chapter  15
16 Pages

Crossroads

ByJohn Oldland

The 1550s were a turning point. Cloth backed up at Antwerp, and there was a currency crisis. Exports settled back in the later 1550s at volumes close to the early 1540s. Government was determined to prevent any further conversion of tillage to pasture as it might provoke instability among a growing population. Legislation was passed to control clothiers and favour urban clothmaking. Merchant Adventurers conspired with the government to reduce the alien cloth trade, particularly by the Hanse. Duties on cloth exports were raised to be equivalent to those on wool and the currency strengthened which both made English cloth more expensive on the continent. Fashion was moving to lighter cloths, with imports of these small, cheaper worsteds appearing in significant numbers in the 1540s. From now on woollens would be competing with worsteds for domestic and international markets. The era of unrestricted growth and the great clothiers had passed.