National Geographic : 1974 Jun
mother saw the skeleton-it's gone now, but the coffin's still there. They always referred to Queen Elizabeth as the Bisley Boy. I believe it-there are some who don't." I found that Elizabeth is indeed part of Cotswold history. She (he?) had stayed three times at Sudeley Castle, a Cotswold-stone palace once owned by Henry VIII, whose last wife, Queen Catherine Parr, is entombed there. A Sheep in Lion's Clothing? It was no accident that Henry VIII had a Cotswold castle, or that Elizabeth visited it. They were keeping an eye on their assets, for the tax on wool had been the Crown's chief revenue for centuries. "Cotteswold Woolle," produced by the Cotswold Lion-a sheep whose "mane" hung to the ground-was the finest of all English fleece. During the 13th and 14th centuries wool was the basis of English wealth, and England became the world's greatest wool exporter. By the 15th century the trade had declined, as English weavers, taught by immigrant Flem ish weavers, strained the supply to produce English cloth. The Crown found juicier reve nues in the export of cloth, and early in the 17th century James I made the export of wool illegal. Clothmaking in the Cotswolds centered in the south, on the western escarpment, while wool growing centered in the north. The wolds of the north are long, open, flat-topped, sparsely wooded-ideal for sheep pasture. The name Cotswold probably derives from this region: "wold," high open land, with "cotes," sheep shelters. The southwestern land scape is less austere, with rounded, heavily wooded hills, steeply folded-in valleys called combes, and an abundance of streams neces sary to dye and full (shrink and thicken) cloth. The clothiers (who produced cloth, not cloaks and suits) were employing 20,000 cot tage weavers by the mid-16th century. The biggest had a thousand employees, many of them resentful. Edith Brill, a Cotswold his torian, told me how capital and labor drew up battle lines there almost 300 years before the Industrial Revolution. The weavers won a minimum-wage act in 1604. The clothiers pressured and, lo, it was transmuted into a maximum-wage act-wage control. The clothiers decreed that wages would henceforth be paid in "truck"-the (now) hoary company-town practice of pay ing in provisions priced beyond their value. The weavers unionized, struck, rioted; the 852 Reliving its golden age, the Cotswold sheep-raising industry crowds pens at the Andoversford auctions with hefty ewes and rams (right). Most Cotswold sheep are now bred for meat, but the days of wool growing are well remembered. In Stroud, an early mill center, a curly-fleeced ram graces the sign of a local pub (above). Medieval wool merchants made fortunes from their trade, and their wealth helped en rich the pinnacled churches of Cotswold towns. In Northleach church the memorial brass of a wool merchant includes a sheep standing on a woolpack branded with the man's trademark, crossed shepherd's crooks (below).