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Sally Cooper 1994
Sally Cooper - A Level Study - Chapter 5

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 chapters have shown the shoe industry had grown dramatically in Rushden from 1851 until the turn of the century. However when looking at the growth of the shoe industry and the growth of Rushden it is important to look at the effect that the war had upon the industry,

On the 4th of August 1914 war was declared on Germany by England and this was to have a profound effect upon both Rushden and the shoe industry.

The war meant that there was a great demand for army boots for British troops and the rest of the allies, which brought trade to Northamptonshire, shoemakers. The secretary for the Northampton branch of the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives said that " every factory is a gold mine!" which did indeed seem to be the case as is shown in various accounts of trade during World War 1. John White in his memoirs "K. B." (Keep Believing) the John White Story, recalls the urgent need for shoeworkers:

"On the 15th of the month (September) I went to the barracks to enlist, they said 'You’re engaged in the shoe trade, you’ll have to go back till we call you, they wanted shoes more than they did men!".

The demand for shoes can also be shown in the History of the Tecnic Shoe Company which was established in 1915, presumably because of the amount of trade brought to the town by the War. "After one year’s trading,  a dividend was declared of 10 per cent on the original shares and that there was to be £500 to be earned forward to the reserve". The Company grew quickly due to the amount of trade which resulted from the war and by November 1918 the capital was increased to £9000 and plans were made for expansion. The rapid growth of the Tecnic Company in the space of three years shows just how instrumental the First World War was in boosting growth of the shoe industry. The situation was similar for many other companies which were founded during the war as they took advantage of the fact that "... the boot and shoe trade has never before enjoyed such a season of prosperity."

However this boom time for the boot and shoe industry did not have an effect upon the growth of Rushden. The war effort meant that no building work was really carried out. The population of the town also remained stable which was contributed to by the fact that 402 men and 1 woman of Rushden were killed in action and their absence meant a lowering of the birth rate in the town at this time.

Despite the fact that the period from 1914-1918 had seen a remarkable growth in the shoe industry, harder times were to come after the War. John White recalls the difficulties he had in setting up a business after the war in 1919 trying to sell 'uppers' to other manufacturers:

"I got on my bike again and went to a chap of my own age, who had been in business through the War and had done well.... He told me frankly. 'No I don’t want them, the War is over, it’s going to be a tough fight'. A statement which did eventually prove to be true."

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