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fellmongers, tanners & curriers

1) Fell Monger
‘Fell’ is a ‘skin’ and this person was simply provider or seller of the skins to Tanners - who also took over the ‘Felling’ process but originally the Fell Monger was also the preparer of the skin itself, having removed the hair or wool from them and also the gelatine fat. This involved lime and other chemicals and he then soaked and removed residues and those chemicals. This was then ‘rawhide’. He then was also the seller or provider of those raw parts and skins to others and to Tanners. The Fell Monger would also ‘bate’ or soften the skin using various dungs and urine. There was a strong trade of this ‘natural waste’ in the Mint area of Southwark by the inhabitants collecting it all and taking it over to Bermondsey!! There is still an ancient company with this connection in Richmond Yorkshire http://www.fellmongers.org.uk/history_heritage.html

2) Tanners
then took the pure hide/ skin ‘rawhide’ and turned it into leather, ie make it a durable manufactured product (rather than an organic perishable skin) by soaking it into various chemicals, most notably the traditional ‘tannin’ which word is derived from the bark of oak, fir and birch trees. This is the origin of the surname ‘Barker’ the supplier of the tan-bark. ‘Tan’ to colour brown is the same root. This is the natural colour which can be altered and added to by the Currier.

3) Curriers
‘dress’ the tanned leather, that is they ‘finish’ the surface of the leather by stretching and pressing it to produce a uniform thickness and make it supple; they also apply the dies for colouring it. The process makes the tanned leather strong, flexible and waterproof. That could then be supplied to manufacturers of leather goods. A London Livery company is still extant: -
www.curriers.co.uk <http://www.curriers.co.uk>

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The Tanners Company of Bermondsey