A history of Halesworth, Suffolk, UK, through the ages.


Volume 3


Halesworth Craftsmen

The tobacconist was a newcomer to the commercial scene in the 17th century. Sailors returning from the Americas first introduced smoking to England about 1565, but it was Sir WaIter Raleigh who brought the practice to Court circles, and by the end of the 17th century it was in general use in most parts of the world.

Among the items in Halesworth Museum are four clay pipes found in 1986, which could date from 1610 - 1640, while an article written by Hugh Oak-Rhind and Keith Wade mentions a clay pipe kiln in Chediston Street.

Certainly tobacco smoking had become popular, but it was regarded with disfavour by the authorities. The Norwich Mayor's Court in 1677 ruled that 'The Bellman doe proclaime in all places through the city that no person do take tobacco in the streets by day or night'. In 1687, smoking was banned in the Norwich Council Chamber with offenders fined 1/- (5p) for every illicit pipeful. In 1673 tobacco was kept in great casks and sold at 7d (3p) and 8d (3p) a pound but the 'cutt' tobacco cost 9d (3p) - 14d (6p) a pound. The sign for the tobacconist was a carved wooden figure, usually of an Indian with a roll of tobacco under his arm.

The background of several of the 17th and 18th century people of Halesworth comes alive in the research publication 'Goods & Chattels of Halesworth People 1589 - 1747' which is edited by Nesta Evans. It contains the inventory of the Halesworth tobacconist, William Caton, which lists all the contents of his house and shop just after he had died in 1705. Other local people in the publication include Thomas Shipham, a yeoman who paid tax of 16d (7p) in 1568 on land valued at 1 and it is he who most probably held a freehold property next to the Arboretum.

Another interesting person was John Jeffrey, a glover, as the craft of leather working had existed in Halesworth for several centuries. Among the goods held in his workshop were 6 dog's skins, 4 doe's skins, 50 sheep's skins and 100 calves leather. His stock of finished goods included six dozen strong gloves, some best gloves, purses and wool. 


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