Wovember Words: Wovember in 1800 and 1801

Greetings WOVEMBERISTS! This morning we hear from Dorothy Wordsworth, whose amazing diaries give a lovely insight into the place of wool in life in the Lake District in the years 1800 and 1801. As well as touching on various shepherding practices of this time, Dorothy’s diaries give an insight into the fashions of the day and the role that wool played in daily dress. I love Dorothy Wordsworth’s diaries and as well as giving an intimate impression of wool’s place in Cumbrian life at this time, they also give a sense of what WOVEMBERs past were like in Cumbria. It is interesting in Explanations for some of the sheep and wool terms provided below.

"A New Spencer Walking Dress with the Incognita Hat" from the January 1807 La Belle Assemblée - a spenser is one of the garments to which Dorothy Wordsworth refers in her diary entries

“A New Spencer Walking Dress with the Incognita Hat” from the January 1807 La Belle Assemblée – a spenser is one of the garments to which Dorothy Wordsworth refers in her diary entries

November 1800

Sunday [9th]. Wm. slept tolerably – better this morning. It was a frosty night. We walked to Rydale after dinner, partly expecting to meet the Lloyds. Mr Simpson brought newspapers but met Molly with them. W. burnt the sheep fold*. A rainy night.

Tuesday Morning [11th]. Walked to Rydale before dinner for letters. William had been working at the sheep fold. They were salving sheep**. A rainy morning. The Lloyds drank tea with us. Played at cards – Priscilla not well. We walked after they left us to the top of the Rydale Hill then towards Mr Ollif’s and towards the village. A mild night partly cloudy partly starlight. The cottage lights, the mountains not very distinct.


Wednesday 11th. Baked bread and giblet pie – put books in order – mended stockings.

Monday 23rd. A beautiful frosty morning. Mary was making William’s woollen waistcoat. Wm. unwell and did not walk. Mary and I sate upon our cloaks upon the Bench in the Orchard.

Tuesday 24th. A rainy morning. We all were well except that my head ached a little and I took my Breakfast in bed. I read a little of Chaucer, prepared the goose for dinner, and then we all walked out. I was obliged to return for my fur tippet and Spenser*** it was so cold…

…She talked about Thomas’s having sold his land. ‘Ay,’ says she I said many a time ‘He’s not come fra London to buy our Land however.’ Then she told me with what pains and industry they had made up their taxes interest etc. etc. – how they all got up at 5 o’clock in the morning to spin and Thomas carded, and that they had paid off a hundred pounds of the interest. She said she used to take such pleasure in the cattle and sheep. ‘O how pleased I used to be when they fetched them down, and when I had been a bit poorly I would gang out upon a hill and look over t’fields and see them and it used to do me so much good you cannot think.’

*sheep fold – sheep pen or enclosure
**salving sheep – a practice of rubbing tar and rancid butter into the skins of sheep from mid October to mid November supposedly to kill off lice, keds, ticks etc
***spenser – a woollen outer garment worn as a cardigan or as a short, fitted jacket cut to just above the waist or, in Empire style, to the bust line

‘Journals of Dorothy Wordsworth’ second edition, edited by Mary Moorman, published by Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1971

This entry was posted by Felicity Ford.

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