Richard Thornton, Master of Leathersellers 1836-1837

Juan Manuel Salazar reading Tony Covington's new book during Dr Wilkinson's recent tour of Latin America.
Juan Manuel Salazar reading Tony Covington's new book during Dr Wilkinson's recent tour of Latin America.

Richard Thornton would have been proud to see how his money is being spent 170 years on.  The June prize giving was one of the best in the period that Ann Tate has been Vice Chancellor. More parents turned up – from Latin America, India and Africa – and a full house saw a perfect blend of City of London tradition and informality.

Once more the main speech was given by an alumnus, this time by a Past President of the IULTCS, Juan Manuel Salazar Arango. He studied in Northampton in the time of Peter Element from 1980-1983 and from what he said straight off the plane in 1983 he was dragged into the tannery to change the production from vegetable tanned sole leather to chrome upper. We all know he was famously successful and it was fitting that his own son was graduating. As the Vice Chancellor said today’s students should emulate this feat and keep our industry strong and the leather school full.

The new Northampton Leather M.Sc.

In a busy world and one in which understanding the supply chain, and understanding leather in all areas of the supply chain, the one year postgraduate course is becoming more important. With this in mind the Northampton Leather M.Sc. has been updated and is now relevant to those already in the industry wanting good leather knowledge and a higher degree and those who have done a first degree in a science based subject and want a chance to work with leather. This latter can mean anything from a meat packing company to a retailer or brand – and anywhere in the world. The three pathways for the new M.Sc. are MSc Leather Technology, MSc Leather Technology (International Environmental Management) and MSc Leather Technology (International Marketing).

Over the years the Leathersellers course has developed a distinctive brand name and image and still serves the BSLT well. For a different and perhaps larger audience this new course is likely to come just as famous.

And where does Richard Thornton fit into the picture, you ask?  Well, at the time of the Napoleonic Wars he did a bit of hedging in hemp, tallow and hides. He cleaned up as the war created demand and scarcity at the same time. Much of the gains he donated to the Leathersellers Company to enlarge the funds which they use to give as scholarships to many of our students. Along with Union Specialities many of the scholars who graduated at this year’s ceremony had received funding to one degree or another.

They have just rediscovered his gravestone; let us say thanks to Richard Thornton and other like benefactors.

Mike Redwood

10th June 2010

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