Weald and Downland Living Museum: Exhibition to highlight heritage crafts at risk

An exhibition at the Weald and Downland Living Museum is highlighting heritage crafts at risk of being lost forever.

It will highlight crafts that have been classified as ‘critically endangered’ such as Stave basket making, and means there is a serious risk of these no longer being practised in the UK.

Steve Scott, is trades and crafts interpreter at the Weald and Downland Living Museum, he said: “Living in such a fast-paced, digital age it is easy to feel disconnected from the traditional crafts of our past and the specialised skills that used to be passed down through generations.

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“These unique and fascinating crafts which were once commonplace in towns and villages like Chichester and integral to the survival of rural communities are now sadly at risk of being lost forever as the specialised skills required are no longer practised.

Steve Scott from Weald and Downland Living Museum

“One of the aims of Weald & Downland Living Museum is preserving traditional rural trades and crafts from the past, so we can still enjoy and learn from them today and into the future.

“Once these skills are gone, they are gone for good so by working in partnership with the Heritage Crafts Association and other organisations, we are doing all we can to protect these crafts for future generations.”

The event takes place on August 7-8 and the exhibition runs until August 22.

As part of the Weald and Downland Heritage Crafts at Risk Exhibition and Heritage Crafts at Risk Historic Life Weekend event visitors will have the unique opportunity to learn about traditional crafts and skills through demonstrations, displays and hear from expert craftspeople.

Callum and Duncan from Berry Stonework

Steve said: “People can help support local craftspeople who are working to keep these traditional skills and crafts alive by buying their work or taking one of their courses. Which is also a great way to learn specialised skills and connect with the Heritage Crafts of the past.

“I myself make Stave Baskets which are on the HCA Red List for Critically Endangered Crafts. This type of basket was traditionally used in the fields, to take feed to livestock and to collect crops such as potatoes and apples after harvesting.

“The making process is very labour intensive and there are now only about half a dozen people making them.

“Myself and the other makers are keen to find new uses for the Stave Basket so that it can have a future.

“If they can find a new purpose, with people willing to buy them and use them, then there could be a bright future for these beautiful and functional baskets.”

The Heritage Craft Association produces a red list of endangered crafts every two years, the third was released this year and it reveals the crafts most at risk.

It is compiled using data from a range of individuals and stakeholder groups including craftspeople, businesses, guilds and associations.

Mary Lewis, endangered crafts manager at HCA, said: “The Red List of Endangered Crafts is increasingly recognised by the craft sector and by external bodies as a baseline of evidence on which to build opportunities, and to ensure that this rich, diverse seedbank of skills that exist in the studios, sheds, workshops and woodlands of the UK, are celebrated and valued.

“The Heritage Crafts Association’s mission is to support and promote crafts as a fundamental part of our living heritage. We believe that heritage crafts provide all sorts of benefits to the general public, and that they are part of culture as much as monuments and museum artefacts."

Along with the Sussex Heritage Trust, the Heritage Crafts Association has grants available to help save endangered crafts.

Sussex-based applicants are able to apply for grants for up to £2,000.

Four Sussex grants were awarded in March 2021 to two flint wallers, a brick and tile maker and a Sussex trug maker.

Duncan Berry is director at Berry Stonework Ltd based in Lavant, near Chichester. He was one of the flint wallers and used the grant to buy tools.

He said: “Flint walling was something that I did at school, I wanted to be a brick layer but where I grew up there was flint so I learnt the trade.”

Flintknapping is something that Berry Stonework does and is currently on the endangered list, it is the shaping of flint with a hammerstone for masonry purposes for use on buildings or facing walls.

He said: “It is so important to keep these heritage crafts going and not just for historical buildings but we recently did something at a site in Salisbury on some really modern, contemporary houses. It is as relevant to new housing as it is to older homes.”

“There are three of us and Callum Jackson who has come through from 17, not knowing what he wants to do and is now 22 and set up for life. It is a skill and he will be able to command how much he earns as he gets older as it will become a rarity.”

A wide variety of support is available from training yourself to learning a new craft or technique, to training an apprentice, buying specialist equipment, running workshops or finding innovative approaches to supporting and promoting endangered crafts.

Helen Reeve, general manager at Sussex Heritage Trust, said: “Excellent architecture and design, traditional building skills and craftmanship are an important part of the rich heritage of Sussex.

“It is important to facilitate the transfer of endangered crafts, building skills and knowledge, which is why we also run a Bursary scheme for young people in Sussex looking to attend short courses on Building Conservation techniques at either the Weald and Downland Living Museum or West Dean College of Arts and Conservation.”

Callum Jackson also received a bursary to learn the Conservation and Repair of Brick and Flint Masonry at West Dean.

The UK-wide Endangered Crafts Fund is supported by the Garfield Weston Foundation, the Dulverton Trust, Allchurches Trust, the Radcliffe Trust and individual donors.

The Endangered Crafts Fund was launched in 2019 to increase the likelihood of endangered crafts surviving into the next generation.

To apply, the craft must be listed as endangered or critically endangered on the current HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts.

The funding deadline for applications is on August 27, 2021.

For more information about the fund, email Mary Lewis at [email protected] or, Helen Reeve at [email protected]To apply for funding, visit www.sussexheritagetrust.org.uk