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The Beginning of Altberg

The old Richmond shoe factory closed in 1989, 320 people were made redundant… it was a sad day. For the previous ten years it had been constantly on the news that ’Globalisation’ was the new way forward, and our type of ’low tech’ manufacturing was considered to be no longer desirable in England. We were told that the future was in financial and service industries. My working life had been making shoes, and I had always enjoyed ‘making things’… so that’s how in 1989 Altberg was started. Most people thought it was completely mad, but I didn't really know anything else...

Group outside the old factory - Altberg summer 1992

Group inside the factory - Altberg Christmas 1990

The first five years were incredibly difficult… we had no money, no orders and no materials. Although I knew about boot making I had no experience whatsoever about how to run a business!! There were many problems, and on more than one occasion we thought closure was inevitable… but always at the last minute, a little bit of luck came along and so we kept going.

After five long years it looked like we might survive, orders were more regular and we even had a waiting list for some of our most popular boots…

In 2001 I had the opportunity to start a second factory in Italy… in an area where bootmaking had always remained strong, and where bootmaking skills were still being passed on from one generation to the next… it was just like it used to be 20 years before in England. The factory was close to tanneries and companies that made lasts, linings, soles, ‘D’ rings, everything needed for making boots, components and materials that were no longer available in England. This helped not only in Italy, but also in Richmond… and I was able to begin to develop new ranges of boots in Richmond for hiking, military and police.

I'm now 70 years old (2017), and I still work everyday in my factory in Richmond, and one week each month in the factory in Italy… and now I'm working with the next generation. We are a small group of people, but we still work in the old way and they are learning in the same way that I learned and they will carry our bootmaking forward.