The manufacture of leather in Roman and medieval London was concentrated on the northern fringes of the City, where the river Walbrook provided a plentiful water supply for the tanning process and the noxious fumes attendant upon it could not offend the noses of local residents. The finished hides were sold in markets throughout the City, notably in Leadenhall market
In the nineteenth century Leadenhall market was superseded by the Leather, Hide and Wool Exchange in Bermondsey. Lying just across the Thames from the City and beyond the restrictive jurisdiction of the City authorities, Bermondsey was geographically and geologically suited to the manufacture of leather. There is evidence of leatherworking here from earliest times, and by the end of the eighteenth century it was estimated that one third of all leather produced in the country was manufactured in Bermondsey, gaining the area its nickname – “the land of leather”. It was here that the Leathersellers’ Company chose to locate its Technical College, but after the boom years of the nineteenth century, decline came swiftly. Bermondsey suffered heavy bombing during World War Two with the loss of many tanneries.
One of Bermondsey’s most well-known tanneries, Bevington & Sons Ltd, moved to Leicester in 1980, and the last working tannery in London, S.O.Rowe & Son PLC of Tanner Street, Bermondsey, closed in 1997. The Company’s Technical College moved from Bermondsey to Northampton in 1976 and is now the Institute of Creative Leather Technologies at the University of Northampton
Click here to view the Leather Manufacturing Process.