five-minute stroll from London Bridge station, which is currently undergoing a two-year refurbishment, past The Shard, Europe’s tallest building and down into the heart of Bermondsey is The Leathermarket. Situated metres from the River Thames, Bermondsey was once a concentration of tanneries, hide and skin traders and slaughterhouses and was the epicentre of the tanning industry in London.

Signs of the area’s connection can be seen everywhere with a number of local pubs, restaurants and bars named Tanner & Co, The Woolpack, Simon the Tanner, The Hide and The Leather Exchange.

Sadly, the tanners and traders are long gone, the real estate is now worth millions and the area has been transformed in the past decade into one of the trendiest boroughs of London. Today, it is a hotbed of small and medium-sized businesses, many in the creative and digital media field, tapping into London’s cool vibe and busy business community.

The Leather Exchange pub on the former Leathermarket site

The Leathermarket, a former leather industry building, is now divided into various sized office units. Connecting more than 700 years of history in the area it is now the new home of International Leather Maker’s publishers, Edify Digital Media.

“The connection of the building’s history and its contemporary function made the Leathermarket the natural place for a modern media company dedicated to the international tanning industry to be located,” says Maria Wallace, Commercial Director, ILM. “The area has a great feel and we are hoping to tap into the creativity and energy of the people and the location to bring new and exciting 21st century media ideas to the global leather industry through our platforms.” 

Entrance to the Leathermarket in Bermondsey

A brief history of the Leathermarket

The Bermondsey community, located on the south bank of the River Thames next to what is now London Bridge railway station, was founded on the site of the Bermondsey Abbey in 1082 and the area still boasts three important churches. In 1541 Sir Thomas Pope bought the site and built a mansion on it using the existing materials. The mansion, too, disappeared and the site of the abbey lies under a crossroad by Bermondsey Market and under modern housing. 

It is difficult to date exactly when leather began being manufactured in Bermondsey, but certainly soon after the Norman Conquest when early remains of tanneries were found in the area. The history of the Leathermarket site started with the butchers in the City of London who had an established right dating back to 1392 to dump hides in Bermondsey. The plentiful supply of water and oak trees felled from outlying areas such as Forest Hill and Honour Oak, necessary for the tanning process, assisted the development of the leather industry.

Although originally covering a vast expanse of Bermondsey, only parts of the Leathermarket’s earliest splendid buildings constructed in 1879 now remain. The old cattle pens and slaughterhouses have been redeveloped and damage during the Second World War resulted in sections of the original courtyard at the North and South corners of the complex being replaced in the 1960s.

Weighing scales in the reception gives a clue to the buildings previous use

The Leathermarket is a Grade II listed building with two distinctive 19th century buildings, situated in the former heart of the Bermondsey leather trade. Tanning demanded large quantities of water and several streams crossed the marshes and fields of Bermondsey. With proximity to the Thames and the City merchants and markets just across the river, this drew numerous trades involved with the manufacture of leather to this part of the Borough of Southwark.

Bermondsey’s leather trade flourished until after the Second World War. However, the tanneries gradually closed, with the last leaving the area as recently as the 1970s, and were eventually replaced by dealers in antiques.

On the corner of Weston Street and Leathermarket Street stands the London Leather, Hide & Wool Exchange where two mythological figures hold up the balcony above the entrance.

The Leathermarket and the Exchange were saved from destruction in 1993 when the current owners acquired the building.

A sympathetic conversion has ensured that many of the original features – timber, cast-iron columns, hooks for hanging leather and brick walls –have been preserved. In the entrance of the Leathermarket remains a set of weighing scales used to weigh the salted hides and skins. The Leather Exchange pub also forms part of the building for those “evening meetings”.

New ILM contact details:

Please note that ILM has relocated to the following address:

International Leather Maker

Edify Digital Media Ltd

Unit LF3.04

The Leathermarket

11-13 Weston Street

London SE1 3ER

United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)203 735 6538

All email and website details remain unchanged. 

Bermondsey High St with “The Shard”.