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The Origin and Distribution of the Gloucestershire Dangerfield's: Part 2
Posted 11 March 2008
By Howard Mathieson

Part One >  Part Two

In 1834 James Dangerfield immigrated to Canada with his son Thomas. During the crossing Thomas would meet and later marry Jane Jay. Her family had left Wiltshire in the wake of the machine breaking riots. Thomas and Jane would later have a son James Jay Dangerfield. We learn from James Sr.'s gravestone that he died "July 25, 1844 aged 63yrs. A native of Wottonanderedge,(sic) Gloucestershire, England. Blessed are the dead which died in the Lord". In 1921 his namesake James Jr. died in Alymer Ontario. Contained in his obituary is a remarkable piece of oral family history. First it claimed that the family had attended the same family church for 500 years, second and more significantly, it made the assertion that the family had been engaged in the manufacture of broad cloth "since its inception". This latter claim suggests intimate knowledge of the industry's history. Is it possible that these claims might help explain the relocation of the Dangerfield's from the Berkeley heartland to the Stroudwater valley?

While we should always exercise caution when dealing with oral history, it should not be dismissed out of hand. In this instance we know that de Angervil(le) families lived in close proximity to Wotton Under Edge as early as 1314. The beginning of the cloth industry in Wotton under Edge can be traced to the latter half of the 13th century. Thomas Berkeley had built a manor house at Wotton by 1243, and following his death his widow Joan de Somery obtained a Royal licence from Henry III for a market. A year later Joan granted a charter which gave the settlement borough status (1).

Residents were therefore able to earn a livelihood without having to work on the Berkeley estate. This obligation was replaced with rent on a burgage plot. As a consequence merchants from Bristol and Gloucester were attracted to the area and weaving and cloth making were well established by the end of the 13th century. If our obituary has a grain of truth, it would mean Dangerfield involvement in the cloth trade might date from the late 13th or early 14th century.

It might be coincidental but the fifteenth century, when the Daungerfeld relocation likely took place, is also the time frame during which the broadcloth industry underwent a dramatic transformation. In order to appreciate the magnitude of these changes a brief historical overview of the industry in the 14th and 15th centuries is necessary. Following that, a brief review of evidence concerning the involvement of the Daungerfeld/Dangerfield's in the cloth trade will be presented.

In the 13th and 14th century the woollen textile industry was largely concentrated in major urban centres throughout England. This is not to say that rural areas were not involved in the production of woollen cloth. However production for commercial purposes was largely the preserve of an urban based industry which was in turn controlled by medieval guilds. Weavers, fullers, and dyers jealously guarded and controlled the production and sale of cloth in these major urban markets. Despite the advantages afforded by the protected status of the industry, finished cloth was an almost insignificant English export. Rather England's leading export, (largely to Flanders and Italy) was raw wool, and conversely, one of its major imports was finished cloth. Geo political considerations in the 14th century resulted in numerous restrictions being imposed on the importation of finished cloth and on the export of raw wool. The impact of these measures can be seen in surviving ulnage (a tax on cloth) and customs returns from 1347 forward(2). By the beginning of the 15th century the output of finished cloth had increased a remarkable 450% and exports would account for 87% of domestic production(3). In the south west of England, Bristol and Southampton reflected these dramatic production increases. However the inability of the rest of Gloucestershire to mirror these increases bears witness to the power of the guilds to monopolize trade and to keep the industry an urban based activity.

The 15th century would see the continental demand for English cloth continue to expand. However the guilds were no longer capable of keeping pace with the external appetite for broad cloth. R.P. Breckinsale has pointed to the resulting breakdown of guild monopolies and a gradual shift of production to rural areas as the 15th century unfolded(4).

In the case of the Stroudwater valleys, numerous factors contributed to their development as a textile producing powerhouse. Proximity to the ports of Bristol and Southhampton has previously been noted. However it would be the unique geography of the region that favoured its development. The elevated landscape of the Cotswolds is dissected by the streams and tributaries of the Little Avon, the Cam and the Frome Rivers. These water courses were historically well suited to the location of water mills. Layers of sandstone underlain by impervious layers of clay provided a dependable and clean source of spring water needed in the fulling process. An abundant supply of raw wool and the presence of fuller's earth exposed in the sides of the Cotswolds valleys, also combined to favour the area. Finally the adaptation of existing water mills for use as fulling mills would greatly increase productivity in an era of labour shortages(5).

As early as the late fourteenth century the inherent advantages of the Stroudwater region were being exploited for the manufacture of cloth. Three tuckers are recorded in Stroud/Stonehouse in 1381(6). There was at least one fulling mill at Brimscombe, and nine men were paying rent to dig fuller's earth(7). In Bisley fulling mills were present by 1360 and two Chalford mills were fulling by the middle of the 15th century(8). In Nailsworth, the first evidence of the textiles industry can be dated to 1448(9). Finally in Painswick, a similar story when by 1440 the clothing industry appeared to have become well established.

Carus-Wilson also identified the middle of the 15th century as the period in which the Cotswolds underwent its most rapid development. A virtual boom mentality was evident and land values were rising. Bisley again provides the evidence. Between 1447 and 1459 the Bisley account rolls record the granting of 16 water leases. Under the heading of farms during the same period, 30 are listed at fixed rents of one two or three lives. In the next year, 21 of these properties changed hands with the leases now being held for one year. Carus-Wilson suggests this is evidence of speculation on the part of manorial authorities.

Evidence from the Poll Tax of 1381 and the two lay subsidy assessments of 1334 and 1523 confirm the industry began its growth and rise to prominence in the 15th century(10). The 1381 Bisley Poll tax listed only one fuller. During the interval of the two lay subsidies, the tax paid by Bisley had grown by a factor of 13. Cirencester (the capital of the Cotswolds), had paid 6 times as much as Bisley in 1334, but by 1523 Bisley paid more than Cirencester(11). Given the level of economic activity in or near the Stroudwater region, we need to seriously entertain the possibility that development of the textile industry may have been the stimulus or "pull" which precipitated the relocation of the Daungerfelds. (Note: the location of the forgoing settlements can be viewed on the map that follows)

Smyth's "Men of Armour" provides a unique opportunity to examine the resulting structure and location of the late 16th century industry. In 1945 R.Perry summarized Smyth's data by occupation and location(12). The map that follows is based on this work. It specifically identifies the location in 1608 of "Clothiers", and "Fullers and Tuckers". When viewed in the context of the three drainage basins the regionalization of the industry is clearly evident.

Evidence concerning the involvement of Dangerfield's in the cloth trades can be drawn from several sources. The aforementioned 1608 military survey lists 24 male Dangerfield's. Ten of these individuals were cloth workers with the majority found in the Stroudwater region and one in Wotton Under Edge.

Wills also point to their involvement in the cloth trade. The Gloucestershire Records Office wills index lists 101 Dangerfield wills during the period 1541 - 1800. 38 of the wills in the index list occupations and of these 18 were cloth workers.

Naming patterns in the two regions are also suggestive of familial links. Several forenames are found in common. However care must be exercised. For example as noted previously "Thomas" is a common Daungerfeld forename found in both areas. In a study undertaken by the author, 1593 references to cloth workers wills were extracted from the The Gloucestershire Records Office wills index. Thirteen percent of these individuals were named Thomas, suggesting it was a very common forename at the time. However, fewer than two percent of the same cloth workers were named Nicholas. As noted in part one, the forename Nicholas has historic implications. Wills for Nicholas Dangerfield (a clothier) in Wotton under Edge in 1645, and Nicholas Daungerfeld in Stonehouse 1571, are certainly suggestive of a family link.

The aim of this presentation was to reconcile the historic origin of the Dangerfield's with the distribution of the family indicated by early parish registers. While no conclusive evidence can be put forward, a circumstantial case can be made linking the families of the Berkeley heartland and Stonehouse region. Families in both areas shared common forenames. Families in both areas were involved in the cloth trades. The incentive to move was present in the 15th century which was a period of heightened mobility. Finally the relocation of the family took place during a time period when the Stroudwater region was undergoing a remarkable economic transformation and this may have been the "pull" necessary to cause members of the Berkeley family to relocate.

Part one of this article presented the early settlement evidence and attempted to narrow the time period during which the Dangerfield's relocated from the Berkeley heartland to the Stroudwater valley.

  1. Conservation area statement: Conservation area No1 Wotton Under Edge. Stroud district Council 1999.
  2. The production and exportation of English Woollens in England in the Fourteenth Century; H.L.Gray, The English Historical Review, Vol. 39, No. 153 Jan., 1924, pp.13-35
  3. IBID PP. 34-35
  4. Factors in the Development of the Cotswold Woollen Industry R. P. Beckinsale. The Geographical Journal, Vol. 90, No. 4 (Oct., 1937), pp. 352
  5. Labour shortages and an increase in mobility were a lingering consequence of the plague years of the 13th century.
  6. Stroud: Economic history', A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 11: Bisley and Longtree Hundreds (1976), pp. 119-32
  7. Evidence of Indusrtial growth on Some Fifteenth-century Manors. E.M.Carus Wilson, The Economic History Review, New Series Vol.12.No.2 (1959), pp. 193
  8. 'Bisley: Economic history', A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 11: Bisley and Longtree Hundreds (1976), pp. 20-30. British History on Line
  9. 'Nailsworth: Economic history', A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 11: Bisley and Longtree Hundreds (1976), pp. 211-15.: British History on Line
  10. Evidence of Industrial Growth on Some Fifteenth Century Manors. E.M.Carus-Wilson The Economic History Review, New Series Vol.12.No.2 (1959), pp. 191
  11. Ibid. pp.194
  12. The Gloucestershire Woollen Industry, 1100-1690. R. Perry, From the Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, 1945 Vol. 66, tables pp.83, 91, 92

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