Tuesday, September 23, 2008

18th century

The Meeting House built in 1692 was in a dangerous state by the 1750s, and so another subcription was sold to raise funds for a new meeting house.

The names of the subscribers were:
Rebecca Mildred and Son, Thomas Hull Senior, Thomas Goring, Thomas Hull Junior, William Sibley, Joseph Fryer, George Sweatman, Elizabeth Cook, William Ashby, Samuel Reynolds, John Hull, a private present, William Sibley Junior, John Ashby, William Sergood (?), JAmes Rider, William Osmond, John Finch, Joseph Noakes, Jeremiah Neave, Mary Roake, Thomas Finch, Thomas Finch Junior, Barton Gates, Widow Gurnell of Ealing, John Hudson of London, George Bigg, Widow Jagger of Colnbrook, legacy left in John Hudson's will of £50, Quarterly meeting of London, Monthly meeting of Tottenham.

It was built by William Gregory for £238-3 shillings, including repairing of the fences. John Hudson, the builder of the 1692 Meeting House, left £50 to the meeting, which was put towards the building of the new Meeting House. Thomas Crouch was paid seven guineas to rebuild the wall for the meeting house burial ground.

The Quakers seem to have been very successful at raising money by subscription for the building of their Meeting Houses in 1692, 1755 and 1818, and usually raised enough money to be able to donate some to the poor in addition to the money raised to pay for the building.

The town, when it tried to raise £3000 for the building of the Market House in the 1780s wasn't quite so successful, and so turned to Thomas Hull for £2000 of the money, which he lent them, and allowed them to pay back from the income from the tolls.

The scandal of the hoarding Quaker Millers of Uxbridge 1800
It appears that the reputation of Quakers for fair business practices hasn't always been clear to the general population. In 1800 Robert Howard was writing in the Yorkshireman a few words on corn and Quakers, having heard rumours on the subject:

"Rumours have been circulated of late with uncommon industry, insinuating that the Quakers are monopolizers of corn, and that therefore the high price of corn is owing to the Quakers: a very short, though bold assertion, and a natural conclusion drawn from it; but if the premises should happen to prove false, the conclusion must fall with them."

He talks about how widespread the rumours are, and then goes on to list what rumours are being spread:

1st. That the Quakers are monopolizers of Corn; and that monied men among them unite together, for the purpose of speculating therein.
2nd. That they have meetings for this purpose.
3rd. That a meeting-house at Horsleydown, now disused and sold, was filled to the ceiling with corn.
4th That the Quakers in the mealing trade, who attend at Mark-Lane, particularly those of Uxbridge, are monopolizers, and hold great quantities of corn.
5th. That the Quakers who attend at Mark-Lane are very numerous and that they rule the market.

He then goes on to address the charges, but first he introduces his remarks with some general information about the corn trade. Apparently the harvest in the year 1799 was very bad, and the secretary to the board of agriculture had published a pamphlet entitled "The Quaestion of Scarcity Plainly stated".

Howard states that several people have been convicted of unfair dealing in corn, but no Quaker, although rumours abound that one of the Quakers associated with Mark-Lane had been convicted. The Morning Advertiser had, under the guise of disbelieving the rumours, promulgated them so that they were known by far more people, and as the paper is the one which goes to most of the public houses in London, it is very widely circulated.

Howard then deals with the rumours one by one. He can find no evidence that Quakers have been monopolizing the market, or that Quakers have dealt in corn to make a profit, unless their main business has always been dealing in corn.

He says that no meetings can be held for a practice that doesn't exist, but in any case, it would not be something that Quakers would do at their meetings, as anyone who reads the pamphlets from the Society about the conduct of meetings would understand.

The purchaser of Horsleydown meeting house, which was believed to be full to the brim with corn, set open the doors for several days to prove to passers by that it was not.

I will repeat more fully what Howard says about the Uxbridge Quaker Millers:
"I have already said that the Quakers at Uxbridge were alluded to at the office of the Morning Advertiser. It since appears that some were probably had in view who had been mistaken for Quakers, but who were not such, for in this paper, under the date of the 16th of February, is a long letter, signed "one who is neither a Quaker or a Miller;" in which are these assertions:
That of the quantity of mealing business done at Uxbridge, one house, which is not a Quakers, does as much as all the Quakers put together.
That the stock of those other persons who are not Quakers, is sometimes much greater than the stock of all the Quakers in that town.
That the stock of the Quakers is such, only, as is indispensably necessary for the supply of their customers, in the usual course of their trade.
That this accumulation of stock is so far from being a cause of the present high price of bread, and so an injury to the public, that the public are most esentially benefitted by it; for the known fact is and it can be proved, that the enterpsiring spirit of that other house, viewing the probably scarcity of bread-corn in this country, has this very season actually filled its granaries, not from the barns of their surrounding neighbours, but from the stores of foreign states. It is well known that the gentlemen alluded to, have in their own private account improted into this country considerable quantities of corn from Dantzick, and other foreign parts, which had a regular expenditure in the course of their trade. A candid and discerning public will judge then, whether replenishing our granaries with wheat, by those means, meakes men objects of adversion or admiration, or whether they deserve out praise or our blame., I will not hesitate to place them among the benefactors of mankind."

Howard continues: "...let us see what is really the conduct of the Uxbridge miller and of the Quakers in particular.

"We know that Uxbridge lies in a country where much corn is grown and the river there affords excellent means for grinding. IT is said that London requires on an average about 20,000 sacks of flour for one week's consumption: it must then be a great accommodation to the capital to have such markets, and such mills and millers, in its neighbourhood. Such abound in all the country around, and yet we have seen in times of drought, and in times of frost, there has been some alarm from the apprehension of wanting their aid. Whence then rises this disposition to abuse a useful body of men, only because the article they prepare is scarce and dear?

I have not heard that any charge, bearing the appearance of unfair trading much les of monopoly has been made out against any miller at Uxbridge. As to the Quakers, I have inquired minutely and am well assured that their trade is carried on as fairly as any trade is in London. They buy corn at their own market and at other markets near hand; besides this, they are obliged to buy at Mark Lane. What they buy is ground and the bulk of the flour is sent to the bakers, and to the factors in London. All this is just as it should be but a notion is inculcated that they amass large stocks of corn and keep it back. On the contrary, the stocks of these very men, the Quakers at Uxbridge, have been less than usual during the year past, and oftentimes less than was necessary to secure work for their mills, and flour for their customers. Now this is a fact of which I am satisfied by inquiry: and any person whatever may be satisfied in the same way. Is any further proof Possible."

He then goes on to answer the charges bout the Mark-lane meeting, and continues:
"I have mentiond that there was a reason why there are so many Quakers employed in these trades, compared with the smallness of their whole number. I conceive it to be that the employment of a miller is an agreeable one to any man disposed to seriousness; rural life affording more opportunity for retirement and recollection than most trades will admit of. I know several Quakers now in the trade, of whom I could speak well, if it were proper. To do so of the deceased is not exceptionable, and to name only two or three, Benjamin Kidd of Godalming, Thomas Finch of Brentford, and Thomas Hull of Uxbridge, were men of exemplary lives, well esteemed of their neighbours, and a credit to the society of Quakers."

The rumours died down a bit, and seem to have become a general rumour that Uxbridge Quaker Millers were so powerful that they could influence the price of corn on the markets... although I don't think this was so.

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