Glove Factory- & Out-workers

dent alcroft gloves 1895In 1777 Dents built the first glove factory on South Quay on the River Severn in Worcester. The company was the first to industrialise the process of preparing leather and cutting the designs, although much of the sewing done by women working in their own homes and paid per pair of gloves.

Cutters in the factory underwent a seven year apprenticeship: it was a very skilled job to get the most number of gloves out of each hide. Each full-time male cutter required 12-15 female sewers working at home. Sewers were recruited from the urban centre and from local rural villages; cut leather was transported out on a weekly basis to collection points.

The peak of the industry was between 1790 and 1820, when half of all British gloves were made in Worcester. In the 1820s there were 150 manufacturers of leather gloves in Worcester and 30-40,000 people were estimated to be employed in the glove industry in Worcestershire and Herefordshire.

Fownes cutting room
Cutters at work at the Fownes Factory, 1890s

Worcester was very dependent on the glove industry. When foreign import tax on gloves was lifted, reportedly thousands of people starved in Worcester, and many people left to go to work in bigger industrial cities.

Glovers working at home were never well paid – the 1837 commission investigating the poor laws found that many glovemakers were also dependent on their parish, which was the equivalent of being on benefits.

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