The HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts

 

Rush matting

 

Hand weaving and sewing rushes into mats, log baskets, tableware, hats and bags.

 

Status Endangered
Craft category
Historic area of significance Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire
Area currently practised Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire
Origin in the UK
Current no. of professionals (main income) 6-10
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
Current no. of trainees
Current total no. serious amateur makers
1-5
Current total no. of leisure makers
51-100
Minimum no. of craftspeople required

 

History

It is likely that most people who lived near a river with rush growing would have worked it. Historically, there is a significant tradition in Bedfordshire where the rush was harvested all along the river Great Ouse by a team and taken back to Pavenham to be worked. Their matting went into the houses of Parliament and major cathedrals. Their baskets were sold in Harrods and other major shops.

After the First World War the tradition died for a while but was resurrected in the 1940s by a Mrs Morgan on a very small scale. Felicity Irons BEM took over the rush cutting from Tom Arnold in Holywell whose family had been cutting rush since the 1700s. When he died the craft would have disappeared without Felicity taking it on and continuing the tradition.

 

Techniques

  • 9 end flat weave – a form of plaiting woven wet and when dry it can be hand sewn with a large needle and jute twine.

 

Local forms

 

 

Sub-crafts

 

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

 

 

Support organisations

 

Craftspeople currently known

 

Other information

 

 

References