1861 Analysis

There were 87 people living in numbers 1 to 10 Woodlands Place in 1861; 44 males & 43 females. A third (29) were children under the age of 13.

Population by age

The oldest resident was Sarah Hunt, age 73, living at number 4. The youngest was Lydia Esther Burnley, age 1 month, living with her parents at number 7.

Place of birth

A third of residents were born locally, in Bermondsey. Interestingly, there were several residents from Ireland. Were they part of the Irish famine immigration? Three journeyman tanners were living together at Number 6, all born in Ireland. Were they from same place?

Other residents from Ireland included:
2 Woodlands: the Grogan family, Honora O’Connell
3 Woodlands: William Fanning
4 Woodlands: Hannah Harley
5 Woodlands: Thomas Hallahan
7 Woodlands: William Barrett
10 Woodlands: James Ward
I wonder if it would be possible to trace them back to Ireland whether they came from the same locality.

The next biggest group were 2 families originally from Bristol: the Millard family at number 1 and the Wilcox family at number 5. Mary Wilcox, the wife, was the only member of the family not from Bristol. She was born in Canada.

Male employment by type of occupation

Oldest working resident: William Owen, age 60, living in number 4, a ‘shumac’ tanner

Youngest working resident: Henry Bailey, age 14, living in number 10, a railway delivery van [boy?]

Unsurprisingly, the most common occupation was in the leather industry. The process is quite complicated, even today, and there are a number of stages.


There were 7 tanners (including 3 journeymen & 1 shumac tanner), 4 curriers. 2 white leather stakers and 1 black leather finisher. The Ministry of Labour’s 1921 Dictionary of Occupational Terms gives the following definitions:
Tanner: supervised the tanning process: turning skins into leather
Currier: worked oil, grease & other ingredients into the leather to make it pliable & to increase its strength. Usually done by hand
Staker: stretched dyed leather on a staking machine or by hand to make it soft & pliable
Finisher: engaged in any finishing process in leather manufacture, e.g. embossing, ironing
I think a shumac tanner was a sumac tanner. Sumac is a plant whose leaves contain tannin needed for the tanning process.

Bermondsey leather workers, 1862

Very few women were in paid employment. The occupations recorded were ‘traditional’ women’s work. Five of the eight women employed were married; perhaps an indication of the level of poverty.

Female employment by type of occupation