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Hope Historical Society


Number 7 - Sheep

The wool industry was the most important economic driver in this country in the 16th century. Under the first Tudor king, Henry VII, 90% of our exports were wool or wool cloth. Of these two, cloth formed 92% and raw wool only 8%, a reversal of the position in the fourteenth century.

It is therefore surprising that, in the Wills and Inventories from 1547 to 1650, slightly fewer owned sheep than cattle, at 83% of testators. Furthermore, the number of local sheep owners dropped by 25% once the Stuarts came to the throne in 1603, as a result of a change in international markets and agricultural policy. The number of sheep that people owned ranged between 2 and 200, with only 8 possessing less than ten.

In common with the practice of cattle farming, most sheep in this area were brought to a certain point in their husbandry before being sold off for fattening. Nevertheless, mutton from upland regions was generally regarded as particularly good to eat. It is hard to gauge how important the wool trade was for the local economy. Only 13 inventories listed wool, often in large quantities, up to 20 stone (127 kilograms), especially amongst those with large flocks.

It is difficult to know precisely what sheep of the period looked like. The general view is that in the Pennines they were horned and black faced. The evidence from analysis of parchment, which often contained wool fibres, was that sheep were selectively bred for increasing length of the fleece. Barnaby Googe, writing in 1614, averred that “the necke must be long, the belly large, the legges short … and … deepe woolled, and thicke all over the bodie”. It was important that the ram’s “tongue be not blacke, nor peckled, for commonly such will get blacke and pyed Lambes.” Furthermore, “The Ram must have his hornes great, winding inward, and bending to the face … In cold and stormie countries, the horned Rams are best … whereby they may defend their heads from storme and tempest”.

Sheep were important more widely as they were put out to manure the fields after harvest. Bishop Hugh Latimer, who owned sheep, wrote: “A ploughland must have sheep; yea, they must have sheep to help fat the ground; for if they have no sheep to help fat the ground, they shall have but bare corn and thin”.


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Number 8 - Horses

Until it is remembered that they were the only means of transport in the period 1547 – 1650 as recorded in Wills and Inventories, it may be a surprise that 72% of the documents listed horses. After all, men and women from Hope and Castleton were far from wealthy. Of these 62 people, 20 listed only one horse, with a maximum of 6 in one inventory.

Frustratingly, there are few indications as to the breed or even function of the horses, whether they were beasts of burden, for pulling the plough, or for riding. However, inventories did list 11 pack saddles, 4 cart saddles, 3 hackney saddles and one side saddle. The hackney horse was for riding, and the side saddle belonged to the wealthiest inventory, that of Jane Savage from Castleton, who died in 1604.

By this time, horses were supplanting oxen for ploughing and pulling heavy loads, although some contemporary writers firmly opposed this trend. Fitzherbert, writing in 1534, noted that “the ploughe of oxen is moche more profytable than the ploughe of horses” and then listed many disadvantages of horses, even concluding that at the end of the animal’s life the horse was “but caryen”, unlike oxen which became “mannes meate, and as good or better than ever he was.” Gervase Markham, in 1613, noted that plough teams could consist of both horses and oxen.

The Rev. William Harrison, writing in Hollinshed’s ‘Chronicles’ in 1577, claimed that English draught horses “are commonly so strong that fyve (or six) of them (at the most) will draw three thousand weight” or 1½ tons.

Whilst there are few clues as to the horses’ breeds, active development of horses was taking place by this time. As noted, the hackney horse was widely used for riding, although it was smaller than modern animals. The Suffolk Punch had also been selectively bred by this time. Markham, in 1617, recommended that the best horses for husbandmen came from “Freeseland, Holland, and Artoys”. However, working horses in the Derbyshire lead mines were probably bred in Lincolnshire.

Horses in these inventories rose in value throughout the period by a multiple of 3½, the greatest inflation in price for any animal except pigs. The rise from £2 to £3 10s (£3.50) was particularly marked in the last decade, the 1640s, when suddenly they became strategically essential during the Civil War.


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Number 9 - Ploughing

In our exploration of the wills and inventories from 1547 to 1650 we have seen that oxen and horses were included in many documents, with oxen persisting as draught animals longer than in some parts of the country. Some authorities believe that, in upland areas, these animals were used mostly for pulling carts and wagons and for carrying heavy loads but here there is clear evidence that they were used for ploughing as well.

Six men, mostly in the upper range of inventory valuations, owned ploughs, although Thurstan Hall from Castleton was worth only £3 2s 6d (£3.13) at death. Early inventories did not usually list chattels and the earliest mention of a plough was in 1596. There were 7 yokes and 3 teams, or harnesses for attaching to a cart or plough.

Nowadays there is little evidence of historic ploughing in the area, although there is some ridge and furrow field marking near Hathersage. Without doubt, however, the valley bottoms at least would have been ploughed.

In the agricultural cycle of the time, land was left fallow for a variable length of time, depending on local conditions. Here, there might have been 2 to 4 years of arable, followed by up to 8 years of grass cultivation or “leys”. Ploughing had three functions: to break up the soil, to bury manure and to assist drainage. Ploughing fallow land usually took place in winter and was followed by three or four further ploughings in a year. If it was to be returned to arable, ploughed soil was harrowed or broken up with mattocks. Eighteen inventories included harrows.

Light soil was ploughed in two directions at right-angles, leaving no permanent mark on the landscape. Heavy soils required a strategy to facilitate water drainage. The land was ploughed in elongated ovals, starting in the middle and building up a ridge as the plough team worked to and fro around the oval. This created a ridge and furrow pattern. The ridges were orientated up and down any available slope so that water could drain into the furrows and be channelled away. They frequently had an S-shape, reflecting the distance needed for an ox team to turn. In subsequent ploughings, the farmer could either flatten the pattern of ridges and create new ones, or, in water-logged land, might emphasise the ridges, giving rise to the persistent pattern familiar today.


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Number 10 - Pigs and Poultry

Pigs, always known at the time as swine, and poultry were occasional items in the inventories from 1547 – 1650.

Swine, never more than 3, were listed 20 times. This is surprising as pigs not only provided a source of protein and calories but also excellent leather. They could be kept on poor land and their meat was easier to preserve than beef or mutton. They were never worth a great deal, inflating from £0.3.0 to £0.12.6 (£0.15 – £0.65) during this period, in line with the rise in value of sheep.

The problem was the difficulty of overwintering them. Fitzherbert, in 1534, noted that “they cannot be rered in winter, for cold, without great coste.” Traditionally, swine were put out to pannage in the autumn, a mediaeval custom in which the animals were turned out into woodland from August to December to eat acorns and beech mast. The damage to oak woodland, now becoming a strategic asset for ship building as Britain’s sea power increased, caused Henry VIII to restrict this right. Perhaps in this period there was little pannage in the Hope Valley but, in any case, pigs were becoming more domesticated and useful farmyard scavengers. At around this time, improved nutrition and breeding permitted a cycle of farrowing to slaughter in a single year.

Swine of the period were not the large lop-eared animals with which we are familiar, but smaller, prick-eared and bristly. Pig husbandry later became commoner with the importation of an animal that was larger, fatter and with access to potatoes.

Poultry were listed in only 19 inventories, but there is the suspicion that they were more widely kept but not listed as they were of little value. Of the “feathered cattell” only chickens and geese were recorded here. Geese were regarded as easy to keep and Barnaby Googe, in 1614, noted that they were “more watchfull then the Dogges.” Googe gave much advice about the proper selection of chickens, noting in particular that white birds “are commonly tender, and prosper not, neither are they beside fruitfull, and are always the fairest marke in a Hawke, or a Bussards eye.”

All the writers of the period reckoned they were good animals for women to own, Googe saying: “the poorest widdowe in the Countrie is able to keepe them.” Here, only 3 of the 19 inventories with poultry were from women.

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Number 11 - Corn and Hay

One of the most frequently listed items, seen 43 times, in the Wills and Inventories of 1547 – 1650 is “Corn and Hay”, usually together. We have to assume these terms meant the same as they do today.

In well favoured areas, hay was grown in rich, lowland wetland meadows, fertilised by grazing animals. In uplands, however, the quality of this essential crop for overwintering animals was less and would have had priority over other crops.

Corn meant edible grain, both fodder and for human consumption. It is estimated that around 20% of grain grown nationally was for fodder. The Derbyshire Justices reported in 1620 that the county grew less than half its needs, and as a consequence grain was imported and tended to be expensive. The Justices sometimes had to intervene in the market to ensure adequate supplies although occasionally, for instance in 1631, there was a glut.

In 1613, Gervase Markham identified 6 varieties of wheat, 2 of rye, 3 of barley and 4 of oats but only one inventory here itemised wheat. Barnaby Googe in 1614 noted that: “wheat delighteth in a levell, rich, warme, and a dry ground: a shadowed, weedy, and a hilly ground, it loveth not” . Generally at this time wheat was not available to labouring people.

Barley was the most valued crop after wheat although only included in 5 inventories. Of the several varieties available, six-rowed barley, or bigg, was the worst but could be grown on dry, poor soils and was known to be prevalent in several northern counties.

Oats were the principal cereal component of the diet on the poor, wet soils of the north and west of the country but were a fodder crop elsewhere. They were the predominant crop in the High Peak. In these documents, oats in one form or another – grain, thraves (12 sheaves), or meal – were listed 7 times.

Meal or ground grain, malt or dried germinated grain, usually barley, and grain itself were included in 15 inventories. The usual unit of measurement was the bushel, hoop or strike, equalling 8 gallons of dry goods, or 4 pecks.

Very little information regarding local grain or hay prices can be gained from these documents but, in Derbyshire as a whole, wheat prices in the period 1538 – 1622 inflated by about 6 times, barley 6.5 times and oats 7 times.

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Number 12 - Milk, butter and cheese


We have seen already that there were more cattle than any other animal in inventories from the period 1547 – 1650. Surprisingly, therefore, very few listed equipment for milking or for making butter or cheese. Thomas Marshall from Castleton, who died in 1649, listed “8 milke basens” and only three inventories contained butter and cheese, always together. The likelihood is that its production was such a routine task, allotted to women, that the equipment was not regarded as worth listing, or that other vessels in inventories were used for the purpose but not specifically named as such. In this context, it is worth noting that 2 of the 7 widows with inventories owned a single cow which must have been for their milk.


Gervase Markham, in his 1635 book “The English Housewife” devoted pages to milking. It is noteworthy that he insisted that hygiene in the dairy was essential: “not the least mote of any filth by any means appear.” The same applied to the containers “which must be scalded once a day … and set in the open air to sweeten.” Milk was routinely “siled” or sieved through a “very clean washed fine linen cloth.” Barnaby Googe in 1614 reckoned that the best milk came from goats which was “the most comfortable to the stomacke” but no goats appeared in any of these documents. He added that “sheep’s Milke is sweeter, and nourisheth more, but is not so good for the stomacke, by reason it is fatter and grosser.”


Cream could not be kept for longer than two days in the summer, and four in the winter. The cream had to be churned for butter, and Markham gave specific advice as to timing, to fit with usual market days.


Rennet was needed for making cheese, and there were lengthy instructions as to how to make a rennet bag from the stomach of a suckling calf. In Markham’s opinion, the best cheese was “morning cheese” made from that morning’s milk together with cream from the evening before. He also recommended “nettle cheese” as the “finest summer cheese which can be eaten” He described “eddish cheese” made from milk from cows fed on the eddish or grass that grew after the harvest. As it was produced in winter and could not be dried and hardened in the warmth of summer, it was a soft cheese.


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Number 13 - Wool and wool cloth

Wool was by far the most important commodity this country produced in the late mediaeval and early Tudor periods. By the 13th century, English wool was pre-eminent in European trading. In Henry VIII’s reign (1491 – 1547), the wool cloth trade had surpassed that of the raw material, amounting to as much as 90% of all exports. English wool was generally regarded as of the highest quality and Barnaby Googe in 1614 noted that “the best at this day is the wooll of England.” William Harrison, in 1577, observed that “strangers succoured here from domesticall persecution”, that is Huguenots, had expanded the range of cloth to “sundrie other uses, as mockados, baies, vellures, grograines, etc.” The trade suffered with a general collapse of the continental market in wool, and the loss of Calais, which was an important entry point into Europe, in 1558. Thereafter, wool prices did not rise as much as those of other commodities and many husbandmen and farmers suffered greatly if there was a collapse in the price as in 1624, which was attended by starvation and a doubling of mortality nationally, and reflected also in the deaths registered in Hope. In the 17th century, protectionist policies attempted to remedy the position but other textiles began to be imported and the wool trade gradually lost its importance.

In the inventories for 1547 – 1650, 83% listed sheep and 13 recorded wool. As might be expected, the largest holdings were in the inventories of those with the most sheep. Woollen cloth was mentioned 21 times in wills and inventories, sometimes with several different categories in the same document: 9 wool, of which one was kersey, a particularly high quality material, 3 green and 3 russet, and 6 unspecified cloth (which may have been made of linen or other material).

Googe recorded that shearers “do commonly appoint for their season the tenth of the Moneth of June.” Once the sheep had been sheared, the husbandman’s responsibilities for the wool ended and the housewife took over. She had to clean it and toze (tease) it by hand before it could be dyed. The wool had to be carded and then he insisted that the wool was oiled with rape seed oil or goose or even swine fat so that it “draw well” on the spinning wheel. “The housewife hath finished her labour” by this stage.


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Number 14 - Flax and hemp

Hemp, from the stem of the plant Cannabis sativa, was used for sacking and work clothes. Hemp was grown widely on a small scale, often close to habitations, and its gathering and preparation provided welcome employment after the harvest of main crops. It was also used in sail and rope manufacture and, therefore, of strategic importance.

In the Wills and Inventories of 1547-1650, there were only 3 inclusions of hemp or hemp fibre from the two villages, although there were several from surrounding hamlets.

Flax is from the linseed plant, Linum usitatissimum, and, like hemp, is extracted from the stem. There were 9 mentions of flax, 15 of “linnen” and one of “hardin” (harden) cloth, a material coarser than linen. Of the linen, in some cases the term was clearly in the context of napery and sheets, but 4 listed bolts of cloth between 2½ and 25 yards in length, and 2 others included yarn. Although flax alone is now the raw material for making linen, in 1623 Gervase Markham noted that “linen cloth, whether it be of hemp of flax, … from those two only is the most principal cloth derived…”

Markham advised growing them both in the same conditions as barley. “It must be pulled up by the roots, and not cut as corn is…” usually in July unless seed was to be preserved.

The preparation of both flax and hemp fibre was exhaustive. An essential component was washing in running water in bundles or “beats” then rotted or “retted” in still water to separate the fibres, before drying. Hemp was poisonous to fish and this had to be considered when choosing the best place for washing. Flax required a week of drying before beating and retting. The stems were then broken down with a “brake” but only after thorough drying. This process was very dangerous if, in damp seasons, a kiln was used. Finally a “swingle tree” was used repeatedly to break the fibres down further, followed by heckling or combing, until the required fineness was achieved. The best linen also needed rolling and plaiting before beating again and bleaching in ashes and lye before it could be woven.

It must be remembered that these tasks were expected of women, in addition to other work, much of it coinciding with a particularly heavy schedule in the seasonal agricultural cycle.

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Number 15 - Manure

It may seem strange to relate that manure, or “meaner” as it was usually called, was important enough to be recorded in inventories from 1547-1650. Although it was not was not valuable in monetary terms, 12 appraisers saw fit to list it. The range of values was only 12 pence to 10 shillings, presumably dependent on quantity, which was never specified.

The science of fertilisers was unknown at this time but it was recognised that additives improved soil fertility and productivity. The number of bushels per acre of corn increased by around 100% between the 13th and the 16th centuries.

Barnaby Googe graded manure in 1614: “The first of Poultry, the next of Men, the third of Cattell”. Human waste had to be mixed with household rubbish, otherwise it was “too hot, and burnes the ground.” Urine was kept for six months before being used on vines and apple trees when it “bringeth great fruitfulness to the trees, and giveth a pleasant taste to the fruit.”  In 1534, Fitzherbert preferred cow dung to that of horses whilst noting that doves’ dung was the best “but it must be layde upon the grounde verye thynne.” Others agreed that “Pigion or Pullen-dung”, but specifically excluding goose dung, “… is the best of all other”.

Googe noted that “the dung that hath line a yeere, is best for Corne, for it both is of sufficient strength, and breedeth lesse weeds”.

It is possible that the term “manure” included other soil conditioners such as wood ash, lime and marl, which is a mudstone containing lime. In 1613, Gervase Markham noted that “if you finde this soile to be subiect to extraordinary wet and coldnesse, you shall then know that the ashes eyther of wood, coale, or straw, is a very good manure for it”. Further, “if then you take Lime and sow it upon your land … and then sow your corne after it, you shall finde great profit to come thereon.”   Importantly, he also said “…pulses, which both bring forth commoditie, and also out of their owne natures doe manure and inrich your ground, making it more apt and fit to receive much better Seede”. The importance of nitrogen fixing legumes such as clover in crop rotations was not fully recognised until after 1650, although clover had been imported from the Low Countries as early as 1620.

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Number 16 - Fuel


It would be surprising if we saw listings of wood and coal in a modern inventory. However, at the time of the Wills and Inventories from 1547 to 1650, keeping warm and cooking were high priority challenges. Nine inventories listed fuel, rarely by itself and often combined with peat and manure in the valuation, suggesting that peat was not the only fuel and wood played an important role as well.


The recommended month to lay in wood was May.  In 1534, Fitzherbert observed: “For than the waye is lyke to be fayre and drye, and the days longe, and that tyme the husbande hath leeste to doo in husbandry”. However he also suggested that trees should be lopped in winter so that “thy beastes maye eat the brouse, and the mosse of the bowes”.


Two listed coal. Coal was collected where it was found on the surface; just beyond the Hope Valley it was plentiful. At this time, primitive chimneys meant that coal burned poorly, producing dangerous fumes.


Peat was an essential fuel at this period of intense cold and was extracted and burned in huge quantities. In the fourteenth century, 34 million cubic metres were cut in the South Pennines. The amount burned by a household was between 5,000 and 12,000 turves per year and a peat stack could be as big as the cottage that would consume it. The calorific value of peat was one sixth of that of coal. Peat cutting was undertaken in a farm’s enclosed area, or hey, on the moorland above the cultivated part of the farmstead and pastures, or, for some farms, in unenclosed areas. The peat cuts and sledways are still visible in the landscape.


For an area that traditionally used peat for fuel, therefore, it is surprising that only 4 had it listed in their inventories. However, there were a further 4 with peat spades and 2 with peat carts. Only one sled was mentioned.


Porter, in 1923, wrote about the ‘Crookstone Peat and Stone Pits’ charity in Hope. Founded in 1691, it was based on land bounded by Henry Balguy’s: “The part of Crooksden is 160 statute acres besides 8 acres for slate and 40 acres for free stone and peats.” In 1711, “the tenants and freeholders of Hope aforesaid have liberty to dig get and carry away peats to burn in their houses in Hope aforesaid.”

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