|Due to retire shortly from the shoe trade, which he has given 67 years' service, is Arthur J. Bignell, 79-year-old head of Bignells, Ltd., and one of the oldest active manufacturers in the country.
Born in London "within the sound of Bow bells" Mr. Bignell has always had his home there although he spends alternate weeks in Rushden, where the head office of the company is situated.
He entered the shoe trade at the age of 12, when he was engaged by a London company for six shillings a week. He stayed with that company for thirty years, rising to the post of shoe buyer, and then joined a company at Leicester for 12 months.
His next step was to engage himself as a manufacturer's agent for Liberty Shoes, and W. H. Smith and Son, of Leicester, from there he went to the Bacup Shoe Co., in Lancashire, and joined the board. He relinquished that position in 1936.
Bignells Ltd., incorporated in 1936, was formed by the amalgamation of the businesses of Arthur J. Bignell and Son (London), W. S. Gilbert and Sons (Wellingborough and Rushden), and Norton and Bignell Ltd. (Kettering), with the subsequent addition of the Popular Boot Co., Raunds, and Cunnington's factory in Crabb Street, Rushden.
In 1940, new offices, known as Imperial House, Rushden, from which the whole organisation is managed, were completed.
Mr. Bignell's interest in Rushden and the surrounding district has not been a purely business one, and many churches, schools and other charitable causes have received his support. His particular interest in the town is the Darby and Joan Club, of which he is a member.
Mr. and Mrs. Bignell celebrated their golden wedding in 1952. One son Eric Bignell, who was joint managing director of the firm, was killed by enemy action in 1941. Another son is the assistant chief accountant to the Government of Uganda. There are also two married daughters.