Natural Wool Products From The Wool Product Company
Natural Wool Products From The Wool Product Company
The Wool Product Company
80 New North Road
Huddersfield, HD1 5NE, Uk
Please feel free to call us: 01484 346902
History Of Wools

History Of Wools

A Brief History of Cloth Manufacturing In The Pennines

History Of WoolsCloth has been woven from wool in the Pennines for at least six centuries. Why did this area of the country become the centre of the cloth trade? Despite poor road (and later rail) links the Pennines' popularity was due to its geography and climate. The rolling slopes of the Pennine hills lent themselves to sheep rather than grazing cattle or fields of corn, oats and sparse coarse grass. Wool then, and soft water - the two prime necessities of the cloth trade- were plentiful in this area.

During the period 1500 - 1700 the cloth trade grew and flourished, but continued as a domestic sideline to that of general farming. As time progressed many relied upon their sale of cloth as a primary income and gradually the timbered oak houses were replaced with those made from the local stone; hard grey millstone grit that stood two storeys high. The upper storey held the loom and to give the weaver light as he sat at his work, the room was built with a long row of mullioned windows, sometimes as many as eight or ten to each weaving space.

Through these windows the then familiar sound of the thud of treadles and the clack of the shuttle could be heard, except on market day, when the cloth would be transported to the nearest town or large village. Almondbury, a local village was used as a centre for buying wool and selling cloth until Huddersfield obtained a licence to hold a weekly market on a Tuesday. This location was more convenient to the local clothiers and farmers and the walls of the Parish church were used to display their wares. This site, in the centre of Huddersfield, become so popular that gravestones were used as well as the perimeter walls and this led to great indignation amongst the locals, prompting the construction of the Cloth Hall in 1766.

History Of WoolsTechnology of the day revolutionised the cloth trade in the West Riding with the introduction of the flying shuttle. This was introduced to wool weavers in the 1750 - 1760 period. It had originally been invented in Lancashire by a cotton weaver named Kaye. With its growing popularity, due to the increase in output by one man and his loom, it put additional pressure on the spinners, resulting in the introduction of Hargreaves' invention, the Spinning Jenny. Not long after this, Arkright introduced the carding machine and the manufacture of cloth accelerated rapidly.

Around 1812 and in the middle of the Napoleonic war, trading became very difficult. Exporting/importing became almost non existent and due to poor harvests, corn was at starvation high prices. New technology was being introduced into the ever increasing number of small mills, threatening the jobs of many local textile workers. Groups of Luddites (A name originating from a Nottingham man called Ned Lud) actively broke cropping frames and other equipment, fearing for their jobs.

Steam power was introduced to the area in the early part of the nineteenth century. Iron ore and coal were in plentiful supply in the southern Pennine area. The era of the large mills and high output had truly begun. Jacquard looms were introduced to the area in the 1830's and it was not long before Huddersfield had a reputation for supplying the finest wool and worsted fabrics to all parts of the world. By 1890 the West Riding alone was producing 63 million running yards (57,563,000 metres) per year.

Despite a textile slump at the beginning of the twentieth century, trade grew once more with the requirements of the 1st World War. Production was swapped to utility cloth in khaki and blue for the armed forces. Labour was supplied by those too young or too old to fight. This scenario repeated itself during the 2nd World War, and the local textile industry breathed a sigh of relief once more. The post war years saw the demand for fine worsteds from around the word as well as utility cloth for our own citizens. The government carefully controlled the output of both these products.

Post war international tariffs and agreements limited developing countries' buying power and with the discovery of how to make fibres from wood pulp, petroleum, coal tar and other unlikely substances the textile business of the West Riding went into its final decline. The introduction of cheap exports and manufacturing from the Far East and more recently Eastern Europe, has brought the textile manufacturing business to its knees.

Hundreds of large mills, each employing thousands of people fifty years ago, now stand empty. If they have not been demolished for their timber and stone, they have been converted into large apartment blocks providing accommodation for the 21st century professional business man or woman.

Today, in the Huddersfield area of the Pennines, only a few small and specialised manufacturers exist. It is these people, with a wealth of knowledge, passed down from their forefathers who manufacture for the Wool Product Company. The finest quality, just as it used to be.