History of county’s footwear industry is now online

Alfred Sargent & Sons factory in Rushden
Alfred Sargent & Sons factory in Rushden

A website has been launched to give an overview of the county’s boot and shoe heritage, telling the story of decline and renaissance of the county’s internationally renowned footwear industry.

The website presents the story of the industry and its workers from the mid-19th century to the present day. Featured are manufacturers such as Cheaneys, Loake, Grenson and Church’s.

The website allows you to search for information across many of the county’s towns and villages, learn about designs and techniques and find out about the industry’s connections to royalty, explorers, rock stars and Darth Vader.

School learning packs about the industry are available to download and the public are also invited to contribute their own photos, memories, information or stories about the boot and shoe industry in Northamptonshire.

Richard Kottler, chief executive of the British Footwear Association, based in Wellingborough, said: “Despite the global recession, the UK footwear industry, which is worth over £6bn per annum in total sales, remains a very substantial asset.

“The Northamptonshire manufacturers continue to lead the way in both domestic and international sales, experiencing growth of between seven and 10 per cent over the last two years with international exports continuing to increase as a percentage of their total sales, now about 60 per cent.

“Many of them are expanding production, actively recruiting new staff and are constantly moving into new markets, especially in China and other parts of the Far East.

“This website provides a fantastic insight into the industry which is a very special part of Northamptonshire’s proud heritage, and should be applauded.”

Cllr Heather Smith, deputy leader of the county council, said: “This is an excellent website and resource that explores our unique footwear heritage and highlights the ongoing economic and cultural importance of the sector to Northamptonshire, and I urge all members of the public and our local schools to take a look and contribute where possible.”

The website was created by Northamptoshire County Council and partners with contributions from Kettering Museum, Dr Martens and volunteers from Desborough Heritage Centre, Long Buckby Museum, Daventry Museum, Earls Barton Museum and Wollaston Museum.

It is a direct legacy of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad project GLOBAL FOOTPRINT, which celebrated the county’s defining creative economy through a mix of contemporary art commissions and living heritage events. The project received National Lottery funding from Arts Council England, Heritage Lottery Fund and the Legacy Trust UK.

To visit the website click here.