A Wooly Tale

by Dashion


When reading about the journeys of Celia Fiennes, that intrepid wanderer who traveled the land riding side-saddle accompanied by her maid, her servingman/groom and a pack-horse, it was of interest that when passing through Suffolk and Norfolk, in 1698, she remarked on the women at their cottage doors spinning. Some were using spindle and weight and others were using the wheel.

Wool made East Anglia prosperous and, indeed, the entire country, by exporting to Bruges and elsewhere in Flanders, packs and sacks of raw wool. This was purchased by Flemings or Easterlings and was paid for in good coin, easterling or sterling. The wool was processed abroad.

Conflict and religious turbulence induced the Flemings and the Huguenots to come to England and bring their skills with them. Settling in Canterbury, Suffolk and, notably, Worstead, Norfolk, the industry gave rise to new names as well as keeping old ones.

shepherd Starting from basics, if you have sheep a shepherd is needed. The next step would seem to be a shearer but this was not so. Shearing was not a specialist craft at this stage but featured importantly later in the process. If the fleece was not clipped, the sheep may have been slaughtered and the hide laid in a stream or a pond to soften until the wool could be pulled out by hand.

Before the raw wool was processed it would have been bought by a Wooler, or a Woolman or a Wolby. A Laner or a Lanyer would do the same. The wool would now be treated by a Packer, Packman or a Sacker; a Canvaser providing the wrapping. The woolpacks had a duty laid on them by a Stapler; a staple being the town with the privilege of buying and selling wool.

The wool was in a tangled mess but cleansed and formed into useful hanks by a Carder, Comber, Kempster (f), Kemper (m), Towzer and Tozer.

A Spindler would make spindles from spindle-berry trees to replace those sent away full of yarn.

loom The Old English wiba means Weaver and gives rise to Webb, Webber and Webster (f). With a supply of yarn (thread = three strands; twine = two) the Weaver set to.

Originally the cloth, when cut from the loom, was "thickened" by being walked on by a Walker or a Tucker. A Trimmer would inspect the cloth before passing it to a Dyer Fulleror a Lister. With a glance to words such as tint, taint and tincture, the cloth was hung on Tenter-hooks as part of the dying process.

The Shearer now appears (Shearman, Sharman, Sherman) sets the cloth into an acceptable state for use.

A dying Madder was supplied by a Madderman or Madderer: Woad by Wooder and Woodman.

Waiting for the finished goods are the Draper, the Clothier and the Taylor.

List of names used
Web Webster Webber Weaver Fleming
Sterling Shepherd Wooler Woolman Wolby
Laner Lanyer Packer Packman Sacker
Canvaser Stapler Carder Comber Kempster
Kemper Towzer Tozer Spinner Spindler


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