TOWN and country lived in a symbiotic relationship, with the country supplying needed raw materials and the town in its turn providing necessary manufactured goods. If the inhabitants of the rural hinterland increased their wealth, then they might spend more on urban products and expect a greater variety of goods. By the mid sixteenth century, grocers and drapers, not just in major urban centers but in small towns like Appledore and Small Hythe, stocked wares such as white pepper, saffron, prunes, sugar, silk, and Holland cloth. Conversely, if a town grew in size, then its increased demand for foodstuffs and fuel could stimulate production in the countryside and encourage the use of more intensive methods. The expansion in ale consumption and the manufacture of beer encouraged the planting of barley. New tastes led to greater diversification in agriculture. Animals — cattle, sheep, rabbits — were being raised for their meat. In parts of the region, hemp and saffron were grown alongside the more traditional grain crops, and fruit trees were valued for their crops as well as the beauty of their flowers. Bruce Campbell, following on from the ideas of J. H. von Thunen, stressed that it was the market that determined the ‘character and intensity’ of production.
With the disappearance of demesne accounts, as lords increasingly leased their estates, it is very difficult to find out what was happening on the ground. Legal sources, such as wills and indictments before the law courts, can, however, sometimes provide clues. By looking at all available information, it is possible to come up with a partial picture of agricultural and industrial developments in the hinterlands of a few towns and in a few areas that supplied goods and services to more than one town.