Copyright © All rights reserved. Made By Serif. Terms of use | Privacy policy


Haltwhistle Burn.About.Walks.Schools.How to get there.Gallery.Contact.


The River

The Environmental Issue


The Coal Industry

The Clay industry









Rocks and Soils


Cross Curricular


The Woollen Industry

A History Mystery and cross-curricular project

Wool was an important product of the farms in the Haltwhistle area and the processing of raw wool into finished cloth was an key industry from early times. Initially spinning and weaving was carried out in farmhouses but the finishing processes of fulling, bleaching and dying were carried out on a more industrial basis with records of a fulling mill dating back to the 1200s.  In these mills, water power is harnessed to drive a set of enormous wooden hammers or stocks which pound the woven cloth in a solution of natural detergent (possibly stale urine or ashes from burnt heather).  This causes the fibres to shorten and thicken with the result that the cloth loses about a third of its length and develops a tighter, more windproof, weave.  After fulling, the fabric is attached to tenter hooks on a tentering frame which gently stretches the fabric while it dries in the open air. The fabric can then be bleached and/or dyed.


During the course of researching the woollen industry of Haltwhistle, some interesting characters have emerged.


Meet The Saint family- dyers and bleachers from at least mid 1700s, probably resident at Town Foot as tenants of the Lords of the Manor, running a fulling mill and dye house.

In 1788 members of the family appeared in court for riot and assault against another dyer whom they did  “beat, wound and ill treat so that his life was despaired of”.  Why? What was going on?

In 1837 Joseph Saint wrote to his new landlord complaining that someone was stealing his water.


Was it William Madgen, wealthy owner of a rival firm who built the big house, Greencroft- now Haltwhistle Hospital?


And why did Elizabeth Cuthbertson, Lady of the Manor and Joseph’s landlady, lock herself away, wash insufficiently and refuse to see anyone or do any repairs to her tenants’ buildings? Why did she throw out those tenants who paid their rent in full whilst keeping on those who owed her money? Was it, as legend has it, a disappointment in love that sent her mad? And where was the Manor House- on the site of the Manor House Hotel ?

What happened to William Madgen?  Why did he move his factory to Bardon Mill  (in the building now occupied by Errington Reay) and what happened after his factory burnt down? (We know his grandson became an inventor- he invented a clever match selling machine- and then emigrated to America.)


Curriculum Links

History – using primary sources to solve a History Mystery


Felting, using raw and dyed wool

Weaving using natural materials collected on a Burn Walk together with natural wool strung from a natural wood frame to produce a woven sculpture

Dying – space or tie dying using cold water dyes or microwave techniques.


Science Testing wool- different wool yarn for strength

Fabric made from knitted yarn and woven yarn for stretch and durability

Changing wool by “fulling” and observing changes in fabric size and weather-proofness.

Creative Writing. Plays and imaginative recounts  involving the historical characters and events,  persuasive letters to/ from Joseph Saint and  Mad Miss Cuthbertson etc.etc.





Guided visit to woollen industry sites

Transcripts of letters, documents and census data etc

Historic photos

Contemporary maps

Investigating wool science pack with lesson plans, materials and worksheets/ recording sheets

Contacts for felting and dying workshop leaders (local)