Thursday, 18 June 2015

Derelict Glastonbury

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' 1930s factory
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.


Unknown said...

Hi I enjoyed your informative article. Im tryimg to date a sheepskin jacket by Baileys of Glastonbury I have owned for years and it is nice to learn about its history as a whole community were involved. Do you by chance know anyone who would know when it was made? It has thick sheepskin so is a shearling, dark brown with sheepskin showing on slightly slanted front pockets & has YKK zips. I love it & will wear it 4 rest of my life so appreciate all the hard work & skill and craftmanship that was put into making it. Thank you

Alison Turner said...

I was interested to find out about the Baileys tannery as I was aware that they produced the red boxing gloves worn by Henry Cooper v Cassius Clay fight of 1963. I have an identical pair to the original ones with the Baileys of Glastonbury on the cuffs,which were given to an open charity in Somerset that Cooper attended and signed the gloves. My bid won and I have had had them for many years.

I really would love to find out any background and whether there could have been a spare pair made and he decided to donate them later. It was prior to him becoming a Sir and apart from being there when he signed them as authentic.

Any information would be very much appreciated. Many thanks.

Alison Turner