This object is what is known as a slicker, a tool used by a currier. Curriers are the individuals who finish leather after the tanning procedure, the final step in the tanning process before the material is passed on to the manufacturer. The process of currying is to colour, seal and finish the tanned animal hide so as to render the material robust and waterproof. The hide is then burnished before being dyed and subsequently finished.
We are lucky enough to have this photograph from Image Leicestershire, that shows a group of fellmongers operating in Market Harborough. Fellmongers dealt with hides and skins (particularly from sheep), preparing them for tanning. These men, from a photograph in around 1870, are soaking goat skins in lime pits in order to remove the hair before the skin was tanned to make leather.
This tool, the slicker, is used to smooth and polish the edges of the leather. It is moved in a back and forwards motion, not dissimilar to a nail file. This particular slicker, which once belonged to J. Dawbarn and Sons, is a larger and flatter slicker which suggests it might have been used for larger pieces of leather.
Apart from being a curious looking tool, this object shows us the wide range of industries taking place in Market Harborough in the past. Do you think the town still has a diverse range of industries, does it rely more on tourism, and how is it different to the other market towns in Leicestershire?
Huge thanks to our volunteers for researching and writing this month’s entry.