Somewhere in the late Middle-ages it was said of wool (presumably by a politician) "it is the flower and strength, the revenue and blood of England". Another quote from centuries back concerned shepherds: "workers of such great worth that their reward reaches greater yet than twelve shillings (60p) in each winter week". Such was the significance of the wool industry, and the hamlet of Aldershot was very much a part thereof as the following historic piece demonstrates : -
"The visitor to the House of Lords, looking respectfully upon the assembly, cannot fail to notice a stout ungainly object facing the throne an ungainly object upon which in full-session of Parliament will be seated the Lord Chancellor of England. The object is a woolsack, and it is stuffed as full of pure history as the office of the Chancellor itself."
It reminds a modern generation that the greatness of our country was built up not upon the flimsy machines and instruments manufactured in the Far East and the rest of the world, nor upon the cold metal dug from the bowels of the earth, but upon the Wool which, generation after generation, has grown on the backs of our black-faced sheep.
The Woolsack - is a seat stuffed with wool on which the Lord Chancellor sat in the House of Lords, the Upper House of Parliament. Introduced by King Edward III (1327-77) and originally stuffed with English wool as a reminder of the importance of Englands traditional source of wealth and economy in the Middle Ages, the wool trade, and as a sign of prosperity. It is a large rectangular, wool-stuffed cushion or seat covered with red cloth; with neither a back nor arms, although at the centre there is a back-rest.
In 1938, it was discovered that the Woolsack was, in fact, stuffed with horsehair so when the Woolsack was remade it was re-stuffed with wool from all over the Commonwealth as a symbol of unity. Up until 2006 the presiding officer in the House of Lords was the Lord Chancellor, however in July 2006, the function of Lord Speaker was split from that of Lord Chancellor following the Constitutional Reform Act of 2005. The Lords' Mace is placed on the rear part of the Woolsack. [back] [top]
The paragraph that Tim referenced about the wool trade is quoted from "Medieval People" by Eileen Power M.A., D.Lit, published in 1924. It is from chapter six about Thomas Betson, a merchant Merchant of Staple, at Calais in the fifteenth century. [back] [top]