Serving the communities of Bures St Mary and Bures Hamlet

Tanning in Bures - Part I

The Bures Tanning Industry.
The works were located opposite Chambers Workshops in the High St.
Records indicate a sale of a building on this site in 1684, whether it`s the same one standing today is open to speculation.

The yard closed in 1909 and the machinery moved to Ipswich. Parts of the frame of the old buildings are incorporated into the present Bridge House. The business was owned by Church`s (now the seed merchants)
Hides came in by road, rail or river. (bottom left photo)The oak bark used in the tanning was brought in by road and weighed on a weighbridge inside Chambers's present garage. A small store of bark was kept inside Chambers but the bulk was stacked at the end of the Croft.
The yard had a steam engine for working the bark-crusher and the stack was next to the footpath close to the house called St Mary`s,
Wooden vats were set in the ground and the hides were put in with the oak-tan, lime and water. The treated hides were dried in the timber building still standing in the garden of Bridge House and visible from the bridge. The lime and hair residue as used by a local builder as `tan-mortar`.
The tan yard entrance was opposite Chambers (see bottom right photograph).

The finished "hides" were transported by "lighter" on the river down to Mistley.
The alternative route would have been by cart to Ipswich . This involved an overnight stay, as the journey to ipswich couldnt be completed in a single day. From Ipswich it is thought the "hides" again travelled by barge.
Both routes via Mistley or Ipswich would have taken them by sailing barge along the North Sea coast, perhaps down to London.

Bures had many small industries connected with tanning, the manufacture of boots and shoes, gloves and saddles, book binding and most importantly, a local skill making leather balls for games. In 1851 Bures had seven shoemakers, three bookmakers, a bootbinder, a collar and harness-maker, a bookbinder, three saddlers, and two glovers.

During the 1914 - 1918 war the building was used as a dormitory for German POW`s. For some time afterwards their names could be seen engraved on timberwork over their beds.

Rear view of Tanning Factory.
Hides would have been offloaded from barges to the jetty. The road bridge can be seen to the left.
(courtesy of Peter Richards)
Rear View 2003, The Tannery works can still be clearly seen to the left of the picture
Photograph showing the Tannery chimney.
(courtesy of John Ineson)
Redundant Tannery works in the High St, 2003