In the 14th century the main occupation of local farmers in the East Grinstead area was rearing animals. This ensured a plentiful supply of animal skins and it is therefore not surprising that many local people were involved in the leather trade. Leather was used to make items such as shoes, gloves, breeches, jerkins, belts, saddles, harnesses, bottles and buckets.
There were several tanners working in East Grinstead and neighbouring villages. Tanners were men whose task it was to clean and treat the animal skins. Tanners soaked the hides for as long as a year in pits of lime-water and oak bark. After tanning, the skins were finished by curriers or leather-dressers. The hides were dressed with oils. Sometimes the hides needed smoothing or thinning with knives.
After the leather had been tanned and dressed it was ready for the craftsmen who produced the goods. This included shoemakers, glovers, cordwainers, saddlers, collar-makers and harness-makers.
Other people living in East Grinstead during the 14th century were skilled workers such as carpenters, tailors, blacksmiths, masons and weavers. There were also butchers, bakers and fishmongers in the town.
Each of these workers had a long and narrow strip of land called a portland. In East Grinstead there were about thirty-six of these strips off the High Street. The worker's house was built on the land closest to the street. The family would grow crops and keep animals like pigs on their Portland
People usually made their goods in a shed behind the house. These goods were then sold from a room that opened-out onto the high street. Above the shop was a room called the 'solar'. This is where the family lived and slept when they were not working.
East Grinstead's High Street was very wide and there was enough room for traders to display their goods on portable market stalls outside their homes. This was very useful when the town held its weekly market and its two annual fairs in April and September.
Some traders also built shops in the middle of the road at the top of the High Street near the church. This area eventually became known as Middle Row.