A trip to The Tannery, Holt

Published: Monday 2nd Mar 2020

Written by: Isobel Taylor

The Tannery is an independent leather goods specialist offering stylish leather handbags, accessories, shoes, travel bags, briefcases and more. With shops in Holt, Norwich and Woodbridge, Suffolk, The Tannery is a great spot to find a unique and high-quality item. 

Recently, I caught up with Lindsay Furniss, founder of the Tannery to find out more about the specialist leather goods she sells, why she thinks an excellent customer experience is so important and why she loves Norfolk!

How did the idea for the Tannery come about?

I first moved to Norfolk in the early 2000s, primarily for my children. With family connections in the area, I wanted to move to Holt so my children could walk to school and enjoy Holt’s close community atmosphere. I did not have any intention to set up a shop but knew, after spending the past 16 years raising my children, that I wanted to get back to work.

It was my husband’s desire to buy a new leather briefcase that sparked the idea to open The Tannery as a destination for people to buy fine quality leather goods. We had been travelling to Italy for years and knew it as a great place to find stylish, colourful leather items that we could bring home to Norfolk. 

In early 2006 we started the research for the business, travelling to Italy to sample and buy the leather goods that would go in the shop. With all the items selected from traditional Italian factories, we opened the store in May 2006 in Lees Yard in Holt. Starting with a few leather goods including belts, purses and bags all focussed on everyday needs and of course the all important briefcase! From here the company grew from strength to strength, moving to Bull Street in Holt, opening up a menswear shop opposite and opening stores in Exchange Street in Norwich and the Suffolk village of Woodbridge. 

Tannery leather bag
Leather Messenger Bag part of the Old Tuscany Range

What do you love most about your job?

As well as expanding The Tannery we have also opened up Pollard & Read in Holt (a specialist lingerie store stocking a carefully selected range of underwear, nightwear, swimwear and hosiery) and The Three Horseshoes, a pub located in nearby Briston. However, I still work in The Tannery once or twice a week to help support the team create a great experience for every customer who walks through our door.

My relationship with the customers is at the heart of the business. I have made some great friends through the shop and my relationship with the customers means I can always keep them in mind when I head to Europe to buy the next season’s products. When you enter the shop I want customers to be struck by that beautiful smell of leather and a welcoming, knowledgeable team who are passionate about the products they sell. We will help guide you through our stock, answering any questions you have so you can leave with a product that you are going to love for the next 10 years.

Leather briefcase being made in traditional Italian way
A traditional Italian technique being used to create a Tannery briefcase

What is special about your products?

14 years after the shop opened I am still very much involved in the buying process. I have developed great relationships with the factory owners in Italy and we now buy from all over Europe including Germany and Spain. Many of the goods are still made with traditional techniques and it is such a treat to see the products being made in the factories and then seeing them appear on our shop floors. 

Leather Bags being made in the factory
Emiliano Chiarugi (pictured here) and his family have been making leather goods in Florence since 1969

I have always been a stickler for quality, comfort and practicality. When I was working in London, I was once given the task of buying a present for ex-Prime Minister Harold Wilson, no less! This past experience has given me  a great eye for quality. We have a few brands but we tend to focus on unique, specialist leather goods of the highest-quality. When I go to the factories I am always looking for beautiful products that will last a long time and are going to be functional. Ergonomics is really important. A handbag that you can’t get on your shoulder or isn’t secure when walking around town isn’t useful. I always ensure that my products are practical as well as beautiful.

Leather Saddle Bag
Chiarugi Old Tuscany Messenger Bag made using traditional techniques in Italy

What is your favourite item you sell?

Today the product range is extensive and includes exquisite handbags, colourful gloves, gorgeous shoes and elegant travel bags. It’s very difficult for me to choose but one of my favourite products of the moment (and it is very popular with customers too) is the Gianni Conti Backpack. A beautifully made, stylish leather backpack that can also be converted to a useful shoulder bag. 

What do you love about owning a business in Norfolk?

I am a strong advocate for the community of local businesses that make up Holt. I enjoy the fact that businesses are so supportive of one another. Every year The Tannery sponsors the Holt Festival, a glorious celebration of theatre, music, art and spoken word which really brings the whole community together every summer. I also particularly look forward to the 1940s festival that takes place in September, with the Tannery creating a fantastic 1940s themed window display each year.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

Holkham Beach

As a family we still love Norfolk for the same reason we moved here in the early 2000s. Norfolk is such a child-friendly area where you can really enjoy being outdoors. When not at work we enjoy walking the dog on the beaches at Wells and Holkham or taking a picnic out to Blakeney point to spot the seals. For an interesting day, the Muckleburgh collection at Weybourne is great and I’m looking forward to visiting Langham Dome after its recent restoration. 

Did you know that The Tannery is part of our Holiday Extra scheme? Book a holiday with Norfolk Cottages and you will automatically receive a voucher for 10% off your first purchase over £50.

The Tannery is just one of the many unique and specialist Norfolk businesses that we support and are part of our Holiday Extra Scheme. Head to our Holiday Extras page to find out more.


Isobel Taylor



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