About Us

From a farming heritage in Woodbury Parish, the Wares made tanning a family business through the course of the nineteenth century. Thomas Ware acquired both the Woodbury and Gilbrook tanneries in 1856, his brother Edward, followed in his tanning footsteps and took over the Invicta Leather Works in Salisbury in 1862. Further expansion saw the purchase of the large Clift House Tannery and Estate in 1876, a tannery since 1840.

Younger brothers John and Henry joined the firm and after several successful years building their expertise and reputation, the family group decided to divide responsibility for the different properties in 1882. Edward took charge of Salisbury, Henry of Woodbury, and Thomas, John, and Thomas’s son Wallace carried on the rapidly growing Bristol business.

During this period, the name of Ware became one of the best known in the leather trade. Sadly, in 1890, Thomas Ware fell victim to an influenza epidemic and passed away in March of that year, leaving the business in the hands of his son, Wallace.

Later that year Wallace incorporated the company into his Father’s name and in 1929 a 19 year old Yorkshire apprentice, Douglas Brearely was employed. He worked his way successfully through the ranks and was given a seat on the board for his efforts in 1940.

He then led the tannery through a highly successful period in its history and ensured its security for the future. He continued to be part of the business until 2002, when after 73 years of service he took a well-earned retirement.

His two sons, Andrew and Marcus Brearley, both having successfully completed their studies at the National Leathersellers College in London, worked from the ground up under their father’s watchful eye.

They were appointed joint Managing Directors in 1977. After a number of years Andrew, whilst retaining his role on the board, moved on to running a new venture, Kenton Leather Products, manufacturing leather goods. When Douglas retired in 2002, Marcus continued putting the building blocks in place for the company’s modernisation and entry into the 21st century.

Marcus’s son, Alistair Brearley, joined the company in 1996 and like his father and grandfather he worked his way through the all the different departments in the tannery. When Marcus sadly passed away in 2012, after 47 years at Thomas Ware and Sons Ltd, Alistair became Managing Director and has continued to consolidate and further develop the company’s position.

With this great heritage we have now reached 175 years of age and remain the biggest of the traditional leather tanneries.

Still on our original 5 acre site on Coronation Road in Bristol, we continue to traditionally process hides through the Beamhouse, Tanyard and Sheds, for up to 15 months, to ensure the highest quality leathers.


Our philosophy is simple, success is based on customer satisfaction, from product quality and from traditional expertise.

These three tenets, the cornerstone of the business, enabled us to successfully survive the dramatic decline of the British vegetable tanning industry from over 70 in the 1950’s to just two others today.

This philosophy, our ongoing modernisation programmes and our committed staff, many of whom have been with us for decades, ensure we will continue to develop the business into the future.