In times past, the green meadows of southwestern England were home to herds of robust sheep, which furnished the wool and the sheepskin for many items of clothing. It is said that the monks of Glastonbury Abbey were adept at tanning sheepskin in medieval times. Spinning and weaving and the needle-trades that come with wool and with leather were settled in the area long before industrial times.
R. J. Draper & Co. Limited have been making footwear in Glastonbury, in the county of Somerset, since the 1930’s. Their specialty is slippers, and they make a great variety of styles, for men and women, for indoors and outdoors, and for all seasons. Some are made with the traditional sheepskin linings, others are lined with lambswool, or with fine leathers for year-round wear.
Their special expertise is a hand-turned construction, which is perfect for making soft, yet durable slippers. The term “turned” comes from the fact that the slippers are sewn inside out, and are then turned, so that the lining is again on the inside. It isn’t the sort of thing that a machine would be good at. It takes a bit of dexterity, strong hands, and clean needlework. There are no short cuts, and anybody who has owned a pair of Draper’s will know that it is all well worth it.
Glastonbury is a fascinating setting for this ancient trade, and Draper slippers, though they be legendary, are just one of its claims to fame. The Glastonbury “Tor”, a strange conical hill, sits right outside the Draper factory. In legend, it is known as the Isle of Avalon, and it was indeed an island in times beyond memory, when the sea covered Somerset. Glastonbury Abbey, which has been in ruins for hundreds of years, is the traditional burial place of King Arthur, the King from the Round Table, who played his part in the distant time of Camelot, with Queen Guinevere, and Sir Lancelot, and Merlin the Magician. It is a place of ancient magic. Long may it last.