British Wool: The Bowmont Project
Our quest for a British Merino supply chain started back in 2005. It led us to Lesley Prior, the guardian of the last twenty-eight Bowmont Merino sheep on the planet; a breed capable of producing a fine Merino wool but with the hardiness to survive on these shores.
What is Bowmont Wool?
Bowmont Merino Wool is the very pinnacle of our wool range.
Capable of producing a fine fibre wool and surviving in UK conditions, the Bowmont sheep combines the hardiness of a Shetland with the softness of a Merino sheep. We had found the answer to our quest; and in the process secured the future of this breed.
Nine years after Finisterre first met Lesley, the Bowmont Merino flock is now close to 300 sheep strong, producing a yield of around 700kg of fibre a year. It’s a privilege to have pioneered this British Merino success story and built a 100% British supply chain from scratch... from sheep to shelf.
Reared in Devon, spun in Yorkshire and knitted in Scotland. From a flock of twenty, year on year growth and a lot of passion now sees the Bowmont numbers exceeding two hundred and fifty and 2012 saw the world's first products being made.
100% British wool supply chain
The commonly held belief was that you just couldn’t grow Merino in Britain, but after two years of scouring the land we finally discovered Lesley Prior; the custodian of the last twenty-eight Bowmont Merino sheep in Britain. Working closely with Lesley, we helped introduce her to experienced Australian Merino growers and over time helped increase her flock to the current number of over 300.
The Bowmont is an ancient breed that crossed the fine wool of a Saxon Merino with the hardiness of the local Shetland. It was an attempt to create a breed that would produce highly prized, superfine Merino wool but in a sheep that would survive and thrive in the British climate.
It wasn’t something that she had planned to take on, already caring for a specialised herd of cashmere goats. In her own words, she ‘didn’t speak sheep’, but the project was about to be abandoned; all efforts shut down and the flock sent to the abattoir. Lesley was the last hope for this ancient breed, and her heart won the battle.
Working with Lesley Prior
Lesley is a force to be reckoned with. Her knowledge of all things wool is not to be challenged, nor is her passion or devotion to the Bowmont flock which she guards. We make sure we’re always in touch so we know how the sheep are faring and what to expect from the next batch of wool, but also because Lesley is a vital part of the Finisterre family.
Benefits of British Bowmont Wool
Merino is so highly prized because of:
- Its low micron count
- It is incredibly fine and soft
- It's ideal for use in finely woven garments.
- Anti-bacterial properties
In a nutshell, Merino makes the perfect fabric for next-to-skin base layers and has been a part of our range for years.
All previous attempts to create a viable Merino growing sheep, able to cope with the British weather, had concentrated on cross-breeding Merino genetics from Australia with British sheep such as the Shetland or Romney. The results had been underwhelming, and when Lesley initially invited some Australian Merino growers to come and asses her flock, they politely (but firmly) told that the breed she was currently working with was ‘rubbish’.
Most people would have given up at this point. Thankfully for us, Lesley is not most people. She decided that to improve her flock and create a truly British Merino breed she needed to see the whole picture. She travelled to Australia and spent months sequencing genetics of different Merino sheep, visiting all the major breeding farms in the country. She quickly realised that by simply crossing the Australian breeds with the British ones, the quality of wool was too greatly compromised. A different approach was needed.
We’ve known and been working with Lesley for just over a decade now and are incredibly proud of this British manufacturing story. In our time working with her, the numbers have grown from just those original 28 sheep to over 300. Those same Australians who so politely disparaged the quality of her flock at the beginning are now regular visitors and old friends. “I’d take that one home in a heartbeat” is something Lesley has become accustomed to hearing from them now.
It just goes to show what the right attitude, hard work and good people can do when they come together, producing something truly special.
How to care for Bowmont Wool
- Hand wash only
- Made in UK
- Hand Wash Warm
- Dry Clean Dark Colours
- Dry Flat Away From Direct Heat Or Sunlight
- Reshape Whilst Damp
- Dark Colours May Transfer When Damp
- Do Not Tumble Dry
- Cool Iron
- Do Not Bleach
Shop Bowmont Wool
Coming as it does from our very own flock of UK Bowmont sheep, we have no back-ups when it comes to our Bowmont products. That means that our supply is entirely dependent on the wool yield from these specific sheep and we cannot always guarantee a wide range from year-to-year. We recommend signing up to our newsletter to be among the first to hear when new Bowmont Wool products are available.