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The Rushden Echo and Argus, 12th May, 1950, transcribed by Gill Hollis
Alfred Sargent & Sons
‘Buyers Want Better Workmanship’
The cake
Replica of the firm’s “Forum” trade mare, the cake seen in the picture above was made for the golden jubilee party of Messrs Alfred Sargent and Sons Ltd. Flanking it at the Windmill Hall on Friday were (left to right) Mr and Mrs A C Smith, Mrs Coles, Mr and Mrs W F Sargent, Miss Mary Smith, Mrs I M Roberts, Mr W S Coles, Mrs A H Sargent, Mr and Mrs G W Timpson.

Export demand was so great that they could utilise a factory twice the size, said Mr. W. F. Sargent, son of the founder and now chairman and managing director of Messrs. Alfred Sargent and Sons, Ltd., the Rushden boot manufacturers, when the firm celebrated its golden jubilee at the Windmill Hall on Friday evening.

He said the directors were seriously contemplating extensions to the present factory in Portland Road.

Trade was becoming increasingly difficult, however. Buyers were demanding better workmanship, and all in the industry must give of their very best, whatever their job.

Mr. Sargent recalled that his first job was eyeleting, and in those days the factories worked from 6.30 a.m. to 6.15 p.m.

The family
Founder of the business in 1900, Mr Alfred Sargent stands on the right of this group, photographed about 1892. His father, William, is the venerable figure on the left, and his brother, Walter, is at the centre. Behind are W E Sargent (with arm extended), son of Walter, and W F Sargent (now managing director), son of Alfred.

Later, Mr. Sargent did clicking as his first regular job and was rather proud of cutting all his fingers in the first fortnight.

He mentioned Mr. “Bill” Clarke – present at the celebrations – as one who started work for the firm 49½ years ago.

The Founder

A portrait of the founder, the late Mr. Alfred Sargent, who opened a small John Street factory in May, 1900, hung in a place of honour. He was mentioned in the toast to “The Firm” proposed by Mr. Colin G. Croall, M.B.E.

“He was a man who endeared himself to everyone who knew him,” said Mr. Croall. “He had a fine sense of the true values of life. He was one of the great men of the shoe trade, quiet and big-hearted and with a great knowledge of everything appertaining to the manufacture of shoes.”

After Mr. Sargent’s speech, Mr. F. Seamarks broke into the set programme to offer the employees’ thanks to the firm and to call forward Miss Mary Smith, the oldest employee, and Miss Margaret Odell, a junior, to make surprise presentations.

Two Classes

Mr. Sargent received a set of gold engraved cuff links and studs, and brooches were handed to Mrs. W. F. Sargent, Mrs. L. G. Roberts (a director), and Mrs. A. H. Sargent.

Extending good wishes to the staff and employees on behalf of the firm, Mr. L. G. Roberts declared there were only two classes in the world – the workers and the talkers. “It is the workers who matter to us,” he said.
Some of the employees, seated at a dinner table.

Mr. Seamarks, in reply, said that few firms in the town were as happy as Alfred Sargent and Sons. Their managing director, never too busy to help someone who needed help, was carrying out the traditions of his father and mother.

Mr. W. S. Coles (secretary), who proposed “The Visitors,” said that during the war the firm sent over 300,000 pairs of boots and shoes overseas, and only 100 pairs were lost through enemy action. Although the firm had reached its jubilee he thought of it as one that was young and pushing ahead, though obeying the old traditions.

Mr. F. J. Lilley, (Kohnstamm and Co.) replied for the visitors.

Mr. A. C. Smith (hon. director), proposed “The Manufacturers’ Association,” and the reply was by Mr. G. W. Marriott (president), who congratulated the directors on their achievement in exporting 60 per cent of their out-put to 45 countries.

Proposing “The Trade Union,” Mr. D. K. Sargent praised the workers stability, integrity and sense of responsibility. Mr. R. W. Abbott, local president of the Union, responded.

The company of several hundreds at the dinner tables included employees and their wives and friends, retired employees, suppliers, customers, and many others who have been associated with the business.

Later in the evening Miss Smith and Miss Odell presented bouquets to Mrs. W. F. Sargent, Mrs. Roberts and Mrs. A. H. Sargent, and Miss Smith helped the “chief” to cut a jubilee cake handsomely modelled as a classical forum in keeping with the firm’s principal trade mark.

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