The story of the sheepskin slipper industry in Somerset can be traced back to the Quaker family, the Clarks. Joseph Clark’s son Cyrus Clark started manufacturing sheepskin rugs in 1822, moving in 1825 to the site of the Clark’s factory in Street.
In 1828 Cyrus’s younger brother James joined him on an apprenticeship. During his apprenticeship he requested from his brother the use of some short wool skins that were not suitable for rugs to allow him to make them into warm-lined slippers.
James cut the slippers out of hours and paid some out-workers to finish the slippers and employed a fried of his Charles Gilpin to sell the slippers. Later on, James went travelling for the firm and took this opportunity to sell his slippers, known as the “Brown Petersburghs” throughout the country. James Clark soon added other slipper styles and lamb’s wool socks. By 1851 sales of sheepskin slippers amounted to £21,000, whilst the core sheepskin rug business amounted to a little over £7,000.
In 1870 the business moved from Street to their new premises in Northover, Glastonbury, there the company was managed by James Clark’s son-in-law John Morland and the company was then called Clark, Son & Morland.
When moving to Northover, the company built two buildings, the main block consisting of two floors, basement and a loft and the second building consisted of a boiler and dye-house with a cellar and two lofts. There were four stoves one over the other at the end of the main block; the basement was a framing shop, skin stock and soap house, whilst the first floor included all the main production area, a laboratory a dyed skin stock room and the counting house, the second floor included the mat stock and the packing room whilst all the lofts were used for drying. The skin dressing was at first carried out a mile away at the Bowling Green Mill (where the Avalon Leather Board Factory later took up residence) and the skins were carried between the Mill and Northover by donkey. By 1871, the dressing of the skins moved to the Northover site.
In 1884 the factory times changed from working 6am to 6pm (there was a break for breakfast between 8.00-8.30 and a 10 minute bible reading break and lunch between 1.00-2.00) to 7.30am to 6.00pm Monday to Friday and 6.00am to 1.00pm pm Saturdays. Most of the operations in the tannery were hand-operated, the fleshing, paring and framing were all done by hand
In 1906 saw the introduction of the motor car, in those early days both passengers and driver were exposed to the elements, so the company saw the opportunity to manufacture and sell sheepskin car over rugs and foot-muffs. custom brand socks