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Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Woolly words: names deriving from the wool trade

Wool Names

Anyone who knows me knows that two of my pet obsessions are the wool trade; and names.
This essay will endeavour to cover both my interests, since no trade has influenced the surnames of England like the cloth trade.

I will also show that the names derived from this trade are also to some extent regionally determined, by the specific terms generic to each region of cloth production.  I will concentrate on the woollen trade but will also mention the native linen production, which added its own names to the general stock.

Wool has many processes in its production.  First of all it must be grown on sheep, tended by a shepherd; then sheared.  However though someone surnamed Shepherd or Sheep had doubtless that task in his background, someone surnamed ‘Shearer’ did not shear the sheep, but was a person who sheared the nap.  But I get ahead of myself.   
Once the fleece was ready it was spun; which might be done in the grease, or from a washed fleece.  This was usually done by the women.  A women worker has a surname suffixed –ster not –er, and so we get the word ‘spinster’ as well for an unwed woman who eked out the family economy by spinning.  Male spinners gave the name Spinner; but might equally have spun linen thread, another miserable job as it had to be done in the dark and damp.

Spun wool might go next to weaving or be ‘dyed in the wool’.  Certain colours like blue, from woad, were always traditionally dyed in the wool  Hence one has the Dyers and Listers.  Lister is the more recent name being derivative of a Middle English word. Dyer has old English roots.  There exist as names Dyers, Dyerson, Dyster though in this case not necessarily from a female dyer.  [English isn’t always consistent, is it?]

Next, the weaving.  A Weaver might also be a Webber, a Webb[e] or a Webster   who might well have been a woman in the trade.  This was a highly skilled trade, and determined a lot about the use of the cloth afterwards.  Not all wool woven would go on to become woollen cloth; some would have the hard wearing worsted weave.  However, wool that WAS to go on to be woollen cloth, the most expensive and prestigious export of the late Middle Ages,  would then be fulled by a Fuller or Walker or Tucker
Walker may be an ambiguous name as it also refers to the job of walking the wet flax to turn it into linen fibres, and though a fulling Walker had a skilled job, walking the flax made it to Tony Robinson’s ‘Worst Jobs in History’. Tucker derives from folding and torturing the cloth; the act of fulling is to wash and shrink the cloth to bring the fibres closer together and make it more weather resistant as well as thicker.  After being fulled it would be re-stretched in the tenter’s yard, giving us the phrase ‘to be on tenter-hooks’.  I have been unable to track down Tenter as a surname however; I suspect it was assumed in the fuller’s art.  Fulling has also given us the name for a type of kaolin clay, fuller’s earth, which was used to rub into the wool to absorb and remove the lanolin and greases from both the fleece and from the earlier processes.  Fuller’s Weed is also the country name for soapwort which was used in the washing process. 

Next, the cloth must be napped and sheared, often many times.  This meant raising a nap with teasels – no man-made substitute for this plant has ever improved on nature.  The slight hook on the end of the spines lifted the nap very successfully.  This gives us the names Tesler, Tazelaar, Teasel, Taycell.  The name Napper does not, however exist.  The very skilled job of cutting the raised nap to a level surface was a Shearer and was also derivative of  Sharman, Shearman and Sherman especially in the East.  ‘Shere’ and its variants however derive from shearsmith, one who kept shears sharp, and though a related industry in some respects is not directly derived from the woollen industry. 

Some slightly related names are Flaxman, a man involved in the growing or handling of flax for linen, Sower and some Sewers, those who sewed, Souster for a woman; Mercer,  a seller of luxury fabrics.  Also Fleming since the statutes of Edward III that wool might not be exported unwoven meant that there were insufficient weavers in England, and certain foreign experts were invited to settle.  Nowhere did this make more impact than in Norfolk, whose cloth was justly famed long after the woollen industry was on the decline elsewhere in Britain, surviving to produce the magnificent Norfolk Shawls in imitation of the costly  imported Cashmere shawls indispensable fashion wear to the Regency miss. 

So down to the business of location.

Widespread, largely midlands and north
South-west, as far east as Hants and Wilts
East and South East, mostly in Sussex, Kent and Anglia but as far west as Bucks and Oxfordshire.
Mostly south-west, Somerset, Devon and Cornwall, but also Suffolk [owing to the Suffolk woads and saffron and other dye weeds]
Mostly Cambs and West Riding of Yorkshire, also Lincs and Norfolk
Largely Worcestershire, Gloucestershire and Somerset
Largely Somerset and Devonshire
South of a line from the Wash to the Dee except in those places where Webber or Weaver are more common
North of the line from Wash to Dee where the name was taken by men, and where women wove.
General, wherever woollen cloth was produced
Sharman etc
Largely East and south, as far north as Lincs and as far west as Bucks

Some counties have a high proportion of names related to one form of the woollen trade or another which I include for interest.

Cambridgeshire: Lister
Devon: Tucker, Webber, Dyer
Derby: Walkers, Webster
Durham: Walker
Lancashire: Webster
Norfolk: Fuller
Notts: Walker
Somerset: Tucker, Webb, Webber, Weaver, Dyer
Stafford: Walker
Suffolk: Webb, Dyer
Sussex: Fuller
Wilts: Tucker, Webb
Worcester: Weaver
Yorkshire: Walker, Webster, Lister


Guppy, Henry Brougham; homes of family names in Great Britain, [1890],  Bibliolife

Reaney, P.H, & Wilson, R. M; A dictionary of English Surnames, 1997, Oford University Press

Robinson, Tony, The Worst Jobs In History, 2004, Pan


Saturday, 12 October 2013

I REALLY don't know what I did without a graphics tablet.

So I'm working towards the next Felicia book, The Hazard Chase and I knew what I wanted on the cover; the Notre Dame, Raoul, Comte de Beauville sur Rhone aka The Wolf: une jolie page; and our hero and heroine of course.
Well I expect I could actually have drawn it quicker than the time it took me to put together the elements, in fact I know I could have done, but using some original woodcuts doesn't half give an air of authenticity.  And it was fun, and I learned a few more things I could do with my machine. And with the graphics tablet, essentially I could also do my own drawing into it.

Two shots of Paris, and though the second is a perfectly good picture of Paris it doesn't show me the Notre Dame lowering over the place [I have a picture somewhere from outside the walls. It's in a book.  Can I find the wretched thing?  no.  So I had to make do with sticking two pictures together...]

Next, Gozzoli's Journey of the Magi.  The fancy bloke on the white horse was a starting point for Wolf, and the pretty page for... the pretty page.  So A bit of jiggery pokery and a lot of line drawing on my part to bring the costumes forward to 1511, and to tinker the faces to my satisfaction and in they went, facing each other.

  And then... well I could have redrawn Robin and Felicia but by this time I was feeling lazy...
I particularly liked Felicia's face in this one... so I just cut them out and stuck them on.

Friday, 11 October 2013

How did I manage before I had a graphics tablet?

The gentle reader who has followed my blog will have seen the posts I've made about how I put together some of my covers here and here.  Well, I've moved more and more into cutting out and applying figures from Ackermann's prints into Ackermann's prints, and how I managed to do 'Friends and Fortunes' with a touch pad to hold down my cursor to put all those little sepia figures in, never mind Victor and Gilly is a matter that turned the air blue at times. 

So, now I have upgraded to Paintshop Pro 9, and a Wacom Bamboo graphics tablet which I thoroughly recommend. 
I had started work on the cover of 'None So Blind' which will be my next regency out, but with the tablet, I had the confidence to do a major repaint of both faces, as his was very low res, and hers was... well very red and very white.  Cleaning up the edges becomes a doddle too...

So here are the starting points!  The man and woman are both 1812, she's from Ackermann's and he's a French fashion plate which may account for him fiddling with the volume button a la Napoleon.

This is what I've made of it so far:

No blurb as yet, still wrestling with that... 

Anyway, encouraged by my tablet I started playing about.... 

Here I have a print with foreground and sky added to make it the right proportions to wrap around as a book cover...
I pulled up the colour on this by increasing the saturation  but her face was obscured, and it may not be strictly accurate but I cut the bonnet away for the final pic, gave her another eye, and some curls to make her face stand out.  I added a hero for her too.

 And now all I need to do is to write a story to suit it... 

The hero and heroine in this one came as a pair, and I'm not about to turn down an absolute gift like that - they are from Le Beau Monde 1807

And this one is a book on the go, 'The Unwilling Viscount' is 8 chapters in so far...

And just in case I manage a sequel to Vanities and Vexations, I have found some different pilasters to make the foreground from, to put people against.  I used the eyedropper to get the exact same colour as the original...

Not much to look at now, but with pretty ladies and dashing gents leaning on it, who knows!

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Guest Blog: Why not Regency? by Giselle Marks.

Last post was about Giselle's up and coming book 'The Fencing Master's Daughter' for which yours truly did the cover illustration and got the chance to read an early draft.  Giselle has been asked why she writes Regencies, and this is her comment.

Why not Regency?
By Giselle Marks

So why did I write Regencies?  I could argue that I’ve always enjoyed Georgette Heyer and find reading Regency Romances a relaxing occupation. Yet while those statements are true that is a far too simplistic explanation.  My love of history and the period are other obvious factors but still not the whole story.  Yes, the period was an “Interesting Time” with England engaged in two major wars at the same time.  Wellington was busy contending in the Iberian peninsula against Napoleon’s armies while the American battle for independence from Britain was under way across the ocean.  

Scientific advances were finally beginning to change the lives of the people across the classes. But the real sudden explosion of invention and progress was in its infancy.  As the Regency and the end of the Georgian period closed with Queen Victoria’s accession, change was far more rapid. The combination of the industrial revolution and the hypocritically puritanical attitude of the Victorians distanced modern women from that particular era.  Even the installation of something approaching modern plumbing in Victorian days does not cancel out the increased rigidity of expected female behaviour in modern eyes. Even as women began to have some small rights, they found themselves further oppressed. 

The sexuality of most Victorian women was vigorously suppressed and when allowed free expression resulted in those women being considered pariahs to the rest of society.  From the point of view of modern women the Victorian era is just somehow not sexy.  It might be romantic but it makes modern women feel restricted and dis-empowered.  The sermonising, casuistry and prurience of the Victorians complicates drawing readers into our character’s lives for a writer.  

Setting romance in contemporary times does not appeal to me at present.  I don’t rule out writing some but it would be raunchier and perhaps not so romantic.  Modern fashions mostly eschew the silks and muslins of the Regency but the expectations in relationships are also different.  The supposed sexual liberation of the sixties and the rise of feminism confused the issue, neither gender really understand their place in our modern world.  Supposed equality increases the pressure on women to be sexually available, but long held prejudices against female promiscuity persist.  So they are damned if they do and damned if they decline.  

Nor will they be truly liberated until the older generation’s views on women’s sexuality change and the English language begins to reflect that change. Currently there is a dichotomy and inequality in language where many negative words exist for sexually promiscuous women but those describing men with similar proclivities glory in their conquests.  The disappointment many modern women feel about how men treat them draws them to an older age, when men were gentlemen who would court a woman.

Earlier periods can also set romantic stories beautifully.  The heroines and heroes can wear wonderful clothing, ride gorgeous horses and the speed of life is slower.  I intend at some point to write in some other periods, when I have a story that needs to be told.  Yet the Regency period has a strange romantic attraction, perhaps the tight fitting male costume was just a bit sexier but somehow it seems the ultimate setting for passionate romance.

Sounds good to me, Giselle!  some deep thoughts there, which I'm inclined to find myself agreeing with.  And if you make a foray into earlier periods, maybe we'll see something of one of Edward's ancestors...