On this day … 16 December 1653

The mayor of Preston ordered that Thomas Abbott and his brother ‘should have noe liberty to bringe in cloath dyed or receive white cloath to dye upon a Satterday, it being a mistry or trade [otherwise] the consequence will be to the ruininge of some famalies, both wife and children’.

This somewhat obscure extract from the Preston court leet records is an example of the ‘closed shop’ system operating in the town well into the 18th century, with detailed regulations designed to preserve the trading privileges of the townsfolk, and prevent unlicensed outsiders from setting up business in the town.

The Preston court leet records from 1653 to 1813 are held at Lancashire Archives. They contain hundreds of fascinating entries that illuminate the daily life of Prestonians, including squabbles between neighbours and punishments for a number of now forgotten misdemeanours such as eavesdropping. House eaves were much wider and lower at this time, and people who hid under them to hear gossip were known as eavesdroppers.

Deep eaves feature in another example, when in 1670 the court ordered:

‘Henry Kilshawe for yt he hath caused a house off office to bee erected under his Easing dropp and ye Excremt coming through ye stable of Mr John ffranckland is agreat nuzance to ye said Mr ffranckland and yt ye said Henry Kilshawe shall remove ye said house before ye xxvth of December next upon paine of xiijs. iiijd.’

The house of office was a primitive form of lavatory. Preston’s streets at this time were filthy and smelly.

David Berry has transcribed and edited all the records and put them on line. It was a massive undertaking and the result is a major contribution to the history of Preston:

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