Record Series - 155     

Woollen Manufacturing in Yorkshire. The memorandum Books of John Brearley, Cloth Frizzer at Wakefield, 1758-1762

edited by John Smail (2001)

This edition of the memorandum books of John Brearley of Wakefield provides a fascinating insight into the economic and social conditions prevalent in West Yorkshire at the middle of the eighteenth century.

Brearley worked in Wakefield as a cloth frizzer, operating a mill which put fine raised nap on woollen cloth by running it between two boards covered with sand. Many of the entries in his memorandum book reflect his familiarity with the region’s woollen and worsted industries, covering all aspects of the trade, from directions for making particular kinds of cloth, to descriptions of merchant’s activities and the markets, domestic and foreign, where they bought and sold cloth. Brearley’s work as a frizzer underlies the many entries describing machines and inventions (some more practical than others) which are described and often drawn in these pages. Still other entries – ranging from recipes from ketchup to bread, to get-rich-quick schemes, to observances on women, drinking, and the marital habits of merchants – provide a flavour of life in the pre-industrial north at the beginning of George III‘s reign.

John Smail teaches history at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

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