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HomeBest FootwearBehind the Scenes at BFA Member William Lennon & Co.

Behind the Scenes at BFA Member William Lennon & Co.

Fourth-generation household bootmaker William Lennon & Co. is preserving numerous shoemaking abilities at its manufacturing facility within the coronary heart of the Peak District Nationwide Park. Not too long ago, BFA CEO Lucy Reece Raybould and Enterprise Improvement Supervisor Polly Lythall visited the corporate to study extra about its specialist manufacturing experience.

William Lennon & Co. is the final remaining specialist heavy responsibility, security, foundry and agricultural boot producer in the UK. Established by William Anthony Lennon in 1897, the enterprise continues to supply conventional leather-based boots in Stoney Middleton, Derbyshire, which was as soon as a thriving space for bootmakers and repairers within the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Generations in the past, the William Lennon staff moved into an outdated corn mill with a working water wheel to energy its actions. Immediately, there have been some modifications to its three-floor premises, however the spirit of the place stays the identical.

The corporate takes pleasure in its conventional practices, which is why it continues to make use of “strategies and machines from a by-gone period,” in accordance with its web site. It’s notably well-known for its ‘Ruff-lander’ security boots designed for heavy graft environments comparable to constructing websites. Every pair is strictly made to order and arrives wrapped in waxed brown paper as an ode to their handmade, purpose-built nature.

What does a typical week at William Lennon & Co. appear to be? Based on Director Libs Slattery, the enterprise produces roughly 30 pairs of shoes and resoles15 pairs per week. It sends sneakers in sizes 4 to 18 so far as Japan and prices a modest £100-£200 per pair. A staff of simply eight individuals powers all this.

The Historical past of William Lennon & Co.

To search out out extra about William Lennon is to dive deeper into the historical past of British shoemaking. For instance, when electrical energy arrived on the enterprise’ dwelling village in 1933, it now not required its Ruston paraffin engine and will as an alternative depend on sooner, extra fashionable equipment. The previous was donated to the Northampton Museum of Shoemaking.

Libs Slattery and Lucy Reece Raybould.

By the Nineteen Fifties, modifications to security laws meant that handmade leather-soled boots might now not be worn in industrial environments, and plenty of of William Lennon’s machines went unused for many years. After all, it discovered methods to adapt, however the enterprise by no means went down the route of ‘mass manufacturing’. As its web site explains, William Lennon & Co. produced 600 pairs of security boots weekly within the Sixties. Regardless of sounding like a big quantity, this made the enterprise one of many UK’s smallest producers on this interval.

The late Eighties noticed the rise of cheaper imports and led to a gradual slowdown in UK manufactured footwear. William Lennon ultimately turned one in every of solely two remaining corporations within the UK to make security footwear utilizing the vulcanising methodology (the opposite closed its doorways in 2010). Immediately, it’s the solely UK producer in a position to produce vulcanised soles and the exterior metal toe-cap Engineman’s boot.

Conventional Manufacturing Processes

Round 200 strategies and processes are concerned in making a pair of William Lennon boots, and all are accomplished by hand. Arguably its most original methodology is attaching soles besides uppers utilizing brass wire screwing machines; William Lennon owns three of solely 4 remaining machines globally, with the fourth in New Zealand. This method pre-dates Goodyear welted development and ends in a harder shoe for all-purpose exercise. Elsewhere, William Lennon & Co. additionally produces conventional hill and shepherd’s boots, which have a built-in rocking motion within the sole to make strolling up and down hills simpler. And when it’s not making boots, it additionally fashions a small vary of conventional leather-based biking sneakers designed for toe clips and cages.

Historic Reenactment Boots

One other attention-grabbing aspect of the William Lennon enterprise mannequin is the manufacturing of “genuine WWI reproduction B5 boots”. As its web site explains: “The B5 boots took place after a chat with an area who belonged to a re-enactment society that was fed up with uncomfortable makes an attempt at reproduction boots from abroad. Right here within the manufacturing facility, the unique 2181 sq. toe lasts and knives used through the struggle to restore the boots had been saved for over 80 years. We dug them out and cleaned them off.”

BFA CEO Lucy Reece Raybould speaks to members of the William Lennon & Co. staff.

Following the success of its prototype reproduction B5, William Lennon added the boot to its everlasting assortment and expanded its providing to incorporate WWII ammunition boots and a model of the Canadian Mark V fight boot. Lately, they’ve been featured for historic accuracy in tv exhibits comparable to Downton Abbey.

The William Lennon & Co. Household

William Lennon had 9 kids together with his spouse Charlotte Goddard, and 5 of them joined the enterprise, Percy, Arnold, Sydney, Ebeneezer and Lillian. Arnold’s son, William Leslie Lennon (‘Les’), joined the corporate in 1966 to work alongside his father and uncles, and after a handful of falling-outs and retirements, Arnold and Les dealt with the enterprise on their very own. Immediately, the enterprise is led by the fourth technology and William Lennon’s great-granddaughter Libs Slattery and his great-grandson, Dan.

In fast-changing occasions, prospects are as soon as once more appreciating gadgets which can be British-made, conventional, handcrafted and constructed to final. Within the final 20 years, William Lennon & Co. experiences a “massive transfer again in direction of conventional ‘retro’ footwear and merchandise which can be solely ‘Made in England”. This places the enterprise in a robust place and can assist to make sure it maintains its ‘nationwide treasure’ standing for a lot of generations to come back.

Discover out extra about William Lennon & Co. through the corporate’s web site and its BFA Member Profile right here. BFA Membership is offered for people, SMEs and large-scale companies. Discover out extra by talking to the BFA staff.

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