The Hurdle-maker

The Hurdle-maker. Photograph by Gertrude Jekyll. Old West Surrey (1904). Scanned image and text by George P. Landow].

[An] industry that goes on in the copses in winter and spring is probably much older and is still well alive. This is the making of wattle hurdles for sheepfolds. They are made of hazel, ash, or willow.

The hurdle-maker has a long-shaped block, slightly curyed, called the hurdle frame, something over six feet in length, with vertical holes to hold the uprights that form, as it were, the warp of the hurdle. These are round rods, pointed at the bottom ; they are driven into the holes and stand upright. The man then weaves in horizontally the smaller split rods till he has filled up the hurdle. When he comes to either end he gives the rod a clever twist that opens the fibres and gives it something the character of rope, so that it passes, tough-stranded and unbroken, round the end uprights. In the middle of the hurdle, about one- third down from the top, he leaves an open space. This is for the shepherd to slip his hand into, to carry two hurdles at a time, one under each arm: or he puts two or three together, passes a stake through the opening, and carries them on his back with the stake over his shoulder.

The hurdle-maker wears a stout leather pad on his left side to protect his clothing where the rub of the loose . rods in weaving and splitting- would otherwise tear them about. Some of the men use two tools, some only one. This is a form of hand-bill that acts as chopper, cleaving tool, mallet, and, held short, by the back of the blade, as a knife to trim off projecting ends and give the work a general tidying up. — Old West Surrey, p. 204


Jekyll, Gertrude Old West Surrey: Some Notes and Memories. London: Longmans, Green, & Co, 1904.

Last modified 3 October 2006