To estimate the real value of this depreciation in wages, though accompanied by a currency increase in rate, from the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries, it is necessary to formulate a subsistence table, to include the food which a man with a wife and two children would require for a year, and to calculate the number of weeks of the man's labour at the various periods which was necessary to purchase this year's provision. It is of little moment whether the list be complete or no, providing that it remains constant in all the estimates. As stated before, food during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, although plentiful, was coarse and lacking in variety. The artisan of the eighteenth century had accustomed himself to greater variety, and, possibly, could not have existed on the fourteenth-century monotonous dietary scale, but this fact does not affect the point at issue here. Let us take, for purposes of comparison, a list comprising 3 quarters of wheat, 3 quarters of malt, 2 quarters of oatmeal, with the necessary amounts of beef and mutton for the family, before referred to, for the space of one year. It will be found that, in the late fifteenth century, fourteen weeks' wages of a skilled artisan were sufficient to purchase this amount, whereas in 1530 it would take over twenty weeks' wages, and in 1564, after the proclamation of Elizabeth regulating wages, forty-four weeks' wages would scarcely buy the same amount. In 1593, fifty-two weeks' wages were required, and in 1597, a year of severe famine, when wheat rose to 56s. 10 1/2d. the quarter, wages were only from £5 10s. od. to £6 5s. od. per year. In 1593 (not a famine year) with wheat at 18s. 4 1/2d. the quarter, as we have already stated, one year's wages only bought that for which the labour of fourteen weeks was sufficient in 1495. In this year of 1593, also, we see the first indication of a year being paid for as one of 312, instead of 365 days, at rates varying from £10 8s. od. to £11 2S. od. per year. In the famine year of 1597, with wheat at 56s. 10 1/2d. as compared with 18s. 4 1/2d., wages only advanced by 10s. to 15s. the year. Privation, during this year, among the workers must have been extreme. In 1651, with wheat at 51s. 4d., the sawing of a hundred of planks (six-score feet, always calculated as a day's work) is paid at 15s. per week, the top-sawyer receiving 8s., the under man 7s. (See Fig. 6.)
In 1661 the wages are substantially the same as ten years before, but wheat advances from 51s. 4d. to 70s. 6d. In 1682 wheat is only 43s. 8d., but wages are reduced.
Fig. 15. Sixteenth-Century Tools.
7. Iron pincers.
8, 9 and 10. Compasses (a "compas") From the Barend Expedition.
11, 12.13, 14. 16, 17 and 18. Files and Rasps. 15. An awl (a pricker).
Rijks Museum, Amsterdam.
In 1684, at Warwick, with wheat at 42s.. 0 1/2d. (to cite Thorold Rogers again) skilled artisans are paid 1s. per day, free-masons (equivalent to our modern piece-masters) 1s. 4d. and plasterers 8d. The winter pay is 1d. per day less. The day is one of 12 hours, from 5 in the morning to 7 or 8 o'clock p.m., according to the season. From this is allowed half an hour for breakfast, one hour fornonschenes, one hour for "drinkings," and, between May and August, half an hour for sleep.
The yearly store, which in 1495 was purchased with fourteen weeks' wages, in 1690 costs £14 IIs. 6d., and the skilled artisan's wages are only £15 13s. od. and those of a farm hand are about £10 8s. od. or less. In 1725 the artisan's wages are £15 13s. od. per year, but the cost of the 1495 subsistence standard is £16 2s. 3d.
From 1805 to 1830 the wages of a skilled woodworker were insufficient to support himself, a wife and two children even on the most meagre scale. Pauperism, which is unknown in the fifteenth century, and only begins to be noticeable at the latter end of the sixteenth, now begins to be the rule rather than the exception.
Fig. 16. Various Tools Of The Sixteenth Century.
27. A hammer-head. The tang is bent
28. A carpenter's fat bowl.
29. Gouge. Wooden handle missing. 30. Ditto.
31. Gauge. Wooden handle missing.
32. A chisel (chyssel). Wooden handle missing. 33. An oil-stone (whetting-stone).
Rijks Museum, Amsterdam.