Stroud Information and History

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Stroud Information and History

In common with many of the towns of the Cotswolds, such as Northleach and Cirencester, Stroud owes a lot to the wool trade and cloth industry. Uley Blue, Stroudwater Scarlet and other west of England cloths were renowned the world over.

The Stroud area, with its hills and valleys, and a plentiful supply of running water, lent itself naturally to the production of woollen cloth. The sheep that grazed the sides of the Cotswold Hills were covered with such long, thick fleeces that they were known as ‘Cotswold Lions’.

The weaving industry started in the small cottages of the hilltop village of Bisley, but quickly moved to the valleys below where water-power could be harnessed. 150 mills were working at full capacity in the Stroud district along the valley bottoms.

As the 19th century progressed, more and more cloth production moved to West Riding. This competiton, as well as more recently competition from abroad, led to the demise of the industry locally.

May of the mill buildings still remain however. Many of the mills are now protected as ‘listed’, but have been converted to new uses including housing, offices, workshops, restaurants etc.

The income generated by the mills put brought great wealth to the local wool merchants (including Dick Whittington). These wool merchants put much of the wealth back into the area building stately country houses and beautiful ‘wool’ churches (of which Northleach and Cirencester have outstanding examples). Selsley Church was built in the style of an Austrian church on the instruction of Lord Marling. The stained glass windows were the first ever ecclesiastical commission carried out by William Morris and his colleagues.