Yeovil people

William Culliford

"Yeovil's oldest glover"


The following article appeared in the 10 January 1936 edition of the Western Gazette with the headline "Yeovil's oldest glover".

"A little more than 78 years ago - on 21 September 1857 - a small boy excitedly set out for his first day's work with what is now known as the Goldcroft Glove Co Ltd of Yeovil. Today, hale and hearty at the age of 90, he is still in the employ of the same firm.

This is the remarkable record of Mr William Culliford, of 81 Crofton Park, who is not only the oldest glover in Yeovil, but may well be described as the "father" of the gloving industry in the West Country. "It has been a healthy life and a happy life" he told a representative of this paper, and it was difficult to believe that this active, kindly figure, with his fund of quiet humour, is a nonagenarian. His sight and hearing are almost non-impaired, while his recollection of Yeovil in by-gone days remains as vivid as ever. He enjoys a pipe of tobacco, but since becoming a Good Templar in 1874, he has been an abstainer.

Long service records have become almost commonplace with Mr Culliford, for he has been an Methodist local preacher for 65 years. A striking indication of his activities and devotion to duty is the fact that he is still on the "plan" and on Sunday preached at West Coker. "I don't know how many miles I have travelled - but I have covered the whole of the circuit as far as Alweston and Queen Camel - and it was on foot too." he said.

Born in the neighbouring village of Chilthorne Domer, Mr Culliford began work before he was five years old. His first job was bird scaring at a penny a day. "It was before I had my first pair of trousers" he laughingly recalled.

He never had a day's schooling in his life, but the valuable service he has rendered in connection with the Friendly Society movement, as a local preacher, and also as a stalwart of the Liberal cause is a remarkable example of the way in which by taking every opportunity of educating himself, he has fitted himself to whatever position he has been called upon to fill.

Mr Culliford has seen the gloving industry transformed since the day he entered it. He began work when the factory was located in a small cottage in Vicarage Street. In turn he has passed through almost every branch of gloving. From a comparatively few factories he has seen the trade develop into an industry which has given Yeovil a world-wide reputation. He can recall the days when there was only one kind of glove for men, and one for women, compared with the almost bewildering variety of style at the present time.

The 'brain straps' that used to be worn by glovers were an amusing memory of the early days recalled by Mr Culliford. Glovers were in the habit of allowing their hair to grow long in the front, and the 'brain straps' were designed to prevent it covering the eyes as they bent over their benches. Wages and hours worked nowadays would have seemed like a dream, while girl labour was an unheard of thing. Nor had football made its appearance in Yeovil, the favourite past time which is still popular as ever, being skittles. In his younger days, Mr Culliford was a keen angler.

One of Mr Culliford's most vivid memories is of seeing the first train arrive at Hendford from Durston. The whole town was en fete and made holiday. The coming of the first motor car was a comparatively modern miracle. Coupled with the transformation of transport, he has seen Yeovil grow from a quiet market town, full of old world romance to the most progressive and enterprising business centre in the West. Mister Culliford has grown up with the Western Gazette and can remember how in his boyhood days the paper was published in a small house in Brunswick Street. The Western Gazette was turned out on an now long obsolete Baskerville press, with the proprietor and editor often putting a hand to the wheel. Today, the Western Gazette has a circulation of 59,000, and its foster press is of the most modern type.

He was a member of the Organising Committee when Yeovil celebrated Queen Victoria's Jubilee, and has lived during three reigns to see the silver jubilee of His Majesty King George.

Always keenly interested in the friendly society movement, Mr Culliford was instrumental in founding a sick benefit society - the British Workers Sick Benefit Society - in 1874. He was the first president and treasurer and held office for 60 years. The society boasted a membership of 2,000, but the introduction of National Insurance bought it to an end. This was also the fate of the Working Men's Sick Benefit Society, of which Mr Culliford was secretary and treasurer for 29 years. President for two years - 1910 and 1911 - of Yeovil Liberal Club, Mr Culliford helped form the Club with a late Mr William Stoodley. Its first home was in a room over a butchers shop in Vicarage Street. He has many stories to tell of electionéering in the old ways, and can well remember when there were audiences of over 1,000 people in the 'Rink'."

William Culliford died in Yeovil in the winter of 1937 at the age of 92.