William Lamb Footwear making shoes in Stanley for 125 years

Stuart Lamb of William Lamb Footwear which is celebrating 125 years in business.
Stuart Lamb of William Lamb Footwear which is celebrating 125 years in business.

IT was back in 1887 when William Lamb began making clogs for the miners and mill workers of Yorkshire’s West Riding.

And 125 years on, the company he started is a major player in the global footwear industry.

William Lamb Footwear.

William Lamb Footwear.

William Lamb Footwear has evolved through decades of changes in fashion, recessions and industrial upheaval.

But it is still based close to the family cottage on Bottom Boat Road, Stanley, where the Lamb’s still run the business.

Stuart Lamb, who is now chairman, said the clogs were still being made up until the 1960s. He said: “They were wooden clogs with leather uppers. They were worn in pits and cotton mills.”

William Lamb, who died in 1923, was succeeded by his son, also called William, who took over the company aged just 20.

William Lamb Footwear.

William Lamb Footwear.

The company helped the war effort by making boots during World War Two, then began making football boots, and by the 1960s was specialising in this area.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the company expanded to employing 850 people at three plants in the district.

But its UK workforce declined as production was shifted overseas and across the UK manufacturing sector.

Now around 100 designers, technicians, and warehouse staff now work at its Stanley headquarters, where footwear is designed for overseas production in China, Vietnam, Laos and India.

Mr Lamb, first who joined the business in 1966, said ethical trading was vital to the company’s business overseas.

He said: “We make sure we are providing living wages for the staff and good working conditions. All our large customers want to ensure factories we operate have regularly audits.”

William Lamb now supplies to retailers including Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury’s Next and Sports Direct and holds licences to produce footwear for brands including Disney and Peppa Pig. In the last five years sales at the company grew from £25m to £51m.

Mr Lamb said: “The shoe business is generally very steady because people actually always need shoes.

“We are still very growth orientated. We also believe very strongly in profit share for employees. It can be quite a significant of the annual salary, and this works from the bottom up.”