Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Wensley Dale Knitters

Wensley Dale Knitters
John gave me a belated Christmas present which he bought at the Antiquarian Book Fair in York earlier this month.  It is a print from Walker's Costume of Yorkshire,  a book of coloured prints, with some text accompanying each, that was published in 1814.  The plates in the book show ordinary working people, in various parts of Yorkshire, going about their daily lives. Images of that kind are unusual for the days before photography (and extremely useful to museum curators in Yorkshire).   

My print shows a village scene in Wensleydale, with everyone busy knitting.  I suppose it should be possible to identify the village from the church and the profile of the hill across the valley, and possibly the exact spot, assuming that Walker was accurate in drawing the scenery.   

The accompanying text describes how the working people of Wensleydale knitted whenever they had their hands free, whatever other occupations they had:   

"Simplicity and industry characterize the manners and occupations of the various humble inhabitants of Wensley Dale. Their wants, it is true, are few; but to supply these, almost constant labour is required. In any business where the assistance of the hands is not necessary, they universally resort to knitting. Young and old, male and female, are all adepts in this art. Shepherds attending their flocks, men driving cattle, women going to market, are all thus industriously and doubly employed. A woman of the name of Slinger, who lived in Cotterdale, was accustomed regularly to walk to the market at Hawes, a distance of three miles, with the weekly knitting of herself and family packed in a bag upon her head, knitting all the way. She continued her knitting while she staid at Hawes, purchasing the little necessaries for her family, with the addition of worsted for the work of the ensuing week; all of which she placed upon her head, returning occupied with her needles as before. She was so expeditious and expert, that the produce of the day's labour was generally a complete pair of men's stockings."

I love it - it's a great gift for a knitter interested in history. 

3 comments:

  1. How lucky you are. Good old pictures of knitters are strangely hard to find.....I know because I have spent quite a time looking for them.

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  2. Thats a lovely picture, what a thoughtful gift. The church appears to be Holy Trinity Church in the village of Wensley.

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    1. Thanks, Gillian - I'll look for photos of Wensley church, and maybe go there to check it out when the weather improves. It would be interesting to see how different it is now.

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