This Church’s Factory Visit Video showcases just why we’re continuously preaching the values of fine English made footwear. Church’s have been making shoes in Northamption, England by hand since 1873, in all that time none of their original quality values have been lost.
Church’s was founded in 1873 by Thomas Church and his three sons Alfred, William and Thomas Jr., who could count on family experience in the production of handmade men’s shoes dating back to 1675. Church’s is based in Northampton, not far from London, in a county which has been the centre of a flourishing leather and footwear industry since the Middle Ages.
In the space of a few years, Church’s was transformed from a craft workshop into a benchmark firm for high-quality footwear, both locally and for the most demanding shoe shops in London and throughout Great Britain. One of the earliest styles, the Adaptable, won a Gold Medal at the 1884 Crystal Palace Exhibition. The Adaptable was unusual for the time: it came in pairs of left and right and “in six widths in every conceivable style and material”. Most of the other companies’ shoes at the time were still sold as straights – identical pairs without lefts or rights. At the dawn of the 20th century, Church’s began exporting outside Europe to new markets such as the United States, Canada and South America. 1921 saw the first Church’s directly operated shop open in London. In the same year, the multi-fitting “Archmoulded” shoes for ladies was introduced, in response to a much-changed society in which both women and fashion were becoming prominent.
A new factory was opened in 1957 and is still today the firm’s worldwide headquarters. The visit of Queen Elizabeth II in 1965, together with the prestigious Queen’s Award for exports, put the official seal of recognition on Church’s over centennial tradition and status as a leading international brand.
“Good Year Welted” Construction
It still takes up to eight weeks to produce a pair of Church’s shoes: each undergoes over 250 detailed manual operations before it leaves the factory.
All of Church’s men’s welted shoes are manufactured in Northampton: all the production is hand-made and performed inside the factory by specialized craftsmen.
The Goodyear construction, that has given English footwear its worldwide fame, has proved to be both complex and reliable. Instead of being stitched directly together, the sole and the upper are firstly stitched on to a “welt”, a strip of hand-cut leather, which is then in turn stitched on to the bottom of the shoes in the early stages of manufacture. This construction means that the sole can be easily detached from the bottom of the shoe in case of a repair and be resoled for a second life. Church’s in fact continues to provide the traditional full refurbishment service using the same top quality materials and the same care as in the original manufacturing process. This service considerably extends the life of each Church’s pair of shoes: with proper care Church’s shoes will last a lifetime