Coal hole plate made in Southwark

Lost Industries of Southwark Education Resources

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Worksheet Number 8 - Using Document 7

The Leather Industry


The trade took off in Bermondsey for a number of reasons. Firstly, in Tudor times, noxious trades were forced to move from the City, the main centre of habitation, to the ‘Surrey’ or south side of the river. Secondly, ‘the existence…of a series of tide-streams, which, twice in every twenty-four hours, supply a large quantity of water from the Thames for the use of the tanners and leather-dressers’, and thirdly, ‘…The skins from nearly all the sheep slaughtered in London are conveyed to a Skin-Market in the western part of Bermondsey.’ Additionally, there was a good market for the finished products over the river in the City. Many related trades also prospered – wool and hair was separated from the skins and sold for hat making, as were horns, which were used to make combs, spoons, knife-handles and musical horns. The leather-workers had been granted a charter by Queen Anne in 1703 and Bermondsey became the main leather-working centre. Many other related trades flourished with the leather trade – wool and hair was separated from the skins and sold for hat-making, as were horns, which were used to make combs, spoons, knife-handles and musical horns.

The most famous firms were Bevington’s Neckinger Leather Mills and Barrow, Hepburn and Gale. The trades were dominated by men. Unlike the hat industry, workmen were slow to organise themselves into Trade Unions. Boys worked in the trade, but women were not made to feel welcome until WW I and II. The Neckinger was a tide stream that flowed through Bermondsey. A ‘neckinger’ was a neck-tie or scarf, and is also an allusion to a noose, as pirates were hanged nearby.

1.Look at the photograph of Bevington’s Leather Mills from 1862. It shows John W. Bevington, James B. Bevington, Samuel Bevington and Horatio Harris, another of the partners or owners. What do you think the owners are standing next to? Why do you think that it was so important for Victorian factory owners and managers to wear expensive and fashionable clothing in the workplace, even in messy surroundings?

Neckringer Leather Mills, Black and White photo of owners

2.Read ‘Geoffrey Bevington’s first day in Bevington’s Leather Mills’ (Document 7). Look at the pictures of the leather workers. Imagine you are a young teenage boy who has started on the same day as Geoffrey. After you finish work at 7 p.m., you come home and tell your younger brothers and sisters about your first day. Write a short piece, explaining to your family what a day in the leather works was like.

leather industry bermondsey 1862


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