1) Tanned leather dyed red using a colouring agent.
References date from the fifteenth century: 1435 unam tunicam rubeam de rubeo corio, York
1444 my litil Sauter coveryd with reed ledir. In 1476, the ordinances of the York tanners included the following paragraph: the sersours [searchers] of the saide craft shall yerely … receive of every foreine barker that commyth to this citie and accustumably sellith rede ledir or byeith rouch … that they paie unto the sustentacion of the pageaunt … yerely, iiijd. It is one of several references to ‘red leather’, a term that I have not seen mentioned elsewhere in accounts of the industry’s history. In 1491, for example, the cordwainers paid xiijs iiijd to have ther old ordynaunces agayn delivered with serche of blake and rede lether, York and in 1546 it was agreyd that the cordyners shall bring to my Lord Mayer ther graunts whiche they have for licence to serche red ledder, York. The York cobblers’ ordinances of 1582 stated that they must mend only old bootes with read leather … and not with blacke leather . Evidently the distinction between the two had to do with more than just the colour. Nevertheless, it seems safe to assume that tanned leather was dyed red using a colouring agent, possibly the ‘rouch’ referred to above in 1476. If this is a spelling of French ‘rouge’ it may have been a solution in which there was iron oxide, although natural red dyes from plants and insects had long been used on textile fibre: kermes or grains was a scarlet dyestuff brought into Hull: 1490 ˝ dos’ graynes. In the Act of 1558 it was said that tanned leather red and unwrought should be sold only in open fair or market and by the Act of 1662 persons buying any red tanned leather within the city of London or three miles thereof were required to give notice of their purchase to one or more of the company of curriers.