Wilkes, Marjorie (b.1925)

Marjorie Wilkes worked from the age of 14 as an apprentice glover. She made gloves, and eventually instructed others in glovemaking.


She worked for the firm of Southcombes of Tintinhull.  At certain times she was an outworker as were many women glovers in Somerset.  This enabled them to look after their children and their homes and to earn a little money.


During the war the company was on contract to supply the Army and RAF with special gloves.

Morland's rug sewing deparment, 1925. Women were key workers in Somerset’s textile industries. Morland's rug sewing deparment, 1925. Women were key workers in Somerset’s textile industries.
Sound File
Listen to Marjorie Wilkes - 1.75MB Duration 3:38 min.

AH: Well can you tell me a bit about the detail of how you, what kind of machine did you use when you said you did the points?


MW: Well it was like, all I can explain it to you, it was just like two small saucers, and you sat up, and these two saucers, you had a thing for your foot, that went over what we used to call cups, they were just like, well, small cups I suppose really, and this one you used to, you know, to work it, and then the needle went in and out, like that.  So you had to be very careful it didn’t open these cups up, push your foot at the same time, otherwise you’d have the needle through your finger, you know.


AH: So it’s highly skilled?


MW: Well, yes, I mean, you just couldn’t look around and do it, I mean you just had to keep your eyes down all the time.


AH: What kind of machine were you working?


MW: Well it’s what they call a brosser machine.  I mean there’s peeking and there’s prixing.  Prixing and the brosser are very much alike, you know, they’ve both got this, the circulars, but the peeking machine, it’s like up on a stalk, and you work from there...


AH: To a point?


MW: Yeah, yeah, yeah.


AH: You were stitching the top?


MW: Yeah, yeah, on that bit up there, it’s got a foot on it, but it’s just that bit, sort of like a point to work off.


AH: And what were the gloves made of, what material?


MW: Fabric, leather, doeskin, fabric, very, very much fabric, and then that seemed to go by the board, I mean that was what I always learned on was fabric material, and then the leather and the doe came in.  Well we did do a little bit in between but it was mostly, like I say, it was mostly fabric when I started work.


AH: And during the war, were there as many men about?


MW: Well, there again, the younger ones were gone, you see.  I mean I was fortunate because I didn’t have, well, I didn’t have to go, a few of us didn’t have to go because we were doing MoD work, you see.  We were doing like RAF gloves for the pilots and they had to be weighed, they had to be a certain weight, and every week we’d get a Ministry man come on a Wednesday, and that was his job, he would sit and weigh them and see that they were done properly, you know, he would pass it for the Ministry.


AH: What was the fabric they were made of?


MW: Well very, very light leather, very, very soft leather.  I mean they were like, I would imagine they were like an inner glove, you know, and then the trigger glove for the boys on the Ack-Ack, you know, guns.


AH: What were those gloves like?


MW: Well they were made of sort of a khaki thing, you know, denim sort of stuff.  Then we had, made mosquito gloves and they’d come up to about here.  They were sort of a denimy thing, you know, like a heavy cotton.

Copyright Information
Copyright. This recording was made by Ann Heeley in March 2003. Photograph ©SRLM. For access to full interview please contact the Somerset Heritage Centre.