By Robert Rogers
In Cooperages, Craftsmen called Coopers made Barrels. They have their own Guild in the City of London. The two major cooperages in West Ham were Halls of Custom House at Mortlake road, and Ryan’s at Temple Mills in Stratford. The largest employers of Coopers in London were the Port of London Authority.
In the early 1960’s Halls Cooperage was demolished to make room for Bauckham Point, named after Councillor Harry Bauckham. Hall’s then joined up with Ryan’s under the control of Alan Hall, the grandson of the founder of Halls, and it became the largest Cooperage in London, producing Barrels for all round the world, for Run from the warm Caribbean to the Whisky of the cold Scottish Highlands. Eventually, Hall & Ryan was bought out and two private blocks of flats were built on the site of the Cooperage. These blocks in turn have now been demolished to make was for the 2012 Olympics games site.
The photos show Coopers at Shaws Cooperage in Poplar High Street in the early 1960`s. The event was the passing out of an Apprentice Cooper, who can be seen sitting on a barrel with conkers around his neck. My father can be seen standing on his right hand side and worked for all three Cooperages in his time. He was classed as a `White-work` Cooper, which mean he could produce a barrel, but had not `served his time` as an apprentice. The Forman Cooper can be seem wearing the traditionally Bowler hat. The Apprentice is Micky Adams who in later life was awarded an OBE for his work with the youth of Newham.
Shaws was another famous Cooperage, which also have a cooperage in Liverpool. In the old film Mutiny on the Bounty, all the Barrels in the film where made by Shaws. Barrells have various names to describe the size of them such as Tuns, Butts etc. The top of the barrell, or to give it proper title its head are normaly painted to show what was in them, and example being a whisky which had a white head.