Wainwrighting

The HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts

 

Wainwrighting

 

The making of horse-drawn wagons, including ship wagons, bow wagons, bowtop wagons and gypsy caravans (see also wheelwrighting and coach building).

 

Status Critically endangered
Craft category Vehicles, wood
Historic area of significance UK
Area currently practised UK
Origin in the UK Bronze Age
Current no. of professionals (main income) 3-4 businesses
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
Current no. of trainees
Current total no. serious amateur makers
Current total no. of leisure makers
Minimum no. of craftspeople required

 

History

Four wheeled vehicles have been made from the first days after the invention of the wheel, that is in the region of 5,000 years. The earliest British representation of a four wheeled wagon is probably the one in the Bayeux Tapestry, a special vehicle carrying a large barrel. This has wheels of equal sizes on the two axles, which suggests that it may not have had a turning forecarriage, the earliest four wheeled prestige carriages in this country, such as that in the Luttrell Psalter, were certainly made without one, in spite of the invention being known to the Hallstatt wagon builders and the Romans, though the Roman archaeology is a bit arguable, backed by some oblique textual references.

The farm vehicles of Britain in the dark ages and middle ages were mostly two wheeled carts and carts continued to be the main farm vehicles right up to the introduction of tractors.

Turning forecarriages had been introduced into British carriages by the end of the 16th century, and in the 17th century wagons were being built with them, but there is no clear evidence for their use in Britain before then, though continental ones seem to be attested by legislation and literature. The idea seems to follow the development of late medieval vehicles on the near continent, arriving in England coincidentally with industries like brickmaking and it has been said that immigrant workmen from the low Countries brought the idea. The strongest evidence suggests that wagons started the development into their final form in the Eastern counties, for use in road transport. Wagons grew in popularity with farmers through the 18th century, presumably because they could demonstrate their prowess by displaying a fine wagon. Strong local design traditions grew up and became a leading expression of the country’s craftsmanship. Wheelwrights’ workshops could demonstrate a flair for making them and some would grow to specialise more than others in producing wagons and carts. Some firms that grew in this way still exist, grown into modern agricultural engineers. Most are now gone.

The economy of a wagon making workshop ran better in the larger workshops. Wagon making was a collaborative enterprise, which is not surprising, at the very least a blacksmith needed to work with the wheelwright to make a cart. Apart from this kind of enterprise the usual route for wagons to be built was that a wheelwrights shop, busy with repairs through the summer months was gainfully occupied in the winter making a wagon or two.

In the Victorian period firms acting as factoriess grew up, supplying parts to wheelwrights much as motor factors do to garages today, and this enabled them to make a range of vehicles with fittings such as springs. Hovewever, specialisation was no new thing, as in the 15th century there were 10 or 11 or so wheelwrights shops in Lullingstone, Kent, selling wheels at a rate which apparently undercut rivals.

 

Techniques

 

 

Local forms

Wagon and cart builders from one county to the next would have made distinct designs, which were locally acceptable.

 

Sub-crafts

 

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • Market issues: Changing tastes – in the 1980s there was a demand for brewers drays which has now disappeared.
  • Market issues: Farm wagons are not worth the amount they cost to repair (value of £3,000 – £4,000 compared with £7,000 – £8,000 to repair), so very few people are repairing them and so there aren’t many wagons left. This will eventually turn a corner and wagons will become so rare that their value will increase and the demand will rise.
  • Loss of skills: The skills that are most in danger of dying out are those needed to make a new vehicle from start to finish. The main market for wagon making is in restoration – very few people buy new English vehicles, they either buy English vehicles to repair, or new Eastern European vehicles. Most wheelwrights can repair a wagon (how it always was), but there are perhaps 3-4 places who can make wagons from scratch.
  • Dilution of skills: Anyone can buy a workshop and call themselves a wagon maker, without necessarily having much experience or skill.
  • Business rates: Need big workshop to fit the vehicles in, so business rates are very high.

 

Support organisations

 

Craftspeople currently known

 

Other information

  • The traditional progress of the craft was from wheelwright to wainwright to coachbuilder. The work of a wainwright is not as fine as that of a coachbuilder, with fewer trimmings etc.
  • In the 1960s/70s wheelwrights were principally wainwrights as well but this is no longer the case as wagons are rarely built, certainly not new and restoring an existing vehicle/wagon is far easier than building from scratch.

 

References

Information provided by Robert Hurford.

  • Jenkins, J Geraint, The English Farm Wagon
  • Arnold, James, Farm Wagons and Carts
  • David Viner, Wagons and Carts
  • Sturt, George, The Wheelwright’s Shop
  • McNeill, C A, (1978) Technological Development in wheeled vehicles in Europe from prehistory to the sixteenth century (unpublished PhD thesis, Edinburgh University)
  • Museum of English Rural Life, Wagon Walk

Umbrella making

The HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts

 

Umbrella making

 

The making of umbrellas and parasols.

 

Status Endangered
Craft category
Historic area of significance London, Sheffield and Manchester
Area currently practised London, Croydon, Manchester, South Yorkshire and Cambridgeshire
Origin in the UK 17th century
Current no. of professionals (main income) 6-10 companies in the UK
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
1 company
Current no. of trainees
Current total no. serious amateur makers
Current total no. of leisure makers
Minimum no. of craftspeople required

 

History

Tradition has it that the Normans brought the umbrella to England with them (presumably some sort of canopy regalia) in 1066, but there is nothing very tangible to support this.

It is often claimed that umbrellas were introduced to England by Jonas Hanway about 1750, but this is definitely not correct. They are mentioned in Gays Trivia, The Art of Walking the Streets of London, published in 1712 and also in the Female Tattler for December 12 1709. But Jonas Hanway was the first Englishman to carry an umbrella regularly. He was pelted by coachmen and chairmen for his persistence, since they saw this craze could endanger there own means of livelihood.

At this time, umbrellas were very heavy, ungainly things made with whalebone or cane ribs, mounted on a long, stout stick of about one inch in diameter and covered with a heavy cotton fabric, waterproofed by oiling or waxing.

By 1787 the umbrella had achieved some considerable measure of popularity within a short period of time and the French ladies umbrellas had achieved remarkable elegance, and on the continent they were used as much as a sunshade as protection from rain. And it is from this period and via the sunshade that umbrellas began to develop into something lighter and more graceful.

Between 1816 and 1820 men’s umbrellas had again reached a weight of over four pounds, but ladies umbrellas continued to be much lighter, weighing less than one pound. This was partly due to the use of finer fabric of silk and by the substitution of light iron stretchers, but, in general, umbrellas in this country, until the middle of the last century, were made with ribs of whalebone for the best quality and of split cane for the cheaper quality. In the late 1800s came the development of steel ribs and frames, and so the modern umbrella was born.

Samuel Fox patented the first viable steel rib in 1847 around the same time that Singer started making sewing machines so the industry was revolutionised by the mid 1800s; no more hand sewing the canopies or heavy whalebone.

 

Techniques

  • Cutting
  • Machining (sewing)
  • Hand sewing
  • Mounting
  • Wood working

 

Local forms

  • Carriage/doorman’s umbrellas
  • Bookmakers umbrellas
  • Umbrellas for engineering industries
  • Theatre and film prop umbrellas
  • Solid stick umbrellas
  • City slim umbrellas (all metal frame)

 

Sub-crafts

  • Walking stick makers and handle makers (the people to source and bend the raw woods). There is possibly only one umbrella solid stick maker left now in the UK based in Norfolk.

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • Difficulty in sourcing raw materials
  • Overseas competition and a shrinking skill base due to the majority of umbrellas making being outsourced to the Far East
  • Difficulty in finding staff with knowledge and skills of umbrella making
  • There are no external training opportunities for umbrella making with the exception of sewing machining and fabric cutting.
  • High barriers to entry – i.e. industry specific machinery no longer available, high minimum order quantities requiring significant stock/working capital investment and no trained staff available outside the traditional umbrella making companies.
  • The dependency on allied industries for components and raw materials.

 

Support organisations

  • UK Fashion and Textile Association (UKFT) – supports the fashion industry, not specifically umbrella manufacturing.

There used to be The Umbrella Federation, which disbanded in the early 70s after members started offshoring. The organisation had been lobbying for additional tariffs on cheap imports but to no avail and as such trust between members was lost and it closed.

 

Craftspeople currently known

Makers that use traditional techniques that would have been recognised 50+ years ago. i.e. using lockstitch by skilled sewing machinists:

Makers that use assembly techniques designed for mass production. i.e. using overlocking by semi-skilled machinists:

  • The Umbrella Company
  • Booth Brothers
  • Contraldo
  • Manchester Umbrella Company (sources canopies from other makers)
  • Mane Umbrellas Ltd (sources canopies from other makers)

Individual makers:

 

Other information

Fox Umbrellas lost a member of staff this year who worked for them for 57 years. Whilst he trained their apprentices some of the knowledge on handle making/mounting has been lost and they were the last company to be able to make certain types of handles.

James Ince & Sons lost a member of staff, Terry Coleman, who retired aged 82 after over 67 years in the trade. He did pass on his skills of frame making to the business.

 

References

  • Fox Umbrellas, History of the Umbrella
  • Quilter Cheviot Presents Fox Umbrellas
  • Umbrella Frames 1848 – 1948, a centenary celebration by Samuel Fox Ltd
  • Crawford (1970) The History of the Umbrella
  • The Bag, Portmanteau and Umbrella Trader, trade journal published 1907-21.
  • Sangster (1871) Umbrellas and their History

Surgical instrument making

The HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts

 

Surgical instrument making

 

The making of surgical instruments for use in operating theatres.

 

Status Endangered
Craft category Metal
Historic area of significance Sheffield
Area currently practised Sheffield
Origin in the UK
Current no. of professionals (main income) 12 at Platts & Nisbett;
Unknown number at S Murray & Co
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
Current no. of trainees 3 – Platts & Nisbett apprentices/trainees
Current total no. serious amateur makers
Current total no. of leisure makers
Minimum no. of craftspeople required

 

History

 

 

Techniques

Although there have been some technological advances (such as the use of laser welding and laser marking machines), surgical instruments are still largely made by hand. The filing and fitting cannot be done using machines.

 

Local forms

 

 

Sub-crafts

 

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • Training issues – it takes five years (over 10,000 hours) to complete a Platts & Nisbett Apprenticeship at a total cost to the company of approximately £90,000. They currently receive only £500 funding per apprentice and no other financial help for training which is all done in house at the company’s expense.
  • Recruitment issues – it is difficult to find suitable people with a good work ethic, who want to work with their hands and make a career from craft.
  • Market issues – competing with many British supply companies who are buying cheaper lower quality surgical instruments from Asia which are flooding the market.
  • Lack of education of the end users – many hospital staff are unaware of the original source of some surgical instruments, i.e. that they are imported from Asia and sold on by British companies. Users assume it is a British made product. The quality of material and workmanship of these lower cost products is often questionable. Changes in Regulations regarding transparency in 2020 may improve this.
  • Lack of metal work being taught as a subject in schools, so young people may be unaware they have a natural ability which could be nurtured, and developed into a career.
  • Lack of awareness that this craft can offer a well-paid career. Traditional crafts take a back seat to the advanced technologies.
  • Rising cost of raw materials (stainless steel and forgings) and consumables.
  • Cost of quality systems which are essential to comply with CE Marking Regulations etc
  • Cost of insurance, health and safety systems, pensions etc for small businesses.

 

Support organisations

 

 

Craftspeople currently known

 

Other information

Surgical instrument makers must not only be able to work with their hands, but understand how things work and be traditional problem-solving engineers. This is not something which can be done by computers and machinery. Producing a quality product is vital, as there is a patient at the end of everything that is made.

 

References

 

Spinning wheel making

The HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts

 

Spinning wheel making

 

The making of spinning wheels to spin yarn from natural or synthetic fibres. (See also spinning)

 

Status Critically endangered
Craft category Wood
Historic area of significance
Area currently practised
Origin in the UK
Current no. of professionals (main income) 1
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
1-2
Current no. of trainees
Current total no. serious amateur makers
1
Current total no. of leisure makers
Minimum no. of craftspeople required

 

History

Spinning wheels were first used in India, between 500 and 1000 AD. Spinning machinery, such as the spinning jenny and spinning frame, displaced the spinning wheel in industry, though its use has continued in cottage industry and artisan production.

 

Techniques

 

 

Local forms

 

 

Sub-crafts

 

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • There is an upsurge in knitting and weaving and there are a number of small multinational suppliers of spinning and weaving equipment that meet the demand. These companies tend to use modern materials and high end equipment to make an acceptable product at a competitive price.

 

Support organisations

 

 

Craftspeople currently known

Woodland Turnery has recently closed following retirement. Owners Clive and Joan Jones tried to sell the business with five potential buyers all dropping out for various reasons. They have now sold on their demo wheels.

 

Other information

Valerie and David Bryant have been researching early spinning-wheel makers in the UK for many years.

 

References

Lumb, Dorothy, Spinning wheels made in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales during the 20th century

Smocking

The HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts

 

Smocking

 

The use of embroidery stitches to control the fullness of a pleated fabric and give elasticity to non-elastic fabric (see also embroidery).

 

Status Endangered
Craft category Textiles
Historic area of significance Suffolk, Somerset and Dorset.
Area currently practised UK
Origin in the UK 13th/14th century
Current no. of professionals (main income)
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
11-20
Current no. of trainees 1-6
Current total no. serious amateur makers
51-100
Current total no. of leisure makers
500+
Minimum no. of craftspeople required

 

History

Originally, smocking developed to give elasticity to fabric that was non-elastic and became widespread for both decorative and practical purposes. The best known examples are of agricultural workers overgarments, made from linen or jute cloth, often oiled or waxed to repel rain. The stitching on these garments became decorative as well as practical. Smocks were made for specific functions as well as labouring work.

Hiring day smocks, stating the wearers’ skill or trade (for men and women), wedding smocks and church smocks were not uncommon, and were often beautifully smocked with a range of decorative stitches and embellished with embroidery. The embroidery was usually done in feather stitch, chain stitch, blanket stitch and stem stitch, often in the same colour as the base fabric. Traditional smocks were all cut to the same design, using geometric shapes, to facilitate the full use of the fabric, altering proportions to suit the wearer. Decorative work was used for shirts, dresses, bodices, cuffs and necklines, where fullness had to be reduced and shaped.

These days, smocking is in reality a means of decorating garments with attractive embroidery. Some designs still use the ability of smocking to give elasticity, but for purely decorative purposes, work smocks having long age disappeared from industrial use.

 

Techniques

Smocking involves gathering the fabric by hand, following applied ‘dots’ placed on the back of the fabric. These dots are in lines, both vertical and horizontal so the pleats created are regular in size and depth. These can be iron on dots, available in blue, yellow and silver. Several different sizes of dots are available to suit different fabrics and designs, or use powdered tailors chalk and a thin metal template and ‘pounce’ the dots onto the fabric. These days it is also possible to gather principally by machine, adjusting the spacing of the rows to suit the fabric or design.

Following the gathering and drawing up of the fabric to the desired width, the decorative stitches can be worked on the surface or the reverse of the fabric to achieve the desired effect before the garment or work object is completed.

 

Local forms

 

 

Sub-crafts

  • Beading
  • Embroidery
  • Dressmaking
  • Heirloom sewing
  • Silk ribbon work

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • Smocking is currently practiced by older people and few young people learning the craft.
  • Smocking is a labour intensive craft. There is a huge demand for smocking but not enough young people willing to work for so little money. Most makers turn to smocking once they become a grandparent.
  • The need for smocked dresses by Travelling families helps to keep this tradition alive.
  • There is a throwaway culture regarding clothes.
  • Needlework/embroidery skills are no longer taught in schools.
  • Smocking is not taught by the Royal School of Needlework.
  • Therapeutic value of creative needlework much undervalued, despite the evidence of many years.

 

Support organisations

  • The Smockers (set up by members of the former Smocking group of the Embroiderers’ Guild in 2018) – run a successful summer school each year attended by 15 to 20 members.
  • The Embroiderers’ Guild
  • The Women’s’ Institute
  • The National Needlework Archive

 

Craftspeople currently known

  • Ros Atkins
  • Kathy Eagle
  • Sally Figgins
  • Heather Flint
  • Daisy Chain
  • Isobel Luke
  • Sue O’Neil
  • Emily Rabbit
  • Patricia Ruffell
  • Heather Washington
  • Molly Goddard
  • Jean Hodges
  • Masha Popova
  • Rosemary Brown
  • Christine Clark
  • Christine Franklin
  • Gill Duncan
  • Hilary Wilson
  • Heather King
  • Sheena Reid
  • Jacqui Holmes
  • Maureen Briggs

 

Other information

Smocking is very versatile and can be used on anything and everything where there is gathered fabric.

 

References

  • A-Z of Smocking
  • Armes, Alice, (1980) English Smocks (Dryad Press)
  • The Smocking Arts Guild of America
  • The House of Smocking
  • Australian Smocking and Embroidery Magazine

Side saddle making

The HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts

 

Side saddle making

 

The making of side saddles to allow riders to sit aside rather than astride a horse (see also saddlery).

 

Status Endangered
Craft category Leather
Historic area of significance London, West Midlands
Area currently practised
Origin in the UK
Current no. of professionals (main income) 1-5
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
11-20
Current no. of trainees 6-10
Current total no. serious amateur makers
11-20
Current total no. of leisure makers
Minimum no. of craftspeople required

 

History

A side saddle is a type of saddle developed for ladies who did not want to ride in a carriage but when riding astride was considered unladylike.

 

Techniques

Extremely traditional and tended to always be the top saddlers who specialised. Working with serge, linen, doe and pigskin.

 

Local forms

 

 

Sub-crafts

  • Side saddle tree making

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • Interest in side saddles is enjoying a revival – more people are riding side saddle and wounded veterans with limb loss are discovering the opportunities side saddles offer in their rehabilitation.
  • Although the craft is experiencing an upsurge there are still relatively few skilled makers.
  • Richard Godden’s retirement will mark a great loss to the side saddle making skills base and it will be difficult to replace him.

 

Support organisations

  • The Saddlery Training Centre
  • The Society of Master Saddlers
  • The Side Saddle Association
  • The Worshipful Company of Saddlers
  • Capel Manor College
  • Institute of Creative Leather Technologies
  • Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust

 

Craftspeople currently known

Individual makers:

  • James Turner, Berkshire
  • Carolyn Truss, Cambridgeshire
  • Amanda Wilson, Derbyshire
  • Johan Ulvede, Devon
  • Alan Brown, Devon
  • Nigel Higgs, Gloucestershire
  • Clare Barnett, Hampshire
  • Susan Elizabeth Slade, Hampshire
  • Penny Dickson, Kent
  • Catherine Lonsdale, Lancashire
  • Mark Bushell, Lincolnshire
  • Sally Greaves, Norfolk
  • Alice Blakey, Oxfordshire
  • Sarah Stevens, Oxfordshire
  • Anne Dawson, Shropshire
  • Richard Godden, Somerset
  • Ian Silman, Somerset
  • Martin Gulliver, Stafforshire
  • Coralie Chung, Suffolk
  • Helen Dart, Surrey
  • Nicola Watson, Sussex
  • Jackie Winchester, Sussex
  • Laura Dempsey, Warwickshire
  • Julia Duffin, Wiltshire
  • Christopher Harper, Wiltshire
  • Tiffany Parkinson, Wiltshire
  • Robert Jenkins, Worcestershire
  • Hilary Lambe, Yorkshire
  • Julie Shepherd, Yorkshire
  • Jocelyn Danby, Ross-shire
  • Shirley Justice-Vose, Ayrshire
  • Graham Butt, Powys
  • Helen Reader, Carmarthen

Businesses employing two or more makers:

  • Colne Saddlery, Gloucestershire
  • Cirencester Saddlers, Gloucestershire
  • J Houghton & Son, Lancashire

 

Other information

 

 

References

  • Owen, Rosamund, The Art of Side Saddle