“Dal vi os Medri,” was the registered trade mark of Hugh Price and Co., of the Bridge Street Tannery, it was not only quaint, but pointed and appropriate. “Catch me if you can,” was a motto that at once suggests and in this case true that the person using it is in advance and that he challenges all his rivals to a fair and open competition.
It was to be regretted that modern competition in the leather trade was not always as fair as it might be and that leathers were placed on the market which, however nicely they may be finished, could not be relied on for much in the way of durability.
The truth is, that in the tanning process a great deal of leather acids and chemicals were used to expedite the work and the result was that these chemically prepared skins were in many cases ruined while still preserving a pleasant appearance to the eye. In any case they did not compare, either in durability or water-resisting qualities, to the leathers tanned in the old and approved manner with oak bark.
It was because Hugh Price and Co., adhere strictly to oakbark in the tanning of all their goods, to the exclusion of acids that they produced such remarkably fine leathers. At least there can be no doubt that that was one reason. The whole system of working pursued by the firm was calculated to tend to the same end.
The work was done largely by hand, picked men of long experience being alone employed for the delicate work and in the fleshing, slicking, shaving, finishing, and currying generally this was of great importance. This part of the work was of such a nature that any mistake in the shaving may ruin a whole skin or seriously impair its value. The work therefore was performed by special workmen under responsible supervision and the skins were subjected to careful inspection at the various stages.
A specialist in the way of tools is the quoit-shaped knife used by the cutters. This was an efficient and safe cutting tool and was first introduced by the late Mr. Hugh Price the firm being in 1892 the only one in Wales who had it in use. The premises, which were located right in the centre of the town, close to the Parish Church, were extensive and well-arranged. They comprised of a large and well-fitted washing and liming troughs, tan-pits, drying-sheds, etc., and large departments for fleshing, puring, pressing, and finishing.
The company used some improved steam machinery where its use could expedite the work without risk to the goods, but for the most part the work was executed by skilled workmen, of whom a large number were employed, including fleshers, scudders and stretchers. Indeed, the works supplied a complete company of volunteers of their own, and in 1892 many them were in camp for their annual practice.
Nothing could exceed the care with which the works were arranged and equipped to ensure the perfection of the leathers turned out and it was noted in the drying lofts and finishing-rooms the arrangements were of an especially excellent character. The company were noted throughout the West for their Welsh roller leather, which is a very superior article of extreme durability, capable of an unrivalled gloss or polish and yet soft and pliable.
Other varieties of leather were made for boot and shoe making, bookbinders’ work, bag and portmanteau making, etc., and Hugh Price and Co. held in their stores and stock-rooms large reserves of crust leather of very superior quality and in great variety. One of their chief specialties were the strong smooth roller leather used by the Lancashire cotton spinners, of whom a large number were on the books.
Hugh Price and Co were always able to meet orders promptly, owing to the large stock they maintained and there was constantly an extensive demand for these productions among the leading boot and shoe manufacturers and users of machinery. The company had many old customers who have patronised them since 1840. In many cases Hugh Price and Co., had continuously supplied three successive generations of the same family as their leathers were considered beyond comparison, superior to any others in the district.
Hugh Price and Co would do a large business as fellmongers, they were the only fellmongers in Wrexham and purchased hides and pelts from butchers all over North Wales. The business had been in existence since 1840, and was one of the representative concerns of Wrexham. The members of the company were very much respected for their integrity and public spirit and by none more so than by their own employs; and through their enterprise the business steadily increased.
Source: Wrexham Illustrated 1892.
A fellmonger was a dealer in hides or skins, particularly sheepskins, who might also prepare skins for tanning. The name is derived from the Old English ‘fell’ meaning skins and ‘monger’ meaning dealer. Fellmongery is one of the oldest professions in the world and since ancient times, humans have used the skins of animals to clothe themselves, and for making domestic articles.
Historically, fellmongers belonged to a guild or company which had its own rules and by-laws to regulate the quality of the skins, workmanship, treatment of apprentices and trading rights.