Straw splitters were used by women workers in the cottage industry of straw plaiting during the Tudor and Stuart times. The plaited straws would be sold to Luton, where they would be turned into straw hats. The invention of the straw splitter meant that local women could earn more as it enabled them to produce more delicate plaits, which were more valuable.
This wooden straw splitter is stamped J AUSTIN. James Austin of Tring, Hertfordshire, was making straw splitters between about 1850 and about 1870. It is available for adoption as part of our Adopt an Object scheme!
A Victorian report in 1869 detailed how important the earnings from straw plait were for a family – the man’s wage often paid for food and rent and earnings from straw plait paid for everything else needed by the family.
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Find out more about the full range of objects for adoption below.