b'The Fleece Inn SignAndrew HallA century ago, a survey of the Industries of the County of York, in referring to the manufacturers and industries which had combined to elevate Yorkshire to its current proud position, made particular mention of the woollen and worsted trade, which, it said had made such immense strides within the last hundred years, and seems scarcely to know any limit.Wool has indeed played a vital part in the prosperity of Yorkshire over the centuries. That prosperity was based on a generally acknowledged superiority of British wool, but then, as ever, the best way of reaping the benefit of this valuable crop was the cause of much discussion and disagreement amongst businessmen and farmers, with frequent interventions by politicians anxious to have some control over this lucrative trade and to take a share of the benefits for the exchequer.Thus it was that in the reign of Edward I, a duty was placed on the export of wool. The duty eventually reached 40 shillings (2) a bag, and an officer was appointed at Hull, chosen as the Yorkshire port from which wool might be shipped, to see that the dutythey had been used to mixing a certain amount of was paid. foreign wool into the manufacturing process, and King Edward III imposed all sorts of restrictions oncontinued to seek to eat their cake and have it, the wool trade, including a special Act of Parliamentrefusing to consider the free export of wool, yet still which forbade the exportation of wool. York becamedemanding duty free imports.a staple for wool - a place where wool was bagged,Once the situation was resolved, the immediate sealed by a Mayor of the Staple and sold. Again afears of the protectionists proved to have been duty was imposed. unfounded, as the woollen and worsted trade, The question of wool exports was raised undervirtually unrestricted by Parliament, grew by leaps successive monarchs, and once again prohibitedand bounds, in West Yorkshire in particular. Financial under Charles I, a situation which lasted until 1825. pundits of the 1890s looked forward to an era of The purpose of the ban was protectionism pureunbounded prosperity.and simple. Wool growers were not happy withThe manufacture of woollen and worsted goods being restricted to the inland market, and producer,had, like most industries, developed and changed consumer and manufacturer suffered alike. In theconsiderably over the years. The idea, like canals 1750s, Lincolnshire wool producers got together toand cotton manufacturing, came from the Flemings, insist that Parliament should once again allow theand grew into an extensive but labour extensive part exportation of English wool, but at the same time thatof the economy of many parts of the country using the importation of Irish wool must be forbidden! primitive machinery. The West Riding was by 1875 Yorkshire manufacturers responded to news ofthe area of the country in which the industry was these demands by reiteratingthe opinion that tomost concentrated, and the first to adopt the factory export British wool would be the first step to ruin.system on a large scale. Workers who previously had The Act of Union making Ireland part of the Unitedworked at home were alarmed at seeing more and Kingdom ran into fierce opposition in the House ofmore of the 26 operations through which wool had Commons from Yorkshire and other MPs seekingto pass between raw material and finished product to exclude wool from the Anglo-Irish free tradecarried out in large factories by machines, but the agreement. tide of capitalisation and mechanisation continued However the notion of Free Trade, although only inunabated.its infancy, won the day.The protectionists managedThe Fleece was therefore an important symbol of to impose massive import duties on imported wool.Yorkshires wealth, and Bishop Wilton had more than The Yorkshire manufacturers were still unhappy, asits share of sheep, providing a mountain of wool. The 50 BULLETIN 4'