The Glove Network

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.

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.

David Nash

Davis is Curator of Social History at Museums Worcestershire.

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.

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.

Rebecca Kirsch

Rebecca is Director of the Leather Conservation Centre.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

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.

Museums Worcestershire


The Leather Conservation Centre

The National Leather Collection

The National Motor Museum, Beaulieu

The Victoria and Albert Museum

The Worshipful Company of Glovers’ of London


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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