A woolly past

Wool was an important product in England in the Middle Ages and a valuable export. Woollen cloth was produced in the home using hand-powered machinery like the spinning wheel.

By the middle of the 18th century production had moved to factories which housed the new steam-powered spinning and weaving machines. This made production quicker and cheaper.

Imports of cotton from the American colonies and later India gradually displaced home-grown wool; cotton was easier to use in the factory machines and woollen cloth production declined.

Nowadays the value of the raw wool is low and barely covers the cost of hiring the shearers.