The woollen manufacture owes its introduction into the county to Pierce, Earl of Ormonde, who died in 1359, and his wife Margaret, who brought artists in tapestry, diaper, and carpets from Flanders; some of their tapestry is still in the castle of Kilkenny. James, Duke of Ormonde, also incurred great expense, in the middle of the seventeenth century, in establishing both the linen and woollen manufacture. This latter branch was chiefly carried on at Carrick, where it gave employment for many years to the population of the surrounding district: its decline is attributed to the fraudulent practice of stretching the cloths to augment the measurement, until the Dublin merchants refused to buy them: the manufacture was principally carried on by large farmers and their families.

In the hilly districts a constant manufacture of frieze and ratteen prevails: the yarn is spun by the women; both sexes are employed in carding the wool; and the farmers' sons, who are taught to weave, manufacture it into cloth. On the decline of the frieze trade, that of wool-combing succeeded; the combers converting their coarse offal wool into blanketing, which has gradually become a staple branch of trade. The linen trade was introduced towards the close of the 17th century, and prospered for fifty or sixty years; but within the last century it has so decayed as to leave few traces of its former prosperity, only the coarser cloths for domestic consumption being now made: many of the bleach-greens were converted into mills of various kinds, but there are three still tolerably well employed.

In the hilly districts every farmer grows a little flax for his own use, and generally bleaches his own linen: he also often has a little hemp to make sacking. The number of flour-mills is very great; there are twenty-two on the Nore between Durrow and Innistiogue; on the King's river, from Callan to the Nore, ten; on the part of the Barrow within the county, three or four, and several on the streams which fall into the Suir and other great rivers. Rape-mills have been erected, but are not profitable; the exportation of the seed being found more advantageous than the manufacture of the oil. The principal part of the grain raised is sent to Dublin in the shape of flour, malt, and meal, the preparation of which is another source of internal wealth: the wheat and barley find a ready sale among the numerous millers, maltsters, and distillers, so that very little is brought to the market-house.

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