chapter  6
18 Pages

The Fourteenth-Century Urban Revival

ByJohn Oldland

The international textile trade contracted from 1290, and perhaps before, as cheaper cloths, especially serge, disappeared from international trade. English cloth towns were in distress in the early-fourteenth century as they had lost their export market and coarse rural cloth was competing effectively with urban serges. Only Bristol and Norwich were possible exceptions. In the second quarter the industry revived as English woollens started to replace lower-quality imported cloth, and in the third quarter luxury imported woollens. Several factors aided this turnaround. Edward III’s high wool duties made English cloth more competitive, Flemish immigration brought new skills, and the guilds improved the supervision of urban manufacture, and helped restructure urban industry to favour quality cloth. By 1350 an export market was beginning to develop. Few of the thirteenth-century cloth towns revived as the industry developed in the leading provincial towns.