Large Manufacture's Billhooks

These were made in the Midlands, but to Southern England regional patterns. The differences in shape and weight may seem subtle (and possibly irrelevant!) to the uninitiated, but try giving an unfamiliar billhook to a coppice worker and you'll be left in no doubt as to its drawbacks.

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image of Elwell 3901 billhook

Elwell 3901: Tenterden pattern billhook, 10 inch. This is perhaps the favourite tool for the coppice trades in the South East. It is alleged to have been copied by Elwell from handbills made by Thomas Beal of Tenterden in Kent. Most examples are beautifully balanced: the blade's thickness tapers, and the tang is quite thick, placing weight in the users hand, making it light to use but giving a good cut without excess effort.

image of Elwell 3582 billhook

Elwell 3582: Chichester Moss pattern billhook, 10 inch. A long nosed hook, moderate weight, presumably based on hooks made by the Moss family of blacksmiths. A hurdling type hook.

image of Elwell 3583 billhook

Elwell 3583: Sussex pattern billhook, 10 inch. Quite a few manufacturers made a Sussex pattern billhook. Elwell's version is perhaps not the best. It is a bit blade-heavy for my taste, but undeniably will cut powerfully.

image of Elwell 4489 billhook

Elwell 4489: Lewes pattern billhook? 10 inch. A beautiful object, superbly forged, and uncommon. Light, and cuts like a dream. I can't find it in any Elwell catalogues, but I've been told it is a Lewes pattern, and this seems plausible.

image of Elwell 3711 billhook

Elwell 3711: Hampshire (Moss) pattern billhook, 10 inch. Older Elwell literature calls this a Hampshire Moss, I assume that they were inspired by the tools of the Moss Family, from the area where Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire meet. It seems better balanced than most of the Moss billhooks that I've handled. This pattern is sometimes favoured by hurdle makers for trimming rather than cleaving.

image of elwell 3722 billhook

Elwell 3722: Baisingstoke pattern billhook, 8 inch. Marked Punter, Baisingstoke - A. F. Punter had a hardware and tool shop at 46 Wote Street Baisingstoke.

image of Elwell 4284 billhook

Elwell 4284 Wiltshire billhook, 8 inch.

image of Elwell dorset billhook

Elwell 4118: Dorset pattern billhook, 10 inch. This tool appears in some Elwell publications as a "Berkshire Jersey" pattern, which seems geographically promiscuous. The shape presumably had elements that pleased people from those areas, and so was marketed in that direction for production simplicity's sake. The Dorset pattern has more in common perhaps with tools from the IOW and parts of Hampshire.

image of Elwell 3902 sparhook

Elwell 3902: (Dorset) spar hook, 7 inch. A good little hook, and the tool often preferred by spar makers in the SE.

image of Elwell 2942 sparhook

Elwell 2942: Spar hook (or small pruning hook) 7 inch. This pattern is listed as a pruning hook in older catalogues. Light and slim.

image of Finch browse hook

Elwell 3412 Patch hook. This is a Devon Patch Hook. It is a broad bladed spar type hook with a blunt ended beak - what its traditional use was, I'm not sure - doesn't look ideal for spar making, as the blade is very wide.

image of Gatland billhook

Elwell 3413 Devon Billhook size No4. This is Elwell's version of a Devon billhook, and is nicely balanced. Number 4 is the largest size at 10&1/4": for some reason these ran as No1: 8&3/4", No2: 9&1/4", No3: 9&3/4". Later on Elwell deleted this pattern, and made the 4583 Devon, and with a caulked handle rather than the round type, and in rationalised sizes of 8,9,10 and 11".

Cornelius Whitehouse

image of Whitehouse sparhook

Cornelius Whitehouse ('Hedgehog') Spar Hook, 8 inch: Beautifully slim and light hook of the a South East shape - no number to relate to catalogue.

image of Chichester billhook

Cornelius Whitehouse ('Hedgehog') Chichester pattern billhoook, 9.5 inch: Another really nicely formed Hedgehog tool, supplied by Pines of Chichester to the local pattern.

A & F Parkes

image of Parkes 1144 billhook

Parkes ('Biped') 1144: Sussex pattern billhook: For me this is one of the better Sussex type billhooks, and despite a deep blade it is very well balanced in use. This works well for some hedge layers - the short nose (hook on the end) helps when working in the bottom of a hedge.

See also: photos of handbills made by edge tool makers in the Weald. and photos of South West England edge tools.

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© Ian Swain 2024