TUCKERS HALL - 12 June 2014
The talk and visit at Tuckers Hall after the EGM, on 12 June 2014, was a great success. Mike Walker gave a fascinating discourse on the history of t
e wool trade explaining how the fabric was produced (a cottage industry at first) and even showing us samples of serge – very rough to the skin ! Extraordinary to think that our little town of Exeter was once the fourth largest in England and the second largest port, but such was the success of the wool trade. Of course the rolling green hills of Devon ensured an abundance of sheep ...
Mike explained how the fabric when first woven still contained grease and impurities. The fullers (or tuckers) smeared it with soda and then trampled on it in troughs of hot water. Next it had to be pounded while submerged in human urine and then pounded in troughs containing ‘fuller’s earth’ (clay). Lastly the cloth would be laid out for the shearman to trim the nap with huge razor-sharp shears. All these men were skilled workers and comparatively well paid; their guild set down rules protecting their work and ensuring its good quality.
The Guild of Weavers, Fullers & Shearmen built their chapel in 1471 as a place for them to worship and prob- ably also for their meetings. But in the 16th Century (to avoid desecration by Henry VIII and his merry men) it was converted to be just their meeting house.
The venue for our meeting was the magnificent Upper Hall with its barrel-vaulted ceiling, wood panelling and carvings. Ancient armour, dating from the Civil War, was dotted around the room. Looked at from the street the building belies its age – the wall having been rebuilt in Victorian times (a necessity to stop the whole building collapsing). It was then that the ancient armour and the wonderful vaulted roof beams were discovered and exposed. The roof has recently been excellently restored and all the bosses have been painted in their original glory.