English Shoemakers: From Northampton to London

For centuries, shoe making has been an essential industry in the United Kingdom, with a rich history and deep cultural significance. The country has been at the forefront of the industry, with Northampton and London being two of the most renowned hubs for shoe making.

Northampton, located in the East Midlands, has been a center for shoe making since the 16th century. The town’s location, abundant supply of high-quality leather, and access to water power made it an ideal location for shoe making. Over the years, Northampton became famous for its innovative shoe making techniques, such as the Goodyear Welted method. This involved stitching the sole to the upper and using a cork filling for comfort, which is still widely used today and is considered a hallmark of quality in the industry.

In the 18th century, London became the epicenter of the footwear industry, with many of the city’s cobblers specializing in creating bespoke shoes for the wealthy and fashionable. It was during this time that famous shoe makers such as John Lobb, James Clark, and Joseph Cheaney were founded. These brands continue to be leaders in the industry today, producing high-quality shoes that combine traditional craftsmanship with modern design.

The Industrial Revolution brought significant transformation to the shoe making industry, with the introduction of mechanization and mass production. However, London’s cobblers remained committed to their craft, continuing to produce bespoke shoes of the highest quality. During this time, the industry also experienced rapid growth and expansion, with Northampton emerging as a major center for manufacturing shoes for the military.

Shoe making has played an important role in the UK’s economy and cultural heritage, providing employment for many skilled artisans and contributing to the country’s reputation for quality craftsmanship. Today, Northampton and London remain important centers of the industry, with many well-known brands continuing to manufacture their shoes there. The industry has evolved with new materials and technologies, but the traditional techniques and quality craftsmanship remain an integral part of the industry’s identity.

Here are some of the most notable shoemakers of Great Britain.

Barker Shoes

Barker Shoes is a renowned British shoemaker established in Earls Barton, Northamptonshire in 1880. Initially producing shoes for farmers and industrial workers, the brand gained popularity for its quality and craftsmanship, receiving a Royal Warrant in 1920. During WWII, Barker Shoes produced shoes for soldiers, becoming a vital supplier to the British military.

Pricing starts at £120.

Visit their website, www.barkershoes.com

Cheaney Shoes

Cheaney Shoes, a premium shoe brand founded in 1886, has been producing high-quality shoes for over a century. The Northamptonshire-based brand is renowned for its elegant and timeless designs, crafted with traditional techniques.

Prices starting from around £300.

Visit their website, www.cheaney.co.uk.

Tricker’s

Tricker’s, a Northampton-based brand renowned for its durable and comfortable shoes, was founded in 1829. The company has a long and rich history of shoemaking and offers a wide range of styles suitable for both casual and formal occasions. Tricker’s shoes start from around £300, making them a valuable investment for those who appreciate quality footwear with a legacy of craftsmanship.

Visit their website, www.trickers.com.

Church’s

Church’s is a luxury brand that was founded by Thomas Church in 1873 in Northampton. Initially, the brand made men’s shoes, but over time, it expanded to cater to women as well. During the World Wars, Church’s contributed to the war effort by producing footwear for soldiers. The brand gained popularity after the wars and became even more renowned in the 1960s when it was worn by the Beatles. Church’s has continued to expand its range of products while maintaining its commitment to quality and craftsmanship over the years.

Prices start from around £350.

Visit their website, www.church-footwear.com.

Crockett & Jones

The company was founded by Charles Jones and his brother-in-law, James Crockett, in Northampton, England around 1879. Northampton had become a center for shoemaking in the mid-19th century, and Crockett & Jones quickly established a reputation for producing high-quality footwear.

In the early days, the company focused on producing shoes for men, but over time they expanded their offerings to include women’s shoes as well. They also began exporting their shoes to other countries, including the United States, where they became popular with customers who appreciated their combination of quality, style, and durability.

During World War II, the company turned its attention to producing shoes for the British military, and they were awarded the prestigious Queen’s Award for Export in 1966. Today, Crockett & Jones remains a family-owned business, with the fifth generation of the founding family involved in the day-to-day operations.

In addition to their main factory in Northampton, the company has also opened stores in London, Paris, and New York, as well as selling their shoes through a network of authorized dealers around the world.

Prices start from around £350.

Visit their website, www.crockettandjones.com.

Grenson

Founded in 1866 in Northamptonshire, Grenson is a British brand known for its high-quality shoes.

During World War I, Grenson produced shoes for British soldiers, and in the 1920s and 1930s, the company became known for its “country brogues,” which were designed for outdoor activities such as hunting and hiking. In the 1950s and 1960s, Grenson shoes became popular with the “teddy boy” subculture in Britain, who appreciated their distinctive style and quality.

In the 1990s, Grenson faced financial difficulties and was eventually purchased by a Japanese shoe company. However, in 2005, the brand was bought back by Tim Little, who had previously worked for other British shoe brands such as John Lobb and Church’s.

Prices start from around £250.

Visit their website, www.grenson.com.

Alfred Sargent

Founded in 1899 in Rushden, Northamptonshire. The company has a long history of traditional shoemaking, with four generations of the Sargent family involved in the business. The company has grown significantly over the years, and in 1999 celebrated its hundredth year of production. Today, Alfred Sargent and Sons continues to produce high-quality shoes using traditional techniques, and is highly regarded by shoe enthusiasts worldwide.

Prices start from around £400.

Visit their website, www.alfredsargent.co.uk.

Sanders & Sanders

Sanders & Sanders is a family business that has been making high-quality men’s footwear since 1873. The company is based in Northamptonshire and uses Goodyear Welted construction and cemented soles, ensuring quality with ISO9001. The brand offers three different labels: Sanders for elegant gentleman’s shoes and boots, Charles Horrell for high-quality value-priced footwear, and Regent for professional riding boots for all genders and ages. The company exports 80% of its production globally and offers both a stock program and made-to-order options with private labeling possibilities.

Prices start from around £200.

Visit their website, www.sanders-uk.com.

John Lobb

John Lobb is a British bootmaker that creates durable designs for everyday use, including bespoke and ready-to-wear collections. The brand was founded over 150 years ago and has a rich history of innovation and craftsmanship, including creating hollow heeled boots for gold miners during the Australian gold rush. John Lobb is now owned by Hermès and has a global retail network, but still operates from its London location. The brand’s designs incorporate artisanal techniques and archive silhouettes, with a focus on comfort and durability. John Lobb’s footwear is versatile and timeless, making them ideal companions for life’s journeys.

Prices start from around £1,000.

Visit their website, www.johnlobb.com.

Edward Green

Founded in 1890 in Northampton, England. The company has a long-standing reputation for producing high-quality, handmade shoes using traditional techniques and the finest materials. Edward Green shoes are known for their classic and elegant designs, and have been worn by notable figures such as Winston Churchill and Prince Charles. Today, the company continues to produce shoes in its Northampton factory, with a focus on quality and craftsmanship.

Prices start from around £900.

Visit their website, www.edwardgreen.com.

Solovair

Solovair is a British footwear company that traces its roots back to the early 20th century. In 1881, a company called the Northamptonshire Productive Society was founded in the town of Wollaston, Northamptonshire, to produce boots and shoes for working people. In 1901, the company changed its name to R. Griggs & Co., and in the 1950s, it acquired the patent rights to produce the iconic Dr. Martens boots.

In the late 1950s, R. Griggs & Co. decided to create its own brand of footwear, and the Solovair name was born. The company started producing shoes with the distinctive yellow stitching that had become synonymous with Dr. Martens, but also added its own touches, such as a unique sole unit with a distinctive rib and diamond pattern.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Solovair became a popular brand among skinheads, a subculture that emerged in Britain in the late 1960s. The skinheads adopted the distinctive boots and shoes as part of their uniform, and Solovair became a symbol of their rebellious style.

In the 1990s, R. Griggs & Co. sold the Dr. Martens brand to a private equity firm, but retained ownership of the Solovair name and the factory where the shoes were produced. Today, Solovair continues to produce high-quality footwear using traditional methods and materials. The shoes are still made in the same factory in Wollaston, and are highly regarded for their durability, comfort, and classic style.

Prices start at £180.

Visit their website, www.nps-solovair.co.uk.

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