Company History

200 years

The Family Chronicles

After training as an apprentice with a local shoemaker, Thomas Hewit started his leather merchant company in 1823, located in his home town of Edinburgh. By 1834 he had expanded the business and was now currying skins, an old term for part of the leather finishing process, giving the company its first foot into the production side of the trade. In the coming years Thomas suffered from ill health, and after a temporary closure of the company he died in 1846. When Thomas died the company passed to his second wife, Janet, who ran it herself until her sons came of age, and eventually renamed it to what we know today - J Hewit & Sons.

cerificate of merit
Hewit's Diploma of Merit

Hewits thrived under Janet, breaking into new markets for their leather such as shoes, leggings, machinery belts, and bookbinding. In 1864 the company purchased City Tan Works on the Royal Mile, the High Street in the heart of Edinburgh's Old Town, which was just across from where Thomas began the company on Niddry Street.

After Janet died in 1868 her sons expanded the business, purchasing a second tannery in London. In 1886 Hewits exhibited at The Edinburgh International Exhibition, and were awarded a Diploma of Merit for excellent coloured leathers. After the last of Thomas & Janet's children died in 1887 with no clear heir, the London tannery was sold & Hewits was acquired by George Lawson, Thomas' grandson from his first marriage who worked at the company under the three sons.

The First Company Car

George continued the expansion of Hewits, opening a warehouse in London & a new tannery, Kinauld Tan Works, in Currie, on the edge of Edinburgh. Hewits was incorporated as a Limited company in 1931 by George and his two sons. After his death in 1938 his sons & nephew continued running Hewits, purchasing a bookbinding supplies company in 1948.

city tan works
City Tan Works

kinauld leather works
Kinauld Leather Works

In the 1950's Hewit & Russell Lawson passed the company on to their nephew, George Barlee. Taking after his grandfather, George was passionate about Hewits, greatly modernising the two tanneries which were still Victorian in their operations, and pushing Hewits onto the international stage by exporting products worldwide. City Tan Works was demolished in the late 1960's, moving production solely Kinauld Leather Works. George's crowning achievement was the awarding of a Royal Warrant from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, after years of supplying Windsor Castle with leathers & bookbinding sundries. George's nephew William joined the company in 1975, whilst his son Roger joined in 1984. George retired in 1992.

livingston factory
Our Current Site in Livingston

Hewits now entered the digital age, with William installing our first computer network in the mid 90's & our website going live in 1996. In 1998 we purchased Bowden Book Headbands, before Hewits was consolidated under one roof in Currie in the early 2000's, ending our London presence after over 120 years. William stepped down in 2004 (returning briefly for the upcoming move) and Roger's wife Caroline joined in 2006. In 2010 Hewits left Edinburgh, moving to our current premises in Livingston. Roger's eldest son Kenneth was instrumental in the move to Livingston and the implementation of modern computer technology, and in 2021 his youngest son Andrew joined Hewits full time, becoming the seventh generation of the family to work for the company.

In 2023 J Hewit & Sons celebrates its 200th anniversary. Being one of the oldest Scottish family companies that still operates to this day is an extremely proud achievement of ours. We look forward to many more years into the future.

family tree
Family Tree

The detailed history of Hewits is being published in Skin Deep, our biannual newsletter, and can be accessed here:
- Part 1
- Part 2
- Part 3
- Part 4