Until recently, Glastonbury was a centre of sheepskin goods manufacture. On Beckery Island at the edge of town stood the factories of two companies, Morlands and Baily's.
Morlands made sheepskin goods in the small town of Glastonbury from 1870, when John Morland was attracted to the tannery by the purity of its water. He remained chairman of the company until he died, aged 96, in 1934. By then, a Bauhaus-inspired modernist factory was being added to the original Victorian brick buildings.
|My dad, fashionable sheepskin-wearer, 1962|
Early motorists and Battle of Britain pilots were grateful for the warmth Morlands' clothing provided; in the 1960s, sheepskin was fashionable and hundreds of people worked at their factory and tannery. By the 1980s, sheepskin coats had fallen out of fashion and Morlands - along with Baily's, now owned by the same company - closed their Glastonbury operations. When they moved out of their site in town, it fell into decay. Part of it has been given new life as the Red Brick Building, home to various offices and organisations as well as the lovely Bocabar.
However, the neighbouring Baily's tannery and glove factory remains empty. It's hard to imagine today that this was once a thriving industrial site, which made not only sheepskin products but also sporting goods - Muhammad Ali and Henry Cooper wore their gloves. Baily had started as a flour miller on the site, but diversified his business in the 1860s to include sheepskin rug manufacture. As his sheepskin business expanded, so did his premises: the current buildings, of local blue lias stone and brick, date back to the 1860s-1890s. They are listed, and happily, there are proposals to renovate them - but for the moment, the buildings are mothballed.
There are more photographs on Flickr.