Griffiths, Carolyn (2017)

GRIFFITHS, Carolyn (2017). ‘Woad to This’ & The Cloth Trade of Frome, Frome: Frome Society for Local Study. ISBN 978-0-9930605-5-7, paperback, 281 pp., fully illustrated in colour, glossary, bibliography, index. Price: GB£28.

This is a detailed study of the woad trade in Frome, Somerset in eastern England. The book is based on the discovery of an 18th century dye recipe book with actual samples of dyed cloth and woollen material in nearby Wallbridge and Welshmill, which is now in the Bath Reference Library. The author then went on to track several more volumes in the Bath library, as well as some in The National Archives. These books form the basis of this study of the woad and cloth trade in Frome from the early 14th century until the start of the industrial revolution in the late 18th century.

The book looks at various aspects of the Frome cloth trade, including the production of cloth (from fibres to end product) with a particular emphasis on the dye industry (not just woad), and the sale of the finished products in Britain and abroad. In addition, attention is paid to surviving buildings in the town, which are associated with the Frome cloth trade. The final chapter looks at the decline of this centuries old trade due to the changes in textile technology and the advent of the factory system.

Recommendation: This book will be of interest to anyone working in the field of natural dyes, the history of dyes and the social and economic significance of both dyeing and cloth production in a medieval and later English town. Beautifully illustrated and with great care having been taken to present many sample images on a 1:1 scale to obtain the full effect of the original books.

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood

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