Don’t be alarmed; this isn’t a post about obscure footwear fashions! Instead, I’d like to talk about one of the skills taught to children at St Chad’s Home for Girls in Far Headingley, Leeds: the use of knitting machines to make hosiery.
St Chad’s was a home that took in both disabled and non-disabled children. It opened in 1889 and ran for many years until it was commandeered as an air raid precaution station in 1939.
When it opened, the aim of St Chad’s, like many of The Society’s homes, was to teach children a trade so that they would be able to earn their own living and become self-sufficient once they were old enough. The majority of homes at the time trained children to work in domestic service, but St Chad’s was different; instead of domestic service, it specialised in teaching children to use knitting machines.
The knitting machines were used to make hosiery, and the above flyer lists some of these items that were made by the children at the home. This machine knitting was run as a small business, with the socks, stockings and ties made by the children sold around the country to help pay for the home’s upkeep.
Machine knitting was often seen as a suitable trade to teach to girls who were considered unable to work in domestic service, such as those with mobility difficulties, learning disabilities or behavioural problems. The focus on machine knitting at St Chad’s Home meant that many disabled girls were sent there from across the country with the hope that they would be able to learn a trade and find a place to work once they left The Society’s care.
Further information about St Chad’s Home can be found in the homes section of Hidden Lives Revealed.