The March of the Clothiers
While many clothmakers acted as clothiers before 1450, the turning point was when West Country clothiers focused on high-quality unfinished broadcloth for the Antwerp market after 1450. A generation later Suffolk clothiers started to focus on coloured cloth that could effectively compete with West Country cloth dyed and finished in London. In the sixteenth century Kent made fine coloureds, a few villages in Essex and Suffolk made fine whites and Newbury made fine kersey. As the Spanish market declined after the Reformation, Suffolk turned to making blues for the northern European market. After 1550 clothiers’ activities were more regulated and, as competition intensified, it became more difficult for complete clothiers to profitably make unfinished whites. This favoured independent weavers and fullers.