Barwell & Earl Shilton Boot & Shoe Trail

In June 2000 members of Earl Shilton and District Local History Society researched this leaflet in association with the Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council, in order to record and commemorate the important role that the Boot and Shoe industry played in the development of the villages of Earl Shilton and Barwell. Only 60 years ago, their streets bustled with women and men on their way to work in the Boot and Shoe factories, and the footwear they made was worn by people around the world from Russia to South Africa. Today none of the larger companies remain apart from one Ballet Shoe manufacturing company in Earl Shilton. The old factories have been taken over by other industries or even demolished to make way for housing developments. On this trail, you are invited to gain a glimpse of their past and ensure that this industrial heritage is not forgotten. 

You can use the Google Maps to help you navigate the route. This digital route is in the Beta stages and may contain anomalies. Please report any issues to the council and they will be rectified ASAP. Please see the links below

Stage 1 - | Points 1 -10

Stage 2 - | Points 10 - 19

Stage 3 - | Points 19 -24

If you prefer a printable PDF copy, please click here

Did you know?

1. Hosiery workers who joined the trade in the 1880s had to pay £1 down in order to work and also worked the first month before receiving wages

2. Shoe operatives worked a 60 hour week but were allowed to send out for a ½ pint of beer to drink while they were working.

3. Up until 1895, shoe operatives had to pay 6d standing money to the manufacturers in order to work in his workshop. They were also required to pay 1/2d to have the floor swept.

4. Up to 1895, workers had to buy their own rivets and tacks (called Grindery) from their employers who charged top prices. This saw the advent of small (hardware) shops being set up in Barwell and Earl Shilton. Charges were 10d per lb compared with a manufacturer charging 1/- per lb.

5. There was a lock-out in the industry in 1891 because of resentment and bad factory conditions. Men were out of work for ten weeks in this area. The Union paid lock-out money and records show that the cost to the Union was £4000 and the workers lost over £10,000 in wages.

6. The shoe trade in Barwell and Earl Shilton began in the 1870s as Leicester manufacturers extended their activities to the rural areas. Prior to this most people were agricultural workers or framework knitters in the hosiery trade. Workshops were set up in old cottages, barns and sheds.

7. Meetings of the Boot and Shoe Operatives Union were held at the Coffee House in Barwell High Street during the dispute of 1895 with the Hinckley and District Conciliation Board.

8. Terms of Settlement which were drawn up at that time, formed the basis for the industry’s National Conference Agreement, wage rates, hours and other conditions of employment.

9. Eatoughs were the first shoe factory to install ‘Music while you work’ in 1936. 10. H.Orton & Sons of Oxford Street donated a bell which hangs in St. Simon and St. Jude Parish Church.

11. During the Second World War, Eatoughs worked with the RAF to produce slippers to be fitted to an electrically heated flying suit for bomber crews. Over 100,000 pairs of these were issued to the RAF and the USAF.

12. George Ward of Barwell set up a Charitable Trust, which in 2005 had investments of around 1 million pounds. The income from this will continue to benefit this area. One of the recipients of this income was a £25,000 donation to William Bradford Community College in 2002 towards its successful bid to become a Technology College. Another beneficiary was Hinckley Health Centre, which was awarded a donation of £10,000 in 2005, to purchase a Bladder Scanner for use in the local area. Also, the Concordia Theatre in Hinckley was given £7,500 towards a lift.

13. George Ward also gave Sheepy Woods at Burbage Common, and The Cedars on Shilton Road, Barwell for the benefit of the community. The proceeds of the sale of the Cedars was used to build the George Ward Centre in Barwell.

14. Charles Bennion of the British Shoe Machinery Co. of Leicester gave Bradgate Park to the people of Leicestershire. 



© 2016 - Clerk: Mark Jackson, 21 Wood Street, Earl Shilton, Leicester, LE9 7NE