Clerkenwell in the 1930s was the centre of the leather trade in London, with St. John’s Street, where our exquisite leather goods were being made, at the very heart of it. Very little evidence remains today of this once thriving trade in the area. Some buildings can still be seen with stable doors and evidence of the old winch arms on upper floors which were once used to hoist up raw materials. Just behind Hatton Gardens, the famous jewellery street, heading up the hill towards the West End of London sits Leather Lane, the most visible remaining indication of this part of Clerkenwell’s heritage.
Smithfield Market in the 1930's
Smithfield Market was the catalyst for the development of the leather trade in the area, with the butchers providing the hides, the starting point for any leather goods. The hides would be bought and driven down to the river by horse and cart where the tanneries were. The tanneries would cure and treat the leather hides ready to be sold to the makers, the craftsmen and the artisans that filled the workshops around the Clerkenwell area. They would cut and shape the leather, ready to be stitched meticulously into leather luggage, wallets and all manner of accessories that were in great demand from an upmarket clientele. London had rightly acquired over the centuries a great reputation for the style and the quality of its leather goods, which were both refined and practical. This is why Gerry Ettinger chose to start his leather goods business here.
Gerry Ettinger was an entrepreneurial young man who had a great eye for detail and a very good sense of style. This, coupled with his engaging nature, meant that his leather goods found their way to all the best department stores of their day.