top of page

Topics / Local Industry /  Woollen Cloth Industry

Woven Woollen Cloth Industry

With wool being a readily available local commodity, woollen cloth weaving would have taken place alongside framework knitting at Griffydam. In the 1841 census, John Stanage, a Wheaver (weaver) is listed, but hand weaving of woollen cloth was coming to an end by this time. The weaving of wool cloth was carried out on hand looms and not framework knitting machines, and was a totally different process.


The name of The Tentas, the road that runs between Top Road and Elder Lane, is thought to have derived from a slang version of Tenters or Tenthouse.


A ‘tenthouse’ is a building or shed containing a large wooden ‘tenter’ frame on which cloth was stretched after being dyed.  They were used as far back as the 14th century in the process of making woollen cloth.

After a piece of cloth was woven on a manual hand loom, it still contained oil from the fleece, and dirt. The fabric therefore needed to be cleaned by a process called fulling. Prior to the invention of the “fulling mill”, the woven cloth was manually "fulled" which was the description of a process where shrinking, scouring and cleansing the cloth by applying, water, heat and pressure to it in combination with fuller’s earth and urine in a large bath. Depending on the part of England where this was carried out different descriptions developed for people who completed this part of the process, for example:- Walker in the north and midlands, Fuller in the south-east and Tucker in the south-west. The name Walker developed because the men and women who fulled the cloth did so in part by walking on it.

To prevent further shrinkage, the fuller would then stretch out the wet cloth on a tenter, and leave it to dry outdoors. The lengths of wet cloth were stretched on the tenter (from Latin tendere, meaning "to stretch") using tenterhooks (hooked nails driven through the wood) all around the perimeter of the frame to which the cloth's edges (selvedges) were fixed, so that as it dried, the cloth would retain its shape and size. In some areas, entire tenter-fields, larger open spaces full of tenters, were once common. It is thought that this method of processing woven woollen cloth was still carried on into the first half of the nineteenth century.

Development of water power via water wheels meant that the above process became outdated and was revolutionised in the form of a mechanised “Fulling Mill”. In simple terms, the fulling mill consisted of a water driven wheel which had a series of cams on its shaft which operated wooden hammers which beat the cloth and replicated the previous manual processes of walking on it in a large bath. The constant kneading or hammering by the fulling stocks tightened the weave, and thickened the cloth. Apparently, the fulling mill was the first use of waterwheels for industrial purposes other than for the grinding of corn.


The old illustration shows the principles of the fulling mill with wooden hammers operated by cams on the water wheel shaft for beating the cloth, together with a boiler which would have contained a mixture of water, fuller’s earth and urine for wetting the cloth.


The map of Griffydam shows an area known as the Cunneries where rabbits were once farmed in medieval times and probably linked to Breedon Priory. The footpath which passes through the area is raised into a causeway either side of the footbridge over the brook which is known as “Cart Brook”. There is evidence to suggest that the brook was diverted to what was believed to be the location of a water wheel driven  “Fulling Mill” described above.

The old deeds of a property once situated on the west side of Elder Lane, and marked E on the map, confirms that it was located on “Dye House Close”. The three fields referred to as Dye House Close at the time of the 1806 inclosure are shown coloured green on the map. It is believed that the process of dyeing the woollen cloth was carried out here.

A       At this point in the brook there is evidence of an early brick structure in line with                 the earth bank D. This is likely to be the site Andrew Sharpe’s Dye House                           mentioned in his will of 1733, which possibly included a Fulling mill

B       The water from the brook was diverted into a leat cut into the bank to provide the                water power to the site of the Dye House. Crossing the valley on the earth                          embankment .

C       Area called Cartbrook giving the local name for the brook

D       Rempstone to Ashby Turnpike Road

E       The present property was rebuilt in the same vernacular style as the dilapidated                  cottage it replaced. Evidence from the around the fireplace in the north side of the              dwelling indicated earlier dwellings that would have been of daub and wattle with a            stone chimney.

F       The footpath, shown as a dashed line through the area is raised into a causeway                either side of the footbridge over the brook. Indicating a significant route out of                    Griffydam. Considerable finds of medieval pottery including  Cistercian ware have              been found to the south of the footpath.


Weaving Machine.jpg
tenter photo.jpg
fulling machine.jpg
Dye House Close.jpg
bottom of page