Page:Elizabethan People.djvu/61

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37
COUNTRY LIFE AND CHARACTER

Tudors. It was no longer necessary to seek shelter and security within the fortifications of a walled town. A thick population of considerable magnitude already occupied the immediate neighbourhood without the wall of London. The same is true of other cities throughout the country. Far and wide people of substance were removing to pleasanter and now safe retreats in rural England. Nor was it longer considered necessary to continue building mansions on the older plan of a hollow square in which beauty and convenience were sacrificed to the exigencies of fortification.

There was also, during the reign of Elizabeth a remarkable rearrangement of the social scale. The latter half of the sixteenth century, more than any other period in the history of England, marks the rise to affluence and importance of the middle class. Not only was the small merchant becoming wealthy, but also his position and that of his class was becoming one of greater dignity. England at large began to recognise the importance of these people and the stability their order contributed to the realm. It is hardly too much to say that their assistance contributed so largely as to be almost responsible for the great naval victory over Philip of Spain. Thomas Gresham, a typical representative of the merchant class, built the Royal Exchange, was recognised