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Burial in Woollen


Sovereign Ancestry Lincolnshire - Burial in Woolen Acts imageThe Burial in Woollen Acts 1666-80 were Acts of the Parliament of England (citation 18 & 19 Cha. II c. 4 (1666), 30 Cha. II c. 3 (1678) and 32 Cha. II c. 1 (1680)) which required the dead, except plague victims, to be buried in pure English woollen shrouds to the exclusion of any foreign textiles due to the decline of the woollen industry on which so many places in this country depended.

The Act of Parliament was intended to create a new market for woollen cloth. It was a requirement that an affidavit be sworn in front of a Justice of the Peace (usually by a relative of the deceased or some other credible person) confirming burial in wool, with the punishment of a £5 fee for noncompliance.

Parish registers were marked with the word affidavit or with a note 'A' or 'Aff' against the burial entries to confirm that affidavit had been sworn, or marked 'naked' for those too poor to afford the woollen shroud. Some affidavits survive. 

This legislation was in force until 1814 but was generally ignored after 1770. These related records are generally regarded as a source of genealogical information, and can help provide evidence of economic status and relationships that may be unavailable elsewhere or ambiguous. The 1666 Act was repealed by the Statute Law Revision Act 1863.


"For the encouragement of the woollen manufactures of this kingdom and prevention of the exportation of the monies thereof, for the buying and importation of linen. Be it enacted by the King's most excellent Majesty and with the consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority thereof, that from and after the five and twentieth day of March in the year of our Lord, one thousand six hundred seventy seven, no person or persons whatever shall be buried in any shirt, shift or sheet made of or mingled with flax, hemp, silk, hair, gold or silver, or other than what shall be made of Wool only, or be put into any coffin lined or faced with anything made of or mingled with flax, hemp, silk or hair; Upon pain of the forfeiture of the sum of five pounds, to be employed to the use of the poor of the parish where such person shall be buried, for or towards providing a stock or work house for the setting them to work, to be levied by the churchwardens and overseers of the poor of such parish or one of them by warrant from any Justice of the Peace, or Mayor, Alderman or Head Officer of such city, town or place-corporate respectively within their several limits by distress and sale of goods of any that had a hand in putting such person into such shift, shirt, sheet or coffin, contrary to this Act, or did order or dispose the doing thereof, to be levied and employed as above said. Provided, that no penalty appointed by this Act, shall be incurred for or by the reason of any person that shall die of the plague, though such person be buried in linen."