This film is part of Free

The Wicker Men of Somerset

The process from harvest to basket is highlighted in this report about the willow growers of the Somerset Levels.

News 1962 6 mins

From the collection of:

Logo for South West Film and Television Archive


A willow farmer and producer describes the processes behind willow growing and the basket weaving industry. His family have been growing and preparing willow to be used in basket manufacture for over 150 years. Only 1000 acres of willow are given over to willow growing in Somerset and the industry is in decline. His company harvests withies and hand weaves baskets for domestic and industrial use. Wicker and splint basketry uses willow but also reed, cane, oak and ash.

The young willows are grown on the Somerset Levels and cutting is from November to March. The withy is then sized, boiled, stripped and dried in the wind and sun and resoaked to make it pliable. Jack Hembrow is a skilled basket weaver and works in his studio creating up to eight dog baskets a day. The art of weaving and its craft are becoming a lost industry. Basket weaving is one of the oldest and most widespread forms of craft in the world and evidence has been found to suggest its existence in Upper Egypt ten to twelve thousand years ago, probably harvesting the reed beds of the River Nile. Environmentally friendly wicker willow coffins have done much to reinvigorate a dying industry.