William Palmer of Stoke St Gregory began basket making at the age of eleven years and carried on for nearly seventy-eight years. He worked with his uncle when he started, earning two shillings a week. His earnings gradually increased as his work improved. William received piecework wages, and was paid between tenpence and a shilling for each chair. William worked on his own from 1907 after his uncle emigrated to Canada, buying his own premises in 1915. In 1916 he joined the Army for two years.
Wallace Musgrave was a member of the Musgrave basket-making family of Stoke St Gregory, a village at the heart of the Somerset Levels. He made baskets and worked for the Drainage Board around Aller Moor, Middlezoy and Westonzoyland. Mr Musgrave attended Drainage Board meetings and collected rent from farmers; he was an expert on the history of drainage on the Levels.
John Hancock talked about his work at English Hurdles, Curload, Stoke St Gregory, a company producing willow products. These were mainly hurdles but also rose arches, bowers and chairs. John originally works on harvesting willow in the 1990s, and describes machinery now used in cutting and hauling the willow from the beds.
The recording of Emrhys Coate, (b.1912), deals with the details of willow growing. In the 1920s women would strip the withies ready for basket-makers, growers would drop bundles of willow at the cottages and pick them up the next day, paying the women per bundle. The income generated by women was a crucial contribution to the pot, especially in the 1920s and 30s when Somerset – like the rest of Britain – was in the grip of an agricultural depression.