Early modern Macclesfield : market town to proto-industrial hub, 1600-1740

Adrian. Knight, Paul
(2003) Early modern Macclesfield : market town to proto-industrial hub, 1600-1740. PhD thesis, University of Liverpool.

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The subject of this study is the development of the town of Macclesfield in east Cheshire in the early modem period. The study is primarily based around the probate records left by the inhabitants of the town, which begin in 1553 but are sufficiently consistent from 1600 to allow them to be studied. Gail Malmgreen' s thesis on industrial Macclesfield begins in 1740.1 These two factors set the chronological parameters of the study. Within these boundaries, it has not been possible to make use of all of the written sources. The proposition was to undertake sub-studies of specific aspects of Macclesfield in order to determine the nature and characteristics of the town. Wherever possible, these sub-studies would be compared with comparable English towns within the early modem period to assess where Macclesfield stood within the urban hierarchy. Studies of early modem towns tend not to compare towns against one another, but rather to discus common themes. This thesis begins by describing the physical and historical background to Macclesfield. This includes a brief summary of the historiography of a number of the subjects to be covered in this study. It then proceeds to describe the sources made available for and used by this study, and the methodology by which they were examined. The following chapters then assess specific aspects of Macclesfield. Three chapters cover the political, social and wealth structures. Chapter 3 covers corporate government, both with respect to the town and national politics, while Chapter 4 looks at the structure of wealth within the town. Chapter 5 follows this trend by focusing on non-financial social structures. Chapters 6 and 7 examine the economic activities practiced in Macclesfield. Firstly, the silk button industry will be examined, which was the town's main proto-industrial activity. The remaining economic activities are examined later, but with a focus on the leather industry as an example of an older industry which pre-dated the silk button industry. The final chapter places Macclesfield into a national context. This will be in two parts. Firstly, Macclesfield is examined at the centre of a network with various links extending outwards, for example with characteristics of administrators and executors of probate. Secondly, Macclesfield is tied into the national economy through a study of its horse fair. This study found that the pre-industrial town of early modem England could be a lively and vibrant community full of economic growth, development and confidence. Macclesfield was one of the leaders in this field. Its proto-industry represents a luxury product in a niche market at the end of a complex international trade system. The wealth generated through this industry gave the town the opportunity to invest in urban improvement schemes and Macclesfield seems to have been at the forefront of improvement schemes, like paving and piped water. But Macclesfield was also able to retain its earlier functions of a market town, as is exemplified by the continued presence of the horse fair and the leather industry. Socially, the town also retained rural characteristics as is shown through baptism and marriage patterns tied to the agricultural year. This study also shows that towns should not be studied in a vacuum, but as part of the wider regional and national picture. All towns possess a hinterland, although in practise this was found to be not one but multi-layered. Dr Jon Sobart recently examined this pattern with regards to Chester by producing three accounts, at town, county and country level. 2 This thesis will show that Macclesfield also possessed similar, multi-layed characteristics, which formed an important aspect of the fabric of early modern English urban society.I G. Malmgreen, Economy and Culture in an Industrialising Town: Macclesfield, Cheshire, 1750- 1835 (unpublished Indiana University Ph.D. thesis, 1981).2 J. Stobart, 'County, town and country: three histories of urban development in eighteenth-century Chester' in P. Borsay and L. Proudfoot, (eds), Provincial Towns in Early Modern England and Ireland: Change, Convergence and Divergence (Oxford, 2002).

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 20 Oct 2023 12:41
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2023 12:49
DOI: 10.17638/03174758
Copyright Statement: Copyright © and Moral Rights for this thesis and any accompanying data (where applicable) are retained by the author and/or other copyright owners. A copy can be downloaded for personal non-commercial research or study, without prior permission or charge.
URI: https://livrepository.liverpool.ac.uk/id/eprint/3174758