1902 Encyclopedia > Agriculture > Wool

(Part 88)



Wool is such an important part of the produce of our flocks that it seems proper to offer a few remarks upon it before leaving this subject, although it will fall to be considered under its proper heading. We here insert with much pleasure the following communication received from the late John Barff, Esq., of Wakefield : ---

"I willingly give you a reply to your various inquiries regarding wool, as far as I am able. As to the kinds grown in the various counties of the United Kingdom, this I cannot fully answer, as there are some counties wools which have not come much under my inspection; but generally I may remark that wherever the turnip can be cultivated and has been introduced, the Leicester, Lincolnshire, Cotswold, and the half-breeds from Down and Cheviot, are to be found; and in the same counties, in several instances, you have several kinds, if we except Lincolnshire and Leicestershire, which have entirely the long-wool sheep. The great bulk also of York, Warwick, Oxford, Cambridge, Gloucester, Northampton, and Nottingham shires, have this description of sheep, but they have also Downs and half-breeds. Kent has its own sheep, called Kents; the wool being much finer than the real long-wool sheep, running in quality and weight of fleece between the latter and the Down, something like your half-breeds from Cheviot ewes by Leicester rams. They have somewhat of a similar sheep in Devon, Cornwall, Hereford, and Shropshire, but the quality in the two former counties scarcely so fine as the two latter, or the Kent wools, Norfolk has the original Down and the half-bred; Surrey, Suffolk, Essex, Sussex, and Hampshire are nearly all Down wools, though in these counties, upon some of their best lands, where they can cultivate the turnip, the half-breed are being introduced; and I need scarcely say to you, the Leicester sheep, as well as half-breeds and cheviots, are to be found in Durham, Northumberland, Berwickshire, Roxburghshire, Lothians, and other parts of Scotland where the turnip is cultivated; and in those parts where it is not and on the hills, the Cheviots and blackfaced prevail. The blackfaced are used for low padding cloths, carpets, and horse-rugs. The Down wools were formerly all used for cloths and flannels; but now, from the improvement in worsted machinery, one-third is used for worsted yarns and goods; and as the portion suitable for combing purposes is more valuable for this purpose than for cloths or flannels, the grower aims at getting it as deep-stapled as possible; and this has led to a great increase in the weight of the fleece, but at the same time a deterioration in the quality. The Leicester, Lincolnshire, and half-breed, and Cotswolds, as well as the Kents and Devons, are entirely used for worsted yarns and goods; and a very small portion of the wools imported come in competition with them. The nearest approach is a little imported from Holland and Denmark; but they partake more of your cross from a blackedfaced ewe by a Leicester ram. The Irish wools are either the long-woolled sheep similar to the Leicester, the mountain sheep similar to you Cheviot, or the small Welsh sheep. The Irish wools are generally open-haired, and have not the richness of the Leicester or our English, and are not so ,such esteemed or valuable as English wool of apparently the same quality by _d. to 1d. per lb. Richness of handle is now very desirable, as there is a demand for what are called glossy yarns, which wools fed on pasture or good new seeds only can produce, and which cannot be obtained from the wools grown on chalk or hard lands, such as our midland counties --- viz, Oxford, Bedford, Northampton --- generally produce.

"In every fleece of wool there are two or three qualities --- not more than two or three in the blackfaced, four or five in the long-wooled sheep, five or six in the half-breed, and seven or eight in a Down fleece; and I may say every fleece undergoes this sorting or separation before being put into any process of manufacture. Of course the more there is of the best quality in any fleece the more desirable and valuable the fleece is; in blackfaced, to be free from dead hair or kemps; and we find in all the other wools that the more close the staple and purly the wool, the more it yields of the finer qualities, whilst the open-haired makes more of the lower quality. The breeder should therefore, in selecting his tups with a view to good wool, choose them with a close purly staple. A great deal of the excellence, however, of wool depends upon the nature of the soil on which the sheep are fed. Upon the chalk and sandy hard lands we always find the worst qualities of wool of its kind, whilst the best comes from the rich good lands, where there is plenty of old grass or seeds. Thus the wools of Roxburghshire, as a general rule, are better than Berwickshire or Lothian; Leicester, Lincolnshire, Nottingham, and Warwickshire, superior to Oxford, Cambridge, Bedford, or Northampton; and in Downs, Sussex and Surrey, better than Essex and Norfolk, from their downs being more grassy and the land better. The principal quality required in wool is a rich soft handle, as such is always found to improve in every process it is put through in the various stages of its manufacture, whilst the wools grown on chalk or hard lands, and which have a hard bristly handle, get coarser as they progress in the manufacture.

"With regard to the salves or baths used for destroying vermin, we do not know what kinds are used in the different localities, but of those used with you we dislike the spirit of tar and tobacco. Wilson of Coldstream’s dip appears to answer and one called Ballantyne’s, used in Selkirkshire; but in all these a great deal depends upon their being properly attended to, and being put on at the proper season. If put on in the autumn, we don’t perceive that they have been used, and whenever we have to make a complaint on this head, we find it arises from the baths having been used in spring."

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