A Proud History Of Shoe Making

Beginning with T. Groocock & Co (Rothwell) Ltd and the manufacturing of welted shoes in 1914, we as a business, have gone from strength to strength over the years. The early part of the 20th century saw factory expansion alongside doing our bit for the war. By the 1950s, we were producing the famous beetle-crushers and winkle-pickers, and by the 1970s, wedge-platform shoes were whizzing off our production line, at a volume of 2,000 per day. It was in the early 1980s that the Padders brand was successfully launched.

Check out our timeline for a more in-depth walk through our diverse history.

1900s

In 1906, Thomas Groocock was working as a general retailer in Rothwell with no immediate connections to the shoe industry. Northamptonshire was quickly becoming the home of shoe production and Thomas’ entrepreneurial spirit led the family into business. At this point in time, shoes were still commonly made by cobblers, however, machine manufacture was beginning to take hold, resulting in lower-priced production costs and lower-priced shoes. These new production methods also allowed an element of fashion, which was often reserved for the wealthy, to weave its way into mainstream footwear.

1910s

In 1914, at the beginning of the first world war, Thomas Groocock established the business in Fox Street, Rothwell. Soon after, his son Irving enters the business and helps the family to make a name for themselves as shoemakers in the region. During this decade, many fashion statements were being made with the move from restrictive hobble skirts to more liberating sportswear. Shoes also became more varied in style with two-tone, suede and patent leather all making an appearance. The world’s first rubber-soled trainers even appeared in 1917 - a revolution for shoe-makers.

1920s

1922 saw the purchase of our Gordon Street Factory in Rothwell, a large manufacturing site to help keep with constant demand for quality British made shoes. At the same time, new and more extravagant styles were making an appearance in the shoe and clothing industries. It was an era of experimenting and pushing boundaries. The above-the-knee hemlines of the 1920s Flappers were particularly daring, especially when the older generation were still covering piano legs. Bright fabrics, dyed leather luxury materials and metallics were all features of the decade and certain styles started to become synonymous with social crazes, such as the energetic Charleston dance.

1930s

The 1930’s were a time of uncertainty with mass-unemployment smothering the country. Society was still recovering from the First World War and World War II was looming. The Groocock family overcame these problems by making sturdy leather army boots and utility men’s shoes for the armed forces. This carried on well into the 40s as the war continued. The decade was also the golden era for Hollywood glamour and millions found refuge in the new ‘talkies’. Platform shoes and strappy evening sandals were plastered on the big screen while sensible low-heeled footwear became more popular with the everyday woman.

1940s

A year after the end of the Second World War, with their business still going strong, Groococks opened a closing room in Nuneaton, further expanding their shoe-making capabilities. The height of daring fashion had come to an end and shoes become a lot simpler and more practical. This was partly due to the sombre mood of society but also by increased shortages of raw materials. Leather was reserved for military applications and so shoe-makers began experimenting with alternative materials. Decorations were minimal and soles were often made of either cork or wood. Eventually in 1947, with the rise of Dior’s New Look, a return to the peacetime extravagances of fashion began.

1950s

To coincide with the promising and confident mindset of a 1950s society, Groococks partnered with Densons to create the ever-popular crepe soled beetle-crushers and winkle-pickers. As material supply improved fashion began to make a comeback, consumers were willing to spend a little extra money on quality shoes. Groococks introduced 24-hour shifts for the first time to keep up with a demand of more than 3000 pairs of shoes per day. The economy and consumerism were booming and glamourous stiletto-heels were starting to make an appearance while more forward- thinking teenagers found comfort in the flattest, simplest pumps. There was time and money for leisure as never before and the generation of the ‘50s really made the most of this positive era. 

1960s

In 1963, Groococks purchased another closing room and invested significantly in new shoe manufacturing technology, installing their first direct sole-onto-shoe injection moulding plant. Production of our most popular styles were flying off the shelves thanks to cheaper production methods and an increase in casual spending. Designs were becoming more obscure by the day with influence taken from Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the 8th studio album from The Beatles, where psychedelia met Edwardiana. Miniskirts were coming onto the clothing scene and the USA put a man on the moon. Times were definitely changing.

1970s

By 1972, Groococks were making 2000 stack-heel and wedge-platform shoes per day. The company’s ability to keep up-to-date with trends and manufacture quality shoes at such an impressive rate ensured they remained at the top of the industry. The ‘70s was an interesting decade with shoe culture changing once again. The optimism of the ‘60s gave way to an over-the-top, brash fashion era where loud patterns, extra-wide lapels and towering platforms reaching dizzying heights of 12 inches found their home. On the other end of the height scale, cowboy boots with Cuban heels made an appearance while Doc Martens became just as popular among kids as they were with policemen.

1980s

68 years after establishing T Groocock & Co (Rothwell) Ltd, the company created Padders and the feelgoodfeet concept, with the intention of providing the most comfortable footwear without compromising on style. Padders was, and still is, all about exceptional comfort and support. The concept was independently recognised by the industry's premier research and testing organisation, SATRA, who gave Padders feelgoodfeet one of the highest ever scores in their footwear Comfort Index tests. Such was the demand, that by 1987 there were four plants in action, producing well over one million pairs in that year alone. The launch was a huge success and after years of manufacturing only three styles of men’s shoes, the brand expanded to also include women’s shoes, allowing it to reach an ever-growing female market. Around the same time, women were beginning to progress in the working environment and were opting for more sensible shoes as they stormed the workplace with force. The Padders brand became synonymous with style, comfort and most of all, quality.

1990s

After the successful launch of the Padders brand almost a decade earlier, Groococks opened their first factory shop in Gordon Street, Rothwell in 1990, selling rejects and end of line products. It was during the ‘90s that anything became possible with fashion. It was very much a decade for making up your own rules, an outlook that is still prevalent today. Sportswear and trainers couldn’t be missed on the high street, echoing the influences of rap and hip-hop, alongside the revival of retro styles, such as flares and platforms.

2000s

At the turn of the millennium, almost 100 years after the Groocock family established their shoe business in Rothwell, the company opened a 42,000 sq ft purpose-built facility in the heart of the up and coming Kettering Venture Park. The new headquarters houses the head office, vast warehousing, state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities and our retail outlet. As well as continuing with the manufacture and sale of Padders shoes, the retail outlet also stocks a large number of other popular brands, alongside a dedicated children’s shoe department. The Padders brand’s reputation for comfort and style even took it across the world, from the Far East to the USA.

2010s

In 2010, Padders branched out to new markets and started a joint venture in India, opening a manufacturing facility in Chennai. The global market continued to expand and the company employed agents across the USA, Australia and Belgium to help promote sales. The brand was also distributed to Dubai, with numerous retail outlets stocking our shoes to the delight of their customers. Only a year later, in 2011, Padders employed new agents in the Republic of Ireland while continuing to expand their own range by introducing Padders Plus+ and Padotics.  

The Future

The Padders story has really only just begun and we are looking forward to the next 100 years of shoe manufacturing. We will continue to promote healthy feet through our feelgoodfeet concept, inspiring people around the world to reap the benefits of Padders footwear. With our shoes currently stocked in thousands of retail shops across the UK and beyond, we aim to continue to spread the word about true comfort. Padders will also continue to establish links with healthcare professionals in order to conduct further research into footwear design – something we feel very passionate about.

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