Wellingborough in the 1880s was a scene of growth and innovation in the footwear trade, and has claim to owning the oldest former shoe factory / warehouse established in 1850 by local businessman Nathaniel Sharman.
Smith & Gibbs were the first to specialise the production process creating large clicking rooms and closing factories producing high quality leather uppers for closing elsewhere in the country or for export, with other companies establishing themselves in the town that included Walker Brothers, Z. Forscutt & Sons, Rudlens, Watts & Co and Burkitt & Son among others.
High quality product brought in orders from all over the globe with Wellingborough companies even producing long boots for Russian Cossack soldiers!
George Cox & Co. is one notable surviving firm in the town, creator of the original ‘brothel creeper’ rockabilly shoe which went on to be worn by Teddy Boys, Mods and Punks. This company once occupied the Castle Factory in what had been the town swimming pool Dulley’s Baths. Shoes continued to be produced on this site until 1997. The building has since been operating from 2007 as Wellingborough Museum and ran by an enthusiastic group of local volunteers.
The British Footwear Association is also based in the town on Burystead Place adjacent to the town’s historic Tithe Barn.