This is a really unusual antique treen knitting sheath believed to have originated from Norfolk which is, in itself, quite rare. The majority of knitting sheaths were from the North of England, Wales and a few were from Cornwall.
It is made from one piece of fruit wood with a carved open lantern and one ball inside. The main body of the knitting stick is decorated beautifully with hearts, a small tree and diamonds arranged in a geometric pattern. At the top of two sides of the sheath there is an inscribed name 'PHEBE OVERMENT', an unusual spelling of Phoebe. It is interesting to note how the 'T' on 'Overment' had to be a different size to the rest of the letters as the carver ran out of room. On the third side is the place name 'Dunton' and on the fourth side is the date October 5. Around the centre of the stick is the year 1830.
Conducting research into Phebe Overment has produced a vague, but nonetheless intriguing character profile. She was probably baptised on 13th May 1811 in Norfolk at St Peters Church in Dunton-come-Doughton. Her father was Thomas and he was an Agricultural Labourer whose wife was called Jane. Phebe also had at least one sister called Jane.
Phebe left Norfolk sometime before 1850 and appears on the 1851 Census as a 'House Servant' for a family called Melhuish who lived in Croydon, Middlesex. The head of the household was John Melhuish. He is recorded as being a 'General Merchant' who in 1851 employed four servants.
The next reference to Phebe appears on the 1871 Census, still working for the same family but her occupation is now recorded as 'Nurse'. The Melhuish family by this time had moved to Streatham. In 1881, the family had moved to Elmer Avenue in Kingston-on-Thames where Phebe is included in records of their household staff.
It seems that by 1891, she has begun living with her sister Jane Goodman (a widow) in Hackford, Norfolk at a place called 'The Hill'. Both are recorded as 'Living on Their Own Means'. It looks as though Phebe died in Erpingham in Norfolk in 1899 aged 88.
Romantics could elaborate her story, considering the knitting sheath a gift of unrequited love. Having never married, it could have also been a delightful gift made by her father or grandfather...
It measures 21cm l.