A coppersmith, a Highland thatcher and a trainee sailmaker are among the recipients of a new round of grants to help safeguard some of UK’s most endangered craft skills.
Heritage Crafts has awarded the grants through its Endangered Crafts Fund, which was launched in 2019 to increase the likelihood of at-risk craft skills surviving into the next generation. Five of this round’s grants are funded by The Radcliffe Trust and were selected with special consideration of the impact of the energy crisis on our most vulnerable crafts.
In 2021 Heritage Crafts published the third edition of its groundbreaking Red List of Endangered Crafts, the first research of its kind to rank the UK’s traditional crafts by the likelihood that they will survive into the next generation. The report assessed 244 crafts to ascertain those which are at greatest risk of disappearing, of which four were classified as extinct, 74 as ‘endangered’ and a further 56 as ‘critically endangered’. A new edition will be published on 11 May 2023.
The seven successful recipients are:
- Scot AnSgeulaiche from Perthshire, to train an apprentice in the craft of Highlands and Islands thatching and encourage the use of locally-grown thatching materials.
- Birgit Frietman and Robyn Smith from London, to set up a hub for horn working in London and reduce their carbon footprint by completing more processes in-house.
- James Slaven from Glasgow, to train in sailmaking with Mark Shiner and set up a workshop at the GalGael Trust making and repairing sails and repurposing old sailcloth.
- Steve Hogarth from Derbyshire, to add the skills of leadworking and flint masonry to his steeplejack business, maintaining the usefulness of traditional buildings without the impact of scaffolding.
- Samantha Dennis from Shetland, to catalogue and replicate historical coiled baskets of Shetland and create a market for small crofters to sell locally-grown oat straw.
- John Wills from Northamptonshire, to set up a tinsmithing and coppersmithing workshop that will also provide teaching, using renewable charcoal to heat the traditional soldering coppers.
- Nicholas Konradsen from Lincolnshire, to research and make Lincolnshire bagpipes in a new workshop with more energy-efficient equipment.
These seven projects follow 50 others awarded in previous rounds, covering endangered crafts such as clockmaking, tinsmithing, kiltmaking and many more. Along with The Radcliffe Trust, which has been the major funder in this round, other funders have included The Sussex Heritage Trust, The Pilgrim Trust, The Dulverton Trust, The Swire Charitable Trust and others, as well as individuals who have donated sums from £5 right up to several thousands of pounds.
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.
Mary Lewis, Heritage Crafts Endangered Crafts Manager, said:
“The current energy crisis means that our craft skills are at more risk than ever before. We are delighted to be working in partnership with the Radcliffe Trust and other funders to address the specific challenges being faced by endangered crafts practitioners at this time.”
View the full list of the 57 grants awarded to date
Bagpipe making (Northumbrian pipes, smallpipes and bellows blown pipes)
The making of bagpipes; a musical instrument with a double or single reed pipe operated by finger stops and sometimes keys, and usually with one or more drone pipes, all of them sounded by air forced with the arm from a bag. The bag can be inflated using the mouth or bellows.
This category includes Northumbrian pipes, border pipes, pastoral pipes, Scottish smallpipes and the Uilleann pipe. See also Bagpipes (Highland pipes).
This craft uses products derived from animals and exotic hardwoods – please read our ethical sourcing statement.
|Historic area of significance
|There are many different traditions of bagpipes in Europe and the Middle East.
The Bagpipe Society has a listing of countries where bagpipes are found
|Area currently practised
|Origin in the UK
|Unclear, but the first bagpipes in Scotland are recorded in 1400. The first written record in England is 1285.
|Current no. of professionals (main income)
|Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
(There are around 10 part-time makers of Northumbrian Pipes)
|Current no. of trainees
|Current total no. serious amateur makers
|Small number of makers at the top end of the hobby range, making one or two sets a year.
|Current total no. of leisure makers
|Minimum no. of craftspeople required
The origin of bagpipe making in the UK is unclear. What is certain, however, is that bagpipes have existed in various forms in Europe and the Middle East. They were known to be widely spread across Europe from the 13th Century and are first recorded in Scotland in 1400. The earliest written reference in England is 1285.
In each country the construction of the basic instrument comprises the same component parts; an air supply, a bag with a chanter and usually with one or more drones. Pipes are inflated with air blown through a pipe (as with the Great Highland Bagpipes) or by the use of bellows as with the Irish uilleann pipes, pastoral pipes, the border or lowland pipes, Scottish smallpipes and Northumbrian smallpipes.
The name bagpipe has now become synonymous with the Great Highland Bagpipe, which has somewhat overshadowed other bagpipes.
The 1980s in Europe saw a significant increase in interest in other regional pipes, particularly bellows blown pipes that are quieter and more suitable to indoor use. This has, in turn, stimulated a revival in makers recreating and relearning bagpipe making skills. From the 1990s in the UK, pipemakers like Jon Swayne and Julian Goodacre have led a revival in recreating historical pipes including English Border pipes, the Cornish double pipe and the Leicestershire smallpipe.
The current form of the pipes was developed by makers in Newcastle-on-Tyne and North Shields towards the end of the 18th century, when the addition of chanter keys extended the melodic range of the chanter beyond an octave. This allowed pipers to explore the fiddle repertoire as well as the older pipe tunes of the region. Playing tunes with different key signatures required a variety of drone tunings which led to: the addition of more drones; stoppers to turn off those which conflicted with the melody; and tuning beads to widen the selection of pitches.
- Reed Making
- Leather work
- Cover making
- Bellows making
There are several types of bagpipe traditional to the UK, including:
- Highland pipes (Great Highland Bagpipes)
- Northumbrian smallpipe
- Northumbrian Half Long Pipes
- Northumbrian Shuttle Pipes
- Uilleann pipe – Irish bellows blown pipes
- Border pipe
- Scottish smallpipe
- Pastoral pipe
A number of regional bagpipes have been recreated from historical texts and illustrations. These include:
- Leicestershire smallpipe
- Cornish double pipe
- Welsh bagpipe
- Bag making
- Reed making
- Bellows making
Issues affecting the viability of the craft
- Training and recruitment: Bagpipes makers, excluding the main Great Highland Pipe making companies, are largely self-taught and there are no opportunities for formal training
- Skills: There are a lot of different skills necessary for making bagpipes including wood work, leather work, metal work and reed making. It is challenging to become skilled in all these areas.
- Market issues: From the playing perspective, these pipes have never been stronger, both in numbers and quality of musicians. However, pipes are frequently a lifetime purchase and buying a new set now is much more difficult than it was a few years ago.
- Market issues: there is a growing market in the UK but also internationally, which has led to makers starting up in North America, Australia and Northern Europe
- Market issues: the bigger manufacturers are starting to make small pipes, which could affect individual businesses in the future but does also demonstrate the increase in demand.
- Selling overseas: Some overseas markets are now difficult to access due to additional costs and paperwork. It is also difficult to accept pipes back from overseas for servicing and renovation due to import duty.
- Sourcing raw materials: Legislation to protect exotic timbers and other materials can be challenging for a small business.
Craftspeople currently known
A list of bagpipe makers and suppliers can be found on the Bagpipe Society’s website.
Border pipes, Scottish smallpipes, Lowland pipes, Uilleann pipes and other pipes:
- Lawrence Thomson – pipe bag and bellows maker
- Mark Bennett – bag maker
- Iain McLeod – bellows maker
Northumbrian pipe Makers
There are no full time makers of Northumbrian Pipes, making them one of the most endangered forms of bagpipe.
- Andy May
- Dave Shaw
- Kim Bull
- Philip Gruar
- Paul Tabbush
- Andy Lawrenson ( primarily repairs and maintenance)
- Nigel Barlow
- Andrew Davison
- John Burke
- Dave McQuade