Basket making

Whilst searching for information about Charles Hitchcock, for yesterday’s blog post, we came upon an extract from the WI book. This now dates from more than 60 years ago and was produced as part of a national Women’s Institute project to record local history. Our museum founder, Peggy Gye was a driving force behind this. Here we have an extract, transcribed, about basket making.

Basket Making

For at least three hundred years the Mullings family have been making baskets. The family business was originally carried on in Devizes, but about ninety years ago Mr. Sid Mullings’ grandfather moved to Market Lavington, their original premises being in High Street, now a grocery shop owned by Mr. H. Hobbs.

The first big order the family had in Market Lavington was for the bodywork of a wicker carriage for Dr. Hitchcock. The carriage had to be made outside of the workshop, as it would never have got through the doorway had it been made inside. Mr. Mullings worked all night making it, his wife helping him by keeping the cane moist and keeping the lamps going.

The family also used to make the large hampers in which meat was packed and sent to Smithfield Market by local butchers. These hampers would hold a ton of meat and come back in perfect condition.

Some years later Mr. Alfred Mullings moved to the house where Mr. Sid Mullings now lives and carried on with the basket making. No elaborate equipment is necessary and the tools used have changed but little over the years. The chief tools used are bodkins, trimmers, a shave, basket-maker’s knife, closing iron and brake.

Nowadays much of the withy is stripped by machine – this method, whilst saving time, splits the withy. In years gone by, all the withy used was grown locally, in the beds near the streams. The high price of the cane makes it very difficult to earn a living at the trade at the present time, and Mr. Mullings now works elsewhere.

Of course, where this extract refers to ‘now’ it actually means more than 60 years ago. You won’t find Harry Hobbs with a shop on High Street although his daughter still lives in the house and Mr Sid Mullings is no longer in the village although descendants with other surnames are still about.

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