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British Industrial History

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Charles F. Stead and Co

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Head office, Sheepscar Tannery, Leeds. (1922)

London office, 3 New Zealand Avenue, Barbican, London, EC1.

  • c1895 Charles Frederick Stead, having gained much experience within the trade, decided to set up in business on his own, in small premises.
  • 1905 With business booming, he took over Sheepscar Tannery, which had up to that time been operated as a tannery and glueworks by Messrs Wilson and Walker. Some of the present day buildings date back to the founding of Wilson and Walker, at Sheepscar in 1823. The Meanwood valley contained many tanneries then, all relying on the soft water of Meanwood Beck.
  • 1904 The original leathers produced by C. F. Stead were based on domestic sheepskin for making bookbindings, chamois and 'fancy' leathers ('fancy' was the term for leathers for wallets, purses, bags etc) Rough vegetable tanned skins imported from East India were also further processed and dyed. These were used for fancy leathers, shoe upper leather and also for the bellows inside household gas meters.
  • With the introduction of superior chrome tannage, pure 'vegetable' tannage and 'semi-chrome' tannages (part vegetable part chromium) gradually gave way to goatskins, which was much sought after in the 1920s and 1930s for fashionable but comfortable ladies shoes. Following the development of grain kid leathers came a fashion for suede kid, utilising the same raw material, and again primarily for women's fashion footwear.
  • 1922 Listed Exhibitor - British Industries Fair. Manufacturers of Moroccos, Goats, Persians, Roans, Basils, Skivers, Chamois, Calfskins, Suedes, etc. (Stand No. J.106) [1]
  • 1929 The founder's son Mr P. K. Stead began a gradual but significant change, first into the curing and tannage of Deerskin and Buckskin for the traditional high quality Northamptonshire men's Goodyear Welted footwear business, and then into splits and 'de-grains' when the supply of Deerskins became too irregular and unreliable. Stead always maintained the prime objective of creating the tightest possible fibre structure to their suede in order to maintain the tremendous wear characteristics achieved in the original suede kid and Buckskin productions. This was achieved primarily through a tannage developed specifically for this purpose, that is to shrink and tighten the fibre structure, and this tannage remains unique to the company to this day.
  • The Englishman's love of suede shoes is the fault of a one-time member of the Royal Family; Edward, Duke of Windsor, the best-dressed man of the '20s and '30s, wore suede shoes with his lounge suits.
  • 1947 Listed Exhibitor - British Industries Fair. Manufacturers of Glazed Kid for the Shoe, Fancy Leather Goods and Bookbinding Trades. Chamois for all purposes, Gas Meter Leathers. (Earls Court, 1st Floor, Stand No. 404) [2]
  • Classic styles are the Brogue, Monk shoe, Oxford loafer, Chukka boot and the famous Clark's Desert boot.
  • The company is called Charles F. Stead (England). The product is Cape Butt Classic suede.
  • Note:
    • Basil is a sheepskin, roughly tanned and undressed. It it also known as a Basan (from Arabic).
    • Skiver is a split sheepskin leather (from Old Norse).


See Also

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  • [1] Charles F. Stead and Co Website

Sources of Information