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My trip to Northampton; factory shops, bespoke last measurement and a factory tour

post #1 of 55
Thread Starter 
Last Monday it was my turn to travel to the Mekka for many shoe lovers, Northampton. I want to share my impressions with you here. The primary reason I went is to get my feet measured at Spring Line for bespoke lasts. I also wanted to take the opportunity to visit the factory shops in and around Northampton. A few days before I went, I had sent emails out to check with some of the factories whether or not they (still) had a factory shop. I got some responses, one of which was from Chay Cooper at Alfred Sargent's. Although they did not have a factory shop, he invited me to come over for a factory tour if I wanted. As you could imagine, I could not resist such an opportunity. Although my stay was short, I had rented a car and could go out of town to visit some of the more remote factories.

I will split this up in a few parts and add on in the following days. I will also add some photographs I made.
post #2 of 55
Looking forward to this. Thanks for sharing!
post #3 of 55
This sounds most interesting - I went to Alfred Sargent in Rushden too, a few months back, and was surprised they had no factory shop, but they are very hospitable. They featured on Gok Wan's womens fashion TV show recently. My wife was watching this awful prog and I suddenly perked up when A.S. was mentioned.
If anyone else visiting the Northampton factories would like to meet up, I live in the area and would like to learn more from other SF members. I am not a wealthy man, but still love proper shoes - it's in the blood because my great grandfather built and owned a shoe factory in Walgrave, Northamptonshire. One Stephen Walker. Only in later life have I become truly addicted
to shoes, although I bought my first Church's and Cheaneys some 30 years ago - and still wearing them.
post #4 of 55
Many thanks Borrelli - very much looking forward to the upcoming parts!
post #5 of 55
post #6 of 55
post #7 of 55
Thread Starter 
Unfortunately the shoe museum was closed when I went there, they are now always closed on Mondays.

To start off, I'll tell you about the factory shops I visited. Of course, these are my impressions, ymmv, but I hope to offer some practical information for anyone who is thinking of going himself.
I did try to also visit some factory shops that were out of town and/or of brands that have not been featured in other people's trips before.

One general word of advice, which has been mentioned by others before: do not get your hopes up. If you find something you like at a good price, that is fine. But do not expect there to be a lot of choice in your particular size or there to be ridiculously low prices. Times have changed and at some shops prices have changed a lot too. Generally speaking, if you have to go to London or anywhere near Northampton anyway, it makes sense to allocate some time to go and visit factory shops. If you have to travel far and this would be your only goal, it might not be worthwile to go. Also, some of these shops are up to 30 minutes drive from Northampton. If you do not have a car there, that could be a problem. If you do have a car, use a satnav (gps) and type in the postal codes rather than the streets of the shops to best get to them.

First, for the makers outside of town.

Grenson: I went here first, on the way to Northampton. Unfortunately the factory shop they had in Rushden (30 minutes from Northampton) is now closed.

Alfred Sargent: Also in Rushden, they do not have a factory shop, but the factory tour there was a very special experience. I'll save that for later.

Barkers: In Earls Barton, which is between Rushden and Northampton. Their factory shop was definitely the biggest I have seen. There were several female staff. They do have quite a lot on offer in many sizes, also in F and G fittings. Prices were around GBP 80-120 and the shoes generally looked fine, although they did not really appeal to me. These lines are said to use imported skins, but the uppers looked quite passable. There are slight seconds and lines that are out of production. They also have quite a lot of women's shoes, slippers, some belts and other accessories. On a small separate rack, there were Barker Black seconds, their premium offering. These were GBP 150 for shoes and 175 for boots. There were some nice shoes there but a more limited choice, maybe some 20-odd shoes and boots together. If you have the chance to visit, you might find something there.

Cheaney: In Desborough, 30 minutes north of Northampton. For me, this was definitely the best shop. Cheaneys is now owned by the Church brothers. They make all their shoes in Northampton. They also manufacture a lot for other brands and labels. They had many good quality shoes to offer in various sizes. If you are a size 8UK, you are in luck, because sample shoes for new styles are always made in size 8. These are then sold in the factory shop, they are not seconds. They had many shoes which were either sales shoes or slight seconds. The older gentleman who ran the shop was very friendly, knowledgeable and helpful. There is a lot of pride in what they make and I can say they are good quality shoes. They use good quality uppers. The colours and burnishing were really nice. I saw a lot of shoes I liked, and ended up buying two pairs, a pair of country brogues in mahogany with a dainite sole and some tan suede brogues with a crepe sole. I have wide feet myself (G-fit), so I believe there is even more choice for others. Ok, these are not EG, G&G or Lobbs, but definitely very well made and do not cost the world. I even got compliments the next day at other shoe places wearing the country brogues. Average prices were GBP 100-130, up to 150 for balmoral boots. I feel it is really worthwile to go here. They are working on a new website, and sales/seconds could also be offered there in time.

That's it for now, next up will be some of the factory shops in town. I only shot some pictures at Cheaney's:

The factory itself, under British ownership once again, proudly flying the Union Jack.

Across the road, the factory shop.

Large selection as you can see with many nice shoes to choose from.
post #8 of 55
Thanks, Borrelli. Can't wait to see the pics and hear your account of your experiences in the factory shops in town.
post #9 of 55
Thanks Borelli, highly interesting. I'll stay tuned for more and images...

post #10 of 55
I'm off to Northampton tomorrow for the first time, so hoping you might post your experiences of the in-town shops by then...
post #11 of 55
Didn't know you could get measured for a last at Springline. But I suppose they can't do a fitting, can they? What sort of makers would be willing to work on it? Can one order regular production shoes on one's bespoke last? How much do Springline charge? Sorry for the barrage of questions.
post #12 of 55
Sounds good. Now we get 2 accounts - Borreli and SimonC
Can't wait...
post #13 of 55
I hope the OP doesn't mind me stealing his thread.

I'm sat in the White Elephant pub just around the corner from the John Lobb factory, having visited the following factory shops:

Church's - turn left out of the station across tge railway bridge, and the large factory is a couple of hundred yards down on your left.

The factory shop is a small room accessed directly from the street. The stock levels seemed good, with a mix of what must be very slight seconds and special orders. Pricing is around half retail so 175ish, with some true sample and lightly damaged stock starting at 75 pounds.

I'll be frank and state that the shop was a disappointment for me - I'm used to visiting Bicester Village where they have even more stock, and the prices are slightly keener - with the VIP discount card I generally pay 135 pounds.

Moving on and through town, I visited Trickers. This was a wood-panelled room in the heart of the factory. I have a soft spot for Trickers shoes, and they had some lovely shoes, but it really is sample / seconds stock, so there was nothing I liked in my size. Prices were 150-185, which is very fair but notably no lower than from their eBay shop which came as a small surprise.

Third on the list was John Lobb. I knew to expect high prices here, and that was the case. Shoes range from 470-775, which just isn't the sort of pricing I'd expect if you're willing to venture to the outskirts of an industrial town 70 miles from London. Nice to have a look at what they had, but I wasn't tempted by the prices.

So far, I'd probably not return - Bicester does well to combine reasonably-priced shoes with other clothing of interest. The prospect of a wider selection of makers seems offset by the time to travel here, and I'd suggest no-one should underestimate the deals to be obtained in B&S and eBay.

You'll have to wait for the final installment because Crockett and Jones don't open until 2pm....

directly from the street
post #14 of 55
This thread is useless without pics.
post #15 of 55
Originally Posted by Wes Bourne View Post
This thread is useless without pics.


The adage of 'a picture is worth a thousand words' can not be more true here....
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