Nigel`s Notes on the story of Baa Baa Blodwyn

BAA     BAA BLODWYN

A STORY of WOOL AND THE DRAPERS COMPANY OF SHREWSBURY

by Nigel and Bridget Hinton

Illustrated by Carol Davies

First Published in Great Britain in 2011 by

Nigel Hinton 4 Darwin Court Oxon Business Park Shrewsbury SY2 5NN

Text Copyright by Nigel and Bridget Hinton

Illustrations Copyright by Carol Davies

Photographs Copyright by Nigel Hinton

All Rights Reserved

ISBN 978-0-9550343-1-2

Baa Baa Blodwyn is a registered trade mark

Acknowledgements and thanks to 

The Shrewsbury Drapers Company    www.shrewsburydrapers.org.uk

Shrewsbury Museum Service

Discovering Shropshires History

Baa Baa Blodwyn have you any wool?

Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full

One for the Master, one for the Dame

and one for the little boy who lives down the lane

Once upon a time, on the hills of Shropshire and the Marches, Welsh borderlands, there were families of sheep.

They thrived, because, as they say “the land by here is lovely for sheep”. The weather is ideal for growing lots of grass for them to eat. The fleece of the sheep makes high quality wool which has always been in demand.

 

Today many of the clothes we  wear are made from artificial fibres but in times gone by everyone dressed in natural fabrics, including leather flax, silk, cotton and wool.

Lambs are born in the spring and  then the wool is collected  from the older sheep using shears to give the sheep a haircut.

Tangles are combed out and the wool is spun to make long strands which can be rolled into balls.

 

To make woollen cloth the strands of wool are wound onto a loom, stretching the warp threads, the weft is threaded in and out of the warp at right angles, the result is woollen cloth.

These methods have been used for hundreds of years and are still used today!

 

In the olden days of the middle ages a farmer and his wife would weave lengths of cloth to about 50 metres long and then roll them up and take them to market.

An important trade grew up selling wool, fleece and cloth.

 

 

The market in Shropshire was in Oswestry, just on the border of Wales. The town was known as a Staple which meant it was licensed to have a market; the market was held on Thursdays.

The traders from Shrewsbury, known as Drapers, would venture to the Staple to buy the lengths of cloth from the farmers and local dealers.

The cloth that was traded in Oswestry came from all over North Wales and also  from England there were flannels, cottons and various grades of woollen cloth.

In those days before cheque books and credit cards were used, the Drapers had to

carry large amounts of cash to buy the wool.

The Drapers would set out from Shrewsbury, on horseback, early in the morning on Mon Thurs WEns to meet at Nesscliffe.

They felt safer if they travelled together in groups as there was a risk of being robbed by highwaymen.

The most famous highwayman, Humphrey Kynaston, lived in a cave on the hills above Nesscliffe. You can visit the site and see the steps leading up to the cave.

 

The Drapers brought the cloth back to Shrewsbury on packhorses to be processed, softened up and sometimes dyed into different colours.

Most of the work had to be done by hand and foot, as there were not many machines to help.

The “fullers” had the smelliest job; the cloth had to be put into barrels of urine, (collected from the people of Shrewsbury). The fullers would then jump on the wool for hours. This made the cloth, and the fullers feet, very soft. Afterwards the cloth was washed in the river.

After washing, the cloth was put out to dry on frames with hooks, called tenterhooks, and was stretched tight.  The expression “to be on tenterhooks” came from this.