|Detail of the poor. Tichborne Dole 1671|
With many thanks to Paul Leask who passed the information to me.
The information we have on clothing provided to the poor in the mid seventeenth century has increased considerably over the years. Spufford noted the Beccles overseers’ accounts for 1636-7 and 1645-69.(1) Saunders worked on the churchwarden accounts for several London parishes covering the period 1630-1680,(2) and Tankard used a variety of sources for her work on the clothing of the poor in Sussex. (3) The accounts for Bridlington give us provision in a small Yorkshire town for just one year 1637.(4)
Bridlington is a small town on the Yorkshire coast. The manor of Bridlington was sold by its owner Sir George Ramsey, to thirteen men from the town who purchased it on behalf of all the tenants. In 1636 these men became the feofees (trustees) of the manor, and the record of the giving of clothing to the poor comes from the following year. (5) In 1643 Henrietta Maria landed there with troops to support her husband.
The record commences with a statement of the costs involved, or at least some of the costs. The fabrics themselves are given as “Bestowed in cloath for the poor of Bridlington cum Key the summe of £4 15s 6d,” a man called Atken, presumably a tailor, is then paid 6s 0d for “making the poore cloathes.” (4) This relationship between the cost of cloth and the making is similar to that in other places. In Rothfield, Sussex in 1663 four and three quarter ells of lockram plus thread cost 4s 10d but the cost of making was only 8d, while in 1667 the provision of a coat involved three yards of kersey at 6s, but only 1s 6d for the making and the buttons. (3)
Twenty six gifts were made to twenty five people, eighteen women and six men, plus two gifts of hose to Julian Clarke, whose sex is unclear. Six of the women are described with the prefix Uxor, which means wife, rather than a Christian name. Only two items are for children.
Unfortunately the quote is “Bestowed in cloath.” There is no indication what type or types of cloth, or price per yard, and no indication of the length, so it is uncertain whether it made just these items or if there was fabric left over. Provision for the poor usually involved cheap cloth, the Trustees of an almshouse in Greenwich in 1615 decreed the warden should “make this purchase of cloth in the best season of the yeare when and where he may have yt the best cheape.” (6) However it was not all of the cheapest, fabrics mentioned by those providing poor Londoners with clothes in the 17th century include for wools: broadcloth, cottons, and flannel, and for flax: buckram, canvas, and linen.(2)
The only material mentioned in the accounts is for William Bower who is given a “dublet and breeches of calves lether with lineinge of hardin” Harden is a coarse flax fabric described by Markham in 1615 as “That which comes from the flaxe being a little towed again in a paire of wool cards, will make a course harding.” (7) Clothing made of leather was relatively common and did not necessarily come from the tailor, a glover’s widow in 1682 had nineteen pairs of leather breeches in stock. (8)
Clothes for men
George Whiteinge described as “a prentice” is given two new shirts. There is no indication as to whether he is a child supported by the parish who is being indentured, or just a very poor apprentice. It was common for parish overseers who were paying for pauper children’s indentures to also provide clothing. In London Saunders noted that the richer parishes provided better clothes. In 1630 St. Botolph Aldgate paid, “for clothing a child put to prentice 15s 4d”, while in 1658/9 the richer St Dunstan in the West paid £1 14s 11d for “John Dunstan an apprentice.”(2)
Three men, John Ulyet, Edward ffoster, and Richard Sampson are given coats, as is Nan Denie, though her coat is described as fully lined. They are given coats rather than doublets, one man William Bower, mentioned above and described as “the ideote” was given, a “dublet and breeches of calves lether with lineinge of hardin.” The choice of leather may be because it is harder wearing.
Matthew Man is given a safeguard, but whether this is for him or a female member of his family we don’t know.
Clothes for women
The clothes for women are of two types and here we have terminology questions. Women are given, upper bodies and safeguards. There are six “upper body and sleeves,” while one is just an upper body. There are nine safeguards, including the one for Matthew Man. Fairly obviously these are a main garment for the upper body and a main garment for the lower body, but elsewhere in the country these are usually referred to a waistcoats and petticoats, however sometimes a distinction is made. In 1633 Elizabeth Reynes probate has her owning, among other garments, “a payre of bodice, ... two wastcoates and two old wastcoates more.”(8) Sometimes you get references to petticoats and safeguards, indicating that they are different garments, Buck records Annis Smith in Bedfordshire in 1618, having a wardrobe that consisted of three gowns, five petticoats, three waistcoats, two hats, a safeguard and a cloak, (9) while Tankard quotes a coroner’s inquest, into the suicide of Joan Hawkins in 1606, as noting that her clothing included a petticoat, a russet petticoat and a safeguard. (3)
The “upper body and sleeves,” is this a boned or an unboned garment? No one can say definitively, but since the payment is just for cloth probably not. When bodies were provided by the Beccles overseers in 1630 they were of canvas.(1) This fits with the London bylaw that for maid servants bodies were to have no stiffening “saving canvas or buckram only.”(10) Arnold gives a definition of bodies that, “In the second half of the sixteenth century this term refers to both the stiffened inner garment, and the upper part of a woman’s gown fitted close to the body, what we would now describe as a bodice.”(11) Randle Holme describes waistcoats as “an habit or garment generally worn by the middle and lower sort of women, having goared skirts, and some wear them with stomachers.” (12) One wonders if perhaps a waistcoat could be made by a non- professional, a woman at home, while bodies implies that it is made by a tailor, Elizabeth Coulstocke, on trial for theft in 1651 stated that she had intended to make a linsey-woolsey waistcoat from the disputed fabric. (3) Other options are that, for bodies sleeves were an optional extra, hence one woman who received a body without sleeves, or that bodies would be worn with something over them, whereas waistcoats would not. So although there may be some distinction between the two garments, it is impossible to say what it might be.
The term safeguard, which was common at the time, would also seem to be different in some way from a petticoat. Over the years safeguard has become associated with travelling, however Minsheu in 1617 gives the meaning simply as, “a saveguard for a woman, because it guards the other clothes from soiling.”(13) Phillips dictionary also gives this meaning, “A kind of Dust-gown, or upper Garment worn by Women, commonly called a Safe-Guard”(14) Arnold gives a 1585 description of a safeguard as, “a kind of array or attire reaching from the navel down to the feet,” which implies a skirt.(11) Holme describes it as part of a riding habit, “put about the middle and so doth secure the feet from cold and dirt.”(12) In the context of Bridlington, it appears to be simply a skirt of some sort.
Clothes for children
Two items are given for children, in both cases apparently to the mother. One woman, Jane Browne, is given “a paire of breeches for a boy,” presumably her son. The breeches would imply that the child was over the age for breeching, so older than five or six years. Francis Story is given a “childe coate,” children’s coats were probably ankle length with a centre front fastening to the waist. (15) A coat may well indicate that it is for a younger child., but this style survived for many centuries in the uniforms of schools founded in the 16th and 17th centuries such as the various blue coat schools. The coat for poor scholars at Dulwich in 1619 was to be “of good cloth of sad colour, the bodice lined with canvas and the skirts with white cotton. (6)
1. Spufford, M. 1984. The Great Reclothing of Rural England: Petty Chapmen and Their Wares in the Seventeenth Century. London: Hambledon Press
2. Saunders, A. S. 2006. Provision of Apparel for the Poor in London, 1630–1680. Costume, 40, 21-27
3. Tankard, D. 2012. 'A Pair of Grass-Green Woollen Stockings': The Clothing of the Rural Poor in Seventeenth-Century Sussex. Textile History, 43 (1), 5-22.
4. Purvis, J.S. 1926. Bridlington Charters, Court Rolls and Papers, XVI - XIX Century. Being a selection of Documents Illustrating the History of Bridlington Under the Rule of the Lords Feoffees. London: Brown.
5. Sheahan, J. J. and Whellan, T. 1856. History and Topography of the City of York and the Ainsty Wapentake and the East Riding of Yorkshire, vol 2. Beverley: Green.
6. Cunnington, P. and Lucas, C. 1978. Charity costumes of children, scholars, almsfolk, pensioners. London: Black
7. Markham, G. 1615. Countrey Contentments: The Engish Huse-wife. I.B. for R. Jackson,)
8. Williams, L. And Thomson, S. Eds. 2007. Marlborough Probate Inventories 1591-1775. Chippenham: Wiltshire Record Society.
9. Buck, A. 2000. Clothing and textiles in Bedfordshire Inventories 1617-1620. Costume, 34, 25-38
10. Cunnington, P. and Lucas, C. 1967. Occupational costume in England. London: Black
11. Arnold, J. 1988. Queen Elizabeth’s Wardrobe Unlock’d. Leeds: Maney
12. Holme, R. 1688. Academie of Armourie. s.l.:s.n.
13. Minsheu, J. 1617. The guide into tongues.
14. Phillips, E. And Kersey, J. 1706. New World of Words. London: Phillips
15. Buck, A. 1996. Clothes and the child. Bedford: Ruth Bean