Pulling the wool over their eyes!

(An article on Angmering Weavers & the Burials in Wool Acts of 1667 & 1678)

by R W Standing

The only certainty about weaving in Angmering is that it was indeed a minor village industry over at least two hundred years. In the early 19th century it no doubt died out a victim of northern industry and King Cotton.

According to local historian, Edwin Harris, writing in 1914, the last weaver was Cortis Monk, of Weavers Cottage. His father Thomas, was certainly a weaver as stated by his will of 1832, but Cortis had given up the trade by 1841 when the census described him as a baker. Harris also refers to 'Bunne the weaver' but no evidence has been found for members of this family being in the trade; in fact some of them were tailors and village tradition may have romanticised reality.

Although Harris speaks of 800 years of weaving in the village, the earliest wills found so far are of the 17th century. In 1630 John Pannet left his son a loom used for making both linen and woollen cloth. His inventory has one of the lower rooms as a shop, that is workshop, containing three looms. Then in 1635 his brother Robert Pannet died, leaving goods which included an unusual quantity of cloth. Some thirty yards. Nine yards of woollen, ten yards of sackcloth, and nine ells of linen. It is just possible his house stands within what is today Ivy and Thorpe Cottages.

An indication that the trade went beyond one family is that a contemporary, John Gibbs, was also weaver. Whether coincidence or not, John Pannet was related to the Adams family. A later member of this more substantial clan, Edward Adams, in 1660 was an Ecclesden farmer and it is unfortunate that his inventory is only partly readable. He had four linen and woollen spinning wheels, but perhaps no looms. Nevertheless his stock of cloth was impressive, of at least 60 yards. Some linen but mainly linsey-woolsey, a mixture of woollen and linen.

Some caution is needed where stocks of cloth are mentioned, the village had a number of mercers, dealers in fabrics. One such was Francis Knight in 1675 (and again a poorly preserved inventory), but his shop stocked with all manner of cloths - holland, linsey woolsey, calico - a hundred yards in round figures. He may well have purchased cloth locally or even employed village spinners and weavers. It may be noted that most households had at least one spinning wheel, adapted to making either wool or linen thread.

After that period there is little clear record of the trade, until it came to its end together with Thomas Monk in 1832.

It is not presently possible to say whether weaving was concentrated in any locality within the parish. If the fulling process required a ready stream, it is evident that Ecclesden and Water Lane at Weavers Hill, were the most likely places.

The exact location on Weavers Hill of 'Shoot-shuttle Row', recalled by Harris, is unclear. Only one cottage is known to have existed in the croft east of Pigeonhouse, in the 1679 Manor Survey. The Yeakell map of 1778 is very small scale, and its detail unreliable, but does show a building in the croft. However, any row of cottages must have been very transient for the croft was abandoned by about 1810. One hundred years of village tradition may have originated with Monk and his son, and one or two others, in the cottages at the bottom of Weavers Hill.

Albeit, the Government in its wisdom decided the wool and weaving trade in the country generally needed a boost, and passed the Burials in Wool Act of 1667 and the more effective 1678 Act. This stipulated that, 'no corpse of any person (except those who shall die of the plague) shall be buried in any shirt, shift, sheet or shroud or anything whatsoever, made or mingled with flax, hemp, silk, hair, gold or silver, or in any stuff or thing other than what is made from sheep's wool only...'. Relatives of the deceased had to swear an affidavit within eight days. Failure to comply resulted in a £5 fine levied on the estate and those associated with the burial. This legislation was belatedly repealed in 1814.

Angmering is one of those few parishes where a special Burial in Wool register survived, at least in its first year - whether any record continued after that is unknown. The interest of this register is not only in showing how the local trade may have benefited, but in providing family links, with relatives who took the oath named. The register was made or copied into the general births and deaths register for 1727 to 1813.

'A Register of all the persons that have been buried in woollen within the parish of Angmering since the first day of August 1678 according to Act of Parliament entituled an Act for burying in Woollen'. A mere eight entries for the year are listed, but that is a measure of parish population in the period.

The first was for Sarah the wife of William Bunn, buried Oct 8th. Mary wife of William Martin of the Parish of Angmering in the County of Sussex made oath before William Westbrooke Esq one of the King's Majesty's Justices of the peace for the County aforesaid that Sarah wife of William Bunn of the Parish of Angmering aforesaid lately deceased was not put or wrapt or bound up or buried in any shirt, shift, or shroud made or mingled with flax, hemp, silk, hair, gold or silver or other than is made of sheep's wool only nor in any coffin lined or faced with any other material but sheep's wool onely. Dated the 15th day of October Anno Dom 1678. Witnesses: Thomas Woolgar, Hen Hopkins

Subsequent entries follow that general formula, the full details are therefore not necessary.

Mr Thomas Gitence householder buried Oct 15 1678 Oct 17 1678 Jane Hobtrough of the Parish of Angmering made oath before Oll. Weekes one of his Majesty's justices of the peace of the County of Sussex that Tho Gittins of Angmering lately deceased was not put or buried [etc]. (Witnesses names erased) November 12 1678. As the title Mr indicates a person of substance, and in fact a farmer at Ecclesden.

William Marten buried Nov 12 1678. John Alford Esq one of her Majesty's justices of the peace testified that Mary Patricke of the Parish of Patching made oath before him that William Marten of the Parish of Angmering lately deceased was not put [etc]. Witnesses: Edmund Nye, Sarah Marten - November 16 1678

Sarah daughter of Robert White buried Nov 12 1678. John Alford Esq ...... certified that Mary Masters of the Parish of East Preston made oath before him that Sarah White of the Parish of Angmering was not put ..... Witnesses: Robert White, Edmund Nye

Mr Edward Blakstone Vickar of Angmering buried Nov 20 1678. November 25 1678 John Alford Esq ...... that Jane Taylor of the Parish of Angmering made oath ...... that Edward Blaxton Minister of the Parish of Angmering ...... Witnesses: Henry Blaxton, Henry Alford. Henry Blaxton occupied Chalks Farm, and Edward was the vicar at what is today Angmering Manor Hotel (previously Syon House).

John son of John Stemp buried Oct 13 1678. October 15th 1678 William Westbrooke Esq one of his Majesty's ... certified that Mary wife of John Harrison of Poling made oath that John Stemp, sonne of John Stemp of Angmering ....... Witnesses: John Stemp, Tho Woolgar

Ms Marie Gratwick buried Nov 28 1678. December 2nd 1678 Olliver Weekes Esq one of his Majesty's ...... certified that Anne Hewet of Ham widdow made oath that Mary Gratwicke daughter of Humphrey Gratwicke was not ....... Witnesses: Andrew Willmer, Rich Cooper, Humphrey Gratwicke of the well known family, owning Ham Manor.

Burial Dec 12 1678 (No date) Olliver Weekes Esq ...... certified that Elizabeth Davie the wife of John Davie made oath that Elizabeth Stone the wife of John Stone was ....... Witnesses: O Weeke, Elizabeth Swann. If the same John Stone, he was the owner of Church House in Arundel Road.

If Edwin Harris was right about anything, it was that the ordinary villager lost a secure source of income when the spinning and weaving trades collapsed. Over less than two hundred years from just before 1600, some 153 probate inventories of deceased parishioners goods have survived from those made, and at least one in five of these mention spinning wheels, many more list undefined 'wheels' no doubt for that purpose. These served mercers in Sussex generally, including a succession of village weavers, unlikely to have been more than a two or three at any one time.

RW Standing
Dec 2006

(Page first uploaded - 22.12.06)