To read this content please select one of the options below:

The illicit trade in clothing, Worcestershire and Herefordshire, 1800‐1850

Alison Toplis (University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton, UK)

Journal of Historical Research in Marketing

ISSN: 1755-750X

Article publication date: 10 August 2010




The purpose of this paper is to examine the acquisition of clothing through informal trading channels by provincial working‐class consumers between 1800 and 1850. It argues that the informal trade fulfilled various functions for such consumers, both as buyers and sellers: clothing could be sold to raise cash quickly and bought at a cheap price, while the informal trade may also have reinforced local community networks and other social relationships.


The paper focuses on the counties of Herefordshire and Worcestershire to provide a case study that highlights any differences in informal networks arising out of geographical variations. Documentation for the informal trade has been gathered from records of court cases and newspaper reporting of criminal trials involving stolen clothing.


The informal trade in clothing involved everyday, ordinary clothing, usually sold for money, but often for goods in kind and/or social credit. The trade operated over all areas of the two counties and seems to have been an important method for acquiring cheap clothing where retail provision was not yet fully developed to cater for all social classes.


The link between all facets of retailing is highlighted, as is the importance of placing informal trading networks within their local retailing environment. Their success relied on participants' knowledge about the goods, on trust in each other and often on expectations of mutuality. The informal trade was an important strategy for working‐class clothing acquisition in both rural and urban areas. The trade in illicit clothing formed a large proportion of the informal trade, and its analysis also sheds light on the informal trade in licit clothing.



Toplis, A. (2010), "The illicit trade in clothing, Worcestershire and Herefordshire, 1800‐1850", Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, Vol. 2 No. 3, pp. 314-326.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Related articles