Machine knitting skills taught and safe accommodation provided for women at the Salvation Army Knitting Homes in Clapton

The Knitting Homes in Clapton were part of the Salvation Army’s outreach work, allowing ‘rescued’ girls and women to learn machine knitting, earn a wage and to live there. It took these vulnerable women about three months to learn their trade. When trained, workers paid board and lodging of eight shillings a week, keeping the remainder of their wage for themselves. An apprenticeship system was introduced subsequently, and the women had to repay the time spent training and their board and lodging.

The knitting homes turned out hosiery, underwear, knitted ties, nightgowns and cholera belts, and adopted a can-do attitude towards special orders. Finished items were produced in wool, cotton or silk. Their work was heavily promoted in the Salvation Army publication The Deliverer, with readers encouraged to order by post or to visit in person. Personal visitors got their tram fare from Clapton refunded. Pedlars also sold the knitwear door to door.

The Salvation Army kept meticulous records about the women at the knitting homes. Each had come from a difficult or tragic background. The structure of life at the knitting homes prepared some for future life in domestic service. Some were ‘saved’, becoming members of the Salvation Army.

The Salvation Army Archives at the William Booth College in Denmark Hill holds the original home registers which can be inspected by appointment.

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