Fellmonger and benefactor of Bermondsey,
Founder of the school
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Apprenticeship - Training, Education and Charities
It is notable that in the same year as the Tanners sought their Chartered incorporation the local leather merchant Josiah Bacon died and left by his Will sufficient funds for a Boys School for the parish which has developed since to become the co-educational Bacon’s College, an Academy and Specialist City Technology College. This theme of local businessman as philanthropist and benefactor we shall see repeated elsewhere in this essay.
For many years in the Twentieth Century the Tanners Company met several times annually to provide small apprenticeship grants to local people and there was a regular connection of members with the local parochial charities (now Bermondsey United Charities and St Olave’s United Charities) which was not formal. Some of the members had also been attached to the Leathersellers College. The company is to change and expand the ‘area of benefit’ and the scope of the benefit distribution beyond the trade of Tanning and Leather dressing for training and education, which has disappeared in this area, indeed throughout the UK.
This changes the intent of §1 and §9 of the Royal Charter but the PCO advises that as the company has no restricted endowments then any charitable contributions raised and made are at the company’s discretion; the Charity Commission would only be required to authorise extraordinary distributions from ‘restricted endowments’. There are none.
The role of apprentice is practically a nullity as no one in the Company is qualified as a practioner in tanning themselves, the development of technical colleges was supported by the leading members of the Company. Training in the various leather crafts, formalised and supplemented much of the work place apprenticeship, was given at the ‘Herold Institute’ in Drummond Road. This had originated in a charitable endowment by Benjamin Herold, of 1727, for educational purposes of Non-Conformists, in St Olave’s parish, Southwark and St Mary’s parish, Bermondsey. In 1841 the Trustees decided to create a school in Drummond Road, obviously the endowment was well managed, which opened in 1844. In 1877 the trusteeship was assigned to appointees of the British and Foreign School Society, another Non-Conformist body based in Borough Road. The School closed in 1891 because of the new London Board Schools creation. The site of the BFSS became the original premises of the Borough Polytechnic in 1892, itself stemming from initiatives by local leather trade businessmen notably Alfred Lafone MP. The Polytechnic was assigned the Herold’s foundation income for technical education, in effect it became a technical preparatory school for the Polytechnic. The Leathersellers Company paid for a laboratory in 1895 and the next year a Dyeing Department, Lafone performing both opeing ceremonies. In 1897, largely due to the efforts of Col Bevington, the Leathersellers Company Training School took over the Herold. He was Master of the Company of Leathersellers 1897-98 and presented a very fine silver cup, by CR Ashbee, to mark his year; it is regarded as one of the finest pieces they have. Whilst active on the Court of the Company he raised sufficient capital from its members to advance and develop training in the industry. The capital, vision and dynamism of this Livery Company, with the three national Federations of Leather Trades, the United Tanners and of the Curriers & Leather Dressers as part of the City & Guilds movement gave major impetus to this facility. The plans were fully realised, in 1909, when the School moved into the fine new building that is still extant on Tower Bridge Road next to the railway viaduct. It became the leading National Leathersellers College in 1947. With the decline of the trade in the locality it was merged with Nene College in 1978 (now Northampton University) and is now the Institute of Creative Leather Technology.
Leathersellers College of 1909
The Tanners Company of Bermondsey