A brief history of Joseph Cheany & Sons shoes…

Joseph Cheaney founded the company and moved to the present site in 1896. In 1903 Joseph’s sons Arthur and Harold joined the company. In 1930 “Dick” Cheaney, grandson of the founder, joined the company.In 1966 Cheaney won the Queen’s Award to industry and was sold to Church and Company. In 2009 Jonathan and William Church bought the company. Their family has been making fine shoes for five generations and they are fully committed to producing the finest footwear entirely made in England.

Northamptonshire is renowned as the home of quality English shoemaking, and it is interesting to explore what prompted this industry to develop in the first place. The popular theory is that in the 1600s there was ample availability of materials for tanning leather. This, so the story goes, coupled with the need to re-shod the armies about to fight the Battle of Naseby, spawned the nascent shoe industry. It’s a nice folk tale, but the reality is more prosaic.

There were no factories in the 17th century, and it was around 200 years later that the oldest shoe families began to become more organised, which led to the establishment of manufactories. So it was with Cheaney. Joseph Cheaney had been the factory manager of B. Riley, but in 1886 established J. Cheaney, Boot & Shoemakers in a small premises in Station Road, Desborough. At the time, many people were engaged in the making of shoes, but rather than carrying out the whole operation, they would specialise in a part of the process. This would typically be done in outhouses, known as shops, at the bottom of their gardens. At each stage of the making process, the shoe would move to a different ‘shop’ until the end product would go a collection point for distribution, which was facilitated by the burgeoning road and rail network. Before this, a local shoemaker would only supply customers in his immediate vicinity.

There were about seven shoe factories in Desborough at this time, and in 1890, Arthur Cheaney joined his father’s company. In 1896, the business moved to the site it still occupies today in a purpose built factory to house all aspects of shoemaking, from the cutting out of the leather (clicking) to the final polishing. Although some manufacturers now outsource the initial production of the uppers to the Far East, Cheaney shoes are still cut out and ‘closed’ in Desborough, Northamptonshire as they have been since 1886.

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