Musgrove, Les (b.1928) & Michael (b.1969)

Les and Michael Musgrove are willow growers from Westonzoyland. They own around fifty acres of willow beds near Langport. Ninety percent of the willow they grow is Black Maul. This variety is popular with basket-makers as its generally seen as being the best working willow.


The men use a small machine to cut the willow, which was traditionally cut by hand. As long as willow baskets continue to be made, both men see a future in the industry.

Withies being stripped and boiled. Withies being stripped and boiled.
Sound File
Listen to Les and Michael Musgrove - 1.49MB Duration 3:14 min.

AH: Now when did you? Perhaps we could talk about that. When did you fill your boiler with your bundles? Which day would you do that?


AH: I like the way you’re pointing at Michael all the time.


LM: He’s talking all the time, so.


MM: Well we usually do about two boiler full a week I suppose, I suppose. Usually we’ll boil on a Saturday ready for Mondays, or we’ll be stripping Monday and Tuesday and then say we’ll strip out the boiler on Monday and, Tuesday we’ll yeah, all depending I suppose.


We might finish all depends how they strip I suppose. If we’re getting on well by dinner time we’ll throw them out, what’s left, then reload the boiler on Tuesday like, ready to boil on Wednesday, and then we can start stripping again then, say Thursday because you need a day in soaking really, else they’re too hot. They drag in the machine like, you know, else.


So then we’re stripping say Thursday and Friday, but we’ll strip say Thursday until about four o’clock and then we’ll throw out what’s left and we’ll reload the boiler like, you know, and you know, we’ll boil again, and we just keep doing that like, you know, and then the days we have off we usually like stripping about four days of the week, so then we’ve either got Wednesday and Saturday, which we do tying up on those days like, you know, or sorting or whatever’s gotta be done like, you know.


AH: And how do you strip? What kind of a machine is this? Tell me a bit about it.


MM: It's an old machine [laughs].


AH: Is that a sort of blacksmith machine or is that a specially made...


MM: It's an Eddy Storey, Eddy Storey willow stripper machine.


LM: It's on the side.


MM: It's on the side yes.


AH: Where did you get it from then, Les?


LM: Burrowbridge. The baker used to make 'em.


AH: So Eddy Storey was the baker?


LM: Yeah, at Burrowbridge and he made 'em and then that's it there now. Keep on making it [laughs].


MM: We still have to [?] it up [laughs].


LM: ...All the time.


MM: All it is, is just er...


LM: Nobody makes 'em now, you know, so...


AH: Yes, can you explain to me, because I don't know anything about it?


MM: All it is, is a drum, about a three foot drum, um in circumference, I suppose, no, in diameter then I mean um about five foot long and um four or five foot long I suppose background working noise  um, springtime, teeth. spring steel teeth. Teeth in and as it's rotating around you feed the willows in one end and um the willows go in between the spring steel and um pulls the bark off and the bark comes out the other side and um what we do you do the butt ends first half way and then you turn 'em round and put the tops in. I mean Dad usually he  we've always stripped on one machine like, you know. I always do the butt ends and Dad does the tops and that's how we go around [laughs].

Copyright Information
Copyright. This recording was made by Ann Heeley in October 2001. Photograph ©SRLM. For access to full interview please contact the Somerset Heritage Centre.