Category Archives: Uncategorized

Traditional Crafts Map of the British Isles

For a while now I have been thinking that it would be great if I could add a Traditional Crafts Map to this blog.  Somewhere I could pin all crafts from all the different places that I visit.  I have also been thinking it would be great to find a way for other people to interact with the site more.

Whilst I am having a great time on my virtual journey, it’s going to me a very long time to meander my way around the British Isles, hunting down all the different regional traditional crafts.  If other people could add their own local crafts to a map as well it would be fantastic and I am sure that some obscure regional crafts will be uncovered.

Now such a map is way beyond me in computer terms, so it’s lucky that I have found some clever people who have done it already.  Historypin is a place where people can pin images, video and audio on a map.  Anyone can upload images and so a huge historical database is being created.

I have created a Potter Wright and Webb channel with a traditional crafts map of the British Isles where I shall be pinning all the regional crafts.  If you have images of regional crafts, please go ahead and get pinning too.  Go to Historypin and create a channel and then pin away.  Images from different channels can be gathered together into a collection.  So let me know and I will add them to the Potter Wright and Webb Regional Crafts Collection.  Any images of craft objects associated with a particular region welcome.

Please visit – A Traditional Crafts Map of the British Isles.

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Back to the Blog

I’m back!!  Having realised I’ve not been very good at getting my blog posts out on a regular basis recently, I have given myself a bit of a talking too.  Apparently this happens quite often with new bloggers.  People start off all enthusiastic, then get bored and go and do something else.  Now, if you know me in the real world you will know – I am very good at starting things, doing it for a while and then getting bored and going off to do something else.   Well, you will be pleased to know this is not such an example.  I have just been busy sorting out other stuff.

This lovely blog was started as the precursor for Potter Wright and Webb’s  online shop, specialising in the traditional regional crafts of the British Isles.   The blog was meant to focus my mind on getting the shop up and running.  The plan was I would do one post a week, featuring a traditional craft object, which I would then sell in the shop.  But I have discovered I am far more interested in finding out about all the amazing regional crafts from around the country than actually starting a shop.  Having to worry about stock levels, wholesale prices, advertising, featured products and profit makes me go all of a quiver!

I have also discovered most of our traditional Heritage Crafts are in a precarious position.  Often only a handful of craftspeople operate commercially and many of these are simply unable to offer wholesale prices.  So I have slightly shifted my focus.  I’ve decided to put off opening the shop (at least until Angela Merkel and friends have worked out where all the money has gone).  Instead I shall concentrate solely on making this blog the home of all things to do with traditional regional crafts.  I shall continue on my journey around the British Isles featuring all the lovely things I come across, linking to the websites of  the individual craftspeople as I go. Who knows where my meandering will end up!  It has already lead to me writing a post for the November issue of Dulwich OnView about Lambeth pottery, so that is pretty exciting, in fact I had better stop writing this and start writing the article for them!


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Yorkshire Buttons

This is going to be short!  I have been searching for information on Yorkshire buttons and they are proving elusive.  There is a type of button which goes by the name of ‘Yorkshire button’ and I have found references to them here and there, but I can find no historical proof that they were linked exclusively to Yorkshire.  I have a sneaking suspicion they might be a relatively recent invention but I remain unsure.

Anyway, for now all I can say is that they are a type of hand stitched button.  Made by creating a circular woven wheel, traditionally from woollen yarn and stuffing it to form a sphere.  You can find more detailed instructions on how to make them here, as for no particular reason the Yorkshire Button is the subject of my very first tutorial found on my How to….page.  So, even if its own history is a bit hazy, it now has a place in the history of Potter Wright and Webb!

If, by any chance, you can shed light on the history of this humble button then please let me know.

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The Sussex Pimp!

The Sussex pimp is a little known traditional coppice product, a small bundle of kindling – twenty five small lengths of birch tied up with tarred string.  Made by woodsman in the area around Petworth, used locally and also taken up to London by the cart, lorry and train load.   There is still one man who produces pimps and this is Alan Waters who is based near Chichester and sells through woodland fairs.  There is a nice video of him making some pimps and explaining the use of faggots and benders here;

A pimp is used to light a fire.  There is two other related coppice products;  a faggot, which is a larger bundle of sticks used to fuel ovens and now also utilised in the regeneration and protection of  river banks and a bavin, which like a faggot was used to fuel a fire.

Well there you have – what more can I say.  I did try to find an image for this post but when I googled ‘Sussex Pimp” all I got was a picture of a nasty looking man on the run in Brighton!

Posted in Heritage Crafts, Sussex, Traditional Crafts, Uncategorized, Wood | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Right Royal Sussex Trug

The Sussex Trug is a funny old place to start my Traditional Craft journey around the British Isle’s because some would say; it isn’t actually that old, especially in traditional craft terms, having first shot to fame in 1851.  But the trug is so very much associated with Sussex and is so firmly rooted in my childhood memories, it seems a very good place to begin.

There have been Trug’s in Sussex in one form or another since way back when.  The word trug is thought to have derived from the Old English word trough or trog which means ‘made of wood’ or ‘boat like form’.  The first trough’s or trog’s were carved, wooden, boat shaped vessels and were used by farmers for measuring and harvesting and there are references to them in medieval manuscripts. But what is a bit hazy is when these solid wooden Trog’s evolved into the baskets we now know as Trug’s.  It is known that a sixteenth century Sussex trugger called John Edwards left all his trugger tools to his son and the tools are almost the same as the trugger tools used today and trug’s also appear in paintings as far back as the 1700′s.

However the Trug really came into its own during the 1800′s,  In a village called Herstmonceux (Yes I know, it is a funny name!  It’s pronounced Herst-mon-zoo and it comes from combining the Anglo-Saxon word hyrst, which means “wooded hill” and the name of the Monceux family, who were lords of the manor in the 12th century)  lived a Mr Smith.  It seems that Mr Smith had the bright idea of taking the original trug and making it better.  Some say that he actually invented the Sussex Trug, it but it was more likely he was a master trug maker and he made the best trugs in the village.

We do know his trug were made in the traditional Sussex style; a lightweight basket made from Sweet Chestnut and Cricket Bat Willow. The Sweet Chestnut, grown locally on the wooded hills, he used for the rim and handle and the Cricket Bat Willow, from the nearby Pevensey Marshes, he used to make boards for the body of the basket.  Mr Smith’s Sussex Trug was very popular locally and he developed a thriving market selling to local farmers.

The really big moment in Sussex Trug’s history came in 1851 when Mr Smith took his basket to the Great Exhibition of 1851.  There, his stall was visited by Queen Victoria who order a number of Trug’s to give as gifts.  The Sussex Trug was renamed the Royal Sussex Trug and Mr Smith personally walked all the way to Buckingham Palace, pushing his hand cart, to deliver the Queens Trug’s.

Obviously Mr Smith was a very happy man, his business flourished and a trug making cottage industry developed.  Competitors sprung up and trug making spread throughout Sussex and Kent and even as far as Somerset.  Everyone chugged along quite nicely and the trug continued in production into the early twentieth century until, alas, along came mechanisation and plastic.

Now here is where the story could have ended, the lovely Royal Sussex Trug killed off by machines and plastic, luckily for us it isn’t the end. Admittedly things got a bit hairy for Trug making for a while, farmers no longer needed Trugs to collect their eggs and apples and the plastic punnet became the preferred container.  After the Second World War Trug production gradually shrank back into Sussex until there was only a handful of companies left, one being the original Thomas Smith company.  These Trug makers survived by pure tenacity  and also by adjusting their marketing plan.  Instead of selling mainly to farmers they begun to sell more to gardeners.  The Sussex Trug became the must have accessory for the dedicated gardener.

So there we have it, a potted history of the Sussex Trug.  Along the way the Sussex Trug really has had its ups and downs, through the seventies and eighties I remember more than one  story about how the last trug makers were on the verge of shutting up shop. But it does seem they have now carved themselves a niche market.  The Sussex trug makers have also diversified and now produce a ply version of the traditional trug.  Go to any gardening online shop and the chances are that there will be a wooden trug of some description for sale.  They now even have to fight off the threat of cheap, imported copies from China.  However, the genuine article for me remains the Royal Sussex Trug, made only by the original Smith company.  Although I must say if I am perfectly honest, I don’t think much of the music they play in their workshop, but despite the music – they make a jolly fine old Trug!!

Next post is going to be on the Cumbrian Oak Swill.  I am so loving this!  In an age when we all moan about generic high street brands, it’s so great to focus on the regional crafts which are still alive and kicking.  Think Cheddar Cheese and Cornish Pasty for the craft industry!!

There are many places to buy Sussex trugs, some are made in Sussex and some are imported from Eastern Europe or China.  It’s fair to say that the cheaper it is the more likely it is not to be a genuine Sussex trug.  If you want to be sure that you are getting the real deal then The Cuckmere Trug Company is where you need to go, deep in the sussex countryside and bizarrely the workshop is also within earshot of Druzilla‘s zoo.  So alongside the tweeting of blackbirds and sparrows you can hear monkeys and parrots too!

The Cuckmere Trug Company 


Posted in Heritage Crafts, Sussex, Traditional Crafts, Uncategorized, Wood | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments