In the 16th and 17th centuries cloth was woven in the parish from the locally grown flax and hemp and the wool from local sheep. The majority of weavers who left wills lived in Elmbridge, the last one dying in 1725. The earliest will of a weaver is that of William Taylor (1558) who lived in Hill End, near Droitwich town. Weavers were raising livestock and growing crops, as weaving was a seasonal occupation. Both broad looms, for woollen cloth, and narrow looms, for linen cloth, along with the gears and bars needed for work, were recorded on the inventories made after the death of the weavers.
John Richardson (1665) of Wychbold, was a cloth worker, probably a fuller, as his inventory lists 5 loads of clay at 7 shillings and a strike of earth at 1 shilling, which may have been fullers earth. Fullers earth was used to de-grease wool, the process usually taking place in a fulling mill. Amongst his working tools he had 4 mill feet, two pairs of shears, a shareboard, which was a padded board on which the cloth was stretched for cropping with the shears, racks on which the cloth was hung to dry after milling, worth 6s.8d, and handles, which were wooden devices set with teasel heads, used to raise the nap on the woollen cloth. The raw material of his work was a stone (14 pounds) of flocks, which would have produced poor quality cloth or felt.
It would seem that the Lawe family of Wychbold were involved in felt making. John was a felt maker (1687) and Thomas a hatter (1625). Felt is made from thickened wool and used in the making of hats. Thomas made his will in Essex, having been pressed into the King’s army at South Handfield. He had few possessions when he died, but he did own a drum and hat bands worth eleven shillings.
The finished cloth was passed on to the tailor or back to the owner of the raw materials, to be made up into clothes or into sheets, napkins and tablecloths. There was at least one tailor living in the parish at each period of history. A tailor, William Saunders (1564), lived in Wychbold. He had 18 ells (an ell is usually 45 inches) of new noggen cloth (inferior linen) and 18 yards of woollen cloth ‘of all sorts’. He not only had cloth in his house but hemp and flax that was dressed ready for spinning and undressed and yarn, ready for weaving.
There were no large flocks of sheep in Dodderhill so it would seem that there would have been a limited amount of woollen cloth produced. Flax and hemp were grown in the parish, which is well supplied with streams and a river. Water is important in the processing of the plants to produce the fibres that can be spun. The long fibres are made up into linen and the short fibres combed out to make noggen or hurden cloth. It is probable that the cloth produced in Dodderhill was for local use and did not travel much further than Droitwich.
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