Wool

Wool
Yarn, texture or fibre made by processing the hair like coats of sheep, goats and other animals
This is an image of a wool winder which can be found at the Museum of East Anglian Life, please see the stories so far below for more information.
For over six hundred years, south-west Suffolk (along with parts of Essex) was a major industrial region specialising in the production of woolen cloth. However, the wool produced in Suffolk was short and curly with its main quality being quantity not quality and as such was made into heavy warm felted cloth, with broadcloth being by far the most significant of the cloths produced. By the end of the 16th century, the Suffolk broadcloth industry was in slow decline following the arrival of the Dutch clothiers. They brought with them new lighter fabrics and by the 17th century in the village of Lavenham (one of the chief manufacturing centres), only 20% of folk were still employed in textile manufacture, compared to 90% at its peak. The lighter 'new draperies' also met an early decline with the advent of the industrial revolution and the emergence of the new loom factories in Lancashire. In this way the balance of production shifted from south to north and these days Suffolk is less known for this industry.

Stories posted so far...

Posted by The Museum of East Anglian Life
Made of wood, this wool winder was clamped to a surface, with the hank of wool placed around the extending arms, ready for winding into a ball.

During medieval times, Suffolk was famed for its wool trade and places such as Kersey and Lavenham grew incredibly rich, with the latter becoming one of the wealthiest settlements in the country. Wool from the local Suffolk sheep was too short and curly to make the heavy broadcloth for which East Anglia became renowned. Instead, the necessary long staple fleece was imported from Lincolnshire, the Midlands and Norfolk.

During the 16th century the industry was badly affected by the Dutch refugees settled in Colchester, who produced cloth that was cheaper, lighter and more fashionable than Lavenham's. As a result, the town’s fortunes took a turn for the worse. For us, however, this is good news, as without the cash to pull down, alter or modernise, the old buildings in this picturesque location survive more-or-less in their original state.

Posted by Shirley Casey

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