Did you know there is a bale of wool in the House of Lords?

The Woolsack and the House of Lords

A little-known fact is that wool was once considered to be such an important part of the British economy that Edward III, the ruling monarch between 1327 – 1377, forced the Lord Chancellor to sit on a sack of wool in the House of Lords, thus ensuring the rulers of the land never lost sight of how important the wool trade was to the country.

No doubt, he also had the huge tax revenue wool produced in mind when coming up with the idea! Edward and his predecessors were in the habit of fighting some pretty expensive military campaigns during their reigns.

To this day, the woolsack as it is known, retains a prominent place in the House of Lords, overseeing the Lords as they debate some of the most important issue of our time.

Resembling a large red square cushion, the it is the place where the Lord Chancellor, now the Lord Speaker, presides over debates in the House of Lords.

Sitting in front of the Woolsack is an even larger cushion known as the Judge’s Woolsack. This is used on ceremonial occasions like the State Opening of Parliament to seat various members of the judiciary including the Lord Chief Justice and the Attorney General.

Despite the name, it wasn’t until 1938 when the woolsack was refurbished that we discovered it had originally been stuffed with horse hair. Perhaps wool was considered too valuable a commodity at the time. Since 1938, though, the Lord Speaker has been sitting on a Woolsack stuffed with a blend of wool gathered from Britain and the Commonwealth nations.

 


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