The manufacturing of cricket balls is one of Tonbridges oldest industries, a descendant of the saddle maker’s craft. The water from the water from the Medway was apparently particularly good for tanning the leather, tanned dyed Leather could often be seen hanging from the railings at the station approach.
Skilled craftsman Kenneth Jeffery known locally as (Bon) is making tiny stitches using special waxed threads. Each person made up his own thread and covers and each had his own preferred wax for polishing. This was a newpaper artical from the Kent Messanger in the 1960s
Cricket balls are made from a core of cork, which is layered with tightly wound string, and covered by a leather case with a slightly raised sewn seam. The covering is made of four pieces of leather shaped similar to the peel of a quartered orange, but one half is rotated by 90 degrees with respect to the other.
The ‘equator’ of the ball is stitched with string to form the seam, with a total of six rows of stitches. The remaining two joints between the leather pieces are left unstitched.
This process was kept top secret among the different companies as they all had there own trade secrets. I once cut a ball in half to find also wrapped in the twine duck feathers hopefully to give the ball more bounce.
Most of the workers made there own tools small cogs from clocks were used to gage the indents on the ball for the perfect stitch. Making your shoestring thread for the seam stitching was made by useing 6 pieces of thread tied together and hooked over a nail - bees wax run up and down the thread, then a boars hair was inserted in the middle and the thread was rubbed together to form a rigid thread to complete the seam
Some of the local famous ball makers Duke & Son, Stuart Surridge, John Wisden, Gray Nicholls , Twort & Sons and Ives all eventually amalgamated to become Tonbridge sports industries. Situated along side the river next to the great bridge.