Spindle Whorls


No matter what part of Britain you come from, if you are a metal detectorist you will have at least one spindle whorl, others will have found many. There is a good chance yours will be decorated on both sides with lines and dots in various formations . Lead spindle whorls were commonly used in the Iron Age, Roman, Anglo-Saxon and medieval periods, but the ornamented examples are likely to be post medieval and date to the Tudor era. Whorls are often found in isolated parts of the countryside away from rural settlements which suggests that women carried wool and spinning equipment with them so that they could spin during any spare moments they had whilst working in the fields. The constant demand for spun wool to keep the family loom at work producing cloth would make this necessary. The whorl would be fixed on the end of a spindle to help the spindle rotate. Spindle spinning was used to spin wool and flax into yarn for weaving. Wool would usually be washed, combed and oiled before spinning. Spinning in this manner was reduced after the arrival of the spindle wheel or great wheel in the 14th century and there was further competition from the flyer spinning wheel that arrived in the late 15th century. Spindle whorls were never entirely ousted and continued to be used to less degree during the next 300 years. Reading this you may think that by the Tudor period there would have been no need for these lead whorls. Only wealthy landowners such as those living on the farms and in the big houses would have been wealthy enough to own the spinning wheel. The lower classes would have carried on in the usual way spinning by hand with the whorl and spindle.



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