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.

Woolsack’s Early Days

The story goes that, back in the 17th century when Tetbury was basking in the glow of the Wool Trade, the passing drovers had a unique way of impressing the local lasses! It is said that the drovers would have an ale or two in the pub at the bottom of Gumstool Hill, now The Royal Oak Tetbury, and ran up the hill with a sheep, or sacks of wool on their back, to the pub at the top, The Crown (for another refreshment of course)!

The Official Race

It wasn’t until the early 1970s that the Woolsack Races, as we know them today, came to be. An official race day has been going since 1972, 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, food and drinks, a funfair, and entertainment.

Woolsack Today

It seems like another world thinking back to 2020 and 2021, when the country was lurching in and out of the lockdowns and restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. While it’s great to be “back to normal”, many of the events and activities we were used to doing, have taken some time to come back. The same goes for the Tetbury Woolsack Races. If not for the pandemic, Woolsack would have been running 52 years in a row.

Since it’s inception, 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. This tradition continues today.