AMUSING images have revealed the age-old tradition of Cooper apprentices ‘passing out’ by being put into a cask of their own making and covered in liquids.
The funny pictures show one apprentice in the barrel being well and truly anointed with the concoctions with the aid of a mop during their ceremony at Pimlico, another being thrown high into the air by his fellow Coopers and another crouching inside the barrel he made before the ceremony gets underway.
Other striking shots show an apprentice bracing himself against the sides as his friends roll the barrel, another smiling as oily soot, paints, beer, swill and sawdust are thrown over him and one at the end of his initiation ceremony, now considered fully-fledged, being lifted from his barrel covered in soot, whitewash, sawdust and shavings.
Since the days of Queen Elizabeth I an apprentice in the cooperage trade, on completing his apprenticeship, has been bundled into a cask of his own making and anointed with a glutinous mess of soot, wood ash and water by his fellow Coopers.
He is then taken from the cask and thrown high into the air to the accompaniment of cheers and banging of cans by his fellow workers. After this he is presented with his indentures making him a fully fledged Cooper.
These initiations took place at breweries all across the country including Whitbread’s brewery in Chiswell Street, City.
The last apprentice Cooper to be ”trussed” there in these photographs was James Pettengell, 21, from Bromley, Kent, who true to tradition comes from a family of Coopers,
His brother George, 31, who also works at Whitbreads, helped with his training. The training of apprentices has now ended at Whitbread’s with the decline in the use of wooden casks following the introduction of metal barrels for beer.
The ”trussing the Cooper” ceremony had been repeated many times since the brewery was built in the mid 18th century.
A cooper is a person trained to make wooden casks, barrels, vats, buckets, tubs, troughs and other staved containers, from timber that was usually heated or steamed to make it pliable.