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Spun Gold exhibition: the rich history of wool

This summer the amazing story of wool is explored in an exhibition in Hereford Art Gallery.  For thousands of years sheep have thrived in this country and their wool has been an important commodity creating great wealth. 

Herefordshire has had a particular significance for the wool industry since some of the best wool in the country has been produced here.  Leominster was the main trading centre for wool in the area where it became known as ‘Leominster Ore’ (meaning gold).  

Most of the local wool came from the Ryeland sheep named after the ‘rye lands’ on which they grazed.  Their wool is extremely fine and the fleeces fetched high prices throughout the country.  The yarn produced was very high quality and prized by none other than Queen Elizabeth I who liked her stockings to be made only from Ryeland wool.  

The exhibition focusses on the history of wool, nationally and locally, showing the various ways in which sheep have been used from the medieval heyday to the more recent decline and revival in the industry.

It looks at many aspects of sheep and how these humble animals, which have grazed our landscape over many centuries, have given us food, clothing and numerous other useful products from parchment to candles, or nappies to burial shrouds.     

You can discover what Henry VIII did to the Hereford cloth industry and what happened at the Booth Hall when the English wool traders met the Welsh!  Find out about why wool almost disappeared from our economy and how it is now being revived. 

You can feast your eyes on beautiful woollen garments and stimulate the senses with the soft touch of the fleece.  There is also an opportunity to have a go at some woolly crafts during your visit.  

The exhibition is full of objects from the Museum’s collections including costume and textiles, social history and fine art.  There are also loans of sheep and wool related items from private individuals. 

The exhibition has been supported by various local organisations.  For example, Rose Tinted Rags have provided an art installation, Herefordshire College of Art students have given a display of contemporary ‘altered’ woollen jumpers and Pritchard’s clothes shop have included a display of quality clothing made from fine wool.

A very full programme of workshops and events accompanies the exhibition run by local craftspeople. 

Carolyn Mace, Caroline Everett, Mary Roberts and Suzanne Moule are facilitating workshops on spinning, weaving, felting, crochet, knitting, braiding and button-making held at the Museum Resource and Learning Centre. 

Every Wednesday during the exhibition, until 16th September, the Guild of Herefordshire Spinners Weavers and Dyers are present in the Art Gallery to give demonstrations of wool crafts. 

For the first three Wednesdays of the summer holidays children’s activities are taking place in the exhibition space.  There is also a children’s trail to help explore the exhibition.

To find out more about all the activities and to book a place on a workshop please telephone 01432 383383 or 01432 383585


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Visit the Hereford Museum and Art Gallery webpage 

Access to the exhibition is FREE.  Hereford Museum and Art Gallery Broad Street, Hereford HR4 9AU is open Wednesday to Saturday 11am to 4pm.  There is access for visitors with disabilities.  

Tags: Community and living, Events, Leisure and culture