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Handmade Sussex Garden Trug
Gardening basket made in England from Sweet Chestnut and Cricket Bat Willow wood. Solid copper tacks and copper clout nails. Fabricated according to traditional methods since 1829. Measures 20” long, with a depth of 11”. (
Few sights could be more charming than an armful of daffodils, or a clutch of English roses spilling from the likes of the classic English gardening vessel known as the trug. And what could be more practical for carrying your harvest of heirloom peppers, tomatoes, and peas from the farm to the table?
Handmade in England since 1829, Thomas Smith of Herstmonceux, East Sussex, England created this modern, lightweight vessel as an update to the much older Anglo-Saxon “trog,” a heavy, boat-shaped wooden basket used by farmers until the mid-1600s. When Queen Victoria discovered Smith’s trugs at an exhibition in London in 1851, she personally placed an order and bestowed an official royal stamp of approval, thus the name, “Royal Sussex Trug.”
Today, the materials used and the fabrication processes of Thomas Smith’s traditional trugs remain unchanged. Skilled craftsman shave strong, rot-resistant Sweet Chestnut wood and bend it to form the trug’s handle and rims, which are nailed together to create the frame. Pliable Cricket Bat Willow is used to create lightweight boards for the base. Solid copper tacks fix the boards to the frame, and the trug’s legs are attached using copper clout nails.
Durable and light enough to cradle on your arm while you gather greenery in the garden, these trugs also make a delightful tabletop centerpiece when filled with flowers, or an attractive repository for your odds and ends.
Use & Care
Shallow and wide, the Traditional Royal Sussex Trug can be used to tote hearty vegetables, or, to carry delicate garden specimens without crushing them. Lightweight enough to be carried over your arm to keep your hands free for picking and stacking flowers, it’s also strong enough to withstand a full bounty. For the garden-free urban dweller, the trugs can also be used to display farmer’s market finds or as a charmingly rustic container for controlling clutter.
Caring for your trug is easy, as it’s made with rot-resistant wood and designed to get dirty. But, you can extend the life of the wood by applying our Beeswax Wood Care & Finish and by not submerging it in water. Treat it like you would any other natural basket and, brush off any dried bits of mud before storing your trug for the season.
Production & Design
The Traditional Royal Sussex Trug is a lightweight, slimmed-down version of an old Anglo-Saxon vessel. Today, craftsman in East Sussex still make these trugs according to Thomas Smith’s 1829 design.
First, poles of Sweet Chestnut are cleaved and split, then shaved into pieces that will form the handle and the rim. The wood is then steamed (with water using the leftover wood in a fire) to make it pliable, and bent around a “former” and dried overnight. Once dry, the handle and rim are nailed together to create a frame, and steamed boards of Cricket Bat Willow are shaped and fixed to the frame using solid copper tacks. The boards are evenly trimmed, legs are attached, and the whole basket is hand-sanded for a smooth, splinter-free finish. Each trug is individually stamped and signed by the craftsman, and bears a unique reference number.
The makers of Thomas Smith trugs are committed to sustaining the woodlands they rely on for production. The Sweet Chestnut trees they grow, first brought to southern England by the Romans sometime after 43 A.D., are “coppiced,” meaning that the trees are cut at a 45 degree angle very close to the base to prevent rain from rotting the stump. Eventually, new sprouts spawn and grow separately—sometimes up to eight new trees from a single stump.
20 inches long (51 cm)
11 inches deep (28 cm)
Handle and Rim: Sweet Chestnut
Boards: Cricket Bat Willow
Solid copper tacks
Copper clout nails