Above Workers at Moon’s basket manufactury, Long Rock, Penzance, Cornwall. c.1910. Image: Courtesy of RichardMoon basketmaker. His grandfather and father are first and third from left.
Crates for transporting cauliflowers to London were made in white willow. The owner’s initials were stencilled on to ensure theirreturn. Crates for harvesting in the field were made in buff willow.


Moon’s Manufactury.

Above Cutting broccoli at Trevean Farm, Gulval, c.1950’s.
Image: Copyright Penlee House Gallery and Museum, Penzance / Penhaul Collection.
This field was known as the Bowling Green.

Black basket. Image: Copyright Museum of English RuralLife, University of Reading MERL 69/195. An agricultural basket particular to Devon. Larger than a Cornish dropper and sturdy, it was used for general heavy farm work, harvesting roots and potatoes.Brown willow with a rattan handle.

In west Cornwall, the longer than usual growing seasons and fewer spring frosts meant early crops of spring cabbages, carrots, potatoes and flowers were possible. By the late 19th century, with the coming of the railway, hundreds of baskets were needed for planting and harvesting, and for
transporting crops from market gardens and small farms to London.
Baskets were made in small family businesses where workers were paid piece rate by the basket, or by basketmakers working on their own. Weaving
was fast and efficient, with as many baskets as possible made in a day, and little waste of time, energy or materials.
Basket bases for ‘droppers’, brocolli crates unique to the southwest, and 1/2 cwt ‘maunds’, a measure, were made ‘underfoot’ or ‘foot on’ (Cornwall) for speed. By anchoring the work under the feet and bending over, both hands were free to work. The baskets had to be sturdy but every extra stake or upright meant more work and so construction was economical. Sides were slewed with several weavers used at a time to speed up the work.
Tips of willow rods cut as waste from the previous basket were used in the next one. Willow was brought in from the Somerset Levels. This could be white, with the bark peeled off, for best, brown, with the bark left on, or buff. For buff the willow bundles were boiled in a tank of water for up to 8 hours, after which the shredded barkwas removed using a stripping machine. Tannins stained  the rods a tan colour.

Men sowing potatoes. c.1950’s. Image: Copyright Penlee House Gallery and Museum, Penzance / Penhaul Collection.
The sturdy handles of Cornish ‘droppers’ were strong enough to lean on.


Image: Copyright Morrab Photographic Library Archive.
Daffodils and narcissi were picked from November onwards and always into baskets.


A page from Richard Moon’s day book which meticulously records the numbers and types of baskets he made over the years.


Lin Lovekin making a ‘foot on’ basket base, 2013.


Droppers (front), half hundredweight ovals(to right), and a brocolli crate in the making (behind) in the Salt Cellar Workshops 2012. Part of a research project into Cornish baskets by Lin Lovekin.

Recreation of a craust basket by Lin Lovekin. These baskets containing lunch ‘craus’ or ‘crib’) were taken into the fields by farmworkers.