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Knight & Lawrence Ltd.

The factory
The Manton Road factory

Mr W C Knight
Mr W C Knight
The company was founded by Mr. W. C. Knight in 1889, in a small premises in Ebenezer Terrace, where they made boys' and men's boots. The following year he moved to premises in Alfred Street, but three years later with the need for more space, he built a new factory in Manton Road. At first the much of the work had been sent to outworkers, but now all the cutting and packing was done in the factory, with closing working being sent out to the workers who worked in their own "shop". In 1896 an extra bay was added to the factory and by 1914 all had been brought inside, the factory had been enlarged again to double the area, and machinery was bought or rented from the British United Shoe Machinery Co. Ltd.

In 1906 Mr Lawrence retired and went to South Africa, but the company name was retained. William's sons Harry and Horace joined their father, and Mr A E Bates (father of H.E. Bates) became a traveller or salesman.

Mr Knight died suddenly aged 61 in 1915. He had been a member of the Temperance Society and the Temperance Band. The company was continued by his sons and his widow.

For a short time during the Second World War some production was given over to footwear for women serving in the forces, and this lead to making ladies golf shoe and bowling shoes, but this was discontinued in the 1960s and they reverted to boys' and men's footwear and some motorcyclists' boots. They also supplied some footwear by mail order. In about 1977 the company became part of the Dalaco group of companies.

Knight and Abbott
Knight and Lawrence
Boot and Shoe Manufacturers

In 1889 William C. Knight had a short partnership with Joseph Abbott in a small workshop in Alfred Street which belonged to William. H. Darnell. After a few years the partnership broke up and Abbott took on a Dairy Farm in Wymington.

Mr. Knight was joined by Mr. Charles Lawrence in 1893. The partnership's first workshop was situated in Ebenezer Terrace. The business prospered and they bought some land in Manton Road and employed Mr. Samuel Knight to build their new factory.

This was spacious but in these early years much of the work was contracted out to individuals or families working at home. Many of the local houses had their own work shops, either attached or at the bottom of the garden, especially for boot manufacturing, particularly for closing and hand sewing. The initial cutting of the leather was done in the factory.

In 1896 a new bay was added to the factory. In 1906 Mr. Lawrence retired from the business and went to South Africa but the Company retained the name of 'Knight and Lawrence'. Further extensions were built in 1913 and 1917.

The founder, William C. Knight, died suddenly of pneumonia aged 61, in February 1915, leaving a wife and three sons and a daughter to carry on the business. His obituary in the local paper, shows Mr. Knight to have been a member of "Rushden Temperance Band" and the "Temperance Society".

The sons, Horace Charles Cumberland Knight and Harry Ewart Knight, were both directors of the company, (the third son emigrated to Australia) but they worked on the shop floor. Horace working in the making and finishing room and Harry in the clicking and closing room. Horace took over as chairman.

They employed a man named Howell as their Agent in the London Area and Mr. Albert E. Bates (father of H. E. Bates, Rushden's famous author) was the company secretary. The Bates family lived very close to the works at, 51 Grove Road.

Horace Knight had two sons, Arthur William Cumberland (Will) and John Ibbett (John).

Harry Knight also had two sons, William Cumberland Kenneth Knight (Bill) and Ewart Cumberland Knight (Peter).

John joined the company, learning the trade of clicker. In 1949-50 he won First Prize, Silver Medal Honors stage, at the Boot and Shoe College, Victoria Road, Rushden. His role was clicker and pattern cutter and traveller. During the War he served in the R.A.F. and became a pilot. He married in 1959 but sadly passed away in 1961.

Ewart worked in the Closing Room.

One of their trademarks
One of the trademarks
After the 1939-45 War, Bill and Will joined the business. Bill in administration and Will in the finishing and making department along with his father. Will then took on some of the travelling together with L. T. Maynard (Dick) and was also involved with S.A.T.R.A.

Will Knight lived in Higham Ferrers where he became Mayor in 1961, not bad for a Rushden born lad!

The 'Manton Boot' trademark - a Bull Rush on a scroll 'Den - K. & L.'

I would like to thank the family for the information, especially Celia Knight and her late mother, Betty Knight (nee Lack). Article by Ann Cooper.

Rushden Argus, 25th May 1917

Rushden Tribunal
Mr. W. George, of Wellingborough, represented Harry E. Knight (35 married) and Horace C. C. Knight (29 married), both life directors of Messrs. Knight and Lawrence Ltd., Rushden. The elder had been 18 years general manager of the company, and did a great portion of the clerical work. The firm did 75 per cent. Army work. They had lost 30 men, and only had 15 men of Army age left. The younger director was the mechanic of the factory, and could work and repair all machines. He was also a foreman. If the elder director had to go the business would close, and if the younger director was the mechanic of the factory, and could work and repair all machines. He was also a foreman. If the elder director had to go the business would close, and if the younger director was ordered to go the factory would have to close if they could not get three more foremen. He would point out that it was obvious that the younger man could not stand a week’s training.—Horace Knight’s appeal was dismissed, and Harry Knight was allowed six months. more on Tribunals

Trademark Shoe box label
Shoe box label

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