Not so full of it?

Or maybe not quite full enough. Oh, I’m sorry, enough with the terrible puns. Yet again, life has got between me and blogging, but it’s not just life. I got ever so slightly obsessed with fulling. Fulling cloth, that is. Processing it to close up the threads and make it more solidly useable.

I have been diverted from the ways of righteousness by research, partly started by Mary Beard pretending to be a Roman fuller and having a jolly old time assuring us that the slaves who did it probably had a jolly old time too (there may be reports of them singing as they fulled, but I’m not sure that singing the occasional song equals being an ecstatically happy bunny, totally thrilled with your lot). And then there are fulling mills all around me, too – no longer, generally, in use as fulling mills. But astonishingly there were thirty established in Meirionydd – where I live – between 1700 and 1810, and they joined the ‘at least’ thirty-eight already in existence.

Perhaps it’s not surprising. We have the raw materials (baaaaaaa), the skills (spinners and weavers abounded), and of course something else was abundant and necessary:


No, not moss. Water: fast-flowing streams, although admittedly the Ysgethin doesn’t always flow this fast. The old walls here show attempts to control and channel the river in spate, and they are there because the Ysgethin Inn, which is downstream of this, was – you guessed it – once a fulling mill.

So excuse me while I carry on a bit more musing and thinking and investigating the past of local hostelries. I won’t be long. Apart from anything else, Mary Beard’s magnum opus is due back at the library soon…


7 thoughts on “Not so full of it?

  1. Margaret Nowak

    If you are ever in Lancashire there is a very good talk about the fulling process for cloth given during tours of Helmshore Textile Museum. P.S. Go before they close it!

    1. kate Post author

      That sounds fascinating – would love to visit. And there’s a little video at the National Wool Museum in Dre-fach Felindre which makes it clearer, too. Quite hypnotic. In fact, I’m blamng it for the second piece of cake I had (it also shows in the tea room)…

  2. croftgarden

    There a big tradition of waulking songs in the Hebrides too. Well you had to do soemthing as it must have been a cold and miserable job waulking the tweed by hand in cold water!

    1. kate Post author

      I was taught one when I was in Sutherland – not that we ever waulked anything. I think I can still sing it!


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