A few years ago I found an interesting letter linking William Kiffin to the import of Irish wool in 1673. The wool belonged to the Marquess of Ormond. The letter, from Col. Richard Laurence to Capt. George Mathew, describes the business of transporting and importing the wool. It provides an interesting insight into the esteem in which Kiffin was held. He was known to the Marquess, and deemed to be a man of trust. We usually think of him as a minister–here he is as a merchant. Similarly, here is a glimpse into the world of trade in the final decades of the 17th century.Here are some extracts:
We usually pay for freight from Dublin to Bristol 5d. per stone, sometimes 6d., and the same to Minehead if the ship belong not to that port, but if she do, they will carry as cheap as to Bideford or Appledore, which is 4d., sometimes 3d., per stone; but Waterford being a shorter cut, it is probable you may agree cheaper; but never pinch freight to miss a good vessel. I had rather give some vessels 6d. than others 4d. per stone; let your vessel he stiff and staunch, reputed a good sailer, with an honest skilful master, well acquainted with the coast, and well manned, otherways your goods may sink in a storm while others gets safe to shore, or be taken by a pirate while others escapes. If you ship off any goods before further advice, consign at Bristol to Mr. John Teig, at the Dolphin; at Minehead, to Mr. Nathaniel Bullock; at Bideford, to Mr. Samuel Leach; what you ship to Minehead, let it be most combing wool; at Taunton, serge makers give the best rates; for Bristol, some combing, but most clothing; at Bideford, both sorts usually does well. I am against your venturing to Exeter, or any place beyond the Land’s End while war and winter lasts. The venture is too great upon both accounts for the small matter gotten by wool to run the hazard of; and for the person to manage this affair at London, I intend to commend Mr. William Kiffin (a person well known to his Grace), either to undertake it himself, or to commend some other person to his Grace in whom he may be satisfied.
Form Of Letter Of Advice, Bill Of Lading, And Invoice. [Enclosed with above letter].
1673, October 12. Dublin.—These are to advise you I have shipped on board the Swan, of Bristol, John Styles, master, for this present voyage, twelve bags of wool; the quantity and quality is expressed in the enclosed invoice. You are to receive the same into your charge, paying freight according to the bill of lading, with the customs and duties of your port, and to secure them in a dry warehouse till you receive advice from Mr. William Kiffin of London, merchant, whose orders you are to observe in the disposement of them, and to send to him an account of sales with an account current, and observe his orders and accept his bills for the money you sell the goods for. Send myself advice of their arrival, and the condition you receive them in, with a certificate from the Custom house of their landing; and when sold, send me copies of all accounts you send of sales, etc., to William Kiffin aforesaid, and of all bills he charges on you. By all your letters, advise me how the rates of wools and other Irish commodities rules with you, and you shall from time to time receive further advice and supply of fresh parcels of goods as your markets gives encouragements to your loving friend.