Woollen Cloth Manufacture

Cloth production involved a series of processes, a detailed description of which is given in Ken Rogers' Warp and Weft: the story of the Somerset and Wilts woollen industry (Barracuda Books, Buckingham, 1986, ISBN 0 86023 264 6):

1.       Preparing the wool

·      scouring

·      rinsing in running water

·      drying

·      picking

·      combing to remove short fibres

·      beating to get rid of dirt and burrs

·      dyeing (for a patterned cloth)

·      adding oil or grease

2.       Turning the wool into yarn

·      either combing with an iron comb to lay the fibres parallel for the manufacture of worsted goods, or else carding

·      spinning the fibres into yarn

3.       Weaving the yarn into cloth on a loom

4.       Finishing the cloth to make it hard-wearing and to give it a good appearance and feel.

·      scouring or 'braying' to get rid of any dirt or oil picked up in previous processes

·      fulling to shrink and felt the cloth so that individual threads disappear

·      dyeing (for a plain cloth)

·      raising a nap with teazles or spikes

·      shearing the nap close

·      pressing in a screw press

Four technical innovations in the 13th-14th century resulted in higher quality wool: carding, the spinning wheel, the horizontal loom and the fulling mill.

Carding was done with wooden or leather card-boards set with a uniform covering of small wire, held by means of projecting handles. "The carder works a small quantity of wool between a card held in each hand, to produce a small roll from which the yarn can be spun. Carding mixs and crosses the wool fibres, so that the yarn is characteristically soft and hairy" (Rogers, p.14).

Peter Belham in his Making of Frome (Frome Soc. for Local Study, Frome, 1985, pp.74-5), notes that a Society of Cardmakers was formed in Frome in 1738, perhaps to guard their interests against the clothiers, and quotes local poet Dr Samuel Bowden's mock-heroic verse describing the process of carding:

"…each shining pore receives a tire,

in shining weapons clad, of staple wire.

As glittering cohorts, marshalled in array,

In even files their shining arms display:

While polished blades through every vista glide

And in a thousand ranks the leafs divide."


Members of Pobjoy families headed by carpenters in the 17th century turned to cardboard making, with wiredrawers providing the tines. John Pobjoy (1745-1824) did particularly well, announcing in the Salisbury Journal in 1794 that he and his partners, Messrs Morgan, Allwood and Harris, had "(at great expense) procured compleat Machinery for manufacturing ENGINE-CARDS of every kind, on the Yorkshire plan" and also "engaged a person who is well acquainted with the method of making Cards in the North of England to manage their machines" (Rogers, p.71). S. Rawlings & Son were also manufacturing cardboards at this time and continued to do so until 1972 (Belham, p.74).