Woven cloth from the weaver’s loom still contained the sheep’s natural oils and greases. Its fibres also had an open, loose texture. It was the job of the fullers – or, as they were more commonly called in the West Country, the tuckers – to turn this basic cloth into the finished article.

This meant cleaning it, shrinking it and then re-shaping it to produce a thickened and textured fabric.

The first step in this process was scouring. To rid it of its grease and other impurities, the cloth was smeared in soap and soda, submerged in troughs full of hot water and trampled by foot or put between rollers.

Next, the cloth was taken to one of Exeter’s water-powered mills to enter the fulling process. It was put in a trough and pounded beneath large wooden mallets known as ‘fulling stocks’ – a model of which can be seen here in the courtyard of Tuckers Hall. Cloth might be passed through the stocks several times, with the contents of the troughs changing each time. First it would be pounded while submerged in human urine, then change to the cloth was pounded in troughs containing ‘fuller’s earth’, a natural form of dry/powdered clay. Together, the urine and clay cleansed and thickened the cloth’s fibres. Lastly, the cloth was pounded in troughs holding soapy water.

Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player

History Links and Downloads