Jack of Newbury

Newbury Branch meeting 9th January 2019

Speaker: Dr David Peacock

Jack of Newbury is a legendary figure of early Tudor England. However, you have to get the right one, out of several, including four generations of the same family where the heir was named John.

The first two of these, John Winchcombe I (d. 1520) and John Winchcombe II (d.1557) were both clothiers, and in early Tudor England to be a clothier meant that you were responsible for organising the production of woollen cloth at a time when 90 per cent of England’s exports consisted of woollen cloth.

John Winchcombe II had at least 250 sheep of his own at Greenham, but he also acquired wool from thousands of sheep across a wide area. Locally this included Kingsclere, Enborne, and the Berkshire Downs. He ran his own dye house in Newbury, using woad as his major dye and purchasing it by the ton. He employed his own carders to card the wool and there is documentary evidence that suggests that there may have been 70 or more of them. He used fulling mills at West Mills in Newbury, and produced thousands of cloths called Kerseys each year.

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