Friday, May 15, 2009

Wow!!!!!!! A Knitted Village.











With thanks to my pal Rhyannon, who sent this link.

From The Daily Mail, a newspaper in the U.K.
(full article with all photos at link above.)

A close-knit community: Meet the ladies who've spent years stitching their entire Kent village

By Jane Fryer

At first sight, this looks like a classic British village.

There's a beautiful Norman church, two pubs, a shop, a school, a village hall, a huge Georgian manor house with landscaped gardens, teenagers slouched around the bus shelter and dozens of red-brick cottages with gardens in full bloom and vegetable patches bursting with cabbages, cauliflowers and sweet peas.

NATH,AND MARGARET GOLDUP

Woollen wonder: The ladies of the Mersham Afternoon Club , Daphne O'Donoghue, Joy Pearson, Joyce McDonagh and Margaret Goldup

There's even a cricket pitch, with a match in full flow and the offside stump leaning drunkenly to one side after a particularly unplayable spinner.

But on closer inspection, things don't look quite right. The fielders are a bit wobbly in the leg department and far too fat to fit in the very smart pavilion for lashings of tea and egg sandwiches. And the roof on the manor house is rather saggy.

MERSHAM NEAR ASHFORD WOOL VILLAGE FEATURE;MITCHELL HOUSE

The Mitchell house, complete with stone wall and arched doors

MERSHAM NEAR ASHFORD WOOL VILLAGE FEATURE;MITCHELL HOUSE

And the chimneys are wonky. And most of the television aerials look like they've been caught in a nasty storm. And the smoking teenagers are a bit misshapen.

In fact, the whole thing looks rather, well . . . home-made. Which is no surprise, because every inch of this village - Mersham, in Kent - has been lovingly knitted by a small group of very twinkly ladies who started 23 years ago with a couple of cottages and some pigs, and ended up creating more than 60 properties, complete with wheelie bins, outdoor loos, gas tanks, cars in the driveways and even a smart red telephone box.

MERSHAM NEAR ASHFORD WOOL VILLAGE FEATURE;LONGTHORNE FARM

The shrubs at Longthorne Farm have grown a bit since it was knitted

MERSHAM NEAR ASHFORD WOOL VILLAGE FEATURE;LONGTHORNE FARM

And on Saturday, the entire village - lock, stock and beautifully knitted barrel - will be up for sale in the (real, not woollen) Mersham village hall. It has caused quite a stir, and not just in Mersham. The ladies and their woollen houses have been on the news, in the papers and interviewed by TV companies from all over.

'It's all been rather extraordinary - we've been a bit taken aback,' says Joyce McDonagh, who is clearly enjoying all the fuss and is hosting our meeting in the village hall.

MERSHAM NEAR ASHFORD WOOL VILLAGE FEATURE;POST OFFICE AND SURROUNDING PROPERTIES

Has someone moved the pillar box from outside the village store?

MERSHAM NEAR ASHFORD WOOL VILLAGE FEATURE;THE POST OFFICE AND HOUSE

It all started in 1986 with an article in Woman's Weekly and a small group of ladies from the Mersham Afternoon Club ('We're linked with Age Concern, but we don't like to think about that because it makes us feel old,' says Joyce, who is 82 and a retired market researcher) who had a bit of time and a few balls of wool on their hands.

'We read about another village that'd done it, and we thought we'd give it a whirl. But we'd no idea what we'd bitten off, it just sort of grew and grew and grew.'

MERSHAM NEAR ASHFORD WOOL VILLAGE FEATURE;FLANDERS HOUSE

The Edensor bungalow has had a couple of skylights fitted

MERSHAM NEAR ASHFORD WOOL VILLAGE FEATURE;EDENSOR HOME WHERE THE LADY WHO STARTED PROJECT

Indeed, between them, the ladies have spent thousands of hours knocking up everything from pecking chickens to chimney stacks, impenetrable Leylandii hedges to gravestones.

'The lady who did the church knitted most of the graves when she was on a sunbathing holiday in Spain, which gave the other guests a bit of a jolt,' says Margaret Goldup, 80, the club's treasurer.

MERSHAM NEAR ASHFORD WOOL VILLAGE FEATURE;OLD GATE COTTAGE

The Old Gate House, complete with a plume of smoke from the chimney

PIC SHOW;MERSHAM NEAR ASHFORD WOOL VILLAGE FEATURE;OLD GATE HOUSE

There's more to knitting a village than you might think. While they might look a bit woolly around the edges, all the buildings are knitted to scale, courtesy of a lot of painstaking work by the late Ron Stead, husband of one of the founders, Sheila.

Ron traipsed round the lanes with his camera and, after weeks of cutting and sticking and measuring, produced immaculate cardboard three-dimensional templates of each building.

MERSHAM NEAR ASHFORD WOOL VILLAGE FEATURE;ROYAL OAK PUB

The woollen version appears thatched rather than tiled, but otherwise the Royal Oak pub is easily recognisable

MERSHAM NEAR ASHFORD WOOL VILLAGE FEATURE;ROYAL OAK PUB

'We just sort of knitted round them - after we'd spent a lot of time peering at people's homes, front and back, to get the colours right and the gardens spot on,' says Margaret.

When it was finished, the village was put to work - displayed at fetes and craft fairs, where it raised more than £10,000 for the village hall fund. Sadly, the numbers of original knitters in the Afternoon Club have dwindled. 'There were about 12 of us to start, but most of them have popped off now,' says Joyce.

MERSHAM NEAR ASHFORD WOOL VILLAGE FEATURE;BUS SHELTER

Even the bus shelter on the village green was not missed out from the knitted village

MERSHAM NEAR ASHFORD WOOL VILLAGE FEATURE;

'Did you see the phone box? So lovely . . . she's gone now . . .' says Margaret. 'And the cricket team? Yes, her as well . . . And the big house is a beauty - the work that went into that, goodness! She was a wonder with her needles - God rest her soul.'

And that's part of the problem. Just hauling the village out of the huge wooden drawers in the village hall is a step too far, not to mention keeping on top of the refurbishments (many hours have been spent patching up roofs and chimneys and sprucing up.


MERSHAM NEAR ASHFORD WOOL VILLAGE FEATURE;FLANDERS HOUSE

Flanders House sits in pretty gardens both in reality and in the knitted village

;MERSHAM NEAR ASHFORD WOOL VILLAGE FEATURE;FLANDERS HOUSE

From woolly chickens to the 'thatched' pub, they're perfect in every detail. Meet the ladies who've spent years knitting their entire Kent village the cabbages) and transporting it to fetes and craft festivals.

And what of the real Mersham, which has a population of 1,022 and sports countless extensions, conservatories, satellite dishes and an awful lot of cars? Has it changed much as a place to live?

MERSHAM NEAR ASHFORD WOOL VILLAGE FEATURE;TERRACE OF COTTAGES HIGH ST

The knitters make sure their re-created the brightly coloured doors of the row of red cottages

MERSHAM NEAR ASHFORD WOOL VILLAGE FEATURE;THE COTTAGES

'Oooh yes!' they all exclaim. 'We used to know everyone, but it's grown so much. . . And the bakery's gone, and the haberdashery and the slaughterhouse. . . All those big 4x4s - we call them funeral hearses. And it's not nearly as tightly knit.'

Er. . . tightly knit? I say, looking up to see if they're pulling my leg.

'Oh yes, dear. Speaking of knitting, people just don't do it any more,' says Joyce. 'I've a left-handed daughter who doesn't want to know and grandchildren who couldn't be less interested.'

MERSHAM NEAR ASHFORD WOOL VILLAGE FEATURE;THE OLD SCHOOL

The school house is seen from a different aspect in the picture below but is a recognisable feature in the village

MERSHAM NEAR ASHFORD WOOL VILLAGE FEATURE;THE OLD SCHOOL

'They don't like knitted stuff,' chips in Daphne O'Donoghue, 75. 'It's too scratchy - they prefer T-shirts and hoodies - they'd rather go to Next. I used to knit such complicated stuff, but now I watch television instead.'

And on Saturday, how will they feel as their extraordinary village is split up, never to be displayed together again?

MERSHAM NEAR ASHFORD WOOL VILLAGE FEATURE;CRICKET PITCH

Well bowled... the cricket green wasn't missed out in the knitted village

KNITTED VILLAGE FEATURE ...MERSHAM IN KENT (VIEW OF HE STREET)

The picturesque high street of Mersham village complete with a natty striped car

'Ooh, I'll be shedding a tear,' says Margaret. 'It'll be a very sad day.'

She has a point. It might all sound a teeny bit daft, but there is something splendid and charming and really very British about their version of Mersham. Even if it is made entirely of wool and the cricket team look rather hopeles

14 comments:

niftyknits said...

brilliant isn't it? I live fairly near, so I'll be going to the village hall tomorrow to see it all - no doubt I'll be blogging later!

x vInTaGe VioLeT x said...

wow - what an amazing lot of work - i bet they had some real fun knitting all of that!

springcolors said...

WOW. i'm speechless.

ZaftigDelights said...

What a stunning display of incredibly detailed fiber art!! You ladies are just amazing! I would so love to see this is person.

niftyknits said...

I can tell you it was an amazing experience. the ladies were great, really fun, not at all the "old lady club" one might have stereotypically imagined. I was lucky enough to buy one of the cottages! strangely there is more info here on a USA blog than in the UK...

Splendid Little Stars said...

fascinating! I was reading the following blog post (http://lostmittenblog.blogspot.com/2009/05/knitted-village-in-uk.html) and was compelled to do more research. That's when I came across your blog. I just had to post about this, too!
Here's mine:
http://splendidlittlestars.blogspot.com/2009/05/knitted-village.html

AlisonH said...

Wow. What a shame they couldn't have been bought together and donated to a museum or something.

momtroll said...

Thank you for sharing your find! What a wonderful way to work and play together with their knitting.
I'll bet their families were thrilled, too.

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