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BURIAL IN WOOLLEN

One of the most singular Acts ever passed by- Parliament was the Woollen Act of 1667, which enacted that no one should be buried in any "shirt, shift, or sheete, other than should be made of wooll onely." It was passed professedlv for the encouragement of the woollen trade and so strict were the provisions of the Act that even the "quilling round the inside of the coffin and the ligature round the feet of the corpse" were required to be of woollen. The Act was disregarded in most places, Feltwell being one of them, and in 1678 a more stringent Act was passed which obliged the Clergy to make entries in the registers that an affidavit had been made. In the Feltwell Church registers there are several entries of burial in woollen; e.g. at St, Mary's 1678 Roger Sharman was buried in woollen Sept. 14th; certified by Justice Longe." At St. Nicholas -- " 1680 Susan Sanderson was buried Nov. 27th according to the Statute for Woollen, certificate from R. Longe Esquire." A Few years later -- "1701 Susan Arbor buryed in woollen oonly Feb. 16." When a burial took place it was the custom for the clerk at the conclusion of the Service to call out, "Who makes affidavit?"; and some relative of the deceased would step forward and take the necessary oath that the body was wrapped in woollen only. For burial in linen there was a penalty of 5, half of which went to the informer and half to the poor of the parish; and people of position who desired to be buried in linen, would sometimes leave directions in their Will as to which of their servants should act as informer and secure the fine, as a sort of legacy. Mrs. Oldfield, the actress, who died in 1731 and was buried in Westminster Abbey, gave minute directions to her maid, Elizabeth Saunders, as to how her body should be dressed for burial, even to a new pair of kid gloves. Pope, the poet, holds her and her vanity up to ridicule in the well-known lines: -

Odious! in woollen! 'twould a saint provoke,
Were the last words that poor Narcissa spoke;
No, let a charming chintz and Brussels lace
Wrap my cold limbs, and shade my lifeless face.
One would not, sure! be frightful when one's dead;
And, Betty, give the cheeks a little red."

A most extraordinary scene took place in Cork in 1780. A criminal was about to be executed and the weavers, who were short of work at the time, surrounded the gallows and dressed both criminal and hangman in cotton to show their abhorrence of it; also an address was given by the criminal, just before being turned off, against the use of cotton instead of wool and the evil of it; to which the weavers attributed the hardness of the times. The Woollen Act was not repealed until 1814 after being in force for nigh on 150 years.

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