An important industry of leather dressing was established in in Harrold in the 19th Century. This was aided by the necessary large supplies of water from the River Ouse, which also conveniently carried away the waste effluent. Harrold leather supplied the market for leather products required by the shoe industry of Northamptonshire. It made a substantial contribution to local relative prosperity, as well as exports.
According to F.G.Robinson in his “Memories of Harrold” published privately in the 1980s,
“The tanning and dressing of leather was started in the 1800s by Edward Rate. His tannery was in Orchard lane at the junction of the road leading up to the Buildings Farm. A house now stands on that site. There he had tan and lime pits where hides and skins were put into to fetch off the hair and wool.
These were the only tan pits to be in Harrold. The hides and skins which afterwards came into the village mostly from India, Nigeria, Australia and the Middle East had already been tanned and only needed dressing and dyeing. Then the next factory to dress leather was Partridge’s which was opposite Mansion Lane; this was burnt down in the late 1800s. A house is now built on that site
Next to the Globe public house, Billy Manton had a factory which, after a time, was taken over by Jack Tusting; he formed the Eagle Works Co. (later The Harrold Leather Company) and greatly enlarged this small factory.
Jimmy Drage had a small factory in Orchard Lane which became Reginald Dickens and Co. and was greatly enlarged. A small factory was started by Charles Pettit next to Harrold House. Herbert Pettit and James Goodes formed a partnership carrying on the factory for a few years before building a larger factory on the far side of Harrold Green. In 1961 this factory too was burnt down. It was partly rebuilt and James Goodes’ son Reg with his son Terence carried on the factory for some time before it was taken over by Van den Berg and Co.
Harold Tusting had a factory built in a field close to Harrold Mill. Van den Berg’s took this over and enlarged it.
For more than a century leather dressing was the staple industry of the village.”
By the 1980s the leather industry in the region, and in Harrold also, had declined. Reginald Dickens closed in 1980 closely followed by The Harrold Leather Company and Van den Berg’s. Only one small outpost of leather processing remained at the end of the Twentieth Century (Tusting and Burnett operated along the Odell Road until the Millennium).
Like the earlier factories, industrial sites eventually became housing developments. Van den Berg’s site became Priory Close, Dickens’ factory became Dickens’ Close and Harrold Leather’s Eagle Works (after a short time as a timber factory) became, more recently, Eagle Way.