River Ganseys – Whitby Wyrms

Whitby Wyrms

What’s not to love about a man with a log pile? To be honest, after several months sawing logs almost daily I’m definitely more into the logs than the (admittedly lovely) model. As someone else did all the hard work sawing them…

I digress.

Snaky cables were not really a Big Thing along the rivers – although I have seen them in photos of ganseys from elsewhere. Here, cables were generally rather straightforward 6 or 8 stitches wide, all oriented one way and never mirrored across the body. They probably were not mirrored for superstitious reasons I go into in the book, if you’re interested!

My other patterns were named after river vessels but I couldn’t resist calling this one Whitby Wyrms. Because Whitby is famous for its wyrm (dragon).

The Whitby Wyrm was a dragonlike serpent that lived in Whitby, according to folklore. Another local legend tells of Saint Hilda turning a plague of snakes into stone. For this gansey, I did the time-honoured gansey thing and “borrowed” a nice zigzag motif from a sock pattern. Gansey knitters have always borrowed motifs from other knitters. It’s tradition. In fact, it is how motifs became so universal across the British Isles. My other inspiration and starting point was an old photo I was shown, which showed a gansey with an allover pattern that used traveling stitches to create a zigzag design.

This zigzag is simpler but more contemporary – it makes a change from the old pattern Marriage Lines.
That is in the grand tradition of gansey knitting of course – see a pattern that resonates: use it.


The pattern can be found in ‘River Ganseys’, available here:


And here:






River Ganseys – Ebiezzer

Ebiezzer  Image: Cooperative Press


In the next week or so, I am putting up images of all the patterns in ‘River Ganseys’ – if you’re knitting one, or planning on knitting one, the Comments here will be a handy place for questions – and the larger images will be helpful to intrepid knitters, I hope.

If you only have a print copy of the book, please do provide proof of purchase to our help desk – support@cooperativepress.zendesk.com – Cooperative Press can gift you an e copy, where the images are full colour – which helps if you’re planning on knitting these as our environmentally-friendly inks and matte paper don’t give you the details as well as full colour!  I will be publishing a photo of each project here, in the next few weeks, as well.

This started life as a child’s gansey pattern. I designed ‘Ebiezzer’ for my younger sons to wear although as you can see from our photo shoot, it works for women as well!  It is a classic ‘Humber Star’ pattern. For more lore and research about this fascinating and unique motif, check out ‘River Ganseys’. It is thought the Humber Star is the only gansey motif in the entire lexicon, that is unique to one area.

Ebiezzer was a vessel on the Ouse, co-owned by my ancestor, Isaac Moses, and his son, William. When Isaac Sr. died in 1820, he left his shares to pay for the education of his grandchildren, and said it could be run by his (feckless?) son William, on condition William paid all port dues and settled bills on time.

William’s own son, Isaac Mosey, born in York in 1819, was to become Master Mariner, working vessels on the river Trent down in the Midlands, and died at sea in 1862. I originally designed this for Isaac Sr’s great-great-great-greatgreat grandsons to wear.

York’s dock records are lost, and I haven’t been able to trace the Ebiezzer or find out what happened to her after Isaac’s death in Cawood, in 1820.


The pattern can be found in ‘River Ganseys’, available here:


And here:





Uncle Walt’s “Record Off Journeys”

Walt and Ethel, pre 1920 This is the earliest known photo of angoras, in the UK.



Sometimes, even very official looking historical sources get it wrong.

This slightly limb-challenged gentleman is my ‘Uncle Walt’, the miller at South Duffield; born the son of a miller in Braithwaite, Yorkshire.  I have this very photo but don’t appear to have scanned my version, so will link to it, here. Do click on the link. He is a very memorable looking gent!  And I will scan my copy when I can find it.

You can find him in all his glory, (rather bizarrely) on Historic England‘s site. I also own a copy of this image. I have no idea who took the photo or why. Historic England have this moving little whimsy going on:


No details about Mr Ledger are available, but judging by his age he may have been a veteran of the First World War.


They are wrong. Walter Ledger was not a worker as they appear to believe but the miller, (reserved occupation?). He lost both limbs courtesy of the windmill behind him in the picture (or the mill at South Milford, or one of the others he owned, at various dates). You’d think the whacking great windmill behind him and his artful use of a flour sack as a prosthetic limb might give them a clue as to the nature of the accident that led to his lack of limbs.  As you can see, the picture (they claim taken in 1943) shows that these slight inconveniences didn’t put him off his work.

Walt has a steam engine!


Walt was born around 1873, according to various Censuses.  Which would make him too old to fight in WW1. Historic England may have the date of the photo wrong or maybe that’s an accession date for a collection, they’re confusing with the date the photo was taken.  Either way – this shows the need for caution when using sources like Historic England’s database of images,  to research.

Walter married my great grandmother’s sister, Kate Hemingway. Walt and Kate had one child; Ethel.   Ethel (my grandma’s cousin) was a pretty girl who never married because – it was said – Walt chased off any suitor with a shotgun.  Quite impressive for a one-armed man!  I seem to recall Ethel saying her dad lost his leg in one accident, and his arm in another. Which seems careless.

By the 1911 Census; Walter, Kate and 7 year old Ethel were living at Low Mill, South Milford. Walt is down as “Farmer & Miller”. I have photos dating from this time, including an aerial shot or two, of South Milford. I am guessing when the next Census is finally published, I will find them, in 1921, in South Duffield.

When I was a kid in the late 60s/early 70s, ‘Auntie Ethel’ was like a sort of grandma figure to me – as both my grandmas died before I was born so my great aunts and parents and grandparents’ cousins were the much loved old ladies in my life.

She was a lovely elderly lady. She eventually sold South Duffield mill and bought a bungalow in a nearby village. I stayed with her a couple of times and have fond memories of going with her to her friend’s garden to get quinces for her quince jelly. She had a cat and when she moved, dad asked her if the cat would be OK going from being a ‘farm cat’ with full run of the mill, the outhouses, and a few acres, to being an indoors cat. Ethel reassured Dad:

“He’ll get enough fresh air through the letter-box.”

This photo belonged to Ethel Ledger


My parents were very fond of Ethel, largely for my late grandma’s sake – the two cousins had been very close as young women in the 1920s.  When Ethel’s parents died, the mill became derelict but Ethel scraped by, living in the lovely house and growing veg and raising poultry. She had a massive outbuilding, that was sort of partially underground and you’d go in to be greeted by a load of turkeys.  She also had what you’d now call ‘free range’ hens.


Of course, the desolate mill was fascinating to us kids. The sails were long gone, and the roof (later it was converted into a house), and I don’t recall any steps or stairs to the higher levels. But we’d go and play in there. It was creepy and rather wonderful.

Somewhere I have all Ethel’s recipe books, and a Staffordshire figure that no-one else wanted – ironically, because it has a limb missing…   When she died I also was given all the Ledger family photos as I was the only one interested in family history (I was about 14 when she went).  If you are related to the Ledgers of Chapel Haddlesey/South Milford/South Duffield – do get in touch as I can scan the photos I have. It’s frightening when you think how ready people were in the recent past, to throw out ‘old’ photos – my mother in law destroyed a stack of all photos and certificates, “because they were dog-eared”!


IMAG1602A couple of years back I went to an event at Hemingbrough church, and met a lady there who, it turned out, grew up in South Duff. I told her my Aunty was the miller’s daughter and she said:

“Oh, I knew her! I used to be sent to the mill every week to buy the eggs, and we were told we had to address her as ‘Miss Ledger'”.

Somehow, I found that deference as very touching.

I found the same deference in Walt’s own ‘Record Off Journeys’ (sic).  Walt, like many millers, was rather well off and an early owner of a car. I wish I’d scanned the photo of him in it, but it appears I haven’t yet! He reminded me of Toad of Toad Hall in that picture…

In amongst Ethel’s recipe books, was a diary from 1910 – Walt frugally amended to ‘1917’.  Over decades, well into the era of Biros, and with increasingly shaky handwriting,  Ethel scrawled odd recipes in her father’s old diary.  Their frugality is the only reason I have it.

Cousin Lillie. This is a copy of the photo Ethel kept.


That deferential ‘Miss Boothman’ he went to fetch from the station in August 1917,  was Walt’s niece, my grandma, Lillie Boothman.

Lillie, around the time she visited the mill

On this trip to the mill, Lillie would have been 13 years old.  Her brother was in he trenches and would die in a few months.

Interesting how the politesse reverberated down the ages when the lady in Hemingbrough church told me about ‘Miss Ledger’…  and here is Walt writing about ‘Miss Boothman’.

To her dying day, in her living room Ethel had one family photo – a signed 1920’s shot of my grandma. Or rather, “Miss Boothman”!