In the next few posts we are going to explore one of the country’s biggest and well known, manufacturers of British made shoes……. Barker.
We are going to pay attention to three specific areas
- The History of Barker
- The Styles
- The Craftsmanship
Barker Shoes have been an English tradition for almost 140 years. They use only carefully selected leathers and shape the uppers onto the last by hand. Many other traditional shoe making methods are still employed, including slow natural drying and polishing. Therefore, Barker’s English shoes have a unique quality that no machine can ever match.
Barker have been making British shoes in the Northamptonshire village of Earls Barton since 1880. In a changing world, it's good to know you can still find perfection if you look for it.
The foundation stone of the Barker brand was laid in a humble cottage in the heart of the English shoe manufacturing industry in 1880, by an enterprising Northamptonshire boot maker.
1880 – In this year Arthur Barker founded the Company. Arthur was a skilled craftsman and natural innovator, whose waterproof peg-sole boots were highly sought after (the pegs would swell when wet and make the sole waterproof). Unable to satisfy increasing demands, he employed other craftsmen in surrounding villages to fulfil his growing order book.
1905 – With a keen eye on the future and a shrewd sense of timing, Arthur and his sons moved Barker Shoes to a small factory in Station Road. The eldest son Charles became a leather importer. Ernest and Arthur Jr. worked to fulfil contracts to supply the British army with boots during the First World War.
1920 – The business developed to produce fine British made shoes. An export trade was established, which grew to such an extent that an astonishing 75% of Barkers’ output was exported to South Africa.
1921 – Arthur, the ‘Grand old Man’ and founder of Barker Shoes, died in this year. His son Arthur Jr. took the helm.
1933 – Several workers from Earls Barton, ‘The Pioneers’, emigrated to South Africa to establish a new branch. Arthur Jr. ran the business with his son Roy until 1965.
1945 – After World War II, Barker Shoes expanded in Earls Barton. A new factory was built in Station Road for the making of ladies’ shoes. This enabled the original factory to concentrate on men’s footwear.
1948 – The third generation of Barkers, brothers Albert and Charles, joined ‘The Firm’. Albert became one of the world’s finest shoe designers. Charles steered the business until his early eighties.
1955 – Barker Shoes celebrated its 75th Anniversary.
1956 – The fourth generation joined the business. Following in the footsteps of his predecessors, William (Albert’s son), became a respected shoemaker and shoe designer in his own right.
1986 – Barker built a new factory and offices using local Northamptonshire brick and stone, which was opened by HRH The Queen Mother. It is now one of the finest footwear factories in the world. This site is only a few hundred yards away from the original site of 1880, the home of British made shoes.
2005 – Barker Shoes launched a new sub brand called Barker Black, which quickly gained the attention of the fashion media, appearing in the premiere issue of Men’s Vogue.
2011 – The Princess Royal visits and unveils a Plaque commemorating Barker Shoes 130th anniversary.
Today – Barker Shoes has become much sought after by discerning customers and lovers of English shoes. Both classic and casual styles are always in demand at prestigious stores around the world.
There is little doubt that Barker has joined that select band of quality British shoes, for which we are famous. Genuine quality and individuality are increasingly rare these days, but you can be certain that Barker Shoes will always maintain the very highest standards of shoe making, as they have done for almost 140 years.
For an in-depth look at a trio of Barker shoes click here. or to view all available Barker shoes click below.