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Shoe Trade in Rushden in WWI

The Rushden Echo, 8th May, 1914, transcribed by Gill Hollis

The Crisis in the Boot and Shoe Trade

It is a source of profound satisfaction to us to be able to announce that the threatened trouble in the boot and shoe trade has now been averted. After prolonged conferences between the Manufacturers' Association and the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives, a provisional agreement was reached on Tuesday on most of the outstanding points. The provisional agreement is, of course, subject to ratification, but it provides for a new piece-work system in which there shall be a minimum wage and a graduated scale of wages for male operatives. There will be a minimum wage for certain operations hitherto exempted from the minimum. Female operatives will have a minimum wage, and provision has been made for regularising labour. Wages will be increased on the existing minimum by 2s., paid in two instalments, extending over the year beginning January 1st next, and assurances have been made by both sides to endeavour to effect a uniform system of labour conditions. In regard to the restriction of boy labour, the opinion was expressed that there should be one boy to three men. On the question of the minimum wage and graduated scale it was agreed that the increase should be put into operation simultaneously in the various districts. The increase mentioned represents an increase upon existing minima. This increase will be to the extent of one shilling as from January 1st, 1915, and a second shilling as from December 1st, 1915, both increases to be paid so as to be included in one year. Overtime will be restricted to a certain number of weeks in the year, probably nine. We are not able to gather any information with regard to the working hours. The trade union representatives are of the opinion that, while they have not gained all they wished, they have obtained some very real concessions.

Rushden Echo, 14th August, 1914, transcribed by Gill Hollis

Buying Boots in Rushden and District

The representative of the Army Clothing Department, Mr. F. J. Lovell, formerly of Rushden, who was accompanied by Mr. Swaysland, technical boot making instructor for the County, on Saturday last sat at the Waverley Hotel, Rushden, for the purpose of receiving samples of footwear suitable for army purposes. Practically the whole of the Rushden and district manufacturers responded to the invitation to meet Mr. Lovell, whose visit has resulted in several orders being placed for stock lines. We understand that Mr. Lovell has been authorised by the War Office to immediately purchase any boots suited to the requirements of Recruits and Territorials.

Interviewed by a representative of the “Rushden Echo,” one of the principal Rushden manufacturers said that the outlook for the general trade was poor, but that the Army boot manufacturers will be hard at work. It is reported that Messrs. Adams Bros., of Raunds, are working in three shifts, night and day. The War Office are inviting tenders for future supplies, and in a circular accompanying such invitation it is stated that contractors will be permitted under certain conditions, to keep their employees at work for longer hours than are permitted by the Factory Acts.

After having interviewed the various manufacturers of the town on Saturday Mr. Lovell visited the C.W.S. works at Rushden, and being there shown samples of just the kind of boot required by the War Office at once placed a large order, of which Mr. Tysoe has since received confirmation. The boots sold by the C.W.S., amounting in all to about 4,000 pairs, consisted entirely of stock lines for societies. The manager’s idea in disposing of the same was in order to provide more work for the district during the present crisis, anticipating that the regular supplies will not be wanted in such large quantities for so long as the war lasts. The number of boots sold are to be again put in hand immediately to meet the ordinary requirements of the various societies. The representative of the War Office expressed himself as well pleased with the style of the boots supplied by the C.W.S., which were of the heavy chrome Derby style, all leather, and therefore very suitable for the Territorial Forces.

Mr. Lovell was informed that should the War Office require to repeat the order, the firm are in a position to supply a further 4,000 pairs on demand. In reply to a question from our representative Mr. Tysoe said that his firm were well placed with orders irrespective of the extra demand for army footwear, so that there is therefore no likelihood of the firm having to go on short time for some time to come.

Rushden Echo, 18th September 1914, transcribed by Gill Hollis

Rushden’s Share of The Trade

One Rushden firm on Monday received a Continental order for 25,000 pairs of boots, the first delivery to be 7,000 pairs. It is questionable, however, whether the firm will be able to complete the order, as they are so busy.

At one of the Rushden factories they have had more inquiries for boots than ever they have had before. Here is one day’s experience this week. As early at 8.30 a.m., a buyer called and wanted 10,000 pairs for the Yorkshire Territorial Association. Four orders came by wire from Glasgow for large quantities. At 4 p.m., there was a caller who wanted 50,000 pairs, and an inquiry also came for a small quantity for the Lancashire Territorial Association.

No doubt many other firms have had the same experience. “There has been nothing like it in the history of the boot trade,” said one local manufacturer to a “Rushden Echo” representative. “The difficulty,” he added, “is not in trying to secure orders but in endeavouring to cope with inquiries. The leather factors are experiencing a thing hitherto unheard of – the leather doesn’t take any selling; if the factors have it, it is sold.”

Boots for The French Army

The Rushden and District Boot and Shoe Manufacturers’ Association have secured an order from the French Government for 75,000 pairs of Army boots and these are now in process of manufacture.

Another Rushden manufacturer, interviewed by one of our representatives yesterday, informed us that he is at present also manufacturing large quantities of heavy boots for the British troops. There is at present – he says – no difficulty in obtaining supplies of leather, although it is considerably enhanced in price, and there is no doubt that the factors’ and leather dressers’ supplies, in consequence of the unprecedented demand and the fact that for over a month no kips have been exported from India, are seriously depleted. In view of this fact the probability is that in a fortnight’s time it will be practically impossible to obtain certain heavy leathers.

Both British and French War Offices are insisting upon a new method of studding the soles of the regulation boots – the soles must be studded before being put on to the boots, so that the points of the studs are on the surface of the sole, the reverse of the old method. This method does away with the possibility of the stud dropping out in wear.

The Shoe and Leather and Allied Trades News, 26th October, 1916.

LAST week I mentioned two firms running up against the Defence of the Realm Act, and by this time I thought the authorities would have made up their minds about what manufacturers were to do in regard to the lighting of their factories. Hut the official mind moves exceedingly slowly, and, let us hope, sensibly. At present the factories in Rushden and district are opening at 7 a.m. to 12 noon, and 1 p.m. until 5.30 p.m. This arrangement is to continue for a fortnight, and it is hoped by that time the authorities will decide what the manufacturers must do.

I learn it is quite impossible for some firms to properly obscure their lights, so that, at least in some cases, if no concession is made the works will have to close down. This is, of course, unthinkable.

While important places like Rushden, Wellingborough and Kettering are "in the dark" regarding the question, I learn that Rothwell has taken the problem in hand and reached a satisfactory conclusion. At Rothwell the manufacturers, without any trouble or hampering, can continue their full output by the simple expedient of having a messenger from each factory at the Council Chamber ready to sprint off at a moment's notice to their respective factories to give "lights out" orders. How delightfully simple! Good for Rothwell! Now, before the telephone trouble one could have a boy or girl at the telephone and work away undisturbed by visits of the excellent and efficient "special," or visions of visits to the excellent and efficient Wellingborough Police Court. And now that the telephones are practically as good as they ever were (though that cannot be called excellent), why should not the old order be revived? Anyhow, I am informed that the only information to be obtained on the matter is "the police are 'considering' the whole thing."

This is absolutely true, but at present it is a deep secret known only to all manufacturers and some considerable number of other folk. The manufacturers of Rushden and district were given the "straight tip" last week to "put their houses in order" for big alterations early in the new year. From all accounts both married and single men of military age and fitness are to be in khaki by the new year. I was discussing the event with a well-known shoe manufacturer the other morning, and he said, "Well, it means a lot of female labour, but they can do a lot of good work when trained; and, mind you, some can do a bit of 'navying' too." And that appears to be the patriotic attitude of most master men. They say, "If the country wants men we must do our very utmost to release them," and I am sure that wherever possible manufacturers generally are going to place no obstacles in the way.

Of course every sensible person knows there is a limit for recruiting in the factories and that limit has got to be respected, for when it comes to that extremity the manufacturers will say, plainly and firmly, "Which do you want, men or boots?"

The French have already made a big bid to supply their own boots for their armies, and now the Italian authorities are working on a scheme to produce their own army footwear on a big scale. But Rushden manufacturers are not anticipating any diminution in the demand for their services.

While I was writing about women labour, I quite forgot a very important matter in regard to this very big question. From all accounts the complexion of the clicking room of the future will be greatly changed. Women are, one would readily think, particularly suitable for this department of boot and shoe manufacture. The work is light, and requires a deftness in execution. These are qualities which will strongly recommend the tasks to the fairer sex. Anyhow, this was the view of those who are thinking hard and deep on war problems. Classes for women clickers have been started a short while since, and recently examinations of the pupils have taken place. Messrs. B. Denton's, Ltd., kindly placed their clicking department at the disposal of the Rushden ladies, and Mr. Perkins, of Messrs. Perkins and Bird, Irthlingborough, was the examiner. Ten ladies from the various factories of the town joined the classes six weeks ago, and they were instructed by Mr. W. Goode, of Messrs. Denton, Ltd. They attended three nights a week, and so well did they get on that Mr. Goode had to take them off top bands and facings and put them on vamp linings and leather linings. Mr. Perkins was exceedingly pleased with the whole 10 ladies, and at least four got 100 per cent. Mr. Sharwood,, of Messrs. Selwood's, and Mr. G. Denton, Mr. G. Denton, jun., and Mr. H. Brawn, of Messrs. B. Denton, Ltd., attended the examination. By the way, the Irthlingborough class was a success, though the entrants only cut bands and facings. There were eight ladies at the examination at Mr. Charles Parker's factory at Higham Ferrers, and the examination was very satisfactory. Mr. Bates was the instructor there.

The manufacturers of Rushden, and possibly of other places in the district too, have been informed that all men once rejected are to be re-examined. They are given certain days each week and asked to send a certain number of their medically rejected men on these special days. This is done so that as little disorganisation as possible shall happen in the factories.

I have always thought that there would be a difficulty in getting waxed and russet kips for the B5; in fact, I still think it is practically impossible to get enough to make the boots. It looks as if my belief is getting corroboration, for I understand certain manufacturers in the town and district are making B5 samples for the R.A.C.D. out of vegetable-tanned printed hides and kips. I should not be surprised. While I am talking pessimism I might give voice to grave doubts whether there will be available sufficient heavy bends to cut 18-iron soles.

I have two budgets of congratulations to offer this week. The first is very heartily to Private Percy Raworth, of the "Tanks," who has received the Military Medal. The son of Councillor W. Raworth, of Harrogate, he was storekeeper with Messrs. Ingle at their branch in Leicester, and at the outbreak of war came to Rushden, and then enlisted in the Motor Machine Gun Section. He has been in action several times in the "Tanks," and had some very narrow escapes.

It is not often that a motorist escapes from the clutches of the law without being fined, so when such an event takes place it is worthy of note. Therefore, I congratulate Mr. F. Eaton, shoe manufacturer, of Rushden, on disproving a case of driving with unobscured car lights at St. Neots Petty Sessions.

By the time this letter is published I expect about 1,000 soldiers will have been billeted in Rushden. We are glad to welcome them, and we hope that they will overcome the dangers of our darkened streets without injury. [No name was credited to this article]


Boot & Shoe Trades Journal, 5th February 1915, transcribed by Kay Collins

We understand that the chief viewer at the Army Clothing Stores, together with one of the principal buyers, has been over in France, investigating the complaints received concerning the British Army boots. Surely this visit was hardly necessary. There have been plenty of dead men and plenty of dead men's boots, the latter being capable of scientific study. Our complaint is that there was no subsequent study of the materials employed in the making of Army boots; and, whilst we do not in the midst of our troubles and our trials wish to set up difficulties, we shall, when this awful war is finished, have some serious questions to ask............


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