His­tory of oak swills

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It is likely that swill bas­ket mak­ing evolved from a cot­tage in­dus­try, grad­u­ally ex­pand­ing af­ter the in­dus­trial and agri­cul­tural rev­o­lu­tions. Swills are rough, strong work­ing bas­kets and were used for coal­ing steam ships, in mines, iron­works and many other in­dus­tries. In par­tic­u­lar, they were used in the many bob­bin mills which sprang up, for car­ry­ing the wooden cot­ton reels. On farms, the bas­kets were used in broad­cast sow­ing, har­vest­ing root crops and feed­ing an­i­mals. Do­mes­ti­cally, swills have been used for hold­ing laun­dry, logs, gar­den­ing ma­te­rial, shop­ping and as cra­dles. “A big use of the swill was as a cockle bas­ket in More­cambe Bay,” says Owen. “At low tide, cock­les were raked into the bas­kets, which had to be swilled out with wa­ter to re­move the sand.” The height of the swill mak­ing in­dus­try was from the late 18th cen­tury to the early 20th cen­tury. Af­ter World War II, tech­nol­ogy and materials quickly de­vel­oped, and the de­mand for the bas­kets de­clined.

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