Friday, 2 March 2012

Wool in Winchcombe

Spring really feels like it's arrived, Sheep ae back in the field next to Sudeley and the lambs are already skipping about the fields around Postlip.To see the lambs this year must be an extra delight to the farmers because of an illness that is affecting pregnant ewes and so causing a lot of still births.In my probable ignorance, I do believe that a lot of these horrible animal diseases are due to the pressures of people always having to make huge profits on everything....but then that's me just wishing for a simple life. One day I'll have a couple of geese and some chickens again..and perhaps a sheep for milk, then a little Dexter cow..oh and a donkey would be nice..yes I'm a dreamer but dreams can always become reality....Right I've stepped back down from my soap box..
Our Jane at The Winds of Change Gallery in Winchcombe came up with the idea of celebrating Wool in Winchcome. 14th April to the 5th May 2012
 From a little idea in her Gallery 'Hub' sprang a community event as well as a gallery exhibition. The lovely thing about it is that you don't have to be an 'artist' to participate...all you need to be is any of the following- a knitter, be able to crochet, love wool, spinner, weaver, producer,shepherd or just love sheep ,lambs and woolly jumpers ! Jane has invited Gretel Parker a childrens illustrator to give a workshop in the art of felting. She makes beautiful felt characters. Do look on Janes website to find more details of the artists and knitters, spinners etc. One novel event is a group of local singers putting on a show of local songs with a sheepy twist...bring your knitting while you enjoy the show !
Shop keepers in the town are embracing the idea,-Sue Ryder will have lots of knitting on display, The Old Tea House is having a learn to knit session and The new cake shop 'Cake and Sugar craft Boutique'  is going to do a sheep related window. and Country Keepsakes has special sheep cards. A7lb bronze weight will be on display at Sudeley Castle. It was used by buyers as they collected wool on packhorse's in the middle ages .Only 135 are known to exist!

Pardon the quality but it's in a case.
The history of wool in Winchcombe goes back a long way. It was first mentioned in 796 when Charles the Great wrote to Offa, king of Mercia: ''Our subjects make request concerning the size of the cloaks; that you will have them made of the same pattern as used to come to us in old times '' With Winchcombe at one time being the capital of Mercia it  must have been a very early centre for the wool trade. St Peters Church is an old Wool Church.
Elizabeth 1 made lots of acts to protect the wool trade, one was that everyone had to wear a woolly hat (Horrid Histories) and another that every corpse should wear British wool! If you were not buried in wool then there was a fine of £5, half paid to the poor of the parish and half to the person who informed them..One pamphlet read ' both living and dead must be wrapped in woollen,indeed no other law is wanted but only one, that our perukes ( wigs ) should be made of wool.
The Cotswold folk wanted to keep to hand work,and piece work rather than using machines so the cloth industry moved to Yorkshire and the north of England. Shearers, clothworkers and weavers lived in Winchcombe,  brode weavers from the Forest of dean and felt makers in Tewkesbury are mentioned as stating their trade in 1608. Times don't change Winchcombe is still full of individual craftspeople and artists ! Imagine if we had said yes to the spinning Jenny, and The Forest of Dean had said yes to the steel industry...blimey, the area would look different !
When Elizabeth 1 visited Sudeley it was a shepherd that read out a welcome to her '''this lock of wool, Cotswold's best fruits and my poor gift. I offer to your Highness: in which nothing is to be esteemed but the whiteness, virginity's colour, nor to be expected but duty, shepherd's religion.''
I'm sure I will probably add more information to this blog but it's late so I'll press the button and get it published...I hope you can come over the hill to enjoy our town....don't forget to bring your knitting !
The crochet hanging basket I made for Jane at The Winds of Change Gallery
Writing about wool and sheep I have to mention my lovely friends Julian and Polly .Julian is the shepherd out of story books, black curly hair, bright blue eyes, a laughing face with a paint brush in one hand and a fiddle in the other. Polly is also very lovelyand she plays guitar ,sings and spins wool. We all used to play in a band called 'The Mothy Band' years ago. I've just returned from a weekend in Dorset visiting them both...and Polly has given me a beautiful pair of hand knitted gloves, made from wool that she had spun...lucky old me !
I gleaned some of the historical facts from ' Winchcombe Cavalcade' by Eleanor Adlard.
Note: Any underlined words are linked to their web pages.

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