Gloving & Leather Industry wages (1856)

Wages in 1856

in the Leather and Gloving industries


In his book of 1856 entitled "A Sketch of the Town of Yeovil" Daniel Vickery listed the average weekly wages of various trades (assuming fully employed) in the leather and gloving industries, which are tabulated below.

The nineteenth century gloving and leather trades occupied whole families – a man might be a glove cutter or leather dresser while his sons were apprenticed, frequently in the same trade as their father. Boys, from about the age of 9 or 10 were frequently employed in the factories until the age of 14 when they would enter an apprenticeship. The man's wife and daughters usually sewed gloves working from home, many wives working part time, in what was essentially a cottage industry. Girls sewed from about the age of 7 and were often employed before that to 'tie off the threads' left by the sewers. Materials were supplied to the women and girls by a 'bagwoman', on behalf of the glove manufacturer, who later paid them by the completed dozen pairs of gloves.

The table below highlights the 'hierarchy' of trades which is not readily discernible from other sources, such as census returns. Today's value is based on the 'Historic Standard of Living' calculation which measures the purchasing power of an income or wealth in its relative ability to purchase a (fixed over time) bundle of goods and services such as food, shelter, clothing, etc., that an average household would buy.

For comparison the average weekly earnings of agricultural labourers is included. The labourers also usually had a daily allowance of cider, especially at harvest times.



Average Earnings

Today's value

Glove Cutter 21/- to 30/- per week £85.62 to £122.31
Leather Dresser 21/- to 24/- per week £85.62 to £97.85
Leather Dyer 20/- to 25/- per week £81.54 to £101.93
Leather Parer 18/- to 21/- per week £73.39 to £85.62
Apprentices 15/- to 20/- per week £61.16 to £81.54
Women workers 4/- to 6/- per week £16.31 to £24.46
Boys, aged 10 to 14 1/- to 2/6d per week £4.08 to £10.19
Girl workers under 14 1/- to 2/6d per week £4.08 to £10.19
For comparison    
Agricultural Labourers 7/- to 10/- per week plus cider £28.54 to £40.77

Finally, Vickery observed "Female servants' wages are high in proportion to towns of a similar standing, and perhaps there is no town in England of its size, where so many persons of either sex and of all ages who need employment, may, if they wish, find it."