Burying in Wool ........



Many re-searchers come across this in the parish burial registers and wonder what on earth this means.

A custom long gone but not forgotten as the parish registers keep reminding us.

I have met with two considerations which are displayed below.

I have edited the original notes slightly to fit but the detail remains the same.




X-From: Bristol_and_Somerset-L-request@rootsweb.com Wed Jul 21 16:11:46 1999


From: pbenyon@csi.com (Paul Benyon)


It is interesting that this question appears to be asked quite frequently - no offence intended - but I was reading some on-line extracts of notes and queries from the Gentleman's Magazine c.1861 the other night - see: http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/ilej/contents.htm


And the following answer was given to a similar question: -


"The first act for burying in wool only" was 18 Car. II. c.4 (1666) which was repealed by 30 Car. II. c.3 (1677)


The preamble stating that the former act:


 "was intended for lessening the importation of linnen (sic) from beyond the seas, and for the encouragement of the woollen and paper manufactures of this Kingdom had the same been observed. But in respect there was not a sufficient remedy thereby given for the discovering and prosecution of offences against the said act"


It repealed the former act, and enacted that no corpse should be buried in any other material than a manufacture of sheep's wool, under penalty of five pounds, and also that affidavit should be made within eight days after burial, that the person was so buried:


"was not put in, wrapped up or wound up, or buried, in any shirt, shift, sheet, or shroud made or mingled with flax, hemp, silk, hair etc etc"


You should be able to find the rest of the item if you search for "BURYING IN LINEN" - leave out the inverted commas.

This Act and its amendment of 1680 were eventually repealed in 1814.


My thanks to George Paul c.1861 - Paul Portland




In 1666 an Act of Parliament was passed stating that all corpse were to be buried in wool, but this act was not enforced.  The reason - a glut of home-produced wool.


Later in 1678 a 2nd Act was passed, which this time, was enforced.  Coffins had to be lined in wool and the shroud made from wool also.  An affidavit then had to be sworn by a relative in front a JP with two witnesses to state that the burial was in wool only.  If an affidavit was not given to the incumbent within 8 days, it was reported to the magistrate.  There was a 5 fine for non-compliance.


This practice of 'burial in woollen' had mostly died out by about 1750 but some districts carried on the practice until much later, and the Act repealed in 1814. 

{My notes tell me that Essex kept records for burial in woollen until 1821}


Sally - Dover, UK  SGGAKTWD@msn.com





Page Last Updated: -06/04/2016