14th April 1553. Dodgy Practice.
The good old days of shopping required long and hazardous trips to the fair or market, paucity of goods, unreliability of quality, untrustworthy weights and measures, a chronic shortage of small change, catch-as-catch-can, market regulations and craft monopolies.
However there needed to be punitive laws against Forestalling, Regrating and Engrossing. (See Notes Below).
Though nowadays the above offences are obsolete, attempts to corner the market are still with us, and also the quality of the product is often suspect as Today in 1553 when butcher Bernard Horna was brought before the Lord Mayor and Council at York accused of ‘putting to sale corrupt and stinking fleshe and was committed to prison there to remain at my Lord Maiours pleas for his neglygens and slaknes in allowing meat to be offered for sale’.(sic)
Two Gild Searchers were also charged with not preventing the crime, so Simon Foxgate and John Smith were imprisoned for neglect of duty, an early example of accountability.
Forestalling was widespread, as the Nottingham, Presentment of Offenders (1396) ‘against the market’ notes that Henry de Sutton, weaver, regularly offended with salt-water fish and salmon, in Lent, contrary to the interest and detriment of the town.
Then John Albayne on Easter Eve, forestalled a cart-full of tanned-leather, received from Richard Huddeson of Bredon.
In 1423 a Proclamation in London said that no one should intercept merchants and victuallers bringing goods into St John’s Street, Southwark or its environs.
As late as 1800 charges were laid at Otley, Yorkshire, when three forestallers, Dave Oliver of Lindley and Thomas Wall of Addingham, were convicted of forestalling wheat and fined £20. Then Samuel Wignell of Keighley, for engrossing butter, was fined £40 and 1 month gaol.
These were serious fines for those times.
Forestalling was one of the forfeitures of Edward the Confessor and Domesday Book mentions ‘foresteel’.
By 1552 Edward VI found previous laws inadequate so his Act excluded from penalties imposed on purchase in open markets and fairs, of corn, fish, butter and cheese by any ‘badger, lader kidder, carrier’, who had a licence from three JP’s.(1)
Then the Elizabethan (1562) Act tightened regulations saying: ‘a great number were seeking to live easily and to leave honest labour’.(2)
Concerns with the above problems continued as by 1772 the Badger Act was repealed but it required an 1844 Act to repeal 19 Acts of Henry III and Edward VI.
As today, in the past there were corrupt officials and counterfeit licences, all seeking to subvert the law, whose mills as demonstrated, grind very slowly.
(1) ( 5&6 Ed VI c 12)iii.
(2) (5 Eliz c 12) iv. Now the badger had to be male, aged 30+, resident for 3 years, householder, married and the licence had to say they were able to buy and sell corn grain out of the market and fair. Licences were 12d, bonds were required up to £5 and produced at quarter sessions.
(3) (12 Geo c 71) ii. (4) (7&8 Vict c 24).
Forestalling: stopping merchants victuals coming to market.
Regrating: buying corn or other dead victuals within 4 miles of market.
Engrossing: buying corn or dead victuals to sell again.
Ref: Eng-Yorks-Bradford local archives cheats and punishment.
Ref: A History of Shopping, Dorothy Davis, Routledge & Kegan Paul 1966. Reviewed in Punch Magazine, February 9th 1966.