Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Tanning - a noxious trade

Tanneries along the Bièvre c.1860; photo by Charles Marville (Wikimedia)
The foulest area of the foul city of Paris was located only a stone's throw away from the affluent bourgeois houses of the Marais, along the river Bièvre, now channelled two metres below the rue Mouffetard. The waters of the Bièvre received the noxious waste from over thirty tanneries which generated an unbreathable miasma of ammonia. Effluent included heaps of loose hair, grisly flesh, dog pooh and human urine collected from pisspots on the street corners.

In this extract from  the TV series Filty cities, the ever game Dan Snow is shown the tanning process first hand by Andrew Par, owner of Britain's last working traditional tannery,  J. & F.J. Baker & Co Ltd in Colyton Devon. (The Colyton tannery normally uses oak bark, which is a little less noisome.)


Dan Snow Filty cities:  Revolutionary Paris (2011 TV series)

J. & F.J. Baker & Co Ltd website
BBC News,  "Britain's remaining traditional tannery", 10.8.2011.

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