Powys Digital History Project

Wealth from wool


A prosperous time
After the terrible devastation of the plague epidemics of the second half of the 14th century, Presteigne saw an improvement in its fortunes during the course of the following century, chiefly due to the wool trade.
The region around the town and particularly the upper Lugg valley, was noted for the quality of its wool, and there was a period of expansion of the industry, including a significantEngraving of wool merchant. amount of cloth manufacture in the town.
The cloth industry in and around Presteigne was carried out on a considerable scale in the early 1500's, almost certainly helped by the closeness of the town to Ludlow, an important regional centre of the cloth trade. The level of production of cloth by this time appears to have been greater than that required by purely local markets.

There is evidence that skilled craftsmen from Flanders were present in the town around 1550, possibly being involved in the training of local workers in the techniques of what had become an important trade for the prosperity of the town.

The rise of John Beddoes
Important figures associated with the cloth industry of the town around this time were the Bradshaws, a merchant family who came from Ludlow, and John Beddoes, who also had Ludlow connections. He was first recorded in Presteigne in 1535 as a weaver, but was later to acquire considerable wealth and status as a cloth merchant, and through his transactions in property and land.

At the time of his death he owned land in twenty parishes, and he is best known for his generous endownment of a free grammar school for the town of Presteigne. The cloth industry, however, was to suffer grievously from the return of plague epidemics, particularly that of 1636-37. These brought about the loss of skilled craftworkers and destroyed the confidence of the former buyers.