Transforming fleece into cloth

Paycocke's was built from the wealth accumulated by the cloth trade.

Thomas Paycocke, who built the main range of the building, made a small fortune through the manufacture of woollen cloth. It is likely a lot of the wool came from sheep grazing on nearby abbey lands.

Read about the traditional methods once used to make cloth in our step-by-step guide.

    1. Shearing the sheep

    A lamb having a nap

    The sheep had their coats removed using shears.

    2. Sorting and scouring

    A wooden model showing the concept of fulling stocks

    Once delivered to the fulling mill (Coggeshall West Mill) each fleece was sorted according to quality. It was then soaked in stale urine or covered in hog’s dung before being beaten in the stocks which were powered by a water wheel. This process was known as scouring as it removed dirt, natural grease and any other impurities.

    3. Blending

    Wools of different qualities and colour were mixed together.

    4. Carding

    A boy dressed in Tudor costume carding wool with a basket of fleece central to the photo. A girl sorts through wool in a basket

    Children worked the wool between two hand-held boards set with wires.

    5. Spinning

    Close up of part of a wooden spinning-wheel spinning woollen thread

    Mothers and daughters spun the yarn, drawing out loose slivers and twisting to produce a thread firm enough for weaving. It took six spinners to keep one weaver weaving.

    6. Weaving

    Threading a piece of blue cloth through a weaving loom

    A number of threads were first sewn in one direction, then at right angles more threads were passed over and under the first group to form a simple piece of fabric. This process was carried out by men on a loom.

    7. Fulling

    Back at the mill, the fuller would carry out the second part of process 2 again. After rinsing, the cloth was stretched out on hooks attached to a tenter frame, a rectangular wooden frame. These were placed to dry in the open fields. By undergoing these wet and dry processes, the cloth would retain its shape and feel. This stage took days to complete.

    8. Finishing

    To finish, the nap would be raised with teasels and sheared the same length using huge shears.

    9. Dyeing

    A black label marking the location of a woad plant

    Wool was usually dyed as late in the process as possible. Plants such as woad and madder produced blue and red.

    10. Sale

    An emblem showing an ermine tail with the initials T and P either side

    Thomas Paycocke would have marked his cloth with the ermine tale before transporting it to the bigger market towns like Colchester to be sold to the draper.