Visited Equity Shoes in Leicester with Enrashid a couple of weeks ago. It was a very interesting access to say the least! We were watching two people from 28DL at one point and frightened them both almost out of their skins when they stumbled into an outbuilding I was already in the back of. They disappeared shortly afterwards and didn't enter the main site with us.
Onto the history...
Equity Shoes Ltd was based in the West End of Leicester, England. Founded in 1886, the Company employed 150 people and produced approximately 5,500pairs per week of Shoes, Sandals and Boots for Ladies and Men.
All production took place at Western Road. The name, stock and machinery were sold to Pavers Shoes of York, so it's possible that the name 'Equity' will go on for a little longer.
Leicester had a booming shoe industry, once employing 170,000 people in 130 factories. Equity was the sole (geddit) remaining shoe maker in the city and it closed in January 2009.
"The work was so good that if you thought you weren't getting paid enough you could leave, walk down the road and be taken on at another factory, on better pay."
At its peak, the shoe industry in the city made more goods than were produced anywhere else in the country. Shoemaking was introduced to try to broaden industrial employment in the city after the Napoleonic wars, and to overcome unemployment in the hosiery industry.
The production of ladies boots and shoes was introduced during the middle of the 19th century. These products were of low quality and were cheap and thus very popular with workers in industrial towns. From the 1890s onwards, the industry produced better quality goods and attracted associated industries, including shoe machinery and materials makers.
However, the glory days could not last and as the 1980s gave way to the 1990s, factories began to close and thousands of jobs were lost. Cheaper competition from abroad made it almost impossible for the trade to survive.
Property developer Jamie Lewis Residential Lettings, which bought the site in November, has unveiled £20 million proposals to convert the building into flats. There was a substantial fire which destroyed one part of the large site and resulted in people in Western Road being evacuated because it was so fierce. According to the Leicester Mercury: Paul Crumbie, manager of Equity Shoes, said: “Luckily, we had moved all the expensive and valuable machinery from the side of the building where the fire was.”
I hope that the conversion goes ahead... it's a lovely, grand looking building with huge windows that would make fabulous loft apartments.
A short picture video and commentary... showing some internal pictures when the factory was open.
And the pics... I'm sure that Enrashid will add his when he resurfaces from his boat!
A beautiful entrance door. The beautiful bronze handle that matched this one had been ripped off the matching door.
And the fire...
The building itself has a Blue Plaque located on the Western Road wall, near to the main entrance.
ALICE HAWKINS, suffragist
Alice Hawkins (1863 - 1946) was a working class leader of the women's suffrage movement in Leicester, and founder of the Leicester branch of the Women's Social and Political Union in 1907. Alice worked for many years at Equity Shoes, where the plaque is sited.
Oi Loiked it!