A few weeks ago whilst researching Yorkshire knitting pioneers, my sister and I learned of two sisters, Elizabeth and Henrietta Pulleine Ryder, who wrote and published knitting patterns in Richmond, the chief town in Swaledale, from the 1860s onwards. Their patterns were mostly published as small collections of cards in ‘cloth’ sleeves, and must have been widely distributed as they were even mentioned in a Dublin newspaper! Fortunately copies of most of the patterns are still extant, having been collected by the 20th Century knitting historian, Bishop Richard Rutt, then recently digitised by Southampton University. However, an advert on one of the packets mentions a pattern named ‘How To Knit The Richmond Glove’ by Miss H. P. Ryder, and we have been unable to find a copy of this anywhere, neither physical nor digital. This is most frustrating as it seems possible to us that this pattern could be for a colourwork glove in the Yorkshire Dales glove tradition. If so it would be exciting evidence that the Dales colourwork glove tradition was recognised and claimed by contemporary knitting authors at that time.
Our passionate interest in the history of knitting in Yorkshire is leading Marie and I on an increasingly exciting adventure as we endeavour to learn more about the people behind the names we are uncovering. Using local history sources, census records, and newspaper archives, we are getting a fuller sense of who these people were. We feel almost as though we are getting to know them. Indeed, I am proud of them! Elizabeth and Henrietta were genteel ladies with considerable wealth, who took an active role in various charitable causes in the Richmond community. They went to balls and theatricals, sat on hospital committees, were judges at local shows, and promoted charitable knitting in aid of soldiers posted overseas.
In search of ‘How To Knit The Richmond Glove’ at an antiquarian bookshop in Richmond, and/or any other vintage knitting treasures we may happen upon there, and in hopes of finding the home of the Misses Ryder, we drove up to Richmond on Saturday. Alas, the pattern was of course not to be found, but we did find Frenchgate House, home of the Misses Ryder from 1839, when their father, Reverend Thomas Ryder, sadly died leaving Mrs Ryder a widow, and his 6 children (from 1 to 11 years old) fatherless. Luckily Reverend and Mrs Ryder were both from very wealthy families, so his death did not leave his wife and children destitute. In subsequent censuses Mrs Ryder is listed as a ‘fundholder’.
Frenchgate House is a substantial property, originally with 15 rooms, now converted to apartments, including holiday lets. It appears to have had extensive grounds, some of which are now a car park. One side of the house is on Frenchgate, a steep cobbled street with many beautiful Georgian houses on it. To this Jane Austen and Brönte fan the whole experience of checking out this house was delightful!
Though we haven’t yet (hope lives eternal!) found a copy of ‘How To Knit The Richmond Glove’, Marie and I have procured original copies of a couple of Ryder works; a set of pattern cards by Elizabeth titled ‘How To Knit Spun Silk Socks & Stockings’ (published 1876), and a large but thin book by Henrietta titled ‘Cycling and Shooting Knickerbocker Stockings, How to Knit Them, With Plain and Fancy Turnover Tops’ (published 1896). The latter work includes a wonderful full-size fold-out photograph of a stocking, and pictures of colourwork sock cuffs that are tantalisingly evocative of Dales gloves patterns: