Rural Industries

This series of Rural Craft photographs were taken by Bridget in the 1950s at different workshops around England, in association with David Thomas from the Rural Industries Bureau. They show the process of how these individual crafts were practiced and also act as a social document, conveying the men and women working at the time.

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Butter-mould carving
Howard Brothers, Chesham Buckinghamshire

These images show butter and shortbread moulds being hand-carved by the Howard Brothers in 1957 - among the few remaining makers at this time. They were made out of sycamore – a clean, straw-coloured and slightly transculescent material – or Boxwood – a material of harder grain – needed when doing a carving of special intricacy.

Butter-moulds are made in a variety of patterns, many first designed over a century ago. At one time each dairy farm used its own symbol so that it’s butter could be identified. Those made by Howard Brothers include patterns such as the rose, swan, wheatear, cow and acorn patterns. The firm also specialised in designs that showed “a modern trend” eg. A saxophone, drums, party hat and trumpet.

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Basket Making
South-West of Langport in the Sedgemoor district of Somerset

Weaving baskets from rods of willow has been practiced in this country since before the Neolithic Age.Today, willow basket making is no longer a wide-spread profession but rather practiced within a niche artistic market.

These images show the process of the willow being cut down, then stripped – using a ‘brake’ (a fork consisting of two spring blades through which the rods are pulled twice) - through to the weaving of the baskets, a process that required great skill and strong and pliant fingers.

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Ladder-Making
Messrs Hide and Clements firm, Wrotham Kent

These images show the making of fruit pickers ladders – a ladder made lighter than others and a speciality of this Kentish firm.

They document the process of ladder-making from when the oak billets are first shaped into ladder rungs to the final product; capture members of the Hide and Clements staff testing out a 36-foot ladder and show the piles of sawdust and shavings that were kept and burnt to use as fuel during the winter months.

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Racing Farrier
The Forge, Walton on the Hill, Tadworth Surrey

These images show the making and fitting of horse shoeing for racing horses.

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Rake and Trug Making
Location unknown, most likely Somerset

Rake making - considered to be a lost tradition – came back into fashion briefly in 2012 when Helen Skelton presented a documentary on the BBCs Country File about the Rudds – a family considered to be Cumbria's last traditional wooden rake-makers. A rake is traditionally made out of ash, willow, elm and sycamore and means to “scrape together”. Bridget’s images were most likely taken in Somerset and portray a different, completely hand-made design to the modern ones.

Trugs are a light-weight, shallow basket, made from curved strips of wood, predominantly sweet chestnut, and were used to carry flowers, fruit and more. In Sussex, trug making still appears to be preserved as a craft.

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Rush Mat Weaving
Waveney Apple Growers Ltd. of Aldeby (now a Freezer unit) near Beccles, Suffolk

Rush Mat weaving has been practiced since at least Anglo-Saxon times, used for floor covering before carpetting was commonly used. Its use in basketry and chair seating stems back to Antiquity. These images show the process of the rushes been cut, washed and dried and then finally plaited by the women workers.

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Sheepskin Glove and Slipper Making
Morland, Somerset

From the‘deburring’ of the wool to the ‘stretching’ of the leather to the cutting and sewing of the accesories themselves, these images show the process of creating sheepskin gloves and slippers. Morland is still a fully functioning and well known shoe business.

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