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Wool is my bread

The History of the growth of Kendal's Woollen trade up to 1575 AD.

M Davies - Shiel

This book or more realistically a small pamphlet dates back to 1975 and ther heading is the motto of Kendal town.

Although this deals with the Lake District i suspect that the practices and ideas would not have been dissimilar to those in Northumberland. After all i suspect that there have always been sheep up here.

The book was found through Abebooks - it is out of print and you need to be patient until a copy turns up at one of the 2nd hand stores. It is only some 44 pages.

The book is written around a sequence of questions and answers and this provides a structure for the areas covered by the author.

The original idea to look at this area came from an interest in the Potash Kilns which it seems as if virtually every farm had. Whether it was wood or bracken the idea was to get the ashes which could then be boiled in a pot, the water drained and the residue then used to make Lye soap to use on the wool.

At this point good references are here

 1. A good introduction to the making of Lye Soap and potash kilns in the Lake District.
http://www.cumbria-industries.org.uk/potash.htm

2. Wikipedia has a relatively small article.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potash_pit

3.More university based information
http://www.uwhg.org.uk/reports/articles/chopwood/potash/potash.html

Anyway...lets get back to the book itself.

For me these were some of the more interesting points

The prominence of the Abbeys and the Cistercians in developing the local economy.

The dominance of the wool trade and the numbers of people which it supported.

The use of bracken. Apparently it was still being burnt in Scotland up to WW1.
There were also rules to ensure the bracken was not decimated eg4 year plot rotation and no cutting before September 29th in any year.

The impact of the Black Death ( just under 40% of the population was killed and some 2500 in Kendal)>
Surpisingly the price for everything seems to have increased with the plague.

The use of pack horses to transport wool. We still see pack horse bridges across the Lake District.