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The Character of English Rural SocietyEarls Colne, 1550-1750$
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Henry French and Richard Hoyle

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780719051081

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: July 2012

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719051081.001.0001

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Earls Colne

Earls Colne

(p.51) 2 Earls Colne
The Character of English Rural Society

H. R. French

R. W. Hoyle

Manchester University Press

Earls Colne lies in north Essex, some sixty miles from London and very much within the market area of the metropolis. The village had a population of perhaps 430 in the early sixteenth century. In common with other English villages, it underwent a rapid expansion in numbers in the late sixteenth century, on one calculation from near 600 in 1560 to over 1,000 by 1610, after which there may have been a degree of decline to about 900 in the 1670s. Earls Colne had no market, but there was a developed retailing and victualling sector by the mid-sixteenth century. It was not simply an isolated agricultural community but was enmeshed in the textile production networks of Colchester and the Colne valley, and this distinguishes it from Terling, which, although only fifteen miles to the south, lacked any significant employment in textiles. More than this, Earls Colne stood only a day's journey from London (in fair weather), and it seems to have been a journey that many in the village, including some of the poorest inhabitants, undertook with amazing frequency. This chapter describes three aspects of Earls Colne's economy: farming, employment and the distribution of wealth.

Keywords:   village, agricultural community, textile production, farming, employment, wealth distribution

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