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The Cloth Industry
How Cloth was Made in Medieval Times

Carding Wool -  Nash Ford Publishing

Weaving Cloth -  Nash Ford Publishing

Dyeing Cloth -  Nash Ford Publishing

England was famous for its high quality cloth in Medieval Times. The cloth made in Berkshire was the best. Most country folk worked in the cloth making industry as well as farming to feed themselves.
  • Sheep were grazed in the Berkshire countryside, particularly on the Berkshire Downs and the fields of the central part of the county. The 'Berkshire Knot Wether' was a popular breed of sheep.

  • Shearing: When the sheep had a nice thick fleece of wool, it was cut off using shears (like a big pair of scissors).

  • Packmen would take the fleeces out to people in their cottages. They were carried on donkeys.

  • Carding: The women would brush the wool from the fleece with cards to make the fibres all go in the same direction. Cards were like big flat hair-brushes with teeth made from teasels. 

  • Spinning: The women would then spin the wool into long threads called yarn. They used a spinning wheel to do this.

  • Weaving: The men would use a big wooden framed piece of equipment called a loom to weave the yarn together. It crossed all the threads over one another very tightly to form cloth.

  • Fulling: The packmen would then take the cloth to the Fulling Mill. This was a water mill where the paddles of the water-wheel were used to beat the cloth and scrub it with 'fuller's earth' (known today as Aluminium Oxide). This made the cloth shrink and become thicker. There were fulling mills at Reading, Beenham, Thatcham, Brightwell and elsewhere.

  • Dyeing: The cloth would then be taken to a man who would dip it in dye to make it change colour. Lots of natural dyes were used, using local plants.

  • After the cloth was dried, it was cut into lengths and sold (often in Belgium) by the Cloth Merchants. They controlled the whole process and got very rich. 

  • Famous Berkshire Cloth Merchants include Jack of Newbury and John Kendrick (of Reading).

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