Cooperage (cask-making) is one of the ancient trade crafts. Staves - billets of oak from which casks for breweries are fashioned - were supplies by stave merchants from German or Russian oak. John Dibblee worked for H&R Fowler from 1952, importing staves for beer barrels. This was the oldest and last remaining of the stave merchants. There was a decline of what was once a major industry, as there was a shortage of decent oak, and aluminium casks were cheaper to make and clean. H&R Fowler folded in 1961.
At the end of a 5 year apprenticeship, the newly qualified cooper would be covered in filth and rolled around the cooperage in a cask by his mates. Only then could he call himself a true cooper.
© Jo Edkins 2013 - Return to Early Dibblee History index