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John Cave

John Cave - the founder
John Cave was born on April 21, 1820 at Bencroft Farm, on the Bedford-road.  By the age of fourteen he was a plough boy, but his father’s farming was in decline and John’s mother asked him what trade he would choose to follow. So he went to work under Edmund Sherwood to learn the trade of shoemaking. 

In 1840 he was one of the first fifteen men in Rushden to sign the pledge, and three years later he was baptised by the Rev. Jonathan Whittemore (the founder of the Christian World), at the Old Baptist Church.
Jane Cave
Jane Cave

He married Miss Jane Warren from Irthlingborough on 29th January 1846. Jane was born on the 8th July 1822, daughter of Timothy Warren of Irthlingborough.

John and Jane had nine children, the last being Deborah Florence in 1867, who died on 24th November 1892 aged 25 years.

The business was started in Factory Place. They moved to a shop in High-street (later identified as no. 136) where they made hand-sewn boots. As business increased he took on clickers to cut for him and soon needed more space so the family moved to a small factory and dwelling-house – opposite Succoth Chapel – built by Mr. S. Knight, jun.  Several additions were made to the premises to cope with the growing export trade and two smaller factories were at Olney and Stanwick, but then, in 1877, came a disastrous fire. It was in the ruins of this fire at the High Street factory that his son Elias met with his death. A larger factory was built on the same site by Mr. Joseph Bayes, who emigrated in 1882 to New Zealand. Several enlargements were made to the premises, and in 1897 six lock-up shops were erected in front of the building, facing High-street, and in February, 1898 it became a limited liability company. Then came another terrible fire, in July 1901, demolishing the whole of the works.
John Cave and his sons c1900
John Cave and his sons c1900
The Commonwelath Works - postcard
Following this devastating fire, a new “model” factory was built in College Street. This was at the height of the growing shoe trade in the town, having drawn in many workers from the neighbouring counties and beyond, over the previous 20 years.  

John was also a deacon of the Old Baptist Church for 23 years, and was church treasurer for most of that period. His wife, Jane, pre-deceased him, in March, 1897, John dying in 1904 aged 82 years.

The memorial stone for John & Jane

The company of John Cave & Sons Ltd, continued under the direction of his sons.


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