Tasked with making casks

Good with wood: Ashley Thompson, 19, has taken up a four-year apprenticeship with T&R Theakston. (S)
Good with wood: Ashley Thompson, 19, has taken up a four-year apprenticeship with T&R Theakston. (S)

A teenager has secured himself a unique position with the T&R Theakston brewery in Masham.

Ashley Thompson, from Thornton Watlass, has joined the company as an apprentice craft cooper and is the only one in the country to be employed by a brewery.

The 19-year-old, who has a Level 1, 2 and 3 qualification in carpentry and joinery, will serve his four-year apprenticeship under the tutelage of Theakston’s existing craft cooper, Jonathan Manby.

Ashley said: “Working with wood, and for a brewery, is my dream job. When I was 10, I saw Jonathan demonstrating his coopering skills at the Great Yorkshire Show. It was a magical experience and one I have never forgotten.

“When I saw that Theakston’s were advertising for an apprentice craft cooper to work under Jonathan I couldn’t believe my luck and I applied immediately.

“I’m thrilled to have been chosen for the job, even if it is a daunting thought that I am the only brewery-employed apprentice craft cooper in the entire country.

“I’m looking forward to learning the trade from Jonathan and, hopefully, in four years’ time, becoming a fully-fledged craft cooper.”

During his apprenticeship, the former Bedale High School pupil – who has worked for the legendary “Mouseman” joiners Robert Thompson’s – will learn the intricacies of an ancient trade, which is being kept alive by the brewery, known world-wide for its Old Peculier ale.

T&R Theakston executive director Simon Theakston said: “We are very proud to be keeping the traditional art of coopering well and truly alive.

“Ashley joins a long and distinguished line of apprentice craft coopers here at Theakston’s and he is extremely lucky to be learning from Jonathan Manby, who is an outstanding exponent of the craft.

“Traditionally-brewed British craft ale is becoming more popular, year in, year out. Each year Jonathan makes hundreds of casks. Next year he and Ashley will be making considerably more as we increase production of our classic beers and add new ones to the range.”