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Book reviews — February 2010

'The Largest Tanyard in the Kingdom: Three centuries of the tanning industry in Wantage', by John Parrott
£12 plus £2 p&p for 1st class postage. Orders to 63 Charlton Road, Wantage, OX12 8HJ. Cheques, £14, made payable to J Parrott. (John Parrott. Tel: 01235 769213. Email:
This is a study of more than 300 years of the tanning industry in Wantage. An industry that when seen by William Mavor, a surveyor from the Board of Agriculture in 1809, caused him to report that 'The tanyard belonging to Mr Sylvester is the largest in the kingdom and is conducted on the most improved principle'.

The practical effects of legislation, wars and taxation are considered as well as the difficulties presented by poor road communication. In addition the Industrial Revolution created an increased home demand and an expansion of overseas trade. Despite these problems, our tanners were very successful, becoming wealthy and well respected members of the emerging 'middle class' in society, holding important positions within the town. Yet by 1825 all traces of the industry had disappeared and the casual visitor today would never know the tanyards had even existed.

This book should be on the bookshelf of anyone interested in social history as well as those studying the impact of local industries such as tanning on local towns.

© GLIAS, 2010