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London's historic leather trade

Sunday, 12 June 2016 22:22:21 Europe/London

Did you know that Bermondsey in south London was once one of England’s premier leather manufacturing centres? From around the 14th century leather was big business in the area, thanks to the regular supply of oak barks as well as water and power from the nearby river Thames.

   Leather trade old photo   Black and white tanner family   Bermondsey old tannery

By the early 1800's, the industry had outgrown the skin market at Bankside and the dealing activities at Leadenhall. The main tanners collectively raised some £50,000 and decided to build the Leather Market on Weston Street, SE1. As this combined trading and warehousing at one location near the major tanneries, it was a huge benefit to all. The tanners, curriers and leather sellers came together in sales stalls to trade their skins and hides. 

  Leathermarket studios entrance  Leathermarket studios gate  Leathermarket studios sign 

In 1878, they added the 'London Leather Hide & Wool Exchange' next to it, including their very own private Gentlemen's Club on the first floor. Bevingtons was one of the oldest and most important Bermondsey leather manufacturers. The company was founded in 1800 at Neckinger Leather Mills, then the largest leather factory in Europe. Samuel Bevington was an important member of the Bevington family but was also a great benefactor for the local area. He set up the Voluntary Reserve Battalion of the Queen's Royal West Surrey Regiment, paid for the original public library and helped advance and develop training in the Leather industry.

Training in the various leather crafts, which formalised and supplemented much of the workplace apprenticeships, was given at the Herold Institute – roughly a mile and a half away from the market. In 1897, largely due to the efforts of Samuel Bevington, the Leather Sellers’ Company Training School took over the Herold Institute. In 1900, Samuel Bevington became the first mayor of the Borough of Bermondsey. In 1909, the school moved into a new building and became the Leading Leather Sellers’ College in 1947. However, with the fall in trade in 1978 it was merged with Nene College (now Northampton University) as the Institute of Creative Leather Technology.   


  Hide & Wool Exchange fachade   Hide & Wool Exchange building   Hide & Wool Exchange entrance  

With the decline of the leather trades in the area, and the use of the Leather Market and Exchange, the buildings were acquired and refurbished by a developer between1993-95 and are now serviced offices and a business centre. Bermondsey's street and pub names are constant reminders of the vibrant leather industry that existed and thrived in this area. Besides, visiting the old Leather Market, surrounding buildings and grabbing some brunch in one of the many lovely cafes around Bermondsey is a great way to spend a leisurely Sunday morning.

                               Leather Exchange Fullers pub sign   Leather Exchange Fullers pub

                               Simon The Tanner pub sign   Simon The Tanner pub 

                       Tanner & Co   Tanner Street

Here are some more detailed images of the carvings at the Hide & Wool Exchange and Leathermaket buildings.

Stone carvings Leather trade   Leathermarket old sign   Leather tanning process 1

Leather tanning process 2   Leather tanning process 3   Selling Leather carving

Posted in Info Articles By Ram Iyer

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Painting leather by hand with water-based colours

Sunday, 5 June 2016 19:05:23 Europe/London

Hand painted leather headrest

Hand painting is a great way of adding a personal touch to your leather shoes and handbags. But, you don’t have to stop there – why not get creative with leather furniture and car upholstery. 

But, before reaching for the paintbrush, you will need to first identify the type of leather and then clean and prime it with appropriate products. 

Types of leather 

There are three main types of leather: 

  1. Pigmented leather - Has a layer of colour on the surface. Test by rubbing a drop of water into the leather. If it's pigmented leather, the water will not penetrate the surface.
  2. Aniline leather - It is porous and if you carry out the above test, water will penetrate the leather and darken the area.
  3. Suede and Nubuck - They are also very porous but painting on their surface is not advisable. The chances of getting good results are extremely low due to the nap on the  surface. Only colour Suede or Nubuck to refresh it or cover fading.
                           Japanese hand painted leather   Hand painted leather shoes


  • Clean Aniline leather using COLOURLOCK Leather Cleaning Spirit. Not only will this take off any surface dirt but it will also degrease the leather. This is a very important step in the preparation.
  • For pigmented leathers, use COLOURLOCK Solvent Cleaner. It is slightly stronger than the cleaning spirit but it is much more effective on pigmented leathers. Aniline leathers are more sensitive and hence must be treated more gently. This process ensures the colour adheres to the surface well.


  • The primer ensures good adhesion of colour and must not be skipped. Apply COLOURLOCK ‘Primer Plus’ for Aniline leather and COLOURLOCK Primer for pigmented leathers. Clearly mark the area to be coloured and apply the Primer using a sponge. Apply evenly in circular motions and work from seam to seam. This avoids any borders and visible marks once it is dry. The surface will feel a little sticky once the Primer is dry and this is completely normal.


  • Paint away using a brush or an airbrush and use a hairdryer to speed up the drying process. However, ensure the air is not too hot. It is advisable to keep the hair dryer atleast 30 cm away from the leather while drying.
  • We have a total range of 17 primary colours which can be mixed together. Additionally, we also have 5 luminous/fluorescent colours. (It is also possible to create ‘Metallic Effects’ on leather using additives to our Top Coats)
  • The leather colours have excellent covering power and yet they still maintain the features of the leather. It is a water based formula that gives extremely high adhesion values if used correctly. It is used extensively and fully approved by many automotive, aviation and furniture manufacturers.
      Hand painted leather armchair by ColourlockCOLOURLOCK hand painted sofas  


- After colouring and painting, the dyes have to be fixed using a clear coat. Clear coats are available in Matt or Gloss finish. Use COLOURLOCK ‘Leather Finish Matt’ or COLOURLOCK Leather Spray ‘Neutral Gloss’. Both these products come in an aerosol spray can.

- Additionally, coloured areas or old leather items can be maintained using COLOURLOCK Elephant Leather Preserver. 

Recommended Products

Since this is a special application, all the products are not available to purchase directly on our website. However, please feel free to get in touch with us and we will gladly assist you.

Posted in Info Articles By Ram Iyer

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