In England’s Improvement by Sea and Land to outdo the Dutch without fighting Andrew Yarranton wrote “We are almost as Beggars-bush, and we cannot tell how to help our selves”. 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.
“I will with all my heart, and so will all the Clothiers in our Country too , I will undertake for them : for we are almost at Beggars-bush, and we cannot tell how to help our selves: And our Trade grows worse and worse, we make no profit of our Commodities.”
The usage is the usual literary sense. It is one of the usages recorded in OED. It is in the speech of a Clothier, in a dialogue with a Draper and a Yeoman “on the road” (p.98). The themes of their dialogue is surprisingly modern; it concerns the cost of borrowing to finance trade, the control of markets by Factors and the “globalisation” of manufacture, specifically setting up cloth manufacturing in Ireland.
Andrew Yarranton, (1619-1684), was the son of a yeoman, who was apprenticed to a draper before joining the Parliamentary forces in the Civil War. After that he became involved in iron works in the Forest of Dean. He was one of the first promoters of clover for the improvement of agricultural land. He travelled throughout England and northern Europe as civil engineer and worked as a consultant and entrepreneur on mines, metalworks, canals, railways and schemes of agricultural improvement.
Yarranton was involved in numerous projects, most of which were not completed. In 1674 he visited Dublin where he produced plans and detailed proposals for the creation of an artificial harbour in the area of Ringsend where the high water mark was the edge of at Beggars Bush.
The Aire & Calder Navigation, regarded the first of the new age of inland navigation projects promoted by local industrialists and merchants, was first promoted in Bill to Parliament two years after the book, although it did not open until 1701.
He appears to have been a vigorous, imaginative but disputatious person. He was accused of involvement in plots and was certainly involved in litigation with former business partners. John Aubrey wrote that he died from “a Beating and throwne into a Tub of Water”.
Clarke, M., 2009, The Father of Britain’s Canals? Narrowboat, Summer 2009, p.16.
Blacker B. H., 1860 Brief sketches of the parishes of Booterstown and Donnybrook