Verwood Crafts

 

SPARS, HURDLES & GLOVES

HURDLE EVENTS AND SPARRING PARTNERS

The hazel coppices around Verwood and the surrounding area were the preserve of the Hurdle Makers.   Here they worked day long turning out these invaluable temporary fences, principally in the old days for sheep folding on the nearby chalk downland.   As demand for these dwindled the craft was adapted for ornamental use.

Hazel responds to periodic trimming by throwing out new shoots and so, by moving from place to place, an inexhaustible supply of material was maintained.

Here Mr. Wilf Foster, one of the many Crendall and Cripplestyle hurdle makers is sitting in the shade of one of his hurdles making a by-product of his trade.   This was the thatching spar which held the straw in place.   In an era when thatch was a common roofing material, these were in high demand.  They could be very quickly turned out in their hundreds and stacks are seen in the background awaiting collection or delivery.   His knees are protected by leather pads as he splits the hazel with his knobbing hook.

 

 

The craft, from the selection of wood to the finished product, was highly skilled and had to be learned from a master, often father to son, over a great many years.

Here a hurdle maker demonstrates his technique.   The base frame was a large round log into which holes were drilled at intervals.   The upright poles or "zales" were then pushed in to form a frame.   The hazel could then be used whole or split according to size and woven between the uprights in certain gradations of pattern.   As work progressed it was pushed down firmly by foot and later on by padded knee.

Sheep hurdles were made 3 feet high and into the upper strands was woven a "Twilly Hole" which enabled the shepherd to move them easily from place to place.   Ornamental hurdles for garden fencing panels or other use could be made to the required size.

 

 

 

 

Here Mr. Robert Morey and his father Mr. Thomas Edwin Morey (of Morey's Quarries which some will remember off the Verwood-Ringwood Road, now Tarmac) inspect folded sheep on the downs.

As can be seen, the hurdles could easily be moved and fixed together into whatever shape and size of pen was required.   The Twilly Hole can be seen on the hurdle to the far right.   Another advantage is that they could easily be stacked when out of use.

Such pens would have been a familiar sight in the area, especially in the lambing season, when they provided a windproof shelter for mothers and young.

 

 

HAND IN GLOVE

On the 1861 Verwood census, out of a population of 920, the workforce was counted as 257 which included a minority of women, chiefly as servants, laundresses and dressmakers.   Of these, two single women, supporting themselves, were classed as Glove Makers.   The majority of married women were given as of no occupation or tending the house.

These bare facts masked the enormous contribution to the family budget made by Verwood women well into the 20th century.   This was particularly so in the knitting of high quality gloves.   It is said that a Verwood woman's hands were never still, even when chatting over the gate to a neighbour.

Unfortunately, none of the originals survive and those in the photograph were fortunately knitted by Mrs. Helen Bailey according to the pattern she remembered.   She also said that the Gents and Ladies gloves were usually yellow whilst those for boys were usually light brown.    The prices she quoted as being paid for the work were Gents 9d, Ladies 6d and Boys 4d and although we are not sure of the era, this was presumably in the early to mid 20th century.

Verwood Gloves were prized for their durability.  The soft string was brought out to the village by Cox & Hicks, the clothing shop which used to stand until recent years in Ringwood Market Place, and  the finished gloves collected and paid for on the next visit.   Boys as well as girls were taught to knit the cuffs so that the more intricate parts could be taken over by their mothers and elder sisters.   Eventually, one presumes, the trade died out as machines took over the task.

 

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