American Cotswold Record Association

The Original Registry Of Purebred Cotswold Sheep

Medieval Cotswolds

(Background of this page is an actual photo of super-lustrous Cotswold fleece)


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Black Cotswold Breed
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Bob Gillis: "Mr. Cotswold"

Please see also:  Cotswold Origins, American Cotswolds, Modern Cotswolds

The celebrated wool artisans of Florence revived the ancient craft of Cloth of Gold made of wool during the Middle Ages, traveling to the Cotswold Hills to find wool known to have once upon a time been suited to the process.  Nobility and clergy alike got into the lucrative trade.  Even the Beverston Castle in Beverston Village (about 2 miles west of Tetbury in the Cotswolds) kept an inventory of thousands of Cotswold sheep until their dispersal in the early 16th Century.

Medieval wool merchants' devices, such as this one are commonly seen on brass memorials in churches in the Cotswold Hills.

From that time (early 1500s) until at least the 19th Century, the famous Barton Cotswold flock had been recording its pedigrees, as did other dedicated growers whose names are now lost to history.

Many great fortunes were built on the wealth generated by medieval Cotswold sheep.  Wool merchants are venerated in brass memorials in the church of St. Peter & St. Paul in Northleach.  Between 1340 and 1540 the principal wool moguls were William Midwinter, Thomas and John Fortey, and John Tayler.

John Fortey's brass memorial in the Northleach Church of St. Peter & St. Paul depicts the man standing atop a sheep and a wool sack.  Closer inspection of the brass reveals the sheep has been carefully engraved to show large, distinct curls and waves in the fleece, together with the characteristic topknot of the Cotswold breed.

The medieval Cotswold wool business brought so much money into the coffers of England's Exchequer that the Lord Chancellor was made to sit on a special square red woolsack until relatively recent times, in commemoration of the trade.

The Cotswold wool business came to a near standstill when Parliament enacted a ban on exportation of raw fleeces, signaling the beginning of the wool manufacturing era in England.  Unfortunately, though the Cotswolds have some creeks, none were large enough to supply all that was needed for the wool works.  The comparatively steeper region to the south (around Stroud) with its faster streams aided in their supplanting the sheep trade with the textile crafts.

Please see also:  Cotswold Origins, American Cotswolds, Modern Cotswolds

Last Updated: 05/09/2011
2009 by the American Cotswold Record Association
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