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Evans, John, Rev., (1768-1812) A tour through part of North Wales, in the year 1798, and at other times : principally undertaken with a view to botanical researches in that Alpine country: interspersed with observations on its scenery, agriculture, manufactures, customs, history, and antiquities. (London, 1800); (2nd edition, 1802); (3rd edition, 1804) 

1798 Welshpool

The principal manufacture carried on here, and at the adjacent villages, is flannel, and it is the mart for this article, and other coarse woollen goods, made by the little farmers in the hill country, which are bought up for ready money by the dealers of Liverpool and Shrewsbury.

The show of native and untarnished beauty is very great; for the business of buying and selling is chiefly conducted by women here, and: through all the markets of North Wales.

A reflection; naturally arose on the superiority which these females acquired, in the scale of utility and respect, over the English fair, by conducting an important part of the staple manufactures of their country. These women, said I are useful as well as pleasing; while they administer to the happiness of man, they contribute to his wealth. p. 5

The town is improving in building and population; from the increasing trade in coarse cloth, it promises to become no inconsiderable place. That kind of woollen cloth called Gweu, or Webs, strong or high country cloth, occupies the inhabitants of the town and neighbourhood. Every little farmer makes webs; and scarcely a cottage is found without a loom. All kinds of wool are indiscriminately used; fleece, refuse from staplers, and even the skin yards. Some of the growers manufacture their own wool, and the produce from this is the best cloth.

The webs run from six to seven quarters wide, and are two hundred yards long, divided into two pieces. In its rough state it may be purchased off the manufacturer from a shilling to three shillings per yard. The quality has varied, since the staple of wool has been better understood, and it has risen full 20 percent within the last seven years.

The webs used to be carried to Liverpool or Shrewsbury to market; but the Liverpool dealers have now persons in pay on the spot, to purchase of the makers; and to assist the poorer manufacturers with money to carry on their trade; as the Blackwell-hall factors do many of the smaller clothiers in the West of England. Here, as in that country, much is made by commission.

Since this, the drapers of Shrewsbury are obliged to go up the country, and purchase the articles in small quantities at the forms and cottages. After undergoing the operation of scouring, bleaching, and milling, it is packed in large bales, and sent to Liverpool and London; and thence exported to Germany, Russia, and the West Indies. [note:]

Formerly it used to be chiefly sold from the loom; but the people now embarked in the business, are sensible of the great advantage of exposing the article for sale, in a finished, rather than an unfinished state.

The streams begin to resound with the fulling mills, and bleaching racks are seen to extend along the sides of the hills.

A few webs, for home consumption, are dyed blue, drab, brown, &c.; these are sent at present to Shrewsbury to be dyed. They are getting into the finishing the articles, by rowing, double milling, napping, &c. and will, most probably, in a short time, add the improvement of colours, and facility of manufacturing by the introduction of machinery. [end of note] pp. 88-89

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