For a period of over 200 years, the knitting industry provided skilled employment for Godalming men and women. Hand knitting frames, on which stockings were made, would originally have been located in small workshops or in the homes of knitters. The frames were usually operated by men, with women finishing the garments by sewing up the seams. Before the days of knitwear factories, stocking makers were usually self-employed and either owned or rented their machines. However, increased production and machinery improvements from the mid-1700s onwards led to a fall in prices and poverty amongst many of the craftsmen and women in the trade. Inquiries in Parliament took evidence from Godalming knitters who had been badly afftected by the changes in the hosiery market.
By the 1800s, much of the trade had moved to the Midlands. Although Godalming was hit by the decline in the stocking industry in the mid-1800s, its trade was saved by a new process. Thomas Holland invented and patented a machine which could work unspun wool into stockings with a luxurious, fleecy lining - very popular for outdoor pursuits such as riding and hunting. Holland set up a factory in Cateshall Lane, Godalming and, soon after, Allen & Solly (an old established Nottinghamshire firm employing home knitters) opened their first factory in the town. This machine was originally operated in one of Allen & Solly's factories - probably remaining in use making high quality, knitted stockings until the factory closed in 1888.
The frame was donated to the museum as a result of the efforts of the owners of a later knitwear company, W F Paine Ltd., who negotiated the gift, transported, cleaned and assembled it at the Museum's former site.
The Framework Knitting Industry - Godalming Museum publication