A history of Halesworth, Suffolk, UK, through the ages.


Volume 2


The Rise of Sheep Farming in Suffolk

The export of wool and fells (sheep-skins) took place in Saxon times, and after the Norman Conquest this export grew. The trade was often to Flanders, and as Flemish knights had supported William the Conqueror in his invasion of England, they were rewarded with gifts of land in this country, and so were in the position to export more wool to their homeland as the wool farming industry increased. By this time the Abbeys and Monasteries were also producing large quantities of wool annually, and Italian merchants were making regular visits to England to buy up whole 'clips' of wool several years in advance.

At Sibton Abbey, near Peasenhall, the 14th century records tell us something of the income they received from sheep farming. They cover the years 1314 to 1316 :-

        Income from wool in 1314.                                                40s                 (2)
        Item to the Merchants for wool.                              64.10.11d                 (64.60p)
        To the same for wool from the previous year.                       15s                (75p)
        From lamb's wool.                                                          104s                (5.20p)
        total                                                                       75.0.6d                 (75.2p)

        Item from the wool merchants for pure
                            wool sold to them in 1315                      63.5.8d                (63.28p)
        For lamb's wool sold in 1315                                        6.1.0d                 (6.5p)
        For lamb's locks and fleeces sold                                23s.10d                 (1.19p)
        Item from Thomas Pente for pure wool
                            sold to him in 1316                                20                        (20)

The income from sheep farming included other profits which are often forgotten. So in the same period at Sibton Abbey:-
        From the milk of 9 score and 7 ewes at
                sheepfold at the North Grange at 3d (1p)
                per head, less in total 2s (10p) for the
                shepherd's pittance (wages)                                 44s.9d                (2.23p)
        From the milk of 4 score ewes at Wenhaston
                at 2d (1p) per head.                                             13s.4d                (67p)
(note a score is twenty)


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