Used for centuries by many different religions, a shroud is a piece of cloth, used to wrap a body in preparation for burial or cremation – traditionally made of white cotton, wool or linen, flax, hemp or silk.
The use of woollen shrouds actually briefly became law in England with the passing of the “Burial in Wool Act of 1667”. All bodies (except plague victims), had to be buried in woollen shrouds or their estate had to pay a forfeiture of £5. This was brought in to bolster the flagging wool trade, and although initially enforced, proved very unpopular, and by the early 1700’s, most parishes had dropped the idea – it was repealed in 1814.
For now though in the UK, shrouds are making a bit of a come back (mainly due to being a cheap alternative to a coffin) with at least one district council in England requiring their use for cremation on environmental grounds. Shrouds can be plain or decorative, white or coloured, cheap or expensive. They can be anything from just a white cotton sheet, to beautifully hand-stitched woollen felt supported on a greenwood pole frame. The shroud market is pretty small at present with only a couple of suppliers out there, or why not come up with your own design – it is your funeral after all.
Linen Burial Shrouds
www.bellacouche.com (beautiful handmade felt ‘cocoons’ for adults or children)