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Article by Mavis Sharpe, 2008
Rushden Heel Co Ltd. 1917 - 1999
The old windmill club
Rushden Echo, April 6th 1917

The Rushden Heel Co. Ltd., (a private company) has been registered with a capital of £2,000 in £1 shares. Heel builders and makers, manufacturers of and dealers in boots and shoes and parts thereof, etc.

The subscribers (each with one share) are:
F. Roberts, Rushden, incorporated accountant; H. Giddings, Ringstead, newsagent. F Roberts is the first director. Other directors to be elected.

The house and factory premises in Windmill Road

The Rushden Heel Company was founded in 1917 by William Childs, who, as most people who founded their own business, previously worked for others: William had been at the British United Shoe Machinery Co Ltd. His own business was started at the rear of 4 Griffith Street where the family lived - and moved to Park Place. By 1922 they also had a branch at Olney.

house and factory
Foreground centre - two bays of the factory built in
Park Place. William Childs lived at 4 Griffith Street
(far right towards top) and part of the small low
building adjoining was probably his original factory.

In 1928 they bought the Old Windmill Club (in Windmill Road) and two houses. William lived in the large house, and sold the small one to Mr. Wilfred Myers for £350. The business stayed in this property until it ceased trading in December 1999. [William was still listed as being at 4 Griffith Street in Kelly's Directories 1931, 1936 and 1940]

William's wife was Hester and their family all worked for the Company: Amy, who married Horace Sharpe, Ivy married to Don Whiteman, Nellie married to William Abington, then Bill married to Jessie nee Robinson, Eric married to Kath Colson, and Queenie married to Ben Ely. [The house was called 'The Homestead' in the 1930s when two of the children married at the Methodist Church]

William Childs ran the firm until his death in 1945 when Bill and Eric became Directors. Horace Sharpe had been manager from 1923. He died in 1961 when Eric Sharpe (his and Amy's eldest son) became Manager until he retired in 1992- he started working there in 1938; a total of 54 years. His brother Bob joined in 1958. In 1973 Mavis Sharpe (Eric's wife) became Company Secretary and retired in 1992 with Eric. Bill Childs died in 1975.

One of the things that the Heel Co did was to have lots of workers making heels at home - this did allow Mums to look after their Children and earn some extra money.

In 1980/1981 there were hard times in the Shoe Industry - Eric Childs was in failing health - the firm was taken over at Christmas 1981 by Thos Ware & Sons of Bristol. Eric Sharpe became Managing Director. Richard Sharpe joined in 1988 and became a Director in 1989. Sadly due to lack of trade and the decline in the Shoe Industry the firm closed in December 1999. Although no longer a family firm, from 1982 the Childs family retained their interest through Richard Sharpe until it's closure.

Rushden Echo, 27th December 1918, transcribed by Kay Collins

A Pleasing Presentation was made on Friday evening last, at the Rushden depot of the British United Shoe Machinery Co., to Mr Childs, who is leaving the firm to become the managing director of the Rushden Heel Co., Park-place, Rushden. The presentation was made by the district manager, Mr T Smith, who referred to the long and happy connection of Mr Childs with the firm and the excellent work he had accomplished in his 15 years with them.

Notes: From a single page of notes at NRO: William Childs employed six people and in about 1919 he opened a factory at Olney in Bucks to make lifts for the heels. Soon after another factory was opened at Ringstead where the heels and lifts were stuck and pasted together. The move to Windmill Road was in 1928. Two staff outings are noted as being in June 1920 to Lilford and June 1930 to Clacton. [Thought to be an annual event]. High quality mens all leather men's heels were the main trade in 1978 although some ladies heels were still being made.

Rushden Echo & Argus, 20th February 1948, transcribed by Kay Collins
Miss Gladys Woods
Miss Gladys Woods operates a tacking machine in the room which was once
"the bar" and now houses
the main part of the works
of Rushden Heel Co.

Old Club is Now a Factory - Main Works was the Bar
About eighteen years ago, one of the most popular meeting places for Rushden was the Old Windmill Club. To-day it is a factory where, every week, 46,000 heels pass through the hands of the employees of the Rusheden Heel Company Ltd.

The smell of beer has long since been changed to the smell of leather, but that does not alter the fact that the main works is in the bar, the "assembling" department is in the cellar, and the green linoed office was once the reading room.

The firm was founded in 1916 by Mr. William Childs, who first had premises in Park Road, Rushden, and it moved into its present habitation at the time the new Windmill Hall was built.

Gradually production increased until now, with Mr. Eric Childs and Mr. William Childs, the sons of the founder, as joint managing directors, it has an important place in the fight for more exports.

Much of leather which goes into making the heels for both ladies' and men's shoes comes from the North of England, but considerable quantities of locally tanned leather are also used.

Served in R.A.F.
"It is almost impossible to say offhand exactly how many different kinds of heels are required, but we do make at least thirty," said Mr. Eric Childs, who during the war served as an L.A.C. in the R.A.F. He added that while he was away the firm was making heels for ski boots and that about 300,000 were manufactured altogether.

There are two other members of the family, in the firm, Mr. H. Sharpe, the son-in-law of the founder who is foreman, and his son, Mr. Eric Sharpe, who, when we met him was operating a rapid Cutlan nailer.

The Heel Press
Mr. Sharpe joined his father-in-law about twenty-five years ago when he was 24, and can recall the growth of the firm since Park Road days. Its present rate of progress can be judged from the fact that its export quota has gone up fifty per cent, since the war.

Almost a member of the family is Mrs. Ada Jeffries, of 45, Oval Road, Rushden, who started in the firm in 1916, and whose picture appears in the old photographs of firm's outings which decorate the walls of the office.

"I started with the firm in Park Road," she told us, "and only left for short periods through illness. I can do making, cutting and compressing, but I don't mind what I do because I am interested in the firm. I think it is a real good firm to work for. Nobody worries us as long as we carry on with the work."

There are eleven outside workers, who assemble heels for the firm and in the factory, working in the "cellar" are other part-timers.

Mrs E Seamarks of 73, Glassbrook Road, Rushden, has been working with the firm for four years and chooses the hours from 8 to 11.30 and 1.30 to 3.30. "I lost my boy in the war. He was a prisoner of war" she said, "so I thought I would come here and take my mind off it a bit. Now I’m much better than if I had stayed at home."

Next to her was Mrs Eyre, of 137, Glassbrook Road, Rushden, who has a daughter aged 6½, and whose husband is employed by Mr Robert Marriott. "We are a happy family here, no one bothers us."

PART-TIMERS pull their weight in the export drive by assembling heels at this Rushden factory. Invisible partners are the part-timers who do the assembling in their own homes.

Left to right are Mrs. F. Eyre, of 137, Glassbrook Road, Mrs. E. Seamarks, of 73, Glassbrook Road, and Mrs. R. Wesley, of 40, Sartoris Road.

Rushden Echo & Argus, 30th April 1948, transcribed by Kay Collins

Rushden Firm's Appeal
The House of Lords on Friday heard appeals by the Rushden Heel Co., Ltd., against two orders of the Court of Appeal which reversed a decision of Mr. Justice Atkinson that the company in computing profits for the purpose of income tax and excess profits tax was entitled to deduct as expenses certain legal and accountancy charges incurred in prosecuting successfully an appeal to the Special Commissioners of Income Tax against an excess profits tax assessment.

Mr. J. Millard Tucker, K.C., appeared for the Rushden Co., and stated the circumstances of the ease and the grounds for the appeals.

The company, which carried on the business of manufacturing heels for boots and shoes, is a private company with issued capital of £2,000, divided into £1 shares, all held by Mr. William Childs and his children.

In January, 1941, Mr. Childs transferred some of his shares to his two sons and four daughters, who thereafter held 106 shares each. The claim was then made that as the two sons had become working proprietors in the business the company was entitled, in computing standard profits for the purpose of excess profits liability, to an allowance of £1,500 for each such working proprietor.

The Income Tax Commissioners rejected this claim, but on appeal the Special Commissioner for Income Tax allowed it. Legal and accountancy charges amounting to £142 were incurred by the company in its successful prosecution of the claim, and it was contended that this was an expense which could properly be deducted when ascertaining the profits of the year's trading.

Mr. Millard Tucker said that legal expenses incurred by a bus company in resisting an excessive claim for damages were admitted to be an expense which could be deducted.

This was a case of successfully resisting too high a demand for excess profits tax and equally the expenses incurred in doing so should be allowed.

Gallery & Notes

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