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The Fountains wool-house

By the later Middle Ages the community was also purchasing cloths and garments. The mid-fifteenth century ' Bursar's Account Book' includes payments for linen, silk, fur and other cloths

The Cistercians' desire for self-sufficiency meant that each community sought to make its own clothing, blankets and other such necessities. Wool from the abbey's flocks was prepared in the wool-house, an aisled storeroom which, at Fountains, lay beside the malt-house and the brew-house. This vast warehouse was at one time the largest building in the outer court, a visible testimony to the importance of wool production and the wool industry.(36) Excavation of the woolhouse from 1977 until 1980 showed that although this dates from the mid-twelfth century, it was altered and reconstructed about six times in accordance with the community's changing needs and developments in technology. A fulling mill seems to have been added in the west aisle in the late thirteenth century, and dye-vats and a hot water supply added in the fourteenth century.(37) This would have meant that the manufacture of cloth could have been completed here. The woolhouse was not simply used for storage, and the obedientiary in charge of its management had an office here, in the north-east corner of the building.(38) In the late fifteenth century the decline of the wool trade and the need for workshops to serve the restoration of the abbey church, meant that the woolhouse was converted into a smithy, glaziers and other workshops. Once the alterations in the church had been completed, the building was demolished.(35)

[Read more about sheep-farming and the production of wool]