Chal­font St Peter’s role in the his­tory of straw plait­ing

Chiltern Open Air Mu­seum


plaiters re­lied on two sim­ple pieces of equip­ment to be able to com­pete.

Plait pat­terns can be classed as ei­ther plain, pearl or bril­liant, but within th­ese cat­e­gories there are more than 40 types of plait. Th­ese de­pend on how many splints, or pieces, of straw are used, which can vary from seven to 22.

The in­ven­tion of the straw split­ter made pro­duc­tion much eas­ier, and although the in­ven­tor is un­known, one pos­si­ble can­di­date is a young man from Chal­font St Peter.

Early straw split­ters were made of wood, bone or bronze, curv­ing to a point with blades ra­di­at­ing out­wards. As hol­low straws were pushed onto the point they were evenly di­vided by the blades. Later com­bi­na­tion split­ters were wooden pan­els with a va­ri­ety of holes con­tain­ing dif­fer­ent num­bers of blades, mean­ing that one de­vice could be used to split straws for a range of pat­terns.

Once the straw was split, the splints were flat­tened in a splint mill. Th­ese con­sisted of two rollers and a han­dle in a wall-mounted wooden frame.

Mills could also be used to flat­ten plaits, and th­ese ex­am­ples fea­tured grooves to pro­tect the plait’s shape.


Chal­font St Giles 01494 871117

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