The Radcliffe Red List of Endangered Crafts

 

Coppice working

 

The management of woodland such that young tree stems are repeatedly cut down to near ground level to produce long straight shoots for harvesting, and the making of products using these shoots. Many of the coppice crafts have separate entries.

 

Status Currently viable
Craft category  Wood
Historic area of significance  South East; South West; Cumbria (see ‘Other information’ for further details)
Area currently practised  UK (see ‘Other information’ for further details)
Origin in the UK  Paleolithic
Minimum no. of craftspeople required  501-1000
Current no. of trainees  11-20
Current no. of skilled craftspeople  201-500
Current total no. of craftspeople  201-500 (coppice workers who make a proportion or all of their income from working coppice woodlands)

 

History

‘Coppice crafts’ is a broad term to describe the making of a wide variety of products including: pea sticks, hurdles, barrel hoops, clothes pegs, tent pegs, rakes, handles, spars, scythe snaiths, furniture and charcoal. Historically some craftsmen would have specialised in particular products, while others would have made a range of products. Today, coppice workers and woodsmen tend to make a range of items.

 

Techniques

 

Local forms

  • Oak coppice: Cumbria, Argyll, W Midlands for tan bark
  • Hornbeam coppice: Essex etc.
  • Mixed coppice (birch, alder, willow, hazel, ash) for bobbin works: Cumbria
  • Ash coppice
  • Hazel coppice
  • Sweet chestnut coppice

 

Sub-crafts

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • Foreign competition: Cheap imports of coppice crafts.
  • Lack of cooperation within the sector.
  • A shortage of in-rotation coppice – and there are high costs involved in restoring coppice.

 

Support organisations

Craftspeople currently known

 

Other information

Historic area of significance: The heartlands are now Kent where the chestnut industry is still viable, Southern counties such as Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire, Dorset where the hazel industry was associated with historic sheep industry. However most counties have some connection with a coppice history Cumbria being another that has a remnant industry today.

Current area: The National Coppice Federation has coppice groups affiliated from most areas of England and some in Wales. There are fewer in Scotland but there is some coppice.

Several organisations run coppiceworking apprenticeships, such as the Bill Hogarth Memorial Trust and the Small Woods Association.

 

References

  • Jenkins, J. Geraint, Traditional Country Craftsmen , Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd., 1978
  • Tabor, Raymond, Traditional Woodland Crafts: A Practical Guide , B. T. Bastford Ltd., 1994
  • Website of the Coppice Association North West]]
  • Oaks and Mills. (2010). Coppicing and Coppice Crafts – a comprehensive guide .