Making Rural England – Coopering and thatching

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Making Rural England – Coopering and thatching
Inside shave
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Cask taps
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Certificate
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Knee pads
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Thatching needle
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Plastic spar
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Bamboo spar
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Inside shave

Inside shave

This inside shave is one of a set of cooper’s tools used by the donor, Mr McCarthy, during his apprenticeship and career as a cooper at Reading Brewery from 1948. A cooper uses an inside shave to clean the inside of a cask. Mr McCarthy started his coopering apprenticeship at Reading Brewery on 10 June 1948, aged 17, and finished in March 1952. No members of his family were coopers but he started because his friend’s father was a cooper. He worked 40 hours a week during his apprenticeship doing piecework with a trained cooper who was his master. Up to the age of 18 all earnings went to the master cooper; aged 18-20 half went to the apprentice, a quarter to the master and a quarter to the brewery; aged 20-21 two thirds to the apprentice, one sixth to the master and one sixth to the brewery.

MERL 2006/15

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Cask taps

Cask taps

These three cask taps are from a set of cooper’s tools used by the donor during his apprenticeship and career as a cooper at Reading Brewery from 1948.

MERL 2006/26

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Certificate

Certificate

This is an Indenture of Apprenticeship certificate, dated 6 July 1948, on cream coloured paper with a red wax seal. It belonged to the donor, who served an apprenticeship as a cooper at Reading Brewery.

MERL 2006/45/2

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Knee pads

Knee pads

These thatcher’s knee pads were made for the thatching exhibit at the Festival of Britain. Knee pads are used not only to protect the thatcher’s trousers but also to press down the bunches (or ‘yealms’) of straw as they are put in place, to pack the bow with yealms, and as a rest against which the spars are cut. These pads are made of strong leather, lined with greenbaize. They are fastened to the knee by two straps and buckles.

MERL 52/88

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Thatching needle

Thatching needle

A thatching needle is used to secure the bunches of straw to the roof and to each other with twine (tarred to keep the mice away).

MERL 66/220

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Plastic spar

Plastic spar

Spars are used to secure liggers (lengths of split wood used to hole the upper surface of the thatch in place) on the ridges of thatched roofs. The plastic spar was developed circa 1990 by John Fletcher, a thatcher from Christchurch, Dorset; however, they are not very popular with thatchers as they do not grip as well as the traditional hazel spar. These plastic spars are part of a collection of thatching tools donated by Jeff King, a thatcher and former thatching advisor at CoSIRA.

MERL 94/67/1

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Bamboo spar

Bamboo spar

This is a thatching spar, made from imported pang from Malaysia. The spar is twisted into a staple shape, with sharpened ends. Spars are used to secure liggers (lengths of split wood used to hole the upper surface of the thatch in place) on the ridges of thatched roofs. This spar was part of an exhibition of teaching material on thatching used by Jeff King, a thatcher and former thatching advisor at CoSIRA, at the Adult Education Centre at Knuston Hall, near Wellingborough, Northamptonshire.

MERL 99/9

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