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Bradford on Avon’s Woollen Cloth Industry

Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire

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Church Street and Abbey Mills c1880

Bullpit, Church Street and Abbey Mills in the 1880s

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The making of woollen cloth began at a domestic level, but some of the processes, especially the fulling or cleaning of wool, started to be mechanised by the adaptation of existing water-powered flour mills as early as the late 12th century.

Clothiers, the middle men who handled the processes from sheep to finished cloth, made fortunes that can be seen in fine Tudor, Jacobean and Georgian houses, or became bankrupt with bad consequences for the working population.

New dedicated woollen mills began to be built from the 18th century and new machinery was introduced, gradually removing the industry away from homes.

Weaving, on hand-operated looms, was one of the last processes to move into the factories after water and steam-powered weaving machinery were installed.

For more history see the Museum booklet by Kenneth Rogers 2014, The domestic woollen industry at Bradford-on-Avon.