20 OCTOBER 1866, Page 12

W E have already seen that the clothing trade prevailed in

the West Country ; indeed it was once a great manufacturing district. The wool was washed and spun with a distaff at the farmer's own house, the thread then sold in the market to the clothier. By his weavers, who worked either in his small shop or outhouse, it was woven into pieces of undyed and undressed cloth. No large bodies of weavers worked together. The pieces "were now sent to foreigners, chiefly Flemings, who finished them off, realizing a profit of 500,000/. a year by so doing. The pieces of finished cloth were then exported for sale in Spain or Portugal by the Flemings. or Dutch, who had purchased them to finish them off, and were then sold as Flemish bays." Afterwards "English clothiers adopted a new method, that of dying the wool before weaving it. A Dutchman taught them how a fine scarlet dye might be procured about 1635, when the art of fixing colours produced from logwood was also acquired, and the Act for prohibiting the use of logwood_ was repealed in 1660." Among the names of woollen articles in this early trade we find "Taunton cottons." In 1621 prices were very low in everything except corn, and the weavers were willing to work for merely meat and drink. There was. great distress, and in Exeter there were 300 poor weavers. about in the streets asking alms. Artificial attempts were made to renew the trade. Merchants who dealt in the cloths- were ordered to buy a quantity weekly, and the Sheriffs were directed to send delegates from the clothiers to consult with cora- missioners in London. "The merchants of that great manu- facturing city, Exeter, exported till the latter part of the eighteenth century serges and cloths to Italy." But the competition of the factory system of the North destroyed the cloth manufactures- of the West Country. It is a significant remark of the elder Cecil, with respect to this early cloth trade, that "those that depend upon the making of cloths are of worse condition to be quietly governed. than the husbandmen,"—and this speaksvolumesfor the spirit of the old clothiers of the West Country. A lace manufacture also sprang up in early times in West Dorset and south-east Devon, "but. from the circumstance of the dealers who visited the metropolis and the great towns residing at Lyme and Honiton, their lace was extensively known as Lyme lace and Honiton lace, though much of

it had not been made in either town." • We have seen how the West Country aided the Kings of England in their French wars, and suffered in its turn from attacks on the part of France. These continued during all the earlier- half of the fifteenth century. Then came the Wars of the Roses,. in which the West Country was much divided—on the whole, however, rather inclining to the House of Lancaster. The roll of Parliament of the year 1455 speaks of several riots and murders committed in the West by the Earl of Devon and Lord Bonville, who were near neighbours, the former being a Lancastrian and the latter a Yorkist. There was an encounter between them on Clist Heath in which Lord Bonville was victorious, and the gates of Exeter were opened to him and his party. In 1469 Hugh Courtenay, Earl of Devon, besieged Lord Fitzwarren, Lord Din- ham, and Lord Carew in Exeter, where the Duchess of Clarence also then was. The siege was, however, raised by the mediation. of the Church. Soon after the Lancastrians were worsted in the battle of Looscote, and the Duke of Clarence and the Earl of Warwick retiring into Devonshire, sailed from Dartmouth to Calais, about four months afterwards returning to England with reinforcements, and landing at Exmouth, Dartmouth, and Ply- mouth. The Lancastrian forces from Devonshire and Cornwall, under Sir John Arundell and Sir Hugh Courtenay, mustered at Exeter in 1472, before marching to the fatal field of Tewkes- bury. In the same year, in the month of September, John de Vere,. Earl of Oxford, having "by subtlety" got possession of St.. Michael's Mount, held it with a garrison of four hundred men till the 3rd of February in the ensuing year, when he surrendered to Sir Thomas Fortesc!se, on condition of having his life spared.

But the Cornish rebellion of 1497 is one of the most remarkable incidents of our national history. In consequence of discontents occasioned by the levy by Henry VII. of a tax for the Scottish war, the commons of Cornwall, instigated by Thomas Flannock, the head of a respectable family in the county, and, as Hollinshed calls him, "learned in the law of the realm," and Michael Joseph, a smith of Bodrain, rose in rebellion, and having prevailed on Lord Audley to be their General, marched without interruption through Somersetahire, Wiltshire, Hampshire, and Surrey, till they came to Blackheath in Kent, where they were defeated, and their leaders. taken prisoners and executed. The Cornish men were mostly armed with bows and arrows and bills, and their arrows were

reported to be of the length of a tailor's yard. In the September following Perkin Warbeck landed at Whitsand Bay, near the Land's End, gathered together a force of Cornish men, 3,000 in number, and marched to besiege Exeter, leaving his wife at St. Michael's Mount. The siege of Exeter was raised by Edward Courtenay, Earl of Devon and the posse eomitatus of Devon, and Warbeck marched towards Taunton, many of his followers abandoning him, but the Cornish men advising him not to despair. But on the approach of the Royal army his courage failed him, he stole away from his followers in the night, and the unfortunate insurgents had to surrender at discretion. The leaders were hanged ; the mass of them, on the arrival of King Henry at Exeter, were led bareheaded and with halters round their necks into his presence, and discharged after admonition ; the inhabitants of the villages in which Warbeck had obtained either aid or refreshment were amerced proportionably to the amount of 10,000/. Perkin's wife, surrendering St. Michael's Mount, was sent up to Court to attend on the Queen.

This was an unquiet period in the West Country. In 1549, in the reign of Edward VI., there was another great rebellion in Devonshire and Cornwall. "The West Countrymen spurned the new Book of Common Prayer, as being in New English, which so many could not understand, as they could neither read nor follow the service in English, Cornish being their language." The insurgents grew more daring in proportion as mercy was offered to them, and in their Tenth Article expressed their determination to have nothing to do with the English tongue as follows :—" We will have the Bible and the books of Scripture in English to be called in again, for we are informed that otherwise the clergy shall not of long time confound the heretics." Their leaders were Sir Thomas Pomeroy, Mr. Berry, and Mr. Coffin, of Devon, and Mr. Humphrey Arun- dell, of Cornwall. "Lord Russell, in this rebellion, not having received the expected supplies for suppressing it from the Court, at that time so far distant, three merchants of Exeter assisted him with such a sum of money, borrowed on their credit from the merchants of Lyne and Taunton, as quite dispelled his heaviness." Lord Russell with some difficulty defeated the sturdy rebels at Exeter on the 19th of August, with the loss of 1,000 men. All the leaders but Pomeroy, who made his peace, were executed. In 1554 Sir Peter and Sir Gawen Carew, who had been active against the rebels of 1549, were in arms themselves against the Spanish match of Mary. They in their turn were defeated and lied to the Continent, but returned and became conspicuous on the seas in Elizabeth's reign. The reign of the great Queen was an era of great activity for the Western seaports, for though their trade seems to have decayed, they had found occupation of a more profitable kind in fitting out vessels to capture the rich Spanish galleons and the French merchantmen, and to carry on a more than half piratical trade in the West Indies. Elizabeth, who had granted letters of marque to privateers, and who benefited by the Western ports in the crisis of the Armada, was unable to con- trol this irregular warfare (when she wished), as some of her great men shared secretly in its profits, the gentlemen of the West openly supported it, and she herself more than once availed her- self without scruple of its fruits and countenanced it. The sym- pathy of the Protestant youth of the West with their struggling fellow-religionists in France and the Low Countries was wonder- fully quickened by the adventure and profits of these raids on the great Catholic powers ; and the Carews, Killigrews, Godolphins, Tremaynes, &c., became habitual rovers of the sea. The achieve- ments of this half piratical marine, which laid the foundations of our great colonial trade and empire, have been done full justice to by Mr. Froude and Mr. Kingsley, and Raleigh, Drake, Hawkins. Sir Richard Grenville, Thomas Stukeley, of Ilfracombe, and other well known "men of the West Country," require no more than an allusion to their names. Nor was the West Country less memo- rable during the Tudor and early Stuart period for its connection with voyages of discovery and the first steps of colonization. It was John and Sebastian Cabot, the Venetian merchants of Bristol, who, sailing from that port, discovered in 1497 the coasts of Labrador and Newfoundland. Bartholomew Grosnold, a mariner of the West of England, was (as far as we know) the first, with four of his com- panions, to set foot on the soil of Massachusetts, in the year 1602.

Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Humphrey Gilbert (both_ Devon- shire men) first conceived a scheme of systematic colonization. Two companies, Colonies, as they were called, of Virginia, formed in London and Plymouth, were incorporated for the purpose of carrying out these projects. "A religious impulse, however, accomplished what commercial enterprise, commanding money and

Court favour, had attempted without success." The Pilgrim Fathers, seeking a refuge from religious persecution at home in the wilds of New England, transported thither among their ranks not a few of the names and traditions and customs of the West Country, in a stream of emigration commencing from the time when the passengers in the Mayflower, quitting the port of Plymouth, in Old England, laid the foundation of the colony of New Plymouth, in the New World. West of England names, not so closely connected with religious matters also appear in connection with these American enterprises, such, for instance, as the Pophams, Sir Ferdinard Gorges, and Robert Trelawny, of Plymouth ; and in all the colonial projects of the century the West of England men took a leading part. But all these are parts rather of the general history of England than of a specially Provincial History. The same may be said of the next great era, the Civil Wars in Eng- land, in which so many great West of England men played a prominent part, and of some of the most important events of which the West Country was the scene. The names of Sir John Eliot, of St. Germain's, in Cornwall, John Pym, of Somerset, William Strode, of Newnham, in Devonshire, John Maynard, the Glanvilles, the Godolphins, Robert Blake, the infamous George Monk, and many others, will at once present themselves to the memory of the reader ; while the campaigns of King Charles and the Earl of Essex, of Waller, and Goring, and llopton, the sieges of Lyme, and Taunton, and Exeter, and Ply- mouth, and Weymouth, and the victorious career of Fairfax and Cromwell in 1645 and 1646, all belong to the same area. The West Country was much divided at this period. Atfirst the Parliamentary party greatly preponderated, but after the first rupture with the King and the commencement of hostilities there grew up a strong Royalist party, recruited by fresh deserters from the Parliament's ranks, such as Sir Richard Grenville and Sir George Chudleigh. Still the Parliament continued strong in certain parts, and was supported by a considerable number of determined country gentlemen as well as citizens. Plymouth and Taunton were the head-quarters of the Puritans. Exeter, and to some extent Bridge- water, leant to the King, who found great support in the Cornish population. Dorsetshire leant the other way. But a great pro- portion of the Puritans of the West were Presbyterians, and after the rupture between the two parties and the ascendancy of the Independents they began to turn a more favourable ear to the idea of accommodation with the King. The Indepen- dents had, on this account, and on account of the Royalist tendencies generally in the West, deprecated much and long delayed the issue of new writs for Parliament to supply the place of those members from the West Country who had been disabled for deserting to the King. At last, however, the writs were issued, and during the latter part of 1647 and the year 1648 especially a set of members were returned nominally Presbyterians, but many of them crypto-Royalists. The consequence was, that

while the army was engaged in crushing the new Royalist Pres- byterian risings of 1648 and defeating the Scottish invading army its party found themselves outvoted in the Commons. The vote of non-addresses to the King was rescinded, and at last, though by a small majority, the King's answers were declared a satisfac- tory ground for an arrangement. Then Colonel Pride stepped in, by Fairfax and Ireton's orders, and among the list of the secluded members it is curious to see how many belong to the West Country. There were at a later period risings in the West, such as Penruddock's, but on the whole it acquiesced tolerably quietly in the new order of things. With the Restoration came back the dread of " Popery " and arbitrary power, and the Protestantism of the West Country again began to kindle. The Monmouth campaign and its Somersetahire catastrophe, with the bloody assize of Jeffreys, need only a passing reference. Then came the trial of the Bishops, one of whom was of a Cornish family, and the men of the West sang:—

" And shall Trelawny die ? and shall Trelawny die ?

Then thirty thousand Cornish boys will know the reason why."

The landing of William of Orange in the West and the little Court he held at Exeter, his bold but unresisted march east- ward, and the triumph of his cause are the last great historical events of the West Country, though its waters have been often the scene of naval combats. To the names of the great men who have been already noticed as natives of the West Country during these centuries, we must not forget to add, among statesmen and law- yers, those of Sir William Petre, Secretary of State to Queen Mary ; Sir Arthur Chichester, the celebrated Lord Deputy of Ireland in the reign of James I.; Lord Chancellor Peter King, in the early Hanoverian period ; and Dunning, Lord Ashburton ; among Churchmen, those of Bishop John Jewel, Dr. John Fri.

deaux, and Dr. Richard Hooker—the judicious Hooker ; of Gene- rals, it is sufficient to name the great Duke of Marlborough, who was born in Devonshire, in the house of his maternal grand- father, Sir John Drake.

In one respect the greatness of the West Country must be said to be of the past rather than the present day. She was, as we have seen, a considerable manufacturing and mercantile district, and her ports were filled with shipping, and were in commercial connection with every part of the globe. Plymouth and Falmouth still to some extent maintain their old ship-port character, though the nature of their connection with the shipping is now changed, and it is no longer chiefly with Planzonth and Falmouth merchant ships that those ports are crowded. But elsewhere the old quays of the once famous sea-ports of the south coasts of England are deserted and their harbours comparatively empty, while, instead of this, pros- perity in a new shape has dawned on several of them with the in- troduction of the fashion of marine watering-places. The cause of this mercantile and manufacturing decay is thus explained ;— " The decline of these towns was nearly simultaneous, and was due to the same causes. Many of our coast towns had been the residence of merchants for several centuries, who traded in very small vessels, as was then the custom, to foreign ports. Some towns had manufactures of woollen goods, carried on in addition to the fishing and a little trade in shipping. The war with France, after the Revolution and expulsion of James II., put an end to the trade with that country, which has never been re- established. As the old families, the honoured merchants, died off, there were no successors. Their sons withdrew altogether, or if they remained, there was no longer any commerce to occupy their attention. The vessels used in foreign trade gave way to ships which were unsuited to small ports, and large and populous towns drew away and retained all the foreign trade." The result of this decay of mercantile and manufacturing activity in the West Country has been to throw a great advantage on the side of the North of England, whither the centres of manufacture and shipping have nearly all shifted, and which has thereby gained a position in the comparative weight of English "Provinces" which it is not likely that the West Country will ever recover.

As regards Religion, we have already said that the West Coun- try as a whole cannot be said to be a very ecclesiastical district. It has always felt strongly on religious questions, but the religious enthusiasm has been rather called forth in defence of some religious faith attacked than in enthusiastic support to an established church. It has long been one of the strongholds of Nonconformity ; Joanna Southcote was a native of Devonshire, and in the West Country the preachers of Methodism found one of their most successful fields of action and made one of their moat permanent conquests. The excellent moral standard and religious tone of the miners of Cornwall rest on irregular religious influences rather akin to Dissent than to decorous Angli- canism, and the ecclesiastical pretensions of High Churchmen are nowhere so fiercely resisted as in the diocese of the Bishop of Exeter. There have been comparatively few great literary men who own the West Country as their place of birth, but the name of Coleridge is sufficient to rescue it from contempt in this respect, and scholars tell us that the first rise of literature in England is to be traced to the-Western Counties. In painting it is enough to name Sir Joshua Reynolds, and in music the composer, Matthew Lock.

Such is the history of the West Country, however briefly and imperfectly we have been able to tell it.