Wensleydale Ram, longwool breeds used for worsted textiles.

Rebecca Alice Crabtree



West Yorkshire Without Wool

The Impact of the Wool Industry on the region’s Sense of Place

West Yorkshire has a history of wool production dating from the 12th century – and this is something that can be seen in the built environment. Each of the towns and villages of West Yorkshire took on a distinct role in the production of wool textiles at different stages in its history  – and each has a distinct sense of place that seems to have developed from its relationship to wool. The industrial revolution’s impact on the region is well documented however prior there was a long established and productive cottage industry which drove the development of unique housing types for weavers and wool combers, as well as other typologies necessary for a large, dispersed industry and the culture that evolved with it. The cottage industry saw the emergence of new merchant and worker classes, including the class of wool combers whose role was one of the last hand roles to transition to mechanisation and continued to be carried out in the home until the late 1800s. The mid-20th century saw a rapid decline of the industry, followed by economic depression and repeated failed attempts at reimagining the urban environment through demolition, redevelopment, and master-planning. Whilst the architectural inheritance of the departed industry is one that is a challenge to adapt and reuse, it appears to continue to contribute to the locality’s unique sense of place. This research asks whether an understanding of the ways in which wool has contributed to ‘sense of place’ could be used to establish a new approach to urban and architectural redevelopment, one which is situated in a local historical context, and which considers previous cycles of revitalisation and decline.


Rebecca is a qualified architect, founder and partner at the multidisciplinary studio p.arc. At p.arc she makes spaces that are textured, playful and kind. She enjoys making buildings that demonstrate a deep care for the planet. She is interested in the specificity of place and how a building is shaped by, and shapes, its locality, and endeavours to find new more resilient ways of practising architecture which are able to respond to contemporary challenges without abandoning character or sense of place.

Previously Rebecca was a studio tutor and lecturer at Norwich University of the Arts and was awarded Fellowship status in Advanced HE – research and learning take a lead role in her professional practice. Through her work, Rebecca advocates for wider community engagement in the built environment – using varied tools such as game design, model making and story-telling to encourage engagement in and agency over the built environment.


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Ines Weizman