Wednesday, 23 April 2014

T is for Teasels


Here are the local dialect words.  What does tazzle mean? What mood does tear describe? And what does twire mean? The answers are at the end of this post.
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We are staying in Trowbridge today so that I can explain a little bit about the woollen cloth industry and about this plant, the humble teasel.   
Teasels were an important tool in the cloth industry.  Prior to the Industrial Revolution, teasels were fitted into small hand held frames and following the introduction of mechanisation in the form of the teasel gig, teasels were required in even larger quantities.  At one time they were grown as a cultivated plant in Somerset, Essex and the East Riding of Yorkshire and later on they were imported.

To be used as a tool, a number of teasels were fitted into a wooden hand held frame which had a long handle; the combined teasels and frame were referred to as a 'teasel handle'.  The teasel handle was brushed over the surface of the woollen cloth to raise the nap - a finishing process which raised the fibre ends to the surface of the cloth, where they were clipped, brushed or left upright. 

For the first stage of the napping process the cloth was stretched over a frame; the fuller or the tenterer pulled the teasel handle over the wet cloth to do the preliminary napping, followed by a wet shearing.  For the second stage of the napping process the cloth was  dry and the napping was carried out by the shearsman using dry teasel handles which were pushed up from the bottom of the cloth to the top, followed by the specialist dry shearing.  A consequence of the first stage was that the water softened the teasels and they lost their effectiveness so, being too expensive to throw away after one use, the teasels needed to be dried out and used again.  To do that they were placed in a building like the one in the following image.
This is the Studley Mill Handle House which straddles the River Biss in Trowbridge.   It was built in about 1844, and was designed for the sole purpose of drying and storing the teasel handles. 
Close up showing the open brickwork
© Copyright Oast House Archive and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
The open brickwork on three sides allowed the air to flow through. Although common at one time, this building is one of only a few remaining in the UK.  It is the only one known to still exist in Wiltshire.
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Here are the answers to the dialect words:

  • tazzle - tangled, knotted, touseled
  • tear - a rage
  • twire - to look wistfully at something


Hope to see you tomorrow for the letter U.



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