Making in Verwood.
information was obtained from an interview with Mr.
Note that this
article was originally written in 1968 by Mrs. P. Reeks.
year old Mr. A. Sims is carrying on a family tradition. His
grandfather travelled by horse and waggon selling besoms
from door to door from Verwood to Warminster and on to
Andover, His turning point was Andover as besoms were made
at Tadley and were sold between there and Andover. Mr. Sims'
father made besoms, which were also taken by horse and wagon
together with pots from the Verwood pottery westward across
as far as
for besoms is plentiful today and has been in the past, but
the future for heather growing is not good. At the present
time, Mr. Sims cuts heather from Ringwood forest which is on
the Hampshire-Dorset boundary; but the land is now leased to
the Forestry Commission which is planting every available
acre with fir trees and unfortunately these will ultimately
kill the heather. Mr Sims, when he was working full time
often travelled into the
to cut heather.
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Sims said that when he cut heather he cut the whole patch
clean. He chooses a patch; two feet six inches to three feet
high and after cutting with a reap hook, ties the heather
into bundles, each bundle containing enough heather for
approximately six besoms. Now, as heather can be cut all the
year round, he cuts 50 to 60 bundles at a time and has them
delivered to his workshop.
one time Mr. Sims also worked in the local copses alongside
the hurdle maker making birch besoms, with the fine birch
that was too small for the hurdle maker to use. These days
as he is unable to cycle far, Mr. Sims only cuts birch in
the village or has bundles of birch delivered to his
workshop. The wood for handles he obtains from an old friend
who makes hurdles.
Sims has won many besom making awards in the past at
Agricultural shows including the New Forest Show and the
and West Show.
days Mr. Sims can sell as many besoms as he can make. He now
supplies Whitsbury Racing Stables,
and Weymouth Corporations Parks Departments, as well a
private individuals whom he has supplied for most of his
he was working full-time Mr. Sims used to make 24 besoms per
day. The only thing that he do by lamp light was to twist
bonds. He said that the heads could only be made in daylight
or they would have looked more like a birds’ nest!!
At that time buyers came from as far a field as
for several gross of besoms at a time. One of his local
markets was Oakwood Bacon factory at
where he used to send one gross every three months. He told
me that after the pigs had been slaughtered the carcasses
were laid in and covered by straw which was set alight. This
burned off the pig’s hair, and the carcasses were then
brushed off and cleaned with heather besoms.
Mr. Sims has no one to carry on his craft when he is unable
to work, so besom making is likely to die out in this area.
This seems a great pity as, at the moment besoms still
cannot be made by machine.
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