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The Cloth Market

The cloth market outgrew its original position on the bridge, and from June 1684 it was held in the lower part of Briggate, as it is shown on  Cossins map of 1725. The cloth market, which took place twice a week was described in detail by Daniel Defoe, writing in 1726.

Trestles, topped with boards were placed on each side of the street, to await the arrival of the clothiers, who came early in the morning. The clothiers took their cloth to an inn, until the market bell rang at 7 o'clock, when each clothier would take his bale of cloth, and lay it on the trestles. When the bell stopped ringing, the merchants and buyers walked up and down the rows of trestles, examining the cloth. Many of them had specific orders, some from abroad, for a particular colour or type of cloth. When they found the cloth they wanted they came to an agreement with the clothier as to the price, and the clothier carried the cloth to the merchant's house.

At half past eight the market bell was rung again to signify the end of trading. Any unsold cloth was taken by the clothiers back to an inn, where they could buy some refreshment before the journey home. By nine o'clock, the trestles had been removed and the street cleared. Other traders selling all kinds of goods, then set up their stalls.

Clothiers visiting the town would have been able to obtain a cheap meal at public houses near the bridge. These meals were called Brig-End-Shots and were described by Ralph Thoresby, writing in 1715: 'the clothier may, together with his Pot of Ale, have a Noggin o' Pottage, and a Trencher of either Boil'd or Roast Beef for two Pence.'

As trade increased, and more space was needed, the cloth market moved away from Briggate to the new Cloth Halls.

The cloth brought to Leeds by the clothier had still to be dyed and finished. In the early 1700s, the merchant arranged for this to be done by a master dresser, and his journeymen and apprentices. By the 1750's the merchants were carrying out the finishing processes themselves, often in premises attached to their houses. The pictures show two stages of cloth dressing: rooing, or raising the pile of the cloth, for which teasels were used. The job of the preemer boy was to clean the wool from the used teasels. Another picture shows cloth-dressers or croppers at work, trimming the raised nap with shears.




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Click images to enlarge
Clothiers on their way to the Cloth Market
Clothiers on their way to the Cloth Market
The Preemer Boy
The Preemer Boy
The Cloth Dresser
The Cloth Dresser




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© 2003 Leeds City Council | Site created by: LCC electronic information team | 25 March 2003