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The Story of Stroud

Cloth Making

Chalford Mill by Edward Smith c.1852 The Cross Cutter Painting of Wallbridge, Stroud c.1785 A view of Stroud from Rodborough, by Alfred Newland Smith (1813-1877) Burmese leggings, Native American cloth, tennis balls and samples from Stroud

The mills of the Stroudwater were the centre of the cloth-making industry of Gloucestershire.  The mills sprang up around the River Frome, harnessing the water power.

As the industrial revolution progressed the mills mechanised. An early invention was the cross-cutter which trimmed the nap from the woollen cloth and replaced the need for shearmen.  The cross-cutter directly influenced the invention of Stroud’s other great claim to fame – the Lawnmower.

Once produced, the wool was dyed using natural dyes which reacted with the local water to create rich colours. The Stroud Scarlet cloth shown being dyed and dried in this painting was the most famous shade.

The finished cloth was exported from Stroud by canal, and later by train.

The cloth was eventually traded all over the world. It was used by the British Army for their uniforms but also became an important commodity in such far-flung places as the Americas, Burma, Japan and India.


Images: Museum in the Park – M in the Park Image 1, M in the Park Image 2, M in the Park Image 3, M in the Park Image 4, M in the Park Image 5

This page is part of Industrial Hey-Day