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
The sheep had their coats removed using shears.
2. Sorting and scouring
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.
Wools of different qualities and colour were mixed together.
Children worked the wool between two hand-held boards set with wires.
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.
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.
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.
To finish, the nap would be raised with teasels and sheared the same length using huge shears.
Wool was usually dyed as late in the process as possible. Plants such as woad and madder produced blue and red.
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.