Langford, Les (b.1927)

Les Langford's parents were employed by a small firm of willow-growers, Grinter, Jeanes and Parsons of Langport. The firm also made baskets.   When the owner of the firm retired his father decided to set up on his own.  Even when he worked for others, his father always grew his own small acreage of willows.  Les joined him after National Service and describes the various processes involved in willow work.


He worked with his father until 1960, when he felt that the prospects for willow growing were declining.  He then went to Clarks shoe manufacturers of Street, and worked in their warehouse mainly checking invoices, until he was eventually made redundant in 1985.  In this clip Leslie discusses his childhood memories of the willow industry during the 1930s.

Les Langford. Les Langford.
Sound File
Listen to Les Langford - 1.39MB Duration 3:01 min.

AH: So when you were growing up, did you have to do anything with willows at all?


LL: Yes.  Mum, Dad, for the same firm, all willows in those days, in the early days, early '30s, were stripped by hand []. In the '30s, during the '30s, the machine came out whereby er, willows could be stripped with a machine which had what they called a brake flying around that knocked the skin off the willow to leave its natural colour which might have been white, buff and, or, well, that was it, white or buff...  And my mother, often when I was a kiddie and first going to school, I remember my mother was one of about six or seven women in the area who used to work in the withy yard stripping willows, you know.


And I even remember the fact that when I came out of school in the evening they’d have a brake at a bench and work all day at it, stripping willows, as many hours as they could spare for it, and when I came home in the evenings it was my job to help Mum, my mother had, by [coming] what stripper, it was called stripper because it was just the skinning of the willow, on to a heap that used to be tipped out in the yard, and they used to get a mass of heaps sometimes with the amount of willows that had been stripped.


AH: And who brought her the willows?  Do you remember, do you remember where she got the willows from, who she was doing this work for?


LL: Oh this was for Grinter, Jeanes and Parsons, of course.  The same person that employed my father.


AH: They were both working then for them?


LL: Well they were working, I mean my mother wasn’t full-time because she always had washing, jobs to do for the family, and caring in general for the family, so that when she had spare hours she used to whip down and get on with the willow stripping.


In that area, I mean Grinter, Jeanes and Parsons were reasonably big willow growers and basket-makers and they had their own boiler for boiling willows which were turned into buff willows, and they also had an area for pitting willows which willows were put in so that they could be taken out when the sap rises and turned into white willows.

Copyright Information
Copyright. This recording was made by Ann Heeley in November 2003. Photograph ©Ann Heeley Collection. For access to full interview please contact the Somerset Heritage Centre.