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About Draper of Glastonbury

R. J. DRAPER & CO LTD

has been making the finest quality sheepskin slippers, boots, gloves and accessories in England since 1937. The factory is based in Glastonbury, in the south west of England, in an area famous for sheepskin since the 12th century AD when the monks of Glastonbury Abbey began tanning skins. As a fourth generation family business, we are the oldest sheepskin footwear makers in the United Kingdom, with over 80 years of experience.  

COMPANY FOUNDER

(1935- Mr Richard Jack Draper, founder, far right)

TIMELINE: R J DRAPER & CO LTD

1930'S

The company was founded by Richard Jack Draper, who had spent many years in India and Canada before returning to England to start his own business. He became acquainted with a glove maker in Glastonbury; Harry Cox, whose factory was started in 1911, and his success in marketing the products, especially industrial gloves, led to him taking over the factory and setting up his own company in 1937. At this stage the factory was a former chapel and cottages dating back to the medieval days. There is evidence of leathermaking on our site dating back to 1888, and Glastonbury itself has been the heart of England’s sheepskin industry since 12th century AD when the monks of Glastonbury Abbey began tanning skins.

From starting with government contracts, supplying safety asbestos and leather gloves for the second world war, the business made use of the local skill of working with sheepskin. By 1946 sheepskin slippers were being made, along with suede and leather sandals with crepe soles.

1950'S

During 1952 the footwear manufacturer of another local factory was taken over, Baily’s. The Baily’s brand was used for a few years on sheepskin lined boots, and Baily’s were also famous for producing the boxing gloves used by Mohammad Ali.

In 1955 the second generation of the family entered the business with Richard Donald Draper. New Italian vulcanising machinery was installed for sheepskin boot making, and it was the first of its kind to be used in England. Throughout the late 50’s and early 60’s the company became a major boot supplier to the USSR, and extra factory facilities were taken over in Clevedon and Bristol. Over four hundred people were now employed manufacturing Draper sheepskin products.

In 1959 the company began making sheepskin coats, and the Clevedon factory was used to help cope with the demand.

(Glastonbury factory, drawn 1962)

1970'S

The company opened a showroom and shop in Sydney Street, Chelsea to promote the sheepskin coat business in London. The third generation of the family entered the business in 1979 with Nicolas Richard Draper. As the present managing director, he has established our new retail outlet in Glastonbury, where customers can view production while shopping, and our online website which has gone from strength to strength.

 It was during the 70’s that a one hundred acre farm in south Wales was purchased to help cope with the demand for quality materials of sheepskin and leather.

PRESENT DAY

Four generations of the Draper family have now been involved with the company, and we make 1000 pairs of sheepskin slippers and boots a week in our Glastonbury factory. Our sheepskin footwear is exported around the world, to shops that we supply and online directly to our customers. Our factory is still situated within 100 metres of the famous Glastonbury tor.

Our range is made up of high quality sheepskin slippers, boots, gloves and accessories, which are still produced in our Glastonbury factory using the same techniques since the 1930’s. Our products have been worn and loved by royalty and countless celebrities, though we don’t like to shout about it. We know that our customer appreciates the very best quality.

Glastonbury and sheepskin: 1000 years of history

Until the 1990’s, Glastonbury in England had almost a monopoly in the processing of sheepskin, processing over 80% of all skins used throughout Western Europe. Tanning, dyeing, sueding and manufacturing from sheepskin is an art, because each skin is different and no two skins are the same. A tanner with lots of experience can tell the breed of the sheep, the pasture on which it was reared, the condition the sheep was in, and looks for tick marks, creases and fat content. There are many other factors which decide the treatment it gets to achieve the type of suede, colour, pliability, prevention of fading and prevention of creases etc.

So why has the Glastonbury area become so famous for sheepskin over all other locations in the UK and Europe? The truth is that it has resulted from over 1000 years of history and legend.

During the first century AD, St Joseph of Arimathea established a small Christian community in Glastonbury. King Arthur reputedly lived and was buried there too. King Alfred used the area as a sanctuary from the Danes, before being re established as the king of Wessex.

Glastonbury Abbey was once the largest estate in England, with incredible amounts of land, and it also had a tannery at Glastonbury and woollen mills at nearby Trowbridge and Westbury.

Sheepskin has ever since been in high demand, especially during times of war, from the days of King Alfred up until the second world war, where pilots of the RAF wore sheepskin coats made in Glastonbury.

Centuries of study and improvement of skill are what make Draper of Glastonbury the best manufacturers of sheepskin products in the world.

So what makes sheepskin the best natural product in really cold weather conditions? Not only is it completely wind and weather proof, but the wool fleece is hygroscopic. This means that it can absorb a third of its weight in water without becoming damp. This means that it is naturally waterproof, and does not become sweaty. It keeps the warmth in when it is cold, stays cool when it is warm, keeps warmth in when it is wet, and above all it is natural.

Draper of Glastonbury is now the oldest sheepskin footwear manufacturer in the United Kingdom, and the oldest sheepskin company in Glastonbury.

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