Great Ayton was a centre for leather tanning for centuries, with easy access to animal skins, oak bark, and a plentiful supply of water. Of all the families involved, the Richardsons are by far the most important. William Richardson had a small tanyard in Ayton in the seventeenth century. His descendants went on to establish tanneries at Whitby and Newcastle, the latter growing into the major business of E & J Richardson Ltd. The industrial chemist Professor Henry Richardson Proctor was an international figure in the application of science to leather tanning.
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