Palmer, William (b.1884)
William Palmer of Stoke St Gregory began basket making at the age of eleven years and carried on for nearly seventy-eight years. He worked with his uncle when he started, earning two shillings a week. His earnings gradually increased as his work improved. William received piecework wages, and was paid between tenpence and a shilling for each chair. William worked on his own from 1907 after his uncle emigrated to Canada, buying his own premises in 1915. In 1916 he joined the Army for two years.
Mr William Palmer, outside his workshop Stoke St Gregory 1968. Mr William Palmer, outside his workshop, Stoke St Gregory 1968.
Sound File
Listen to William Palmer - 1.59MB Duration 3:27 min.

KW: And can you describe your day when you first started?  What time did you start work?


WP: Oh seven o'clock in the morning to seven at night.


KW: Every day?


WP: Oh yes except Saturdays, perhaps we 'd come home in the afternoons sometimes.


KW: And how much did you earn?


WP: Earn?  Oh about a couple of shillings.


KW: A week?


WP: To start with.


KW: Yes.


WP: Then gradually as I improved, you see, I 'd get perhaps another threepence or sixpence each week as I come along, as I improved a bit. And then after that time, see, when I could do the work, it was piece work, you 'd get so much for making a certain part of the chair, you see, tuppence for the seat and fourpence for the foot, well altogether you get about tenpence to a shilling for making a chair.


KW: And how much would that sell for?


WP: Oh, I can't say what they sold for, not a very high price anyway. I 've got books there I could show you, I sold chairs at two shillings and 2 / 6d. I 've got 60 to 70 years history there, in the drawer.


KW: When did you start working on your own?


WP: About thirteen, twelve, thirteen.


KW: When you were about twelve or thirteen?


WP: Oh on me own, no started working on me own when my uncle left and went to Canada in 1907, then I started working on me own. Used to send chairs to London you see.


KW: So you didn’t sell very much stuff locally?


WP: No, no, you couldn't sell many locally.


KW: No demand.


WP: There were so many doing them you see, as time went along.


KW: And you were living here in Stoke St Gregory?


WP: I was living in Athelney at that time.


KW: And there were a lot of basket makers then?


WP: Oh yes basket makers at Athelney, Burrowbridge, North Petherton, Bridgwater, all around in different districts, you see.


KW: What did you used to do on Sunday?   Sunday was your day off?


WP: Oh yes.


KW: How did you spend Sunday?


WP: Oh, years ago more people went to church.


KW: How many times did you go to church on the one Sunday?


WP: Oh, I haven't been to church very much since I was married but there were more people who did go than what there is today because they didn't have the pleasures they didn't have the motor car and things like that.


KW: So how did you use to spend your Sunday?


WP: Oh, mostly home with the wife.


KW: You used to have a garden, did you used to do gardening?


WP: No, no, we never done work, not on a Sunday.


KW: You just rested?


WP: Oh, just pottered around or anything like that but I always spent, me wife was never one for running around, she was always a home bird, so was I, and that 's why we never spent holidays abroad or anywhere. We never had a holiday.

Copyright Information
Copyright. This recording was made by Kate Walters in October 1973. Photograph ©SRLM. For access to full interview please contact the Somerset Heritage Centre.