Special gansey exhibition at Sheringham Museum

It is a tradition that goes back more than 100 years and is synonymous with north Norfolk fishermen.

And a display of historic hand-knitted and modern machine made ganseys - a hardwearing fisherman's jumper - will be at the Sheringham Museum from today.

More than 30 of the knitted items from across Britain will be shown alongside iconic sweaters from Sheringham in A Shoal of Ganseys touring exhibition at The Mo on Lifeboat Plain until September 10.

Museum trustee Lesley Lougher, 65, said: 'It is an interesting example of women's craft and how they passed on their ideas along the coast. Ganseys were a badge of honour for a fisherman. They were practical, very dense and semi waterproof and windproof.'

Sheringham was the only town in north Norfolk to have a gansey-making tradition. The only other community in Norfolk to have that was Caister, near Great Yarmouth.

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Grandmothers, wives and other female family members knitted the jumpers - for sea and formal occasions - and the heyday for the tradition started in the mid-late 19th century.

Mainly members of the West, Middleton and Bishop families in Sheringham made ganseys, which had varying patterns and were always navy blue.

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The skill of making the fine jumpers died out after the clothes started to be made by machines.

One of the last remaining Sheringham fishermen who wore a hand-knitted gansey was Lenny 'Teapot' West, who died aged 86 last September. His wife Ann and two of his four daughters made the jumpers for him until his death.

Mrs Lougher, from South Street, Sheringham, added: 'We are talking about very skilled craftswomen and we need to recognise their skill. The women who knitted the ganseys in the mid-late 19th century and early 20th century would have had basic education but were creating complicated geometric designs.'

These knitters would have got inspiration from women who packed herring at Great Yarmouth but came from Scotland, where the wool from ganseys used to come from.

Mrs Lougher hoped the display would increase people's awareness of the gansey.

The exhibition is free and for more information call 01263 824482.

Do you have an interesting maritime heritage story? Email sophie.wyllie@archant.co.uk.

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