From boats to basketwork - forging a new future for ancient crafts

31 MAR 2020

From keeping the crafts of sail and coracle making afloat to replacing century-old tools that are the last set in existence, Allchurches Trust funding is helping ensure that endangered crafts live on in the UK.

In January 2020, Allchurches announced grant funding of £12,000 to The Heritage Crafts Association (HCA) to help ensure the survival of threatened ancient crafts. 

In 2019, the HCA published the second edition of its ‘HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts’, highlighting traditional skills which are under threat and under-resourced and then introducing a fund to increase the likelihood of these skills being passed on to future generations. 

The HCA have just released news of the latest eight craft businesses and individuals to benefit from the support of the Endangered Crafts Fund, with Allchurches funding three in this round. They are:
 
Coates English Willow – funding to forge new tools for an apprentice working for one of the last practicing basketwork furniture makers, who creates beautiful home-grown willow baskets in Somerset. Their only set of tools is now over a century old and this funding should ensure the craft’s survival for the next generation, and hopefully another 100 years to come!
 
Ratsey & Lapthorn - world renowned sailmakers since 1790, based in the Isle of Wight. They specialise in racing sails, cruising and classic sails. The funding will help them to train an apprentice sailmaker in the craft of making sails for a historic yacht.
 
• Justine Burgess - the grant will support Justine to train in Teifi and Tywi coracle making in West Wales, so she can pass on the skills to others.
 
The Endangered Crafts Fund will also support, among others, an apprentice wooden boot tree maker and provide funding for tools for a folding knife maker’s apprentice and to record the skills of Fair Isle straw back chair making in Shetland in a film that can be used to train others.
 
Mary Lewis, HCA Endangered Crafts Officer, said: “When we first published the HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts, the task of safeguarding so many at-risk skills seemed overwhelming. Thanks to the support of our donors and funders like Allchurches Trust and The Radcliffe Trust we now have 13 projects underway, but there is still so much to do to ensure that future generations can continue to benefit from this important part of our culture.” 
 
Paul Playford, who heads up the heritage grants programme at Allchurches Trust, said:  “It’s fascinating to see the wide range of endangered craftspeople and places that are represented in the latest Endangered Crafts Fund cohort, and we’re proud that our funding will help ensure that these at-risk crafts can be handed down, along with the tools and training needed to enable their protection in the longer term. 
“We’re looking forward to hearing more from these skilled craftspeople as they develop their skills and hope to play our part in telling their story, raising awareness of ancient practices that are so important to preserve for future generations and hopefully inspiring others to follow their lead.”
 
If you are thinking of applying for the HCA Endangered Crafts Fund, you can find more information here. 
 
 
Miniature Tywi coracle - Photo copyright Carmarthen Coracle Netsmens Association
Pictured above: Miniature Tywi coracle - Photo copyright Carmarthen Coracle Netsmens Association. 
Pictured in header: Oak swill basket - Photo copyright Lorna Singleton
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