convicts Knitting

Knitting As Punishment

MARY Bowler, a young woman and an inmate of the Faringdon Union [workhouse], was on the 5th inst., brought before the Rev. J.F.Cleaver and Sir R.G. Throckmorton, charged by the Governor with having refused to perform the work assigned her, namely, knitting socks; she was committed to Reading Gaol for 21 days’ hard labour.

Jackson’s Oxford Journal, Saturday, January 10th, 1852


Mary is on the 1851 census. She was at Farringdon District Union Workhouse, in Berkshire; Occupation: Ag Lab., born Great Farringdon, Berks., in 1827. She was 25 when she refused to knit socks! Mary was also in the workhouse on the 1841 census, aged only 15.

Imagine being sent to prison for refusing to knit socks at the workhouse. Especially as some female prisoners were also expected to… knit stockings.



Jules Breton [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.






6 replies on “Knitting As Punishment”

Doing some family research and this woman is my 3rd great grandmother.

To add an extra level of sadness to the story, from what we can find, she had been in the workhouse since aged 10 when her father died. Her mother continued to be an ag.lab until she died in her late 80s.
While in the workhouse aged 17 she had an illegitimate son (my 2nd great grandfather) so this would mean she was sent to reading jail leaving her son who was born in the workhouse, now aged 6-7 alone.

Her son, William was the one who later married a woman from the work house who had an illigegitimate son of her own. Had a few children then moved to Wales and continued to have children into his 60s her 40s – the first of which was my grand father’s father.

Thank you for sharing.



Although maybe if she had been in and out of the workhouse from an early age, she would have been taught to knit. Not sure about down South but in some Northern workhouses, (where there was a stronger commercial hand-knitting context), she would have been likely to have been through the workhouse’s ‘industrial school’, where it was all pretty much knitting or sewing for the girls…


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