Walsall Leather Museum

Walsall Leather Museum

Discover why Walsall became the British leather goods capital in this fascinating working museum, housed in a restored leather factory.
Walsall people have been making some of the world's finest saddles and leather goods for over two hundred years. Walsall Leather Museum celebrates the great achievements of local leather craftsmen and women, and tells the story of the Walsall leather trade. Our displays feature examples of historic craftsmanship and exciting contemporary designs.

Walsall leather industry is relatively new compared with the much older lorinery trade that has existed in the town at least since the 1400s. This is the making of saddler’s ironmongery; hand forged metal work like stirrups, bits and buckles for the saddle and harness. Whilst tanning existed locally, lorinery was the real reason for the growth in leather making in Walsall, it being the undisputed centre of that industry. In 1839 for instance, local workshops were producing output to equip 20,000 saddles and 200,000 sets of harnesses each year.

The industry was virtually self-sufficient with all of the essential supplies and components being made locally, giving the area a competitive edge over many of its rivals. For many years most of the leather workshops were very small, each employing only a few people. Only latterly with mechanisation and the advent of the sewing machine did manufactories expand and start to employ greater numbers of workers, particularly women. One of these earlier bridle making workshops is reconstructed at the museum, in a former leather works built in 1891. This is a history museum that still exudes the sights and smells of its industrial past.

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