500 years ago the Cotswolds were inhabited by many more sheep than people. Flocks of Cotswold sheep roamed the hills, and their fleeces were exported all over Europe.
The medieval wool merchants grew rich and built their ' wool churches' and their manor houses. The weavers of the Low Countries in northern Europe used to sing of the virtues of Cotswold wool, and to this day the Lord Chancellor sits in parliament on a woolsack to mark the historical importance of the wool trade.
Many of the beautiful buildings across the Cotswolds were built directly as a result of this lucrative trade. Examples of these buildings can be seen in almost every village in the Cotswolds. Chipping Campden and Tetbury both have excellent examples of wool markets and the Witney Blanket Hall displays the measuring room for the finished product. Dick Whittington was originally a wool merchant, before becoming Lord Mayor of London and many of the stately houses in the Cotswolds can trace their heritage in part at least to the wool trade.
The Cotswolds has a very free draining soil on Cotswold stone, known as ‘Cotswold brash’. It is, as a result, more suitable as grazing than as arable land. The golden hoof of the sheep works well on the Cotswold hills, where the pasture was generally too poor to sustain cattle all year round. The wool trade was a fundamental contributor to the economy of the nation from medieval times until the end of the 18th century, when other trades from the expanding empire began to challenge it’s hegemony.
Nowadays there are fewer sheep in the Cotswold hills, but at Cotswold Woollen Weavers the tradition of fine woollens continues. They still design a wide range of woollen cloths, garments, knitwear, rugs and accessories. The evocative smell of wool-oil welcomes visitors to the splendid 18th century buildings, and there is plenty to explore: machinery, exhibition areas, museum, 'explorium', a coffee-shop and a picnic area.
Open Wednesdays - Saturdays 10.00-6pm
Cotswold Woollen Weavers
Gloucestershire GL7 3JJ
Tel: 01367 860660
Mob: 0771 3636 415
Butler Sherborn are currently selling Fantails, Kencot in the neighbouring village to Filkins, a 4 bedroom barn conversion Guide Price £1,000,000 https://www.butlersherborn.co.uk/lechlade/nid3291