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Restyam from Russia asks:
Wool churches

RestyamHow do you do, Ladies and Gentlemen! I ran across the phrase wool churches in the web gap-fill exercise entitled ‘The Romantic Road’. How can you ID this mysterious wool churches? I’d appreciate your aid.

My best regards from Russia.
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Catherine Chapman answers:
Catherine Chapman Hello Restyam! That’s a really interesting question. Wool churches are found in West and central England and they’re not made of wool!  In fact, they’re called wool churches because they were paid for with money that was made from the English wool trade in the 11th – 16th century and some of them are still standing to this day.

Let’s analyse this language. The words wool and church are both nouns and when they’re put together like this, they operate as a compound noun. In this case - wool church - wool acts as a kind of adjective; in fact it’s giving more information about the church. So, if we ask the question: What kind of church? we get the answer from the first noun wool – it’s a wool church. Similarly, a pit village is a small English village that was built around a coal mine (a pit is another word for coal mine). And a steel town is a town where steel production is (or was) a major industry. An example of this is Sheffield, it’s in the North of England, and it’s a well-known steel town.

Now there are quite a few compound nouns that work like this, where the first noun gives more information about the second one. Here are some of them:

bus station
post office
milk bottle
bread knife
swimming pool
walking stick
nail polish
door key
exercise book

If you see them written down, you’ll find that some of them are written as two words, and some of them are written as one. And you need to use a good learner dictionary to find out which way you have to write these words.

Thanks very much for your question, Restyam – I do hope you’re able to visit a wool church some day!

About Catherine Chapman
Catherine Chapman has a BA (hons) in Communication Studies, CTEFLA, DELTA and a Masters Degree in Educational Technology and English Language Teaching with Manchester University (UK). She has taught EFL, EAP and IT skills in several countries, worked in ELT management and has developed web-based ELT/EAP materials projects in institutions including Istanbul Technical University (Turkey) and Newcastle University (UK). She now works as an ELT Writer for BBC Learning English.