Coal hole plate made in Southwark

Lost Industries of Southwark Education Resources

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Document 7 - Using Worksheet 8

Geoffrey Bevington's first Day at the Mills


Geoffrey Bevington’s first day in Bevington’s Leather Mills, aged 21

This account of leatherworking in the Bermondsey of the 1920s was recorded in the 1970s when Geoffrey Bevington was elderly. He was the son of one of the owners, went to Cambridge University but decided to learn the practical side of the trade.

The leather workers wore ‘…clogs, leggings of sacking tied with string, an old shirt and jacket and a leather, or sacking apron.’ ‘The seal skins were puered (or ‘pewered’) in ‘Pancreol’, but calf skins were still paddled in the old fashioned hounds’ dung which came in casks from Hampshire by rail. The Puerman, Hamilton, delighted in plunging his arm
into a cask to demonstrate to any queasy visitor what good stuff it was.’

‘The drench tubs (where the hides were soaked) were alive with rats if ever one ever went in at night.’ The rats lived in the bran used in processing the leather, and were often found drowned, floating.

Geoffrey describes the huge machines used for ‘glazing’, ‘boarding’, ‘printing’ and ‘buffing’. ‘The only one that scared me was the ‘Staker’ on which a pair of jaws do their best to snatch the skin out of your hands. There were also the ‘Blackgrainers Wheels’, prehistoric monsters of unknown origin’, which were cast-iron wheels six foot in diameter to roll the leather.

Geoffrey recalled that he was paid £3 for a full week’s work. The day would begin early and would not finish until 7 p.m.

Samuel Bevington - first mayor of Bermondsey

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