476J  Andrew Yarranton 1616-1684

England’s improvement by sea and land· To out-do the Dutch without fighting, to pay debts without moneys, to set at work all the poor of England with the growth of our own lands. To prevent unnecessary suits in law; with the benefit of a voluntary register. Directions where vast quantities of timber are to be had for the building of ships; with the advantage of making the great rivers of England navigable. Rules to prevent fires in London, and other great cities; with directions how the several companies of handicraftsmen in London may always have cheap bread and drink. By Andrew Yarranton, Gent.

London : printed by R. Everingham for the author, and are to be sold by T. Parkhurst at the Bible and three Crowns in Cheap-side, and N. Simmons at the Princes Arms in S. Paul’s Church-yard, MDCLXXVII. [1677].     Price $3,850

Quarto  x cm.  a-b⁴, c², A-I⁴, M-Z⁴, Aa² Includes 8 folding engraved maps and plates. COMPLETE . Several repaired tears on the foldouts. The book is bound in 18th century butterscotch calf rebacked with sympathetic strong paper. (not pretty but serviceable)

The work was one of the first promoting inland navigation on rivers & canals, amongst other modern economic ideas (including the establishment of a national land registry). It was influential because it gave the economic arguments for such projects rather than the technical aspects of their construction.

Yarranton had been a leading Roundhead before the Restoration and was therefore under political suspicion afterwards. He was imprisoned several times during the 1660s, at least twice on trumped up charges.  His other achievement related to making tinplate. The Stour Navigation proprietors, and certain notable men in the local iron industry commissioned him and Ambrose Crowley to go to Saxony to find out how tinplate was made. On their return, experiments were undertaken, including rolling (which was not part of the process in Saxony). This was sufficiently successful to encourage two of the sponsors Philip Foley and Joshua Newborough to set up a mill for the process on the Stour at Wolverley.

Yarranton is mainly remembered as a navigation engineer. His first interest in this was a proposal in 1651 to make Dick Brook navigable from the River Severn to a forge and furnace he owned on the Astley bank of the brook. In 1655 he proposed to make the River Salwarpe navigable from the Severn to Droitwich. This was partly to be financed with money raised by the town corporation, but came to nothing. However the proposal was revived in 1662, and an Act of Parliament was obtained authorising the improvement of the Stour and Salwarpe. Droitwich Corporation renewed its agreement in 1664, to provide financial assistance to Thomas Lord Windsor (later Earl of Plymouth), who was the scheme’s leading financier. However, when five of the six locks had been built the proposal was found ‘not to answer’ and was abandoned. A century later the Droitwich Canal was built to fulfil the same objective, primarily that of bringing coal up to Droitwich to boil brine and taking the resultant salt out.

The River Stour, Worcestershire flows through Stourbridge and Kidderminster to join the Severn at Stourport-on-Severn (which was then the hamlet of Lower Mitton). The proposal was that coal from Amblecote and Pennsnett Chase should be brought down railways (known as footrayles) and loaded on to barges to transport down the river. Several attempts were made to improve the river, but each time money ran out, either before it was finished or before a trade could be got going. These lasted intermittently until 1680, the later ones being under the immediate supervision of Andrew’s son Robert Yarranton. The scheme was thus ultimately a failure, but its objectives were achieved at much greater expense a century later by the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal and the Stourbridge Canal.

 Yarranton’s work on a third navigation, the River Avon, was far more successful (see the map above). William Sandys had improved the river in the late 1630s, but it had passed into the hands of Willam Say (one of his financiers), who was attainted at the Restoration (thus forfeiting his property). His rights passed to James, Duke of York, later King James II, who sold them to Lord Windsor in 1664. The navigation had languished under its previous ownership and needed substantial further investment. Lord Windsor retained the Lower Avon (below Evesham) himself, but employed Yarranton to maintain it, and also to rebuild Pershore sluice (i.e. lock). The Upper Avon Navigation (above Evesham) needed much more to be spent on it, and he took partners, including Yarranton. Within a couple of years, the river was again navigable, and remained so for over two centuries above Evesham, and ever since below that town.  Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900

ESTC,; R221084 ; Wing, Y13aA ; Imprimatur on leaf a1v: Licensed. Octob. 4. 1676. Roger L’estrange.

The following is an excerpt fro quite an interesting take on this book!


“I (Yarrington) made it my business,” he wrote in later life, “to survey the three great rivers of England and some small ones; and made two navigable and a third almost completed.”

All this we have to take with a pinch of salt.

He did, indeed, make surveys of the Thames, the Severn and the Humber, but England was not yet dressed for the age of inland navigation, and most of the schemes either ran out of money, or were otherwise abandoned.

Such was the case with the plan to connect Droitwich with the River Severn, and of connecting the River Stour to the Severn.

Yarranton’s plan was to carry Black Country coal by railway (then known as “foot-rails”) as far as the Stour, and thence to the Severn.

The scheme to connect Oxford and London similarly failed.Only on the River Avon in Warwickshire could Yarranton be said to have been genuinely successful.

Yet in his vision of an England that used its improved waterways to carry goods back and forth, Yarranton could be said to be truly innovative.

It was only when the capital was available to create that network as still-water canals, rather than as navigable rivers, that Yarranton’s vision became a reality. A Droitwich and a Stourbridge Canal did in the end see the light of day, but only a century later.

Much of Yarranton’s thinking was influenced by what he saw in Holland and Germany in the late 1660s, when he was sent to spy on the tin plating process, and he encapsulated it in a book which truly looked forward to an industrial age. He called it England’s Improvement by Land and Sea: How to Beat the Dutch without Fighting.

Published in 1677, Yarranton threw into his magnum opus all the wild ideas he could safely expect not to have to put into action. He was, by then, already in his late 50s.https://get-latest.convrse.media/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.business-live.co.uk%2Fretail-consumer%2Fandrew-yarranton-the-forgotten-visionary-3918876&cre=bottom&cip=32&view=web

He explored methods of fire prevention, public granaries to feed the poor, and a new kind of bank to encourage and fund trade.

Here, perhaps for the first time, was an Englishman who was prepared to argue that peace was better than war, that trade was preferable to plunder, and that the business of a good government was to secure prosperity at home.

Also the use of tinplate for packaging dates back to the 17th century and Yarrington was instrumental to its introduction.

The manufacture of tinplate was long a monopoly of Bohemia; in 1667 Andrew Yarranton, an English engineer and Ambrose Crowley brought the method to England where it was improved by ironmasters including Philip Foley.[3][4] By 1697, John Hanbury[5] had a rolling mill at Pontypool for making “Pontypoole Plates”. The method of rolling iron plates by means of cylinders pioneered there, enabled more uniform black plates to be produced than was possible with the old plan of hammering.

Brown, P. J. (1988), “Andrew Yarranton and the British tinplate industry”, Historical Metallurgy 22 (1): 42–8

King, P. W. (1988), “Wolverley Lower Mill and the beginnings of the tinplate industry”, Historical Metallurgy 22 (2): 104–113