Kentish Broadcloth Industry

Kentish Broadcloth Industry

Clothmaking as well as iron-making were the large-scale industries carried out in Horsmonden in medieval times

The ready availability of wool from the sheep of the Romney Marsh, and the immigration from Flanders in the fourteenth century of clothworkers – places like Horsmonden and Cranbrook attracted hundreds of skilled workers – ensuring its place in Kentish industrial history. The Clothmaking industry spread along the Weald, and as far north as Maidstone.

It was helped by the fact that Fuller's earth deposits existed between Boxley and Maidstone. Fuller's earth is an essential raw material for de-greasing wool. Export of it was forbidden to stop it being used by competitors.

Once the wool had been carded (to get rid of the tangles) and spun (both these processes could be done in the workpeople's own homes), it then required weaving.

Weaving required looms and plenty of space to house them so 'clothier's halls' were developed. These were, as is shown by the timber-framed clothier's hall at Grovehurst, often the length of the attics in the master clothier's house.

After weaving it was fulled (using the Fuller's earth), and then dried. Once dry, the cloth was brushed with teasels to get rid of loose threads; and finally the shearman cut off loose and projecting pieces of wool.

Regulations ensured the size and quality of the cloth offered for sale. Although regulation width was normally 63 inches (1.75 yards), Kentish broadcloth was only 58 inches wide.

One piece was between 30-34 yards; and should weigh 66 pounds (30 kg).

Officials known as 'Ulnagers' were employed to pass each piece. The price of Kentish cloth at the start of the 17th Century was £12-16 per piece. One yard of cloth would be equal to a farmworker's wage for 2-3 weeks.

Other good local examples of clothier's houses are in Biddenden and Cranbrook, which has a separate building to house the looms.

Horsmonden Village Website