Stroud Cloth & The Great Exhibition of 1851

Stroud and the Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations 1851

“The Great Exhibition”

by David Elford

I am grateful to the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 located at Imperial College, London, for allowing access to their wonderful archive and to Archivist, Mrs. Angela Kenny.

“Wool and worsted can scarcely be considered inferior in importance to that of cotton, Employing a large amount of capital, and giving support to many thousands of operatives and others.”

Catalogue of the Great Exhibition of 1851 – Volume ll

All manufactures and exhibitors were classed. Cotton was class 11 and Woollen and Worsted Classes 12 & 15 in the following Subcategories:

A Broad cloth
B Narrow Cloth
C Flannel
D Blankets
E Woollen cloaking
F Serges
G Tartans
H Worsted Stuff Goods
I Woollen, Worsted, Alpaca and Mohair yarns

These classes were arranged in the South Transition Gallery on the ground floor.

Section lll Catalogue Classes 12 and 15

“The great manufacturing localities for goods contained in these classes are:


Flannel is produced In large quantities in the Principality also at Rochdale and Stroud.”

“The Town of Bradford presents the most conspicuous example of a locality deriving a large share of prosperity from the production of a peculiar description of goods – the worsted stuff goods.”

“In 1801 this town had a population of about 6400 which in 30 years had multiplied to upwards of 23,000 and since then increased even more rapidly.”

By 1851 there were 10,000 employed in spinning and power loom factories.

Mixed fabrics led to this success. “Latterly the Alpaca manufactured has risen into great importance, and with the manufacture of fabrics made of wool & and cotton, and wool & silk, constitutes the staple industry of this locality”. (Bradford)

[Wool was less extensive than that of cotton where no less than 312,500 people were employed to an annual value of £25 million.]

“Rags torn up by machine and the fibrous material is entirely separated; it is then spun in low numbers and made into a course description cloth used for baize and tablecloths etc – an example of the adaptive ingenuity of the present day.”

The number of woollen and worsted cloth exhibitors at the great exhibition were dominated by Yorkshire:

51 from Leeds near Leeds
39 from Huddersfield and Halifax
37 from Bradford.

Perhaps interestingly, there were 9 from Dublin.

The 10 from the Stroud area are listed below and the definition of their products is their own. [Each manufacturer/ exhibitor was allocated a reference number in the catalogue.]


Helme W, New Mills, Stroud

Manufactures: cashmere waistcoats of various colours and texture. Single-milled and half milled doeskin. Cashmerette, silk warp, woollen wefts, cassimeres, sardinians for waistcoats.


Grist, M, Capel Mills, Stroud

Manufacturers: Specimens of mattress walls , woollen millpuffs, flux used for fitting beds and stopping mattresses, sofa cushions, couches et cetera. Manufactured by improved machinery, and purified during the process.


Marling, S.S.and Co., Ebley Mills, Stroud

Manufacturers: superfine broadcloth, single-milled, wool-dyed, woaded black et cetera; superfine doeskin, treble, double, single and half milled; superfine cassimere, single-milled.


Hooper C & Co., Eastington Mills, Stroud.

Manufacturers: Cloths, wool-died, woaded, piece-dried etc. viz broad, black, blue, medley, scarlet, waterproof, fancy coloured et cetera.

Single-milled cassimere, black and scarlett. Patent elastic trousering, and gloving cloth.


Playne P.P. &C, Nailsworth

Manufacturers: specimens of single, woaded, wool-dyed, Black cloth; and woaded, wool-dyed, medium cloth. Case containing specimens, illustrative of the process of manufacturing woollen cloth.


Partridge N, Bowbridge, Stroud

Designer – Double colour woollen cloth, for officers’ cloaks, dividing saloons in the East, curtains et cetera . Army cloth, improved red.


Palling, William, Lower Mills, Painswick

Manufacturer: piece of double-milled scarlet hunter, dyed 54 inches wide.
Piece of double-milled cloth, dyed, 54 inches wide.
Piece of double-milled wool white, undyed for trousers and waistcoats.
Piece of fine single-milled scarlet, 63 inches wide.
Piece of billiard cloth 72 inches wide.
Billiard cloth, green, piece dyed.


Davies RS & Sons, Stonehouse Mills, Stroud

Manufacturer: Nash scarlet cloth, for officers’ full uniform; Silk cloth for undress Jackets. White cloth for uniforms. Scarlet cloth, for foreign uniforms, woaded, wool-dyed black cloth, single-milled cassimere; double-milled and single-milled doeskin.


Sampson, Thomas, Lightpill Mills, Stroud

Inventor: Machine for twisting the fringe of wool shawls. Twilled, black flannel, scarlet flannel.


Overbury, Josiah, Nind and Monk Mills near Wotten-under-Edge.

Manufacturer: Superfine Saxony woollen cloths, wool-dyed, woaded, black, rifle and medley, and blue indigo dyed.