Musgrave, Peter (b.1926) & Tony (b.1932)

Brothers Peter and Tony Musgrave worked in the family willow merchant's and basket-making business, which was started by their grandfather and carried on by their father. The business peaked during World War II when they had a contract with the War Ministry to make baskets for dropping supplies by parachute into occupied Europe.


Although the brothers would have liked to go into the business, their father was adamant that they should not do so as he thought it was a dying industry.  When their father became too old to carry on he gave the business to the remaining workers, and it soon finished.


Peter and Tony are sad that such a flourishing enterprise should have completely vanished.  Peter became a company director and Tony was a draughtsman with Westlands, the leading helicopter company based in Yeovil.

Peter and Tony Musgrave. Peter and Tony Musgrave.
Sound File
Listen to Peter and Tony Musgrave - 1.84MB Duration 4:00 min.

PM: The reason, of course, that these were originally produced, during the war they were dropped by parachute, it was the only thing that they could find that when they landed on the ground it didn’t destroy the contents because it sprang, and of course all the guns and machinery, and there were literally hundreds of these baskets made.  Not entirely by us, I have to add.


TM: No.


PM: They were done by other factories around the country.


TM: We used to sub-contract, say the bottoms, we called the bottoms, we had all these bottoms come in and then we’d do the rounding at the side and the weaving.  That was where the cane was, round there [in the middle].  These were always buff, that was white and the uprights were white, and of course the rope handles, slide [] two men, slide the rifles in each end and carry them.  And also filled them up and used them for sandbags afterwards, so we found out. I talked to a guy who was in the Airborne who was in our line, he told me that.


AH: Was there any leather put on the bottom?


TM: No, they had pigskin straps, yeah, thick pigskin, about that wide, an inch wide, like that.  They had to be softened before you could wrap it around, and they put those catches on, a lot, a lot, of catches there.  They were beautifully made, beautiful they were.  All credit to the industry, really.


AH: And how many, how many was he having to produce a month then?


PM: It obviously was, I couldn’t tell you that, but there were hundreds in the yard [].


TM: All stacked up.


AH: How many people, do you know, Peter, that he employed to make these?


PM: When it was going at its height, during the war, and I’m talking, my memory is a bit hazy, I’m afraid, but there were fifty-two, a mixture of male and female, of which I would have said that there were about thirty males and twenty females.


TM: Yes, I think you’re right, yes.


AH: Were these people all working on the premises?


TM: Mostly in that building there.


PM: Well yes, that number of people were working on the premises but of course, having said all that the local industry, a lot of people worked from home, had their own workshops, and we used to provide them with the stuff, as we called it. The withies were always known as stuff and they used to make them there and of course we used to collect the article when it was completed, and then father sent them off to [Hills].


PM: And of course there was the flood, going back in time to the flood which was in 1926.  I just remember, because it was the year I was born, but I do actually remember being taken in a boat, carried through, taken into the house and of course they used to wear thigh boots.  I was carried through, down to the lounge.  My father’s piano was on two cider boxes, he managed to find these cider boxes, and the water just lapped underneath so it never really got into it, but of course the house, which was built by my grandfather and was really a very nice house indeed, it was all, which was rather expensive in those days, there was a wood block floor but the wood blocks never really settled again.


TM: No, they didn’t, did they?

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