Celebrate the importance of the humble willow basket during the First World War, with the Everyday Day Lives in War Centre and Rothamsted Research, on Saturday 12th November 2016.

  • 11
  • NOV
  • 2016

The University of Hertfordshire’s Everyday Day Lives in War Centre and Rothamsted Research are holding a free event to celebrate the importance of the humble willow basket during the First World War on Saturday 12th November 2016.

The special event will also tell the story of the National Willow Collection, one of the world’s largest collections of willow which was created in 1922 following the impact of the conflict on basket production. It is part of the Centre's Basketry ‘Then and Now’ project looking at the history and importance of basketry and willow growing during the First World War and its aftermath.

On the frontline, baskets were used to carry shells, for carrier pigeons, and stretchers for the wounded. This is where the term ‘basket case’ originates. In everyday life baskets were the plastic bags of today, and essential for fishing and fruit picking. The historical research for the event is being done by a team of professional basketmakers, including Hilary Burns, who has been leading the organisation of the event.

The day will include talks by professional basketmakers about their research into regional willow and basket making industries during the era. Speakers include Hilary Burns, Maggie Cooper, Mary Butcher, and Mary Crabb. Mr William Macalpine and Dr Ian Shield, research scientists and willow breeders at Rothamsted Research, will lead a tour of the National Willow Collection.

Professor Owen Davies, Professor of Social History at the University of Hertfordshire, said: ‘The basketry and willow industries were hugely important during the First World War, both for the military and in everyday life on the home front. Yet few people today know this story. This event aims to showcase the life and craft of basketry in the era, and the importance of the National Willow Collection, which was founded because of the War. We hope visitors will also reflect upon issues of sustainability in our lives today.’

Mr William Macalpine said: ‘We are looking forward to leading a visit to explore the UK National Willow Collection as part of the event. The willow collection has its origins in the aftermath of The First World War and contains many accessions that will be of interest to basket makers.’

Dr Ian Shield added: ‘In addition to covering the historical importance, we wish to explain to guests of the event how this unique germplasm collection is being used today in breeding efforts to produce a perennial biomass crop providing a source of renewable biomass for the heat, power and chemical industries. 

About the University of Hertfordshire

The University’s vision is to be internationally renowned as the UK’s leading business-facing university.  It is innovative and enterprising and challenges individuals and organisations to excel. The University of Hertfordshire is one of the region’s largest employers with over 2,700 staff and a turnover of over £252 million. With a student community of over 24,800 including more than 4,100 overseas students from 100 different countries, the University has a global network of over 210,000 alumni. It is also one of the top 150 universities in the world under 50 years old, according to the new Times Higher Education 150 under 50 rankings 2016.

About Rothamsted Research
Rothamsted Research is the longest-running agricultural research institute in the world. We work from gene to field with a proud history of ground-breaking discoveries, from crop treatment to crop protection, from statistical interpretation to soils management. Our founders, in 1843, were the pioneers of modern agriculture, and we are known for our imaginative science and our collaborative influence on fresh thinking and farming practices.
Through independent science and innovation, we make significant contributions to improving agri-food systems in the UK and internationally. In terms of the institute’s economic contribution, the cumulative impact of our work in the UK was calculated to exceed £3000 million a year in 20151. Our strength lies in our systems approach, which combines science and strategic research, interdisciplinary teams and partnerships.
Rothamsted is also home to three unique resources. These National Capabilities are open to researchers from all over the world: The Long-Term Experiments, Rothamsted Insect Survey and the North Wyke Farm Platform.
We are strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), with additional support from other national and international funding streams, and from industry. We are also supported by the Lawes Agricultural Trust (LAT).
For more information, visit; Twitter @Rothamsted
1Rothamsted Research and the Value of Excellence: A synthesis of the available evidence, by Séan Rickard (Oct 2015)

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council is part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government.
BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.
Funded by government, BBSRC invested £469 million in world-class bioscience in 2016-17. We support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.
More information about BBSRC, our science and our impact.
More information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes

About LAT
The Lawes Agricultural Trust, established in 1889 by Sir John Bennet Lawes, supports Rothamsted Research’s national and international agricultural science through the provision of land, facilities and funding. LAT, a charitable trust, owns the estates at Harpenden and Broom's Barn, including many of the buildings used by Rothamsted Research. LAT provides an annual research grant to the Director, accommodation for nearly 200 people, and support for fellowships for young scientists from developing countries. LAT also makes capital grants to help modernise facilities at Rothamsted, or invests in new buildings.