Login / Register    |   My Account   |    ( 0 ) items

The Old Richmond Shoe Facotory

The origins of boot and shoe making in Richmond go back to Rochdale… the home of the Rochdale Pioneers and the co-operative movement, which started in 1844 at 31 Toad Lane Rochdale… the building is still there today.

In the late 1930’s William Shepherd of Rochdale along with likeminded colleagues formed a co-operative to manufacture footwear. They worked as ‘equals’ and addressed each other as brother and sister… times were very hard and after some tough years that co-operative was forced to close. This was when William Shepherd along with his son John, started his own factory making shoes… the new factory was a success and in the early 1960’s he opened a second factory in Richmond, North Yorkshire.

The new Richmond factory occupied some of the buildings in a disused First World War army camp (Gallowfields Camp) sited on a hill just outside Richmond and overlooking the old Norman castle that stands in the centre of the cobbled marketplace.

“It was at Gallowfields Camp that many of the soldiers returning from the trenches received their discharge papers… my wife’s grandfather was one of them… and after 3 years in the trenches… having ‘done his duty’… he walked from there all the way back through Swaledale to their farm near Low Row… a distance of over 20 miles… I wonder what thoughts were in his mind on that long walk.”

- Altberg Senior Bootmaker

In 1989 the Richmond factory was forced to close… it was the largest employer in our town (320 people). It had been a good factory and we made 25,000 pairs of shoes each week!! ...we’d lasted longer than most, but the recessions and the growth of low cost imports had proved too much. We were among the last remaining English shoe factory of our type to close.

When I first started working there in 1969, there were over 500 shoe factories all around England… twenty years later in 1989 there were less than 25 remaining. The industry that I’d grown up with… had been virtually wiped out. And that’s when I started Altberg.

- Mike Sheehan Senior Bootmaker and Founder