Monthly Archives: November 2010

The History of the Worshipful Company of Framework Knitters

I have had to speed through Nigel Slater’s ‘Toast’ and have had to put down David Nichols’ ‘One Day’ to make room in my reading window for ‘The History of the Worshipful Company of Framework Knitters’.  This is not my usual read, but something that must be done.  When it dropped onto my door mat with a tremendous THUD, my heart did race with antici…pation.  The information contained in this book is very important for my brief study of Dudley, hosiery making and the years spanning 1855 to 1868.  Just thirteen little years but so much can happen within a brief space of time.

Joseph Green began life as a farmer’s son.  In his teens he was a grocer’s assistant.  On the 1861 census he is into hosiery and millinery and by heck, by 1864 he is a Hosiery Master, working from the living room of his family home.  What must that have been like.  What type of machinery was he manoeuvring in his home?  Was it some kind of clacketty clack clack wooden frame affair?  How long would it take a person to train to become a Master?  I assume his family would have helped him, but how?  I can imagine his children being roped in to doing all sorts of tasks.  When my parents owned the appliance and furniture shop on B Street, I remember having the wide broom handed to me.  To be honest, I think my parents were just trying to keep me occupied.  A big, empty refrigerator box was my most favourite gift, as it meant hours of colouring the inside to make my own little home.  Oh, how the hours flew by as the shop, with me in my Crayola house.

But I digress…

I just want to get a better picture of their life.  How much of this I will use in the final project is another matter.  Whatever I learn along the way will somehow come through in the final result.  It’s all very interesting that these men have been makers of things.  Richard Kingwell made paper and was a Master and supervisor in the early 1800s, then Joseph Green (Richard’s son in law) became a maker of fine garments.  What next?  Farming.  Hm.  Maker of things that grow?  Two generations went another route, and then there was me.  Maker of things to fight in the war against ugly.

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One cool looking cat

Mr Green at the FBI

I really dig this photograph of my Grandpa.  This is a snapshot taken in a moment of time.  These kind of photographs are so much more interesting than the posed, static ones.  My Grandpa is the one with the big stogie in his mouth.  I only remember him smoking pipes.  Well, anyway, I most certainly was not around during the cigar smoking years.

The project is moving forward at a very slow pace at the moment.  My other work as Artist That Makes Pretty Things For Walls is keeping me a bit busy as the Christmas season is just around the corner.  To be honest, I need to be a bit busier than than this but I think everyone is suffering a bit financially.

As far as more research into the family’s life in Dudley, I have ordered two books to shed some light on 1850s-60s living in the Black Country.  I have ordered a book on the history of Hosiery from the Worshipful Company of Knitters.  Also, a book written by Ned Williams should be finding its way to my post box soon.  These two books should keep me busy in the evenings as my little blue fingers shakily turn the pages.

And finally…I am cooking Thanksgiving dinner for my friends.  Originally, it was planned for Thursday, but have had to bump it to the weekend.  I am so very much looking forward to this gathering of friends.  Because to be honest, I find this time of year very difficult.  It makes me miss my family quite a lot.  I have always preferred Thanksgiving to Christmas as Thanksgiving is all about the gathering of people and food.  It was about grandma falling asleep in her chair as my mother talked about her day/work/current project.  It was about grazing on the turkey all day long.  It was about watching family movies or catching up with cousins or playing games.  It was about the crisp sharp Autumn air and the smell of wood fires.

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Solid Georgian house to home made of mud

Use your imagination...it wasn't an Amusements in 1860

I believe with about 70% certainty that either this building or the one to the left of it was where my family lived and worked in 1860.  After speaking with persons more knowledgable than myself regarding life and living in the 1860s, what very likely happened is that Joseph Green began his little shop in his living room.  He could have used it to make the hosiery and then would have opened up his living room for trade.  The images in my head are really something.  And it’s also a little bit interesting to me as I have started my business from the  living room.  Although I am not trading from my little pocket of suburbia, I feel that I have a bit of a lucrative thing going here.

In 1868 the family set sail for the states, landed in New York, then travelled and settled in Nebraska.  The picture below is of the homestead where Edward Moody Green (son of Joseph and Maria) lived and farmed.  His parents would have lived in something similar.

Green Homestead, Otoe Nebraska 1894

When I was a child and studying about the Pioneers, I obviously knew that the first settlers to the land lived like this or in similar houses.  I never once considered what the pioneers had moved from.  To go from a solid structure to this….I just cannot even begin to fathom how difficult such a change would have been to overcome.

I can imagine Maria in her new home, looking at the packed mud floor and the straw sticking out of the walls.  Good God, what she must have been thinking.  You want me to what?  Sweep this?  I have had just about enough, Joseph.  Just about enough.  *Stomps out of the room in a huff*

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Meerkats, Castle, Mining oh my!

My venture into 'captured life' photography

Soooooo.

Today.  Yesterday.  So very interestng.  I’ll start with today, while it’s all fresh in my head, and then will attempt to recall yesterday with the same amount of energy and excitement.

Today I wanted to see the castle.   I travelled around the hill to what  I thought may be a nice walk up the hill to see the castle up close.   As the castle is situated on top of a hill (of course), I wanted to get a view of the town below, stretching from Castle Street up to Wolverhampton Street.  It soon became apparent that in order to see the castle,  I actually had to pay for a ticket to visit the zoo, which is nestled on the hill leading up to the castle.  I was not expecting to see meerkats, flamingos, and spider monkeys, but see them I did, and all with Castle Keep in the background. I even have snaps of wallabes in the foreground with castle ruins looming behind.

Zoo......Castle

Zoo... Castle

I mean, I just love the thinking that goes ‘You know what would really make Dudley Castle an attracton?  A zoo!’

Anyway.  It was an extra perk to the day.  That’s all I’m sayin’.

After winding my way up the hill then down again, I trundled off to the Black Country Museum.

Dit dit dit STOP THE PRESSES  dit dit dit THE BLACK COUNTRY MUSEUM ROCKS MY SWEET NATION dit dit

It is seriously very cool.  I want my nephew to visit me so that I can take him there.  Heck, I want my family to visit me so that I can take them there.  As it is situated somewhat within close proximity of the zoo, animal noises can be heard throughout the entire Victorian village.  What I loved about the ‘living’ museum were the people that worked there.  Founts of knowledge and informaton, the lot of ’em.  I realize that they must put up with people like me on a daily basis.  ‘Root Travellers’ as I’ve just now named us.  The people that I spoke to didn’t seem at all surprised that I was visiting the land of my ancestors.

I spoke to a very helpful lady, ‘living’ in an old brick house that had actually been moved brick by brick to the museum.  We talked for quite a while, or rather,  I grilled her with questions and she answered them all.  I then wrote down the bits that I didn’t want to forget.  Did you know that:

In the 1860’s when Queen Victoria was travelling all over the country to erect statues of Albert, she was scheduled to stop in Dudley.  When she saw the town, she drew her curtain closed (on the train) and carried on through to Wolverhampton.  As you can imagine, this greatly offended the people. Most likely, she may have found the black smoky look and smell of the town off-putting.  There were also slums in Dudley.

During that period (if you weren’t working for the mining industry or making nails in your home), people often opened up shop in their living rooms. This is how a lot of shops got started in town centre.  Quite possibly, this may be how Joseph’s business started.  As he was a Hosier Master, he would have had a weaving frame in his home and made hosier from there.  This is all speculation of course. He would have also somehow worked his way into the Middle Classes.  Although he started life as a farmer’s son, he had changed classes when he eventually became a Hosier Master.   I can’t imagine changing classes was very easy to achieve back then.

Today  I have purchased a few books that will help me to get a better understanding of life back then.  I can’t wait to fling them onto my desk and have a good read.

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In search of context in Dudley

Tiny quick update here. I’m typing all this one finger pecking style on my iPhone so can’t really prattle on as I usually do.
Dudley is very different from Exeter. My first thoughts were of Maria and how homesick she must have been. No large rolling hills and no wide river to walk beside. The street where she moved to is narrow. But then again, Maria was used to moving so I can imagine she settled in more quickly than most.
It practically took me all day to figure out which house was theirs on Wolverhampton Street. Using my photos, an 1861 census and a book from the library, I am almost certain it is no 4. I was so excited by this revelation that I had to tell the owners of the sandwich shop that my family lived there 150 years ago. They seemed interested to know the history of the premises. I do think I came across as slightly bonkers though. I just can’t tone down my excitement when it hits.
Am now off to go see the castle.

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Because I know their journey…

Joseph and Maria (headstone)

This morning I received a much needed batch of photographs, sent to me from my Dad, Mom and Aunt Barbara.

I had a moment.  There were tears.

All the photographs were fascinating to me.  The story unfolding, the people carrying more weight as I know something more about their background.

But this one, the one above, just really undid me.  I feel like I know them.  I know their journey.  I know where they lived.  I WALKED where they lived.  I know where they were married.  I know how they moved, how he changed careers several times in his life.  I know them.  I feel I know them, anyway.  These people that I never met.

And I feel like I know them because of their journey. They grew up and married, grew a family in England and moved them to the states.   And this is how it ended for them and how it will end for everyone.  With names and dates on a slab of stone.  You can’t know anyone from dates.

Will post more photos when I get a grip.

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Filed under a good story, research, the process

The artwork so far…

Ivybridge piece begins...As you can see, I have started printing.  Actually, this is a couple of weeks worth of printing, if you can believe that.  There were issues.  There are always issues.

These are the colour choices I have made.  I tried to arrrange the fabric to give you the idea of the percentage each colour will appear on the final large work for Ivybridge/Exeter.  This is a sheet piece.  What you see here measures approximately 36 inches x 20 inches.  Also, the pieces will not be laid out in blocks.  Oh no no, something much more interesting will happen but I don’t want to give away all the details just yet.

 

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