 1275/6 mention was first made of the recta prisa or the prise of wine taken on behalf of the king as earl of Chester ("one tun from afore and one abaft the mast"). After 1275 prisage of wine of denizen merchants became a regular custom exacted in the port.

The Ports of Origin of foreign ships engaged in the overseas trade arriving at Chester 1422-1566.

The Exchequer of Chester continued working after The Crown took over the Palatinate in 1237 and From 1301 to 1554 details of prisage can be followed in the accounts of the Chamberlain of the Exchequer of Chester. Until the reign of Edward IV the Chamberlain accounted for the receipts of the prise and prisage of wine only, although yearly he rendered a nil return for the "custom of wool, woolfells and hides". This was evidently "tax avoidance" as from from 1320 onwards, the Chester Exchequer began to note that the failure to collect these customs was "since the cocket seal had not been issued". In old English law, a cocket was a custom house seal; or a certified document given to a shipper as a warrant that his goods have been duly entered and have paid duty. The seal presumably would be issued centrally. After 1301 the Chamberlain and his deputies gained full responsibilities for the collection, audit and disbursement of money. In the Middle Ages the ordinary receipts of Chester included the profits of the demesne lands; fines and amercements; fees of the seal; forest dues; and customs. The reorganisation of government finances and the creation of the new revenue courts in the 1530s stripped away some of these sources. By 1547 the Court of Augmentations had assumed full responsibility for the financial administration of crown lands, and those functions passed to the Exchequer in 1554. In 1559 customs revenues were also lost.

In the financial year 1464-65 the chamberlain, for the first time, accounted for a custom on imported iron. It was introduced without any preamble and, thereafter, became a regular Palatinate duty. In 1536 Chester was included in the general order authorizing new tariffs on exports of leather. The chamberlain of Chester did not account for this custom in the financial year 1536-37 on the grounds that the port enjoyed exemption from customs impositions under the charter of 1506. The respite was used by the citizens to petition for the suspension of the statute; but, despite the voicing of their prescriptive rights and the brandishing of their palatinate charters, they were unsuccessful. Merchants of Chester who had shipped leather contrary to the statute were pardoned but, as from the financial year 1537-38, they were obliged to pay this custom. This custom on leather was the first export from Chester to carry a palatinate duty since the exaction, in the year 1302-03, of the custom of wool, woolfells and hides.

Throughout the long period that Chester existed as a palatinate port, custuma ville, or local customs, were exacted on merchandise entering and leaving the city. The origins and early working of the local customs system at Chester are obscure because hardly any records of civic administration have survived before the fifteenth century. It is certain, however, that local customs were being taken in the port long before details of their collection have come to light. Between 1274 and 1280, when the receipts of the earldom belonged to the king as earl, the Pipe Roll accounts for Cheshire indicate that "small tolls and custom of ships and boats" comprised part of the issues of the city. In the year 1300 the citizens of Chester obtained the fee-farm of the city in perpetuity. In return for an annual payment to the earl of £100 the city received all "appurtenances, liberties and free customs" and this grant would undoubtedly have included the right to levy tolls and customs on commercial traffic in the port.

The old Custom House of the port of Chester is at 70 Watergate Street just along from Bishop Lloyds House. This custom house was built in 1633 having been relocated from within the precints of Chester Castle. It was rebuilt in 1868, possibly to the design of James Harrison, when the gothic features, which were then popular, were added. Harrison was at the time rebuildong Holy Trinity next-door to the Customs House. The building is now a restaurant. Up to 1671 Liverpool was a member-port or "creek" of the head-port Chester. While the outports of the customs office at Chester have varied over time, they reached along an extensive western coastline of England and Wales. Little is now known of how customs records from these outports were handled, so figures derived from them need to be treated with caution.

Thus, the Customs and Port Book evidence can be used to look at the details of trade, but as this brief survey shows there were frequent changes to the system and the practices during any part of the lifetime of the port should not be taken as indicative of the practices during the whole of the time that the port prospered.

Contrary Evidence

As noted above, the charters which mention silting of the Dee also need to be read with caution as the citizens are medieval petitioners and exaggeration was customary. There is every reason to think that, despite silting, the small craft which plied the Dee in the later Middle Ages could have reached the Portpool and perhaps the Watergate. This certainly seems true as shown in the Braun and Hogenberg map of 1581 some hundred years later. Despite the claims of depopulation as a result of silting - "many citizens and other inhabitants of our said city are withdrawing themselves from our said city" admissions into the franchise at Chester did not show any drastic reductions in the 15th century.

Anchorages on the River Dee. Portpool was much closer to Chester.

The right to establish anchorages far beyond the limits of the city liberties was an aspect of Chester's control of the whole of the Dee estuary. The citizens' rights were first specified in the charter of 1354, which allowed them to levy tolls and other customs and to make attachments for offences committed in the water of Dee between the city and Arnold's Eye, at Hilbre Point, the extremity of the estuary. The grant, which is generally taken to be the origin of the mayor's powers as 'admiral' of the Dee, claimed to continue ancient custom. The citizens' privileges were clarified in 1506: they were to have the 'searching' of the Dee from Heronbridge to Arnold's Eye, oversight of nets, weirs, and fishing, and the collection of fines from all transgressions. Anchorages were established further down the Dee, at Shotwick, Burton, Denhall (in Ness), Neston, Gayton, Heswall, 'Redbank' (later Dawpool) in Thurstaston, and at Point of Ayr (in Llanasa, Flints.). In the 14th and 15th centuries "Redbank" was much the most important, but Burton and Denhall rose to significance in the early 16th century. Those closest to the city, Portpool and Shotwick, were affected by silting; they were disused from the later Middle Ages, and a quay established at Shotwick in 1449 proved of little value. The fluctuations in the fortunes of the others reflected a succession of shifts in the river's course rather than progressive silting downstream.

The charters also need to be seen in the light of the economic conditions of the time, which could well have given rise to pleading of a special case. The period 1399-1485 saw the Wars of the Roses, but that consisted of intermittent campaigns which not appear to have caused large-scale devastation, although as an internal war it could not produce growth through conquest or plunder. Compared with the economic boom that occurred in 12th century England, the later economic situation was in general very bleak in the mid-fifteenth century. Historians now refer to the mid-fifteenth century as "The Great Slump" but the thirty years preceding the accession of Henry VII in 1485 were not years of continuous and all-consuming destructive anarchy. It was more a series of plots, murders, uprisings, rebellions, invasions and battles, most intense in 1459-64, 1469-71 and 1483-7.

Chester was not so dependent on the wool trade as elsewhere, and English woollen cloth exports had collapsed by a third between 1440 and 1450. Henry VI’s Government did not help when it got itself into a trade war with Burgundy: this had led to Burgundy banning the import of English woollen cloth. Several reasons have been advanced for the economic downturn of the Great Slump. It has been suggested that there was a shortage of coin, possibly caused by a continent-wide scarcity of silver that became most severe in the 1400s. This apparent lack of liquidity has been much debated, with suggestions that the shortage was caused by trade deficits with the East and declining production of precious metals. Whereas in the 1350s, it has been estimated that there were 56 pennies in circulation per capita, by the 1420s, there was just 13 pennies available per head of the English population. In practice, as with the "deline" of trade on the River Dee there would have been many contributory factors.

The so-called "Lancastian Phase" of the Hundred Years War lasted from 1415-1453. Initial English successes, notably at the Battle of Agincourt (1415), coupled with divisions among the French ruling class, allowed the English to gain control of large parts of France. French forces counterattacked, inspired by Joan of Arc, La Hire and the Count of Dunois, and aided by the English loss of its main allies, the Dukes of Burgundy and Brittany. Charles VII of France was crowned in Notre-Dame de Reims in 1429, and from then a slow but steady reconquest of English-held French territories ensued. These gain and loss of foreign ports by the English as well as the difficulties of trade in times of war would have also effected the fortunes of the port of Chester.

The Port Books also show us the type of goods passing through Chester. As well as hides, cloth and iron, there was a considerable trade in wine.


Gascony was the source of much of the "French" wine that arrived in Chester. After 1152 and before the Battle of Castillon on 17 July 1453 it had frequently been in English hands as part of Aquitaine. The wealth of Gascony derived largely from its production of non-sweet wine. By the early part of the 14th century, an average of 80,000 tuns of wine a year were exported from Bordeaux, about a quarter of it to England. In 1308-09 a record 102,724 tuns passed through the Gironde estuary. Although it lasted for the better part of England’s 300-year rule of the Duchy of Gascony and wine imports were one of the leading sources of revenue for the English crown, it nonetheless faced constant obstacles stemming from the various political, economic and social crises of the era. Even before the outbreak of the Hundred Years War, Gascony had been invaded by the French in 1294 and 1324. Then, from 1338 to 1453, the duchy would suffer repeated incursions and devastating raids known as "chevauchées" by 1400 the lands under English control had been reduced by French incursions in the 1370s to the region south of Saintonge and Périgord concentrated around the Gironde estuary and the capital city of Bordeaux.

In 1445 for example, as far as wine imports were concerned, Chester was in the middle of its least prosperous decade since the beginning of the fifteenth century. Estimated decennial totals were in the region of 1,000 tuns in 1400-10. They climbed to over 2,000 tuns in 1410-20 (more than in any decade between 1350 and 1510), fell back to just over 1,000 tuns in 1420-30 and 1430-40, but in the decade 1440-50 dropped to 800 tuns. Prices varied between ports but were probably about 1s/4d a gallon in 1429. The tun (Old English: tunne, Latin: tunellus, Medieval Latin: tunna) is an English unit of liquid volume (not weight), used for measuring wine, oil or honey. Just how large a tun was could be debated: the standard wine tun of Bordeaux (generally estimated at c 252 gallons capacity) became the recognised measurement of the capacity or size of a ship. In modern terms a tun of wine would be c.1500 bottles. This works out at sixpence a bottle - a days wages for a cooper. Gascony, an English possession from which much wine was shipped, was lost under Henry VI in 1453, at the end of the Lancastrian Phase of the Wars of the Roses.

The loss of lands to the French during the Hundred Year's War had consequences for the wine trade in Chester. Prior to the 1450's Gascony was in English hands and was a major exporter of wine to England.

In the 1480s the wine trade at Chester was still depressed and, even more telling, between 1460 and 1490 the bulk of wine imports into Chester were freighted by non-freemen. The expansion of shipping by foreign traders is visible at Chester as only the occasional Spanish ship or shipper importing wine or iron is recorded between 1464 and 1474, then from 1484 it became increasingly common for two, or three, or four Spanish ships to unload iron there. The Irish and coastal trade, which ranked as the port's major commercial activity, does not appear to have suffered to the same degree as the overseas trade. Irish and coastal shipping arriving in the port in the fifteenth century did not show any appreciable decline until after 1460, and from the mid-1470s arrivals reached their pre-1460 levels. These are only the official figures and do not account for any customs avoidance. Apart from a few specific productss, the records do not permit statistical analysis or quantification of Chester's trade in the late 14th and 15th century. All that can safely be said is that an average of 49 ships arriving each year in the 1420s dropped to 40 in the 1450s, 35 in the 1460s, and 30 in the 1470s, but then apparently rose to 44 in the 1490s. The busiest single year was 1500-1, with 57 ships. Such totals were small in comparison with major ports on the east and south coasts, and included tiny boats with only one or two crewmen. Chester's overseas trade probably declined after the 1420s, reached its nadir in the 1470s, and began to improve in the 1490s, a recovery which ran counter to the citizens' claims about silting having already destroyed the river by the time of Richard II.

To summarise:

  • Maritime and riverine trade played a large part in the pre-canal economy of Chester;
  • Chester was a significant port and largely independent of the national customs system;
  • The surviving Customs Records for Chester are a very useful historical source;
  • Wine, iron and hides/leather were the subject of early customs charges taken at Chester;
  • In the year 1300 the citizens of Chester obtained the fee-farm of the city in perpetuity, in return for a fixed fee;
  • Chester retained its independence from the national customs system until the 16th century;
  • The River Dee was not "destroyed" simply by silting from upriver or the construction of the weir. It was the movement of the channel which opened and closed the outports in the estuary.;
  • External economic factors played a large part in the variance of trade;

The next section of this article looks at the first of the political transitions being considered. That of Richard II's ursupation by Henry Bollingbroke who then became Henry IV in 1399.

Richard II (for more on him see: Royal Treasure)

The transition from Richard II to Henry IV (c 1400): the late 13th and early 14th century probably saw the peak of the city's prosperity in the Middle Ages. Henry was a usurper with a "legal" claim to the throne so weak that that it is almost ridiculous that it should be proposed. His real claim to the throne was that he gained it "by conquest", or as it might have been put "Divine Right". Chester will play a significant role in the downfall of Richard.

Richard II (r. 1377-99) was born to Edward, the Black Prince and his wife Joan, Countess of Kent on 6th January 1367, in Aquitaine, then under English control. He was their youngest son, and he had one older brother who was also called Edward. From his early life, Richard was a spoiled child; he even had a set of dice loaded so that he always won. Richard was crowned on 16th July 1377 at Westminster Abbey. One of his first initiatives as king (or rather, one of the first initiatives from his advisors) was to introduce a poll tax. England was still recovering from the economic impact of the Black Death, and the crown’s resources were running low as was the same elsewhere. In 1345, for example, Edward III defaulted on his debt, as a consequence the Florentine banks Bardi and Perruzi both went bankrupt. Not only was the Crown hard-up, but the labour shortages following the Black Death were bringing about enormous economic change. The economic policies of the time are not well understood, but it is possible to draw a rough and much debated picture of the potential polarities: Edward III wished to produce plenty and large cargoes whoever brought them, while the Ricardian Parliament wanted more English ships (even if the home consumers were for a time badly supplied with wine).

Richard II - deposed, imprisoned in Chester Castle (with tales of a huge hidden treasure possibly hidden at Beeston. Even the painting is a myth - this is the one by Thomas Hughes.

Unlike his father (Edward the Black Prince) or grandfather (Edward III), Richard II was not particularly warlike especially when it came to continental conquest and plunder. He became king at an early age (1377, aged ten years) and thus spent little time as Earl of Chester, having only been made Prince of Wales in 1376 upon the death of his father. As a consequence he did not use the holdings of the Earldom of Cheshire to finance wars. In 1351, as part of a more general investigation of his earldom's franchises, the Black Prince had instituted quo warranto proceedings in Chester. For a ratification of their charters and a declaration of the bounds of their liberties, the citizens agreed to a fine of £300, which because they were impoverished was to be paid by instalments over five years. Royal officials delayed the matter until the prince himself went to Chester in 1353. His visit, which lasted some two months, involved a meeting in the city at which the men of the shire paid a fine of 5,000 marks to maintain their franchises. Chester in 1354 obtained a charter defining the boundaries of the liberty, confirming its admiralty powers over the Dee, and further excluding royal officials by annexing its escheatorship to the mayoralty. Once again this came at a price, although the payments promised in return for those privileges were extracted by the prince only with considerable difficulty. The Black Prince again visited Chester briefly in 1358, but is not known otherwise to have gone there. The links of his son, Richard II (ruled 1377-99), with the city and shire developed only in the later years of his reign.

Richard II visited Chester for the first time in 1387 and granted the citizens a murage for the repair of their ruined bridge. His favourite, Robert de Vere, earl of Oxford, whom he made justice of Chester, established his household in the city and while based there raised the army which was defeated at Radcot Bridge later in 1387. The battle was part of the more general conflict between Richard and the "Lords Appellant" who (according to some) wanted to curb Richard's increasingly capricious and tyrannical behaviour, and (according to others) promote their own interests, including war with France. The failure of de Vere's campaign was celebrated locally by his enemy Richard FitzAlan, earl of Arundel, who from his base at Holt Castle caused a copy of the appeal against the royal favourite to be nailed to the door of St Peter's church. As a part of the crisis, all English Ports were sealed, and all writs of passage collected on 14th January 1388. This may well have been a temporary measure intended to prevent the escape of Richard's supporters.

The French poet/historian Jean Creton provided an "on the spot" report of Richard's downfall. Here are Richards emmisaries meeting with Bolinbroke at Chester Castle.

On 3 May 1389, claiming that the difficulties of the past years had been due solely to bad councillors. Richard outlined a foreign policy that reversed the actions of the appellants by seeking peace and reconciliation with France, and promised to lessen the burden of taxation on the people significantly. Richard ruled peacefully for the next eight years, having reconciled with his former adversaries. In 1396 Richard married the French princess Isabella, who at the time was six years old. This was a political union to cement the Truce of Leulinghem with Charles VI of France. Unfortunately for Richard, Charles VI was mentally unstable and the political situation in France was volatile. Howver, French foreign policy shifted in the years following the truce, and the focus was placed on Italy as the French attempted to gain a foothold whereby they could force the Roman pope to abdicate. Genoa became a French protectorate. Charles's mental state continued to deteriorate, leading to more fighting in the court, with his wife allying with his uncles in opposition of Charles's brother, Louis of Orleans, Duke of Touraine. The truce was always fragile. When Henry IV took the throne in England, the French initially interpreted it as a repudiation of the truce and raised an army and strengthened their garrisons on their borders. An embassy to England reconfirmed the truce with Henry.

In 1397, Richard II created the title "Prince of Cheshire", which he awarded to himself. On 13 July 1397, he ordered the sheriff of the county of Chester to collect 2,000 archers for royal service. These troops were used to overawe the parliament which met in September - sometimes known as the "Revenge Partiament". Most were then allowed to return home, but the king kept back others to form his personal bodyguard, receiving wages of 6d per day, which was the standard rate for archers in royal armies in the late fourteenth century. This wage was on a par with that of a skilled craftsman. This personal bodyguard was made up of Cheshire bowmen who were described as being intolerably arrogant, insolent ruffians who lived on far too intimate terms with king. By the autumn of 1398, Richard had a bodyguard of over 300 Cheshire archers which was grouped into seven "watches", four containing 44 archers, two with 45 archers, and one with 46 archers. That there were seven groups suggests that each may have been responsible for the watch on one day of the week. Each watch was under the command of a knight or esquire from Cheshire: John del Legh del Boothes; Richard de Cholmondeley of Cholmondeley; Ralph de Davenport; Adam de Bostok; John Donne of Utkinton; Thomas de Beeston; and Thomas de Holford. In 1389, after the king had reasserted his personal authority, the men of the shire met at Chester and granted a subsidy of 3,000 marks for their losses at Radcot Bridge.

Richard II’s court was a high-tax, high-spend affair. It was reported that on a 1396 trip to France, he spent £150,000 on clothes for his wardrobe. In 1399 Richard II had a heated bathroom constructed in Chester Castle (costing £70). It was paneled with Norwegian timber. His apartments were redecorated with cushions and fine silk hangings, but he would not enjoy it for long. The truth of Richard's style of goverment may have had some bearing on other "improvements" at Chester Castle: Thomas le Wodeward, deputy constable of the castle, took delivery of the following new supplies in 1397: 11 iron collars and 2 gross of iron chain; 2 pairs of iron belts with shackles; 2 pairs of iron handcuffs with 4 iron shackles; 7 pairs of iron feet fetters with 3 shackles; 1 hasp for the stocks.

In 1399 Richard was invading Ireland when Henry Bolingbroke landed with his troops. Henry beat Richard to Chester. The Duke of Lancaster made his way to Chester by somewhat sporadic forced marches and took it without a fight on the 9th August. The Duke stayed at Chester Castle for 12 days, amusing himself by drinking the king's wine, wasting fields and pillaging houses. and presumably enjoying the use of Richard II's "Norwegian Wood" heated bathroom. While there ("this thief, this traitor, Bolingbroke, who all this while hath revell'd in the night": Rich II 3:2 line 46ff), he also found time to secure the arrest, incarceration in the Gowestower (outer gatehouse tower) and execution of Sir Peirs Legh of Lyme, one of Richard's leading retainers in Cheshire and the brother of the Sheriff - Legh's head was placed on the Eastgate. Richard arrived at Conwy to find himself hemmed in. Salisbury's levies had already dispersed, possibly following a rumour that the King was dead. Defections on the road had reduced his own small following to six if we believe later chronicles (Traïson, pp. 282, 293).

The succession of a claim to the English crown from Henry III to Henry Bollingbroke.

The Sons of Edward III

The English Monarchy is known for some interesting successions, and a few monarchs stand out as being those from whom a valid bloodline can be argued. The failure of such bloodlines has often lead to a succession "crisis". Notable examples among many are the failure of the Norman line (leading to "The Anarchy") and the new start with Henry III, the ursupation of Richard II and that of Richard III, and the transition between the Tudors and the Stewarts on the ascention of James VI/I. The Lancaster and York branches of the monarchy started from the third and fourth sons of Edward III. These were: Duke of Lancaster John of Gaunt and Duke of York Edmund of Langley. The family tree is based on the order of Edward III’s children, the Lancaster branch would therefore be considered senior to the York branch. Richard II, came to the throne because he was the son of Edward III’s eldest so: his father, Edward the Black Prince died before Edward III did, so through primogeniture down the Plantagenet line Richard II became heir.

Henry of Bolingbroke, son of John of Gaunt (Lancaster), usurped Richard II. Bollingbroke became Henry IV but his problem was he had a very shaky clain to the throne: he claimed the throne as the right heir to King Henry III by asserting that:

  • Edmund Crouchback was the elder and not the younger son of King Henry III, i.e. that he was born before Edward I, but passed over due to a deformity;
  • every monarch from Edward I onwards was a usurper, and;
  • his mother Blanche of Lancaster was a great-granddaughter of Edmund Crouchback.

There is nothing to suggest that Edmund Crouchback was actually deformed, or that he was the eldest son of Henry III (that was Edward I). Edmund accompanied his elder brother Edward on his crusade in the Holy Land, where his epithet, "Crouchback," originated from a corruption of "cross back", referring to him wearing a stitched cross on his garments. There is also nothing to back-up the argument that every monarch from Edward I onwards was a usurper, as these include Edward II and III as well as Richard II who died without issue. It was a truly rubbish argument for a valid claim.

Unfortunately Edward III had a further son and his descendant was the heir of the royal estate according to common law. He was the very young Edmund Mortimer, 5th Earl of March, who descended from the daughter of Edward III’s third son (second to survive to adulthood), Lionel of Antwerp. Lionel's daugher was Philippa, 5th Countess of Ulster, the mother of Roger Mortimer, who was in turn the father of Edmund. Bolingbroke has to surpress a many plots and revolts through his reign, but fortunately Ednund Mortimer, who was aged seven when Richard was deposed, remained loyal, especially to Henry V. The Mortimer claims were later inherited by the House of York, which claimed the throne upon the Earl of March Edward IV's victory in the Battle of Towton, 1461.

Economic Effects

One minor economic consequence of Richard II was the remarkable number of inns which displayed his personal symbol the White Hart. In 1393, during the reign of King Richard II, an Act was passed which made it compulsory for pubs and inns to have a sign in order to identify them as official watering holes and many chose the king's badge. It is still high in the ranking of pub names along with the Red Lion, Crown and Royal Oak (due to Charles II). The Red Lion as a pub sign probably has multiple origins: in the arms or crest of a local landowner, now perhaps forgotten; as a personal badge of John of Gaunt, founder of the House of Lancaster; or in the royal arms of Scotland, conjoined to the arms of England after the Stuart succession of James I in 1603. It is perhaps surprising that there is no noted White Hart in Chester: one was trading in Foregate Street in 1781, and there was another White Hart in Northgate Street, but neither is particularly notable.

The Wilton Diptych, exterior panel. On the left-hand panel, Richard II’s personal heraldic emblems. On the right-hand panel (which would be uppermost when the diptych is closed) is the white hart, Richard’s personal emblem and livery badge. The date of the dyptic is uncertain and dates between 1377 and about 1413 have been proposed, although it is not likely to have been made after 1400. The "Sign of the White Hart" became one of the most popular names of inns. The "Attributed Arms" of Saint Edward the Confessor, a blue shield charged with a gold cross and five gold birds, appears to have been suggested by heralds in the time of Henry III of England based on a coin minted in Edward's reign. These arms were later used by Richard II of England out of devotion to the saint.

Very little can be said of the economic consequences in Chester of the transition from Richard II to Henry IV. The decline in the wine trade during the 14th Century could be associated with general impoverishment or with the French wars. The overall trade as represented by the total number of ships follows a similar pattern. The recovery in the 1490's may be a consequence of peace with France. Although the city's outports were busy, the volume of goods carried into the city and their final destination are unknown. A county regularly skimmed by its royal earls for cash to maintain English garrisons in Wales, and routinely exploited by the earls' numerous lessees for short-term profit, may have represented a limited market for imported goods.

Cheshire's peculiar status was that of a Palatinate under direct royal rule (in the person of Prince of wales) and not, therefore, subject to the regular system of local government in operation throughout most of the country. This certainly tended to give scope for disorder if royal control were not firmly exercised, especially at times of dynastic change. The ursupation of Richard II led to an increase in the disorder with local revolts culminating in the Battle of Shrewsbury. In June 1403 the sale of grain and other provisions to Welshmen in Flintshire and elsewhere was prohibited, as it was alleged that this produce was later sold to the rebels. According to tradition, for which little firm evidence can be found, trade with the Welsh was the origin of a supposed law which allowed the authorities to "Shoot the Welsh".

One of the problems faced by Henry IV was piracy by his own subjects on the ships of friendly nations. This would also have consequences for Chester. A pirate war raged in the Channel as English corsairs attacked friend and foe alike. It was around this time that the maritime trade saw the development of the square rig cog. It allowed a combination of square sail, and the Lateen, triangular sail – which was deployed usually on the mizzen mast with the sail aft. The Lateen sail allowed ships to tack much closer to the wind, it was much easier to manoeuvre ships in difficult or restricted conditions. Fore and stern castles would be added for defense against pirates. The stern castle also afforded more cargo space below by keeping the crew and tiller up, out of the way and the flat bottom allowed them to settle on a level in harbour or other anchorage, making them easier to load and unload. The rigging allowed the number of sailors to be reduced. Around the 14th century, the cog reached its structural limits, and larger or more seaworthy vessels needed to be of a different type. This was the hulk, which already existed but was much less common than the cog. Eventually the hulk was replaced by the Caravel and then the Carrack.

With Spain the treaty concessions and period of peace under Edward IV and Richard III brought increased trade, helping to produce the downward drift of prices, and annual imports of Spanish iron rose to well over 2,500 and probably well over 3,000 tons. Bristol alone in 1492-3 imported over 648 tons of Spanish iron, but the highest amounts are recorded in London; there Spanish merchants alone imported 2,099 tons in 1487-8, 2,532 tons in 1490-1, and 1,614 tons in 1494-5. At this time too imports of Spanish iron to the smaller western ports, now including Chester, were rising sometimes to 100 tons a year.

Richard and the Lords Appellant as depicted by James E Doyle as throwing down their gauntlets. From left to right: The Earl of Arundel (beheaded), Thomas of Woodstock (strangled), Earl of Nottingham (exiled, died in Venice), Earl of Derby (exiled, return to usurp Richard and become Henry IV), and Earl of Warwick (exiled, urged Henry IV to murder Richard).

The next section of this artcle jumps forward to the Stanley's who played a major part in the next ursupation, that of Richard III by Henry Tudor. Henry Tudor plays a key part in the final transition as reflected by the carvings on Bishop Lloyds House, as Henry was the common ancestor of the all the possible rival claimants to James I. As we shall see the many of the same types of issues arose in attempting to justify the successions of Henry IV, Henry VII and James VI/I.

To touch briefly on the intervening years, following the Treaty of London in 1474, Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, had agreed to aid England with an invasion of France. By June 1475, Edward IV had landed on the coast of France. Edward IV had an army of around 11,000 and a further 2,000 archers from Brittany. Edward's plan was to march through Burgundian territory to Reims. However Charles failed to provide the support he had promised, and refused to allow the English to enter Burgundian-controlled towns. Edward also received little support from his other ally Francis II, Duke of Brittany. Louis XI then sent Edward word that he was willing to offer more than Edward's allies could. He contacted and induced Edward to negotiate a settlement. The two negotiated by meeting on a specially-made bridge with a wooden grill-barrier between the sides, at Picquigny, just outside Amiens. The resulting treaty formally ended the Hundred Years' War. Although the Treaty of Picquigny in 1475 allowed greater freedom of trade, numbers remained low until the late 1480s, when Spanish ships began to arrive, bringing wine, iron, and oil, and returning to their home ports in the bay of Biscay with calfskins, tallow, and coloured woollen cloth. King Richard III’s reign (26 June 1483 – 22 August 1485) came at a major turning point in English economic history: from the 1440s until the 1470s, England had been gripped by a severe economic depression, a function not of civil conflict or strife by rather the result of high epidemic mortality as a consequence of the Black Death (1348 - early 1350's), and a contraction in international trade.

To summarise:

  • Richard II made the Eardom of Chester a principality with himself as prince;
  • Richard's peace with France led to a pause in the Hundred Years' War and an increase of trade;
  • Richard's association with Chester was co-incident with a recovery of trade in Chester;
  • Henry Bolingbroke has a very poor claim to the throne by ancestry;

A Stanley Succession

During the series of succession up to and including James I (c1600), Chester's economy grew steadily from 1550 to c. 1600, not least because in the early 1580s and later 1590s the passage of troops bound for Ireland created more demand for goods and services. Recovery from the plagues of 1603-5 was hampered by national economic difficulties and by recurrent, though limited, local epidemics, but from the mid 1620s prosperity returned. Bishop Lloyd and "his" house in Chester are involved with this as are the Stanley's.

The arms of the Stanley family refer directly to their history as wardens of a royal hunting forest. They were also long thought to be found on the front of Bishop Lloyd's House in Watergate Street.

The Earls of Derby were among the most influential and prominent noble families in England, and especially in the North. The title was first adopted by Robert de Ferrers, 1st Earl of Derby, under a creation of 1139. The fourth Earl, William de Ferrers even manged to combine the title with Earl of Chester after the death of John Canmore. It continued with the Ferrers family until the 6th Earl, Robert de Ferrers, forfeited his property toward the end of the reign of Henry III and died in 1279. Most of the Ferrers property and (by a creation in 1337) the Derby title were then held by the family of Henry III and it appears that the future Henry IV held the title prior to becoming elevated to the Dukedom of Hereford. The 1337 creation was that of Edmund Crouchback's grandson, Henry of Grosmont (c.1310–1361), afterwards Duke of Lancaster, was created Earl of Derby, and this title was taken by Edward III's son, John of Gaunt, who had married Henry's daughter, Blanche. John of Gaunt's son and successor was Henry Bolingbroke. The title merged in the Crown upon Henry IV's accession to the throne in 1399. The title was created again, this time for the Stanley family, in 1485 after the Battle of Bosworth Field where Thomas Stanley decided to betray King Richard III.

While the ones mentioned in this article did not live in Stanley Palace the building is still worth a visit. Ferdinando Stanley was a great-grandson of Mary Tudor, the younger sister of King Henry VIII. As explained below this made him an heir to the throne. Ferdinando was the brother to the William Stanley who presented George Lloyd as the Bishop of Sodor and Man. For many years it was thought that the arms of the Stanley's also featured on Bishop Lloyds house, being placed together with the Bishop's arms in one of the panels. Recent (2023) drone investigation has shown that the blazon displayed is not that of the Stanley's but features three fleur-de-lys and not three stag's heads. This couls be an error (like the reversed "Legs of Man"), but the Stanley arms would be very well known in Chester. The Stanley's had been Kings of Mann since 1405 when Henry IV granted the suzerainty of the Isle of Man, to Sir John Stanley.

The Stanleys had risen to prominence at the same time the Wirral had been disafforested and were involved in a considerable ammount of associated feuding and violence. John Stanley was very agile in his politics. Having served Richard II as deputy to Robert de Vere, Duke of Ireland (and possibly Richard's lover), he turned his back on Richard and submitted to Henry IV, the first English king of the House of Lancaster. Stanley's fortunes were equally good under the Lancastrians. He was granted lordships in the Welsh Marches, and served a term as Lieutenant of Ireland. In 1403 he was made Steward of the Household of Henry, Prince of Wales, (later Henry V). Unlike many of the Cheshire gentry, he took the side of the king in the rebellion of the Percys. He was wounded in the throat at the Battle of Shrewsbury. In 1405 he was, as noted, granted the tenure of the Isle of Man. Henry IV appointed him a Knight of the Garter. His descendants were to prove equally agile, shifting sides deftly through the Wars of the Roses and after.

In addition, but separate from the power of governance over the Island, John Stanley (back in 1405) was also granted the patronage of the Diocese of Sodor and Man, which passed down to William Stanley the 6th Earl of Derby who presented Lloyd as Bishop in late 1600. William Stanley would eventually retire to Chester (see: Shakespeare and Chester): a few years after the death of his wife (she died in 1627), when Derby was "old and infirm, and desirous of withdrawing himself from the hurry and fatigue of life" he assigned his estates to his son James, retaining an annuity of £1,000. He bought a house by the River Dee just outside the Walls of Chester, where he lived in retirement until his death on 29 September 1642.

The arms of the Merchant Adventurers on Bishop Lloyd's House. George Lloyd was entitled to use the bishop's arms displayed only between 1600 and 1605.

The Succession

Parliament's Third Succession Act granted Henry VIII the right to bequeath the crown in his Will. His Will specified that, in default of heirs to his children, the throne was to pass to the children of the daughters of his younger sister Mary Tudor, Queen of France. In doing so, he excluded the kings of Scotland, descendants of his elder sister Margaret Tudor, represented by the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots. Edward VI confirmed this by letters patent in his "Devise for the succession" in which he undertook to change the succession, most probably inspired by his father Henry VIII's precedent. He passed over the claims of his half-sisters and, at last, settled the Crown on his first cousin once removed, the 16-year-old Lady Jane Grey. The letters patent were issued on 21 June and signed by 102 notables, among them the whole Privy Council, peers, bishops, judges, and London aldermen as well as by the Merchants of the staple (six), and Merchant Adventurers (six). The only surviving text of the Devise is that from the transcript of Ralph Starkey in the MS. Harl. 35, f. 364, which is preceded by this title:

  • "A true coppi of the counterfet wille supposed to be the laste wille and testament of kinge Edwarde the Sixt, forged and published under the Great Seale of Englande by the confederacie of the dukes of Suffolke and Northumberlande, on the behalfe of the Lady Jane, eldest daughter to the said duke of Suffolke, and testefied with the handes of 101 of the cheife of the nobilliti and princepall men of note of this kingdome; dated the 21 day of June an[n]o. 1553;"

and followed by this memorandum:

  • "This is a true coppie of Edward the Sixte his will, taken out of the original under the Greate Seale, which sir Robart Cotton delyvered to the kinges majestie the xijth of Apprill 1611, at Roystorne, to be canseled."

Both Mary and Elizabeth had been named illegitimate during the reign of Henry VIII after his marriages to Catherine of Aragon (Mary I's mother) and Anne Boleyn (Elizabeth I's mother) had been declared void. The second act of succession (1536) removed them from the line of inhritance. Unfortunately, Jane only ruled for nine days. On 19 July 1553, Jane was imprisoned in the Tower's Gentleman Gaoler's apartments, her husband in the Beauchamp Tower. Her chief supporter the The Duke of Northumberland was executed on 22 August 1553. In September, Parliament declared Mary the rightful successor and denounced and revoked Jane's proclamation as that of a usurper. In doing this they were following the Law as the "Devise for succession" could not overrule an act of parliament, and there had been no time to put such an Act through. Had Edward lived long enough to secure a parliamentary warrant for his letters patent and impose a corresponding Oath of Succession, or had Northumberland and the Council managed to gain custody of Mary and more effectively coordinated the military and public relations side of the coup, or had Mary shown less stamina, Jane might have held on to the throne. She and her allies would have probably sought parliamentary recognition of her title, just like her great-grandfather and founder of the Tudor dynasty Henry VII had done half a century earlier,

On 12 February 1554 Jane Grey was executed. During the Marian persecutions and its aftermath, Jane became viewed as a Protestant martyr, featuring prominently in the several editions of Foxe's Book of Martyrs (1563 - more properly "Actes and Monuments of these Latter and Perillous Dayes").

The succession of the English crown through the female line from Henry VIII's sister Mary leads to Ferdinando Stanley. Ferdinando had a place in the line of succession to Elizabeth I according to the will of Henry VIII, after his mother, whom he predeceased. His sudden death led to suspicions of poisoning amid fears of Catholic plots to overthrow Elizabeth. James I was the closer living relative to Elizabeth by one step than Anne Stanley and the children of Katherine Grey had been declared illegitimate. He is the same distance away from the throne as Arbella Stuart.

Jane Gray's Sisters

Elizabeth succeeded Mary upon the death of the latter in November 1558. Jane Grey had been married to Lord Guildford Dudley (c. 1535 – 12 February 1554) and had no children. Lady Katherine Grey (25 August 1540 – 26 January 1568) was a younger sister of Lady Jane Grey. A granddaughter of Henry VIII's sister Mary, she emerged as a prospective successor to her cousin, Elizabeth I of England, before incurring Queen Elizabeth's wrath by, in December 1560, secretly marrying Edward Seymour, 1st Earl of Hertford. Arrested after the Queen was informed of their clandestine marriage, Katherine (as Lady Hertford) lived in captivity until her death, having borne two sons in the Tower of London. In 1562, the marriage was annulled and the Seymours were censured as fornicators for "carnal copulation" by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Matthew Parker. This rendered their children illegitimate and thereby ineligible as successors to the throne. The children included Edward Seymour (21 September 1561 – July 1612), Lord Beauchamp.

A further sister of Jane Grey, Lady Mary Grey, also married without the Queen's permission. On 16 July 1565, while the Queen was absent attending the marriage of her kinsman, Sir Henry Knollys (d. 21 December 1582), and Margaret Cave, the daughter of Sir Ambrose Cave, Mary secretly married the Queen's sergeant porter, Thomas Keyes. Upon hearing that the wedding had taken place, the Queen is said to have declared wrathfully that "I'll have no little bastard Keyes laying claim to my throne". Keyes was committed to solitary confinement in the Fleet prison, while Lady Mary was placed under strict house arrest. The two would have no children.

The sanctions taken were intended to cut out any possible bloodline through the Greys. The only valid succession was apparently through the sister of the mother of the Gray sisters, Eleanor Clifford, Countess of Cumberland. This led to the Stanley's.

The Stanley Claim

Elizabeth's heir was now Margaret Stanley (née Lady Margaret Clifford; 1540 – 28 September 1596). She was the only surviving daughter of Henry Clifford, 2nd Earl of Cumberland and Lady Eleanor Brandon. Her maternal grandparents were Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk and Mary Tudor, Queen of France. Mary was the third daughter of King Henry VII of England and Elizabeth of York. In 1579, Margaret was arrested after she had been heard discussing a proposed marriage of Queen Elizabeth to the Duke d'Alençon. She was opposed to it as it threatened her own possible accession to the crown. She was then accused of using sorcery to predict when Elizabeth would die, and even of planning to poison Elizabeth. Simply predicting the death of a monarch was a capital offence at the time. The countess was put under house arrest. She would die in 1596. However she had married Henry Stanley, 4th Earl of Derby on 7 February 1555 in the Chapel Royal at Whitehall Palace, with whom she had four children: Edward Stanley (who died young); Ferdinando Stanley, 5th Earl of Derby; William Stanley, 6th Earl of Derby (c. 1561 – 29 September 1642) and Francis Stanley (b. 1562, died young).

Ferdinando Stanley - at one time second in line to inherit the crown, died "in a sea of vomit" and his body was so corrupted that even wrapped in lead none could approach it. He was very likely poisoned.

Elizabeth I balked at establishing the order of succession in any form, presumably because she feared for her own life once a successor was named. By 1580, it was obvious that Queen Elizabeth I would have no children, and this focused attention on Ferdinando Stanley as a possible future king. After the likely murder of Ferdinando (16 April 1594), the legitimate and legal heir of Elizabeth I, following the will of Henry VIII was therefore his eldest daughter Anne Stanley, Countess of Castlehaven. Descent from the two daughters of Henry VII who reached adulthood, Margaret and Mary, was the first and main issue in the succession. Ferdinando had two further daughters, of which Frances married Sir John Egerton, son and heir of Thomas Egerton, Lord Elsmere, then Lord Chancellor of England; and Elizabeth, the youngest, after married to Henry Hastings, Earl of Huntingdon. To complicate matterss further after Ferdinando Stanley's death, his widoww Lady Alice had married John's father Thomas Egerton. The Dowager Countess of Derby and her three daughters had access to an extensive network of highly influential people, including the royal court. The Dowager Countess and her daughter Elizabeth, Countess of Huntingdon, were politically active and promoted the interests of their family through that network. All four Stanley women were interested in drama and poetry, and supported theatre groups, writers and poets, including Edmund Spenser, John Donne and John Milton.

In 1598, a succession dispute between the daughters of Ferdinando and their uncle, William, Earl of Derby, was heard by the Privy Council. They eventually (in 1607) decided that the right to the Isle of Man had belonged solely to Queen Elizabeth I, and the letters patent of 1405 which conferred the lordship of the Isle of Man on the Stanley family were declared null and void as the previous ruler, Henry, Earl of Northumberland, had not been subject to legal attainder, despite his treason, and the 1405 and 1406 letters patent had therefore not taken effect.

Bishop Lloyd and Royal Genealogy

The future James I was the only son of Mary, Queen of Scots, and her second husband, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. Both Mary and Darnley were great-grandchildren of Henry VII of England through Margaret Tudor, the older sister of Henry VIII. From 1601, in the last years of Elizabeth's life, certain English politicians — notably her chief minister Robert Cecil — maintained a secret correspondence with James to prepare in advance for a smooth succession. With the queen clearly dying, Cecil sent James a draft proclamation of his accession to the English throne in March 1603. Elizabeth died in the early hours of 24 March, and James was proclaimed king in London later the same day. While the accession of James went smoothly, the succession had been the subject of much debate for decades, especially given that it was in direct contravention to the Will of Henry VIII.

In June 1604 Lloyd was in London and working on an assignment to revise any crude mistakes in the catalogue of British chronology in which the Royal family’s genealogy has been inserted. The Stuarts wanted a clear lineage to be shown reaching back to Henry VII, as well as Edmund Tudor and his wife Margaret Beaufort. It is through Margaret that the disputed claim to the throne passed to her son Henry Tudor later Henry VII, Elizabeth and Mary Queen of Scot's common ancestor. There were apparently no other claimants who were not descended from Henry VII. The documents Lloyd was working with may have included the "Biblical and genealogical chronicle from Adam and Eve to Edward VI (the Longer English genealogical chronicle of the kings of England)" (Kings 395 in the British Museum). The text of the chronicle ends with Richard III. The pictorial genealogy continues to Henry VIII in the same scribal and artistic hand, including Catherine of Aragon, Mary, and Henry (obit), the infant prince who died in 1511. Henry VIII’s subsequent wives and offspring were added to the genealogy later by a different artist and scribe, ending with Edward VI, presumably prior to his death in 1553.

Richard III

Some (especially Tudor historians and later Shakespeare) might suggest that Richard III, born on October 2nd 1452, was responible for much of this "thinning out" and he has been accused of involvement in the deaths of many of the possible contenders for the throne.

  • Edward Prince of Wales: at the battlefield of Tewkesbury on May 4th 1471. An early reference to Richard’s involvement (he was a teenager at the time) is only found in the Tudor history, Anglica Historia (1534) by Polydore Vergil, which states that Edward was “crewelly murderyd” by the Duke of Clarence, Lord Hastings and the Duke of Gloucester. At the time of his birth, there was strife between Henry 's supporters and those of Richard of York, 3rd Duke of York, who had a claim to the throne and challenged the authority of Henry's officers of state. Henry was suffering from mental illness, and there were widespread rumours that the prince was the result of an affair between his mother and one of her loyal supporters. Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset and James Butler, 5th Earl of Ormond, were both suspected of fathering Prince Edward. According to contemporary sources, Edward was overtaken and slain in the battle during the rout of the Lancastrians, with some accounts attributing the deed to the Duke of Clarence, to whom the prince appealed to for help. Another version states that Clarence and his men found the grieving prince near a grove following the battle, and immediately beheaded him on a makeshift block, despite his pleas. Yet another account of Edward's death is given by three Tudor sources: The Grand Chronicle of London, Polydore Vergil, and Edward Hall. It was later dramatised by William Shakespeare in Henry VI, Part 3, Act V, scene v. Their story is that Edward was captured and brought before the victorious Edward IV and his brothers, the Duke of Clarence and the Duke of Gloucester, and his followers. The king received the prince graciously, and asked him why he had taken up arms against him. The prince replied defiantly, "I came to recover my father's heritage." The king then struck the prince across his face with his gauntlet hand, and Gloucester and Clarence killed the prince with their swords. However, none of these accounts appears in any of the contemporaneous sources, which all report that Edward died in battle.
  • King Henry VI: only child of Henry V on circa 21 May 1471. Henry was born on 6 December 1421 at Windsor Castle, the only child and heir-apparent of King Henry V. Succeeding to the throne as King of England at the age of nine months on 1 September 1422, the day after his father's death; he remains the youngest person ever to succeed to the English throne. On 21 October 1422, in accordance with the Treaty of Troyes of 1420, he became titular King of France upon his grandfather Charles VI's death. His mother, the 20-year-old Catherine of Valois, was viewed with considerable suspicion by English nobles as Charles VI's daughter. She was prevented from playing a full role in her son's upbringing. Henry may have inherited a psychiatric condition from Charles VI of France, his maternal grandfather, who was affected by intermittent periods of mental illness during the last thirty years of his life. Having "lost his wits, his two kingdoms and his only son", Henry died in the Tower during the night of 21 May 1471, possibly killed on the orders of King Edward IV. In all likelihood, his opponents had kept him alive up to that point, rather than leave the Lancastrians with a likely far more formidable leader in Henry's son, Edward. However, once the last of the most prominent Lancastrian supporters had been either killed or exiled, it became clear that Henry VI would be a burden on Edward IV's reign. Richard was his jailor. Sir Thomas More's History of Richard III explicitly states that Richard, who was then the Duke of Gloucester, killed Henry. More might have derived his opinion from Philippe de Commines' Mémoires. Another contemporary source, Wakefield's Chronicle, gives the date of Henry's death as 23 May 1471, on which date Richard, then only eighteen, is known to have been away from London.
  • George, Duke of Clarence: the brother of English kings Edward IV and Richard III himself on 18 February 1478. Though a member of the House of York, Clarence switched sides to support the Lancastrians, before reverting to the Yorkists. The arrest and committal to the Tower of London of one of Clarence's retainers, an Oxford astronomer named John Stacey accused of a plot to kill Richard Beauchamp (together with Beauchamp's wife Elizabeth), led to his confession under torture that he had "imagined and compassed" the death of the king, and used the black arts to accomplish this. He implicated one Thomas Burdett, and one Thomas Blake, a chaplain at Stacey's college (Merton College, Oxford). All three were tried for treason, convicted, and condemned to be drawn to Tyburn and hanged. He was put on trial for treason against his brother Edward IV. Clarence was not present – Edward himself prosecuted his brother, and demanded that Parliament pass a bill of attainder against his brother, declaring that he was guilty of "unnatural, loathly treasons" which were aggravated by the fact that Clarence was his brother, who, if anyone did, owed him loyalty and love. Following his conviction and attainder, he was "privately executed" at the Tower on 18 February 1478, by tradition in the Bowyer Tower, and soon after the event, a rumour spread that he had been drowned in a butt of Malmsey wine. He appears as a character in William Shakespeare's plays Henry VI, Part 3 and Richard III. Richard III opens with Gloucester having framed Clarence for treason, using a soothsayer to sow doubt in the King's mind about his brother, and in the first scene Clarence is arrested and taken to the Tower. Richard nimbly stage-manages Clarence's death, fast-tracking the order of execution and intercepting the King's pardon when Edward changes his mind.
  • Edward V: was de jure King of England from 9 April to 25 June 1483. He succeeded his father, Edward IV, upon the latter's death. Edward V was never crowned, and his brief reign was dominated by the influence of his uncle and Lord Protector, the Duke of Gloucester, who deposed him to reign as King Richard III; this was confirmed by the Act entitled Titulus Regius, which denounced any further claims through his father's heirs. The act ratified the declaration of the Lords and the members of the House of Commons a year earlier that the marriage of Edward IV of England to Elizabeth Woodville had been invalid and so their children, including Edward, Richard and Elizabeth, were illegitimate and thus debarred from the throne. The grounds were that Edward IV had a precontract with the widow Lady Eleanor Butler, which was considered a legally binding contract that rendered any other marriage contract invalid.
  • Richard of Shrewsbury: was the sixth child and second son of King Edward IV of England and Elizabeth Woodville, born in Shrewsbury. Richard and his older brother, who briefly reigned as King Edward V of England, mysteriously disappeared shortly after Richard III became king in 1483.
  • Anne Neville: was Queen of England as the wife of King Richard III. Following the decisive Yorkist victory over the Lancastrians at the Battle of Tewkesbury, Richard married Anne Neville on 12 July 1472. Anne had previously been wedded to Edward of Westminster, only son of Henry VI, to seal her father's allegiance to the Lancastrian party. Edward died at the battlefield of Tewkesbury on May 4th 1471. Anne Neville died on 16 March 1485, probably of tuberculosis, at Westminster. The day she died, there was an eclipse, which some took to be an omen of her husband's fall from heavenly grace. She was buried in Westminster Abbey in an unmarked grave to the right of the High Altar, next to the door to the Confessor's Chapel. Richard III is said to have wept at her funeral. Upon her death rumours circulated that Richard III had poisoned her in order to marry his niece Elizabeth of York. Documents later found in the Portuguese royal archives show that after Anne's death, Richard's ambassadors were sent on a formal errand to negotiate a double marriage between Richard and the Portuguese King John II's sister Joanna (who was of Lancastrian descent), and Elizabeth of York and Joanna's cousin Duke Manuel.

Henry Tudor's Claim

Henry Tudor's fortunes turned dramatically, in 1483 when Edward IV, a ruthless warrior and well-respected king, died aged just 40. Though he had young sons, his brother Richard seized the throne. With this uncertainty, and bad blood over Richard’s perceived murder of his nephews, the young pretender across the channel knew that this would be his best opportunity to win what he saw as his birthright.

His claim was weak. Henry Tudor could claim that Bolingbroke was an ancestor. He was the only child of Edmund Tudor and Margaret Beaufort. Edmund Tudor was the half brother of the then king of England, Henry VI. His mother was Catherine Valois, the widow of Henry V. Edmund however considered he was the last surviving member of the House of Lancaster. However the crown could not have passed through Catherine. Margaret Beaufort's importance to Henry Tudor's clain is arguable since her descent was through John of Gaunt's illegitimate son John Beaufort (c. 1373 – 16 March 1410), born of the Duke's affair with his long term mistress Katherine Swynford (nee de Roet: c. 1349 – 10 May 1403), whom he later married. This established the House of Beaufort. The Beauforts were the chief supporters of Henry VI and the House of Lancaster.

It was accepted that the Beauforts were later (1397) legitimized by King Richard II, with an Act of Parliament of 9th Feb 1397, but a clause ("excepta dignitate regali") had been inserted into the document by Henry IV debarring the Beauforts from the throne. They had also been legitimsed by Pope Boniface IX in 1396 following the wedding of Gaunt and his former mistress. However it is possible that John Beaufort born in c.1373 was actually the child of Hugh Swynford, who died in 1371. John Beaufort and his wife Margaret Holland, the daughter of Thomas Holland, 2nd Earl of Kent and Alice FitzAlan, had six children including John Beaufort, 1st Duke of Somerset who was the father of Margaret Beaufort. Margaret became the head of the Beaufort house after her uncles and brothers passed away without any legitimate heirs.

When the Yorkist Edward IV regained the throne in 1471, Henry Tudor fled with other Lancastrians to Brittany. He spent most of the next 14 years under the protection of Francis II, Duke of Brittany. By 1483, Henry's mother was actively promoting him as an alternative to Richard III, despite her being married to Thomas Stanley, a Yorkist. At Rennes Cathedral on Christmas Day 1483, Henry pledged to marry Elizabeth of York, the eldest daughter of Edward IV. She was Edward's heir since the presumed death of her brothers, the Princes in the Tower, King Edward V and Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York. A first attempt by Henry Tudor to return to England in force as part of Buckingham's rebellion failed.

Richard III does not seem to have planned a land invasion of France, unlike most of his Plantagenet and Lancastrian predecessors: he had neither money nor time, but his ships did attack France and Brittany over the winter of 1483-4 as part of his aim to extradite Henry Tudor. Richard even promised to send 1,000 archers on demand to the duke of Brittany in exchange for Henry, but Henry escaped to France. He was welcomed by the French, who readily supplied him with troops and equipment for a second, successful, invasion. Richard III's death at the Battle of Bosworth Field (1485) effectively ended the Wars of the Roses. Henry then married Elizabeth of York: they were third cousins, as both were great-great-grandchildren of John of Gaunt.

Henry Tudor, as Henry VII with "Mona Lisa" smile - "Treason doth never prosper, what's the reason? For if it prosper, none dare call it Treason." He re-wrote history to create the "Tudor Myth" that Richard III was a homocidal hunchback. James I was keen to show that he was descended from Henry VII and that Henry had a good claim to the English throne by descent as well as by conquest. This impressive portrait is the earliest painting in the National Portrait Gallery's collection. The inscription records that the portrait was painted on 29 October 1505 by order of Herman Rinck, an agent for the Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian I. The portrait was probably painted as part of an unsuccessful marriage proposal, as Henry hoped to marry Maximillian's daughter Margaret of Savoy as his second wife

Lloyd's Work

This work on the part of Lloyd was intended to give genealogical legitimacy to the rule of James I by demonstrating a valid line of succession from at least Henry VII. That Lloyd acquired this post probably shows that he was already known to be interested and knowledgeable in the subject of royal genealogy. He was still at this time Bishop of Sodor and Man, but by July 1604 he is suggesting that he may become Bishop of Chester, a post still held by Richard Vaughan.

There were significant complications in the genealogy. As noted above John of Gaunt, third son of Edward III, was the Duke of Lancaster, and his illegitimate children, the Beauforts, were barred from the throne by his legitimate, firstborn son, Henry IV. The Beauforts were not true Lancastrians, because though they descended from John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster: Gaunt only had the title because of his first marriage, to Blanche of Lancaster (25 March 1342 – 12 September 1368). So Blanche’s descendants, Henry IV, Henry V and Henry VI, were valid Lancastrians. The Beauforts descended from Gaunt’s mistress and eventual third wife and their eventual legitimisation by Richard II, son of the Black Prince, Edward III’s eldest heir, did not change this. The Beauforts were never true Lancastrians: without Blanche’s blood, they couldn’t be. The rightful line after Richard II was that of Lionel, Duke of Clarence, who had been Edward III’s second son.

The alternatives who could be considered were:

Henry VII > Margaret Tudor > James V > Mary Queen of Scots > James I

Henry VII > Margaret Tudor > Margaret Douglas > Henry Stuart > James I (age 42, has 3 sons)

Henry VII > Mary Tudor > Francis Grey > Katherine Grey > Edward Seymour (age 47, has 3 sons)

Henry VII > Mary Tudor > Eleanor Brandon > Margaret Stanley > Ferdinando Stanley > Anne Stanley (age 23, unmarried)

Henry VII > Margaret Tudor > Margaret Douglas > Charles Stuart > Arbella Stuart (age 28, unmarried)

James I was the closer living relative to Elizabeth by one step than Anne Stanley and the children of Katherine Grey had been declared illegitimate. He is the same distance away from the throne as Arbella Stuart. There was one wildcard, the Infanta Isaella, daughter of Philip II of Spain. Following the 1587 execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, Isabella was suggested as a Catholic candidate in the succession to Elizabeth I as she was a legitimate descendant of John of Gaunt (unlike the Tudors) and her father had been jure uxoris King of England. Moreover, on June 16, 1586 Mary I, Queen of Scots, had recognized Philip II of Spain as her heir and successor to her English claim to the throne. The Line of descent from John of Gaunt was:

John of Gaunt > Catherine of Lancaster > John II of Castle > Isabella of Castile > Joanna of Castile > Charles V > Philip II

By 1601 Isabella and her husband were the Archduke and Archduchess who ruled the Habsburg Netherlands together. Their reign is a key period in the history of the Spanish Netherlands. The lands comprised most of the modern states of Belgium and Luxembourg, as well as parts of northern France, the southern Netherlands, and western Germany with the capital being Brussels. The Dutch Republic had been established in 1581.

Hitherto the royal authority had been content to rest itself upon human law and precedent; it remained for the Stuarts to find for it a sanction in a Divine law higher than human law and precedent, the recognition of which would set the king himself above all human law and precedent. Perhaps this was invevitable given that they had a weak claim to the throne by blood, and (unlike Henry Tudor) no claim by conquest. The assumption was harmless, so long as the king in practice consented to be bound by law and precedent; the trouble arose when kings refused to be so bound. The theory of Divine Right was for the first time asserted by James, but he did not carry his insistence upon it to the extreme point in practice. Hence the great collision between Crown and parliament was deferred to the reign of his successor. Nevertheless, it was James who set the ball rolling.

The next thing this article explores is ways in which the succcession issues related to trade in Chester. Wars and treaties would have considerable effects on trade.

To summarise:

  • Henry Tudor had a weak claim to the throne but there was no other contender. Richard III had apparently disposed of the Princes in the Tower either by their death or having them declared illegitimate.;
  • James I did not have a clear argument for succession;
  • The Stanley's offerred an alternative candidate in the form of Anne, daughter of Ferdinando Stanley. Ferdinando was the elder brother of William Stanley, a patron of Bishop Lloyd;
  • Bishop Lloyd of Sodor and Man was given the task of researching James' claim in June 1604;
  • Henry VII, himself a usurper of Richard III, seems to be the key ancestor for those who could be a rightful claimant upon the death of Elizabeth. Henry VII's claim to the throne, is based on his ancestor Henry IV, who had displaced Richard II.;

The Treaty of Medina del Campo (1489)

Around the succession from Richard III to Henry VII (c 1500) for much of the period the city was far from prosperous, and occasionally, as in the 1450s, in considerable decay. The citizens claimed in 1484 that it was 'wholly destroyed' because of the silting of the harbour, and in 1486 that it was 'thoroughly ruined . . . nearly one quarter destroyed' because access for shipping had been impossible for 200 years and Welsh traders avoided it because of high tolls. By the 1490s, however, there were signs of revival and in the early 16th century Chester prospered. Chester will play an indirect role through it's association with the Stanley's, and also with Arthur Tudor the new Earl of Chester.

Henry Tudor became Henry VII when he defeated Richard III on 22 August 1485 at the Battle of Boswoth Field at which Thomas and William Stanley were famously present and eventually supported Henry. He was the last king of England to win his throne on the field of battle. To secure his hold on the throne, Henry declared himself king by right of conquest retroactively from 21 August 1485, the day before Bosworth Field. Thus, anyone who had fought for Richard against him would be guilty of treason and Henry could legally confiscate the lands and property of Richard III, while restoring his own. He cemented his claim by marrying Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV. However he appears to have been concerned about the strength of his claim. Henry's mother, Margaret Beaufort, was a descendant of the Lancastrian branch of the House of Plantagenet. Henry's father, Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond, a half-brother of Henry VI of England and a member of the Welsh Tudors of Penmynydd. Henry VII and Elizabeth had seven children of which those who survived infancy were: Prince Arthur, Margaret, Henry and Mary. Each of these had the benefit of the bloodlines of both parents.

The accession of Henry VII in 1485 was a key point of transition politically and dynastically, for it prompted a series of innovations in administration that signalled a key change in both the strategy and mindset of government. A principal indicator of this was the way the Henrican regime viewed sea power in terms of security, trade, and exchange as well as a projection of the king’s status as dynastic monarch.

The Treaty of Medina del Campo was an agreement developed on March 26, 1489 between England and the nascent Spain. Its provisions accomplished three goals: the establishment of a common policy for the two countries regarding France, the reduction of tariffs between the two countries, and, most centrally, the arrangement of a marriage contract between Arthur Tudor, eldest son of Henry VII of England (and Earl of Chester), and Catherine of Aragon, daughter of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon.

Arthur Tudor

Arthur Tudor - Prince of Wales, Earl of Chester and Duke of Cornwall as the eldest son and heir apparent of Henry VII of England and his wife, Elizabeth of York—daughter of Edward IV—and his birth thus cemented the union between the House of Tudor and the House of York. He was their eldest child and was born months after their marriage. Arthur was viewed by contemporaries as the great hope of the newly established House of Tudor, as his birth symbolised the end of the Wars of the Roses, during which his great-uncle Richard III, the final Yorkist king, had died in battle.

Arthur Tudor was born 19/20 September 1486 eight months after his parents Henry VII and Elizabeth of York had married on the 18th January of the same year. Biographies of Elizabeth of York, Henry VII and Arthur himself do not report any contemporary rumor that Arthur was illegitimate (either because his parents may not have been married when he was conceived, or because Henry VII might not have been his father). Henry picked the name Arthur for the usual reasons given, to inaugurate a new age, emphasize his supposed descent from the legendary kings of Britain, provide a unifying motif across York-Lancaster divisions and perhaps to avoid the acrimony that might have arisen from a straight Henry-or-Edward choice.

Arthur Tudor was created Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester in 1489. Having an Earl and the potential of a stable government was probably considered a good thing by the people of Chester as the previous Earls of Chester had at times been sporadic especially during the "Wars of the Roses": Edward of Middleham the son of Richard III had died in 1482; Edward of York, was one of the "princes in the tower"; and, Edward of Westminster was killed aged seventeen at the Battle of Tewkesbury (1471). Effectively, the last earls to have taken any peacetime interest in Chester had been Henry of Monmouth (later Henry V) and Richard of Bordeaux (later Richard II). Notably, there was effectively only an adult Earl of Chester for few of the years from Henry of Monmouth becoming Henry V in 1413 at age 25 until the Georgians.

The connection with Spain via the betrothal was also useful for the merchants of Chester which Arthur Tudor visited in 1498. The Midsummer Watch Parade was first held during the mayoralty of Richard Goodman (in 1498) - organised by the City Guilds. As later recorded by William Aldersey:

  • "In this yeare it appeareth the watche vpon mydsomer dawn begane, also the north syde of the pentize buylded, prince Arthure came to Chester aboute the fourth of august, the assumption of our ladie played before the prince at the Abbaye gate, the xxvth august the prince made mr. goodman esquier [...] the xix daye of September he departed from chester."

There is an obvious difficulty in reconciling the dates of the visit of Prince Arthur to Chester (4 August 1498 - 19 Sept 1498) with the midsummer festivities during Goodman's mayorality, but it does indicate the nexus of significant events in which the origins of the watch parade is nested: the completion of a part of the Pentice, good progress on building the Abbey, an up-swing of trade with Spain, and of course the visit of the Prince. He was accompanied by his Page of Honour Thomas Cowper who married Isabel Goodman, daughter and heiress of mayor Richard Goodman. During the approximate time of the visit the Customs Records show that Mary of Chester, which was part owned by mayor Richard Goodman, arrived at Denhall (Neston) with 46 tons of iron. Goodman's profession is given as mercer, a merchant dealing in fabrics and textiles, especially silks and other fine cloths. Presumably he would send textiles or other goods out to Spain and bring back iron.

Between 1500 and 1550 there were forty or so significant Chester merchants who shipped through the port. Their trade was predominantly in importing iron and wine and exporting hides and cloth, but few were specialists. A few Cestrians were shippers of wine from Gascony and iron from Spain in the early 15th century, but many more of the ships involved were based in the West Country, at Totnes, Dartmouth, and Plymouth in Devon, Fowey, Falmouth, and St. Ives in Cornwall, and Bristol.

Much of England's medium-price and medium-quality cloth was also acceptable to this sector for normal day wear and household liveries. Again Isabella's accounts show the medium quality being bought, but the Navarrese accounts show in detail what the cloth might be used for. There it provided the royal family with gowns, jackets, sleeves, and hose, as well as gown-linings; Exeter or Chester red was lined with Aragonese white, or a gown of Montpellier perse blue was lined with Bristol red, and London black made mourning clothes for the queen and infantes. It was given as gifts, wages or for liveries to many in the household from a countess, or the knights at the queen's coronation, or the ambassadors setting out for Castile, to jugglers, trumpeters, and pages, and even masons and carpenters; it also made saddle cloths and caparisons for the horses. On the other hand it was used for gifts for important personages such as the Bishop of Bayonne, the visiting secretary of the Queen of Sicily, and Bristol cloths of various colours were sent to the Queen of Castile in 1421.

Armorial Bearings and Iconoclasts

It is not known for certain whether mayor Goodman was related to the Goodmans of Ruthin of whom Gabriel Goodman was awarded (by Elizabeth I) the arms displayed on Bishop Lloyd's House as a silver double headed eagle on a black field. The Goodmans of Chester used the "eagle" arms at times but also used a shield with a black chevron between three black crosses "botony" (with bud-like ends).

Between 1530 and 1686 the "Kings of Arms" belonging to the College of Arms were given Royal Commissions to visit English and Welsh counties, to establish that arms were borne with proper authority. They would travel around the country and imperiously summon the local gentry. The visitation of Cheshire for 1580 records pedigrees and coat of arms as examined in that year. This includes a very small pedigree for Goodman, and a description of the arms as: "Per pale Sable and Ermine an eagle displayed Or, charged on the breast with a trefoil Vert" i.e. a black and ermine shield bearing a golden eagle with a green three-part leaf on its breast. In the associated documents is found an explanation that:

  • "bereason Will'm Goodman beinge Maior died that yeare ; But he knowethe of no Armes due or belonginge to him nether desirethe nor deservethe any payns to be taken for him ; hee hathe yssue &c"

The normal consequence of not turning up at a visitation with proof of ancestry in the form of pedigrees and paying a not insubstantial fee would be that the arms would be "disclaimed", i.e. declared invalid, making the holder of them not a "gentleman" and hence by the "Law of Arms" and in the eyes of the Heralds no longer a member of the gentry which they saw as the lowest level of nobility. Those who did not pay would be "disclaymed in the chiefe places of the Hundreds wherein they dwell." In Chester there is evidence that this was done by public proclamation as there is a list of "names of the Particular Persons residing within the several Hundreds of the County Palatine of Chester who were disclaimed at the Market Cross in Chester on Thursday 28 July 1664 being the time of the Public & General Assizes held for the said County".

The arms of Oliver Cromwell is identical to that used on a seal of his grandfather, Henry, on a document of 1578/9. It reflects the Cromwell’s Welsh antecedents and Cromwell was particularly proud of it.

When the English Civil War began in 1642, the College of Arms was divided: three kings of arms, three heralds and one pursuivant sided with the King and the Royalists, while the other officers began to court the services of the Parliamentarian side. Nevertheless, the heralds petitioned Parliament in the same year, to protect their: "Books of Record, Registers, Entries, Precedents, Arms, Pedigrees and Dignities." In 1643 the heralds joined the King at Oxford, and were with him at Naseby and followed him on all of his campaigns. On 3 August 1646 the Committee of Sequestration took possession of the College premises, and kept it under its own authority. Later in October, Parliament ordered the committee to directly remove those officers whose loyalties were with the King and to nominate their own candidates to fill these vacant offices. In spite of this, the institutional College was protected by the Parliamentarians, and their rights and work continued unabated. The Restoration of Charles II annulled all the Acts of the Parliament and all the actions of the Lord Protector. Accordingly, all the grant of arms of the Commonwealth College was declared null and void. Furthermore, all heralds appointed during the Interregnum lost their offices, while those appointed originally by Charles I returned to their places. While the Puritans did not actively discourage heraldic display (Cromwell had a coat of arms of which he was particularly proud) they tended to avoid particularly ostentacious displays. Except, for example, when they were in church or chapel windows, many displays of arms survived the Civil War. Some royal arms and the tombs and effigies of some elite families were also sometimes damaged or defaced. The defacement was not restricted to religious buildings, the "Orders of the Committee for the Demolition of Monuments of Superstition and Idolatry" (published 17th May 1643) required the removal of:

  • "..images and pictures of any one or more persons of of the Trinity, or of the Virgin Mary ... in any open place withing your parish"

Orders also included the defacement of any coats of arms of Charles I.

Alderman Robert Harvey (listed as Councilor 1618, Sheriff 1625, Auditor 1627, alderman 1631) may at one time have lived in Bishop Lloyd's House. He was extensively studied by the Parliamentary Sequestration Committee following the fall of Chester in the Civil War. He had a house in Watergate Street, where he had continued to reside after the war began. According to some accounts this house was burned down by order of the Lords Byron and Cholmondley; after soldiers had failed to ignite it they paid a man named Holmes forty shillings to set it alight. Harvey had been voted Mayor by the corporation of Chester but refused to accept the post, and had spoken against the Royalist cause. He was known to have harboured the goods of fellow Parliamentarians in his house for the purposes of safe-keeping, and almost all witnesses confirmed that his wife had provided food to Parliamentarian soldiers in Chester Castle. However Harvey also had property in Eastgate and there is some suggestion that it was the Eastgate house that was fired. Harvey was given a discharge from sequestration. Notes by Thomas Hughes (CALS, ZCR 60/2/44) suggest that Robert Harvey may have lived at Bishop Lloyd's House and that he may have purchased it very shortly after Lloyd's death in 1615. Harvey is recorded as having died in 1669

Goodmans of Chester (c1500-c1580)

The Goodmans provided several mayors of Chester: Richard (the mercer) was mayor again in 1504-4, and followed by William Goodmam (1532-3 and 1536-7), Ralph Goodman (1547-8), William in (1550-1) when Edmund Gee died in Office, and another William in 1579-80 (who died in office himself). A number of Goodmans are mentioned in the surviving Custom's records for shipping at Chester, particularly William, Adam and Hamo. They appear to have been associated with the vessel "Katherine Goodman of Chester". The family were still involved with shipping in 1566 when records become patchy. The other business in which the Goodman's were involved was thee operation of the Dee Mills and it appears that Ralph and Thomas Goodman gained their interest in the mill c. 1532, by renting them from Sir Richard Cotton. As mill operators they strictly enforced their "soke right" which required most of the inhabitants of Chester to have their corn ground at the Dee Mills. Ralph Goodman died in 1570 and his interest passed to William Goodman, while serving as mayor, who died in 1579 having renewed the lease of the mills and fishery in 1575 from Cotton's widow at the large rent of £140. 1583 Goodman's widow married Alderman Edmund Gamull, later mayor, who in 1588 paid £600 in advance to renew the lease at the reduced rent of £100. Evidently satisfied with that judgement, and perhaps prompted by the extra custom generated by the needs of troops employed in the Irish wars of the 1580s and 1590s, in 1600 Edmund Gamull's son Thomas bought the mills and fishery from Cotton's heirs.

The pedigree of the Goodmans from the visitation of 1580 is remarkably sparse.

The William Goodman who was mayor in 1550 was probably born in 1500 and died in c1554. This William Goodman made his will on 19 September, 1554, witnessed by a William Aldersey, Sir Richard Lowther, Sir Rauf Houlbrocke, curate of St Brydes (St Bridget), John ffradsham, John Taylior and Elen Calcot "gentilwoman" and Mode Trener widow, and diverse others, naming as executors his wife, Margaret; his brother-in-law, Richard Brereton, Esquire; Thomas Grymesdiche; and William Beche. He had a substantial real estate portfolio including: the house in which he dwelt with its shops etc; Richard Bunberies' house; John Teliors' house; Robart Drias' house; Randull Eatons' house; Thomas Pillyns' house, William Bronnshanke's house, Richard Brerewood .....; a house in Aynnton; Roger Radforde's house, a house in Neston; a house in Fleshmongers Lane; Thomas Davyes' house; Symcocks' house; Bressies' house; Richard Walleys' house, a house in Backforde; Oldefylde. His son was the clergyman Christopher Goodman (c.1518-1603) who assisted in translating the Geneva Bible.

The MP for Lichfield John Goodman (c.1540-1604) was possibly a relative of Christopher Goodman. John Goodman’s father was probably the Chester merchant mentioned in a Privy Council letter of December 1565 as trading in Manchester cottons, and known to have been mayor of Chester at his death on 13 Aug. 1580. Goodman himself, after his call to the bar, held a number of minor offices at his Inn. He was in Ambrose Dudley, the 3rd Earl of Warwick’s service by the time of the preparation for the election of 1586, when the corporation of Warwick suggested his name to the Earl for one of their borough seats. However, in the event the Earl placed Goodman at Lichfield instead. Goodman was still in the Earl’s service about a year before the latter’s death (1590). Goodman made his will 29 Mar. 1603. In it he left a life interest in his Cheshire and Somerset lands to his widow, whom he appointed sole executrix. The will was proved 10 Sept. 1604. John Goodman was succeeded by his son William, who settled at Royston, Hertfordshire. This makes it appear that the Goodman's no longer involved with trade in Chester by the end of the 16th Century (they do appear in the Funeral Certificates) and raises the issue of why their arms appears on Bishop Lloyd's House almost certainly after 1600.

Trade with Spain

The treaty of Medina del Campo was signed on March 27 by the Spanish sovereigns, but its ratification by Henry VII did not occur until September 1490. After the treaty opened up further trade with the Iberian peninsula, Spanish iron, and wine from Portugal, Spain, and Gascony became the basis for a dramatic expansion in Chester's overseas trade, which allowed other Mediterranean commodities to reach the city, and provided new markets for hides and cloth. Chester's trade with Spain focused on the Basque region. Iron imports from northern Spain rose from 939 tons in 1490-1500 to 4,273 tons in 1530-40, and although dropping below 1,000 tons thereafter, survived international tension as a regular item in Chester's trade. 363 tons of iron were imported in 1562-3. It was carried in both local and Iberian ships, but before 1540 alien merchants shipped the largest quantities: 77 per cent in 1490-1500, 36 per cent in 1510-20, 61 per cent in 1523-30, 52 per cent in 1530-40, and 28 per cent in 1540-50. Relatively low quality iron was typically used for the manufacture of horse-shoes and tools. Some Basque iron was of a particularly high quality and at the beginning of the 14th century, iron-ore mines led to a period of demographic and economic growth in the Basque region lasting until the end of the 16th century. The better quality iron would be used, for example, in the manufacture of armour, ship building, and in high status domestic and religious buildings. The Palatinate accounts for Chester show almost all the iron imports to be Spanish or unloaded from Spanish ships, many from the Basque port of Lequeitio.

The importance of the iron trade was still remembered a century later in 1620 when at the peak of trade 86.75 tons of iron entered the Dee. The Chester merchants felt that they were able to explain this decline in the trade; in 1619 they explained that:

  • "ail the benyfyt in p[ar]ticuler w[hi]ch the m[er]chantes of Chester have is a lysence (Tor transportation of Calf skynnes . . . [which] lysence maynteanes a trade into byskaye ffrom whence we bringe into the porte aboutes 100 tunes of Iron yerely or hardly so much the Reason for that the place is Cloyed wth Inglyshe Iron and Iron made in Ireland wherof gret store comes to this place."

Within the next few years imports of iron through Chester declined below 60 tons, by the 1640's it would down to less than 30 tons.

Although the early 16th century overseas trade at Chester with Ireland, Spain, Portugal, and Brittany expanded, only merchants with a sizeable turnover could carry the heavy costs which arose from carriage from anchorages down the River Dee estuary and from high customs duties. The share of the port's trade controlled by Cestrians fluctuated. Dubliners dominated the Irish Sea trade, and there was strong competition for the rest of the overseas trade from English, Welsh, and Continental merchants. The involvement of the city's leading merchants appears to have ceased between the 1460s and the 1490s. Thereafter, however, their share increased until in the 1510s they were dominant. Such merchants, generally aldermen or common councillors, were engaged mainly in the Spanish trade but also maintained an interest in the Irish and coastal trade. In 1538-42, during Chester's trading zenith, 40-45 per cent of traders were Chester freemen. Most were probably only occasionally involved, and between 1500 and 1550 there were forty or so significant Chester merchants who shipped through the port. Their trade was predominantly in importing iron and wine and exporting hides and cloth, but few were specialists.

Besides iron, small quantities of angora, silk and velvet, liquorice, train oil, woad, and Cordovan skins were sometimes carried. Trade with Portugal and Andalusia in southern Spain through the northern Spanish ports brought cork, dyestuffs, figs and raisins, litmus, pepper and herbs, oil, sugar, wax, and sweet wines to Chester from c. 1509. Never extensive, the trade with Portugal and Andalusia dwindled to only two shipments between 1542 and 1560.

The other heraldic motif on Bishop Lloyd's House. James became English King in 1603.

The other set of heraldic motifs on the front of Bishop Lloyd's House relate in part to James I's son Henry Frederick (19 February 1594 – 6 November 1612). Prince Henry was invested as Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester in 1610, and was widely seen as a bright and promising heir to his father's thrones. However, at the age of 18, he predeceased his father, dying of what can be identified from his symptoms as typhoid fever. His younger brother Charles succeeded him as heir apparent to the English, Irish, and Scottish thrones. On Henry Frederick's creation as Prince of Wales the play "Chester's Triumph" was performed in Chester (St George's Day, 1610) and is described at some length on the page relating to Chamber's Book of days. The panel comprises the Tudor Rose of England surrounded by the motto of the Garter Knights. This stands between the letters "I" and "R" for "Iacobus" and "Rex", i.e. King James. The prince was made Knight of the Garter on 14 June 1603. James IV, king of Scots, was made KG in 1590. There was no Prince of Wales during the rule of Elizabeth I. Thus, while the motifs include those of a Prince of Wales they also the Tudor Rose which James used a symbol.

There is another, rather odd connection between Bishop Lloyd's House and James I. From 1750 to 1783 the House was the site of the "Upper Yacht" an inn. The word "yacht" is derived from the Dutch word "jacht" (pl. jachten, which means "hunt"), and originally referred to light, fast sailing vessels that the Dutch Republic navy used to pursue pirates and other transgressors around and into the shallow waters of the Low Countries. The history of sailing yachts as pleasure boats begins in Europe in the beginning of the 1600s with the building of the pleasure vessel "Disdain" by James I for his son Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales. In 1604 Phineas Pett, a member of the distinguished ship-building family, received instructions from Lord High-Admiral Charles Howard to "build in all haste a miniature pleasure ship" for Prince Henry, the eldest son of King James. The keel was 28 feet, she was 12 feet on the beam, and was finished "battlement-wise" An account of this little vessel is given in a monograph of Phineas Pett.

After the death of Elizabeth I (24 March 1603), her successor, James I, quickly sought to end the long and draining Anglo-Spanish War (1585–1604), and the Treaty of London was negotiated. The "Spanish Match" was a proposed marriage between Prince Charles (later king), the son of King James I of Great Britain, and Infanta Maria Anna of Spain (18 August 1606 – 13 May 1646), the daughter of Philip III of Spain. Had Henry Frederick not died a possible dynastic marriage would have been to Ana María Mauricia (22 September 1601 – 20 January 1666) a Spanish infanta known as Anne of Austria. At age eleven in 1612, Anne was betrothed to King Louis XIII of France.

Much has been written about the decay of the Port of Tudor Chester due to the silting of the River Dee. While it is true that silting occurred other factors were also relevant, including the fact that the Dee could not be navigated by the larger ships that were being developed. Despite this Chester remained the largest port in the northwest of England, but overall it was a second-rank provincial town, half the size of York and a third the size of Norwich. Although it carried only a small proportion of England's trade, ranking 12th in a list of 18 provincial ports in 1594-5. It had few, if any, ships of over 100 tons, and was unfavourably located for trading with England's main markets overseas. While well situated for trade with Ireland, its hinterland was not heavily populated or industrially developed, and competition from Liverpool gradually became more serious. The Irish trade was already the backbone of the city's commerce in 1550, and grew from a third of Chester's imports and three quarters of its exports by value in 1582-3 to two thirds of imports and nine tenths of exports a decade later. Medium-range trade included some with the Baltic, but there was little direct interest in longer-range trade. During the 16th Century longer-range trade from England developed only slowly. Meanwhile the Potuguese had found a way around the Cape of Good Hope and were expanding into the east (see: Middleton).

To summarise:

  • Arthur Tudor gave Chester a long awaited Earl;
  • Spanish Trade expanded significantly following the Treaty of Medina del Campo;
  • The Spanish Trade was export of tanned calfskins and import of wine and iron;

The Spanish Company

The arms of the Spanish Company features the cross of St George which was the flag of Genoa. Unlike the Chester merchants much of the trade was with the Andalusian ports, so the protection of the Genoese fleet would have been useful.

The Spanish Company was an English chartered company or corporate body established in 1530. Its Charter was granted by King Henry VIII on 1 September. A further 1577 Charter was granted by Queen Elizabeth I dated 8 June, but there were difficult relations with Spain and frequent closures of trade. It effectively ceased to exist during the Anglo-Spanish War (1585–1604). The Company was re-established in 1605 as President, Assistants and Fellowship of Merchants of England trading into Spain and Portugal, whose purpose was the facilitation and control of English trade between England and Spain through the establishment of a corporate monopoly of approved merchants.

The origins of the Spanish Company are to be found not in England but in the organisation built up by English merchants in the early sixteenth century for their own welfare and protection in the Iberian peninsula. In this there was nothing unusual for both the Merchant Staplers and the Merchant Adventurers had established their headquarters in their mart towns rather than in London. The English merchants trading to Spain and Portugal did not possess any staple towns comparable to Calais or Antwerp; but the chief focus of English commerce was the coastline of Andalusia, the area to which the majority of English cargoes were shipped, and it was in the Andalusian ports of Seville, Sanlucar de Barrameda, Puerto de Santa Maria and Cadiz that the majority of English merchants and factors congregated. As Chester’s continental trade was with Northern Spain, Chester chiefly used the port of Bilboa and its surrounding ports: San Sebastion, Bermec and Portugalete.

In 1517 Don Alfonso Perez de Guzman, 5th Duke of Medina Sidonia, granted to the English merchants resident in Sanlucar their earliest corporate privileges, confirming the position of their leader as the "consul and judge", and bestowing on them "a piece of ground in the street down below the waterside" on which they might at their own expense erect a chapel dedicated to St. George and a burial place for Englishmen. In addition to the church, they also built a hospital for the poor and St George's School, which would be used to meet the needs of the significant English community. The church was owned by the English Catholic church until 1985. Initially the "Spanish Company" had no organisation in England and it only incorporated those who travelled to the south coast, so largely excluding Chester. By the end of the reign of Henry VIII the original Spanish Company no-longer had any real existence. For the next thirty years relations between the Spanish, Dutch and Portuguese were often difficult. With peace between Spain and King James the Spanish Company was renewed.

The 557 founding members of the 1605 incorporation named in the charter consisted of two distinct groups, firstly of 25 nobles, royal officials and knights and then of 532 merchants from 16 named English ports and towns. The ones from Chester were:

  • Fulke Aldersey, son and heir of Mayor William Aldersey (c.1513-77), and his wife, Margaret. He was himself Mayor in 1594 and died in 1609;
  • William Aldersey (we do not know which one, but almost certainly William Aldersey "The Elder" (1543-1616) and not William Aldersey "The Younger" who died in 1625),
  • William Johnson (died 1607), and,
  • George Boys

These are all described as "merchants of Chester". The key passage in the Charter granted by James I reads:

  • "And for that divers persons our subjects being not brought up in merchandise or use of traffic, but altogether ignorant and inexpert as well in the order and rules of merchandise as in the laws and customs of the realms of Spain and Portugal, and in the customs, usages, tolls and values of moneys, weights and measures, and in all other things belonging to merchandise very necessary, through their ignorance and lack of knowledge do commit many inconveniences and absurdities (as we are informed) to the offence of us and our dear brother the king of Spain, we willing to prevent and meet with such inconveniences and intending to further and help the expert and exercised merchants in their lawful and honest trade, and to establish good order and government in the said trade, of our ample and abundant grace do grant unto the president, assistants and fellowship of merchants that they, and such only as be or shall be of this incorporation or free of this fellowship, shall enjoy the whole entire and only trade and traffic and the whole entire and only liberty, use and privilege of trading and trafficking and using the feat and trade of merchandise, by and through all the parts of Spain and Portugal, from the town of Fuenterrabia in the kingdom or province of Biscay along the coast of Spain or Portugal or either of them unto Barcelona and in all the islands adjoining or appertaining to the said realms, towards the south or west part thereof. And therefore we command all the subjects of us, our heirs and successors, of what degree or quality soever they be, that none of them directly or indirectly do visit haunt frequent or trade, traffic or adventure by way of merchandise into or from any the parts of Spain or Portugal or either of them from the town of Fuenterrabia unto Barcelona, neither within any islands adjoining or appertaining to the said realms, towards the south or west part thereof, other than the president, assistants and fellowship and such particular persons as be of that fellowship, their factors, agents, servants and assigns, upon pain not only to incur our indignation, but also to pay such pains and amercements and also to suffer imprisonment and other pains due to the transgressors of the statutes of the fellowship"
The association of the Mercers, Ironmongers, Grocers and Apothecaries is possibly explained by the fact that they all dealt with trade to or through Iberia. The Mercer's features a crowned female emerging from clouds. The Ironmonger's chains and salamanders as the crest. The Grocers has cloves and a camel. The Apothecaries has Apollo defeating a wyvern and a rhinocerous.

Fuenterrabia, now known in Basque as Hondarribia, is a border town with France facing Hendaye (France) over the Txingudi bay. Given the position of Barcelona the charter of the Spanish Company covered effectively the entire coatline of Spain and Portugal. Membership of the Spanish Company did not come cheaply, it charged up to £20 for membership.

The trade with Spain in iron and cloth was to have a peculiar consequence for the guild structure in Chester. The mercers and spicers (later the grocers) appear to have been associated as early as 1574, for there is a record of them performing "The Three Kings" in the Chester Mystery Plays in that year. Before the establishment of the East India Company in 1600 many spices, such as pepper, nutmeg and cloves would have been obtained via Iberia. Indeed the arms of the grocers features nine cloves and a camel to indicate the distant origin of spices. The mercers and ironmongers were incorporated as one company in 1598 and in 1725 the apothecaries petitioned for incorporation by charter from the city as other incorporated companies "having usually associated with the Company of Mercers and Ironmongers". It was not until 172I that the word apothecary appeared in the title of the Gild. When John Tristram, apothecary, was steward the heading of a meeting read: "The names of the Bretheren of the Worshipful Company of Mercers, Ironmongers and Apothecaries within the City of Chester".

The arms of the Spanish Company feature the Cross of St George which also appears on the front of Bishop Lloyd's House. The flag of the Union changed to a design which was ordered by King James VI and I in 1606 to be used on ships on the high seas, and it subsequently came into use as a national flag following the Treaty of Union and Acts of Union 1707, gaining the status of "the Ensign armorial of Great Britain", the newly-created state. the Union Jack, or the British flag, which was used at sea from 1606 and more generally from 1707 to 1801: it was the first flag of Great Britain. The St. George's flag was adopted by England and the City of London in c.1190 (i.e. at the beginning of the Third Crusade) for their ships entering the Mediterranean to benefit from the protection of the Genoese Fleet. The English Monarch paid an annual tribute to the Doge of Genoa for this privilege.

To summarise:

  • At first the Biscayan Trade of Chester was quite separate from the trade of the Spanish Company in Andalusia;
  • When the Spanish Company was re-founded by James I, both branches of the Aldersey's were involved;


One central economic policy at the time was "Mercantilism" which is designed to maximize the exports and minimize the imports for an economy. In other words, it seeks to maximize the accumulation of resources within the country and use those resources for one-sided trade. It promotes imperialism, colonialism, protectionism, currency manipulation, and tariffs and subsidies on traded goods to achieve that goal. England began the first large-scale and integrative approach to mercantilism during the Elizabethan Era (1558–1603). An early statement on national balance of trade appeared in "Discourse of the Common Wealth of this Realm of England", 1549:

  • "We must always take heed that we buy no more from strangers than we sell them, for so should we impoverish ourselves and enrich them." (attributed to Sir Thomas Smith).

On this theory, trades and employments should be encouraged were those which tended to develop national strength; trade which enriched another nation was to be discouraged; the prosperity of a neighbour probably, of a rival certainly, was looked upon as injurious. The importance to the State of possessing a large amount of gold and silver gave rise to the doctrine that a trade which exchanged treasure for goods was bad for the country, but that one which exchanged goods for treasure was beneficial. It became, therefore, the duty of the State to control commerce, to encourage or discourage it actively, with a view to maintaining the "balance of trade" that is, of securing an inflow of treasure greater than the outflow and the artificial development of industries regarded as beneficial, as, for instance, the manufacture of gunpowder and ordnance. The principal means to the encouragement of shipping was found in the Navigation Acts, favouring goods exported or imported in English bottoms. One root cause of this concern of the state with, in effect, bullion was that the nature of war had shifted from feudal levies to professional standing armies.

The first great examples of monopolist Companies were the Merchants of the Staple and the Merchant Adventurers, who had exclusive rights of trading in certain classes of goods in Western Europe. Taking a positive view, such monopolies were a condition of the progress of trade. The trader was admitted only if he was an enrolled member of a Company which was responsible for his good behaviour (such as regards accurate weights and measures) and could be penalised if its members set rules and regulations. A Company to which authority had been granted could control its members but unless the grant also conveyed a monopoly, it would have no control over traders who were not members. On the negative side this would appear to block "free trade" and enrich a few at the expense of the many.

The maritime ex­pansion of the sixteenth century opened up new markets or new fields of enterprise, where the economic arguments which had warranted the old monopolies were more effective than ever. In Elizabeth's reign there began a multiplication of chartered Companies for trading in the more remote and less civilised portions of the globe. Thus the Eastern or Prussian Company was established for trading with the Baltic, the Muscovy Company for the Russian trade, the Levant Company for trade with Constaninople, and, finally, on the last day of the year 1600, the East India Company. Early Stuart governments also cashed-in on commerce by selling exclusive "monopolies" on trading in specific goods, thus fixing their retail price. Bitterly unpopular, monopolies were abolished in 1624 by James I’s last Parliament, but Charles I’s ministers, desperate for money, reintroduced them as "patents".

A somewhat conflicting policy was to ban the export of certain goods to as to prevent stortages at home. From 1558 until the 1660's the export of hides and leather was prohibited, except under licence, and an Act 5 and 6 Edward VI cap. 5 actually made transport of these commodities punishable by death (the penalty was abolished in 1572). The existence of a licence to export tanned calfskins would be of considerable significance to Chester.

Trade Guilds and Charters

The incorporation of trade guilds and like bodies, as well as the establishment of other exclusive practices was nothing new in Chester (see: Charters and Chester Mystery Plays). Chester was granted a Gild Merchant in 1200 but by the middle of the thirteenth century the various crafts gradually formed their own guilds or companies. The Shoemakers' company later claimed to have been established as the guild of St. Martin before 1285–6 (though later still it alleged a 12th-century origin), while in the 1410s the Tailors asserted a less precise claim to have existed since ancient times, and certainly had some form of collective identity soon after 1300, when they made a small annual payment to the earl of Chester to ensure that no-one 'communed' with them on 3rd September (the feast of the Translation of St. Gregory the Great). From the 1360s the Tanners (see: Tanning) and the Shoemakers enjoyed exclusive and collective privileges in the leather-dressing trade, and during the earlier 15th century many other craft fellowships emerged as corporate bodies which participated in the Corpus Christi festival and could be represented in the city courts by their stewards. Probably most were in being by the 1420s, perhaps crystallized by what was apparently a reorganization and elaboration of the Corpus Christi play shortly before 1422.

The Gamul family tomb in St Mary on the Hill.

No craftsman or trader could work in Chester, and avoid a fine, unless he was a "freeman" and a member of the relevant Guild. The parents or guardians of a minor would agree with a Guild's Master craftsman the conditions for an apprenticeship which would bind the minor for 5–9 years (e.g. from age 14 to 21), and pay a premium to the craftsman and the contract would be recorded in an indenture. Apprentices served at least five years to learn their trade. They could then become freemen of the City and seek admission to the appropriate Craft Guild. To become a freeman, a man had to be the son of a freeman, to have served his apprenticeship to a freeman or be admitted by order of the City Assembly, which usually involved a hefty fee. All these barriers made it difficult for those lacking the capital to set up for themselves or without the approval of their peers to gain access to materials or knowledge, or to sell into certain markets, an area that equally dominated the guilds' concerns. There were a few positive aspects: guilds created "social capital" of shared norms, common information, mutual sanctions, and collective political action. This social capital benefited guild members, even as it arguably hurt outsiders. It could also be said that, guilds had some positive impact in maintaining quality and ensuring effective transfer of skills from generation to generation.

By the end of the 16th Century two local families in Chester were pre-eminent. Six Alderseys traded with the Continent between 1558 and 1603, and family members owned property in and near the city and held civic office. Their wealth became largely concentrated in the hands of the third William Aldersey (d. 1625), who left a personal estate worth over £2,300 and credits of £1,700. The Gamulls (of Gamul House), not quite as wealthy, also held civic office and had interests in the Dee Mills and a salt-works. Another rich overseas merchant was Richard Bavand, mayor and M.P., who died in 1603 owning goods worth c. £400, more than 20 properties in the city, and land outside. Merchants supplemented their profits with advantageous marriages, investment in shipping, farming, property rents, retailing, loans to the Crown, and in some cases smuggling and evasion of tolls. Nevertheless, even the most prominent were less affluent than their counterparts in the main provincial ports.

In 1554 the Chester Merchant Venturers had been granted a charter by Queen Mary I which gave them a monopoly of all local trade to the continent, besides excluding retailers and all followers of manual craft occupations. The latter provision seems to have been disregarded almost from the beginning; the Chester Merchant Adventurers became a fairly comprehensive body despite some early disputes with the town corporation, and the charter was confirmed in 1559 by Elizabeth. One of the items traded with Spain was iron: The peak in this trade occurred during the 1530s when imports averaged more than 400 tons a year. In Elizabeth's reign imports fluctuated but never regained the level achieved during the 1530s. Exports to the continent were dominated by a single commodity, tanned calfskins. The origin of this trade lay in a licence granted by Elizabeth to the Chester merchants in 1584. This licence, which allowed the merchants to export 10,000 dickers of tanned calfskins within twelve years, was intended to relieve the Chester merchants who had suffered heavy losses through piracy and shipwreck during the 1570s. The licence was slightly altered in 1586 and then renewed in 1598, 1605 and 1629, thus continuing the privilege down to the Civil War.

The Aldersey family, in its various branches, was a leading one at and near Chester. There are two William Aldersey's in this story. The first William Aldersey, son by 1513, of Philip Aldersey of Chester who had married Margaret, daughter of John Barnes of Crawshaw, Lancs. The second, born 1543 is a distant cousin. Several Aldersey's were mayors of Chester: Robert 1525-26, Hugh 1528-29, Hugh 1541-42, Hugh 1546-47 (died in office), William 1560-61, Foulk Aldersley 1594-95, William (Snr) 1595-96, John 1603-04, William (Jnr) 1613-14, William (Snr) 1614-15 and Thomas 1640-41.

William Aldersey (c.1513-77)

His father Philip was a younger brother in the line established at Middle Aldersey, some seven miles south-east of Chester. This William was a merchant who traded in a variety of products: in 1534 and 1540 he is found importing general goods, in 1542-3 iron, and afterwards wine. As one of the two sheriffs of the city in 1536-7 he was involved in a dispute over the city’s recordership. In 1536 Ellen Wrine, mother of Ralph Wrine, to whom the office had been granted in the previous year, complained to Thomas Cromwell of her husband’s maltreatment by the mayor and sheriffs, who were seeking to deprive her son of the recordership, which he owed to Cromwell; in her view they were doing so because her husband had informed Cromwell about William Aldersey the sheriff, who had robbed a ship at sea the year before, but what the truth of the matter was, and how it ended is not at all clear. Three years later Aldersey and other Chester men were pardoned for having exported leather without paying the customs duties imposed in 1536; their plea of ignorance of the Act concerned (27 Hen. VIII, c.14) may have implied a protest at the non-representation of the city. In 1546 the Privy Council was ordered to pay £30 to William Aldersey, who was in turn to pay William Goodman, alderman of Chester, for the money he had had to lay out in expenses for the bishop of Caithness. In 1553 Aldersey appears as a tenant of the former Carmelite friary in Chester, in Whitefriars.

In 1283 Chester had received a special summons to send two Members to the Parliament at Shrewsbury which passed sentence on David of Wales, but as part of a county palatine with a parliamentum of its own until the early 16th century Chester received no further summons until enfranchised by the Act of 1543. Aldersey and his fellow-Member in the Parliament of 1547, Richard Sneyd, are the first two representatives of Chester whose names have been preserved. Following its enfranchisement in 1543 the city had doubtless returned Members to the Parliament of 1545 — or even perhaps to the third session (1544) of the previous one — and from the outset it probably adopted the practice, which was to become de rigueur, of electing its recorder and a leading citizen. Thus each time he was returned Aldersey had the recorder as his senior colleague: in 1547 and April 1554 it was Sneyd, in 1555 William Gerard II.

The pedigree of the Alderseys of Picton and Chester from the 1613 visitation. He is related to the Goodmans through his mother Jane. The William Aldersey in the portrait is the one in this pedigree.

It was during Aldersey’s Membership of Queen Mary’s second Parliament that he procured the grant of the charter incorporating the merchant adventurers of Chester. This followed the presentation of a memorial by Aldersey, Richard Poole and Robert Massey complaining of the numbers of artificers and manual workers in the city who engaged in foreign trade, often in secret and without payment of customs. The charter of May 1554 therefore made a seven-year apprenticeship obligatory on all who intended to trade as overseas merchants. Aldersey’s leadership of the campaign was acknowledged by his being named the company’s first master. Similar movements were taking place at the time in London and other ports, and the Chester company encountered the same kind of opposition as did its counterparts from those whom they excluded. Its claim to promote the yield of customs must have rung hollow when in October 1554 Aldersey and other members were fined £100 for having paid no customs on consignments of leather, calfskins and wheat, and within a month its critics were writing to the city’s Members in the Parliament then in session about the pernicious consequences of the charter. Whatever their damage to his reputation, these developments did not prevent Aldersey’s election to the next Parliament.

William Aldersey (c.1513-77) would have a son John, also to become Mayor in 1603, and die in 1605. John would become the father of another William Aldersey (died 1625), also to become Mayor and this son is the one known in the mayorial lists as William Aldersey the younger.

Aldersey is buried in St Oswald. In the floor of the chancel were two inscribed alabaster stones:

  • the inscription on the first stone says: Here lieth interred the body of William Aldersey, sometime mayor of this city, who died in anno 1577. And of Margaret, his wife, who died in anno 1587. And of John Aldersey, their second son, sometime also mayor of this city, who died the 17th of May, 1605.
  • the second inscription says: Here lieth the body of Foulk Aldersey, sometime mayor of this city, who died the 22d of February, anno Domini 1608; who was son and heir to William Aldersey, sometime also mayor of this city; who died the 12th of October, anno Domini 1577

William Aldersey (1543-1616)

He was born in Chester (1543) to Ralphe Aldersey and Jane daughter to William Goodman of Chester (according to The 1613 Visitation). However the biography given by the National Archives has him as the son of another William Aldersey (see: ZCR 469).

William Aldersey (1543-1616) married Mary (daughter of John Brereton) and had 1 daughter (Alice). According to some sources Alice would marry the tenth John Leche of Leche House, however the pedigrees of the period are sometimes inconsistent, and there were several William Aldersey's. The information for the portrait of William Aldersey (1543-1616) on the Art Fund page relating to his portrait in the Grosvenor Museum (which hangs next to that of Bishop Lloyd) states that:

Portrait of William Aldersey (mayor 1595-96 and 1613-14) from the Grosvenor Museum (purchased 2012). Painted in oil on an oak panel and dated 1615, the artwork is the earliest surviving portrait of any mayor of Chester. He died at Chester on 26 October 1616 and was buried in St Oswald.
  • "He was a merchant ironmonger and so successful in overseas trade that he became a founding member of the East India Company in 1600."

This information is apparently taken from documents which were passed down through the Leche family. It was thought for some time that his name not appear in the founders charter, but his name appears in the list of:

  • "..two hundred and fifteen knights, aldermen, and merchants, as follows..." the Charter of incorporation of the East India Company by the name of the Governor and Company of Merchants of London trading into the East Indies, dated the 31st December 1600.

It is almost certain that Aldersey would have known the Middletons, as John Middleton was a director of the East India Company and Henry an employee. This is also the William Aldersey who is named in the 1605 incorporation of the Spanish Company as "Fulke Aldersey, William Aldersey, William Johnson and George Boys merchants of Chester".

The genealogy of the Aldersey family is very complicated, so further research is needed to identify the precise relation of the family members and their associates to the Middletons. The documents which come down through the Leche family include the "Aldersey Memorandum Book" which dates from the 16th Century and includes an inventory of the goods of Raphe Aldersey (d 1554) as well as the noted Aldersey List of Mayors. A note on the outer envelope by William Fergusson Irvine (1869-1962) reads:

  • "Raphe Aldersey was the father of Wm Aldersey twice mayor of Chester whose dau Alice married John Leche in 1616. Raphe Aldersey died 30th June 1554 and it is probable that the book was continued by Wm Aldersey his son who compiled the annals of Chester a copy of which is to be found in Charles Leches Book."

Irvine was the father of Andrew Irvine who, with his climbing partner George Mallory disappeared somewhere high on the Mount Everest's northeast ridge and is presumed to have died.

Recusants and Puritains

The Henrician reformation had been received in Chester with acquiescence tempered by conservatism and expediency. Prominent townsmen who bought or rented ecclesiastical property included William Sneyd, Hugh Aldersey, and William Goodman, all former mayors, and the Dutton family. There is little indication of enthusiasm for new doctrines in Chester, which contained no notable protestant laymen, and whose overseas trade was not with ports where protestantism was entrenched. The Marian reaction in the city was thus limited. The married incumbent of St. Mary's and Bishop Bird were deprived. The latter's two successors, George Coates (1554-5) and Cuthbert Scott (1556-9), reorganized the church courts to revitalize Catholic worship throughout the diocese. The only indication of lay resistance came in 1555, when one of the sheriffs, John Cowper, led an unsuccessful attempt to rescue a heretic, George Marsh, from being burnt at Boughton on the outskirts of the liberties. Following the coronation of Elizabeth initial efforts to enforce conformity were less than urgent under the lax regime of Bishop Downham, but in 1564 he presented a report, not wholly accurate, which cast doubt on the religious loyalties of several aldermen, including the mayor (Richard Poole) and three of his predecessors (John Smith, William Aldersey, and Randle Bamvill). There were also a few suspect absentees from church services, notably a Fulk Aldersey and his wife.

Enthusiastic protestantism developed only slowly. During the 1560s and 1570s there were attempts to promote good behaviour in church and some agitation against the Chester Mystery Plays, but the turning point came only in the 1580s, when Bishop Chadderton (1579-95) established monthly exercises, dominated by puritans, and encouraged clergy to attend. Among the participants was the Revd. Christopher Goodman, who returned to Chester in 1584 and soon gathered influential support among the laity. In 1583 the corporation established a weekly Friday lecture at St Peter's, which became a centre of puritan preaching. After Goodman associated himself with St Bridget's it too displayed puritan leanings. The growing attachment to puritan teachings was both reflected in, and encouraged by, the corporation's eventual concern with personal behaviour. It repeatedly attempted to curb excessive drinking and vice, attacking church ales, Welsh weddings, unlawful games, bowling, football, and bull and bear baiting. In 1583 the authorities banned Sunday trading and exhorted Cestrians to attend church whenever sermons were preached and twice on Sundays and holy days; the corporation set an example by attending services with due formality. Opposition to Mayor Henry Hardware's interference with the Midsummer Watch Parade in 1600, however, suggests that the citizens' enthusiasm for high-minded reforms was limited.

Puritan Nicholas Byfield was preaching at St Peter (c1600-1615) when the "Chester's Triumph" was performed. There is still a copy of a "Breeches Bible" from around 1579 at St Peter. Byfield was a influence on the iconoclast John Bruen.

Bishop Richard Vaughan (1597-1604) sympathized with many puritan opinions. The next bishop, George Lloyd (1604-15), a former divinity lecturer at the cathedral, was an active preacher and apparently a moderate who tolerated puritan clergy in Chester. He still had to face the ministrations of Nicholas Byfield, a Calvinist polemicist and a powerful preacher, who was rector of St. Peter's 1608-15, where his congregation included the well known puritan gentleman John Bruen of Bruen Stapleford, a supporter of private prayer meetings in the parish. Members of the corporation attended Byfield's services at St Peter, and the mayor of 1611-12, John Ratcliffe, had his official pew removed from the Cathedral into the church until it was removed back to St Oswald on the orders of the somewhat less radical Bishop Lloyd. Ratcliffe's son, another John Ratcliffe, was an ardent puritan, his letters being frequently punctuated by biblical quotations. In 1613 he was accused, along with the noted puritan John Bruen, of helping to pull down crosses within the county. As mayor he forbade carriers from entering Chester on the Sabbath, cleared the area around the High Cross and stopped the selling of milk and butter from the market stoops on Sundays.

In the 16th and 17th centuries the Aldersey family was divided in its religious beliefs. Exposure to Protestant Reformist speakers in London, including Cestrian Christopher Goodman and the Pole Jan Łaski, led Thomas Aldersey to become a Protestant. Catholic Mary I's accession in 1553 made Thomas Aldersey's religious and political convictions dangerous, and in 1555 he was charged over his attention to Christopher Goodman's writings. His efforts, which continued throughout his life, to aid the Protestant exiles who left England for Emden in Germany by establishing trading relationships gained him the support of William Cecil and other prominent Protestants.

As noted, the Alderseys were split along religious lines. Randel Aldersey (d. 1600) was fined repeatedly for Recusancy in the 1590s, while his nephew, Samuel Aldersey of London (d. 1633), was a prominent Puritan and a founder member of the Massachusetts Colony and associated trading company. Thomas (1521/2-1598), was a younger son of the Bunbury and Spurstow branch who moved to London and became a richly successful merchant and citizen, a prominent member of the Haberdashers’ company, and sat as an MP in 1572, 1584, 1586 and 1589. He acquired the rectory of Bunbury and endowed a grammar school there, run by the Haberdashers; by the terms of his will he left further money to support a preaching ministry in the parish, perhaps in an effort to counter the persistent recusancy for which the parish was then known.

William Aldersey the MP under Mary purchased a general pardon uncder Elizabeth. A reference in a list of recusants of 1577 to a man of the same name and trade who ‘lieth [a]bed rotten, as it is said’ could be to the dying alderman.

The most notable recusant in Chester was William's son Fulke Aldersey who appeared before the Ecclesiastical Commission in 1581. Margaret Aldersey, possibly Fulke's mother, was brought before the Ecclesiastical Commission at least three times over the course of thirty years for her recusancy and other misdemeanours. In 1562, Aldersey was questioned regarding the concealment of a religious image that she admitted she had sold and stated that she had arranged for it to be ‘convayed ... away bie a Spaniard’. She was also reprimanded for her use of a Latin Primer. In 1571, Aldersey was brought before the Commission again and told to ‘bringe in a Latin Primer boke’ – presumably the same book that she was still using. Fulke was rebellious to the grave: his funeral certificate reads:

  • "FFULKE ALDERSEY of the Citty of Chester, Alderman and Justice of Peace, and was Maior therof in An. 1594, dyed one the xxij day of February, i608[-9], and lyeth interred in Christes Church in the said Citty. He maried Sisely .... by whom he had no yssue. He maried after Elizabeth, daughter and one of the heyers of John Norbery of the Citty of Chester, Esq, by whom he had no yssue."

It therfore seems that the Williaam Aldersey of the Merchant Adventurers and his son Fulke would have been directly opposed to the religious views of the one associated with the East India Company. It therefore seems that the Alderseys were split into a strongly pro-catholic and an equally strongly protestant faction.

To summarise:

  • The Spanish Company and the Merchant Adventurers were separate groups.
  • William Aldersey (c.1513-77) was involved with the charter incorporating the Merchant Adventurers of Chester from Queen Mary in 1554. Both he and others involved (Poole and Massey) would later be accused of being Catholic sympathisers.
  • Fulke Aldersey, son and heir of Mayor William Aldersey (c.1513-77), was himself Mayor in 1594 and died in 1609
  • William Aldersey (1543-1616) was also involved with the Spanish Company
  • Willian Aldersey (1543-1616) was involved with the East India Company
  • Both Fulke and his mother Margaret were apparently recusants and regularly failed to attend church

Merchant Adventurers

The Company of Merchant Adventurers to New Lands was an early joint stock association, which began with private exploration and enterprise, and was to have been incorporated by King Edward VI in 1553, but received its full royal charter in 1555. The full name of the Company was "Mystery and Company of Merchant Adventurers for the Discovery of Regions, Dominions, Islands, and Places unknown". It led to the commencement of English trade with Russia, Persia and elsewhere, and became known informally, and later formally, as the Muscovy Company. The first expedition of the Company of Merchant Adventurers was led by Hugh Willoughby, who was chosen for his military leadership skills after esteemed service against the Scots defending English castles in the north of the country. They hoped to find a northeast sea route to the Far East. Willoughby had no prior nautical or navigational experience and it was hoped he would transition into naval life with the same aplomb he showed on land. After the ships became separated near the North Cape Willoughby and his crew were never seen alive again, but the events following their separation can be pieced together from Willoughby's journal which was later recovered.

Further attempts to establish the company and its privileges resulted in the a Charter from Queen Elizabeth. This stated its goal as:

  • "Since the making of which letters patents, the said fellowship haue, to their exceeding great costes, losses and expences, not onely by their trading into the said dominions of the said mightie prince of Russia, &c., found out conuenient way to saile into the saide dominions: but also passing thorow the same, and ouer the Caspian sea, haue discouered very commodious trades into Armenia, Media, Hyrcania, Persia, and other dominions in Asia minor, hoping by Gods grace to discouer also the country of Cathaia, and other regions uery conuenient to be traded into by merchants of this realme, for the great benefite and commodities of the same."

As will be obvious, the object of the company was to promte private exploration with the incentive of some form of monopoly on any trade so established.

The similarly named Company of Merchant Adventurers of London was a trading company founded in the City of London. The company received its royal charter from King Henry IV in 1407, but its roots may go back to the Fraternity of St. Thomas of Canterbury. It claimed to have liberties existing as early as 1216. The Duke of Brabant granted privileges and in return promised no fees to trading merchants. The company was chiefly chartered to the English merchants at Antwerp in 1305. Henry IV's charter was in favor of the English merchants dwelling in Holland, Zeeland, Brabant, and Flanders.

It brought together leading merchants in a regulated company in the nature of a guild. Its members' main business was exporting cloth, especially white (undyed) woolen broadcloth, in exchange for a large range of foreign goods. It's objective was not exploration. It traded known northern European ports rather than sailing into unknown waters, competing with the Hanseatic League. It came to focus on Hamburg. One benefit of organising as a Company was that resources could be shared between shareholders. Initially, shares were only available to those actually engaged in the relevant trade, but the idea of simply investing capital soon emerged.

The memorial to Henry Hardware (1537-1583) in Tarvin Church (he died at Blacon on 8th March 1583 aged 46) also features the Merchant Adventurer's blazon. Hardware was mayor of Chester in 1559 and 1575. He was the father of the "reforming" mayor Henry Hardware (1599-1600) who "broke up the Giants" and cancelled the Chester Mystery Plays.

The Chester Company

The Chester company of Merchant Venturers' Charter was granted in May 1554. As noted above this was in part the work of Chester MP William Aldersey. The Charter stated that:

  • "According to tho complaint of William Aldersey, Richard Poole, and Richard Massye, and others (Merchant Venturers). Artisans and Craftsmen without suitable knowledge have trafficked in foreign merchandise to the defrauding of tho Queen's customs and the injury of the shipping interest of Chester. The Queen therfore appoints William Aldersey, Master of the Merchant Venturers in Chester, with two wardens, Richard Poole and Richard Massye, and they, with other citizens who are not of any manual art, who have exercised the art or mystery of Merchant Venturers for seven years last past, should be one body corporate under the name of the Master, Wardens and Commonalty of Merchant Venturers of Chester. No craftsman or other person of the City is to resort to merchandise in foreign parts, unless admitted to the Society, and this grant is not to prejudice the rights of the Crown, the privileges of the Mayor or the Governor and Society of Merchant Adventurers frequenting Spain, Holland, Zeeland, Brabant and Flanders."

This was a remarkable coup and it is worth speculating on how Aldersey managed to pull it off. One relevant fact is that Mary was about to marry Philip II of Spain and Aldersey's argument possibly related to customs which should have been collected from the trade with Spain. It may also be relevant that all three were later believed to have Catholic sympathies.

The arms of the Merchant Venturers also appear on Henry Hardware’s memorial plaque in Tarvin at St Andrews Church. This also contains a bullet hole from the Civil War. The inscription on the memorial is a rather poor verse and reads:

  • henry hardware here interred is / that alderman was of late / in the Cittye of Chester, where he was a moste grave Majestrate / within that Cittye the sword / before him twyse had borne / he ruled with prudente pollicye / as Citizens grave can wel enform / AND SO DECEASSED THE 5 OF MARCHE, 1584.

Soon after Thomas Massey and the recorder, his kinsman Richard Sneyd, had begun to attend the Parliament of November 1554 they received a letter from the Chester city authorities about the charter which William Aldersey had procured for the Merchant Adventurers of Chester; in the belief of some, this was likely to prove so harmful to the city that the two Members were to raise the subject with the chancellor. What came of this has not been discovered, but Massey may well have approached chancellor Stephen Gardiner through his cousin the chancellor’s servant Robert Massey, who sat in this Parliament for the Flint Boroughs. The matter appears to have arisen again as in 1589 an order was made at Chester forbidding merchants who were members of the Merchant Adventurers from exercising any manual occupation but allowing them to retail in any one trade.

Dispute with Chester

Philip II of Spain. King of Spain from 1556, King of Portugal from 1580, and King of Naples and Sicily from 1554 until his death in 1598. He was also jure uxoris King of England and Ireland from his marriage to Queen Mary I in 1554 until her death in 1558. Under Philip II, Spain reached the height of its influence and power. Philip saw himself as the defender of Catholic Europe against the Ottoman Empire and the Protestant Reformation. In 1588, he sent an armada to invade Protestant England, with the strategic aim of overthrowing Elizabeth I. His war with England would not end until all the leading protagonists, including himself, had died.

The complications with the presence of prior dealings with Spain at Bristol, Exeter and Chester were to lead to issues. The city which was to give the Spanish Company most trouble, however, was Chester. Within 18 months of the incorporation of the Spanish Company it was at odds with the Merchant Venturers, the outports and the government. In 1577, president John Mershe asked the Merchant Venturers to confer with him over the question of membership. Like their fellows in Exeter they were then established as an outport branch, with a deputy and assistants chosen from among the leading merchants of the town.

The Iberian merchants of Chester made themselves unpopular at home by insisting that all those who traded to Spain and Portugal should join the Spanish Company, on the grounds that the charter of 1554 allowing them to trade without restrictions had been superseded by the new (1577) charter of the Spanish Company. At the same time they tried to prevent those Merchant Adventurers who both traded abroad and retailed goods from doing so, ordering them to choose one activity and abandon the other. Although technically the dispute lay between the Spanish Company and the Chester Merchant Venturers it soon degenerated into a faction fight among the latter who were divided into the 'mere merchants' and the merchant retailers. More accurately the first group comprised the large-scale merchants whose prosperity was based entirely on commerce, the second the smaller traders whose less ample resources forced them to supplement their income by practising an additional craft or occupation. To add to the confusion, Eric Massey, the Spanish Company deputy in Chester, had meanwhile been attempting without much success to enforce the company monopoly over the merchants of Liverpool, one of the subsidiary havens of Chester. The Liverpool merchants, angered by this interference, sided with the 'merchant retailers' in Chester, and invoked the assistance of a powerful local magnate, the earl of Derby, who took the matter up in London. At first Francis Walsingham granted the merchants of Liverpool the right to trade as they pleased.

At last in November 1581 the privy council intervened, ordering the lord chief justice and the master of the rolls to hear the conflicting arguments put forward by Thomas Wilford, Mershe's successor, acting for the company, and some of the merchants of Chester and Liverpool. The law lords concluded that the Spanish Company had acted beyond its powers in attempting to prevent the retailers from trading, since in the small outports there were not enough mere merchants to maintain the trade. The privy council thereupon permitted the merchant retailers to continue their commerce and informed the earl of Derby of its decision.

This was not the end of the matter, for in September 1582 the privy council was forced to repeat the whole process as the quarrel had not abated. It summoned the Chester merchants to London and reiterated its orders that the branch of the Spanish Company within the town should not stop the retailers from trading. Again the settlement was short-lived for in 1584 the "mere merchants being members of the Spanish Company" obtained from Queen Elizabeth a licence to export 10,000 dickers of calfskins a year. A "dicker" is ten skins. The retailers complained that this was another ploy to monopolise the trade, while the mere merchants argued that as the grant had been awarded "in respect of their losses sustained by the French" as a result of privateering, the retailers who had suffered no such injuries were not entitled to participate. If they were to share in the transport of calfskins, the mere merchants asked that they in compensation should be allowed to retail. Finally in July 1589 the councillors adopted the mere merchants' suggestion and in an attempt to obtain a lasting solution they ordered that henceforth all retailers might trade freely and take advantage of the licence, provided that the merchants could retail goods if they wished. By now the cessation of commerce following the outbreak of war with Spain had rendered the conflict pointless, and at last it ended.

An early version of the arms of the East India Company may have featured the cross of St George.

The altercation over the powers of the Spanish Company in Chester was not a headlong clash between the Londoners and the outport merchants of the type that was to occur in 1605. Moreover, its continuation into 1589, after the company had ceased to hold its courts, reinforces the impression that it was essentially a conflict between two groups within Chester. Then, too, Massey by his bullying arrogance had needlessly inflamed the situation. Nevertheless the privy council by its decision not to enforce the company monopoly had grievously weakened the chances of any effective control over the outports when the war came to an end. The significance of the affair must have made an impact in many places other than Chester itself.

However, conflicts between the company and the outports were not so widespread as to preclude all co-operation between them. Each provincial deputy and treasurer was expected to make an annual visit to the capital to render the accounts of membership fees and fines; they also attended the annual elections which took place in the general court on Ascension day or shortly after. Besides being responsible to the central administration for its own affairs, each major outport controlled the smaller havens of its division or stretch of coastline allotted to it, which roughly followed the divisions of the customs system. The details of Chester's intervention at Liverpool suggest that at least some of the head ports made a genuine effort to organise the smaller ones.

The East India Company

"Bishop Lloyd's House" (2014). The two heraldic panels discussed above appear in white.

In 1599, a group of prominent merchants and explorers met to discuss a potential East Indies venture under a royal charter. Three months earlier, on July 19, Admiral Jacob Corneliszoon van Neck of the Dutch Compagnie Van Verre — the Company of Distant Lands — had successfully returned from Indonesia with a vast cargo of spices: eight hundred tons of pepper, two hundred tons of cloves, and great quantities of cinnamon and nutmeg. The voyage made an unprecedented 400 percent profit: “There never arrived in Holland ships so richly laden”, wrote one envious Levant Company observer.

Besides Ralph Fitch and James Lancaster, the group included Stephen Soame, then Lord Mayor of London; Thomas Smythe, a powerful London politician and administrator, whose father had established the Levant Company; Sir John Wolstenholme; Richard Hakluyt, writer and apologist for British colonization of the Americas; and several other sea-farers who had served with Drake and Raleigh. They convened again on 31 December 1600, and Queen Elizabeth, responded favourably to a petition by "George, Earl of Cumberland and 218 others, including James Lancaster, Sir John Harte, Sir John Spencer (both of whom had been Lord Mayor of London), the adventurer Edward Michelborne, the nobleman William Cavendish and other Aldermen and citizens of London. Many of those in this group had been associated with the Merchant Adventurers, i.e. the exporters of cloth such as wool rather than those interested in exploration and the development of new colonies.

The queen initially agreed, possibly because she wanted to keep the City on her side in case of a threatened rebellion by the unruly Robert Devereux, second Earl of Essex, and so she proved surprisingly receptive to the petition. Devereux has an unlikely connection with Chester in that he turns up in the Chester Pageant 1937 where episode 7:

  • ..closes with the arrival of the Earl of Essex (Earl Marshal of England) on his way to Ireland to subdue the rebellion of Tyrone. A page gives the earl some wine and a beautiful girl ties a favour to his arm. The earl raises a toast to Queen Elizabeth and the crowd cheers as he rides off. All then dance out of the arena.

In reality Essex went on to stage an unsuccessful rebellion in 1601. This followed a special performance of Shakespeare's Richard II on the 7th February 1601, at the Globe Theatre (with the often omitted deposition scene included) by the Lord Chamberlain's Men. This was apparently an attempt to gain popular support for the revolt, which rapidly turned into a farce. One representative episode finds Essex knocking on the front door of Thomas Smythe, one of his great supporters in London, only for Smythe to try to escape out the back of his own home. By the end of the day, Essex and his men surrendered at Essex House. Essex was arrested and subsequently beheaded in the confines of the Tower of London on 25th February 1601. The day before the death of this unsuccessful usurper Elizabeth had the play Richard II performed again "for her own amusement". She is reputed by William Lambarde to have remarked some seven months later, “I am Richard II, know ye not that?”

After some delay, the Queen granted her charter to their corporation named "Governor and Company of Merchants of London trading into the East Indies". This is better known as the "East India Company".

Named in the Charter was the Chester-born captain John Middleton. For a period of fifteen years, the charter awarded the company a monopoly on English trade with all countries east of the Cape of Good Hope and west of the Straits of Magellan. Any traders there without a licence from the company were liable to forfeiture of their ships and cargo (half of which would go to the Crown and half to the company), as well as imprisonment at the "royal pleasure". John Middleton was one of the 24 members of the "First and present Committee" of the Company as named in its founding charter. Sir James Lancaster commanded the first East India Company voyage in 1601 aboard Malice Scourge, afterwards named Red Dragon. John's brother Henry Middleton was appointed purser of Red Dragon; but shortly before the fleet sailed Henry was advanced to be a "factor" for the voyage, and another purser was appointed in his stead. Later Henry was appointed to Susan (formerly a Levant trader with 24 guns) as "captain and chief-merchant". John Middleton was both the vice-admiral of the the EIA's first expedition and captain of Hector (300 tons, 108 men, 24 guns) and died at Bantam shortly after his brother Henry and Susan had set sail for home. In March 1604, Sir Henry Middleton commanded the Company's second voyage. General William Keeling, a captain during the second voyage, led the third voyage aboard Red Dragon from 1607 to 1610 along with Hector under Captain William Hawkins and Consent under Captain David Middleton a third Middleton brother from Chester. By now James I was king and in 1609 he extended the period of monopoly to be indefinite.

Although these early attempts to break into the spice trade were successful. The company would soon develop in a different direction. Apart from setting up small trading stations the approach taken was not colonialist, but largely one of trade and piracy. Battles were fought not for the control of land, but for the control or freedom of the seas.

Eventually, the Malay archipelago and the Moluccas were conceded to the Dutch following the Amboina Massacre in 1632. The Dutch East India Company was established in 1602 and, in addition to the spice trade in the Indonesian archipelago, opened up markets in India, China and Japan. They later stopped the English from gaining a hold on the lucrative spice trade, and seized Portuguese possessions in the Far East. The company flourished, and at the peak of its power had 150 merchantmen, guarded by 40 warships and 10,000 soldiers. Their main port was Batavia (Jakarta), and in 1652 a staging post was set up at the Cape of Good Hope. In the late 18th century, however, wars with rivals, general mismanagement, and widespread corruption brought about a decline, and in 1798 the Dutch government took over the company.

By 1652 over 20 posts or “factories” had been set up in India, including major centres near Surat, Calcutta and Madras. With the defeat of the French in the 18th century - due in large part to the activities of the company official Robert Clive in the battles of Arcot and Wandiwash - rule was slowly developed across most of the sub-continent. From then on, corruption became widespread, and the home government began to take over the administration, appointing a governor-general in 1773, and extending government control by Pitt's India Act of 1784. The Company’s trading monopoly came to an end in India in 1813 and in China in 1833, and, following the Indian Mutiny of 1857, the company was closed down. By the Government of India Act 1858 the Company's territories in India were to be vested in Queen Victoria, the Company ceasing to exercise its power and control over these territories. India was to be governed in the Queen's name as Empress of India.

To summarise:

  • The arms of the Merchant Adventurers appears on the front of Bishop Lloyds House;
  • The charter of 1554 stipulated that only members of the Merchant Venturers of Chester could trade in foreign merchandise;
  • There were significant disputes over exclusivity with the Spanish Company;
  • Dutch voyages made it clear that vast profits could be made in the East Indies;
  • William Aldersey and John Middleton were involved with the formation of the EIC;

War with Ireland and the Golden Speech

This article started with a statement that the arms displayed on Bishop Lloyds house must probably date from 1600-1605 when he was bishop of Sodor and Man and entitled to use them. The Merchant Venturers arms appears on the same panel and therefore dates from the same time. If the panel with the arms of James I was made at the same time this dates them to 1603-05, i.e. following the death of Elizabeth, when it would have become clear that Prince Henry would eventually become Prince of Wales and the Earl that Chester had long lacked (as he did in 1610).

1603-05 was also the time of a widespread and severe epidemic of bubonic plague in Chester which was unusual in Chester in falling into two contrasting phases. The first was long drawn out but relatively mild: 933 dead out of c. 5,220 inhabitants over 83 weeks represented a death rate of 11 per cent a year, four times the annual rate of the previous decade but not as severe as that experienced elsewhere. The second phase killed 1,041 people in 34 weeks, or 20 per cent a year among a population probably as large as in 1603. Preventive measures taken in Chester by the Assembly in 1603-5 may have retarded the spread of infection, even though they were conventional and crude: erecting pesthouses on the outskirts to isolate the sick; destruction of infected bedding; orders against overcrowded housing; and a ban on the Michaelmas fair and Christmas watch in 1604 to prevent crowds from gathering. Coincidentally trade through Chester declined: fewer merchants brought goods in, maritime trade was in the doldrums, and cloth exports in 1604 were only a tenth of their level in 1602. This particular plague cycle may well have been associated with the movement of troops through Chester in support of the Irish wars and the famines of the past years. War, famine and pestilence being known as companions. However, there were outbreaks in London at the same time. This did not stop some ascribing the plague to the accession of king James, or associating it with Kepler's Supernova. This was the same plague that the Middletons' encountered on the return of the first voyage of the East India Company.

The Irish War

One of the main difficulties of the last years of the rule of Queen Elizabeth was the war in Ireland which broke out in 1579. The crisis point of the Elizabethan conquest of Ireland came when the English authorities tried to extend their authority over Ulster and Aodh Mór Ó Néill, the most powerful Irish lord in Ireland. Though initially appearing to support the crown, Ó Néill engaged in a proxy war in Fermanagh and northern Connacht, by sending troops to aid Aodh Mag Uidhir lord of Fermanagh. This distracted the crown with military campaigns in the west while Tyrone consolidated his power in Ulster. Ó Néill openly broke with the crown in February 1595 when his forces took and destroyed the Blackwater Fort on the Armagh-Tyrone border. Later named the Nine Years War, Ó Néill focused his action in Ulster and along its borders, until Spanish promises of aid in 1596 led him to spread the conflict to the rest of Ireland. What had started as a war for regional autonomy became a war for the control of Ireland.

The pedigree of the Alderseys of Chester from the 1613 visitation.

Chester was the main port used for sending English troops levied in other parts of the country, who passed through the city frequently and in growing numbers. The mayor and other officials were often fully occupied with receiving them and arranging quarters, food, and money. Ships were requisitioned and provisioned, and supplies of food, drink, stores, and ammunition were sent to Ireland. The repeated demands strained local markets, especially during the shortages of the later 1590s: prices rose, ships' masters demanded large payments, there were difficulties with the authorities of Liverpool, disaffected men deserted in droves and were rarely captured, weapons were often found to be defective, moneys were embezzled, profiteering was rife, and Chester earned a reputation as a 'robber's cave'. Disorderly conduct was frequent, especially when troops were delayed by bad weather or lack of ships. To contain it, in 1594 the mayor erected a gibbet at the High Cross. The mayors in this period were: 1599-1600, Henry Hardware (junior); 1600-01 Robert Brerewood (who died in office) and Richard Bavand; 1601-02 John Ratcliffe (sen); 1602-03, Hugh Glazier; 1603-04, John Aldersey and 1604-05, Edward Dutton.

Almost all of these people were either major merchants or relatives in mercantile families:

  • Henry Hardware was the son of the same named father with the Merchant Adventurers arms on his memorial at Tarvin;
  • Robert Brerewood worked as both a glover and a tanner, and was (untypically) also a retailer. He also dealt in wool from sheepskins and timber purchased for the bark (used in tanning);
  • Richard Bavand is the brother-in-law of John Middleton who was himself the father of the three Middleton brothers associated with the East India Company. Bavand was MP for Chester in 1584;
  • John Ratcliffe rose to prominence as a brewer in Chester, eventually serving as mayor in 1601-2. Described as a "very worthy good man and religious, careful and painful in his profession", he became so wealthy that he reputedly "kept many servants and the poor had great relief at his house". His son was Chester MP John Ratcliffe and his son in turn another John Ratcliffe and another MP;
  • Hugh Glasier was elected MP for Chester in 1601. During the year of his mayoralty he corresponded with Robert Cecil about problems in the city caused by troops on their way to and from Ireland. He died in London on 6 July 1610.
  • John Aldersey (c1553-1605), according to the 1613 visitation was a son of William Aldersey (mayor, who died in 1577) and Margaret Barnes and therefore the brother of Fulke (mayor in 1594-95, died 1608) who was involved with the Spanish Company. John Aldersey was one of the first victims of the plague when it returned in May 1605.
  • Edward Dutton remained in the city during the ongoing plague and paid for remaining in the city by having his house twice infected and losing some of his children and servants. Overall a third of freemen and half of the "lower classes" died.

With the Irish victory at the Battle of the Yellow Ford, the collapse of the Munster Plantation, followed by the dismal vice-royalty of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, the power of the Crown in Ireland came close to collapse. In October 1601 Spanish forces landed in Ireland. During the two years from early 1600 many reinforcements passed through the port, the mayor received a stream of orders from the privy council, and there were further problems of supply and unruly behaviour.

The Golden Speech

The monopolies of the Elizabethan economic model also led to protests. The Queen used some grants of exclusive rights to trade in return for favours, services and loans and as a source of income. The earliest recorded parliamentary objections were raised in the Commons during the 1571 Parliament by Robert Bell who complained that "by lycenses a fewe were enriched and the multitude impoverished". For this he was severely reprimanded by the Privy Council. Elizabeth quashed the potential for further agitation by promising to "take order for lycenses, wherein she had bene carefull and more carefull woulde bee". In the 1597-98 Parliament protests against monopolies were referred to an investigating committee who drafted a petition that was delivered by the Speaker at the close of the session. Elizabeth responded by graciously defending her prerogative:

  • "which is the chiefest flower in her garland and the principall and head pearle in her crowne and dyadem’, and claimed that having already begun to review offensive grants ‘soe she promiseth to continewe and that they shall all be examined to abide the tryall and true touchstone of the lawe".

In fact very few were cancelled, and new patents continued to be issued. By 1601, while the first expedition of the East India Company was at sea and the Spanish were preparing to land in Ireland, many MPs were determined to hold Elizabeth to her word and demanded not just that abuses be addressed but that the legality of all such grants be challenged: a clash over the prerogative was therefore unavoidable. Numerous Members brought in evidence that the "principallest commodityes ... are ingrossed into the handes of these bloodsuckers of the commonwealth", and attacked monopolies as "the whirlepoole of the prince’s profittes". The queen’s famous "Golden Speech on monopolies to a delegation of around 140 Members was a master stroke that defused an ugly impasse and made her seem generous without, in fact, conceding a great deal. It was given on 30th November 1601. At the same time as admitting that some of her grants had been a "lapse of error" she maintained her prerogative, asserting that "yt is lawefull for our kingly state to grant guiftes of sundrie sorts of whome we make election".

From 1601, in the last years of Elizabeth I's life, certain English politicians, notably her chief minister, Sir Robert Cecil, maintained a secret correspondence with James to prepare in advance for a smooth succession. Cecil advised James not to press the matter of the succession upon the queen but simply to treat her with kindness and respect. The approach proved effective: "I trust that you will not doubt", Elizabeth wrote to James, "but that your last letters are so acceptably taken as my thanks cannot be lacking for the same, but yield them you in grateful sort". In March 1603, with the queen clearly dying, Cecil sent James a draft proclamation of his accession to the English throne. Strategic fortresses were put on alert, with London placed under guard. Elizabeth died in the early hours of 24 March. Within eight hours, James was proclaimed king in London, with the news received without protest or disturbance.

As noted above James was one of several possible sucessors, and employed Bishop Lloyd to research his ancestry.

The kingdom to which James succeeded, however, had its problems. Monopolies and taxation had engendered a widespread sense of grievance, and the costs of war in Ireland had become a heavy burden on the government, which had debts of £400,000. James survived two conspiracies in the first year of his reign, despite the smoothness of the succession and the warmth of his welcome: the Bye Plot and Main Plot, which led to the arrest of Lord Cobham and Walter Raleigh, among others. Those hoping for a change in government from James were disappointed at first when he kept Elizabeth's Privy Councillors in office, as secretly planned with Cecil. Never having been at war with Spain, he devoted his efforts to bringing the long Anglo–Spanish War to an end, and a peace treaty was signed between the two countries in August 1604, thanks to the skilled diplomacy of the delegation, in particular Robert Cecil and Henry Howard, now Earl of Northampton. The survivors of the first voyage of the East India Company returned to England in September 1603 to learn of Elizabeth's death but James Lancaster was knighted by the new king. In March 1604, Henry Middleton commanded the Company's second voyage: he was knighted at Greenwich on 25 May 1606 shortly after his return.

To summarise:

  • The outbreak of the Anglo Spanish War (1585-1604) and the Anglo-Irish War, known as the Nine Year's War (1593-1603) affected trade in Chester;
  • On the accession of James monopolies and taxation had engendered a widespread sense of grievance;


The Irish trade was already the backbone of the city's commerce in 1550, and grew from a third of Chester's imports and three quarters of its exports by value in 1582-3 to two thirds of imports and nine tenths of exports a decade later. Chester's exports were increasingly diverse: cloth above all, but also Welsh coal, re-exported iron and soap, salt, miscellaneous manufactured goods, foodstuffs, and wine. The most important imports from Ireland were raw materials: skins and hides for the local leather industry, wool, linen yarn, small amounts of tallow and timber, and large quantities of fish, especially herring. Between 80 and 90 per cent of the Irish trade was with Dublin, and Dublin merchants dominated it, numbering more than 100 by 1592-3. Chester was central to the coastal trade of the NorthWest and north Wales, sending out large amounts of grain (except in years of local scarcity), but also wine, foreign fruits and other re-exports, and manufactured and household goods. Coastal imports to Chester included Irish merchandise transhipped from Liverpool, grain from Lancashire, and fish from southwestern England. Chester merchants regularly brought from London large miscellaneous cargoes of wine, chalk, iron, fuller's earth, and other commodities.

On the outbreak of war with Spain in 1585 the trade switched to Saint-Jean-de-Luz (Pyrénées-Atlantiques), from where calfskins could be taken into Spain to exchange for iron; even so, fewer than 3,000 dickers had been exported by 1598 when the licence was renewed for nine years. Much of the trade was carried in Chester-owned ships, which normally made two round voyages a year. From the 1570s many were lost through shipwreck, piracy, and enemy attack. As their capacity averaged only c. 40 tons, larger vessels from other ports were also used. Trading prosperity was high during the early 1560s with flourishing wine and iron imports, and lower during the later 1560s and the 1570s because of the loss of ships and an embargo on trade with Spain. During the early 1580s a boom was fed by imports of French wine, and difficulties accompanying the war with Spain were overcome to prolong prosperity into the 1590s.

It seems that between 1607 and 1634 exports of broadcloth increased almost threefold while exports of other old draperies may have increased even faster. The export of new draperies probably expanded also and, in conclusion, it was stated that 'the level of cloth exports was considerably higher in the 1630s than early in James I's reign'. Coal exports and livestock imports grew markedly, again, particularly during the 1630s. Overall, However the vast bulk of trade did not grow. Data abstracted from the Port Books makes it clear that this trade was able to support only a dozen or so local merchants: 31 traded with France and Spain in 1565-6, for example, but only 15 in 1602-3, and the share taken by the biggest operators grew. This impression is strengthened by two lists of Chester merchants compiled around 1620; the first, which names eighteen merchants, was headed "Theis are free of the Company, but live on other trades and Adventure not att all". The second, giving ten names, was headed "Theis only are Adventurers", meaning these are the mere-merchants.

Complaint was made, at this time, that even in the wine trade the Chester merchants were having to face increasing competition, but this soon slackened off. The overall picture of Chester's trade with the continent for much of the first four decades of the seventeenth century is one of stagnation. Only in the 1630s were there signs of growth and development, but even the increase in the level of wine imports proved to be short-lived. Even before the onset of the Civil War most branches of Chester's trade seem to have been in decline, and this is particularly true of the wine trade. In another important respect there seems to have been little enterprise among the Chester merchants during the first half of the seventeenth century. While the merchants of other ports, and particularly the London merchants, were pioneering new trade routes or developing older routes with areas such as the East Indies and Indian Ocean, the Mediterranean, and the American mainland and West Indies, with perhaps only few exceptions the Chester merchants were content to ply their well-worn routes to France and Spain. There was a significant increase in livestock entering the Dee by ship from Ireland, but little was on Chester ships and almost all was was landed on the Wirral with few animals entering the city.

Two local families were pre-eminent. Six Alderseys traded with the Continent between 1558 and 1603, and family members owned property in and near the city and held civic office. Their wealth became largely concentrated in the hands of the third William Aldersey (d. 1625), who left a personal estate worth over £2,300 and credits of £1,700. The Gamulls, not quite as wealthy, also held civic office and had interests in the Dee Mills and a salt-works. Another rich overseas merchant was Richard Bavand, mayor and M.P., who died in 1603 owning goods worth c. £400, more than 20 properties in the city, and land outside. Merchants supplemented their profits with advantageous marriages, investment in shipping, farming, property rents, retailing, loans to the Crown, and in some cases smuggling and evasion of tolls. Nevertheless, even the most prominent were less affluent than their counterparts in the main provincial ports, and Chester was not dominated by a merchant oligarchy.

Disputes continued, however, over other privileges sought by leading merchants. In 1605 Chester's exemption from prisage on imported wines was deemed to have ended, and competition ensued for the right to collect the tax. At first the corporation was allowed to farm it from the royal grantee, with William Gamull and other prominent merchants as its subfarmers from 1611. In 1624 a new farmer of prisage instead sublet his rights for £650 a year exclusively to five major wine merchants, William and Andrew Gamull, William Aldersey (The Younger), Thomas Thropp, and William Glegg. The arrangement had been secured in secret and was challenged by William Edwards, a new councilman already embattled against Gamull's clique for preventing his admission to the Merchants' company. In 1629 the dispute took another twist when William Gamull and his friends, supposedly negotiating a renewal of the licence to export calfskins on behalf of the city generally, instead secured a monopoly for themselves. The privy council finally ruled that all merchants should benefit, though perhaps only on Gamull's terms.

The Chester Merchant Adventurers are last heard of in 1639, but by that time Chester fleet seems to have been very small. In March 1619, the Mayor informed the Privy Council that:

  • The City had no ships, trading only in small barks, "of thirtie or fortie tunnes - for the most part used for importing of passengers and cattell betwixt Ireland and England."

The precise end of the Merchant Adventurers is not known. The other Guilds and Companies continued, in part maintained by the Owen Jones bequest and remaining a significant political force until the 1690's, when Whig and Tory groups began to emerge. During the first third of the 18th century at least some guilds were still active in economic regulation, passing and sometimes enforcing rules about the number of apprentices who might be taken on and the length of apprenticeships, and restraining members who tried to entice journeymen away from other masters by offering higher wages. Some still tried to control access to their raw materials, notably the Tanners in the 1710s. Most effort, however, was directed towards preventing non-members from trading in the city. The Feltcappers frequently took action, though it took two costly lawsuits over 10 years before they finally put a non-member working from Boughton out of business in 1740. The Shoemakers were vigorous in making prosecutions in the 1720s and 1730s, and the Bricklayers in 1737 fined members who sold bricks to unfree journeymen working on their own account. Such efforts gradually petered out after the 1730s, and by 1750 they had all but stopped. The Brewers frequently asserted their monopoly before 1761, but not at all afterwards, and they last regulated the price of ale in 1762. In the background there was the occasional payout from the Owen Jones bequest. Frank Simpson wrote of the charity:

  • "About this time (1773) many were admitted into the Companies through favour, for the sole purpose of partaking of the Bequest, and others were kept out by the demand of arbitrary fees; although many well-to-do citizens partook of the distribution, they gave receipts for their shares describing themselves “poor brothers."

In 1792 when the Owen Jones payout came to the Bricklayers £203 11s was paid out to the 12 members of that company of which half were Bodens. In 1798 the distribution of the funds from the Charity to the "Poor Bretheren" was £19.50 per head. In terms of comparing wages, this is the same as at least £20,000 in 2016 money, and the "Poor Bretheren" included the then Mayor of Chester (Thomas Barnes Esq), his son (Thomas jnr), and possibly at least one other family member (both Samuel and Benjamin Barnes are amongst the 19 member who benefited). The only beneficiary who did not get £19.50 was "Widow Dawson", who got £1 1s. In addition there were £5 spent on refreshments, £14 in other disbursements

The Municipal Corporations Act of 1835 superseded most of the ancient methods of local government, and Chester fell into line with the younger communities. Through this act the companies lost their political influence and a ruling body sympathetic to their trading monopoly. However, by this time trade diversification and industrialisation had virtually destroyed the identity and protectorate role of the companies of Chester, with many existing as no more than social clubs. The Beer-brewers Company, for example, had just three members in 1835, while the Skinners and Feltmakers had just two. Forty years later (43 Geo. III.) this Act was amended, and a further Act (The Chester Improvement Act) was passed in 1845. In 1884 another Act was passed giving further powers. The 1835 Act established a uniform system of municipal boroughs, to be governed by town councils elected by ratepayers, rather than simply freemen, or in extreme cases in Chester only the aldermen themselves.

Postscript: Anne Stanley

Mervyn Tuchet, 2nd Earl of Castlehaven, from a contemporary print published in the wake of his notorious trial.

Anne Stanley, who almost became Queen, through her two marriages became instead Baroness Chandos and later Countess of Castlehaven. In 1630, her second husband, the Earl of Castlehaven (1593 – 14 May 1631), was arrested and charged with being an accomplice to her rape by a servant, Giles Broadway at their home in Fonthill Gifford. He was also accused of sodomy, found guilty and sentenced to death. He is the only British member of parliament to be executed for a non-political crime.

Anne Stanley's testimony against her husband was crucial in ensuring his conviction and set the precedent that a wife could give evidence against her husband. He is the only member of parliament to be executed for a non-political crime. After the trial, she lived a very secluded life; her reputation had been severely damaged by the scandal. A page, Laurence FitzPatrick and Giles Browning were each put on trial for their roles in the offences. FitzPatrick testified that Lady Castlehaven:

  • "was the wickedest woman in the world, and had more to answer for than any woman that lived"

Both men were convicted and subsequently executed. In The Complete Peerage, Cokayne adds that the death of Castlehaven was certainly brought about by his wife's manipulations and that her undoubted adultery with one Ampthill and with Henry Skipwith renders her motives suspicious. According to the historian Cynthia B. Herrup, Anne was the equal of Lord Castlehaven in immorality.

The masque "Comus" by John Milton was first presented on Michaelmas 1634 before John Egerton, 1st Earl of Bridgewater at Ludlow Castle in celebration of the Earl's new post as Lord President of Wales. The masque is known colloquially as Comus, but the full title in its first publication is "A Maske presented at Ludlow Castle, 1634: on Michaelmasse night, before the Right Honorable, John Earle of Bridgewater, Viscount Brackly, Lord President of Wales, and one of His Majesties most honorable privie counsel". References to this are clearly evident in the text, such as the Attendant Spirit's reference to the children's father's "new-entrusted sceptre" in his opening speech. The performance also featured his two sons as the Elder Brother and Second Brother, and his daughter Alice as the Lady.

Wikipedia states that it "is widely assumed" that the masque Comus refers to the Castlehaven scandal. This work describes the triumph of chastity over debauchery, but a reference to the family would certainly be in bad taste. John Creaser, author of "The Irrelevance of the Castlehaven Scandal", (Milton Quarterly 4 (1987): 25-34.) draws attention to the fact that no other scholar prior to Bernard Falk in 1942 made this connection between the masque's subject matter and the family's recent struggles, including seventeenth-century sources. In fact, it appears that the text of the masque may have been edited to excise lines wwhich could have been taken to refer to the Castlehaven case of only a few years earlier. The masque does have a couple of connections to Chester: the original songs were by Henry Lawes and dance music by his brother William Lawes who was to die in Chester during the Civil War on the day of the Battle of Rowton Heath. John Egerton was also Baron of the Exchequer of Chester from 1599 to 1605, and the family a large property in Whitefriars, on the site of "The Friars" just behind Bishop Lloyds Palace.

There is also another connection in that Fonthill Abbey was later built by William Beckford near the site of the Palladian house, later known as Fonthill Splendens, which had been constructed by 1770 by his father William Beckford. This, in turn, had replaced the Elizabethan house, presumably the home of Tuchet, that Beckford the Elder had purchased in 1744 and which had been destroyed by fire in 1755. The western part of Beckford's estate was later acquired by the 2nd Marquess of Westminster, who had a new Fonthill Abbey built in 1846-52 (Pevsner) or 1856-59 (VCH), some 500 metres southeast of the site of Beckford's abbey. This mansion, designed by William Burn in Scottish Baronial style, was demolished in 1955.

Postscript: Another 100 years

In 1698 the Scots launched their first expedition to a region of the Isthmus of Panama. This was part of the Darien Scheme to establish and manage an overland route to connect the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. The attempt at settling the area did not go well; more than 80% of participants died within a year. After just eight months, the colony was abandoned in July 1699, except for six men who were too weak to move. Word of the first expedition did not reach Scotland in time to prevent a second voyage of more than 1000 people. The East India Company refused to sell supplies to the second Darien expedition in 1700, helping towards its failure and the subsequent loss of up to one quarter of Scotland's liquid assets. Although Scotland and England were united by one monarch in 1603, Scotland attempted a different route after the execution of Charles I. Separate monarchies would remain a possibility as long as two Parliaments existed to legislate on matters of succession. William and Mary and then Queen Anne (1702-14) had no surviving children. The failure of the Darien colonisation project has been cited as one of the motivations for the 1707 Acts of Union.

Though both England and Scotland recognised Anne (6 February 1665 – 1 August 1714) as their queen, only the Parliament of England had settled on Sophia (14 October 1630 – 8 June 1714), Electress of Hanover, as the heir presumptive. The Parliament of Scotland (the Estates) had not formally settled the succession question for the Scottish throne. In 1703, the Estates passed a bill declaring that their selection for Queen Anne's successor would not be the same individual as the successor to the English throne, unless England granted full freedom of trade to Scottish merchants in England and its colonies. At first Royal Assent was withheld, but the following year Anne capitulated to the wishes of the Estates and assent was granted to the bill, which became the Act of Security 1704. In response the English Parliament passed the Alien Act 1705, which threatened to restrict Anglo-Scottish trade and cripple the Scottish economy if the Estates did not agree to the Hanoverian succession. Eventually, in 1707, both Parliaments agreed on a Treaty of Union, which united England and Scotland into a single political entity, the Kingdom of Great Britain, and established the rules of succession as laid down by the Act of Settlement 1701. The union created the largest free trade area in 18th-century Europe.

Sophia died less than two months before she would have become Queen of Great Britain and Ireland. Consequently, her son George I succeeded her first cousin once removed, Queen Anne, to the British throne, and the succession to the throne has since been defined as, and composed entirely of, her legitimate (and Protestant) descendants.

Sources and Links

Related Pages

Useful Books



The Port of Chester