A curer of animal hides. As Herefordshire was, and still is, predominantly rural and industry free, the large numbers of cattle and sheep provided endless raw material for the tanners. The process was decidedly smelly, so tanneries were situated some way away from habitation although Ledbury was a notable exception with the tannery being slap bang in the middle of the town.
The raw skins had to be cleaned in order to remove all traces of blood and this was often done in running streams which also carried away the waste from the further treatment of the hides….this must have polluted the water to some pan handle, and those downstream who had other uses for the water must have suffered greatly! A lime and water mix was then used to help soften fat and hair before the hides were scraped thoroughly – much of what was removed was recycled to be used for glue making, or in the case of hair, felt for clothing.

Following this process, the hide would once again be thoroughly washed in the running stream to remove the lime etc. Next a preparation of oak bark and water was made in large pits and the skins would be immersed for several weeks, after which yet another washing process was carried out in the poor old stream. Then came the drying, which was quite critical because it could go badly wrong and a ruined hide was a waste of weeks of work……..dry it too slowly and mould might develop which would ruin the skin, too fast and the skin was unworkable and brittle.
I pity the wives of these Tanners…….every night they would have had to deal with dreadfully stinky men and their clothes when they came home from work! No washing machines or power showers for them of course.


People who were Tanners

Tanner bankrupts

F. Jenks May 1821 Tanner Bromyard, Herefordshire
J. Coates November 1826 Tanner Weobley, Herefordshire
James Jenks June 1831 Tanner Bromyard, Herefordshire
William Watkins September 1872 Tanner Ross on Wye, Herefordshire