1 of 20 stages of the woolen industry

How did Britain lose it’s historical reputation as the worlds leading producer of fine wools?

In the UK there are 60 registered sheep breeds and many more cross breeds, producing a diversity of fleece types.

The aim of my research has been to determine a sustainable, natural and local fiber source and British wool fulfills all these requirements.

Balls of wool

This natural resource is being under-utilised at the moment due to the lack of availability of processing plants that can deal with the variety of fleeces. It is this very diversity that makes this fibre so interesting as it can create such a huge range of yarns for use in the fashion industry. These yarns would also have a low carbon foot print and when combined with organic or regenerative farming can have a positive environmental impact.

stage 1 of 20

1 of 20 Stages of the Evolution of British Wool

wall of wool
Wool collected from 60 pure breed sheep with detailing about the touch and handle observed when processing and knitting each fleece.

UK Heritage Breed Sheep

Tracing the lineage of the ancient sheep breeds with a reputation for the best wools.

Soay sheepin ancient Rome

3,000 BC -Soay sheep – R The original ancient, smaller mountain breed, versatile and hardy.

Ancient breeds

Breeds from early modern times

Badger Faced Welsh Mountain

Southwest Horned *

Devon Closewool

Exmoor Horn – R

Dorset Horn – R

Wiltshire Horn – R


Hill Radnor – R

Welsh Mountain



Heritage Breeds

1300 – 1800

North Ronaldsay – R

North Country Cheviot – R

Grey Faced Dartmoor – R

Whiteface Dartmoor – R

Kerry Hill

Manx Loaghtan – R

Castlemilk Moorit – R

Modern Breeds

1900’s +

South Wales Mountain


Balwen (Welsh Breed) – R

Lleyn (Welsh Breed)

Welsh Speckled Face



Welsh Mule

Brecknock Hill Cheviot

  • = No longer in existence, R = Rare Breed
white faced hornless

Imported during the Roman invasion 1st Century AD. White faced hornless, noted for their fine soft fleeces.

Ancient breeds

Breeds from early modern times

Hereford – shortwool *

Shropshire – shortwool

Clun – shortwool

Ryeland – shortwool

Old Southdowns – shortwool *

Suffolk – shortwool

Oxford – shortwool

Midland Longwool *

Medieval Longwool *

Lincolnshire – longwool

Romney – longwool

Cotswold – longwool – R

Heritage Breeds

1300 – 1800

Portland – R


Teeswater – R

Wensleydale – R

Dishley Leicester *

Leicester Longwool – R

Blue Faced Leicester

Border Leicester – R

Devon Longwool

Devon & Cornwall Longwool – R

Modern Breeds

1900’s +


Scotch Half Breed

Scotch Mule

Scotch Grey Face


British Milk Sheep

Clun Forest

  • = No longer in existence, R = Rare Breed
black faced horned

865 – Danes invaded bringing Black faced horned. Hardy breed that could tolerate extreme conditions.

Ancient breeds

Breeds from early modern times

Norfolk Horn – R

Northern Black-faced

Scots Black-faced

Berkshire *

Hampshire *

Dorset Down


Heritage Breeds

1300 – 1800

Rough Fell

Swaledale / Dalesbred


White Faced Woodland

Derbyshire Gritstone

Hampshire Down

Boreray – R


Modern Breeds

1900’s +

Beulah Speckled Face (Welsh Breed)


Beltex (Belgium Breed)

Berrichon Du Cher

Bleu De Maine

British Rouge (French Breed)

Friesland (Holland)

Lle De France (French Breed + BL)

Texel (Holland)

Vendeen (French Vendee + SD)

  • = No longer in existence, R = Rare Breed

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