Why you should be buying shoes made in Northampton

Where were your shoes made? If they aren’t from Northamptonshire then they should be. Here’s why…

Making of a Jeffery West Shoe

Making of a Jeffery West Shoe (Photos: Rhys Frampton)

– You are buying into a piece of manufacturing history

With 900 years of experience in producing leather and footwear, the English county of Northamptonshire has an unrivalled pedigree in the manufacture of quality boots and shoes. The area provided boots for the English Civil War, the American War of Independence and over 2/3rds of the 70 million pairs of footwear for the 1st World War. The industry sprung up around the area because of the plentiful supply of water and oak bark which was needed for tanning the leather.

Fact: In 1956 there were 12 tanneries in the county employing 1,518 people

Jeffery West shoes

Hand Cutting

– The lifespan of the product means that you get great value for money

Shoes made in Northampton typically have a Goodywear welted sole construction, for which the area is famous, which allows for multiple sole replacements which extend the life of the footwear. A welt is a strip of leather that is stitched to the upper and insole of a shoe, as an attach-point for the sole. The space enclosed by the welt is then filled with cork or some other filler material, and the outsole is both cemented and stitched to the welt.

Fact: the Goodywear welted sole is named after the son of Charles Goodyear who invented the machinery used for the process

Jeffrey-West-Shoes

Closing

– You are enabling the skilled craftsmen that make shoes in Northampton to remain in the industry

The production of a Goodyear welted sole shoe is a very detailed and skilled job, as you can see here in the photographs of the manufacture of a Jeffery West shoe. Many employees in the footwear industry in Northamptonshire have acquired their skills over several decades, and if production were to go abroad then their skills would be lost in this country forever.

Fact: A Goodywear welted shoe can have up to 75 parts and take over 200 seperate processes to make

Making-Jeffrey-West-Shoes--

Lasting

– The choice of designs and styles  is more exciting than ever

Gone are the days of traditional black, brown and tan calf; you only have to look at the new contemporary style of shoe made in Northampton by Jeffery West, Joseph Cheaney, Loake and Alfred Sargent to see that things have moved on to include vibrant suedes, bi-colour combinations with fabric and even styles for women at Grenson.

Fact: There are around 30 footwear manufacturers left in Northamptonshire

Jeffrey West Shoes

Welt Trimming

If you would like to learn more about the history of footwear in England then the Northampton Museum and Art Gallery is well worth a visit, with over 1200 pairs of shoes in its collection dating back to 1620. For further information on the shoe industry of Northampton visit the International Footwear Foundation website.

16 Responses

  1. Oliver Lomas says:

    Grenson – be careful! I have noticed after looking for some more casual shoes made in England from Grenson that the majority of what they produce is from India – the so-called G2 collection. The GZero and G1 shoes are made in England but they form the minority of what is on sale on the website.

    Funnily enough, this fact is not all over the website but under the section called ‘How we make our shoes’.

    I wouldn’t mind as long a they didn’t have Grenson England plastered everywhere. Grenson England and India would be more honest.

    • Kate Hills says:

      Hi Oliver

      You are certainly not the first person to have raised this about Grenson.
      I will try and delve deeper so that we can all get a bit of clarity on this one

  2. Richard Dews says:

    The same is true of Loake, its casual shoe range are also made in India.

  3. martin campion says:

    yet again you seem to ignore the Hotter shoe company from Lancashire.This firm employs hundreds of people,exports round the world and even had a royal visit last moonth,yet still no mention.

  4. Nadia Kahn says:

    Please can you find a British Ladies Shoe Company that Manufactures in the UK 100%. I was about to purchase £120.00 Ladies shoes from Grenson. When I read that they Manufacture the shoe that I want in India. Why should I pay £120.00 for a shoe that is made in a factory in INDIA and its worker paid less. That is UNJUST!.

    • martin campion says:

      Try HOTTER SHOES,made in Lancashire by a family firm employing hundreds of local people,for comfort and style and design no need to go anywhere else,cant think why this firm is still not listed,despite bringing it to the publishers attention.

      • Kate Hills says:

        Hi Martin

        As i said before, we will definitely be featuring Hotter Shoes soon. I am waiting for them to get back to me for an interview.
        You seem very keen to promote them – if you work for the company then please let me know. Maybe you could help with the interview!

        All the best
        Kate

        • martin campion says:

          no connection with hotters, only a satisfied customer of many years standing,ready to promote uk products and jobs in my area.A sucess story that needs telling.

    • Kate Hills says:

      Hi Nadia

      Unfortunately it appears that the Grenson ladies shoes are not made here, which is a shame.
      For ladies shoes made in the UK you could try Hotter Shoes, Van Dal, Yull or Dr Martens.
      Sadly there are very few manufacturers of ladies shoes left in Britain – i blame it on cheap high street shoes 🙁
      Kate

  5. […] Jeffery and Guy West started their shoe business from the Jeffery family footwear factory in the famous shoe making town. Jeffery West don’t make the traditional toe-cap Oxford, or classic Brogue that Northampton […]

  6. gilly porter says:

    are any childrens shoes make in the UK?

    • Kate Hills says:

      Yes. There is Daisy Roots, Starchild shoes and Inch Blue, all of which make soft leather shoes.
      However, when it comes for shoes for older children, such as those that they might wear for school, then no, i haven’t found any yet.
      This is probably down to how competitive prices on children’s shoes are.
      i would love to hear about a British-made children’s shoe company making hard soled shoes. If anyone knows of one then please get in touch.

  7. Ken Craig says:

    Take all the comments on Northampton made shoe quality. I once thought id gone mad when i paid £ 89 for a pair of Grensons.
    I re cycled them over 16 yrs later because they looked a little tired for general use!
    Hows that for value, & they didnt sit in the wardrobe i can assure you.
    Great shame that some are made in India.

  8. Peter Devonshire says:

    I am proud to say I still have a pair of brown Loake brogues that I bought in 1974. I still occasionally wear them. Also have two pairs of Barkers and another pair of Loakes

  9. Chris Kennedy says:

    Well after looking for some time for a nice pair of wedding shoes most of the Loke brand seem to be made in India. I have also been looking at Jeff West among others that are apparently manufactured in England and can only find a hand full that are not made in India. I begrudge paying over £130 for a pair of shoes that probably cost less than £10 to make. The cost of labour and overheads in India are ridiculously low and the quality is nowhere near that of products made in this country. It is disappointing that so many people don’t support British manufacturing. It is also sad to see some of these manufacturer’s take advantage of these low cost regions.

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