Whichelow Leather Merchant & Tannery

Left hand photo has George T Whichelow standing on left, thus taken pre 1914.

The tannery of G.Whichelow was seemingly founded in 1865 by George Thomas Whichelow, 1843-1914. In his will, Arthur Preston - one of the 3 executors - was named as the first Managing Director. The actual company was set up in the Will, with family and charities receiving shares, but obviously a 'business' already existed..

GTWhichelow .tgwhichelow-war.

George Thomas Whichelow 1843-1914. .. . . . . . .His 'son' Thomas George Whichelow Oram 1896-1917


This notice in the London Gazette, also in the Times. Probate notice has Effects of £133082.

Arthur Preston was still there, along with younger brother George Preston as Sales Director, in 1934 when my father made his trip to Austria. I must look up some of these names in the Mercers Magazines I have. Joe [Alfred Joseph 1900-1984] Whichelow also worked at the firm, but I do not know in what capacity.

joewhichelow Joe Whichelow with wife Elyse in 1972


Above article by Stephen Humpfrey, Southwark Historian, found by me in Southwark archives in 2009, states that the stately Whichelow family vault is to be found in Nunhead Cemetery, next to the former Anglican chapel. George Whichelow established the firm in Bermondsey, just off Tanner Street, in 1865 [ this conflicts with his Obituary notice - see later ] and soon came to own the usual group of warehouses, offices, tanpits and yards that made up a typical Bermondsey tannery, It specialises in what were called glace goods, that is, glazed or glossy light leather, often referred to as kid leather. The founder secured a patent for glace morocco, for which the firm was particularly known at the beginning of the 20th century. At one time, goat skins often came from Morocco and there is still a Morocco Street in Bermondsey today.

A Victorian Tannery was a bustling, noisy and smelly place, transforming thousands of skins from the raw originals with flesh and hair attached to them, into the glossy and smooth leather used to make so many familiar goods. The workers pictured above must have been only part of the workforce, for one published account of the firm from the mid-1890s states that it employed about 120 people... One tannery near the bricklayers Arms became Hartley's Jam Factory, another Lipton's .But the surviving tanneries after 1900 generally lasted until WW2, and the final vestiges of the industry ambled on as late as the 1980s. . . . I visited Whichelows as a child, ~1953, and was somewhat sick from the smell. My father left there at the end of 1957, realising that it was a dying concern, and I feel Whichelows closed by the early 1960s, seemingly liquidated 1960 and wound up 1964 but can find no definitive press article that tells of its closure.

Whichelow, Thomas, Spanish leather, was in the P.O. Directory for 1866/7, at 54, Bermondsey Street: I think this would have been a different concern to that of George. But a Thomas Whichelow, of Russell St Bermondsey, born ~ 1788 did die 1855, aged 67, buried Nunhead, grave 8298?? - Ancestry..

Whichelow, Thomas, Spanish leather dresser, was in the P.O./Kellys Directory for 1883 at Black Swan Yard, off Bermondsey Street

. By 1920, the address of Whichelow George Ltd was 82 & 84 Tanner Street.

Extract from" The Leathersellers' Company- A History" by Penelope Hunting 1994:

Among the well established tanneries of Bermondsey were Hepburn, Barrow, Bevington & Garnac. John Barrow & Sons, tanners, began in Wilds Rents in 1848.[ Wilds Rents was where Frank's grandfather, Timothy Lyons, lived ~ 1899-1908]. Other important leather works were...Whichelows( dressers of imported goat & kid skins, established in Tidal Place, Tanner Street in 1865) & Messrs Tebbit Bros., also in Tanner Street by 1867

The firm was still in Tanner Street in 1934 [tel.no. Ber 1931], in 1954 Severn Kid was listed as 82-84 Tanner Street, and still there in 1960, but closed soon after this, liquidated 1960, wound up by 1964. as shown in articles below. So, did Whichelows also trade as Severn Kid??

whichelow2 .whichelow4 .

London Gazette notices showing company in liquidation by March 1960, and being wound up by 1964. Notice the name of the Liquidator,Kenneth Scott, a friend, probably an Old Mercer, of my father's. The Whichelow leather company is also listed twice in 1967 as being wound up: this is perhaps not the same company??

In the London Gazette : the company had a liquidator by March 1960. Then a notice on how the company had been wound up by Feb 1964 [ using Merrett accountants & a Kenneth Scott - and both Merrett & Scott were probably Old Mercers like Dad], and that it was to be dissolved within 3 months on 28/2/1967. I wonder if the Whichelow family had any connection with the Mercers School?, as family lore has it that an Old Boy from Mercers helped procure a job with Whichelows for 17 yr old Francis Lyons.

Also Arthur Preston was an executor for the 1914 Will of George T Whichelow and was indeed named as the first Managing Director in this will.

In 1911C, a George Arthur Preston 35, shoe finisher, in Camberwell. Probably married Sep 1907 to Rosina Annie Bull. Child Arthur George 3. Another birth in 1918 of a Ronald A P Preston: could this be Phil, managing director in the 1950s?

In 1932, when F W Lyons joined Whichelows, Arthur Preston was the Managing Director and his brother George was the Sales Director.

May 2005: have contact with Helen Whichelow -tree on Ancestry: with Patricia Fraser[ggranddaughter of GTW, gdaughter of Maud Whichelow Oram] : am also in contact with a Karen on Genes/email, descended from Thomas 1789-1855, the grandfather of GTW. All have provided me with invaluable info. on this family of leather workers.

whichelow6 .whichelow7 .

2 London Gazette Notices , 1890 & 1898 , concerning [G.]Whichelow & Co.

.whichelow9 . .whichelow10

2 London Gazette Notices, 1873 & 1884, the latter concerning the bankruptcy of Alfred Whichelow; he Alfred 1848 was George's brother - he was a furrier in Grange St. and a very successful one for many years, even I believe selling to the Palace,  but it went bankrupt after a while.  The two brothers were quite close and Alfred was at GTWs funeral [ a funeral notice must exist -Times?].

Details from Patricia:

"Arthur Preston was one of three Executors to his Will.  The Will instructs the 3 Executors/Trustees to form a company and to buy his Leather Manufacturing company with his funds.   Arthur Preston was to be the first Managing Director but all three were to run it and make the decisions.  Number of Shares in the new company were allocated by George to his beneficiaries.   His surviving children were too young to run the company as it was, at the time of his death.   His eldest son, Thomas 1896, was then killed at Passchendaele in 1917.   The only surviving son, Alfred Joseph -Joe - ,was not a commercial man and Uncle Joe - so it is said by present day descendants - was not up to the job and let the company slide.  My Uncle Bryan (his nephew - still alive) remembers visiting the factory as a teenager after WW11.  He seemed to think it may have been bought out but we are not sure of this.  All today's descendants did not have much to do with the Factory as they are descendants of George's daughters.  Uncle Joe... his only surviving son.... had two daughters and so there are no Whichelow names for George's descendants, despite him having 3 sons.... sad.
I gather that his son - Uncle Joe (to us, although his name was Alfred Joseph Whichelow) did work at the factory.... I dont know whether any of your connections will remember him.  I think he died about 10 years ago - born 5/3/1900 ,died May 1984 Kingston.  My Grandmother (GTW's favourite daughter!- Maud 1894 ) did not have much communication with her brother.... although my Mum - Anita -did go to his funeral.
You are correct that GTW is buried at Nunhead in a large pink granite vault with a big cross on it, next to a small chapel.  His mother, Phoebe Herron, is also buried at Nunhead but his father, George Thomas 1814 was buried in Melbourne where he went with two younger sisters to GTW.

I know that George Thomas Whichelow learned his dying skills [in Germany??] with a Mr. Kipps who he originally set up business with but the partnership was dissolved later. From his obituary in a local paper we have "in 1868 at the age of 25, he commenced business for himself in partnership with Mr. Edward Kipps, specialising in Persian leather.  The business proved a great success but after a few years the partnership was dissolved and Mr. Whichelow began business on his own account in Bermondsey square and afterwards at Tidal Place.....' Note; Edward Kipps, b.1837 Southwark was a warehouseman in 1861, leather dresser in 1871 & 1881. Between 1890 & 1898 GTW was in partnership with an Adrian Bishop, b.1857 Londonderry, a Leather manufacturer in 1891, living Grange Road.: by 1901 he was a cigar traveller!
  GTW must always have had a great connection with Germany and respected their technology.   He died in the German Hospital too, so it does not surprise me that your Father went off there.  GTW had obviously been dead for sometime but the traditions of what he started must have remained with the Directors."

Thomas George Whichelow (GTW's eldest son by Annie Matilda Oram) died on 30th October 1917 and was listed as missing.  His name- Thomas Whichelow, private - is recorded on the wall of the missing at Tyne Cot cemetery".....  The family home when he enlisted, aged 19 yrs 150 days, leather manufacturer, in the London Regiment, Artists Rifles, 8/11/1915 was Addison House, Balham Hill. Battersea 2219. His mother, Annie Maud Whichelow, and siblings Alfred,19, Gladys, Maud & Eileen were still there in 1919. His mother acknowledged receipt of the the British War & Victory Medals of no.4944 Private T. Whichelow of the 22nd Bttn London Regiment- also no.760799 in his service record - in 1922. Another Medal Card, but no Servive Record, exists for a Thomas L Whichelow, London Regt.

As Helen said, GTW had a colourful life. He married Emily Sadler in 1864: they are together, as Wichelow, he 28, at 37 Bermondsey Square in 1871C: there were no children by this marriage and they seem to have separated prior to 1881C : he sued her for adultery with a lodger, but she counter sued and that apparently meant a divorce was not possible & she seems to have been a needlewoman/ servant up to old age, dying aged 72 in Southwark 1916 as a temporary inmate of the workhouse infirmary in Westmoreland Road, Newington. Then, from 1881 at least, he had a relationship with Clara Jarlett, a son George being born 1882, christened George Jarlett, parents George & Clara Jarlett!: he died of 'paralysis of the insane' aged 29 at Peckham House Jun 1911. .  His mother Clara, 1859 daughter of a Bermondsey tanner, was also in Peckham House for many years.  It was a private nursing home which seems to have been for mental illness.   GTW junior married Nelly/Nellie Georgina Frusher 22/121906 in All Souls, Newington [ so not too insane at this time!] but did not have children. His wife, Nellie Georgina Whichelow, is alone but not yet widowed at 7 Lorrimer Road Walworth, private means, in 1911C. Clara 43 was still living with' husband' George 58, leather dresser, & son George 19 at 62 Clapham Road Lambeth in 1901C . Clara maybe died, aged 63, 1923 Camberwell.: she had been ill for some time, as well as the younger George Thomas and both of them died in Peckham House.... perhaps a hereditary mental illness.  GTW obviously wished for more children but who will ever know the real story.  He certainly cared for Clara, as I mentioned, for all her life.   My greatgrandmother Annie Oram and her children by GTW were living in Brixton under an assumed name in 1901 C. By 1911C, George Whichelow 61, leather manufacturer, wife Maud, 40, married 19 years, 5 children, all alive, Maud 16, Eileen 9, 2 servants at 110 Marine Parade Brighton.


whichelow La . whichelow5

2 London Gazette Notices concerning L.A. Whichelow in 1966.

Do not know if the above company, seemingly number 00767605, belonged to a near relative of George 1843.Could it be Leslie Archibald Whichelow 1905-1995, descended from Alfred Whichelow 1848, a sibling of George 1843 ?? In 1966 it is seen to be Woollen Merchants.

http://www.heslington.com/genealogy/pafg06.htm gives ancestry from Thomas 1789 through to GTW and further for his sibling Alfred 1848.

Last name: Whichelow

This is an interesting and unusual medieval English name which is a dialectal variant of the locational name Whittingslow, a village near Church Stretton in Shropshire. The derivation of this placename is from the Olde English pre 7th Century personal name 'Hwit(t)uc', with 'hlaw', meaning a burial mound, thus, Hwit(t)uc's burial mound or grave. The following examples show the name development of this village name over two hundred years. In the Domesday Book of 1086 the spelling appears as 'Witecheslawe', in the Feet of Fines of 1208, as 'Witokeslawa', and in the Calender of Fine Rolls of 1274 as 'Whittokeslowe'. It is recorded that James and Elizabeth Whichelow witnessed the christenings of two of their children at St. Martin-Vintry, London, Ann, on 14th April 1689 and Beniamin on 15th July 1690. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Elizabeth Whichelow, which was dated 1685, St. Martin-Vintry, London, during the reign of King James II, The Last Catholic King, 1685 - 1688. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.

Read more: http://www.surnamedb.com/Surname/Whichelow#ixzz0qeXzTOIJ

Charles Booth did interviews 1880-1899 round Bermondsey, including some with Leather Dressers. Are these available online? - or do I need to go to the LSE where the originals are housed??


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