I researched the local to Ely pattern eel traps more than a decade ago because it was important to me as a maker to record a striking looking and historically interesting basket.
Families dwelling in the fens around Ely have supplemented their diets and incomes for hundreds of years by catching eels in baskets called hives.
They are long narrow vessels with two internal chambers each formed with a tight closure of spikes to allow eels in,enticed by bait but not let them out until the bung or plug is removed at the opposite end.
Entrance of the hive/trap
The internal spikes of the entrance into the first chamber or chair.
The sharp spikes of the second chamber/chair viewed from the exit end of the trap.
The upset being woven in pairing weave and held in place by being lashed to the former/jig.This forms the entrance and the first chamber.I am weaving in whole withies rather than traditional cleaved or split and shaved heavy rods.I wanted a finer finish with contrasts of colour and texture between white and Dark Dicks willow.
The first chamber with the change of stroke from pairing to 2 rod slew and change of colour.
The second chair or set of spikes inserted to the inside of the main structural uprights that give the overall form.
The cinched in waist of the hive that gives the Cambridgeshire traps their distinctive beautiful form.
The top border is a split and shaved rod lashed or stitched by a cranked rod.
The plug detail of my own design so the bung of wood cannot be lost as it is attached to the main body by willow ties,and has a locking hole and stake also.
Detail of the closure and a second trap, woven in cleaved and shaved buff and brown willow.
The trap you see in construction is forming part of the Baskets of the British Isles installation at the New Craftsmen in Mayfair.This has been curated by Hilary Burns and is a fantastic way of promoting and educating about this countries crafting heratige.
Eel traps/hives, cleaved and shaved 7-8 foot rods that form main structure uprights and wood turned Yew former.The horizontal hive was a commission for a customer who visited my Open Studio in July,who is very knowledgable on Ely local history.
Late 19th or early 20th century fenman weaving a hive.
First chamber woven and still on the former.