W Gadsby & Son began producing and selling wicker basketware at 99 Gurney Road, Stratford, London, in 1864. The founder, William Gadsby, and son Robert, sold a range of wicker items from baskets to chairs. At the time, before the advent of plastic, wicker was widely used, and the business quickly grew.
After the original premises were bombed in the Blitz, the company moved to Somerset, the area of the country in which their raw material, willow, was grown and baskets were manufactured.
During the war years the company was employed to assist the war effort by producing Airborne Panniers; large baskets dropped from planes containing supplies and weapons.
In the decade following World War Two, various military and Ministry of Supply contracts kept the company healthy, at a time when many others fell as a result of recession.
In 1964 the company celebrated its centenary. At the celebration meal the guests ate thick soup and duck with orange. A newspaper report at the time noted that the outlook for the future was bright, despite the trade often being seen as a dying industry.
The home of Gadsby, the Somerset Levels, was underwater until a series of ditches were created to drain it in 17th century. As a result the area, much of it below sea level, is often affected by winter flooding. The 1967 flood was the worst for decades, leaving the business underwater for a number of weeks.
The location of the business was for a long time ideal, alongside the traditional summer holiday route to Devon and Cornwall. The construction of the M5 motorway removed this crucial business, forcing the company to restructure from a focus predominantly on retail sales, to becoming a wholesale supplier of basketware.
By the 1980s Gadsby's was already in its 5th generation. Whereas machinery had long dominated production in other industries, the majority of willow was still cultivated by hand. Slowly this tradition began to fade, as did the growth of British willow, as the focus shifted to imported products.
Throughout the 1990s a series of bad floods each winter seriously threatened the business. Despite willow thriving and growing in wet conditions, the floods turned many baskets mouldy, resulting in the major loss of stock.
With the new millennium the decision was made to move the business. The company had outgrown its warehouses, resulting in relocation to new purpose-built premises near junction 24 of the M5. The new location facilitated rapid growth, with the benefits of modern warehouses, easy transport links, and larger offices all helping the company.
By now established for over 150 years, the company is an industry leader. Quickly adapting to changes in trends, we continue to grow and develop our range. A traditional product, made with great care, is supported by outstanding customer service, state of the art logistics and modern warehousing.