Sheep Washing – Pistll Gwyn

Sue Wells

Black and white photograph

  • About the work
    Country: UK
    City: London
    Place: Wales Office, Gwydyr House, Whitehall

    Conjuring up the sounds and bustle of sheep washing, Sue Wells’s photograph is a scene of great activity. Three shepherds at the top of the image work alongside each other, catching animals to throw into the swirling pool below. The photograph captures the moment when one sheep is seen mid-air, anticipating its watery landing. Meanwhile, five bedraggled sheep mill around in the pool below. 

    Once a common sight in rural areas of Wales, sheep washing in this manner is today rarely seen. Sheep washes were traditionally stone pens built close to natural river pools where sheep were manually dipped and washed before their wool was clipped for sale. This photograph was taken at Pistll Gwyn, an area that was ideal for traditional sheep washing: its place name translates as ‘pure spring’. By the mid 1930s, traditional sheep washing died out in Britain as many wool merchants stopped paying a premium for washed fleeces. 

    It is likely that this photograph was taken in or near Gwynedd, the area of north-west Wales. Sue Wells’ photograph was purchased directly from the artist in April 1977, along with another photograph of Blaenau Ffestiniog, a small town in Gwynedd. 

  • About the artist

  • Explore
  • Details
    Sue Wells
    Sheep Washing – Pistll Gwyn
    Black and white photograph
    Purchased from the photographer, April 1977
    GAC number