header bar

The swill basket maker

Owen Jones

Spout Meadow / High Nibthwaite / Ulverston / Cumbria / LA12 8DF
01229 885664

Dates of filming: 13th July 2006

Some craftspeople are primarily tradition bearers or guardians of a living craft in its original form. They make a living from teaching others and from demonstrations as well as from the craft itself.

Swill baskets, made from thin strips of woven oak, have been around for many centuries. They are light and strong and the closeness of the weave means that they are suitable for holding even very fine material. On the farm, these baskets could be used for gathering potatoes and for sowing seed broadcast by hand. But they were also to be found in coal mines, in textile mills and other industrial locations. In the home, they could be clothes, log or garden baskets. They could even serve as a baby’s cradle.

The Lakeland area of north west England was once a great centre for swill basket making. One hundred years ago, there were armies of craftsmen, some working alone and many more in large industrial-style workshops. Today, there is just one man in the country who makes his living out of swill baskets. His name is Owen Jones and he lives close by Lake Coniston in Cumbria. From a small workshop next to his cottage, he keeps alive the very particular and traditional skills of the swill basket maker.

Swill Basket MakerWheelwrightSwill Basket Maker

Click on the images above to enlarge