Tetbury thrived in the middle ages as a market for wool, standing as it does in the middle of sheep country on the important route from Oxford to Bristol. In the 16th Century Tetbury was one of the best-known wool and yarn markets in the country. The wool trade went into decline in the early 19th Century, leaving brewing as the important local industry.
Today on Woolsack day we maintain this link; drinking beer in The Crown or The Royal Oak – then deciding that running up a 1 in 4 hill carrying a woolsack would be a great idea! It is thought that the races originated in the 17th Century by young drovers showing off to local women by running up the hill carrying a woolsack. An official race day has been going for over 30 years now with world records entered in the ‘Guinness book of Records’.
The woolsacks were custom built by the British Wool Federation and are 60lb for men’s races and 35lb for women’s. The original course of 280yds ran from The Royal Oak to The Crown, but since 1999 a shorter course of 240yds has been run. The race events are complemented by a street fair featuring varied stalls, a funfair, musical entertainments and roving entertainers. In over thirty years of operation, the Woolsack Races have proven to be a fantastic family day out and (more importantly) have raised a considerable amount of much needed money for local causes.