Life on hill farms in Wales 1650 - 1850
Life was not easy for tennant farmers and their families during this time. Spinning and weaving was a way of gaining extra income or using cloth for barter. This was called Brethyn Cartref - home spun cloth.
increasing taxes, tythes and rents made sustaining a living increasingly difficult, farmers would take on other work to try and make ends meet and feed their families.
By the 1850's water-powered woollen mills were taking over from hand loom weaving in homes and the factories built to house weavers.
"The agrarian history of England and Wales 1650 - 1750" is worth checking out if anyone has access through "Wiley Online Library" or perhaps check the National Library of Wales
Thanks to JH for the following information on sheep and their importance to the ecomony of Wales:
Sheep have had an important role in rural life for thousands of years. Archaeologists have found that as soon as people came out of Africa into Asia about 60,000 BC, they started hunting wild sheep with flint-tipped wooden spears and bows and arrows.
At the end of the Stone Age sheep were domesticated, and traveled with people as they moved to Europe.
Over 2,000 sheep and their shepherds were considered so important that they are included in the stories of the birth of Christ. Although originally kept for meat,with some use made of their wool, over the years sheep were bred to create the woolly fleece that could be shorn.
By the Middle Ages in Britain, the international trade in wool was thriving and the Crown benefitted greatly from the taxes collected, based on the efforts of Merchants and financiers, with the establishment of the Shrewsbury wool traders guilds being of especial interest to our project.
The history of the wool trade, shows the existence of a wealthy bourgeoisie in England, as wool traders, which continued throughout the centuries of the Middle Ages, with a more widespread but a more modest prosperity than the greater extremes of wealth held by landed gentry later.
Eileen Power, Professor of Economic History in the University of London, published papers in 1941 detailing this time, but focussed on the wool trade in England.
The story of wool in Wales is different, and reflects the control of the English court on Wales and Welsh Trade.
Estates covered large parts of Wales, these were often the result of inheritance and lands granted which can be traced back to the English 'annexation' of Wales by the English crown. These estates depended on income from tennant farmers and the rents from fullers amongst other things.
This sets the scene for the time that we are exploring for the “From Sheep to Sugar / O Wlan y Sigwr” project which is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. See www.welshplains.cymru