Gloving Donkey

In 1807, James Winter of Stoke Sub Hamdon, near Yeovil invented the gloving donkey to help with even stitching.

We have three examples of this tool at the Community Heritage Access Centre.

Gloving in the Yeovil Area


Although there are indications of gloving activity in Yeovil in the Middle Ages, it wasn't until the 18th Century that glove making really became an important industry in the area. Even the prosperity of the town fluctuated following the whims of fashion and the imposition and repeal of import taxes on foreign gloves, particularly those from France, which always seem to have had a certain snob value for English ladies of fashion.


The 19th and early 20th centuries were a boom time for Yeovil glovers. Between 1824 and 1840, the number of glove manufacturers increased from 15 to 35 and before 1939, there were as many as 50 firms operating in the area. After the war, the industry began to decline as the local manufacturers were unable to compete with the cheap gloves imported into this country from the Far East, and the last sizeable glove factory in Yeovil shut down some years ago. There is, however, still one small firm operating from the Nautilus Works in Reckleford, Yeovil, where they have a small showroom where you can see how gloves are made. There are also some businesses, which are still thriving, in the surrounding villages.


Leather dressing, which was traditionally associated with glove making, was a male occupation; as was the cutting of the glove pieces. However, the gloving industry was dependent to a very large extent on the employment of women and girls who worked at home, stitching the gloves that the men had cut, working sometimes in a shed in the backyard and sometimes in a properly equipped cutting room.


None of the factories attained the size of some of the Worcester ones - Fownes for example - and most businesses were conducted from quite small premises. Some of the buildings still exist, being used for other purposes, but a number of them have been pulled down to make way for housing, offices and the like. The gloving connection is perpetuated in various ways; some of the old gloving families are remembered in street names - look for Ryall's Court, Dampier Street and Kiddles, to name but three; then we have Glover's Walk, the Glovers' Arms, and of course, our football team is nicknamed the Glovers.



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