In the closing room the uppers are received from the clickers and, in orderly sequence, each pair is handled by about
thirty operatives. The following are just a few of the jobs which the closers, mainly women, do :-
opening, marking, lining, printing, size-stamping and fancy stitching. These are followed by skiving, beading and
perforating. After the uppers have been through these operations, they are ready to be stitched and this involves
quarter-seaming, lining-marking and through to vamps, lacing and passing.
The finishers trim, smooth and colour the shoes or boots. This is one of the last stages the shoes go through before the
final gloss, which is on the shoe when it is sold, is added.
The operatives would be responsible for joining the soles and uppers together using a foot-shaped last to which they
then attach a heel.
In the rough stuff room the heavier leather required for the soles is cut and matched. Rough stuff us thought to be rather
an unworthy name as some of the most important parts of the shoe such as the foundations and understandings are cut in
this department. These include the heel lifts, top pieces, toe and heel stiffener, the welts and also the sole. Many of the
pieces cut in this room are the invisible part of the shoe.
The clicker cuts out the upper parts of the shoe from the leather. He has always been the elite of the trade. Personal
care and skill is needed for this work in order to gain maximum use of a skin. The ideas of a creative designer are
carried into effect by the clicker.
Martin Skeffington writes, "My father who worked for a firm of slipper manufacturers in Earl Shilton in Leicestershire
was a clicker. He made his own blades for his clicking knife out of old hacksaw blades which were ground at one end
to form an extremely sharp rounded and pointed blade which he used to cut out the uppers for the slippers. He always
told me that the term clicker was derived simply from the fact that as they drew the blade around the pattern the blade made
a clicking sound. Later on in his working life the clicking knife became obsolete in the factory where he worked except for
samples. The main cutting of the uppers were then done on a press known as a clicking press which cut through several
layers of the materials using a metal pattern beneath the press. My father passed away in 1969 and it was only in the 1960's
that the change took place. I would guess the same probably applied in the shoeing industry in Northants."
Another term for shoemaker
"He was what they called a cordwainer. Everything they did with the boots and shoes was made by hand, no machinery
at all, only the machine that stitched the uppers of the boots or shoes, you see."
(Mr Joseph Marlow)
Outwork is the making of part of a shoe outside the factory. The work carried on this way included closing, lining,
hand stitching and hand finishing. Pieces would be collected from the factories and would then be made up by the
shoemaker. From the time of the introduction of sewing-machines in 1857, groups of workers, particulary women, set up
small closing shops in their homes or in purpose-built closing rooms, the machinery often rented from manufacturers.
"Most of them they never used to work on a Monday... they used to have their white apron on, and they would stand on
their doorsteps talking and one thing and another. They they would go up to the pub dinner-time and have a drink and
evening-time as well and the rest of the week they would settle in and work then right up till ten o'clock at night..."
(Mr Joseph Marlow)
"They used to work all hours bar Monday, they used to go the booze Mondays... the pawnshop used to be open Mondays
to take the shirts and everything, suits; there used to be a pawnbroker's nearly on to of every street."
(Mr Charlie Marlow)
Bespoke shoemaking continues the traditions of the handsewn shoemakers who laid the foundations of the trade in
Northampton long before mechanisation. The idea is that a shoe is made to fit the boot that will it is fundemental to the
bespoke shoemaker. Careful and detailed measurement is the first stage of the making of the bespoke shoe, and it is this that
sets an individually-tailored shoe apart from its mass produced counterparts. The customer will know that this boot / shoe
has been made for their comfort as the prime concern.
"You see most of them worked at home in them days and they would have one of the bedrooms as a workroom and they
had the bench in the middle and they would sit, place themselves round on little stools. They wouldn't be stools, what
they'd be was chairs that'd broke and they'd sawn the legs down and made little stools of them you see. Well at night-time
I used to go up my granny's... they lived with my grandma and I used to run errands for them... at night-time while they
were working I used to sit and read the newspaper to them."
(Mr Joseph Marlow)
"When people took the work back when they had finished it, which we called 'shopping' the work, when you 'shopped'
your work... he booked it down... you got paid for what you did and he was a passer and he was known as 'foreman at the
wicket' and that was his job."
(Mr Gordon White)
Charles Marlow, born about 1850, and his brother Ted were shoemakers from Desborough who followed their trade to
Northampton in the 1870's. Charles had eight children, six of them sons whom he taught shoemaking at their home in Little
Cross Street. When the family moved to Market Street in the 1890's Charles and Ted continued to work from home with sons
Ted, Joe, George, William and Tom.