Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Friday, 29 August 2014

Bakers of Colyton 1

Back from a lovely week in Sark and with Mr Ducker relaxing in the Peak District we wanted to share our recent trip to Baker's of Colyton...a trip that has been far too long in the offing. 

Anyway, we finally made it by train and then local bus to Colyton for some Devon sunshine, hospitality and surroundings that even my camera phone makes look idyllic.

The buildings may vary in age but Farrow and Ball would have a field day with the textures, colours and hues. The atmosphere is one of quiet, steady work with good natured chaps going about their daily work with the minimum of fuss in bucolic surroundings; creating the finest leathers in an entirely sustainable way. 

This site has been a tannery since Roman times and has been in the Baker family since 1862. The only oak bark tannery remaining in Britain, Bakers' tanning methods have been perfected over the centuries to create leather that is unrivalled - hard wearing, strong and with distinctive colours - that we use throughout our bespoke shoe construction and for students on our courses.

James arriving at Bakers

The original  thatched building at the entrance to the Bakers' site housed the original currier - responsible for dressing the tanned hides
A painterly palette

An scythe, hoe, spade and sickle keep nature at bay
Where the waste water from the tannery runs away; no chemicals or pollution
Looking down on the oak bark store

Dressed hides in beautiful mocha, caramel, sable and honey
Rows and rows of nails in the beams - a story of past activities

Even the floor vents are beautifully designed

The brass roller
Andrew Parr sharing his knowledge with James
Unsorted, stacked bends

Ropes from the tanning pits, preserved and strengthened with the tanning process
More from Bakers next week. Until then happy shoemaking!


DWFII said...

Great photo montage. I am Looking forward to part II.

Where does the run-off go to? To a pond? A creek? Are there any fish living in the waters where the run-off ends up?

Just curious.

jimmyshoe said...

The run off is completely harmless and is just the tannin from the oak bark. It is a river which is diverted to create a mill pond which drives the wheel which moves the hides in the tanning pits. The river is small but joins another one downstream and then runs into the sea which is close by. The river appeared healthy but didn't see any fish. It's an amazing process and totally sustainable - local cows and coppiced oak, best, James