Wendy Suckling

Insights from one of the people who worked at Riverview

I am a local person. I was born at East Lambrook. My mother came from East Lambrook and my father from Lower Burrow. My grandmother, she did gloving all her life, sat in the window, she never left Lower Burrow hardly ever. Everybody used to visit. “Do bring milk,” she used to say, “otherwise you can’t have a cup of tea.” She always done leather prixseam, which is very technical. She had the machine in her home, treadle not electric, treadles went out in the late 1950s. She was gloving right up to the day she died. “I am going to sit down and have a rest,” she used to say when she worked. They used to work all hours right up to Saturday midnight, but not on Sunday. Church on Sunday. My aunt is 100 and she started gloving when she was nine so if she was born in 1900 that means she started work in 1909.
Even when I left school most of us went into the glove factory. You couldn’t get out of the village easily. I was fifteen when I came here, that’s Reed’s. By that time I had moved to Kingsbury. There were forty, forty-five working here then. Now it is twenty, twenty-one. And out-workers there must have been about sixty, it took one person all week to sort out the work and deliver it. Out on one Wednesday and then back on the next. Kingsbury, Langport, Long Sutton, South Petherton, Ilminster, even Yeovil.
Millicent Reed – 1930s

The firm of Reeds was started by Millicent Reed. She co-ordinated the out- work and would connect with the train at Thorney. She set up her own green shed and then expanded. The firm is now owned by Southcombe’s of Stoke-sub-Hamdon. They have still got the work’s hooter in Stoke and sometimes we can hear it over here.

Ceremonial gloves for soldiers

I’ve never been short of work. Mostly women’s gloves, but then there’s men’s white ceremonial marching gloves for the MoD, all fabric. The ladies’ dress fashion gloves have all gone, but we do ladies’ and men’s thermal gloves. At Southcombe’s they do outdoor activity gloves and used to do police motorbike gloves, but we don’t do any leather here. Then there’s football gloves for supporters. They are rushed off their feet at the moment, they got their seasons mixed up.
1963 I think I came here. You get your ups and downs, usually we have the radio on. The girls like to listen to music, personal stereos. I like Orchard FM. Sometimes one of the girls sings. It helps the day on. I usually make sixty to seventy pairs a day. Some of the girls are much quicker. Every pair is 100 percent examined. They don’t miss very much. I like putting the thumbs in, just stitch round. I’ve done pointing, elasticating, blind-topping, needle- topping, welting, rucking, strap-fitting. Some customers have joint-fitting which in Devon is called “nicketts”. Then there’s ironing. An iron like a hand that you pull the glove over, a brass heated hand. You have to have the temperature low for thermal gloves otherwise they melt…You sit long enough.
I did work at home when I had children which was convenient, or if your children were off school and ill you simply took the head off your machine and took it home. I walk to work. My mum has always done gloving and my husband is a Bricklayer.

We’re the only glove factory that does everything from beginning to end.

Our thanks to James Crowden and Pauline Rook for allowing us to reproduce Wendy Suckling’s memories from their book, Working Women of Somerset, published in 2001, which explains the references to the gloving industry still being in existence in Kingsbury Episcopi.
The photo above was taken on the day the factory closed in May 2005.
Riverview Glove Factory