Shrewsbury and the Shrewsbury Drapers Company
Our enthusiastic and knowledgeable team of Community Research Volunteers in Shrewsbury have been sharing their local knowledge and finding out more about the very special and crtitical power that the Shrewsbury Drapers wielded over the Welsh weavers.
For various reasons Shrewsbury was ideally placed to become a market for wool from the surrounding borderlans, as well as Mid and North Wales. In the earlier days raw wool and then later, woven cloth, was purchased by the Shrewsbury Drapers, who organised additional finishing processes before arranging transport by packhorses to the markets in England, especially the London Wool Market.
The unique and intriguing story of the Shrewsbury Drapers is told by T.C. Mendenhall in the book he published in 1953 "The Shrewsbury Drapers and the Welsh Wool Trade in the XV1 and XV11 Centuries" (1) and more recently by one of the current Shrewsbury Drapers Nigel J. Hinton M.A. "The Shrewsbury Drapers Company - 1462 - 2017" (2) Nigel is also agreed to be one of our Community Research Volunteers and has given us so much suppport, including leading a tour around some of the key places in Shrewsbury Town Centre related to the woollen industry.
It seems that for a short time the Shrewsbury Drapers held a virtual monopoly to sell Welsh Cloth enacted by an Actof Parilament in 1566. (2 p50). Nigel explains that as time went by, some Welsh Cloth was woven in Shrewsbury and other finishing processes were carried out there, significantly shearing and cottoning (check a source)
Caroline Skeel (1) provides a story relating to the cloth trade, this story was also retold to CRVs at Shrewsbury Museum:
Shrewsbury cloth buyers made a round frame exactly a yard in circumference – the cloth was wound round it to measure its length. The Welsh sellers, who had measured their cloth at home, always found it shorter in Shrewsbury. When the reason dawned on them they refused to use the Shrewsbury market.
Also, when corn was scarce, the drapers refused to pay for cloth with money – but gave corn instead.
(1) Defoe, in his “Journey through Great Britain and Wales, 1724” tells of the market held on Thursdays in Shrewsbury, solely for Welsh cloth, by the Drapers company.