Saturday, 19 May 2012

Shoddy and Mungo

Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, UK

You know how it is. You learn something new, or are reminded of something you haven't thought about for years. And then the topic keeps cropping up.

This happened to me recently. It all started when I read an article about Annemor Sundbø, in the Winter 2011 issue of Interweave Knits. The article explained the pivotal role of a "shoddy" mill in her career. I then purchased Sundbø's most recent book (which I reviewed here), and this expanded further on the role of the shoddy mill: taking worn-out wool garments and rags and recycling them into a grey fibre often used to fill mattresses.

At this point, a little bell stated ringing in my head. Hadn't I seen the word "shoddy" quite recently? Then I remembered that every time I visit my local Lidl, I see a factory across the road which declares in big letters "Shoddy and Mungo Manuf-rs" (photo above). I vaguely recalled thinking, when I first noticed the words, that Shoddy it was an unfortunate name for someone in manufacturing.

A quick online search put me straight. Shoddy is recycled wool, usually from loosely woven materials. Mungo is recycled wool from more tightly woven material. And the embarrassing bit: Wikipedia notes that "The shoddy industry was centred on the towns of Batley, Morley, Dewsbury and Ossett in West Yorkshire, and concentrated on the recovery of wool from rags." It goes on to note just how important the industry was in the area in the mid to late 1800s.

Yes, you've guessed it. This is the area where I live.

I then realised that I'd seen the words somewhere else - on a map of the area around my house dated 1906. There used to be a Mungo and Shoddy mill five minutes walk from my home.

1906 map of West Yorkshire, UK

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