One of the most remarkable towns in Northamptonshire, although but little known in history, is Rushden, which, although until a comparative recent date was devoid of immediate railway communications, has made surprising progress. It is difficult to say with absolute accuracy who were responsible for the foundation of the shoe trade in this town, but we believe that the Dentons, Claridges, and the Caves were the original pioneers of the shoe industry, which is its principal mainstay. In the early part of its career it devoted its attention to the manufacture of men’s goods of a cheaper kind than that made in the county town, and for many years devoted itself to the production of footwear mainly for the wholesale trade. But, earnest in purpose and energetic in action, it soon enlarged its scope, and by gradually improving the nature of its output established itself in the Colonies and in almost all the markets abroad. Today it is a thriving town of about 15,000 souls, possessing every up-to-date institution, rejoicing in the manufacture of men’s and boys’ boots for all countries and also for the purpose of our Allies, besides producing large quantities of leather trade accessories, and last, but not least, shoe machinery of the most modern description. It is now served by the Midland Railway Company and a complete service of motor ’buses and is in immediate touch with Northampton, Kettering, Wellingborough and all the surrounding districts engaged in shoe and leather manufactures. It is easily reached from London and the North and is destined in years to come to be regarded as one of the principal shoe-producing districts of the Midlands. It is, furthermore, deeply and financially interested in the production of chrome and curried upper leathers, which we are convinced will take their place with the best productions of the North as well as those of America and other countries.
What trade leaders think by C. W. Horrell
In writing an article on the trade one is particularly interested in, especially when it has been subjected to so many changes and reforms, is not an easy thing to do so in a short paragraph. When one thinks of the future and the complications and difficulties that will have to be faced for the next 10 or 20 years, there are things which are prominent in one’s mid.
First and foremost is that of Technical Education. One has no wish to cast any reflection upon what has been attempted, and, to a certain extent, achieved. At the same time, it should be made much more effective to a larger number; and this can only be done by facing the matter boldly. A Technical Institute should be established in every manufacturing centre, fully equipped with all up-to-date plant necessary to teach the practical as well as the scientific side of our industry. The instruction given should be of such a character that will encourage and appeal to those of average ability, and not run, as a number of our colleges are, for the benefit of prize winners. Such institutes should be supervised and chiefly governed and supported by the various manufacturers’ associations or federations in order to make them a success. It would also be necessary that the instruction given should be during the working hours of the day, and attendance would need then to be compulsory.
A Better Understanding with Labour.
In the second place, one cannot help thinking that a better and more sane understanding will have to be arrived at with regard to labour. It is scarcely necessary to refer to the past or even present methods; they seem altogether too antiquated for the future commercial war which have to be faced at the conclusion of the present military and naval one. Such questions as minimum wages and restricted output are things which will have to be forgotten, and it would be an advantage if capital and labour could meet prior to the conclusion of the War and discuss these things in a frank and open manner.
In the third place, there is a question of supplies a factor that will have to be considered. There must of necessity be a considerable shortage of both upper and bottom stock for many months to come, which will cause some dislocation at the end of hostilities. There will be no great floating stocks, and the requirements of the home trade, as well as those of France, Russia and America, must be very great. Factors should do all they can to encourage the manufacture of lines which could be produced from the stocks of offal that are not only in the hands of boot manufacturers but also in the hands of leather dressers in the way of shoulders and bellies. This would to some extent tide over the difficulty.
The great need of manufacturers has been that of organisation and one is glad to know that very great improvement has taken place with reference to this. Instead of jealousy and secrecy there is a strong tendency for manufacturers to be open and frank with each other. The time has arrived when larger manufacturers are convinced that they lose nothing by giving of experience to those whose businesses are of smaller dimensions. This is as it should be if the trade is to be placed on a higher plane.