Sheep were grazed in
the Berkshire countryside, particularly on the Berkshire Downs and the
fields of the central part of the county. The 'Berkshire Knot Wether'
was a popular breed of sheep.
When the sheep had a nice thick fleece of wool, it was cut off using
shears (like a big pair of scissors).
Packmen would take
the fleeces out to people in their cottages. They were carried on
The women would brush the wool from the fleece with cards to make the
fibres all go in the same direction. Cards were like big flat
hair-brushes with teeth made from teasels.
The women would then spin the wool into long threads called
yarn. They used a spinning wheel to do this.
The men would use a big wooden framed piece of equipment called
a loom to weave the yarn together. It crossed all the threads over one
another very tightly to form cloth.
The packmen would then take the cloth to the Fulling Mill. This was a
water mill where the paddles of the water-wheel were used to beat the
cloth and scrub it with 'fuller's earth' (known today as Aluminium
Oxide). This made the cloth shrink and become thicker. There were
fulling mills at Reading, Beenham,
Thatcham, Brightwell and elsewhere.
The cloth would then be taken to a man who would dip it in dye
to make it change colour. Lots of natural dyes were used, using local
After the cloth was
dried, it was cut into lengths and sold (often in Belgium) by the
Cloth Merchants. They controlled the whole process and got very
Famous Berkshire Cloth
Merchants include Jack of Newbury and
John Kendrick (of Reading).