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Grenson's Centenary 1966

The interior of the works
The building has change little since it was built in 1895
Workers at the factory in 1960
Postcard - about 1895
The Factory
Peggy Wyman, Ann Salter & Kathy Jenkins 1960

In 1866 William Green started making shoes in a house in Green’s Yard, when the trade was all hand work. After the initial cutting out of the pieces, they were passed to “out workers” to be stitched together by men in their homes or workshops. Some would specialise in uppers or heels or soles and as these were returned the shoes were assembled and stitched together by another. When machinery started to come into use, it became necessary to gather the men into one place to work and by 1895 William had built their fine factory at the corner of Queen Street and Cromwell Road. Just 6 years later William died and his son Mr C. A. K. Green took over the business. Under his management the company also built a factory in 1913 at Irchester where they made cemented and moccasin footwear alongside the welted shoes that “Grenson” were noted for. About this time they had also started to keep “in stock” shoes so that small orders might be filled immediately. In the 1930s they pioneered a combined cemented/welted shoe construction and kept their quality high. Styles changed very little until the mid 1940s.

1919 advert In the 2000th edition
1919 advert
In the 2000th edition of Shoe & Leather News

After the Second World War, new styles were rapidly being designed and fashion was coming to the masses through the Hollywood films then being shown in cinemas . The lasts were being regularly changed to keep up with these changes and the discarded piles meant that many shoe workers were burning the old wooden lasts on their home fires. The number of styles offered was increasing too.

The management was taken over by Mr C W S Green following his father’s (Mr C A K) death in 1947, and under his chairmanship fellow directors were Mr J W H Green, Dr D C Green, Dr C R H Green and Mr H F Pinnock who had been a past president of the Rushden & District Shoe Manufacturers’ Association.

As well as calf leather, the company made shoes in unusual leathers: camel, sea lion, water bison and antelope. Hand sewn shoes was still a big part of their trade in 1966 when they celebrated their centenary, with 40 men still employed on that, with some working from home and some in the factory. They also had six representatives covering the Great Britain and were also showing their wares at international shows in Montreal & Chicago, as well as to Europe.

The staff had now grown to 400 and twenty per cent of their trade was going overseas. A new range of soft leather shoes was taken to the “Shoe Week” trade fair at London. The price of these shoes was between 5 & 7 guineas. (*a guinea was £1.1s – that’s £1.05 today)

Changing Styles 1866 - 1966
from a 1966 catalogue
1866 1900 1934 1966

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