Saturday, 29 June 2013

My ancestor was a FRAMEWORK KNITTER...

Stocking Frame
(Image link:, Author:
John Beniston, 29 May 2005, accessed 8 Feb 2014
The occupation "Framework Knitter" is often abbreviated to "FWK" on census returns. It is an occupation very specific to the counties of Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire. Wool was readily available and before the framework knitter came into being many people (men, women and children) would supplement their incomes by hand knitting socks.

In 1859, William Lee of Calverton nr Nottingham invented the Stocking Frame, a major player in the mechanisation of the textile industry, which would become the machinery used by our framework knitter ancestors.

William Lee could not get a patent for his knitting frame in the UK so with his brother took the technology to France where it was used and developed further. In the early 1600's after William Lee's death his brother returned to London where the frame began to gain popularity and in 1663 the Worshipful Company of Framework Knitters gained a Royal Charter.

During the 1600s with the unrest caused by the Civil War many people were scattered from London throughout the Midlands and due to the already established cottage industry, the stocking frame became very popular for the industry of this area of the country. During the same period the Enclosure Act meant many people were coming out of the agricultural industries and trying other occupations, especially framework knitting.

It remained an important industry in the Midlands throughout the 19th century and gradually deceased in number in the early 20th century.

I have a number of ancestors who were framework knitters who were all from the Nottingham area, they were:

  • Thomas Nichols, my great x5 grandfather, born c1800 in Nottingham
  • John Holmes, my great x3 grandfather, born c1844 in Nottingham until the family moved to Leeds in the 1880s
  • Joseph Holmes, my great x4 grandfather, born c1805 in Wittick, Leicestershire, the father of John Holmes (see above) who lived in Nottingham

For more information see the websites: Wikipedia - Stocking FrameWirksworth - FWKFWK Museum

Copyright © 2013 Ruth Hogan

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