Henley Medieval Trade & Economy


Like those of most small Towns, Henley’s Inhabitants were engaged in a range of Craft & Service occupations.  The Town provided a Market for its Inhabitants & Hinterland, and for Traders from local Towns and more distant centres. It also functioned as a Trading Port, becoming a trans-Shipment point for goods transported between London and places beyond the Chilterns, and in particular supplying London with Grain & Wood. London’s influence was most intense between the 1290s & the Black Death when its population reached its Medieval Peak and numerous London Corn & Fishmongers established a Base in Henley. Thereafter the pattern of Grain-exporting from Henley altered: Londoners were little involved, and for much of the 15thC Henley was also a Wool-exporting centre, trading partly through Southampton.  Grain-exporting to London revived in the later 15thC, as London’s population began to grow again. Other occupations in Henley changed slightly in response to local Farming & Purchasing power.  Tailors & Tanners, for example, were seemingly more numerous by the late 14th & 15thCs, while Carpenters, too, became more numerous in the 15thC.

Economic Life to c.1350 – Trade, Occupations, & Hinterland
The provision of a large planned Market Place suggests that Henley’s weekly Market existed from the Town’s creation, though it is not recorded until the late 13thC.  A Fair was granted between 1199 & 1204and a Pavage Grant in 1205 authorised the levying of Tolls, while the Transport of Royal Plate from Henley to Oxford in 1205, sent presumably to Henley by River, suggests that the Town was already used for Commercial trans-Shipment of Goods between the London & Oxford areas.  Otherwise, Henley’s early economy is obscure until ampler sources become available in the later 13thC.

By 1300 Henley’s Population included Craftsmen, Victuallers, Labourers, & Traders.  About 30 occupations are recorded, a number characteristic of unspecialised English medieval small Towns.  Victuallers included Bakers, Cooks, & Fishermen, while Craftsmen included workers in metal, wood, leather, & cloth. Metalworkers were mostly Smiths, though a Bell-founder and Goldsmith are also recorded.  Woodworkers included coopers, a carpenter, wheeler & shipwright, while Leatherworkers comprised tanners, skinners, shoemakers, glovers, & saddlemaker. Fullers, dyers, tailors, & a repairer reflect cloth working, and 2 Potters & a Tiler were also noted.  Traders included spicers, chapmen, a herring man, & a merchant.  A small group had Transport occupations, including carters, a sumpter (or packhorse-driver), boatmen, & porters, while others (including parkers, a gardener, & a reeve) had rural or administrative occupations perhaps associated with Henley Manor.


Henley’s Hinterland lay mostly in Oxfordshire, extending Westwards to the Thames, across the Chilterns to Cuxham (10-miles), and Northwards to Chinnor (11-miles).  It also encompassed 5 Buckinghamshire Parishes, including Medmenham (3-miles), and Land in North-East Berkshire between Remenham & Hurley (4-miles).  In all it omprised around 36 Parishes covering 142-sq miles, encompassing the Vale below the Chiltern Scarp, and the Hambleden Valley.  People from Towns & Market Centres in the Henley region also traded in the Town.  A Manor Court Roll of 1332–33 mentioned people from Reading, Wallingford, Abingdon, & Aylesbury, together with the Market Centre of Wargrave (Berks).

Grain Exports & Long-distance Trade
From the later 13thC Henley was among the places powerfully affected by London’s increasing Grain requirements and became the City’s most important inland supply centre.  Between c.1295c.1350, 24 Londoners (including some important Merchants) are known to have been involved in Henley, of whom 12 were operating there c.1320.  Many belonged to London’s Cornmongers’ & Fishmongers’ Guilds.  One of the earliest in Henley, in the late 1290s, was Adam of Fulham, the 1st Fishmonger to become a London Alderman, while another London Trader, Adam Wade (d.1310), was a substantial Cornmonger.  At least 8 Londoners held Granaries in Henley, and the same number held other Tenements: Robert Adrian’s Property in 1327 included Selds or Shops, while Adam Wade had a Stone House near the Bridge.  At least 2 such people also owned Boats (called Shouts).  In addition, Henley’s position as London’s Chief Grain supplier influenced the economy of Estates within its hinterland and possibly beyond.  Over half of Merton College’s Demesne at Cuxham was sown usually with wheat (the most valuable crop), of which 40–50% was sold, the bulk of it carted across the Chilterns to Henley rather than to the larger centres at Oxford & Wallingford.  Demesnes over a large area may have been similarly affected.

Other Commodities Traded through Henley are less well documented.  Important Exports probably included Wood & Faggots, while Imports were mostly goods for consumption which were unavailable locally. Herrings were probably important: consignments were shipped via Henley to Oxford Aylesbury (Bucks) and London Cornmongers & Fishmongers who frequented Henley were involved in the Great Yarmouth Herring Industry.  Other Imports probably included salt, wine & household goods, while Millstones were imported via Henley from Overseas.

Despite Henley’s considerable Trade with London, only 3 substantial Henley-based Merchants are known in the early 14thCRobert of Shiplake (fl 1306-33), who was several times Warden of the Town Guild and paid the largest amount in the 1327 Subsidy, was probably involved in Grain-trading, and in 1308-10 owed Rent arrears for 2 Granaries.  Thurstan of Ewelme (fl 1305–16) owed £60 to a Londoner in 1315, and John of Harwell (fl 1315–58) similarly owed 100 Marks in 1317.  The contrast between the numerous Outsiders involved in Henley and the few substantial local men suggests that in the early 14thC Henley functioned more as an entrepôt for Outside Traders than as an Inland Centre organising Trade in its own right.

Economic Life from the Black Death to c.1420
The sudden reductions in London’s population & food requirements caused by the Black Death (1348/9) must have disrupted supply networks and caused a contraction of London’s supply area. At least 2 Londoners with Henley Property died in the pestilence, and as the Capital’s population began to grow again in the 1350s–60s, earlier Supply networks operated by Londoners were not re-established. Only one Londoner bequeathed Property in Henley after the Black Death, and few Londoners appear in Henley Property Charters.  This disengagement probably reflected the failure of London’s Population to regain its pre-Plague level, and perhaps the City Authorities’ dislike of middlemen in an age of rising wages.  The London Cornmongers’ Company, for instance, was excluded from City Affairs.   Londoners’ involvement in the Herring-supply centre of Yarmouth (Norfolk) similarly ceased.

Grain-Exporting to London nonetheless continued. After the Black Death, some leading Henley men acquired Granaries and presumably began (or more likely expanded) Grain-exporting. John of Turville (fl 1349-68) probably inherited a Granary from a Londoner in 1349,  while Richard Jory (fl 1329-60) acquired 2 Granaries in 1354 and probably another in 1359.  William Wakeman (fl 1354-81) also acquired a Granary in 1357William Woodhall (fl from 1350, d.1358) appears to have been a Londoner who made Henley his base after the Black Death.  These developments suggest that Henley changed from being a place subjected to an unusual intensity of outside demand to a more conventional small Town which Exported Agricultural produce from its Hinterland.  Information about Grain-exporting in the later 14thC is negligible, but Richard Jory’s son Reginald (fl 1377-1414) probably held a Granary and may have exported Grain into the early 15thC.  Probably some of Henley’s Grain-exporters owned Boats, but the evidence is lacking, and the Boats themselves were Built probably in London & Southwark.

Other Goods were also Traded, with Wood probably remaining an important Export. In 1355 John Fisher of Henley owed money to the London Firewood-monger & Shout-Owner John of Potenhale (fl to 1368), for whom he was previously a Receiver, and in 1357 Thomas Huberd of Henley had Wood from a Wallingford Taverner. That connection, and Huberd’s dealings with a London Vintner point also to Wine-importing, and in 1398 Nicholas Wylly (fl 1383-99) owed money to a London Vintner and a London Fishmonger.  By the 1390s some Henley men were also involved in Cloth Trading, among them Thomas Clobber (fl 1363-1433), John Benyn (possibly the Skinner John Bevyl), & John Kemp (fl 1377-1432).  Henley’s role as a trans-Shipment Centre also continued.  In 1395, for example, Canterbury College shipped Wine from London to Oxford via Henley, and in 1410/11 New College similarly transported Purbeck Marble for its Chapel.

Nonetheless, apart from those already mentioned, few significant Traders were based in Henley in the decades after the Black DeathWilliam Cooper (fl 1341-81), probably a Cooper in the 1330s, held Land by the 1350s and may have become involved in a more lucrative activity.  Thomas Clobber was a much richer figure in the late 14th & early 15thC, and in 1391 Registered a Debt of £180 to the Devon Knight William Hasthorp. Nothing is known of his economic activities apart from Cloth Trading, however.

Victualling & Crafts are poorly Documented in the late 14th & early 15thC, with only 15 Occupations recorded.  Seven Tailors were mentioned between 1395 & 1420, along with 3 men surnamed Taylor, perhaps indicating increased purchasing power within Henley’s Hinterland. In the same Period, there were 5 Tanners, and 3 men surnamed Tanner.  Possibly more Cattle were being kept locally, their Skins processed in Henley.

The 15thC Economy: Contraction, Inns & Wool
From the 1420s-30s Henley’s Population and much of its Economy appear to have contracted. Nonetheless, new activities (particularly Wool Exporting) emerged, while others became more important, partly in response to broader changes. Contraction is suggested by several trends, including average numbers of new Burgesses, which in the 1420s-30s fell from 4 to 2 a year.  Admissions remained relatively low, with yearly averages of only 1.5 & 1.7 in the 1450s & 1480s.  In the late 1420s & 1430s the Bridgemen regularly reported deficits at the annual Audit of their Accounts, a situation that occurred in only 2 other years, while Revenues from the Manor Court also fell from £2-6s-1d in 1431–32 to £1-4s-2d in 1432–33, and remained at a similar level.  Even so, there was sufficient wealth in Henley to allow some significant domestic rebuilding during the 15thC.  One development which may have benefited the Town from mid-century was the Cessation of Navigation upstream to Oxford by larger Vessels. Though it had probably become increasingly difficult and uneconomical, Navigation that far may have continued into the 1440s, finally ending because of mid-15thC economic depression.  If so, this presumably enhanced Henley’s role as a trans-Shipment Point in the late 15th & 16thCs.

Londoners remained little involved in Henley, though Debts owed by Henley Traders imply that they still bought Commodities in London.  The Stonors of Stonor Park imported goods from London via Henley, especially Wine & Fish, and in the 1470s–80s regularly engaged the London-based Bargemen William & John Somers.  Debt Cases in the Manor Court and other references show continued Dealings by Henley men with Towns such as Reading, Wallingford, Abingdon, & High Wycombe.  Victualling & Craft activities also continued, though references are meagre and only 17 Occupations are recorded between 1420 & 1490, probably an under-representation.  Tailors remained relatively prominent, with 7 mentioned between the 1420s & 1440s, and 7 Tanners & 5 Cordwainers were recorded from the 1420s to 1450s. Carpenters appear to have increased, with 7 recorded between 1420 & 1487.

The Courtyard of White Hart Inn (c.1428–9), looking South towards Hart St – Lodging Ranges were built c.1530–1, (a Hall on Right).  The former Galleries (filled in) are Timber-framed.

Provision of Inns expanded in the 15thC. By 1430 there may have been 3 or more: the White Hart was mentioned in 1428–29, and 2 Hostelers in 1429–30, while in 1438 Hostelers were 1st mentioned as an occupational group.  By the 1440s there were probably at least 5 Inns: the White Hart (21 Hart Street), 3 unnamed Hostels implied in 1437-38, and the King’s Head, which was acquired by 2 Merchants by 1443 and so named by 1452.  The unnamed Hostels probably included some of 4-Inns operating within the next Century. The Bull existed by c.1478 and possibly the 1430s, while the Catherine Wheel was mentioned from 1499, and the George between 1518 & 1526, all of them in the Eastern part of High Street.  A Lion Inn on New Street was mentioned in 1470.



Wool Trading
The most important 15thC change was the expansion of Henley’s Wool Trade. The central Agent was John Elmes the Elder (d.1460), who became one of the wealthiest inhabitants in Henley’s history.  Admitted as a Burgess in 1417, Elmes was probably an immigrant, as his byname was new to Henley. Possibly he came from Wiltshire, where Elmes was a familiar name in the 14thC.  He was involved in Wool Trading by the 1440s: in 1443 he owed money to a London Wool-packer, and in 1456 he sold 120 sacks of Wool (worth £840) to an Italian Merchant.  His sources of Wool are unknown, but besides the Chilterns may have included the Berkshire Downs and the Vale of the White Horse, where he had personal connections & Land.  Elmes traded through Southampton, wherein 1454 he held the large Warehouse called the Wool House.  This suggests that he was dealing with Italians who exported directly to the Mediterranean.

Elmes also did Business with one of Southampton’s leading Merchants, the Draper Walter Fettiplace (fl from 1412, d.1449), from whom he acquired Alum and possibly Commodities such as wine, fruit, tin & millstones, which were also sent to Henley. At Fettiplace’s death, Elmes owed him £312.  A debt of £200 owed to Elmes by a Reading Dyer suggests that Elmes supplied Dyestuffs and possibly Wool to Reading’s Cloth Industry, and he also appears to have been engaged in Trading along the Thames above Henley and in grain-exporting.  In 1441 he was a Creditor of an Abingdon Merchant,  and in 1449 he disposed of a Tenement by the Hythe in Oxford.  By 1460 he also held the Antelope Inn in Wallingford & 2 Granaries in Henley.  Elmes was succeeded in Henley by a namesake who was clearly a relative, but apparently not a son.  Though admitted as Burgess only in 1462, the younger Elmes was probably an Established Merchant before 1460: in 1451 he contributed to the Provision of a large Mortgage, and in 1457 married a daughter of William Browne, the leading Wool Merchant of Stamford (Lincs).  He was later a Member of the Calais Staple.  Apparently, he discontinued his predecessor’s Trading through Southampton, disposing of in the mid-1460s his sole known Property there.  Nonetheless, he continued to Trade with London, since a Londoner owed him 80-Marks in 1487.  On his death in 1491 he was succeeded by his son William, a Lawyer, who from 1493 had little to do with Henley.

In the mid-15thC other Henley men were connected with Wool Trading, and the involvement of Gentry families in the Town suggests that Henley had become a significant Wool Centre.  In 1449 the leading Townsman John Logge (fl 1433–79) was an Executor for a member of the Calais Staple, and John Deven (fl from 1433, d.1470), another leading Townsman, co-owned the King’s Head Inn with John Elmes the elder.  Gentry with Tenements in Henley included 2 members of the Fettiplace Family,  probably Richard Quatremain (d.1477) of North Weston & RycoteRobert Danvers (d.1467), an Agent of Archbishop Chichele in the 1430s and a Landowner in Bucks from 1456, and 2 members of the Loveden Family, possibly of Long Crendon (Bucks).  Their presence coincides with a period when many South Oxfordshire Gentry were creating extensive Sheep Pastures & maintaining large Flocks: Richard Quatremain, for example, kept 400 sheep in Great Milton in 1474.  When John Elmes obtained 2 new Fairs for the Town in 1440, it seems likely that the Fair at Corpus Christi (May or June) was specifically timed to facilitate disposal of Sheep and purchase of young stock after Sheep-shearing.

Economic Life c. 1490–1700
For the next 2-Centuries, London’s changing requirements continued to influence Henley’s Economy.  Demand for Grain and probably Wood initially expanded with London’s population and, as earlier, involved some leading Henley men, besides providing work for (eg) Bargemen & Porters.  From the later 16thC, as London’s population growth accelerated, Henley turned to Malting like other Thames-side Towns, and from the later 17thC it also exported large quantities of Meal.  Imports comprised mainly Foodstuffs & Fuels which were unavailable locally, such as salt, salted fish, wine, sugar, & coal.  In addition, the general increase of population and Inland Trade in England in the later 16th & early 17thCs stimulated a broadening of Economic activity in Henley. New Crafts appeared together with some Professional occupations, while a particularly unusual initiative was the brief Establishment of a Glass Manufactory.

Landscape with Rainbow, Henley-on-Thames c.1690 by Jan Siberechts 1627-c.1700
Henley Bridge & Wharves in 1698

Expansion to c.1600 Grain & Barging
An expansion of Grain-exporting to London was underway by 1493 when the presence of Londoners in Henley for Grain-buying was noted.  Sixteen leading Henley men were listed as Corn-buyers in 1517, all but one of whom were Burgesses.  Richard Brockham, at the Head of the List, was Henley’s Joint wealthiest man in 1524 with goods assessed at £80, and in 1527 bequeathed a Granary, 3 Barges & other Property.  Corn-buyers, however, also engaged in other occupations. John Fowl, whose Tax Assessment equalled Brockham’s, was a Fuller, while the 3 next wealthiest men in 1524, all listed as Corn-Buyers, are known to have been respectively a Fuller & Innkeeper, a Glover, & a Butcher.  By the 1560s–70s Henley was again a major source of London’s Grain: 34% of Corn shipments recorded in the Bridgehouse Corn Book in 1568–73 came from Henley, and from October 1573 to March 1574, 43% of London’s Corn was allegedly imported from there.

London’s resurgence probably also reinvigorated the Export of Wood. In the mid-16thC Farmers at Marsh Baldon (near Oxford) made a large sale of Timber to a Henley Merchant, while John Venner, Warden 1558–60, supplied Wood to a London Woodmonger.  In 1559 London’s Governors obtained Authority to seize Wood at Henley and elsewhere after Merchants had allegedly restricted Supplies.

The revival in Export of Bulk Goods from Henley must have required an expansion in River Transport, which presumably increased employment for Bargemen.  Probate Documents survive for 6 Henley Bargemen between 1563 & 1574, and another 2 were mentioned; recorded wealth ranged from c.£6 to c.£79, the higher amounts being comparable with the wealth of modestly prosperous Farmers.  One owned a ¼-share in a Barge called the Dragon, which implies participation in a Barge-owning Partnership, and possibly receipt of a share of Profits.  2 Bargemen in 1587 likewise owned a ¼ of a Barge each, the 2 other Part-owners including the Henley-based Grain-exporter Michael Woolley (d.1608).  Most Bargemen, however, must have been casual Labourers, and large-scale Barge Owners seem to have been rare at Henley during the 16thC.  Apart from Brockham & Woolley, the only known 16thC example was Richard Cutler (d.1566), who called himself Yeoman and made cash Bequests totalling £127.  He Bequeathed a Barge called the Sun, ½ of a Barge called the Peter, and a Barge under Construction, suggesting an expansive economic climate.  Probably many Barges were owned by Londoners and men at other Riverside Towns.

Cloth & Other Activities
In the late 15th and earlier 16thC, Henley also participated in the widespread expansion of Clothmaking. Regulations made for ‘Foreign’ Weavers in 1498 suggest that Weavers were settling in the Town and working outside the Authority of a Trade Organisation, and between 1509 & 1511 the Borough Assembly Books contain incidental references to 6 Weavers, a relatively large number.  More pertinently, in the 16thC, several prominent Townsmen were Clothmakers.  Robert Kenton (d.1532), who served as Constable, Bailiff & Bridgeman between 1506 & 1516, was a Fuller & Inn Owner, while the wealthy Fuller John Fowl (d.1544), mentioned above, held various Town Offices and Bequeathed Fullers’ Shears & Tenter Racks.  Henry Lewen (Warden 1548–50 & 1554–56) also Bequeathed Fulling Shears, while Robert Rawlyns (Warden in the 1540s–50s) was a Dyer who probably Traded Dyestuffs.  The resurgence of the Grain & Cloth Trades also stimulated the expansion of Henley’s Inn Accommodation. The George may have opened during the early 16thC, and at the White Hart, Lodging Ranges were built around 3 sides of the Rear Courtyard in 1530–31, providing 22 Chambers.  The number of Inns remained constant (at around 6) until the late 16thC.

Henley’s Economic activity in the late 16thC is obscure. Grain & Wood-exporting must have remained important, and some leading Townsmen were involved. John Parkes (Warden 1590–91 & 1600–01) lived next to the Corn Market at Henley and sold wheat to Londoners, and some wealthy predecessors with Property in and around the Town may have done likewise.  John Farmer (Warden 1595–96) was a Wheat Seller and possibly a Wood Exporter, as he possessed 7acres in Lambridge Wood.  The occupations of other leading men suggest that Distributive & Victualling Trades were also expanding, enabling a few individuals to become wealthy & acquire property. William Barnaby (Warden 1560–62) was a Draper who owned at least 10 Tenements and a Shop, while Thomas Morgan, a Capital Burgess from 1568 and twice Nominee for the Wardenship, was possibly the 1st Innholder to become a leading Townsman.  Ellis Webb, Warden 1587–88, was a Vintner.  Most unusually amongst the Town élite, Ralph Wilkes (Warden 1594–95) was a Shoemaker, although he also owned some Property.

Against these buoyant elements in Henley’s economy, some Business may have been lost as upriver places challenged Henley’s primacy as a trans-Shipment point.  From at least the 1560s Burcot (near Dorchester) & Culham (near Abingdon) were used to trans-Ship Goods, presumably to Henley’s detriment, and in 1635 the River was re-opened to Oxford and beyond for large Barges, following the work of the Oxford-Burcot Commission.  The impact on Henley was presumably outweighed in the longer run by increased Exports from Henley’s hinterland, generated by London’s expansion.

Malting & Other River-Borne Trades c.1570–1700
From the late 16th to early 19thCMalt Production for export was a major Trade in Henley.  Its expansion was part of a wider growth of Malting in Thames Valley Towns from Maidenhead (Berks) upriver to Abingdon (formerly Berks), creating an additional supply area for London. Malting required investment in Buildings, Labour & Heating, but as Malt was lighter than unprocessed Grain larger Loads could be carried.  Henley’s participation started possibly in the 1570s when Stables at the Bull Inn were allegedly converted into Malting Rooms, and in 1587Mr Wolley‘ (probably Michael Woolley, Warden 1586–87) owed money to a Bargeman for the Carriage of 8 Quarters of Malt.  In the early 1590s John Kenton was supplying Malt to Windsor & London.  By the 1630s Henley was a considerable production centre with at least 7 Maltsters, some of whom had other interests.  In 1677 Malting was said to have been Henley’s Principal Trade for many years.

Former Malthouse or Hop-drying Kiln behind 57/59 Market Place, apparently inserted into an earlier Timber-framed Outbuilding which was underbuilt in Brick & Flint. Kilns on back Plots became widespread in Henley from the 17thC.

The increasing importance of Malting is reflected in the growing wealth of Maltsters. Specialist Maltsters in the early 17thC typically left Personal Estate Worth up to £150, including stocks of Barley & Malt.  The Estate of John Morris (d.1632), for example, was valued at £131 and included 80 Quarters of Malt and 15 Quarters of Barley worth £85. In the week before valuation, Malt worth £10 had been sent to London.  Maltsters with other occupations or interests were sometimes much wealthier: William Jennings (d.1634), for instance, who left an Estate worth £411, was a Maltster & Landowner.  By the mid-17thC Specialist Maltsters had become very wealthy men. William Elton (d.1674) left an Estate valued at £320 which included 110 Quarters of Malt and Debts owing worth £106, while Thomas Flight (d.1679) made Bequests totalling over £615, and Humphrey Newbury (d.1666) Endowed 10 Almshouses in Church Lane.  The wealth of leading Maltsters continued to increase. William Toovey (d.1710) made Bequests worth over £1,050 and owned Estates at Pishill & Turville (Bucks).

MalthouseDiagA Malthouse was 1st mentioned in 1632, and a Malthouse containing a Cistern (for soaking Barley) in 1637.  In the late 17thC Dr Plot reported that Malt Kilns in Henley were heated from Kitchen Fires, which suggests that some Maltings followed a plan recorded in the 19thC, i.e. a row comprising a House, Kiln, Cistern & Malthouse.  Heat from Bread Ovens was also said to be used for Drying Malt.  Most Maltsters in the 17th18thCs operated a single Malthouse: Thomas Goodinge (d.1698) was unusual in Owning 3, and Leased out 2 of them.  William Toovey (d.1725) held 2 Malthouses.

Other Exports & Bargemen
Alongside Malt, Henley continued to Export Grain & Wood.  In 1673 its Market was ‘considerable’ for Corn, though Barley was the main traded Grain, with (allegedly) around 300 Cart-loads often sold in a day.  Grain exporting probably became a secondary activity since several leading Maltsters had Wheat in addition to Barley & Malt. Thomas Cleydon (d.1630), who was 3 times Warden of Henley, held Malt, Wheat, Maslin & Barley worth £155, while in 1674 William Elton had 18 Quarters of Wheat worth £40.  Wood-exporting remained a principal activity, though London Woodmongers probably controlled much of the Trade and bought directly from Landowners outside Henley.  Only 2 or 3 Henley-based Timber Merchants are known in the 17thC. One was George Cranfield (d.1667), who bought widely in the South-west Chilterns, exported through Wharfs in several Parishes, and left an Estate valued at £384. His stock included worked products such as sections of Wheels, Casks & Transoms for windows.  Another was Ralph Messenger (d.1668), twice Warden, who at his death held ‘Stock Wood’ worth £225 as well as 220 Quarters of Malt.  William Waters, a Timber Merchant with Woods in Henley & Rotherfield Greys, died in 1725.

The export of Meal (ground Grain) began in the late 17thC, presumably stimulated like other Export Trades by demand from London. In 1683 Pistols & Swords were concealed in Sacks of Meal, and in 1687 the Henley Trader Richard Sanders owned 22 sacks.  Probably Meal was produced at nearby Watermills, though there was an Enclosed Horse Mill at Henley in 1692.

A claim in 1673 that Henley’s inhabitants were mainly Bargemen & Watermen was doubtless exaggerated, but as earlier many Bargemen were based in the Town. Their wealth was much as in the 16thC, with Probate Inventories ranging in value from c.£6 to £96.  Some engaged in other activities.  Two each kept a shop (one containing Cheese & Salt, the other Coal), while another was possibly involved in the Malt Trade, as in 1632 he had £26 of Barley being Malted, presumably for Sale.  The most valuable 17thC Bargeman’s Estate, that of Nicholas Savage in 1639, included £80 due from Loans.  Barge Owning remained rare in Henley before the later 17thC. The Bargeman James Guile (d.1665) had a ¼-share worth £11, and Humphrey Parkes (d.1658), who was earlier involved in selling Malt, owned an entire Barge worth £40.  Barges probably continued to be built in or near London. Henley people certainly had contacts with London Boat-builders, as several Henley boys were Apprenticed to London Shipwrights in the years around 1700.

Crafts & Services c.1590–1700
The Crafts & Services recorded earlier remained conspicuous.  Inhabitants provided food, drink & accommodation as bakers, butchers, vintners, and innholders, and there continued to be a small cloth industry employing weavers, shearmen, & dyers. The Dyer Daniel Stockwell was Warden in 1626–7, and numerous Tailors worked in the Town.  In Leatherwork, there were still Tanners, Shoemakers & Glovers, and in Metalwork, mainly Blacksmiths.  Henley also retained Building Craftsmen, including Carpenters & Glaziers. Among distributive occupations, Mercers were prominent and included several who served as Warden, notably Thomas Bryan (Warden 1609–10), William Springall (1612–13), and Ambrose Freeman the Elder (3 times Warden 1640–62).  Traders accounted for at least half of the 13 men who issued Trade Tokens in the late 17thC.

Provision of Inns expanded markedly in Henley in the later 16th & 17thCs, reflecting a National resurgence of Inland Trade and development of Waggon Services.  Three (the King’s Head, the George & the Bull) ceased Trading, but the Catherine Wheel & White Hart continued alongside several major new establishments, notably the Bell (mentioned from c.1592), the Bear (by 1666), the White Horse (by 1693), and the Red Lion near the Church (opened by the mid-17thC if not earlier).  Three or 4 others opened near the Market Place, among them the Rose & Crown (mentioned from 1658), the Broad Gates (by 1673), the King’s Arms (by 1684), and probably the Seven Stars. In the 1680s the Bear had Stables, Barns, a Brewhouse, & Malthouses, while in 1716 the Broad Gates was associated with Stables, Granaries, an Orchard, and a Hop Garden, replaced later by a Bowling Green.  Coaches probably started to use Inns in the later 17thC, though the 1st known association of Coaching with a particular Inn dates from 1717.

In contrast to Inns, Alehouses are poorly recorded before the 18thC, and most were evidently short-lived.  The Licensing of Victuallers & Tipplers in 1585 provides an idea of their number, listing 13 men & 1 woman.  Two houses that proved long-lasting through occupying advantageous sites were the George on the corner of Duke Street & Market Place (recorded 1625–1730s), and the Brewers’ Arms on the Waterfront, which existed by the late 17thC and became the Little White Hart in the 18thC.

New Occupations & Activities
During the later 16th & 17thCs several new Occupations became established in Henley, some of them representing Specialist Activities for which there was presumably now sufficient local demand.  In Leatherwork, they included Collarmaker & Saddler, while new occupations in Metalwork & Woodworking included pinmaker, locksmith & brazier, and hoopshaver & hoopmaker.  Other Craft activities included Bricklaying (reflecting the increasing use of Brick), Rope Making (possibly connected with Barge Traffic), & Basket Making.  Commercial Brewing also seems to have expanded, presaging a later trend. An Innholder in 1570 owed money to a Brewer for Beer, and in 1586 Henley Corporation permitted Edward Arden, Gentleman, to work as a Brewer.  In the late-16th & early-17thC, 3 members of the Woodroffe Family were Brewers, of whom William (d.1597) left a Brewhouse by the Waterside, and Ellis (his son) served as Warden in 1617–18.  Later Brewers included Humphrey Farmer (Warden 1639–40),  Adam Springall (d.c.1644) of the notable Springall Family, and Abraham Carter, who was both Brewer & Maltster.  George Munday (d.1666) owned a ‘Beer House’, and William Benwell was renting a Brewhouse in 1672.

From the late 16thC Professional Occupations also appeared. A few Scriveners were noted from the 1580s, including Francis Buck (d.1631), who was a Burgess in 1585 & Town Clerk by 1591.  The earliest known Attorney was Solomon Sewen (d.1707), who was active from the 1660s  and became Town Clerk in 1691.  Early Apothecaries included Thomas Seakes (d.1621) & Geoffrey White (d.1625), of whom the latter (active from the 1590s) was also a Mercer.  Later examples included the Apothecary & Surgeon Edward Stevens (d.1663), who left an Estate valued at £395, & Richard Pickering (d.1680).

An unusual development in the late 17thC was the Foundation of a Glass Manufactory.  It was started by George Ravenscroft (1632/3–83), a London Merchant & Manufacturer who in 1674 Patented a kind of Lead Crystal Glass, and in October obtained agreement from the London Glass Sellers’ Company to establish a Glassworks at Henley for a year.  His purpose was evidently to work out how to avoid ‘crizzling‘, i.e. the appearance of fine cracks which made the glass Grey & Opaque.  He and his assistants were possibly attracted to Henley by the availability of White Sand at Nettlebed & Black Flints in the Chilterns, and perhaps also by his connection (as a Roman Catholic) with the Stonors, who reportedly provided a Site off Bell Street.  Here Ravenscroft could experiment away from competitors, whilst retaining easy communications with London.  He reported in June 1676 that he had solved the crizzling problem; the duration & exact location of his Glassworks are unknown, however.

The structure of Henley’s Economy from 1698–1709 is clearly visible thanks to the recording of Occupations of adult men in the Parish Register.  The largest group was Barge Workers, followed by those (including Maltsters) providing food, drink & accommodation.  Barge Workers & Maltsters together, as Chief Participants in the River Trade, comprised over a 3rd of adult males (36%), a concentration comparable with that found in other Towns with a specialist economic activity.  The next largest group was labourers (16%).  Overall, Henley had around 58 Occupations c.1700, about twice as many as were recorded in some well-documented small Towns 200-yrs earlier.  Leather, Building & Cloth still featured strongly, alongside Metalworking, Distributive Trades & Professions. More Specialist Trades included those of edge tool maker, pipe maker, trumpeter, & watchmaker. Among miscellaneous occupations, that of ‘Gardener’ may have included a small group of Market Gardeners, growing Hops and other produce in some of the small Plots (known later as Hop Gardens) around the Town’s Western Edge.

Economic Life c.1700–1800
During the 18thC, the main elements of Henley’s Economy remained largely unchanged, though their relative importance altered especially from mid-century. Malting & Grain-exporting continued, but the rise of 2 large Breweries in the later 18thC, supplying both the Town and its area, probably reduced the amount of Malt exported to London.  The number of Henley-based Bargemen evidently declined, perhaps partly because of reduced Malt Exports; other possible factors were the increasing size of Thames Barges and greater involvement in Henley’s River Trade by Barges from elsewhere.  Notable developments in the Town were the growth of Coaching, which benefited the major Inns and their suppliers, and an increase in the range of Distributive Trades & Shops, presumably to meet demand from a wealthier and more fashionable Town & Local Elite.

BargeHenleyRiver-based Trades & Barge Operation
According to observers, Henley’s Staple Trades in the 18thC remained Malting & the supply of Malt, Grain, Meal & Timber to London, while Henley’s Inhabitants continued to include Maltsters and a few Mealmen & Timber Merchants.  The importance of Grain-related Trades was demonstrated in the 1780s when the Innholder Barrett March built new Granaries adjoining the Red Lion (West Street), and in 1787 when March (during a dispute) seized numerous sacks of oats, corn, barley & malt from Barges.

By the mid 18thC many Malthouses belonged to Outsiders or to Henley Residents uninvolved in Malting.  One on Bell Street was owned by a Shopkeeper and one on Hart Street (in 1788) by a Nettlebed Gentleman.  Maltsters were often short-term Lessees and some combined Malting (which was seasonal) with other occupations. Edward May, who occupied a Malthouse and other Premises by the Market Place in 1789, was a Maltster & Patten Maker, while one of Henley’s largest Malthouses, in Grey’s Road, was acquired probably in 1782 by a man later described as a Maltster, Tallow Chandler, Soap Boiler, & Grocer.  Brewers also rented Malthouses in the late 18thC, and, as Commercial Brewing expanded, increasingly controlled Henley’s Malting Capacity for their own use.  The changes are reflected by a decrease in the number of Maltsters’ Wills, from a high point of 14 in 1720-29 to only 5 in the 1730s, 2 in the 1750s, and 1 in the 1760s.  Maltsters also became less important in Henley Society.  Of 13 listed in the 1790s none became Mayor, and only 1 (Stephen Bacon) was a Burgess.  Exceptionally, the Riggs Family’s Malting Business was run by a woman (Mary Riggs) from 1754 to 1770, along with Family Property in Henley, Clifton & Shillingford.

Depositions about Activity at Henley’s Wharfs in the 1740s–60s suggest that Imported Commodities (presumably mostly from London) included raw materials for processing, as well as goods for local consumption.  Coal was of considerable importance: deponents recalled seeing Sacks unloaded from Barges in the 1740s, and loose Coal being packed in Sacks for distribution by Waggon in the 1760s.  Fragile consumer goods such as Glass & Earthenware were transported to Henley in Crates, and Tallow was imported for Tallow-Chandlers in the Town and further afield (including Benson). Bundles of Flax were possibly for Spinning by poor women in the Town and surrounding area.  Agricultural crops were also Imported from along the Thames, probably from both directions, and in the 1750s wheat was taken from the Riverside at Henley to Temple Mills at Bisham (Berks) for grinding into Meal or Flour.  Groceries were Imported, and in the 1760s beans were landed for Sale in the Town.

River Navigation remained the basis for Henley’s involvement in long-distance Trade. From the later 17thC Barges were increasingly owned and run by men designated as Bargemasters, an arrangement probably encouraged by an Act of 1695 which made Barge Owners responsible for damage to Locks caused by Bargemen.  Four Henley Bargemasters were mentioned in 1699–1703, and during the 18th & early 19thCs, there were usually around 3-6 based in the Town.  Two generations of the Hale, Smith & Usher Families were Bargemasters in the early 18thC, and 3 Generations of the Jackson Family in the late 18th & early-19thC.  By 1812 there were 4 Henley Barge Owners running 5 Barges, while the Henley Navigation Company ran 2.  In addition, much of Henley’s River-borne Trade was carried in Barges run by Outsiders, operating in the 1750s–60s from Abingdon & Reading in Berkshire, and from Marlow & Wooburn in Bucks.  The overall number of Bargemen in Henley appears to have declined, perhaps as a consequence of the tighter organisation of Barge operations. No Bargeman’s Will is recorded after 1738, and there were few Bargemen in the 1840s.  Barge sizes also increased. In the 1720s Daniel Defoe reported that Vessels operating between London & Reading typically carried between 100 & 120-Tons, but by 1767 Barges carrying 160–180 Tons were using the River, and Vessels of 170-Tons reportedly operated to Wallingford.  The maximum Load of Henley-based Barges in 1812 was 133-Tons.  Beyond Henley goods travelled mostly by Road, making it a major trans-Shipment point at which Goods were transferred from Boat to Wagon & vice versa.

Watts, Frederick W., 1800-1870; View of Barges on the Thames with Henley-on-Thames Beyond
Barges below Henley c.1860

Brewing c.1700–1800
During the earlier 18thC there were several Brewers in Henley, who commonly held an Inn or Public House and were often wealthy.  Charles Brigstock (Warden in 1716–17 & Mayor in 1749–50) was Lessee of the Rose & Crown from 1727 and made Bequests totalling over £600, while Robert Cluett (d.1744) owned the Black Horse in the Market Place & Property in London.  John Blackman (fl 1740s–70s) leased a Pub on the corner of Market Place & Duke Street and acquired Freehold Property.  During the later 18thC, however, 2 Major Businesses developed from similarly sized Operations, 1 latterly run by the incomer Robert Brakspear and the other owned by the Sarneys.  Both were sustained by the acquisition of Inns & Pubs run by Tenants, and by the 1790s, although some Independent Pubs & Inns possibly still Brewed their own Beer, no other Brewing Businesses were listed.  The future Brakspear Business was started in 1722 by William Brooks (d.1744), with a Brewhouse on the Westside of Bell Street behind Merton House (No.65).  Brooks acquired the Bear and other Property, and in 1750 his son & successor James (d.1803) bought a 2nd Malthouse on the Eastside of Bell Street (behind No.s 76 & 78).  James was apparently the 1st Henley Brewer to acquire Inns & Pubs both in Henley & Outside. In 1768 he went into Partnership with his kinsman Richard Hayward, acquiring more Public Houses soon afterwards; Hayward bought the Business in 1772, Granting a half-share to a prominent Henley Draper probably to obtain Capital.  From 1779 he was assisted by his nephew & godson Robert Brakspear, a native of Faringdon who had previously run an Inn the Cross Keys in WitneyBrakspear acquired Hayward’s share following the latter’s retirement in 1795 & death in 1797, and in 1803 acquired the remaining Investor’s share to become Sole Owner. Like Hayward and their sometime Partner Benjamin Moorhouse, Brakspear served several times as Mayor.

The Brewery’s chief rival was started probably by Benjamin Sarney in the early 18thC.  In 1739 Sarney sold a Brewhouse in New Street (later No.86) to his relative Daniel Sarney (d.1747), who also bought the White Hart Inn; his relative Peter Sarney accumulated Properties around the original Site, and c.1775 Leased the Business to John Shaw & Robert Appleton, who served several terms as Mayor.  Ownership passed on Sarney’s death in 1783 to his nephew Joseph Benwell who, like Sarney, left its running to the Lessees.

BrakspearHenleyAleDuring the later 18thC the 2 Businesses became increasingly competitive, expanding their collections of Public Houses despite mounting competition from other Brewers in the region (eg Simonds of Reading, founded 1785).  By 1812 Brakspear had 34-Pubs & Inns, 75% of them held on Lease, while Joseph Appleton (Robert Appleton’s successor) had at least 10. From the mid-1790s Brakspear produced c.6,000 Barrels a year, and by 1806 he used 3-Malthouses; nonetheless, Brewing remained under his personal supervision, with a smaller annual output than that of the pre-eminent Firms in some other small Towns.  In 1812 Brakspear voluntarily amalgamated with his competitor, Leasing his Properties for 14-yrs to Benwell, and selling his Stock-in-trade to Benwell’s Tenant. However, he arranged for his younger son William Henry (then a Minor) eventually to enter the Business.


Inns, Coaching & Public Houses
3TunsOnly 3 new Inns are recorded in the 18thC: the Three Tuns on the south side of the Market Place (opened by 1713–14), the Bull in North Street (by 1744, though possibly much older), and the White Horse at Northfield End (by 1774).  The expansion of Coaching, however, provided a major economic stimulus for some older Inns.  A frequent Service to London ran from the White Hart by 1717 & in 1744 a Coach was associated with the Bull.  Both the Bell & the Red Lion were remodelled & extended, and became particularly fashionable, catering probably for Private Carriages as much as Stage CoachesBullBellStBy the early 19thC, when Coaching was at its height, the White Hart was the Premier Coaching Inn, and additional facilities for Travellers & Horses were provided at the Catherine Wheel in Hart Street, and at the Bear and the Bull in Bell Street, as well as at the Red Lion & Bell.  Presumably, there was considerable demand for meals, accommodation, & horse feed.  Three other Inns (the Bear, Broad GatesWhite Horse & Star) catered for Carriers & Waggons: in 1789 the Landlord of the White Horse & Star planned to provide Horses for hauling Barges between Marlow & the Kennett, and Waggons for carrying trans-Shipped Goods.  In addition, numerous Alehouses opened during the 18thC, many of them (until c.1770) situated around the Market Place.  In 1800 there were c.11 Inns & 27 Alehouses, some of them possibly still Brewing their own Beer.

Old Broad Gates – Market Place
Brakspear’s Malting House

Shops, Services & Crafts
During the 18thC, the number and range of retailers expanded, presumably reflecting increased local wealth, new patterns of consumption and probably transient Trade brought in by Coaching.  From the early 18thC the main Traders were Grocers (sellers of spices, dried fruits, sugar, coffee, tea, etc.) rather than Mercers: in 1794 there were 16 Grocers, along with 3 Drapers, 4 Linen-drapers & 3 Ironmongers. New Specialists appeared particularly from mid-Century, amongst them the Brandy Merchant Henry Benwell (d.1777) and Bookseller Christopher Edwards (fl 1784); 2 other Brandy Merchants & 2 Booksellers were listed in 1794.  Retail Shops probably also became more prominent from the mid-18thC, as several Shopkeepers had Wills proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, suggesting wealth & social pretension.  Coal Merchants included Catherine Eylsey (d.1783), lessee of Eylsey’s Wharf, who was succeeded by her brother Thomas Harris (d.1794).  Two Coal Merchants were listed in 1794, together with Richard Wigginton, a Bargemaster, Timber Dealer & Coal Merchant.

Most established Crafts & Services continued, and a few new ones appeared. Leatherworkers in 1794 included a Tanner, a Currier, & 8 Cordwainers, though Glove-making possibly declined: only 1 Glover and a Breeches-maker & Glover were listed in 1794, compared with 6 Glovers c.1700. There were no observable changes in Building, and Textiles remained a small element. Tailors, however, remained numerous, with 6 listed in 1794.  An Ironfounder, Richard Darby, was active by the 1770s and still in 1794.

The appearance of new Crafts, like new types of Retailer, presumably reflected increased wealth and new fashions. A Watchmaker, Edward May, worked in Henley from the 1750s, and there were 3 Watchmakers by 1794, along with 2 Cabinet-makers of whom one was also an Upholsterer.  In 1786 the Peruke-maker & Hairdresser John Avery had a Shop in Bell Street, and there were 2 other Peruke-makers c. 1794.  Craftworkers catering for women included, by 1794, a Mantua-maker and a Milliner & Staymaker. Providers of Professional and similar Services in the 1790s included 3 Surgeons, 2 Druggists & 3 Attorneys, while Henley’s 1st Bank was started in 1791 by Messrs Hayward, Fisher & Brakspear, presumably funded largely by money from Brewing. It operated in association with a London Company, and was closed probably in 1798 after Hayward’s death.  By 1794 there was also a Pawnbroker.

Economic Life c.1800–1918
In the early 19thC Henley’s 2 specialist activities declined: Malting for Export became unimportant, and Coaching Provision at Inns shrank rapidly from 1840 when most long-distance Coaches were diverted to new Railway Stations elsewhere. Although the exporting of Grain & Wood through Henley continued, and there were modest developments in the early 19thC (introduction of Silk-winding, expansion of Financial Services), Henley reverted to being largely an unspecialized small Town providing a range of Services and small-scale Manufactures for its Inhabitants and locality.  In 1852 it was observed that Henley had ‘no peculiar manufacture‘, and the 1840s–50s seem to have been a stagnant period.

From mid-Century, however, leisure-related activities such as Angling, Tourism & competitive Rowing became more firmly established, building on initiatives since the 1820s.  Such activities stimulated Boat-building for leisure purposes, and the promotion of Inns as Hotels, developments strengthened by the opening of a Railway Branch Line in 1857. The Regatta & Tourism flourished most strongly in the later 19th & early 20thC when Henley has been described as a ‘Resort Town’ and during the same period, its Population and built-up area expanded on an unprecedented scale, generating considerable employment in building work. The arrival of relatively wealthy new residents further stimulated the expansion of Services, attracting, for example, branches of several National Retailers by 1914.

Trade, Industry & Services to c.1850 – Malting, Barging & Coaching
Except for production for local Brewing, Malting declined in the 1820s–30s. In 1813 it was still regarded as a principal ‘interest’ in Henley, and 12 Maltsters (excluding Brewers) were listed in 1823–4; only nine were noted in 1830, however, and 4 in 1842.  At least 8 Malthouses went out of use between 1800 & 1840, and in 1861 it was observed that numerous houses had disused back buildings, many presumably Malthouses. The decline was allegedly caused by London Brewers restricting their Malt supply area to East Anglia.  In 1896 there was only one working Malthouse apart from 3 used by Brewers.  Barge work, too, provided little local Employment by 1841, when only 3 Bargemasters and 2 Bargemen were recorded, although Robert Webb & Sons still ran a weekly Barge to Lambeth until the 1880s.  Soon after, the Wharf (North of New Street) was redeveloped.

Henley’s Economy was further weakened by the abrupt decline of Coaching following the opening of the Great Western Railway in 1839–40. Only 4 long-distance Coaches passed daily through Henley in 1842, compared with over 20 in 1830, & by 1863 there were none.  Inhabitants complained in 1848 that diversion of Road Traffic caused by the Railway had reduced Trade and increased the burden of supporting the Poor, and in 1853 Bishop Wilberforce described Henley as a ‘very poor and decayed place‘.  Inns were presumably badly hit. The Red Lion closed (temporarily) in 1849, & by 1841 the Bell had been reduced to a much smaller establishment (the Bell Tap) in part of the Building.

Brewing to c.1850
During the 19thC Beer production in Henley increased and, as Malting declined, became Henley’s only significant manufacturing industry until the late 19thC. Brakspears’ became one of Oxfordshire’s best-known Brewers, operating for much of the 19thC alongside the rival Grey’s Brewery.
After Robert Brakspear amalgamated with Joseph Benwell’s firm in 1812, Brewing continued at Benwell’s New Street brewery, and the former Brakspear premises on Bell Street probably closed. In 1825, under the 1812 Agreement, William H Brakspear became a Business Partner with Joseph Benwell and his younger son Peter Sarney Benwell, and replaced Joseph Appleton as Manager, the Firm being renamed Joseph Benwell & Co. When Joseph Benwell died in 1830, heavily indebted, Brakspear secured a majority share and the Firm became Brakspear & Benwell. Brakspear acquired total Control in 1848 when P S Benwell died without a male heir, though many Premises, including the Brewery, remained on Lease from people connected with the Benwell Family.  By 1863 the Brewery was known as the Henley Brewery (to distinguish it from its rival), and c.1869 the Business was reconstituted as W H Brakspear & Sons.

What became Grey’s Brewery was started on the Southside of Friday Street by Thomas Soundy & Henry Byles, importers of Coal, Coke & London Porter, soon after they acquired a Malthouse in 1803.  Byles ran the Firm, which specialised in Pale Ale, and which by 1847 was called Byles & Son.  The name Grey’s Brewery was Established by 1852 & by 1867 the Business was called T F A Byles & Co.


Brakspears’ Brewery c.1826. The arrangement is typical of Henley, where most early Brewhouses & Malt Kilns were built on Back Plots.  The Brewery expanded along the Street front and into Premises on the opposite side in the late 19thC.

One or 2 smaller Breweries provided Beer for Retail Customers, and were often run alongside other activities.  In the early 19thC the Crown Brewery operated in Market Place (1829–30s), and John Sharp Brewed in New Street (c.1828–36). The Cannon Brewery was started at the Cannon Beerhouse in the Upper Market Place c.1838, moving later to the North Star (renamed the Cannon Inn) further down the Market Place. Both Brewery & Pub were acquired by Simonds’ Brewery of Reading in 1871, and the Brewery was closed.  William Cobb, a Bell Street Corndealer & Maltster, also Brewed in the 1840s–50s.

New Developments
Financial services expanded modestly, presumably in response to increased demand. In 1830, 11 Insurance Companies were represented in the Town by 9-Agents, and there was a Savings Bank (Founded 1817) and an Office of Simonds’ Bank of Reading.  The situation remained similar in the 1850s.  By the 1860s 25 Insurance Companies were represented by about 22-Agents, and an Office of the London & County Bank (Reading Branch) had also been started, though both outside Banks opened only on Thursdays (Market Day).

A further small development in the early 19thC was the introduction of Silk-winding.  A Mill in Bell Lane was started by 1814, run probably by Mr Billings. He was succeeded before 1825 by George Shelton, described later as a ‘Silk Throwster’.  The Business used Silk imported from London, and was regarded as ‘a considerable Manufactory’; it remained in Bell Lane, although Shelton lived in New Street by the 1840s. In 1841 there were 5 other Silk workers including 2 ‘Throwers’, who presumably worked for the Business.  Shelton closed the Mill in 1856, apparently because the Silk Supply ceased.  Another Silk Mill, on the Southside of Friday Street, operated briefly c.1823–26, run by Messrs Barbel & Beuzeville.

Occupations in 1841 (Tables 4–5)
Following the decline of Malting & Coaching, 4 long-established occupational groups remained important: providers of food, drink & accommodation, building workers, leatherworkers (principally shoemakers), and those in distributive occupations. Together, these accounted for 39% of male household heads.  Individual occupations with large numbers included bakers (12), butchers (13), publicans (17), bricklayers (16), carpenters and similar workers (30), shoemakers (32) and grocers (14). Smaller groups included clothworkers (principally tailors) and metalworkers (including blacksmiths and plumbers). Professionals & Officials included a small but significant group of Lawyers & Doctors. In addition, 125 male household heads (21% of the total) were described as labourers, many of them presumably working in brewing & building. Another 48 (8%) were designated Agricultural Labourers, working presumably on Farms outside the Town.

The Census suggests that the number of occupations was continuing to increase, recording about 100 occupations for male household heads compared with 58 c.1700. Many were in specialised Crafts or Services, including clock making, gun making & hairdressing. The only numerous Craft occupations were cabinetmakers (7), chairmakers (4), papermakers (6) & wheelwrights (7), while numerous Service occupations included gardeners (15), carriers (5) & porters (5).  Only a relatively small number of women were heads of households with designated occupations (89 compared with 599 men).  Few were engaged in occupations normally held by men, the main exceptions being provision of food & drink (an area in which women had long participated), and Teachers.  The largest female occupational Group was that of Laundresses & Washerwomen (22), while 12 had Clothing-related occupations. Numerous female Household members had occupations, the commonest by far being that of a servant, which accounted for 215 women & girls.  Another 20 were Washerwomen, and 15 were Dressmakers.

Economic Developments c.1850–1918 – Leisure-related activities
Leisure-related activities developed steadily from the 1830s, with the promotion of Fishing, development of the Regatta (established in 1839), and a broader encouragement of Tourism, all designed to help Henley through its economic difficulties.  By the 1830s boats could be hired at the Angel by Henley Bridge, and in 1847 Henley was ‘a favourite resort for anglers’, with the Red Lion particularly popular during the fishing season.  Tourism & Regatta both benefited from the opening of a Railway Branch Line to Henley in 1857, but flourished most vigorously from the 1880s to WW1, attracting up to 38,000 visitors at Regatta time and substantial numbers over the rest of the summer.  The benefits for the Town’s economy were recognised by 1849, when local Traders petitioned for the Regatta’s continuation.  Nonetheless, the Tourist Trade remained Seasonal, and in the 1890s Tradesmen complained that casual Sunday Visitors often went straight to the River, bringing their own supplies from London and scarcely visiting the Town’s Shops & Pubs. 


In the later 19thC Tourism & recreational boating prompted rebuilding of the Waterfront and the erection of some new Hotels, principally the Royal (in 1869) and the Imperial (1896).  Some older Inns were promoted as Family & Commercial Hotels, amongst them the Catherine Wheel (by 1853), the re-opened Red Lion (refurbished in 1889), and the Angel on the Bridge, although as late as 1888 one Directory listed only 4-Lodging Establishments as Hotels.  By c.1900 an increasing number of Inns & Pubs were being so promoted: 8 Hotels were listed in 1897, and 18 in 1908–09. More accommodation may have been provided in Pubs & Beer houses, of which 20 were listed as Inns in 1908–09.


Boat-Building for Angling & Recreation began as a secondary activity by the mid-1850s, when Edward Johnson of the Angel was both Publican & Boat-builder.  He possibly maintained both activities until the 1870s, and in the 1860s James Hooper at the Ship Pub (at the Wharf North of New Street) was also a Boat-builder  Frederick Johnson was a Boat-builder from the mid-1870s to mid-1880s.


Tom Shepherd’s Boat Building Sheds in 1900, adapted from former Granaries adjoining the Red Lion (to the left, covered in Ivy). The Firm was one of several successful Boat-Building Businesses in Henley. 

In the 1880s-90s 4 much more substantial Boat-building Businesses were Established, all of which also Hired out Boats. One, begun by William Parrott before 1883, continued under Alfred Parrott, and in 1896 was situated at the corner of Friday Street & Thameside; it continued until WW1.  H E Hobbs, Publican of the Ship, began Boat-building probably c.1884 after he obtained permission to build a Boathouse, and by 1896 his Firm had Accommodation for 200 Boats, including Boathouses at the North end of Thameside.  The Yard built Boats ranging from Punts to Steam Launches, and also stored Boats.  A 3rd Business was started in 1888 by Thomas Shepherd, who bought the Red Lion and converted 2 adjoining Granaries into a Boathouse.  Shepherd constructed Boats in partnership with a Mr Dee, specialising in Skiffs, but also building & running Saloon Launches. The firm won awards at International Exhibitions, and sold a Boat to the Sultan of Turkey.  After 1893 Shepherd continued the Business alone, building an additional Boathouse in 1894 on the Berkshire Bank opposite the Railway Station; the Firm survived his death in 1898, and was probably sold to Messrs Hobbs & Sons with the Red Lion in 1918.  The Business of Searle & Sons, in Station Road, was started by 1891, and by 1898 had been appointed Boat-builders to Queen Victoria & the Prince of Wales, building Boats & Launches. At least another 3 Inns and 2 individuals were Boat Proprietors in the late 1890s.

Building Trades
An important development of the later 19thC was a large increase in building, especially house-building.  Recorded Builders rose from 5 in 1874 to 12 in 1888 & 1901.  Some were both Developers & Contractors, who invested in house-building on their own account as well as working for clients, presumably in Henley & its neighbourhood.  Such Builders were largely responsible for the Southwards extension of Henley from the 1880s, and for large-scale rebuilding in the Centre: of particular note were Charles Clements (who served several terms as Mayor), the Hamilton & Wilson Brothers, and, slightly earlier, Robert Owthwaite.  Some became substantial Landlords, and in 1881 Clements employed 100 people.  In 1901 Building Trades constituted Henley’s largest occupational group, including 203 male household heads out of 1,044 (19%). Among them were 51 painters & decorators, 50 carpenters & joiners, 42 bricklayers & 26 bricklayers’ labourers.

Brewing c. 1850–1918
Brewing remained dominated by W H Brakspear & Sons and by the rival Grey’s Brewery, absorbed by Brakspears’ in 1896.  W H Brakspear continued the expansion begun in the 1830s, when he had bought out a small rival (John Sharp) and begun to acquire more Pubs. After Henley’s Railway was opened he added Pubs in and around Wokingham, and in 1865 bought the Freehold of the Brewery and several Pubs from Joseph Benwell’s Widowed daughter-in-law.  A further major purchase followed in 1881. Brakspear improved the Brewery’s equipment & facilities, increasing output from c.8,300 barrels in 1835 to 14,300 barrels in 1880, and by his death (aged 80) in 1882 the Business owned about 80 Pubs.

Brakspear was succeeded by his sons Archibald & George Edward, who over the next 20-yrs further expanded the Business.  A mineral-water Factory was built in 1888, and in 1896, after forming a Limited Company to raise Capital, they took over Grey’s Brewery, which since 1872 had been in various Ownerships.  The merger created a Business with about 150 Pubs.  Greys Brewery and some Pubs were closed, but the New Street Brewery was modernised, and in 1899 the Brakspears built a large 3-storey Malthouse, Stables & Carthouse opposite. In 1905 the brothers appointed a Managing Director and withdrew from active involvement.

A few smaller Breweries continued.  The Union Brewery in Duke Street operated under several Owners from the 1850s to 1870s, while the Ive brothers started a Brewery c.1883, alongside their Wine & Spirit Business at Market Place.  By 1895 they also manufactured Mineral Water, and the Company continued until c.1915.  Numbers employed in Brewing nonetheless remained relatively small: in 1901 only 20 male household heads (2%) were expressly employed in Brewing, although by then closure of Greys Brewery had reduced the workforce, and some of the miscellaneous Drivers and others listed may have worked for Brewers.

Services, Crafts & Retail
Work in some service activities expanded in the late 19thC, notably Gardening & Transport. By 1901 male household heads included 59 gardeners and 20 coachmen, 19 carmen or carters, 8 carriers & 4 drivers, together with 20 employed on the Railway.  Others working in Service Activities included 7 agents & auctioneers, 4 hairdressers, 2 chimney sweeps & a musician.  Photographers had worked in Henley since the early 1870s when Harry & Tom Marsh opened their Business, and by 1883 there were 2 Photography Businesses, rising to 5 by 1908–09.

The retailing/distributive sector remained similar to earlier, including (in 1898) 13 grocers, 8 drapers & clothing shops, and an ironmonger.  A distinctive new direction was the opening by 1888 of the 1st Branches of ‘multiple’ Stores, namely the Boot & Shoe-retailer Freeman, Hardy & Willis, and the International Tea Company. By 1915 5 ‘multiples’ had Henley Branches, including the Newsagent W H Smith.  A further new area of Trade was Antiques, especially Furniture. The Antique Furniture Dealer Arthur Goddard was Established by 1897, and by 1915 there were 3 Dealers.  By contrast, Leatherwork slowly contracted: in 1901 there were only 7 shoemakers, and no Tanners or Curriers.

Around 1877 Charles Henry Smith began manufacturing Umbrellas & paper bags at premises in Duke Street, moving soon after to Friday Street where he undertook bag making & printing.  Around 1900 the Business also manufactured bags at New Mills in Rotherfield Peppard, and continued in Friday Street until c.1950. Other new developments reflected Technological change and sometimes Tourism.  Three Cycle Agents (one of them a Bicycle Manufacturer) were noted in 1899, and 4 Cycle-related Businesses in 1915. Around 1905 a Coach Builder in Northfield End provided Garage facilities for Motor Vehicles, and before 1908 the Carriage Builders Motts & Betts opened a Motor Garage, operating as Betts & Son. In 1915 there were 3 Motor Engineers. The Henley Sanitary Steam Laundry on Reading Road was started before 1900, and in 1899 there was a dealer in domestic machinery and a Sewing Machine Agent.

Stuart Turner Engineering
A particularly important addition was the Stuart Turner Engineering Business, developed in Henley from 1905 by Turner and his successors. Until the 1960s it was the only significant industrial enterprise in Henley apart from Brakspears’ Brewery.  Turner, a Scotsman, started making Model Steam Engines in his spare time in Shiplake, where he was employed from 1897 to supervise Steam-powered Electricity Generation at Shiplake Court. In 1905 he created a Machine Shop for the Production of Model Engines in Henley behind Premises in Duke Street, and from 1906 traded as Stuart Turner Ltd. The Firm also made Petrol Engines for Motorcycles.  In 1908 Turner moved to premises in Market Place (by the Broad Gates Inn) and expanded the Product Range, which by 1911 included complete Motorcycles & Electricity Generators: in 1914 the Firm supplied a Generator for Ernest Shackleton’s Ship Endurance. During WW1 it concentrated on War-related Contracts (e.g. Petrol Engines), increasing the Workforce to over 300 men & 100 women, and in 1917 bought the Broad Gates to provide extra space.

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