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Leather & Gloving Industry

Holt, Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire

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Beavens' factory, Holt

J. & T. Beavens’ factory, Midlands, Holt

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The J. & T. Beaven leather and glove company was founded, according to tradition, in Holt in 1770, although members of the family seem to have been working leather there for some time before.
Christopher Beaven bought the house that is now the office in 1758 and by 1782 his nephew Thomas was running the business as woolstapler, fellmonger and leather dresser.
It became a limited company in 1919 with a capital of £50,000 and operated a wool department until 1954 and leather glove-making until 1956. It was taken over by James Garner & Sons Ltd (later Pittard Garner) of Yeovil in 1970, the bicentenary year.
Sheep skins, from Britain and from New Zealand, were trimmed, painted with sodium sulphide by the fellmonger and dried; stretched over drums called “beams” and the wool pulled off and sorted into 13 grades by the woolstapler; the skin was “limed and pickled” to cure it and soaked until it swelled and could be split by a machine into the “skiver”, the thin outer side which went to make book bindings and the thicker inner which became chamois, originally dressed by hand using a knife called a “frizer”. In the Second World War the chamois leather was used in lining pilots’ gloves and jackets and as a petrol filter.
Output was up to 900,000 skins a year, amounting to 4.5 million square feet in 1990.

The glove department employed outworkers who had their own machines, for example Mercy Ash, who lived in the last cottage in Ground Corner. There were twelve cutters who cut out the gloves, all men, while about 30 machinists who made up the gloves, were all female.

J. & T. Beaven Ltd still exists, as one of the major suppliers of chamois leather, among other car care products, in Holt and Belgium and Germany, but while part of the factory is used as a warehouse by the firm, manufacture is no longer carried in Holt.

 

Glove Factory Studios, HoltThe western factory building, separated from the rest by a track, has been developed as high-tech studios called The Glove Factory (although gloves were not made there). It was extended in 2015 with a grant from The Enterprise Network (funded by Wiltshire Council, Defra and the European Union).

See The Glove Factory Studios website

There are plans for developing other redundant parts of the factories, partly for housing, business and for community use.

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Old Tannery, Turleigh, WinsleyTanning leather took place in other places in the Bradford Hundred; this is the Old Tannery in Turleigh, Winsley, now a house.