Luxury & Fashion

Mar 1, 2015

Walk Over the Clouds

Founded in 1879 in Northampton, at the heart of England's most famous shoemaking town, Crockett & Jones specialise in the manufacture of high quality Goodyear-welted footwear.

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For men there are 3 ranges produced by Crockett & Jones: Hand Grade, Main Line and Shell Cordovan. For women, there's a new collection of low-heeled shoes and boots.

Although the production process has evolved since the early days of shoe-making, with the introduction of more reliable machinery and 'health & safety', much of the factory looks as it did when it was first built. The manufacture of high quality Goodyear welted shoes remains very labour-intensive, requiring a highly skilled workforce to carry out more than 200 separate operations during an 8 week period. Goodyear-Welted construction gives the shoes an exceptional degree of strength, durability and comfort in wear. This method originated by hand-makers centuries ago.

As a 5th generation family managed business, Crockett & Jones is committed to maintaining the highest standards of traditional craftsmanship, quality and service which have been appreciated by their customers for more than 135 years.

Crockett & Jones was founded in 1879, in Northampton, by Charles Jones and his brother-in-law, James Crockett. They established the business with a grant of £100 each from the Thomas White Trust 'to encourage young men of good character in the towns of Northampton and Coventry to set up business on their own'. 

Northampton had always been renowned for shoe making in England since the middle ages; starting as a centre for tanning.  The abundance of local oak forests provided the oak bark, which was considered the best tanning material at the time and the River Nene was the source of water for this process. The central location of Northampton, en-route to London, gave the town good communications and enabled the tanners to obtain hides from the butchers with ease. After this it wasn't long before shoe makers naturally gathered where leather was readily available, working out of their homes and in small workshops. By the time that Crockett & Jones was established, shoe makers had begun to join together to open small factories using new machinery that had been developed specifically for the shoe industry during the Industrial Revolution. 

The first Crockett & Jones factory in 1879 was a small building in Carey Street, Northampton with 20 employees. Here they concentrated on making men's boots. The leathers were cut at the factory before being distributed to out-workers who would take the parts home. They would then return the finished components to the factory, so that the boots could be completed. 

The business was successful and expanded rapidly with more and more work being done inside the factory. In the 1890's the 2nd generation (Harry Crockett and Frank Jones) began to integrate new machinery, which was invented by Charles Goodyear from the USA for stitching the uppers, welts and soles together. This made the process much easier, and faster, and gave rise to the name for the superior construction process that is still used today, called 'Goodyear Welted'. 

Towards the turn of the century James Crockett and Charles Jones recognised the need to find a larger factory for continued expansion of the business. In 1897 they bought a new factory in Perry Street, which Crockett & Jones still occupy today. In 1910 a 5 storey wing was built onto this factory; the first all-steel structured building in Northampton. It boasted a huge proportion of glass to give superb natural lighting for production – an attribute which still benefits the workforce today. 

Around this time most of the shoes were sold in the home market but the company was also exporting a significant volume through-out the world to: Australia, Argentina, Europe, New Zealand, South Africa, USA and the Far East. Crockett & Jones had now established a reputation as one of the best shoe makers in the country. In 1911 they were awarded the Diploma D'Onoro (Diploma of Honour) at the International Manufacturing Exhibition in Turin for their designs. 

During the 2nd World War Crockett & Jones manufactured over a 1 million pairs for the armed forces. They were under instructions from the government to switch the majority of the production to military footwear; making officers' shoes and boots for the army, navy and air force. To produce this volume many retired men and married women came back to work to join in the war effort. 

As the business began to build again over the next 15 years, exports reached 70% of the overall production and in 1990 Crockett & Jones was awarded the coveted Queens Award for Export Achievement. Crockett & Jones continued to supply some of the world's best known "own label" collections but now as Managing Director, Jonathan also wanted to increase the 'Crockett & Jones' branded distribution. As part of this strategy it was decided to re-visit the company's long standing interest in retail. In 1997 Crockett & Jones opened their 1st retail shop in Jermyn Street, London. Over the next 14 years another 10 retail shops and concessions were opened by Crockett & Jones across London, Birmingham, New York, Paris and Brussels. 

In 2004 the factory in Perry Street was designated as a Grade II listed building, in order to preserve the history of the shoe trade in Northampton. The building has, in fact, changed very little since the 1930's. In 2005 Nicholas Jones, Jonathan's brother, joined the company as Production Director and Jonathan, as Managing Director, concentrates on strategy, sales and development.  In 2006 Philippa Jones, Jonathan's daughter, started in the family business as the 5th generation of the Jones family. 

Crockett & Jones continue to export about 70% of the production. The expansion of the retail division together with on-going development of worldwide distribution has led to the brand becoming internationally established. The strong reputation of Crockett & Jones, which continues to flourish, is built on solid foundations and a great ethos started many generations ago. The fact that the business remains in the hands of the family who started it, ensures that the standards of the past are maintained today and lends a more personal touch to the fine shoes that they produce. 

Back in 2013, HRH Prince Charles embarked on a two day journey, visiting factories around England, on a quest to reinvigorate and celebrate the idea of British engineering and manufacturing. It represented an important subject as many of the things that are used and liked are made by skilled workers in factories around not only the UK, but all over the world. In the modern day world however, the the idea of being a factory worker has such a low connotation to it that young individuals no longer aspire/take pride in being associated with factory working. It is without a doubt that many people in England have lost that feeling as the ability to find skilled workers is getting harder and harder, as I know second hand from factory owners who have expressed this concern to me.

It is no doubt that the solution to this problem is to educate/inspire the youth to seek out jobs in the manufacturing/engineering industry, and this is what HRH Prince Charles was aspiring to do. On this 2 day journey, he happened to stop by none other than the honorable Crockett & Jones, a factory that for me sets the bar when it comes to great shoes for a great price, in England. On his visit, he happened to get a private fitting where he went with the Belgrave model, but on a special last that suited his needs.

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