Wool and weaving (1500 – 1900)

Saint Blaise confronting the Roman governor – scene from a stained glass window in France, early 13th century (Wikipedia).

By the 16th century the trade in woollen cloth had become Britain’s richest export, and the Cotswolds prospered. Fabulous fortunes were made by merchants living in luxury in towns like Chipping Camden. In Banbury there was a Wool Hall in Sheep Street, the western end of the present High Street. Every village which had sheep on its hills shared in the thriving business. The Bishop Blaize at Burdrop was named after the patron saint of wool combers (St. Blaise, 4th century martyr). Legend says that wool-auctions were held on Burdrop Green, outside the inn, which bears on its wall the date 1640.

Read more about wool combing at A Short History On Wool Combing

Plush-making continued long afterwards as a cottage craft in and around the nearby village of Shutford. William Wrench (born 1806) was a Plush Master: plush woven in the cottages was brought to him for finishing and selling. Joseph Alcock, the last of Sibford’s cottage-weavers, wove part of the red carpet on which King Edward VII walked at his Westminster Abbey Coronation in 1902. Mr. Alcock says he used to do three weeks’ work at home, then took the cloth to Shutford where he was paid 11d. a yard.