History of oak swills
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.