Sheep to shawl: Tracing the past

A chance conversation on a recent train journey re-awakened my interest in The Sussex High Weald from a new perspective.

The catalyst was the cone of yarn I was using to knit my own Wensleydale Longwool – which reminded the fellow traveller of his textile past.

Our brief exchange touched on wool, conversation on a recent train journey re-awakened my interest in The Sussex High Weald from a new perspective.

The catalyst was the cone of yarn I was using to knit my own Wensleydale Longwool – which reminded the fellow traveller of his textile past.

Our brief exchange touched on wool, Sussex Rare Breeds (sheep and cattle), Green Lanes and Drovers, and of course the seasonal fairs such as Heffle and the routes used to move farm stock to and from the marshes or South Downs and the High Weald.

We understand that Romney sheep even travelled from Rye to Winchester on the hoof many years ago.

Are there any readers who might have family members with old memories, diaries, journals or maps so that a more complete picture could be put together of the immense activity this history represents?

With the renewed interest in British wool, there is much to celebrate and re-discover. Such stories and information would make a real contribution to the recently run lottery funded Sheep to Shawl Project which has prompted an extensive sharing of heritage skills related to Rare Breed Fibre.

The historic network of Green Lanes becomes even more precious when it is allied to the complex picture of different uses throughout the High Weald over the centuries.

The iron industry, corn mills, wool trade, as well as general farming may all have something to offer.

Very soon, these personal memories will be lost and we will be the poorer without this folk knowledge.

We would like to collect this information as soon as possible and be in a position to share the outcome at the forthcoming Sussex Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers Exhibition at Lewes Town Hall, on October, 28 to 29.

Please contact Julia Desch at julia@desch.go-plus.net

Julia Desch, Bodle Street Green