A basket lid, made from local willow, was found in the earliest fort (circa 95AD). It shows the signs of wear as the owner has obviously forced the lid onto a very full basket. 

Digging up memories - making connections


by Margie Cuthbertson

I love all the wooden objects. I find the wood gallery peaceful. The preservation is unbelievable. I have always loved making things. My mum did embroidery and knitting.

I picked the basketry as I can appreciate the work that went into making it. I enjoy tapestry work, which I find very therapeutic, and also knitting. The detail of the basketry and ropes is fantastic and would entail hours of work.

With my tapestry work I can appreciate the hours it would have taken and how much effort, skill and patience and the sitting for hours that would have gone into it. It is detailed workmanship. I remember once working a windmill sail on a tapestry. It took six attempts of sewing and pulling out to get it right. It is very frustrating but gives immense satisfaction when done.

The basket brings back memories of cookery lessons when we carried our ingredients to school in our baskets. What was put into this basket? Perhaps shopping or vegetables or needlework. Wicker basket making would have been a family craft too in Roman times. A simple round base with uprights, around which the basketry was woven, possibly from a local willow tree. There are signs of wear too, as an owner must have pushed down on a lid of a very full basket. This affinity with the past makes my hair stand on end as it is such a commonplace human action.

Further information

Bad weather basketry

by Liz Pounds (Volunteer)

Imagine you are a living on a small farm or settlement in Roman Britain. How would you have transported and stored food? There were no cardboard boxes or containers. Instead, you would have used large numbers of woven baskets of all shapes and sizes.

The Romans had baskets such as the corbis, – a very large basket to carry and measure crops or the calathus -a hand basket- for carrying daily rations.

How many trees can you recognise? As a Roman farmhand you would be familiar with plants used in basket making such as willow. It bends at right angles and becomes more pliable if it is soaked in water. If you want it more rigid, you would bury it in farm manure for two weeks! Some of these trees used to make baskets might be grown in plantations or thickets and the Romans would have harvested and stored them at the best time of the year.

Families handed down expertise on traditional techniques and the knowledge of trees and grasses over generations. The Romans would repair their baskets during bad weather or in the dark winter months.

Vindolanda tablet 194

…….compediarium et lucernam aeneam panaria iiii……

A strong box and a bronze lamp, bread baskets four.