Wooden casks (or barrels) are containers of exceptional strength, versatility and mobility but have become a rarity in Britain, displaced so completely by metal containers that it is hard to imagine their importance in former times. The coopers who made them were once numerous and independent craftsmen, while latterly many were employed by breweries. Their craft was not only economically vital but was physically demanding and required skill acquired only through years of practice. This book seeks to preserve the memory of their skills, tracing the history of the craft and describing and illustrating how a barrel was made.
Ken Kilby is a Vice-President and founder members of the Tools and Trades History Society. He comes from a family of coopers, his great uncle founding the cooperage of Samuel Kilby & Sons of Banbury, Oxfordshire, in the 1860s. He worked as an apprentice under his father at the old brewery of J. W. Green's in Luton, Bedfordshire until 1967, when he abandoned 'the block' and went into teaching.
The barrel: an invention of distinction; Making a barrel; Timber; Ancillary tradesmen; The village cooper; Coopering in the cities; Naval coopering; Buoys; Gunpowder; Maritime coopering; Miscellany; Coopering today; Bibliography; Glossary; Places to visit