Beyond the Point of no Return, or Alive and Kicking – Craft Skills in UK?

What an interesting contrast between 2 letters published the same day in The Times.


Sir, Your report (Mar 10) on England’s last master cooper is unnecessarily gloomy about the future for this fine craft: coopers are still important at Marston’s. We employ two coopers, both of whom are fully qualified. Visitors to the brewery can see the “union system” being used to brew Marston’s Pedigree. No other beer is created in the way that we brew in Burton upon Trent, using huge oak casks, each about four times as big as a full-sized (288-pint) beer barrel.

Ralph Findlay

CEO, Marston’s


Sir, I read with some amusement the suggestion that we should stop the owners of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry selling its only remaining valuable asset by listing its premises in east London as Grade I (letter and report, Mar 11). If the business is in such financial straits then the solution for those who wish to save it should be to club together and purchase the very products that nobody else wants to buy — and continue to do so.

It is all very well to lament the loss of specialist skills but if there is no demand for the product nostalgia will not pay the wages.

The noble supporters who wish to save this old firm should either buy the company and run it themselves or fund its lost sales out of their own pockets.

Duncan Wood

Witney, Oxon

The first letter celebrates the continued existence of craft skills, while the latter laments their inevitable demise. In the great debate about the shape of the economy, and the need for apprenticeship training, we ask ourselves which one has got it right.