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Ulster Folk & Transport Museum

Basketmaker’s Workshop

Ballycultra Town building 20

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This is a replica building. The building is based on a basketmaker’s workshop which was sited at Aghagallon on the shores of Lough Neagh.

The basketmaker’s workshop has been constructed by the Museum to demonstrate and encourage the traditional craft of basket making.

The workshop is divided into two distinct areas. One is used for weaving the baskets from willow rods and the other for the preparation and storage of materials and equipment.

The front area where the baskets are actually made has plenty of natural light and a high ceiling. The height of the ceiling is particularly necessary as the rods used in the weaving can be up to 9ft (2.7m) long.

Basketmaking was long established around Lough Neagh. In 1830 makers in the region were producing rush floor mats, straw baskets and bee skeps, as well as wicker baskets that were sold in local markets. By the 1890s a small group of specialists were making both hampers for transporting goods and fine white willow baskets.

 These makers passed on their skill to members of their family or to their hired servants. In 1901, there were about twenty basketmaking households scattered across a small handful of townlands in the area.

Look out for the high ceiling in the front area which was required to store willow rods, some of which could be almost 3 metres long. The front area has plenty of natural light required for this type of work.