PEMBROKESHIRE AND THE WOOLLEN INDUSTRY by J. GERAINT JENKINS, M.A., F.S.A. The art of converting raw wool into cloth is one that may be traced back to prehistoric times, and the Greeks and the Romans carried the weaving of woollen cloths to remarkably high standards. Un- doubtedly, the methods of woollen manufacturing were well known to the inhabitants of Britain in pre-Roman times, but until the close of the middle ages, the processes were essentially domestic and the inhabitants of Pembrokeshire, in common with other districts of Britain, spun and wove the wool from their own sheep. They provided themselves with knitwear and blankets, cloth and flannel, but those commodities were hardly ever commodities of trade, for as Giraldus Cambrensis noted: the Welsh 'were a people with wide experience of woollen manufacturing, but who paid no attention to industry or commerce'. The coarse 'brychan' that they manufactured contributed to the economic self-sufficiency of the rural neighbourhood and the industry, though widely distributed throughout Wales, made no con- tribution to the export trade until the fourteenth century. Before that period, the surplus of raw wool, described as 'coarse and of little value,' was exported; indeed in the early years of the fourteenth century, a large proportion of the exports of Pembrokeshire, consisted of raw wool, which was sent directly to the cloth manufacturing districts of Flanders. The production of raw wool in the middle ages was largely in the hands of the Cistercian monks and the fourteen abbeys of the Order in Wales, maintained vast flocks of sheep. The extent of the export trade in raw wool is difficult to estimate, but in the early fourteenth century, it was decreed that all the wool in England and Wales should be exported through certain selected towns. In 1326 Haverfordwest was declared a staple town, but in 1353 Carmarthen became the sole staple for Welsh wool. Between 1354 and 1361, the average amount of wool exported through Carmarthen was 550 sacks per year, which was the equivalent to about 130,000 fleeces weighing some 1800 hundred- weighti). It was soon realised, however, that Carmarthen was not ideally situated to be the main exporting port of Wales and the merchants were allowed to take their wool to any English staple town; some of them even making the long overland journey to Lynne. In any case, by the beginning of the fifteenth century, very little Welsh wool was being exported, for a large proportion of it was absorbed by the growing cloth manufacturing industry of the country. Customs accounts show that appreciable quantities of cloth were exported from Welsh seaports, particularly those of south-west Wales. Most cargoes went to Bristol and the cloth was re-exported to the European continent, especially to Gascony, Brittany, Portugal and even Icelandi?‘. I. Lloyd, J. t. (editor): A History ot Carmarthenshire Vol. II, 989 p.Jll 2. Lewis, E. A.: 'A Contribution to the Commercial History of Medieval Wales Y Cymmrodor Vol. XXIV. 1913, pp.96 et seq.