Shrewsbury Drapers visit Oswestry
We have close links with Oswestry Town Council who hold their own archives at the Guildhall in Oswestry. In this post, the Town Council Archivist, Kerry Evans reports back on a recent visit by the Shrewsbury Drapers Company to the Guildhall.
The visit gave the modern day Drapers the opportunity to learn more about the strong connection their predecessors had with the town of Oswestry during the 16th and early 17th century as part of their involvement with the woollen-cloth trade of north and mid Wales. The event included talks by local historian John Pryce-Jones, and Nigel Hinton of the Drapers, along with a display of original documents from the Town Council Archive.
During this period, Oswestry was the official ‘staple town’ for the sale of Welsh cloth. As a result, the Drapers were required to make the dangerous journey from Shrewsbury to Oswestry via The Old Three Pigeons Inn at Nesscliffe.
During his talk, John Pryce-Jones commented that in 1619 the Drapers were reportedly spending roughly £2,000 each week in the town, and were joined by merchants from other areas such as Whitchurch and Coventry.
Documents displayed on the day highlighted the strong influence the woollen-cloth trade and the visits of the Drapers had on the town at this time. The 1582 Book of Constitutions includes a clause barring Shrewsbury men from becoming burgesses unless they are resident in Oswestry. (OTC/A20/6)
Plans (OTC/C23/1) and photographs (PH/O/5/3/10) showed the location of the Three Tuns Inn. Situated in Bailey Street, the Inn played a significant role in the trade as it allowed a private setting for important negotiations to take place between weavers and drapers. The Inn was demolished in 1902 to make way for the extension of the Cross Market, yet the mantelpiece from the Inn, dating back to the start of the 17th century, still survives and is on display in the Council Chamber at the Guildhall.
In June 1621 Oswestry lost this vital income as the trade was declared open and as a consequence the Drapers were no longer required to travel the sixteen perilous miles to the town. Alternatively, it was the Welsh weavers and clothiers who were forced to travel the extra distance, having to venture deeper into the county in order to sell their goods in Shrewsbury.
Documents shown to the Drapers evidenced the negative effect this decision had on Oswestry. A copy of part of a letter from Arthur Kynaston to Thomas Howard, earl of Suffolk (circa 1623) highlighted the decay of the market, referring to “the great loss in my lord’s revenue and to the utter undoing of his town & tenants” (OTC/A75/1/14) An Order of the Privy Council, dated 21 December 1622, showed support for the trade to remain at Oswestry. (OTC/A75/1/8)
If you would like to see any of these documents you are very welcome to visit the Town Council Archive, please email the Town Council Archivist to make an appointment: [email protected] The Town Council Archive catalogue can be viewed at: https://www.oswestry-tc.gov.uk/oswestry-archives.html