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 www.coam.org.uk 01494 871117