Crafts and Trade


Penny of William the ConquerorNorman merchant's house at SouthamptonMost trade in Norman England was local and people depended largely on the resources of their immediate region. However, the period was also one in which the volume of trade was growing, based largely on the expanding towns amongst which were many new ones, usually built around one or more market places.

Trade increasingly involved the use of money and in 1100 there were about fifty English towns with mints. Although the silver penny was the only denomination of coin, pennies were cut into halves and quarters to make small change for day-to-day transactions.

Ship on the 12th century  font in Winchester  Cathedral (Photo. J. Crook)London, and other towns with easy access to the sea, continued to be centres of long distance trade carried in ships and archaeology has shown that wharfage facilities were improved considerably. Sea-borne voyages may have been risky, but they were also very profitable. Particularly important were routes to Flanders, northern France and the Rhineland - the writer William of Malmesbury commented on the great quantity of goods coming to London from Cologne.

The Warwick ciboriumImports were largely high-quality consumer goods demanded by the wealthy, and included fine metalwork, wine, coming increasingly from Gascony after Henry II's marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine, and textiles such as silk from Byzantium and Spain. In addition, the church and crown demanded high quality stone for their great new cathedrals and palaces. Caen stone was brought from Normandy and exotic marbles arrived from north Africa. England's exports were largely agricultural products, especially wool and grain, but also included minerals and it is recorded that in 1195 Richard I sent 100 tons of tin from Cornwall to La Rochelle in Brittany.

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