chapter  14
24 Pages

Location of the Sixteenth-Century Woollens Industry

ByJohn Oldland

Location was affected by many factors, the chief of which was the availability of labour and its cost. Also important were the availability of wools, entrepreneurship, organisation of the workforce in towns and access to export markets. The late-fifteenth century alnage and later-sixteenth century London fines for fraudulent cloth provide some indication of the geographic importance of areas and towns. Wiltshire was now the leading county in the West Country, followed by Gloucestershire and Somerset. Bristol had declined but was still finishing regional cloth. Suffolk and Essex clothmaking was concentrated along the Stour and its tributaries making coloured cloth, coarser vesses and fine whites in western villages. Kent emerged as the maker of fine cloth in the latest subdued, but fashionable, colours. Kersey was made in small villages across southern England and in the West Riding. Large Newbury clothiers dominated the market for fine kersey, and northern kersey was generally the cheapest. Coarser broad dozens and penistones were made in Yorkshire and Lancashire, and straits called Devonshire dozens were the chief product of that county. Cottons were woven in Wales and finished in Shrewsbury, and in Lancashire/Cheshire and finished in Manchester. Urban clothmaking was thriving in Reading with their fine coloureds and Worcester that made fine whites, and many provincial towns still finished local cloth and were marketing centres, as were, for example, Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk and Maidstone in Kent.