History of Halifax West Yorkshire

Calderdale history timeline 1500 - 1600AD

Merchant Adventurers banner

Cloth Export

By 1500 Calderdale cloth was widely exported. Merchants bought Kerseys at the Halifax market and arranged transport to the continent where there was great demand.

The Fellowship of Merchant Adventurers (see banner opposite) and the Eastland Company exported woollen cloth to Europe.

In medieval Europe no one could legally trade unless they became a member of a merchant company.

These companies organised the sailing of ships in "convoy" providing safety in numbers against attack by pirates and hostile warships. Being a member of a company offered protection whilst conducting business on the continent.

Officers of these companies acted as diplomats and safeguarded the interests of their members who resided as aliens in foreign parts whilst trading abroad. The headquarters or "court" of the Merchant Adventurers was originally in Antwerp but later settled in Hamburg.

Depiction of a medieval shipSir Richard Saltonstall was born in Halifax. During his career as a merchant he became Lord Mayor of London in 1597. He was also a governor of the Merchant Adventurers and was frequently abroad at Hamburg as a member of various trade commissions to settle commercial disputes.

In his will he left £100 for the provision of money and bread for the poor of the Parish of Halifax.

"There is nothing so admirable in this town of Halifax as the industrie of the inhabitants who, not withstanding an unprofitable and barraine soil, have so flourished by the cloth trade that they greatly enrich their own estates and winne praise from all their neighbours". William Camden "Britannia" 1586.

Sir Richard SaltonstallDuring the 1500s Halifax led the way for the West Riding of Yorkshire to become England's third most prosperous woollen textile manufacturing district.

Two other regions dominated English cloth making at this time. The "West of England"; Gloucestershire, Somersetshire and Wiltshire where superfine Broadcloth was made and the East Anglian counties of Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex where the "New Draperies", high quality light weight woollens and worsteds, were produced.

"They excel the rest in policy and industrie, for the use of their trade and groundes, and after the rude and arrogant manner of their wilde country they surpass the rest in wisdom and wealth... so that the rest of the county woulde in this followe them but afar off, the force and wealth of Yorkshire would soon be doubled". James Ryders "Commendations of Yorkshire" 1588

Many visitors to Calderdale thought it remarkable that commerce on such a scale could thrive in such a remote place.

West Yorkshire was put on the map by high volume sales of Calderdale Kersey. Other Yorkshire towns also had their own recognised specialities.

It's Interesting

  • Earl of Halifax is a title that has been created four times in British history, once in the Peerage of England, twice in the Peerage of Great Britain and once in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. The name of the peerage refers to Halifax, West Yorkshire.
    The first...

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