Medieval Cloth Merchants

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Medieval Cloth Merchants

Postby john.holtripley » Tue May 03, 2011 1:11 pm

I'm creating a medieval based computer game and I'm currently designing a building that a cloth merchant would use, but I'm struggling to find any detailed references to help fill out the little details, and was hoping someone could point me in the right direction.
The big one is how the cloth would be transported - would it be on a large (6ft or so long) roll, or would it be folded into squares? Presumably it would be transported from port to city by horse, so I'm not sure if it would be a long roll.
Would a largish merchant in a town have any out buildings (a separate warehouse for example), or would they sell, store stock and live in the same building?
What other items might they have - presumably no mannequins yet (or were there?), scissors, crates, spools of thread - anything that would add that level of detail and make it more real?
many thanks for any pointers!

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Captain Reech
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Re: Medieval Cloth Merchants

Postby Captain Reech » Wed May 04, 2011 8:11 am

Some good images here, showing cloth stacked in bolts, being measured with a yard stick and cut with shears. ... 886?page=8
I think you have to pay for the larger images on this site but you may be able to track down larger images by googling the details of the pictures/artists.

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Re: Medieval Cloth Merchants

Postby john.holtripley » Thu May 05, 2011 8:36 am

thanks very much - that's really helpful

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Karen Larsdatter
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Re: Medieval Cloth Merchants

Postby Karen Larsdatter » Wed May 25, 2011 10:18 pm

More images of cloth merchants (drapers) at too.

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Colin Middleton
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Re: Medieval Cloth Merchants

Postby Colin Middleton » Fri Jun 03, 2011 12:57 pm

What an insteresting project. IIRC the Mercant Ventures Hall in York started as the Drapers guild, so it might be worth talking to them. AFAIK cloth tended to be sold in 'bolts' of around 22 yards long (give or take a couple of yards), with the width dependant on the type of cloth (broadcloth was upto 6' wide, while silks rarely more than a couple of feet). I doubt that they would need manequins, as they are selling cloth, not clothes. The clothes are sold by tailors, hosiers, seamstresses, etc.

For some reason, I have an impression of warehouses separate from the home for major merchants, but I couldn't tell you why. If you go into the Costumes section, you may be able to find people with a greater knowledge of medieval cloth and how it was traded.

Good luck


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Alan E
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Re: Medieval Cloth Merchants

Postby Alan E » Fri Jun 03, 2011 1:17 pm

I'd suggest Peter Spufford's 'Power and Profit The Merchant in Medieval Europe' (Thames and Dutton 2002 is the edition I have). Lots of illustrations ("265 illustrations, 29 in colour") of merchants of all kinds, discussion of routes and social context, examples of particular cases, laws etc.

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Re: Medieval Cloth Merchants

Postby randallmoffett » Sat Jun 04, 2011 2:07 pm

Generally what we see in medieval merchant homes is a larger storage area, usually a cellar. Then on the first floor we have residence in the back and a business in the front. It a two or even three tiered building usually more residencies.

If you take a look at the portage or brokage records of Southampton, London or other large towns/cities that are involved in trade you will get a good idea of how they transported and sold such items.
-Look for the Soton Records Society as well.


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Lord High Everything Esle
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Re: Medieval Cloth Merchants

Postby Lord High Everything Esle » Mon Jun 06, 2011 2:46 pm

It rather depend what sort of cloth merchant you were and when in the medieval period.

If you organised the production of cloth you would be a "Clothier" ( a proto-capitalist) although this could mean on a large or small scale.

Many Clothiers ran their own dyehouse so presumably this was where the cloth was stored.

In the early medieval period England exported Wool and not cloth.

If you were based in a large town or city and sold cloth either retail or wholesale you would be a draper.

Much cloth was exported to the continent from the Port of Southampton and taken there on horseback.

My wife Gwen has done considerable research into Clothiers in the Tudor period.

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Re: Medieval Cloth Merchants

Postby john.holtripley » Mon Jun 27, 2011 1:06 pm

Many thanks for everyone's replies. I've not had time to go through these properly, but I wanted to just say thanks for everyone who's taken the time to reply!

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