Visit Hexham

Leather Heritage

Hexham’s Leather Heritage

From Anglo Saxons and Hexham Tans to World War II flying jackets and the present day.

A photo of Hexham Abbey Hexham Spring Festival Rowing Regatta on the River Tyne at Hexham Hadrian's Wall

Visit Hexham

Discover one of Northumberland's most beautiful and historic market towns and surrounding countryside.

Explore our website to find things to do, places to visit, where to stay and eat. So much to see and do in Hexham to suit all budgets.

Visit Hexham

Discover one of Northumberland's most beautiful and historic market towns and surrounding countryside.

Explore our website to find things to do, places to visit, where to stay and eat. So much to see and do in Hexham to suit all budgets.

Visit Hexham

Discover one of Northumberland's most beautiful and historic market towns and surrounding countryside.

Explore our website to find things to do, places to visit, where to stay and eat. So much to see and do in Hexham to suit all budgets.

Visit Hexham

Discover one of Northumberland's most beautiful and historic market towns and surrounding countryside.

Explore our website to find things to do, places to visit, where to stay and eat. So much to see and do in Hexham to suit all budgets.

A photo of fireworks above Hexham Abbey A photo of Christmas lights in Hexham, Northumberland A photo of Christmas lights near the Abbey in Hexham, Northumberland A Treasure Island Pantomine Advert
get in touch

Hexham’s Leather Heritage

The story of Hexham’s long association with leather properly began in the Anglo Saxon period where Hexham’s name was given in 681, for the first time in Old English, as ‘Hagulstaldes Ea’ which had the meaning ‘the young warrior’s stream’. The ‘Hagustald’, which term had the further meaning of a second son who seized and enclosed land, almost certainly refers to St. Wilfrid who did exactly that and the stream must refer to the Cockshaw area of the town where three burns converge.

A manageable source of running water is essential to the tanning process by which leather is made. Therefore it would appear that Wilfrid and the church assumed control of the leather production process, which was probably run by the British (Celtic) workers at the time of his arrival, and thereby provided Hexham with a name derived from its association with leather.

A photo of a pair of leather glovesHexham’s link with leather continued until in the C18th the town became internationally famous for the manufacture of the ‘Hexham Tans’ gloves. This renown grew and in 1823, 282,048 pairs of gloves were made in the town.

Tanning was also highly successful in Hexham and in 1860 the town was home to six tanneries, all based around the burns in the Cockshaw area and towards the Tyne.

However, problems caused by cheap, foreign imports and a failure to mechanize beset the gloving industry and in 1882, only 5400 pairs of gloves were made in Hexham, 1.9% of the number made in 1823. Around a decade later gloving came to an end in the town and only ten years after that the last tannery closed its doors for the last time.

The Henry Bell Company continued to manufacture wool and sheepskins at Tanner’s Yard until 1974; some of these were used for flying jackets during the Second World War.

A photo of the inside of Andy Bates Leatherwork shopIn the early 1980s Austin Winstanley began to make cases in ‘Russia’ leather from his Priestpopple workshop then in 2010 Andy Bates established a studio in Hexham (see left) where he now works with Robert Ford.

They are part of the exciting Dukeshouse Heritage Woodland project which seeks, amongst many other aims, to reintroduce tanning and leathergoods manufacture to the town.

More information on the History and Heritage of Hexham can be found here.


EXTERNAL LINKS
The Visit Hexham website and the Hexham Community Partnership are not responsible for the content of external websites. Any link to an external website should not be understood to be an endorsement of that website or the site's owners or their products or services. Find out more details in our Terms and Conditions.
slide up button