Cloth Making

By 1500, unfinished white broadcloth was an important export from West Wiltshire. Clothiers bought wool which they passed on to be carded, spun and then woven into cloth.

This was a cottage industry where the weaver worked at home, helped by his family who did spinning and winding. Some weavers’ houses with large top floor windows still survive in Trowbridge.

Weavers houses in Trowbridge – note the wide windows on the top floor

Cloth making gradually became mechanised and factory based but the industry declined and the last mill closed in 1982.

Visit Trowbridge Museum, which is in this last mill, to see a range of machines used in the local cloth making industry. The earliest a wooden spinning jenny from the 1790s and the latest a Hattersley loom which is still in use. Cloth is still being made in Trowbridge!

Ivan Clark, our former weaver, demonstrating the Hattersley loom

Many jobs gave their names to the people who did the work. Names such as Weaver, Fuller, Walker, Shearer and Tucker all originate in the cloth trade. Where did these names come from, and what did people do? What tools did they use, and how did mechanisation change the job?

This poem comes from a 17th century pamphlet. (Click on the highlighted words to find out what each job involved.)

At first the Parter that doth cull
The finer from the coarser sort of wool.
The Dyer then in order next doth stand
With sweating brow and a laborious hand.
With oil they then asperge it, which, being done,
The careful hand of mixers round it run.
The Stockcarder his arms doth hard employ.

Then the Knee Carder doth (without control)
Quickly convert it to a lesser roll.
Which done, the Spinster doth in hand it take
And of 200 rolls, one thread doth make.
The Weaver next doth warp and weave the chain
And cries come boys with quills.

Being filled, the Brayer doth it mundify
From oil and dirt that in the same doth lie.
The Burler then (yea 1000s in this place)
The thick set weed with nimble hand doth chase.
The Fuller then close by his stock doth stand
And will not once shake Morpheus by the hand.
The Rover next his arms lifts up on high
And near him sings the Shearman merrily.
The Drawer last that many faults doth hide.