The National Archives
Search our website
  • Search our website
  • Search our records
   
 

Uniting the Kingdoms? 1066-1603

 
   

England

Towns and Trade

There was thriving economic contact between England and Ireland from the ninth century, when Scandinavian settlers established towns at Dublin, Wexford and Waterford. In the medieval period, Dublin rapidly developed into an international trading centre, helped by its location midway along the east coast and its status as the seat of government. Lesser ports like Wexford and Waterford on the south-east coast, and Galway, on the west coast, remained regional centres, but maintained important links with England, especially Bristol and the West Country.

The town of Galway on the Connaught coast was established by the de Burgh family at the beginning of the thirteenth century. The settlement prospered considerably from its thriving trade with the GaelicGlossary term - opens in a pop-up window hinterland, its domination of the local west coast trade and its prime position on the Bristol-Iceland shipping route. It seems that even merchants of Gaelic origin, like the Dorsey family, established themselves in the town during the fifteenth century, although a town ordinanceGlossary term - opens in a pop-up window was careful to stipulate that non-English speakers could not be made freemen.

 

Thumbnail linking to pop-up window

 

Thumbnail linking to pop-up window

 

Thumbnail linking to pop-up window

Map of Galway

 

A Bristol port book, 1480

 

Suit in the Court of Chancery

Exports to England from Ireland included wool, cloth, hides as well as the most important commodity, fish. The Irish Sea was a prime source for herring, hake and cod, while the west coast and famous Bann fishery of the north were important for salmon. That substantial quantities of fish were sent to England is reflected strongly in the customs accounts for Bristol. By the late fifteenth century fish constituted about 80% of the value of Bristol imports from Ireland. Nevertheless, trading with Ireland was not without its hazards for English merchants, and piracy was common, as court records illustrate.

Next chapter

   
 
Detail from Horseman. By permission of The Board of Trinity College Dublin.
 
Detail from Horseman. By permission of The Board of Trinity College Dublin.