Restoring a Costermongers Barrow

My latest Video is now available on the Heritagecraft YouTube Channel, which is about the process of restoring a Costermongers Cart

It follows the progress of a Vintage Costermongers cart dating from before the First World War. If you have never come across the term Costermonger, they were effectively Market Porters, lively gregarious characters, who would transport goods from the wholesale markets to the retailers. For more information have a look at some of my previous posts

This particular cart belongs to a elderly gentlemen who before his retirement worked at Spitalfields Market, and it was a gift when he retired. At the time the market was moving from central London to a new sight on the outskirts and these carts were being burnt as they weren’t needed at the new sight. His family had been connected with the market for generations although he had never made it to Market Porter.

In those days jobs in the market were tightly controlled, and you needed a relative in the market to get you a job. Porters were paid by the parcel regardless of the size to take the goods from the wholesaler to the customers vehicle in the car park, they didn’t hang about, and god save anyone who got in the way. However I am told 30 years ago £1000 per week for a porter wasn’t unusual. No wonder the jobs were controlled.

Before my customer was given the cart its clear to see it was a working vehicle, and my customer has had it in his garden for years. So it was in a pretty sorry state.

I have made new wheels for it, repaired and where necessary replaced the rotten woodwork. Repainted in the traditional market cart colours of Red and Green, and added as a request from my customer an elegant touch of yellow in the form of a couple of pinstripes. As you can see from the picture below it came out well.

Once this one goes back to my customer, next is a Four Wheel Market Cart.

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Pushing The Boundaries

I am not the first to notice that everything is perfect in YouTube world. People lead apparent idyllic lives, and in my space its populated with magnificent craftsmen and women, with incredible skills, incredible tool boxes, and nothing ever goes wrong.

Whilst I have always been happy in pushing at the edges with my videos tackling things have never made before, I have always used materials and techniques I understand and where I have a modicum of skills.

In my latest video filmed during lockdown  I am taking a chance and trying something very different. During lockdown I have been trying to improve my skills so when we come out the other side I am better equipped, however all the skills I have been working on are allied to my trade that of a Wheelwright / Wainwright. They are all skills I would use in making a carriage. However for this video I am pushing the boundaries, away from my normal work and using techniques and materials I have never worked with.

So I set out to make what I want to call a swinging bench, but that comes with connotation’s, so we will call it a suspended bench. Where I push the boundaries is the sides and back are constructed from woven willow, something I have never done before, and more worryingly something I cant find having been done before. It must be I just haven’t found it.   Further in my research I came across a few swings and benches and one things I really hated was that they were suspended by chain or rope which had been knotted, not very tactile but I can understand why its done that way. I wanted something classier and so I also included spliced rope ends again something I have never done before.

During filming at the half way point it became very obvious I was not a master of weaving, or for that matter splicing rope. If you look carefully I only start to reach an acceptable standard at the end, and so I was in two minds whether to publish the video. It doesn’t show me in a Perfect light, as a master craftsman at the top of my game, but was persuaded by a few of my Instragram friends that it would be good to see someone pushing themselves. I can then making further videos in a few months showing how I have now perfected these skills, but as I am hoping for this to be the only lock down that might not happen.

So in that spirit enjoy the video. If you enjoy it – Marvellous, if you don’t treat me gently.

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The Portable Outdoor Oven

My Latest You tube video premieres today. If you follow the link it should take you straight too it.

Over the years I have built a number of outdoor ovens, many of which have made it too video. With each oven you learn a little more, refine the design, tweak, prod and poke.

I have been thinking about building a portable oven for some time. Having recently given up full time work I was convinced that a portable wood fired oven at a food market turning out Hot Sausage Rolls would make my fortune. I saw myself as a jolly rotund figure with handlebar moustache and a natty line in waistcoats , the market character, serving a long cue of loyal & patient customers, with a cheery smile and joke for all.

There are so many thing wrong with that portrait, I’m grumpy, don’t have a moustache, or a waistcoat,  although I can manage rotund. However the main problem was a conversation  I had with a  local environmental health officer who explained to me the paperwork I would need to complete, and the equipment I would need to sell sausage rolls at a market. As I am trying to work smarter that did rather put me off, so the sausage roll company, and several other of my food based schemes fell apart. But I still liked the idea of a portable oven.

So finally the Portable oven project was borne, with two videos and a Heritage Craft Project book which gives you all the plans should you decide to make one for yourself.

When I did get to fire up the oven, you wont be surprised to know the first bake was sausage rolls. and the end result confirmed my belief that the sausage rolls would make a fortune. As a Home made Sausage roll they were always going to be good, but add wood smoke flavour and they move up to magnificent, the difficulty would be sharing.. The oven exceeded expectation proving to be very efficient and easy to control. I cant help thinking if we get any sort of summer its going to be busy.


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The Chair that Hugs you – The Secret Compartment

The Final video of the Chair That’s Hugs You series is now available on youtube.

We are all dealing with the covid lock down in different ways. I am taking the opportunity to learn some new skills and improve the ones that I have.  Now as luck would have it one of my daughters is moving home as soon as lock down finishes and needs a new armchair. Perfect she needs a chair, I can make chairs, I need to fill my time, and there is always a video to be made.

So the Chair that Hugs you project was borne.

Video No 1 deals with the construction of the wooden frame.


The concept behind the videos was to make a series of short instructional videos each dealing with a particular aspect. Short seemed to go out the window as the time available allowed me to go into far greater detail, not only discuss how to do something, but also consider why do it that way and the alternatives. Video No 2 is fitting the webbing and springs. The foundations of upholstery

I see Traditional upholstery as a cross between craft and art. You need craft skills to do it, but the art is how you sculpt the chair to suit a particular body shape. My daughters are shorter than me , so they want a chair with shorter legs than standard, and both like to curl up and read in a chair, so its to allow for that. Video No 3 shows how to sculpt and change the dimensions to suit.

Video No 4 is really all about the back. As a someone who learnt upholstery through working on carriages I tend to Deep Button chair backs, that’s what my customers want. However I have always wanted to make a fluted back, an Art Nouveau style chair, and as I don’t have a customer to please, just a daughter looking for a chair, I can play.

The final video deals with the top fabric, and as a bonus the Secret compartment built into the body of the chair is revealed.

The Chair is a project I am proud off. Hopefully becoming a family heirloom, a gift from a father  to his daughter and for generations to come. Designed to snuggle down into, to hug you.


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The Chair that keeps on Hugging


Part 3 of the Chair that hugs is now available on youtube. What started out as a quick and simple video is turning into an opus, and I want to know how it ends, will it end happily or will he crash and burn? Is there romance or better still a fast car chase?

I set out to make a series of short videos documenting the progress of a chair I was making for one of my daughters,  and its ended up as in depth instructional on traditional upholstery with humour (? you can make your own mind up about that).

My daughter wanted a new arm chair, and in these lock down days I have time to spare. She would be happy with just a chair, but I wanted to try something new and as a project its now rather run away with me, so even I now worry about the outcome.

Today’s video covers the foundations of the chair. The First stuffing, this is where you really get to sculpt a chair to the shape you want. Simple techniques that when mastered allow you to tailor the upholstery to suit you, with natural materials that will last hopefully several lifetimes.



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The Chair That Hugs You

The first Video in the “Chair that hugs you” series is now available on my You tube channel.

Amidst this coronavirus lockdown with real work cancelled I have the opportunity to do what I want, and I have always enjoyed making armchairs. But for reasons I don’t understand the videos are never very popular. Its maybe because there are lots of upholstery videos, although most of them seem to  involve slabs of foam and staple guns. Whereas I prefer Hair and Tacks, the traditional method, which is in keeping with the projects I work on. You cant use foam in an 18th century carriage seat. I would also argue that this method is the most environmentally friendly as its all natural sustainable materials, which cant be said for the foam and staples method.

So here I am with spare time and a daughter that needs an armchair. She is happy with a comfortable armchair, she gets to choose the fabric, and like all my furniture its made to suit the customers body dimensions. I get to choose the style.

The style I have chosen to build is an Art Nouveau style chair with a fluted back, a style that not only looks good but puts its arms around you and hugs you. I have always wanted to make a chair with this style of back, but have never had the opportunity. Now I do.

I am taking the opportunity to document the process on video breaking it down into very small chunks, which then allows me the opportunity to explain in detail what I am doing, and the reasoning behind it. Part one concerns building the wooden frame, and future videos will follow on swiftly although I do see a delay in the offing. I have all the materials I need in stock apart from the finish fabric. For that I need someone to make a decision about fabric and then I have to order it, so there may be a delay on the last video.

At the moment I am resisting the temptation to build in hidden compartments but I can be persuaded if enough people are interested.

Enjoy the video



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A Traditional Market Cart

My latest Video is making a Traditional Market Cart, often referred to as a costermongers cart. If you would like to know the history of costermongers have a look at my earlier posts and you will find the complete potted history.

In making this all I had to go on is a picture, of an original cart, shown below. The traditional colour scheme is Green with Red Wheels, and the wheels are iron shod. I have chosen to adopt the traditional colours but have added considerable decoration, and the wheels, with advice from a fellow wheelwright, now have solid rubber tyres. The video includes a nail biting segment where I am pin striping the wheels and even I am on tenterhooks watching it to find out whether the lines join up.

These carts were once an everyday sight in their hundreds on the streets of London, but now have sadly disappeared from sight, good thing I am still making them.

Try the video and see what you think. If you would like a cart for you do get in touch.


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Need Help Relaxing?

In these uncertain times occasionally we all need to just sit back and relax, in the sunshine,and listen to the birds sing

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The Coster Mongers Barrow


A traditional Coster Mongers Barrow

Im sure many of us have used the long winter nights to stop and consider what improvement can be made in your life, in my case what I can do better to promote my wheelwrights business. Last year I took a stall at several country fairs, which turned out to be great. I didn’t get any wheel work out of it, but I met a lot of folk, heard a lot of very funny stories, and sold several of my other bits and pieces, and slowly my name as a wheelwright gets about. Building on that for this year I have decided I need to make a market cart to take with me. It would be an easy to transport example of my work, which I can then use to display some of my other goods, and you never know I might sell some.

So with the decision made I needed to do some research to establish the design, and this is where the story starts.

I have never given market carts any thought before, I knew they existed but had never come across them. What I discovered was what I have to describe as a secret world of the market trader and market carts.

Imagine if you can Inner City Victorian London in the 1850s, slightly before Jack the Ripper, but with the same famous Place names such as Whitechapel, and Bethnal Green, before the days of a supermarket on every corner, and amazon prime. Food Distribution was centred on a series of Wholesale Markets, Smithfield for Meat, Billingsgate for Fish, and Covent Garden for Fruit. The food then came down to a series of retail markets many of which remain today.


A Ginger Beer Seller

A major part of the food distribution system was mobile food sellers, called Coster Mongers. A coster is a derivation of costard an ancient variety of apple. Originally selling their wares from a basket or trestle table, they would buy their goods from the wholesale markets, & then go off to sell them, shouting out their wares at the top of their voice as they go. Think of the film Oliver just not as squeaky clean. The need to transport larger quantities meant Baskets and trestle tables were replaced with what developed into the Coster Mongers Barrow a traditional style 2 wheel cart with a sloped front. From these carts the coster would sell all manner of goods walking many miles in a day. These were plain utilitarian carts, 1.5 – 2mts in length with a sloping front. Usually painted green with red wheels. I have seen some very ornate versions of these carts but these tended to be later not everyday carts.

Inevitably the coster mongers would find themselves congregating in certain areas which became the great markets of London, many of which remain albeit a shadow of their former self. As the markets became more established a four wheel market cart emerged.

market cartcrp

Market trader was always  a hand to mouth existence, it probably hasn’t changed, however some traders do better than others. A few saved their money and moved up into bricks and mortar shops, several of our major retail chains can trace their roots to market carts, and a few became for the want of a better term barrow masters. It would appear that each market would have a supplier of stalls that could be rented by the day from a local yard, pulled out into the market, and dragged back to the yard at the end of the day. As some markets could have 100 stalls this was big business, but as I suspect due to the market traders natural inclination to avoid scrutiny this was a secret world.

Each yard would be run by a family, who would build and maintain their own carts, including the wheels. For example Spitalfields market was supplied by “Hilliers” Bethnal Green Market was and still is supplied by the “Baker Family” The Hillier’s appear to have gone and there is a very sad article on entitled the last days at Hillier Bros 25/10/16 which documents their demise.

The design of the barrows appears to be consistent from one market to another. About 2mts in length x 1mt wide complete with a removable canvas cover, Most were painted green with red wheels and to differentiate between hirers they would carve the family name on the wheels. All the wheels were iron shod supported by substantial leaf springs, designed to take a load, and amazingly many still exist. All were designed to be hand pulled. Whilst I have read about the use of donkeys, I can’t find any pictorial evidence or examples of horse/donkey drawn.


I recently went to visit the both Bethnal Green and Roman Road Markets in East London, and you can still see in use plenty of the traditional four wheeled stalls, admittedly some of which are past their best, interspersed with modern metal frame stalls.

Throughout history there have been a number of attempts to eradicate the Market traders & Costermongers from London. Highly visible Colourful characters with popular support, I suspect the term “Loveable rogue” would best sum them up. Markets became noisy lively places with displays of drunkenness so not much has changed. The stallholders frequently fell out with authority and the church which came to a head in the 1870s in Bethnal Green where a Street Regulation Committee was formed by the local church to enforce a set of rules, governing opening hours. A paid inspector enforced these rules leading to much unrest with stalls beings confiscated or destroyed. The stall holders organised and in 1888 the Bethnall Green Costermonger’s and stall keepers society was formed whose primary aim was to fight these prosecutions. This culminated with them seeking support of a noted philanthropist The Earl of Shaftesbury who supported them and managed to persuade the church to rescind the orders. I have seen a picture of a Costermongers Cart some say purchased by, others say presented to :The Earl

They wore a traditional unofficial uniform, a long waistcoat of sandy coloured corduroy with buttons of Brass or Mother of pearl, often in swirly patterns Bell bottom trousers, and a silk neckchief. In 1880 a man called Henry Croft took this a step further and declared himself the first Pearly King, the start of the famous cockney character known around the world.

After much consideration I have decided to build a costermongers barrow. Originally I had decided on a Market Cart but in discussion with other wheelwrights I am assured the ornate version of costermongers cart is far more desirable with the modern addition of a rubber tyre for the wheel, apparently shopping centres won’t accept steel rims. You never know I might even sell a few.

You can follow how I get on by looking on instragram at tom_green_craft or a may put some videos up on youtube – heritagecraft




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The Perfect Office Chair

A touching tale tale of love lost, love found and lost again.

For over 35 years I had a proper job, although don’t tell my mother she spent years waiting for me to get one. In this job I sat at a desk in an uncomfortable chair and got on with it. After 20 years, despite several running repairs, that chair fell apart, my dodgy employer (me) finally relented and purchased me a new chair. The old chair went to my work shop, and you will see in the video 10 years later I still have it.

However this is not a video about a 30 year old chair but rather the creation of a new one. A chair that’s sculpted to fit your body shape, a Chair that supports you The chair I wished I had when I worked in an office, The chair I wished I had now as this new one has been appropriated by my dearly beloved

Have a look at the video and let me know what you think. Have I discovered a new business here?

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