The Radcliffe Red List of Endangered Crafts


Swill basket making


The making of swill baskets, made from woven strips of cleft oak.


Status Critically endangered
Craft category Wood
Historic area of significance Cumbria
Area currently practised Cumbria
Origin in the UK
Minimum no. of craftspeople required
Current no. of trainees
Current no. of skilled craftspeople 2
Current total no. of craftspeople 2



Swill basket makingOak Swill baskets are traditional to the southern Lake District and have been made for centuries. Their origins are unclear, but it is likely that they evolved as a cottage industry which then expanded after the industrial revolution into a trade in its own right. Swills were used on coal steamships, in mines, mills, ironworks and many other industries. They also had farm and domestic uses, but declined rapidly in the post-war years with the rise in mechanisation and plastics.

Owen Jones MBE making a swill basket. Photo: Robin Wood




Local forms




Issues affecting the viability of the craft


Support organisations


Craftspeople currently known

  • Owen Jones – practises in the Lake District. The only full-time oak swill basket maker in Britain. Taught by John Barker.
  • Lorna Singleton – practises in the Lake District. Taught by Owen Jones.


Other information