Fourchette Me Not

A busy and exciting week since our last posting from South Somerset District Council’s Community Heritage Access Centre, near Yeovil.

Last Friday we enjoyed the company of a lady glove designer. The meeting was arranged to  discover the fascinating story when the lady worked for Southcombes of Stoke sub Hamdon as the company’s only female glove designer. Southcombes are perhaps best known today for producing fire-retardant gloves for the fire brigade, as well as a range of ‘dress’ leather gloves.

We were expecting an informative interview, which would provide valuable background ‘working’ detail of an actual South Somerset gloving factory. This is always useful to enhance our gloving tools ‘on the shelves’ in the store. This went very well indeed, with superb insights into the everyday experiences of a family-run business and some of the colourful designs.

With the notes taken (in an individual form of shorthand!) we came to the two large carrier bags, placed at the end of our table. We had expected a few pairs of gloves to be donated, to illustrate the lady’s intriguing life story, but not around 80 pairs. Moreover, our designer wished to explain the thoughts that went into each design; the significant development represented by each design and the market each glove was designed for.

We were so grateful for this; not only for such a key donation, but also for wishing to take such a degree of time and effort to explain the context of each design. We often have the case where people do not have the time to explain the significance of the items they donate, particularly the connection to family and place.

The explanation was central in this case; for the simple reason that the lady designed many, if not all of the gloves and Southcombes made them; often in some cases, only making an individual sample.

The only problem, on a practical level, was actually how to record the level of detail on 50 pairs of gloves laid out and numbered on our Research Room table. Fortunately, we used the ‘film’ option on our digital camera to record each numbered glove and the associated information – which was useful to keep both together for future reference.

Our gloving week continued with our visit to Chester Jefferies Glove Factory Ltd at Gillingham, near Shaftesbury, Dorset. This was a great experience, as staff were provided with a guided tour of every aspect of the process. This illustrated all the aspects we had spoken of on the Friday and essentially helped staff to confirm exactly what certain gloving tools were called and how they were used.

Chester Jefferies was founded in 1936, but due to competition rules, another company could not be set up within 100 miles. Therefore another site was chosen in Westbury, Wiltshire and then in 1963, Gillingham, Dorset, continuing the tradition of finely made, leather gloves, where individual customer requirements can be achieved.

We were fascinated to actually see how a glove is made, using traditional tools and the many Yeovil connections. These included gloving webs made by Hallett’s of Yeovil and the main press made by Ashley’s of Yeovil. We were also fascinated to confirm the difference between  quirks and fourchettes in a finished glove and discover a framed photograph of “The Oldest Glover in Dorset” using a sewing machine made by Moffatt’s of Yeovil!


A busy morning at Chester Jefferies Ltd, Gillingham, Dorset.

IMG_3546 (2)

And a Yeovil Connection!


One thought on “Fourchette Me Not

  1. Jane Marley

    Very interesting article. Keep up the good work of preserving and making South Somerset’s past accessible at CHAC.


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