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The Rushden Echo and Argus, 4th March 1949, transcribed by Jim Hollis
Mr. F. J. Sharwood is 80 years old
Mr. Sharwood Still Makes Boots

Remembers Clickers in Bowlers

It was just after 9.30 in the morning, and the gold lettering on a small sign in the waiting room at Messrs. George Selwood and Co., Ltd., Rushden, said Mr. F. J. Sharwood “IN.”

Mr Sharwood in 1914
Mr Sharwood in 1914
To the employees and the travellers who called at this modern boot factory, that was nothing unusual, even though Mr. Frank J. Sharwood, principal of the firm and a former County Councillor, was eighty on Saturday. Mr. Sharwood refuses to be idle.

The young lady whose face appeared at the inquiry hatch proved that the notice was businesslike and up-to-date. She said “Mr. Sharwood? Yes he won’t keep you a moment.”

It was a sprightly, smiling Mr. Sharwood who appeared in a white smock a few minutes later to give us a brief pen-picture of sixty-two years of boot manufacturing in Rushden.

Good Talkers

“When I first came to the town? Let’s see. I was 18 years old. At that time, the only operations that were done in factories were clicking and rough stuff; closing, making and finishing were done in little factories in the backs of cottages.

“I used to love to go into those little shops at night and to hear the men talk. They could talk on any subject. It was a common thing on Saturdays when the factories closed to see men and women going about with both arms full of shoes all tied together in pairs. There were no such thing as cartons; most shoes were packed in hampers.”

Mr. Sharwood was obviously reminiscing and was getting wrapped up in his tale. It was almost as though he was dictating a letter to his secretary. [a history]

“It was through the insistence of the trade unions, largely, that employers had to find more factory space,” he continued. “They had to, for men were working all hours of the night in many cases. Then you got the gradual introduction of machinery and the division of operations. Once men could make shoes right through; now it became more monotonous and they were on one operation all the time.”

A pair of pattens
A pair of pattens
The trend of the one-sided conversation altered.

“They were building Queen Street,” said Mr. Sharwood. “I remember a horse broke its neck going up through the mud. There was a steam roller stuck there for weeks. There was often a row of pattens in the vestry at the “Top Meeting” (the old Baptist Church). Pattens were pieces of board shaped like a shoe sole with iron rings at the bottom to keep the wearer out of the mud.”

First Factories

The only boot works Mr. Sharwood could remember in the town at the time were Cave’s, Colson’s, Claridge’s, and Denton’s. In fact, there were so few manufacturers that they could have their own club in one room at the “Coffee Tavern.” Mr. Sharwood went to sport, recalled fine cricket teams and a football final when they had three or four re-plays. He mentioned the building of the railway.

“One thing I do think,” he declared. “This town has been wonderfully served by the men who have been its leaders. They have been men of stalwart character, every one of them.”

Mr. Sharwood knew most of those leaders personally, for he came to Rushden from Northampton as a clicker for Messrs. John Cave and Sons in the days when the cutters of skins were the aristocracy of the trade, going to work in smart suits and bowler hats. They had been known to wear tall silk hats.

He went from Cave’s to Messrs. Jaques and Clark, and helped to cut their first samples. He went to Bedford for five years and in 1895 became a manager for Mr. Selwood. Two years later he was a partner.

His wife's obituary

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