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Stocking making in Castle Cary, Somerset

George Inn and High Street, Castle Cary
There was a great demand for knitted stockings from the late 16th century and many were produced by Castle Cary stockingmakers who employed large numbers of people in the surrounding countryside.

In 1624 William Holland, a worsted stocking maker, said he had worked in the parish for 12 years making over £700 a year and setting poor people to work combing, spinning, making yarn, and knitting stockings. After a serious assault and stabbing in 1623 inflicted by William Kirton and his sons Daniel and Edward, who were later convicted, Holland gave up his trade and moved to London. His workers were said to be impoverished.[i]

The Burge family of clothiers, hosiers, and stockingmakers was in business throughout the 18th century although one was bankrupt in 1741 and another, also described as a dealer and chapman, in 1808—9.[ii] The latter’s property included land at Torbay and a large house with workshops in South Cary described as suitable for a linen or stocking business.[iii] Another member of the family had a house in High Street in 1839 with a long extension to the rear which may formerly have been workshops.[iv] Seth Burge (d. c. 1752), also a maltster, insured premises worth £400 in 1749 and William, buildings worth £300 in 1751.[v] William Burge, stockingmaker, died in 1778 leaving property and £5,000 to his children and his implements to his youngest son. One of his grandsons became a barrister.[vi]

Edward Russ was a hosier in 1748 and Daniel White, another prosperous stockingmaker, died c. 1765.[vii] In the 1780s most of the poor were said to be employed in the manufacture of knitted stockings and the poor of North Cadbury were spinning and knitting for Castle Cary hose makers.[viii] Many of the 280 people engaged in trade and manufacture in 1801 were probably engaged in the stocking and linen trades.[ix] The stocking trade declined in the 19th century although a hosier was appointed tithingman in 1813.[x]

[i]     TNA, STAC 8/171/24; STAC 8/191/20.

[ii]     J.H. Thomas, ‘Economy and Society in Eighteenth-century Somerset’ PSAS. 141 (1998), 70; SRO, DD/YB 5, 8—9, 11; DD/X/FC 1, 3; DD/X/GC 18; ibid. Q/SO 15; Castle Cary Visitor May 1905.

[iii]     SRO, DD/FF 18/16.

[iv]     Castle Cary Visitor May 1904; SRO, DD/SAS (C/212), map 1808; ibid. tithe award.

[v]     SDNQ. XXX. 186; TNA, PROB 11/793.

[vi]     SRO, DD/BR/hk 1; TNA, PROB 11/1040; Parson Woodforde Soc. Jnl. XXX (2), 35—6.

[vii]     A.J. Webb, Som. Jurors 1748 (1994), 38; SRO, DD/YB 5.

[viii]     SRO, A/AQP 9.

[ix]     Census.

[x]     Wilts. RO 383/321.

Content generated during research for Victoria County History Somerset Volume X.  More information is available on the VCH Somerset website

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Hanoverian (1714-1837)