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Norman Upham

At Musgrave’s Basket Works, Norman was trained by Albert Champion, a renowned local basket maker (still training others when he was 84, including Jonathan Coate). At the age of 21 Norman was awarded two prizes for his baskets at the Bath & West Show in 1935. In 1936 he married Kathleen Woodland and set up home in East Lyng. Shortly afterwards he set up his own basket making business in Curload, Stoke St Gregory. When war broke out he volunteered for the RAF but failed the medical because of his heart disease, assuming this was because of suffering from rheumatic fever when he was 14.


His war time service included being an Air Raid Warden, and teaching basket making to the people manning the local searchlight stations. These roles, of course, entitled him to extra petrol rations. He also continued to make baskets, contributing to the large number of airborne panniers needed in the later years of the war.

After the war he employed up to 8 other basket makers and in 1948 the family moved to a cottage in Griggs Hill - with a former smithy and wheelwright’s workshop attached. At one time he specialised in pet baskets, but he also had a long standing contract with Salter Scales to make the baskets for their baby weighing scales. The orders would come in for 500 trays at a time. He retired from business in the early 1980s, but before long he was working part time at Coates basket works along the road in Meare Green. He carried on there until 2000 when he was 85. Apart from his rapport with the rest of the workforce, Norman met visitors, journalists and film crews - he always had a tale to tell. He was also able to keep up with the village gossip. He was featured in magazines and appeared in TV documentaries demonstrating his craft.

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