The Gloving Industry in Somerset
The gloving industry is of such significance in Somerset that Yeovil Town Football Club is known by the nickname “The Glovers”. This moniker has arisen due to the prominence of the gloving industry in Somerset, for which the area has been renowned for centuries.
From as early as the 1720s the Somerset glove-making trade was already gaining notoriety. In his 1724-1727 series of letters and book “A Tour Through The Whole Island of Great Britain”, Daniel Defoe wrote of Yeovil “Its main manufacture at this time is the making of gloves”.
The years from 1784 to 1797 seem to have been a time of significant growth for the gloving industry in Somerset. For example, the 1784 British Directory lists five glove manufacturers in Yeovil.
A slow growth over the next ten years meant that the 1794 British Directory lists six “glovers, lamb and kid dressers”, but there seems to have been a significant expansion in the following years, and by the time of the 1797 edition The British Directory reported of Yeovil:
“An extensive glove manufactory flourishes here which is considerably revived in recent years on account of the principal manufacturers importing and dressing their own kid and lamb skins”
Prior to the invention of the sewing machine, all glove-stitching was done by hand.
In order to maintain a good quality of stitching, James Winter of Stoke sub Hamdon in Somerset, invented the Gloving Donkey in 1807. This allowed girls as young as 8 to working in gloving manufacture and expanded the industry.
The banning of imported foreign gloves had led to a significant growth of the Somerset gloving industry, but when the legislation was repealed in 1826, the effect on the gloving industry in Somerset was devastating.
William Hull was vocal in his support of the Somerset gloving trade. He wrote about the importance of patronage of British manufacturing in his 1834 publication:
“The History of the Glove Trade with the customs connected with the Globe: to which are annexed some observations on the policy of the trade between England and France, and it’s operation on the agricultural and manufacturing interests”
In the book, William Hull is a clear advocate of British-made goods over the purchase of foreign imports.
The decline of the gloving industry following the changes in international trading policy seems to have been inevitable. One of the biggest success stories to come out of the decline of the Somerset leather industry is Pittard’s.
Charles Pittard is recorded as operating as a leather dresser in 1826, and the family and firm have gone through several evolutions since, to survive as specialist glove-makers for several sporting professions and military-issue gloves during World War Two.
Buy Pittards Gloves from Sheepland
Here at Sheepland we are lucky enough to use this English leather for our bespoke slippers. We use this classic Somerset material and transform it into vibrant, show stopping slippers, which are not only eye-catching but also hardwearing and entirely unique. We give you the opportunity to choose every colour and section of your Slippers, a truly personalised experience!
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