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The Glove Network – Bath Spa University

The Glove Network

Bringing together interested parties from academia, museums and manufacturing, with expert knowledge of the design, production, collections, conservation and display of English leather gloves.

Project summary

The sharing and exchange of information by those who have ownership and access to collections of gloves, associated material and knowledge of the history of glove-making is key to exploring how best to preserve and promote the significance of English glove design and manufacture for future generations.

The following areas will be explored by the network:

  • Current content and status of the individual collections, identify potential links by sharing information
  • Histories, social and cultural and relationship to history of fashion
  • Design, manufacturing and materials
  • Approaches to maintenance and conservation
  • Access to the collections and strategies for future understanding of their national importance.


Project details


The overall aims of the network are to:

  • Explore how to promote better understanding of the history, design and manufacture of gloves
  • Explore the national significance of the collections and accessibility to a variety of audiences including museum visitors, garment designers, cultural historians, and the wider community
  • Raise awareness of the declining English glove industry
  • Explore new and longer-term research goals.

There are three key areas where this network can lead to significant impact:

  • Museums - supporting strategies for collection management and approaches to the conservation of glove collections.
  • Museum audiences - engagement of new and existing audiences with the heritage of glove-making
  • Industry and designers - glove and accessory design and manufacture.
Research beneficiaries

We anticipate the network will be of interest to academics working in areas such as:

  • Social historians – interested in histories of manufacturing, trade and marketing, cultures of everyday objects, local history and relationships with their communities
  • Historians of gender, power and materiality
  • Fashion and design historians
  • Art historians – interested in the depiction of textiles, gloves and accessories
  • Researchers and design practitioners interested in sustainability, craft and artisan skills, as well as those interested in embroidery, lace, beading and other embellishment techniques
  • Marketing – researchers interested in economies of "slow-fashion", marketing of artisan products
  • Conservation researchers – particularly of leather but also of other varied materials included in historical gloves as well as tools and industrial equipment
  • Museum practice – collections management, display, interpretation and outreach.

The Glove Network is funded by an Arts and Humanities Research Council Networking grant.


The network aims to hold five seminars, taking place in alternate months. Details will be shared here.

10 December 2021

The topic for our sixth meeting of the Arts and Humanities Research Council funded Glove Network, was the embroidery and embellishment of historic gloves, and Glove design in more recent times.

Rebecca Unsworth, Research Assistant at Birmingham Museums Trust, whose area of specialism is researching into the production and fashionability of gloves in the 16th and 17th Centuries, their exchange and movement across Britain and Europe, and their relationship to news.

Today, we learnt all about glove embroidery and embellishment from that period. We heard that all surviving gloves from that period of time (mostly in museum collections) are heavily embellished with a mixture of silk threads, metal threads, seed pearls and lace. It seems that not all gloves from that period were quite so intricately embellished and, in fact, paintings from the time depict gloves that were not so decorative as those that remain today. Nobility and royalty are often shown wearing plain leather gloves so, perhaps over time, those that are the most visually appealing have been deemed more worthy of being kept by collectors. Plain gloves less so and therefore to be found less in collections today.

Rebecca shared with the group some details of her extensive research telling us that, clothing was frequently heavily embroidered and the gloves worn with the clothing were relatively plain, yet still regarded as highly fashionable. Many people at that time owned huge numbers of gloves, with around 170 pairs being quite normal. Inventories of leather that Rebecca has researched have shown that a variety of animal skins were used for making gloves, including sheep, fox, lamb, dog and possibly cat. However, not all leathers were considered equal and this was reflected in the price of the gloves. Only very supple leathers could be rolled up and held in the hand, as is so often depicted in portraiture. Perfumes were applied by the glovers themselves when making the gloves or sometimes by a perfumier. These included oils from jasmine, cedar, almond, and white lily amongst others. We learn that the question of whether gloves were perfumed before or after embroidery application is still in dispute.

Rebecca shared with us the details of the two ways in which embroidery could be applied to gloves; one was to be worked on a separate gauntlet which was afterwards attached to the glove, the other was to embroidery directly onto the gloves. Longer gloves provided more space for decoration but in both cases, we learnt that embellishment and embroidery was likely to have occurred when the glove pieces were flat prior to sewing together. This required the gloves to be moved between different workshops for each process.

Apparently, pasteboard was often fitted between the gauntlet and the leather to provide support for the embroidery, and this could cause the glove to be heavy to wear.

Rebecca emphasised that other forms of decoration were also popular at this time, such as pinking, whereby a hammer was used to make small holes in the leather itself, to create patterns, but also providing ventilation. In some cases, pinking allowed other fabrics set beneath to be visible, as part of the design. The application of ribbons was another means of applying decoration to gloves for men and women, since they could complement ribbons on the main item of dress. For example, ribbons on a man’s doublet or the ladies matched their glove ribbons with other small accessories, and Rebecca shared visual examples of these with the group.

It was fascinating to learn more of the approach to the design of gloves during this period, and their relationship to other items of clothing.

Isabella Rosner is an art historian who studies material culture from the 17th through 19th century. An expert in the study of early modern women’s needlework, especially British examples, and samplers across all time periods. Isabella is a PhD student at Kings College London, who has researched embroidery on 16th and 17th century gloves, studying the shared motifs on gloves and contemporaneous domestic and professional needlework, including purses, caskets, wall friezes, and other decorative items.

According to her findings, there was a desire to stitch similar themes things in domestic work but at the same time, some motifs seen on gloves don’t appear in domestic embroidery. Hunting scenes are often depicted on both gloves and domestic items as are sea monsters. Isabella shared examples of these themes rendered in needle lace cutwork and white work embroidery too. The interest in sea monsters reflected the expanding world in which the population did not know what would yet be discovered, reflecting the mysticism of what was yet to be explored. We learnt that the collection of gloves belonging to the Glove Collection Trust contains examples of motifs of sea monsters on gloves dated from 1600-1620. Embroidery provided both the opportunity to use a variety of stitches including French Knots, and the opportunity for textural effects using chenille amongst other threads.

Other popular motifs of the time were flowers, and fruits such as strawberries and grapes, and this pattern was ubiquitous. Grapes, we learn were used on gloves, sweet bags, and samplers with nearly all of the grapes being the same shape and configuration. This stylised motif can possibly allude to religious meaning, referencing Christ turning water into wine, being universal imagery.

We learn that pattern books originating in Germany and Italy were often translated into English and French and may have been part of the print culture which was both spread officially but also by word of mouth. These books were also reference material for needle lace and fashion in general. It was truly fascinating to learn from Isabella that the same aesthetic conclusions that were reached for different ends and to contextualise the embellishment of gloves with other domestically embellished items.

Valerie Wilson Trower was the Design and Development Manager of Southcombe Gloves for many years as part of her career as a glove designer. Southcome still produce high end leather gloves today. This was her first experience of glove design, she told us, during which she quickly realised that there was a great deal more to glove design than simply colour and trims! She realised that three-dimensional design was of the essence. So too the importance of selecting the right materials and using them to create design interest. An important part of her role was to liaise with the product development teams and buyers of the high street companies and high-end designer brands who were going to buy the exclusive glove designs for their own ranges.

There is software today to help with the development of glove design when, historically, designs had to be hand drawn before first prototypes could be made. The importance of treatments and finishes applied to the leather was also a key part of the role when designing and developing glove ranges.

It is interesting that today, many companies making gloves in the UK do not employ a focussed glove designer perhaps because simpler styles are most popular and more economical to produce, although there is still a market at the very high end for designer gloves.

Our session on the embroidery, embellishment and design of gloves was really insightful and we give a huge thanks to our three speakers at this fascinating event.

8 October 2021

At our recent Glove Network online meeting we welcomed four new participants to our group. The Glove Network is rapidly growing in areas of expertise, knowledge and enthusiasm for our shared interest in all things glove related, manufacturing, design, heritage and museum collections, amongst many other aspects. We had originally intended to hold only five seminars but all participants have requested that we continue to meet regularly as this is proving to be such an informative and valuable group in which to share experiences relating to glove manufacturing and glove collections.

We were delighted to welcome David Southcome of Southcombe Gloves, who are one of the very few English based manufacturers who have produced on their current Ham Hill Country Park site in the heart of the Somerset countryside, since 1847. With three factories close at hand, it is still very much a family owned and family run business employing about 100 people. At its peak, they ran seven factories and two tanneries, employing 350 staff, making gloves of all kinds, fabric and leather. At one time most gloves on the UK high street were produced by Southcombe gloves. Today, many gloves on our high street are sourced from overseas, however, Southcombe Gloves today produce for luxury brands such as Radley, who are seeking the very best quality of leather gloves, as well as producing under their own label. David explained the specialist skills and very labour-intensive process involved in making fine quality leather gloves.

Southcombe gloves are unusual in that they produce their own leather on site for all their gloves, buying the very best grade of hides to work on in their tannery. In addition to making wonderful buttery soft leather fashion gloves, for men and women, they diversified their business in the 1990’s and developed an exclusive specialist technical leather known as Pyrohide. This is used to make protective gloves for the Fire and Police services, being fire, water and acid resistant.

If you would like to learn more about Southcombe Gloves there are two films that are available to view on Youtube:

We also welcomed Dr.Valerie Wilson Trower who was the in-house glove designer at Southcombe Gloves from 1986-1993. She explained what an unusual situation this was, since many glove companies at that time could not afford to employ a full-time glove designer. At that time, Southcombe Gloves were one of the largest Glove manufacturers in the UK with Marks and Spencer being their largest customer. Valerie explained that she had specialised in the design of accessories during her first degree in Fashion Design. She told us that glove design is very specific and because gloves are often close to the face and eye, being a three-dimensional object, the art in glove design is to ensure they are attractive up close, and seams must be neat and hidden. At that time, she was developing gloves for Paul Smith, Betty Jackson, the Royal Opera House and the National Theatre, and she explained that often her role involved problem solving since glove design and making is challenging at the best of times! We will be hearing more about glove design from Valerie at our next group meeting.

Dr. Jennifer Daley, Chairman and Trustee of the Association of Dress Historians also joined us for the first time. She explained some of the work of the association and how very supportive they are of distributing research findings in their open access, peer reviewed journal. They hold conferences and so if this is of interest please do see their website.

Dr. Graham Lampard will now be joining the Glove Network to carry on the excellent work begun by Victoria Green, Curator of the Museum of Leathercraft, who have been a key member and supportive participant in the Glove network since it first began. They have a stunning collection of gloves and are currently working on re boxing them to ensure their longevity whilst at the same time are beginning to digitalise the collection which will make them easily accessible to all. We do wish Victoria all good wishes for her future career move to the Imperial War Museum, and we very much hope that we may be able to work with her again in the not-too-distant future!

18 June 2021

We were delighted to be able to welcome for the very first time to our Glove Network group, the very talented multidisciplinary designer, Riina Õun. Rina talked to the group about her brand, Riina O, which specialises in making luxury, bespoke leather gloves. She began her company eight years ago, having studied Accessory Design with Glove Making, she identified a demand for couture leather gloves. The brand has a focus on hand stitching, whilst also incorporating modern technology such as laser cutting, and water jet cutting. Riina enjoys combining traditional craft methods with innovative, current day design methods and approaches. Within glove design she incorporates contemporary, cutting- edge developments in both leather and other materials, such as reflective leather as well as modern beading and other approaches to embellishment.

Riina also told us about the glove making courses and workshops that she teaches, which take place all over the world, from New York to China to London, since her expertise and knowledge is in great demand. She explained her interest and research into Sustainable design and herself teaches about Bio design. She drew our attention to the fact that many vegan alternatives to leather are still plastic based and she hopes that one day a truly vegan, plant based alternative will be developed that is suitable for gloves. Please see her website for further information.

As a leather conservation specialist and Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Glovers, we were thrilled to welcome Yvette Fletcher to talk to our group. She explained that at the end of the 20th Century she embarked on a new direction in her career and undertook an MA in the Conservation of Historic Objects, which was followed by an internship, leading to the key roles at the Leather Conservation Centre in Northampton, of Senior Conservator, and later as Head of Conservation until 2019. The Leather Conservation Centre are also key participants in the Glove Network who work closely with the Museum of Leathercraft, another key participant in our network since it began. As a leather conservator, Yvette, worked on the conservation of leather gloves as well as many other items, and her work often involved working with other specialist conservators, including embroidery specialists. She drew our attention to the importance for a leather conservator to correctly identify the correct species from which the leather has come, before treating any leather for conservation purposes.

Currently as Chair of the Archaeological Leather Group she engages with almost 100 members from a wide variety of disciplines, who are from all over the world (at least 20 different countries). Their focus is on the investigation of all things leather related, including manufacture, function and context, so often liaise with museum collections, for the care and curation of leather items. See their website for further information.

16 April 2021

The fifth meeting of the Arts and Humanities Research Council funded Glove Network, took place online on the morning of Friday 16th April 2021.

The session was enthusiastically attended by thirteen representatives from Museums, Industry, Glove collections and academics, all with expert knowledge of the history of the English Leather Glove Industry and the ongoing current success of the leather and glove industries. Two new participants were welcomed to the group; Nick Pinkham from the Worshipful Company of Glovers of London, and Rosie Bolton the Studio Manager of the Leather Conservation Centre. Interest in the Glove Network is growing fast and we are thrilled that the project has been of such interest to so many individuals and organisations who are keen to contribute and share knowledge to promote this previously overlooked area of fashion, design, practicality and craftsmanship.

The project has been granted an extension by the Arts and Humanities Research Council so that it will now run until March 2022 giving more time to develop the network activities. Originally it was planned to hold meetings in several locations around the country, enabling the network to see individual glove collections; conservation in action; and the modern production methods and treatment of leather for the glove industry. However, this has so far been curtailed by the pandemic, but we are all eager that once travel is allowed then these events can be rescheduled!

The V & A Museum shared an important update with us to say that all the gloves in their collection have now been photographed. The theme of future proofing all the collections via digitisation is an important topic being addressed by the Network and enabling online access to gloves and other artefacts in their collections is something that many museums are now involved with.

Continuing with this theme, the Glove Collection Trust’s collection of truly magnificent gloves is housed at the Fashion Museum in Bath. The entire collection of over 2,000 items have been photographed, with over 11,000 high quality images that show the detailed workmanship. In order to display the entire collection online, they have launched a new website which allows the images and catalogue information to be searched in a variety of ways for students, researchers, authors those with a keen interest in gloves. We were delighted to be shown the new website which is now available for all to see!

An addition to the collection of the Glove Collection Trust, is the collection of Pinkham Gloves. Nick Pinkham shared with us the history of his family’s involvement in the gloving industry, starting with his Great Grandfather in 1873 through to the launch of their family gloving businesses. Please do also see his article and timeline on this glove network website about the family business of W. Pinkham and Son Ltd and the story of his research into this fascinating area of fashion and social history. Pinkham Gloves were supplied with gloving leather by Pittards and this leads nicely onto the next topic of the leather gloving industry today.

Mike Dodd, Strategic Sales Director at Pittards PLC, told us how fortunate they are to deal with a number of international glove manufacturers who value the high quality of gloving leather produced by Pittards. A huge amount of work, product development and innovation in gloving leather has continued over the past year, (despite the pandemic), with sporting gloves being a significant part of their business requiring gloving leather. Sport has taken on a huge importance this past year for individuals, teams and for sporting heroes, with specialist performance gloves continuing to be produced for active sports such as cricket, golf, baseball, horse racing, and motor racing, amongst others. In many countries around the world, outdoor sports have continued and have been a welcome distraction both for participants and for fans.

The recent inauguration of US President Joe Biden saw fashion gloves take centre stage! Pittards PLC provided gloving leather in a range of colours to the stylist of the First Lady, Jill Biden, who was seen in several stylish outfits on inauguration day wearing matching dress gloves to co-ordinate with her outfit.

Lady Gaga, who sang the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ at the presidential inauguration ceremony was also seen wearing long black leather gloves made by British glove company, Cornelia James, which complemented her stunning red and black Schiaparelli Haute Couture dress.

How wonderful to see that there is still great demand for gloves in both Fashion and Sports!

25 September 2020

The fourth Glove Network seminar was originally planned to be hosted jointly by the National Leather Collection at the Museum of Leathercraft and the Leather Conservation Centre, both based in Northampton, who work very closely together. However, we're still being impacted as are many people and businesses by the Covid-19 pandemic so our very enthusiastic and knowledgeable group of Glove Network participants met virtually online.

Cultural institutions are facing a challenging and uncertain future due to the impact of the pandemic, and this was an opportunity to identify areas of shared concern and interest. The ongoing conservation, maintenance and accessibility of all leather glove collections will support the valuable heritage of this specialist area of design, and manufacture.

The main topics of discussion were:

  • Leather conservation and the challenges associated with the conservation and storage of the leather glove collections in relation to restoration intervention, preventive conservation and storage practices.
  • The growing importance of digital access and online resources for accessibility to museum collections.
  • The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and recent events upon museums, industry and research.

Arainne Panton, the Senior Conservator, of the Leather Conservation Centre in Northampton, provided the group with an insightful virtual tour of the centre. It's a major internationally renowned organisation for leather conservation, education and research. We learned about the work of the centre which offers a comprehensive service in the conservation of leather objects of historic, cultural and artistic importance for national and local museums, historic houses and private clients. The Leather Conservation Centre aims to conserve, care and provide practical advice for a wide variety of historic and invaluable objects. We learnt that the new studio has been designed to the highest conservation specifications, and has an environmentally controlled laboratory, object store, and a separate chemical storage and extraction facility.

The Centre has a team of professionally trained and experienced conservators who address unique conservation challenges with each individual case requiring their expertise and attention.

Dr Mike Redwood talked to us about the history of the Leather Conservation Centre and its important involvement in the research, education and promotion of best practice of leather conservation with museums. The protection and safe keeping of historical leather gloves for future generations to enjoy and appreciate is of prime importance. This area of leather conservation requires ongoing scientific research and the Leather Conservation Centre (LcC) is unmatched in terms of expertise and knowledge. The ongoing education of future conservators is part of the work of the LCC in conjunction with West Dean college, whose course attracts conservators from museums all over the world. It is very appropriate that with a lifetime of knowledge and expertise, Mike is actively involved in the research and educational aspect of leather.

The three museum curators participating in the seminar; Victoria Green from the National Leather Collection at the Museum of Leathercraft, Dr Susan North from the Victoria & Albert Museum, and Dr Rebecca Unsworth from Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery commented upon the impact of recent museum closures upon lost income to museums , but importantly all are either already open or planning to open to the public with social distancing measures in place. The museums have all been busy planning the engagement of public audiences in new and exciting ways. Each one has their own unique approach but can, in some cases, for example, include enhanced digital image resources, or visitor attraction open store rooms, amongst other things. In addition, one ‘silver lining ‘ is that these quieter times have provided curators with the opportunity to work closely on their glove collections such as detailed cataloguing and addressing best storage practices.

Industry feedback on the impact of the recent Covid-19 pandemic on the demand for leather gloves was provided by Mike Dodd, Sales Director of Pittards. Demand for dress gloves is understandably reduced when compared with previous years, as people generally have spent a great deal more time at home. However, as with all things there is a ‘silver lining’ and there has been more interest in outdoor sports, such as golf and cycling, leading to a significant increase in demand in the worldwide sales of technical sportswear gloves. So too has there been a growth in demand for gloves for the police, firefighters and for the military. It also seems that many people have been pursuing home DIY projects and this too has led to an increase in demand for specialist gloves.

It was good to hear that amongst the uncertainty of recent times, there have been some positive aspects and ‘silver linings’ and, as with all things, it's a time for people and organisations to adapt and move forward in new ways.

3 July 2020

The third Glove Network seminar was originally planned to be hosted by Pittards, in Yeovil, Somerset, the internationally renowned brand and recognised producer of world class leather. However, on this occasion, 14 participants joined the virtual meeting due to the Covid-19 pandemic regulations, but it was no less informative or valuable for being online.

The number of the participants in each Glove Network seminar has grown since it first began, and it has been a pleasure to gather such a knowledgeable range of experts in all aspects of English leather gloves, from industry, museums, conservationists, and academics.

Debbie Burton, Director of Marketing, guided us through a virtual tour of Pittards which provided a fascinating insight into the leather making and leather manufacturing processes which uses the most up to date modern technology, as well as some labour intensive artisan skills. We learned that if leather didn’t exist today, it would need to be invented! Leather is an incredible product that cannot only be recycled but is sustainably sourced as a by-product of the meat, wool and milk industries. Pittards was originally established in 1826 and its tannery in Somerset produces gloving leather amongst as well as other specialist types of leather for other product areas.
We learned that dress glove leather is produced using a very natural process, with very little being done to the leather (thereby retaining its purest form) apart from dyeing, finishing and polishing by hand. The dress glove leather is washable, which is such a huge benefit to wearers today.

We were introduced to the significant differences between dress glove leather and the treatments and processes required to produce performance leather. The performance leather market is a significant part of Pittards international sales, where use in sporting activities such as golf or cycling, requires the leather to have additional technical performance benefits, such as resistance to water, resistance to perspiration, abrasion resistance, anti- microbial benefits and tactile qualities.

Dr Mike Redwood then shared his extensive knowledge of the leather industry, having been involved in it for most of his life, having originally studied the subject at University, and then joining Pittards as the Commercial Director of the gloving leather tannery in Yeovil, where he oversaw the buying of raw materials, sorting and grading of leathers as well as the sales and marketing. As a consultant to the leather and associated industries, specialist in marketing strategies, technology management and innovation, Mike talked to the group about his first hand international experience and far reaching expertise in the leather industry and production of leather today, including insight into the sourcing of raw materials. We learned that the leather business is a mixture of modern technology and highly skilled craft processes. Please see the article provided by Mike on this site.

Dr Liza Foley shared with the Network group some of the details of her fascinating research into the ‘Economy and Ecology in Eighteenth- Century Glove Making’ as well as the colouring of leather at that time. It was intriguing to hear about her research process and we learned that, often with historic gloves, there is very little or no provenance and so it is often very difficult to precisely date historic gloves. Her experience of researching historic records of varying sources was enlightening for the group, as it will be to many enthusiastic researchers and included conservation records, museum databases, parliamentary record, order books and newspaper advertisements.

Dr Liza Foley's presentation synopsis - ‘Economy and Ecology in Eighteenth-Century Leather Glove Making’

This talk reflected on the significance of leather quality in eighteenth-century glove making by bringing into focus the position of leather as a former animal skin and highlighting the various manufacturing challenges it presented to contemporary leather dressers and glovers. Drawing on a combination of artefact and archival sources (for example, glover business records), it argued that procuring good quality skins formed a key concern for eighteenth-century glove makers and furthermore, that issues of leather quality caused from ante- and post-mortem defects potentially impacted not only the types of gloves produced (for example, style, colour, et cetera) but the grade or standard of glove also. The talk also briefly considered some of the archaeological and scientific methods that are currently being used to study ancient organic materials including leather, and how the broader application of these methods to extant eighteenth-century gloves might help resolve some of the many unanswered questions that currently exist regarding their age, provenance and material origin. 

1 May 2020

A very informative and successful Glove Network virtual seminar was held on Friday 1 May with the participation of 14 experts in their field – including one member from as far away as Australia.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the seminar, which was originally planned to be hosted in Worcester by David Nash, Curator of Social History at Museums Worcestershire, was changed to an online meeting. This enabled the network, who have a shared interest in his area of research, to continue the momentum and enthusiasm generated at the first seminar in March.

Experts in the field of leather and gloves enjoyed presentations by museum curators, academic researchers, historians and  representatives of the Glovers’ Livery. This was followed by a lively discussion by all.

A range of topics were addressed, including the ways in which glove culture can and has been interpreted throughout history, such as gender and the glove; the materials, design and making process; the consumption and symbolic wearing of gloves, and their afterlife.

This led us onto the gloves and glove making tools and memorabilia that exist in several museum collections, and what we can learn from them.

We'll be hearing more in the blog soon from Museums Worcestershire about their exciting Robert Ring archive, the peak and fall of a great and historic industry in that area, and its impact on the communities of glovers.

The Glove Network is proving its worth as a forum for communication within a small research community who had previously never met. It is excellent to hear positive feedback from the participants in recognition that the potential connections and outcomes are proving useful in many more ways than any of us had imagined.

6 March 2020

The first seminar of The Glove Network took place at Bath Spa University on 6 March 2020. It brought together a wide range of expertise and specialist knowledge from 11 key participants including museums, academics, the commercial private sector, and leather conservation. The main focus of the first seminar was to share information about the content and status of individual glove collections as well as their significance, and preservation.

Several collections of English gloves, glove making artefacts and memorabilia are held by trusts, museums or private collections across the country. These magnificent collections represent gloves from the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, and up to the present day. Some entire collections or partial collections are available to view by appointment, others are on display in museums or available to view digitally online. Other collections have yet to be conserved or made available to the public or researchers.

The items within the collections tell a range of stories to those interested in them. The first meeting of the Glove Network brought together fashion and textile historians, social and cultural historians, curators, conservationists, and leather manufacturing specialists, and all those whose aim it is to promote the narrative of leather gloves. The day provided a wonderful opportunity to start to link the chronology of the collections and to share an overview of their design and make.

Dr Susan North gave an overview of the gloves in the V&A’s collection. Like other accessories such as hats, shoes and bags, gloves have been ‘passively’ collected over the past 150 years, accepted as gifts and as examples of interesting textiles or decorative techniques, or as part of wardrobes associated with known wearers, such as the Thomas Coutts collection and the Heather Firbank collection. The cataloguing of these is somewhat uneven; those gloves on display, included in publications or on loan are described in detail, while the majority of the collection awaits this process. Thanks to an ongoing photography project for the whole collection, there should be a photograph of every pair of gloves on the V&A’s website – Search the Collections – by the end of 2020.

The network will open up the possibility for future valuable research across the academic community, third sector (museums and heritage), the commercial private sector (glove and accessory industry) and education sector (students of design and cultural heritage).

Historical contexts and theoretical frameworks will enable museum professionals and private collectors to better situate their collections. Several organisations hold collections of gloves, manufacturing equipment, designs, marketing and archive materials. These fragmented collections, spanning over 400 years of history, when considered in entirety can provide an overview of English glove craftsmanship, manufacture, and insight into those who wore them, from Shakespearean times to the current day.

By involving industry and including modern developments in design and manufacture we will ensure that a contemporary perspective on glove-making and the subject of sustainability is captured.

Through this network there is potential for connections and links to be made between the resources to promote a stronger understanding of the significance, breadth and heritage of the English glove industry.


Read articles about our collections and research:

Key participants

Frances Turner

Frances is Principle Investigator and manager of The Glove Network project. She is also a textile and fashion designer, researcher and Senior Lecturer in Marketing and Entrepreneurial Skills for Fashion and Textiles at Bath Spa University.

Frances has worked with international manufacturers to develop bespoke product ranges of clothing and accessories for global markets.

Recent articles include:

  • A Quintessentially English Glove Legacy
  • The Defiant English Glove Revival
  • An English Eccentric: Lady Ottoline Morrell and the self-styled wardrobe.
Yvette Fletcher

Yvette is a Conservator with a specialism in leather objects. She is also Chair of The Archaeological Leather Group and a Liveryman of The Worshipful Company of Glovers

Having completed a Masters in Conservation of Historic Objects, Yvette carried out a six months internship at The Leather Conservation Centre, in Northampton. In 2002 she was offered a permanent position, made Senior Conservator in 2005 and Head of Conservation in 2009, a post held until her retirement early 2019.

Yvette is currently Chair of The Archaeological Leather Group a small, but international group of around 87 members from nearly 20 countries. Members come from a variety of disciplines and include archaeologists, conservators, curators, historians, scientists, artefact specialists and leather workers.

The Group aims to provide a focus for the investigation of leather, bringing together a broad range of knowledge and experience both practical and academic. Information, which adds to the understanding of leather, is explored, including its manufacture, function, context, processing, recording, conservation, care and curation.

David Nash

Davis is Curator of Social History at Museums Worcestershire.

David Southcombe

Managing Director at Southcombe Brothers Limited, a fifth generation, family run glove manufacturer and supplier established in 1847 and based in the South West of England. Specialising in the production and supply of numerous cut and sew fabric and leather designs for a wide variety of markets.

Dr Susan North

Susan is Curator of Fashion, 1550-1800 at the V&A Museum.

She co-curated Style and Splendour: Queen Maud of Norway’s Wardrobe in 2005 and Splendour of the Tsars in 2008.

Susan is the author of 18th-Century Fashion in Detail (2018) and has co-authored several other V&A publications relating to early modern dress, including 17th-Century Women’s Dress Patterns, Book One (2011), 17th-Century Women’s Dress Patterns, Book Two (2012) and 17th-Century Men’s Dress Patterns, 1600-1630 (2016) as well as a wide range of articles.

She is currently supervising two collaborative PhDs on early modern dress.

Jennifer Daley

Chair of the The Association of Dress Historians, which supports and promotes the study and professional practice of the history of dress, textiles, and accessories of all cultures and regions of the world, from before classical antiquity to the present day. The ADH is proud to support scholarship through international conferences, publication of The Journal of Dress History, prizes and awards for students and researchers, and ADH members’ events such as curators’ tours. We are passionate about sharing our knowledge with you. Our mission is to start conversations, encourage the exchange of ideas, and expose new and exciting research in the field to all who appreciate the discipline.

Victoria Green

Victoria is Curator of the National Leather Collection at The Museum of Leathercraft, which holds a collection of around 200 pairs of leather gloves dating from the early sixteenth century through to the present.

The collection chronicles the history of the gloving industry and the role of the fashion gloves throughout this period, with a number having royal or celebrity associations.

The museum also holds a collection of objects and documents associated with glove-making, including tools, patterns, accessories, recipe books for gloving leather and depictions of gloves or glove-making.

The Museum of Leathercraft is one of the only museums dedicated to leather-crafting in all of its forms. It tells the world story of leather from prehistory to the present day through its 10,000 objects. The museum’s archaeological collection begins the tale in 40,000 BC, travelling via neolithic Britain, ancient Egypt and Rome, through the Middle Ages to the Civil War era, the Georgians, and beyond.

Most popular with visitors are:

  • George III’s travelling commode, which is covered with leather and proudly bears the royal monogram;
  • fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls;
  • a rare ninth century Qur’an;
  • the largest collection of trunks belonging to European monarchy outside of the Palaces.

In addition to its object collection, the museum has an archive of approximately 30,000 documents which include correspondence, periodicals, photographs, notebooks, individual company records and histories. Some of these documents are associated with the museum itself, or with accessioned objects in the museum collection, and others more broadly with leathercraft or the leather industry in Northamptonshire and beyond.

Graham Lampard

Collections Assistant at the Museum of Leathercraft.

Anne Green

Anne Green is Emeritus Professor of French at King’s College London, and was President of the Society of Dix-Neuviémistes from 2011 to 2017. She has published widely on nineteenth-century French literature and culture, particularly on the works of Gustave Flaubert, but her recent interest has been in the cultural significance of gloves. Her book, Gloves. An Intimate History (Reaktion Books, 2021) draws on examples from across the world to reveal their cultural significance. She explores gloves both as material objects with their own fascinating history, and as fictional creations from folklore, literature and film, whose meanings are as varied as their forms.

Isabella Rosner

Isabella is a PhD student at King’s College London, where she researches Quaker women’s needle, wax, and shell work before 1800. She also specialises in the study of schoolgirl and women’s embroidery before 1900.

She has been lucky enough to work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Fitzwilliam Museum, Colonial Williamsburg, and Witney Antiques, Britain’s premiere antique dealership in historic needlework.

She has researched embroidery on sixteenth- and seventeenth-century gloves, studying the shared motifs on gloves and contemporaneous domestic and professional needlework.

Dr Mike Redwood

Mike is Trustee of Leather Conservation Centre, Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Glovers' of London, and Visiting Professor – Leather Advisory Industry, at the University of Northampton.

Gail Stewart-Bye

Curator, The National Motor Museum, Beaulieu.

Dr Valerie Wilson Trower

An international fashion professional with a background in accessories design, retailing, and marketing. Valerie has a doctorate in Historical and Critical Studies from the London College of Fashion UAL and was Design and Development Manager for glove manufacturers, Southcombe Brothers Ltd, for eight years.

Subsequent roles include Trend Director, APAC, for Stylesight; Creative Director for premium visual merchandising(VM) supplier, Blue Mount; and VM journalist and Conference organiser for Legend. Lecturing in Historical & Contextual Studies for three years at Istituto Marangoni, Valerie has been an Associate Lecturer at London College of Fashion for the past six years.

Debbie Burton

Director of Marketing at Pittards.

Dr James Daybell

James is Professor of Early Modern British History and Associate Dean of Research at the University of Plymouth. He is also Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

He has produced several books including:

  • Tudor Women Letter-Writers (Oxford University Press, 2006; paperback 2018)
  • Women and Politics in Early Modern England (2004)
  • The Material Letter (2012)
  • Gender and Political Culture (2016)
  • Cultures of Correspondence (2016).

He is also series editor of two book series: Material Readings of Early Modern Culture and Gendering the Medieval and Early Modern Worlds.

James has also written more than 35 articles and essays on topics ranging from Renaissance letter-writing, Elizabethan politics, and secret codes, to the family, archives and the cultural history of gloves.

He is Director of the AHRC-funded project ‘Gender, Power and Materiality in Early Modern Europe, 1500-1800’ in collaboration with the Victoria and Albert Museum, and Director of the British Academy/Leverhulme-funded ‘Women’s Early Modern Letters Online’ in collaboration with the University of Oxford and the Bodleian Library.

James has appeared on numerous historical documentaries.

Riina Õun

Riina Õun is the creative director, a multi-disciplinary designer and a materials researcher behind the Riina O brand. She is a glover with over 15 years of glove-making experience. She is a graduate of MA Material Futures at Central Saint Martins, specialising in biodesign, having previously earned BA in Leather Art and Accessories Design at Estonian Academy of Arts and worked extensively with London-based designers.

Riina is also a visiting lecturer teaching glove-making and sustainable materials workshops at academic institutions around the world, including London College of Fashion, Royal College of Arts, Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, Kolding Design Institute, Beijing Academy of Creative Arts and more.

Alison Gowman

Alison is Past Master of the Worshipful Company of Glovers of London.

Whilst her professional background is as a solicitor in the City of London, she has become an interested amateur in gloving matters. She used her year as Master to engage with the gloving businesses and wider international trade links. She also visited the All-Africa Leather Fair in Ethiopia and the All-China equivalent in Shanghai.

As an Alderman of the City of London, Alsion has been keen to promote the wearing and use of gloves for ceremonial as well as practical purposes.

Nick Pinkham

Nick is a Trustee at The Glove Collection Trust.

Gloves were the centre of my growing up in the fifties and sixties. The family glove business, W. Pinkham & Son was in its heyday and I spent many Saturday mornings at the factory in Witham with my father. I recall rows and rows of machinists making up gloves, all of them with a photograph of their favourite pop star such as Elvis sellotaped to their machine.

The finishing and packing room also sticks in my mind with fearsome looking 'inspectors' checking each pair of gloves for flaws before they were ironed and then packed in cardboard boxes ready for dispatch.

The business closed in 1966 and one of my ambitions on retiring was to gather all the Pinkham Glove artefacts that I had retained from the business and added to over the years and build a legacy website focussing on the people who Had worked for the company and plotting the history of the company from 1873 when my great grandfather started as an apprentice glove cutter in Great Torrington through to the company's heyday in the mid twentieth century. The website went live in 2017.

Gail Stewart-Bye

Gail is Curator at The National Motor Museum, Beaulieu.

Mike Dodd

Mike Dodd is the Strategic Sales Director at Pittards PLC.

I've been dealing with the International Glove Trade in a variety of roles at Pittards for the best part of 40 years. I chair the Glove Trade Committee at the Worshipful Company of Glovers, and I'm a board member and former President of Leather UK.

Dr Rebecca Unsworth

Rebecca is a Research Assistant at Birmingham Museums Trust, where she works with their collection of Decorative Art.

She obtained her PhD from Queen Mary University of London and the V&A in 2018, with a thesis on the circulation of news about men’s fashion in early modern Europe.

She has researched the production and fashionability of gloves in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, their exchange and movement across Britain and Europe, and their relationship to news.

Rosie Bolton

Studio Manager, The Leather Conservation Centre.

The Leather Conservation Centre was established in 1978 and is an internationally renowned organisation offering a comprehensive service in the conservation and restoration of objects of historic, cultural and artistic importance made wholly or partly of leather or its related materials.

Clients include museums, libraries, historic houses and many more. Rosie trained in bookbinding prior to becoming a conservator, and has a particular interest in historic technologies and the retention of skilled handcrafts and protection of "dying trades".

Rodney Jagelman

Rodney Jagelman is a Trustee and Chairman of the Glove Collection Trust and was treasurer until November 2015. He is an actuary by profession and is now retired, having worked in the latter part of his career as a professional pension trustee. He was Master of the Glovers' Company 2018-18 and currently serves on their Glove Trade and Membership Committees.

Dr Susan Broomhall

Susan is a Professor of History at the University of Western Australia.

Dr Liza Foley

Liza is a researcher, writer and lecturer specialising in material culture studies at the National College of Art and Design. Her research is primarily focused on the interrelationship between humans, animals and materials, with a particular emphasis on leather and leather-related artefacts. She has written on the production and cultural consumption of leather gloves in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Ireland and England, including as part of her PhD (2018, NCAD) which was entitled ‘From Hide to Hand: The Leather Glove as Material and Metaphor in Polite English Culture, 1730-1820’. She is currently developing a new research project that explores the cultural and environmental history of leather and leather making within the context of eighteenth-century Britain.

Key organisations

Chester Jefferies

Makers of bespoke British leather gloves since 1936. Fine quality leather gloves in a range of styles, colours and fits to suit any style. Chester Jefferies specialises in handmade gloves offering a variety of leathers, linings, colours and types of sewing. The business has been built on the company’s skills and experience in leather selection, cutting and sewing, and their products enjoy a worldwide reputation for quality, which has enabled the company to develop sales in the export market.


To find out more about the Glove Network, please email Frances Turner:

Photo credits: The photos on this page show gloves from the Museums Worcestershire Collection.

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