Leather & Gloving Industry

Holt, Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire


Beavens' factory, Holt

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


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, all men, who cut out the gloves, while about 30 machinists who made up the gloves, were all female.

leather washing drums

Old leather washing drums, removed from the factory

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 after rescue by Guy Colle of Belgium in 1995, but while part of the factory continued to be used as a warehouse by the firm, manufacture is no longer carried in Holt.


The old offices and buildings to the rear have been converted into office and studio units and parts of the main building were put to other uses. Redevelopment of other redundant parts of the factories as offices, studios, workshops and 44 new houses and flats began in December 2019.


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.