Basketmaking is one of the oldest technologies and is thought to pre-date pottery and woven textiles.
Until as recently as 50 years ago, baskets made from local materials were used in all aspects of daily life including farming, fishing and travel as well as domestic use. Virtually every town and many villages in Oxfordshire had at least one basketmaker and the technique was often passed down through the generations. One of the most well known basketmaking dynasties was the Lewis family of Milton, Sutton Courtenay and Cholsey, who made baskets for nearly 100 years. Using local willow, they made cherry-picking baskets and bushel baskets (also known as sieves) for the local orchards as well as shopping baskets, hampers and many other basketry items made to order. All this changed with the advent of plastic. Plastic containers have replaced baskets almost everywhere.
Baskets are still valued as beautiful and functional containers. However, some basketmakers are using traditional techniques to construct non functional forms and use a variety of materials including plastic, paper and wire.
More information about Oxfordshire's basketry past may be found at the following Museums and websites:
The Oxfordshire Museum, Woodstock - www.tomocc.org.uk
Vale and Downland Museum, Wantage - www.wantage-museum.com/
Oxfordshire History Centre - www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/oxfordshirehistory
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