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Sally Cooper 1994
Sally Cooper - A Level Study - Chapter 4

This work was done by Sally Cooper as her A Level History ''Personal Study''. Sally entitled her project
'' The growth of the shoe industry and its effect on the growth of Rushden''.

As the previous chapter shows, Rushden in 1851 was a fairly small village with a population of 1460 which had been steadily increasing since 1801. See Fig 1. However 50 years later in 1901 the population had dramatically increased to 12,459, therefore the question must be asked, why the population grew so rapidly in a relatively short space of time, and what effect did the growth of population have upon the town.

The principle reason for the growth of Rushden can be seen as the expansion of the boot and shoe industry. The trade had been apparent in the town for many years previously. Tanners were first recorded in Rushden in 1462 when Thomas Milch fouled the brook with tanning bark and was brought before the Manorial Court.

A tannery was also recorded in Rushden between 1768 - 1800.

By 1849 there were six shoe makers and other associated businesses, but by 1898 only 40 years later, this had increased to 61 which is shown in the trade directories for the industry. This already begins to suggest that the shoe industry had a great deal to do with the expansion of the town. This idea can be further supported by the fact that at the time Rushden began to grow so did the shoe industry when mechanisation processes began to take hold with the introduction of the Singer Sewing Machine in 1856 and the Blake Sewer in 1890. As the graphs in figure 2, show it was at this time that both the numbers of shoe factories and leather related industries and the population of Rushden began to increase so did the numbers of people employed in the shoe industry.

It seems that the industry went through a period of fluctuation between 1850 and the late 1870's despite the coming of mechanisation see figure 3. However this can be explained by the fact that most of those employed in the shoe trade were still mainly outworkers at this time and so did not necessarily have to work in Rushden which may explain why the numbers of leather related trades actually decreased in the late 1840's. Another explanation for this may be  the fact that fewer coaches travelled through Rushden due to the fact that the London - Manchester Railway opened in 1849 and therefore much of the trade passed out of Rushden and it became more difficult for shoemakers to transport their goods to major cities. However a better road network and the coming of the railway to Rushden changed this.

The growth of the shoe industry had a huge impact on the town of Rushden, as the population grew so did building work around the town and it can be considered to be the victorian terraces which typify the town and many of the roads which had existed in medieval tunes became prosperous victorian streets.

The map in figure 4, shows when streets of victorian Rushden were built as well as the location of the factories, which clearly demonstrates where factories were built so were houses. If this information is used in conjunction with information on the growth of the town’s population the impact of the shoe industry can clearly be seen.

In the 1871 census a population of 2,122 was recorded.

The railway was also brought to the town because of the shoe industry. The nearest line to Rushden in 1857 was Irchester Station and there was a bus link to the station from Rushden. However the growth of the shoe industry can be directly linked to the railway being brought to Rushden as David Hall says:-

"Between 1877 and 1890 the number of shoe manufacturers at Rushden more than doubled and there was increasing pressure upon the Midland Railway to provide a branch line to the town. The branch line was opened on September 1st 1893 for goods traffic and on May 1st 1894 for passengers."

Therefore this can be considered to be another important effect that the growth of the shoe industry had upon the growth and development of Rushden in the period from 1851 and the outbreak of the First World War.

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