These companies have been around for almost 150 years. Founded in the heart of England’s shoemaking industry, Northampton, they became internationally renowned brands with boutiques and stockists all over the world. Their longevity is not only a proof of quality, but also a great opportunity to preserve the best of their genuine experience and traditions. This is what the three British footwear companies decided to do, despite the costs. They continue to use the Goodyear welt construction method, a technique invented more than 100 years ago. The result can be seen in the impeccable English shoe.
Note* The British heritage companies and their stories are presented using our British brand selection criteria. All brands on The Outergraph can be filtered by their particularities (British Fashion Design brands / Luxury British brands / Royal suppliers, etc.) using the Interest menu.
Grenson is a British heritage brand founded in 1866 in Northamptonshire, England’s main shoe production centre. The company’s factory was one of the first in the world to use the Goodyear welt construction method for gentlemen's shoes. An internationally renowned brand, Grenson keeps the company’s shoemaking traditions alive, perfected in almost 150 years.
The luxury British footwear label still makes its shoes using a technique invented two centuries ago in England, the Goodyear welt construction method. Even though it takes more time to bring a "Goodyear Welted" pair of shoes to life, the brand is a firm believer in product longevity, an effect of this traditional shoe making technique. The "Goodyear Welted" shoes can be re-soled many times.
The company was founded in England almost 150 years ago by William Green. William learned the craft from his mother while helping her produce men’s boots at home. At the time, most shoemaking businesses were cottage-based, but William grew to become one of the most successful shoe factory owners in England.
Until 1860, he continued to help his mother, then moved to work from his own home. In 1895, during Queen Victoria’s reign, William Green built one of the biggest shoe factories in England. The company managed to employ at its height up to 400 people.
What is an rare fact is that Grenson’s activity still takes place in the factory its founder opened in 1895. A great part of the company’s employees are in fact descendants of the factory's original workers. They somehow managed to keep their family traditions alive, as Grenson did with its rich history. Even its production technique has changed little since the 19th century.
Grenson is now an international brand, covering numerous European countries. Belgium, Germany, Italy, France are among them. The brand is also present in Canada & USA, as well as in Australia, India, Japan, Dubai, China and many other.
The brand has extensive media coverage. Grenson was featured in major publications like GQ, Elle UK, Red, In Style UK, Marie Claire, Telegraph Luxury, Harpers Bazaar and other.
Some decades ago, Fred Astaire, Cary Grant and Montgomery Clift had impeccable public appearances wearing Grenson shoes. At the time, handmade English brogues were extremely stylish, as well as other English fashion items, like the Savile Row suits. Among Grenson’s current clients are George Clooney and Daniel Craig.
Some of the most iconic British shoe styles are the Oxfords and the Brogues. The Oxford shoe was first worn in Scotland and Ireland and The Brogue is derived from the Old Irish word, brog (shoe). The Oxfords, named after the famous English University, are also occasionally called Balmorals, after Balmoral Castle. The names also vary by country.
CROCKETT & JONES
Established in 1879 in Northampton, Crockett & Jones is one of England’s oldest and finest footwear labels. For 136 years, the company was managed by the same family, now reaching its 5th generation in charge of Crockett & Jones. The values that guide them are as long lasting as the business itself: high standards, quality and respect for traditional craftsmanship
Crockett & Jones makes no compromise when it comes to quality. The company uses the Goodyear Welted construction, a traditional method, invented hundreds of years ago. It’s a time consuming and expensive approach, but the impeccable English footwear is always a gratifying result.
Crockett & Jones was founded in 1879 by Charles Jones and his brother-in-law, James Crockett with a £200 grant from the Thomas White Trust. The company offered support to "young men of good character" who wanted to set up a business in Northampton and Coventry. Northampton was in fact a renowned shoemaking centre in England and by the time Crockett & Jones was set up, independent shoemakers had started to join forces and open small factories.
In 1879, Crockett & Jones opened its first factory and hired 20 employees for the production of men’s boots. The business knew a rapid expansion and in the mid 1920s, there were 15,000 pairs of Crockett & Jones shoes made each week.
By the Second World War the company was manufacturing 1 million pairs of military footwear for the Army, Navy and Air Force. It continued to grow during the years to come with exports reaching 70% of the production. Today, the company is an international renowned brand that can be found in most countries. Its factory on Perry Street, opened in 1890, is currently functional.
The brand is present in most major cities, with 11 Crockett & Jones retail shops (in UK, USA, France, Belgium) and numerous stockists.
The first major award for Crockett & Jones was in 1911 at the International Manufacturing Exhibition of Turin. The company received Diploma D'Onore for design.
In 1924, Crockett & Jones was rewarded with Royal Patronage, as the Duke of York (King George VI) visited their Perry Street factory. James Crockett was also knighted for services to Northampton and the footwear industry.
The company also received the Queen’s Award for Export Achievement in 1990. By that time, Crockett & Jones’s exports were reaching 70% of total production.
In 2004, the Crockett & Jones factory became a Grade II Listed Building, with the purpose to preserve the history of English shoemaking in Northampton. On the 22nd of January, 2013, the factory welcomed Prince Charles. It was the second time in its commercial history to receive the visit of a member of the Royal family.
Crockett & Jones is also a proud footwear supplier for the Shackleton Polar Expedition, in 1914. A century later, the company still carries on the tradition. In 2015, Crockett & Jones created special pairs of boots for brothers Hugo and Ross Turner to support them on their Mt Elbrus (5,642m) expedition. They use their expeditions as a way to raise money for medical research.
The brand has a wide range of influential clients, from CEOs, Royalty and Government representatives to famous artists. Recently, Crockett & Jones shoes were worn by Daniel Craig in the 2015 Bond movie, Spectre.
The 23rd Bond Film, Skyfall, featured four Crockett & Jones shoe styles worn by lead character, James Bond (Daniel Craig). The company also provided footwear for the 24th Bond film, Spectre. The Crockett & Jones Oxfords also appeared in the 2015 British-American action comedy directed by Guy Ritchie, ‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E.’
Church’s is an English footwear manufacturer founded in 1873 in Northampton. Its products are renowned for quality and durability, the result of a meticulous crafting process that takes up to eight weeks and 250 manual steps for a single pair. The company has now multiple stores in Europe, U.S. and Asia, continuing its successful expansion as part of Prada Group’s selected brand portfolio.
The company is one of the most successful luxury footwear manufacturers and was acquired almost two decades ago by the prestigious Prada Group. Church’s offers to a discerning clientele products that reflect the elegance of classical English style, but also modern high-quality collections. Its rich heritage also serves as inspiration for its present collections, including the contemporary rendition of the iconic Shanghai shoe. The style was created by Church’s in 1929 for Englishmen living in the Far East and became one of the most innovative products that redefined men’s footwear.
Church’s was established almost 150 years ago in a modest workshop in Northampton, but the shoemaking craft was passed down from generation to generation long before the company was officially set up. Stone Church, the founder’s great-grandfather, was born in 1675 in Northampton, a city renowned for its footwear industry. He taught his family the craft of shoemaking and each generation continued the tradition, passing down and perfecting the skills. Thomas Church decided to share them with the world. By the end of the 19th century, Church’s was exporting quality English shoes to other European countries and had the intention to reach the American market. In 1907, the company made the first deliveries to the U.S. and Canada.
Church’s began its international expansion through exports at the end of the 19th century. In 1921, opened the first boutique in London and a few years later the company already had another store in New York City. The expansion continued with branches in Italy, Japan, Hong Kong and numerous other locations in Europe, Asia and the US.
The company had many notable achievements over the years. Among its first breakthroughs was introducing the innovative concept of the “Adaptable” model for right and left shoes, available in various widths, materials and even half sizes. This was a true revolutionary idea at the end of the 19th century and William, the founder’s son, was the one who made it possible. In 1881, Church’s Trademarked “Adapted” boot won the Gold Medal at the Great Exhibition.
In 1919, the company became a founding member of the British Shoe and Allied Trades Research Association (SATRA) and through this partnership, the Northampton Technical College was founded in 1925.
HRH the Queen Elizabeth II visited Church’s in 1965, the company receiving the Queen’s Award to Industry for its successful export activity.
As one of the most respected shoemaking companies in the world, it’s only natural for Church’s to have many public personalities on the client list. Among them, former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who has a "lucky pair" of Church's shoes that he wore to the question-and-answer sessions in Parliament.
The company has extensive media coverage, with publications like GQ or Vogue featuring its products. Church's shoes were also a great choice for the James Bond character, in Pierce Brosnan's and Daniel Craig’s interpretation.