William Lennon & Co

Founded 1899

William Lennon & Co is a family-owned boot manufacturing company that specialises in producing traditional, handmade leather boots.

William Lennon & Co History

During the late 1800s, the villages surrounding Derbyshire’s limestone quarrying area had a high demand for durable work boots for the quarries and lead mines. This led to the emergence of “cobblers” in most villages, who worked from their own front rooms in Stoney Middleton and Eyam, operating as cottage industry boot makers and repairers.

In 1873, a young orphan named William Anthony Lennon from Manchester was sent to Stoney Middleton as an apprentice to cobbler Joseph Heginbotham. After mastering his trade, William ventured out on his own, joining forces with Joseph and Garfield Mason to establish a boot repair and manufacturing business called “Mason Bros & Lennon.”

In 1904, they acquired the Old Corn Mill, which still serves as the company’s headquarters to this day. The partnership lasted until World War I, when it dissolved, prompting William to establish his own company, “W A Lennon.”

During World War I, the company faced challenges due to a two-year strike in 1918, when many employees of boot companies participated in the labor movement. It was the only significant period when the factory remained closed until 2020. William struggled to resume production for six months, as the workforce was depleted due to the strike and workers contributing to the war efforts.

In 1933, with the arrival of electricity in the village, the production process received a boost with the installation of modern machinery. The previous Ruston paraffin engine used in the factory was donated to the Northampton Museum of Shoe-making.

William Lennon, who had nine children with his wife Charlotte Goddard, passed away in 1940, leaving behind the legacy of “William Lennon & Co.” Four of his sons, Percy, Arnold, Sydney, and Ebeneezer, along with their sister Lillian, continued the family business under this name.

During World War II, the boot industry faced difficulties meeting the demand, as many younger workers were recruited to work in munition factories in nearby villages. The four brothers, working late into the night, operated heavy-duty machinery without any safety devices, resulting in Sid and Eb losing the ends of their fingers due to accidents.

In the 1950s, William Lennon & Co underwent a significant directional change. Regulations governing the production of safety footwear caused a decline in demand for handmade leather-soled boots in industrial environments. New materials meeting the BS1870 license regulations became available, rendering the traditional machines in the factory unused for the next 40 to 45 years.

In 1966, William’s grandson William Leslie Lennon (Les) joined the company to work alongside his father and uncles. Percy left due to a falling-out with his brothers, while Eb and Sid retired once they were convinced that Arnold and William could manage the business without them. Arnold continued working well beyond retirement age until his passing, passing on the company to the third generation, Les Lennon.

New machines installed in the 1960s revolutionized production methods, allowing large quantities to be produced quickly. Although this brought the company closer to a production line model, William Lennon still remained the smallest safety boot manufacturer in the UK, producing 600 pairs per week.

In the late 1980s, UK-manufactured safety footwear gradually declined as companies turned to cheaper foreign imports. However, the fourth generation of the family, William’s great-grandchildren Libs and Dan, joined the business during this time and currently run the company.

As sourcing components became increasingly challenging, William Lennon became one of only two remaining companies in the UK producing safety footwear using the vulcanising method. The other remaining company closed in 2010, leaving William Lennon & Co as the sole UK boot manufacturer with the capability to produce vulcanised soles. They are also the

only remaining factory in the UK manufacturing external steel toe-cap Engineman’s boots.

Over the last 20 years, there has been a resurgence in demand for traditional “retro” footwear and products labeled as “Made in England.” Initially driven by the Japanese market, this trend quickly spread to the UK, Scandinavia, Australia, and the US. Customers recognized the high quality and durability of handmade English products compared to cheaper imports from Eastern countries. This renewed demand prompted William Lennon to revive the dormant machines from the 1950s, cleaning, repairing, retuning, and putting them back into operation.

The factory employs over 200 individual processes to craft a pair of William Lennon boots, all done by hand using the original machinery. Unlike modern factories with robotic automated machines, no single process allows the boot to leave an operator’s hand.

One of the most distinctive features of William Lennon boots is the unique method used to attach the soles to the uppers. They employ brass wire screwing machines, only four of which are known to exist in the world, with the fourth located in New Zealand. This traditional method is stronger than the Goodyear welted construction and particularly suitable for their traditional boots.

Today, William Lennon primarily focuses on traditional leather boots, although they still produce their “Ruff-Lander” range of safety boots. The company has come full circle in its history, now producing “the most authentic WWI replica B5 boot.” The B5 boots were developed in response to dissatisfaction with uncomfortable replica boots from overseas. Using original tools and lasts from the war era, combined with rough-out leather hides sourced from a family-run tannery in Chesterfield, William Lennon created a prototype B5 boot. The positive response led to the permanent inclusion of these replica boots in their product range. They have been featured on popular shows like “Downton Abbey” and tested by Matt Baker on “Countryfile.”

The company has also expanded its range to include other re-enactment styles, such as the WWII Ammunition boots and their version of the Canadian Mark V combat boot.

With their ability to customize boots according to specific requirements and fine-tune standard styles for individuals or company brands, William Lennon boots are now sold worldwide, and the company looks forward to continuing this tradition for years to come.

Read more on William Lennon & Co history.

Style and Occasion
William Lennon & Co


Where do William Lennon & Co manufacture?

William Lennon & Co manufacture their products in Derbyshire.



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Last modified: 2023-06-10 10:21

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