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Six new grants awarded to help save endangered crafts from extinction

Zoë Watson, trainee kiltmaker. Photo by Nikki Laird.

A kiltmaker, a clockmaker and a typefounder are among the recipients of the latest round of grants awarded to help safeguard some of the UK’s most endangered craft skills.

Heritage Crafts, which published the third edition of its groundbreaking Red List of Endangered Crafts last year, has awarded a further six grants from its Endangered Crafts Fund, which was launched in 2019 to increase the likelihood of endangered crafts surviving into the next generation.

This round of the Endangered Crafts Fund has been offered with support from the Dulverton Trust, with further support from the Pilgrim Trust, the Sussex Heritage Trust and the Swire Charitable Trust. The six successful recipients are:

  • Katie Beard, from Gloucestershire, to apprentice to type founder Stanley Lane, to safeguard the history and craft of metal type manufacture and letterpress book printing.
  • Hugh Dunford-Wood, from Dorset, to create short films to support the teaching of the craft of hand-blocked wallpaper making throughout the UK and beyond.
  • Scott Jeffrey, from Hampshire, to fund the setup of wheel and pinion cutting in his clockmaking workshop, and offer wheels and pinions to the trade.
  • Anna Rennie, from Cornwall, to apprentice to master maille maker Nick Checksfield, to learn how to restore and preserve original maille, and to become the first female professional maille maker.
  • Karl Schmidt, from the United States, to reintroduce the critically endangered craft of tinsmithing to the UK through a specialist tinsmithing masterclass.
  • Zoë Watson, from Perthshire, to train as a professional kiltmaker at the Kiltmakery in Edinburgh, after doing an introductory course as a 16-year-old student.
Hugh Dunford-Wood, wallpaper maker. Photo by Derek Reay.

Hugh Dunford-Wood, wallpaper maker. Photo by Derek Reay.

These six projects follow 35 awarded in previous rounds, covering endangered crafts such as scissor making, sail making, damask weaving, boot tree making, neon bending, and concertina making, amongst others.

As usual the fund was oversubscribed, and Heritage Crafts hopes to work with many of the unsuccessful candidates to identify other funding and support opportunities.

HCA Endangered Crafts Manager Mary Lewis said:

“The survival of endangered craft skills relies on the people who make a positive choice to learn, make and teach these crafts. These projects will provide future generations with opportunities that they might not otherwise have, to become productive and healthy members of our shared craft community and to safeguard this important part of our national heritage.”

Since 2019, the Endangered Crafts Fund has been funded through generous donations from organisations including the Pilgrim Trust, the Dulverton Trust, the Sussex Heritage Trust, the Swire Charitable Trust, the Garfield Weston Foundation, the Benefact Trust, and the Prince of Wales’s Charitable Fund, as well as individuals who have donated sums from £5 right up to several thousands of pounds.

Heritage Crafts continues to seek further donations to save even more of Britain’s most endangered crafts from oblivion. Donations are welcome at any time – for more information visit www.heritagecrafts.org.uk/ecf.

 

Maille making

The HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts

 

Maille making

 

The making of maille using traditional methods, patterns, tailoring and tools from scratch, not from imported rings (see also armour and helmet making).

 

Status Critically endangered
Craft category
Historic area of significance Greenwich & Nottingham
Area currently practised UK
Origin in the UK The earliest finds date from the 4th century BC but almost certainly earlier.
Current no. of professionals (main income) 1-5
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
1-5
Current no. of trainees 1
Current total no. serious amateur makers
1-10
Current total no. of leisure makers
not known
Minimum no. of craftspeople required

 

History

Maille developed all over Europe and the East (a lot of maille was exported there). The main (and possibly the best) makers where from Nuremburg but it was also made in Britain. Maille was used in the UK on and off until recent times where it was used by tank crews in WWI and by butchers.

 

Techniques

  • Wire drawing
  • Winding
  • Cutting
  • Annealing
  • Forming
  • Drifting
  • Rivet making
  • Riveting
  • Setting
  • Shaping
  • Tailoring
  • Forge welding

 

Local forms

 

 

Sub-crafts

Each part of the maille making process was traditionally made by different trades:

  • Wire drawing
  • Drifting
  • Ring making
  • Rivet making

The master mail maker and his apprentices would actually make the mail.

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • Imported maille has affected the craft. Most people are happy to forego authenticity, accuracy, quality and fit for a much cheaper price. People are now used to paying very little for something that was traditionally very expensive.
  • There are many people using imported rings, but few who are making maille from scratch. Many re-enactors have a go but almost all use imported rings.
  • A great deal of patience or time is needed in order to become proficient.
  • It has taken many years to rediscover the techniques. Without passing it on, the same mistakes will be re-made and advancement in our understanding will be lost.

 

Support organisations

 

 

Craftspeople currently known

Other information

As of 2022 Simon Metcalfe is planning a meeting of like minded people to share their knowledge and views on the craft. The Wallace Collection (David Edge) has also done a lot of work to advance knowledge about the craft.

Training providers:

  • Short courses are available in historic maille making with skilled makers Nick Checksfield and Phil Parkes on request. Details of courses with Phil can be found on the Craft Courses website.
  • There are no formal education opportunities specifically for maille making

References

Most information is gained by experimentation and experience. Some Victorian sources exist, notably by Burgess, but a lot of written sources are based on conjecture and assumption rather the practical application.

There are many books on arms and armour that reference maille (usually calling it chainmail) but little understanding. Nick Checksfield assisted in the study of the Wenceslaus Armour in Prague with David Edge, Alan Williams and Tobias Capwell after which an article was written for the Acta militaria mediavalia volume VIII.

A video on Nick Checksfield making maille can be found here.