It will be seen that
many processes were involved in changing the raw wool into cloth, each
performed by a specialist. After the sheep had been sheared with
clippers, the wool was sorted and carded between square wooden
hair-brushes with wire teeth. This was continued until it was turned
into a fluffy mass like candy-floss. This was then combed and the wool
was ready for spinning. In early days this was done with a distaff
which was a cleft stick about a metre long around which the wool was
fixed. The fibres of the wool were twisted between the thumb and
forefinger with the help of a spindle whorl to form the thread.
invention of the spinning wheel in the the 13th century speeded up the
process. The twisted thread was ready for the weaving on the loom, and
Weavers' Guilds existed in many towns. After being woven, the cloth was
fulled which meant it was scoured or cleaned with fuller's earth to
reduce the fatty or greasy substances in the wool. To complete the
fulling, it was placed in a vat of water or a flowing stream and
trodden down continuously by men who became known as walkers, but
eventually fulling mills with great wooden hammers did this job.
The damp cloth was now stretched over and hooked to tenters, which were
large wooden frameworks fitted with many hooks. In Halesworth, the 1377
Extent of Halesworth Rectory Manor notes that John Payn Held. 'a piece
of land for putting teyntys next to his house and pays per annum 4d
(2p) and 4 Ibs of 'Flokkys'
(wool flock). Another Halesworth
man, John Stannard 'holds a plot of
land inside the Rectory Close on which
'Teyntes' have been placed and pays per annum 12d (5p)'
. So we
that these two men were involved in the drying and stretching of the
recently fulled cloth. The list of tradesmen (1524-1608) which has been
compiled by Mike Fordham (Halesworth Museum curator) includes a weaver,
a shearman who was the
cloth finisher, and a mercer who was a dealer in cloth, while the list
of wills at the Ipswich Record Office contains references to numerous
people whose surname is Fuller, including Edmund Fuller from Blyford
(1618), Margery Fuller from Walberswick (1454), Thomas Fuller from
Chediston (1558) and William Fuller (1464) from Blythburgh. Another
craft name to emerge from the same source is William Dyer (1541) from
Dunwich, while in the 1524 Subsidy Tax list is Robert Fuller of
Next the 'nap'
of the woollen
surface was raised by brushing it with
the prickly heads of teazles (a plant), and then the raised nap cut
large shears by the shearman. Finally the cloth was dyed with one of
several coloured dyes, usually made from dyes produced from plants.
These included woad (blue), weld (yellow), field madder (red), oak bark
(brown), onion skins (amber), and meadow- sweet roots (black).
In 1470 East Anglia produced a quarter of the woollen cloth made in
this country, with Suffolk first of the textile counties and Lavenham
in Suffolk its most important centre. At a time when most English towns
had 2,000 - 3,000 inhabitants, Lavenham had 11,000 and was England's
fourteenth richest town. The half timbered houses that still line
every street were the homes of its wealthy cloth manufacturers.
In the 16th century, Suffolk certainly profited from the settlement of
people such as the Flemish in its towns, but at Bury the cloth
manufacturing died out almost completely and its place was taken
Sudbury and Lavenham. Even so, the mass of the
population of this county was occupied in wool-combing and yarn-making
for the manufacturers of Norfolk and the weavers of Norwich obtained
from Suffolk much of their supplies of yarn. In fact the chroniclers of
the past explained the easy capture of Norwich city by rebels in 1194
due to the condition of the men of Norwich who were 'for the most part
weavers and know not how to bear arms in knightly wise'
. In 1545
Norwich obtained licences to allow 30 foreign
master craftsmen to settle in the city, and the revenue of the city
doubled as a result, for the number of cloths produced rose from 276 in
1545 to 2,845 in the year 1572 when there were no less than 4,000
foreigners living in Norwich.
Whole families were employed in the processes of making cloth, and the
master weavers would take on apprentices for a seven year period to
teach them the trade. Not all proved satisfactory, and not all
masters were kind to their apprentices and so a few would run away,
hoping they would not be caught. When this happened the master would
use the town crier to let people know he was looking for a missing
'Cryd in Clare Market, one John Woods, apprentice to John Snell of
Clare, who ran away from his master, the boy about 15 years of age,
with a lank brown thick head of hair, and a round plump fulle vissage,
he hath had the small pox, he had a light cullered coate and wescoate,
and britches of sinniment culler and gray wollen stockens and a black
hatt'. (He was caught and goaled.)