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Wiltshire Community History

Wiltshire History Questions Search Results

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Question Date :

Monday 4th July 2011 10:03

Question:
Can you tell me where flax was grown in Wiltshire between 1750 and 1850 please?

Answer:
Much of the soil in Wiltshire is unsuited to flax, although it was grown in the county in medieval times. In the second half of the 18th century it was extensively grown in the south west of the county around Mere and Zeals, as it had been since 1340. The weavers used local flax for the weft but yarn imported from Hamburg for the warp. One importer James Harding of Mere who died in 1775 was worth 300,000.

By 1791 the depression caused by foreign imports had cut the industry but there were still three bed tick manufacturers at Mere with three linen drapers at Mere and one at Hindon. There also seems to have been a tick factory at Downton, probably supplying the linen drapers of Salisbury. Machine spinning had been introduced in Mere by 1837 and by 1840 there were still 500 handlooms around Mere and neighbouring villages. In 1848 a spinning factory in Mere was employing 25 people. Earlier the pattern of employment is typical at Zeals where, from the late 17th century flax spinning and weaving developed as a cottage industry with out workers controlled by merchants.

Bibliography:
The Victoria History of Wiltshire, Volume 4. OUO, 1959

Wiltshire Community History ( www.wiltshire.gov.uk ) pages for Zeals and Mere

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