Saturday, 4 December 2010

Irish Knitting History - 17th Century Quaker Merchants evidence

My day job is a Inter-Library Loan Librarian, dispatching books hither, thither and yon. I recently got a request for an article from the Irish Ancestor Magazine (1). While we do have it in paper form, we also have the CD. So while I was doing work today I put the CD in the computer and did some searches while I worked. The search terms were "knit"; "crochet"; "yarn" and "wool". The magazine was twice a year and Rosemary ffolliott says in her introduction that it suffered from the rise of the internet, so she folded it up. She was preparing a book on Irish Costumes which was never published but alas died last March

Wool threw up the most results. After all wool merchants and woolworkers did throw up a number of results rather than anything about wool itself.

One of the articles is from Vol X No 1 from 1978, entitled "Inventories of Five Dublin Quaker Merchants in the Late Seventeenth Century" contributed by Olive C. Goodbody (Google doesn't give me much beyond the fact that she wrote a lot about Quakers). In it she lists wsome of the wills and deeds preserved in the Quaker Archives in Eustace Street. Abstracts of the Wills to which they are attached were printed in Quaker Records, Dublin. Abstracts of Wills in the possession of the Dublin and Wexford Monthly Meetings of the Society of Friends. Edited by P. Beryl Eustace and Olive C. Goodbody

One of these people was William Barnard of Dublin, clothier, 1684
Among the stock were:
Item: Wool 70s 1b Fustick and lumber make £3-10-00
Item. One coper, one pan one iron furnace and lead 7£ and combs and lumber in the shop 4£ make £11-00-00
Item. In worsted wool and worsted yarns and twelve stockins 272 pounds weight and 195 yarn in Spinners hands £047-07-00

John Inglefield of Dame Street, Dublin, chandler 1693 had some cotton yarn, cut, one presumes for wicks.

John Johnston of Chapelizod, Co. Dublin, weaver, 1694, had (among many other items):
Two whole packs of white Linnen yarn at 26£. pr pack £52
More Linnen Yarne 203 vallued to £15 4s 26l ditto 75l ditto broune 90l ditto 74l ditto Bobing Wolsteed Calinder & warping frame & bobing beam & scales 94l tapes 80p.l £20-5-4

However the one that caught my eye was Isachar Wilcocks of Dublin, Grocer, 1694

20 reams of paper £9
52 doz of pins £22-18-00
76 peeces Girt web £13-04-00 (not sure what this is, anyone know?)
36 pounds knitting needles at 8d p pound £1-04-00
17 doz of Wool cards at 15d per doz £12-15-00
A parcell of dye stuff val £157
A parcell of linen yarn value £25

What I find interesting is that the Knitting Needles aren't divided by size, did this indicate that there was only one size used? I also find it interesting that Linen yarn and cotton could have been used if people were so inclined. It does point out that knitting was known in 1694 in Ireland, and judging by the quantity and fact that the needles are available in a general store, indicates to me that it's relatively popular.

(1)Irish Ancestor


  1. How fascinating! I'd love to read some more on it. I wonder what people were knitting then. Would it have been the same as Britain when they used "receipts" and mainly knit antimacassars and lace?

  2. Unfortunately no knitting receipts were mentioned in any of the inventories, in fact there's not a lot of the woman's goods listed, even though all the contents of the house were listed, suggesting that the woman's goods weren't considered part of her husband's goods for this purpose.