After Margaret Spufford:

English Local History Now

University of Roehampton, Gilbert Scott Lecture Theatre (Whitelands campus), 19-20 June 2015

Haymaking scene - small

‘A historian of the unconsidered people of 16th- and 17th-century England’ so Andrew Brown described Margaret Spufford in his Guardian obituary. Margaret’s major publications – Contrasting Communities (1974), Small Books and Pleasant Histories (1981), The Great Reclothing (1984), The World of Rural Dissenters (1995), and Figures in the Landscape (2000) – addressed key issues in the history of English early modern rural communities, and took local history in new directions.

This conference, in the academic home that recognised her with a Chair, aimed both to celebrate and commemorate, and to assess and evaluate Margaret’s contribution to early modern history in both its content and its methods. 


PDF version including abstracts

Friday  19

  9.00-9.30   Registration/tea and coffee
9.30-10.00 Welcome - Prof. Peter Spufford, University of Cambridge
10.00-11.30 Taxation, wealth and poverty
11.30-12.00 Coffee break
12.00-13.30 The Hearth Tax Project: New Research
13.30-14.30 Lunch
14.30-16.00 Credit, Community and the Household: the Evidence of Probate and Wills
16.00-16.30 Coffee break
16.30-18.00 Micro-History
18.00 Reception - sponsored by the British Record Society.

Saturday 20

9.30-11.00 Identity, community and religion
11.00-11.30 Coffee break
11.30-12.30 Consumption, education and work
12.30-13.30 Lunch
13.30-15.00 Plenary/roundtable discussion


Peter Spufford - University of CambridgePeter Spufford
When Professor Peter Spufford first met Margaret, in the summer of 1959, she was already working on three different research topics. She was looking at the configuration of houses in sixteenth and seventeenth century Cambridgeshire, at the relationship between soil type and the width of selions in three counties, and making a detailed study of a specific single village, which was Longstanton in Cambridgeshire. When the progress of micro-vascular dementia forced her to cease to be academically active, she was still involved in three different research topics. She was looking at the English hearth tax of the seventeenth century on a national scale. She was looking at clothing worn in rural England at different social levels from the mid-sixteenth century to the late-seventeenth, and she was helping with a multi-volume survey of rural life in Kami Shiojiri in Togukawa Japan. Professor Peter Spufford talked about how her thinking evolved in the half century in between.

Catherine FergusonCatherine Ferguson - General Editor, British Record Society

Wealth and poverty in the late 17th century in the parish of Woking in Surrey as seen through the hearth tax
Woking at that time was a parish of nine scattered tithings, only one of which had any urban characteristics and those were underdeveloped. A good set of hearth tax documents and exemption certificates survive for the parish alongside an informative series of poor relief documents for those who were both contributors and recipients of regular and sporadic welfare in money, kind and services. These give insights into the changing relationship across time between poor relief and the hearth tax.

Andrew Wareham and John Price
John Price and Andrew Wareham - British Academy Hearth Tax Project and Centre for Hearth Tax Research, University of Roehampton
Mapping wealth and poverty in Restoration London: a reassessment of the London and Middlesex 1666 hearth tax return

This paper pays tribute to Margaret Spufford’s work on the hearth tax. In her seminal article on ‘The Scope of Local History and Potential of the Hearth Tax’ (2000), she suggested that the hearth tax could be used to map distributions of wealth and poverty in 17th-century England at national and local levels. It was also part of Margaret’s vision to use hearth tax data to assist with longer-run studies of pre-modern England. This paper analyses the 1666 the London and Middlesex hearth tax return as a case study. The paper uses GIS Historical Data in order to provide a stable map of distributions of wealth and poverty in Restoration London, and relates quantitative analyses to qualitative assessments of the return. The paper engages with broader comparative themes by discussing Charles Booth’s late 19th-century study, Life and Labour of the People in London, and Sjoberg’s model of the pre-industrial city.

Adrian AilesAdrian Ailes - The National Archives, Kew
The Heralds and the Hearth Tax

Until now it was thought that the political arithmetician Gregory King, Lancaster Herald, was the first person to use the hearth tax imposed by Charles II to discover the wealth and status of the gentry he was to visit on his heraldic visitations during the 1680s. In fact, it was his predecessors and heraldic mentors, William Dugdale, Norroy King of Arms, and Elias Ashmole, Windsor Herald, who, in the mid-1660s, first used the assessments and returns to compile their own list of county gentry. This paper examines in particular the way in which Ashmole used the hearth tax for his heraldic visitation of Berkshire in 1665/66.

Cheryl Butler - Editorial Board The Southampton Records SeriesCheryl Butler
The People Project Database: 15,000 biographies from Tudor Southampton reconstructing the lives of forgotten people from surviving archive sources

Margaret Spufford’s passion for local history, for using big data to illuminate the stories of ordinary people and the potential to engage with the wider community, was one of the inspirations for the Southampton People Project 1485-1603. This study of a single geographic place, within a fixed timeframe, using all available archival data was made possible by the opportunities created by new technology and the commitment of volunteer researchers. In a short 3 year time span the concept was developed, the infrastructure created and 20 researchers have worked on reconstructing the forgotten lives of 15,000 past residents of Southampton. The open-source data base supports genealogical research and contributes to other big data projects on immigrants, women's studies, trade and crafts, privateering etc. The scale of the database enables most questions on life in a sixteenth century town to receive a response and highlights to researchers the wealth of sources still to be found in local archives. The conference paper illustrates the richness of the data with example biographies on the work and business life of the Florentine Christopher Ambrose, the glazier, gunner and musician Peter Breme, and the inn-keeper, mother, suspected Catholic and scourge of witches Mary Janverin. 

Moto TakahashiMoto Takahashi - Ehime University (Matsuyama)
Budget of family and household: an empirical historical study for the paralleling and contrasting of regions in Japan and Europe

This research focuses on the 'budget' of villagers, 'Ie', families and households. The habit of drawing up a budget was something that is first observed in the period of the transition to the market economy in both Japanese and Western European societies. Inspired by Margaret Spufford, this research aims to clarify how families and household units went about producing their budgets, and engages in comparative analysis between the Japanese ‘Ie’, which had the responsibility of ensuring that business, property and family name were passed on to the next generation, and similar groups (‘houses’) in the French Pyrenean regions, and counterparts in northern and north western Europe (the ‘family land’ as symbol of the continuation of the family line). Following Spufford’s pioneering use of family trees for social and economic history, this research makes systematic analysis of wills from the whole of the parish, contributing to deeper insight into the family and kin relationships as well as inheritance customs, combined with use of family trees and genealogical information on the Kami-shijojiri Dozoku (ie-unions). 

Patricia Wyllie - University of CambridgePatricia Wyllie
A Reassessment of the Idea of an English ‘Financial Revolution’ through a Study of Credit Instruments in Sedbergh and Maidstone, 1610-1790

The use of debt securities is generally thought to have been one of the innovations of the Financial Revolution, following an Act under Anne which made promissory notes legally assignable in 1710. However credit instruments in the form of written bonds, bills and notes, which entitled the holder to the repayment of a named sum of money over a period of time and usually at an ascribed rate of interest, had been used considerably before the early 1700s. The problem in understanding these instruments is that none survive from early periods. Using wills, probate inventories, and probate accounts from 1610-1790, I have found that written credit instruments were bequeathed to other holders, and can therefore be shown to be transferable, far earlier than the traditional idea of the government-imposed Financial Revolution can account for. A comparison with the literature on informal credit in both the medieval and early modern period shows that the need for written credit instruments was actually driven by the needs of a much wider majority of the population, and by the conditions of the 16th and 17th century. Using Margaret and Peter Spufford's work on probate materials, I have studied records from Sedbergh and Maidstone, two towns in West Yorkshire and Kent. The comparison of the two areas indicates how geography, proximity to overseas trade, proximity to London, and different economic activities affected the uses of formal credit. An analysis of the language used indicates that credit instruments became more sophisticated during the period, perhaps informed by sermons and texts where the social necessity of usury was discussed as much as its spiritual danger. The frequency of bequests of bonds and bills to wives and dependants indicates that interest-bearing instruments performed a vital social function in providing for the vulnerable who were not able to earn a wage. Overall, the outcome of the study indicates that transferable credit instruments occurred in a growing proportion of wills from the 1610s to the 1790s, but were never entirely absent.

Mary Carrick - MA in Historical Research, University of HullMary Carrick
A Peculiar Parish: Wawne, alias Waghen, in Holderness, East Riding of Yorkshire, 1540-1740
Following the Dissolution of Meaux Abbey in 1539 the parish of Wawne was first bought from the Crown by the City of London and then sold on to a variety of local, wealthy merchants. One of the earliest of these was John Nelthorpe, whose family later moved across to Brigg and later Scawby Hall, in Lincolnshire. For this period there are a number of wills and probate inventories available for local people from which it is possible to build up a picture of the social and economic life of the parish.
These documents continue, in a piecemeal manner, through the early 17th century but it is not until 1650 onwards that the parish was bought up piecemeal by Sir Joseph Ashe, whose daughter married into the Windham family of Felbrigg Hall in Norfolk, and whose grandson was Charles ‘Turnip’ Townshend. Ashe was a great agricultural innovator, particularly in the field of water meadow management and he also carried out in his estate at Downton in Wiltshire. He was not resident in the parish but brought in a family of Flemish, drainage engineers, the Beharrells.

From estate documents, probate inventories, parish registers and hearth tax records, it has been possible to recreate, to a great extent, the social life, housing, water management in the lower Hull valley and agricultural economy in the period from 1650-1740.

Steve Hindle - W.M. Keck Foundation, The Huntington Library 
Scenes of Clerical Life: A Clergyman and His Congregation in Late Seventeenth-Century England

This paper reconstructs the nature and quality of social relations between the clergyman of a late seventeenth century parish and the congregation for whom he exercised pastoral care. The remarkable series of sources which survive for the parish of Chilvers Coton on the Newdigate estate near Nuneaton in north-east Warwickshire makes it possible to situate the Reverend John Perkins, an Oxford graduate and relatively recent newcomer to the parish, very precisely in the geographical and cultural milieu of his ministry. By moving outwards from the vicarage in which he and his young family were resident in 1684, Perkins can be captured in motion as he preached from the pulpit of All Saints church, administered charitable doles in its chancel and perambulated the parish bounds with the chief inhabitants of the community. In the context of all this pastoral activity, however, it is striking that Perkins was entirely absent from the testamentary networks of his parishioners. By contrast with his predecessors and successors, all of whom very frequently witnessed (or even executed) the wills and appraised the inventories of Chilvers Coton testators, Perkins does not seem to have been sufficiently well liked or trusted by his flock to be asked to help them put their spiritual and worldly affairs in order. In all these respects, the paper not only substantively contributes to our understanding of how a clergyman might interact with his congregation, it also poses methodological questions about how models of that relationship might be conceptualized and verified in local context.

Brodie WaddellBrodie Waddell - Birkbeck University of London
The Woolcomber’s World: Faith, Family, Fraternity and Fighting Cocks in Later Stuart Essex
From the 1670s to the 1710s, an Essex woolcomber named Joseph Bufton filled at least eleven notebooks with diverse jottings and memoranda. This paper explores the multifaceted world of this undistinguished middling tradesman by analysing the seemingly mundane events recorded in his diary or chronicle alongside the voluminous material in his other notebooks. It shows how the intensely localised focus of Bufton’s chronicle – concerned almost entirely with the material lives of his kin and neighbours – fit within the much wider sphere of interests revealed in the sermon digests, guild regulations, amateur poetry, and extracts from topical publications that he noted in other surviving manuscripts. By analysing these disparate ‘genres’ of his writing together, the multi-layered nature of his day-to-day experience becomes clear, as do the methodological dangers of relying on individual diaries or other isolated manuscripts.

Bill SheilsBill Sheils - University of York
A triangular relationship? Catholics, Nonconformists and the Established Church in the local context

Our understanding of relations between the Established Church and Nonconformity in the early modern period was transformed by the pioneering work of Margaret Spufford and her students on the social and economic context of dissent both before and after the Reformation. This paper will try to add to that work by considering those other nonconformists not considered by the ‘Spuffordians’, the Roman Catholics so as to place dissent on both sides within a tripartite relationship, nonconformity, Establishment and Catholicism, suggesting that each acted on the other, shaping the characteristics of both dissent and Catholicism locally. This tripartitie study will be followed through a series of local examples from around the country, suggesting that radical or moderate dissent was not just a response to ecclesiastical authority but also to the character and proximity of Catholic activity.

Henry French - University of ExeterHenry French
‘Neither Godly professors, nor ‘dumb dogges’: reconstructing conformist Protestant beliefs and practice in Earls Colne, Essex, c. 1570-1620

Recent research on religion within English parishes in the generation after 1559 has shifted attention away from the proponents of ‘Puritan’ ceremonial and moral reform to their opponents, clusters of ‘anti-Puritans’ who attacked a spiritually exclusive faith based on preachers and preaching, and advocated an inclusive parochial spirituality based on communal festivities, sports and sacraments. However, such polarities are created partly by the surviving church court records, which illustrate ‘Puritan’ campaigns against ‘disorder’, and record ‘anti-Puritan’ opposition in response. By contrast, as Margaret Spufford observed, non-preaching, religious conformity is very under-recorded and difficult to access. By focusing on the uniquely accessible website created by Alan Macfarlane, this research is based on a database of all surviving prosecutions (in all courts) in the Essex village of Earls Colne, 1560-1640. Using this material, it investigates the clerical career of William Adams (rector of Earls Colne 1573-1610), and mainstream reformed religion in the first generation after 1559. In contrast to his well-known successor, the seventeenth-century clerical diarist Ralph Josselin, Adams was a mediocre and uninspiring clergyman, whose efforts failed to impress the new, Puritan manorial lords, the Harlakenden family. By investigating Adams’ activities, and placing them in the context of wider efforts to ‘discipline’ the parish, this research argues that non-Puritans were just as willing as Puritans to undertake active moral policing and attribute misbehaviour to ‘deviant’ groups of mobile young men and women. However, it also shows how Adams’ manifest inability to inspire his congregation helps explain why many parish governors saw preaching and the ‘hotter sort’ of Protestantism as a better solution to the crisis of order that appeared to be engulfing Essex parishes in the early seventeenth century.

David CressyDavid Cressy - The Ohio State University
Marginal people in a stressful culture: Itinerants, Gypsies, and 'counterfeit Egyptians

Whereas the work of Margaret Spufford dealt mostly with parishioners, licenced traders, and taxpayers who belong to their local community, this study examines perennial outsiders, the Gypsies. Transient, unchurched, and with no reputable occupation, the Gypsies of sixteenth-century England were vilified in popular opinion and criminalized at law. They lived as itinerant entertainers, handymen, and fortune tellers. A series of Tudor statutes made them felons, but local authorities proved reluctant to prosecute them to the full. Evidence from the Assizes, Quarter Sessions, constables’ accounts, and the court of Star Chamber shows Gypsies being moved from parish to parish, county to county, to be rid of them. This article distinguishes Gypsies from common vagrants, and sheds light on the identity and activity of people also known as ‘Egyptians’ and ‘counterfeit Egyptians’.

Amy Erickson portraitAmy L. Erickson - University of Cambridge
The division of labour revisited: pin-making in England
Adam Smith opened The Wealth of Nations (1776) with the ‘very trifling manufacture’ of pins to illustrate the benefits of the division of labour. Two centuries later, Margaret Spufford wrote of the early modern ‘proliferation of the pin’ in The Great Reclothing (1984) from the point of view of their distribution around the country. Far from being trifling, pins were central to the growth of industry and of comfort, through the making of mattresses, upholstery, ships’ sails, sacks and measures, as well as in the more obvious textiles and clothing. In later 17th and early 18th century London, around one quarter of all men were employed in textiles and clothing production.
Smith described pin-making as involving numerous different men, each performing one stage of the process. He was mistaken. Women were involved in a minority of the processes, but in the most labour-intensive ones, which meant they outnumbered men in the labour force. The sources are fragmentary, but the ratio ranges from just under half female among the apprentices to the Pinmakers’ Company in London, to two women for every man in the French industry, to 10 women for every man in the London wiredrawers, who supplied the raw material for pins.
London pinmakers were concentrated in Southwark, but the trade had long moved out to Bristol and Gloucester in the 16th century, to Warrington and finally to Birmingham. In the censuses from these areas, the proportion of women to men in pin-making ranges from slightly more than 1:1 to 6:1, perhaps depending on the type of pin being manufactured. The sexual division of labour in any industry is central to understanding both its economic significance and its social impact.

Danae Tankard - University of ChichesterDanae Tankard 01
Flowered slik is little worn but gold & silver striped is much worn’: metropolitian clothing consumption in late 17th century Sussex 

This paper will look at the metropolitan clothing consumption of three men living in late 17th Sussex, Giles Moore (1617-1679), Samuel Jeake (1652-1699) & Walter Roberts (1635-1690). It will consider how they shopped in London (e.g. in person or by proxy), where they shopped & the extent to which they participated in London's fashion culture. It will also assess the factors that might have influenced their clothing choices - wealth, occupation, social status & social milieu, age & personal preference.