The Foxearth and District Local History Society

The Hysterical Hystorian

For occasional articles, snippets and announcements by the Resident Historians. (Andrew Clarke and GH) These articles are presented in date order, but if you explore the back-catalogue, you may find much of interest. Historical information doesn't really go out of date! Any member of the F&DLHS may add an entry or make a comment to an existing entry once they have got their userID and password from the Webmaster.

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

The famine of 1527

The harvest of 1527 in East Anglia was a failure, and there was a great dearth of barley and wheat in the eastern counties. The price of grain recketed. In December the Government appointed commissioners to make a report of the grain stocks in the Eastern Counties. Mercifully, part of this report dealing with the Hinckford Hundred, which was made by William Clopton, survives. It covers ten villages, and shows wide variation in grain stocks from village to village. William Clopton estimated, in his report, that a bushel of "bread corn" (wheat) and one and a half bushels of "drink corn" (barley) were required to sustain six persons for a week. Using this formula, he was able to calculate whether stocks were sufficient to last the twenty weeks until about the middle of the following May. (I suspect that the parishes were loth to disclose their stocks in case they were 'redistributed' elsewhere)

From Clopton's report it appears that no village had a surplus of wheat.

  • Belchamp Otton, with 113 inhabitants, had a surplus of barley, 84 quarters 2 bushels, but a deficit of 62 quarters of wheat;
  • Brundon, with nineteen inhabitants, had a surplus barley store of 27 quarters 3 1/2 bushels, and lacked only one peck of wheat;
  • Bechamp Otton also had 63 quarters of pease.
  • Ballingdon, with 223 inhabitants, had a deficit of over 138 quarters of wheat and nearly 154 bushels of barley
  • Belchamp St. Paul, with 131 inhabitants, had a wheat deficit of 77 1/2 bushels and a barley deficit of 113 1/2 bushels
  • Foxearth, with 126 inhabitants, needed 89 1/2 bushels of wheat and 86 1/2 bushels of barley.

Attempts by Cardinal Wolsey to import grain were obstructed by the Duke of Norfolk, who was benefitting enormously from the high price of grain. Wolsey also tried to stop the East Anglian farmers from exporting food, much to their annoyance. Famine relief descended into farce, when the shipment of grain was not paid for and the French merchants returned back to France with English hostages

The famine was followed by a slump in trade. The combination caused several riots in East Anglia.

It is interesting to see Foxearth's population as being only 125 people in 1527. In 1847, ir was 474, and in 1911 was 335.

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