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Courtesy of Wildman & Bugby Ltd

Wildman & Bugby Ltd

The office frontage in 2006
Wildman and Bugby Ltd. was founded in 1942 by Cecil Wildman and Don Bugby. Both were already working in the leather trade. Mr Wildman worked for A W Durrad & Co. (Leicester), and Mr Bugby for Henry Ingle’s, in Rushden.

They moved into warehouse premises at 206 Wellingborough Road, Rushden, which was owned by Mr Bugby’s wife’s family, the Gates. It had been a fruit warehouse, and during in the war it was used to ripen bananas, which were hung up from the beams, before being distributed to local shops. The nails are still in the beams across the ceiling even today (2012), and Wildman and Bugby are still operating from these premises.

The company sold upper leather to the shoe and allied trades and had the sole agency to sell leathers from J K Perkins & Sons, of Irthlingborough. (Later to merge with Stimpson Bros. of Abington Mills, Northampton, and became Stimpson-Perkins). They also bought from several other local tanners and curriers such as Bennett & Wright and Clifford Collins in Rushden, A R & J R Harris, Glenn Leathers, W L Hector, Harris Bros. and George Fensome, all of Higham Ferrers.

In 1959 Mr Bugby was forced to leave due to ill health and died later that year, aged 60. In 1961 Mr Wildman’s son, Peter, joined the firm on leaving school, and still works full time today (2013). In the 1970s they started selling leather to clothing manufacturers and suede splits became very popular for a few years. In the 1980s they started concentrating more on selling to the Safety Footwear trade and bought large quantities of leather from India. Initially from Calcutta but then from about 1982 from Kanpur. Supplying to customers such as Totectors, TUF, C.W.S., Coggins, Tebbutt & Hall, G W & R Shelton, and Griggs. As well as leather they started to buy in cut and closed uppers from India, to save on labour costs for the UK manufacturers.

When the British Standard specifications for Safety Boots were lifted in favour of European Standards, in the early 1990s, it meant that safety footwear made in Eastern Europe and India flooded the UK market, with prices much lower than they could be made by UK Manufacturers. Consequently the Safety Boot makers were closing down one by one, so Wildman and Bugby lost their main trade customers.

In 1996 Peter Wildman’s son, Ashley, joined the company after training at Northampton College. In a short space of time he could see how the trade was changing with many more shoe manufacturers going out of business. In 1999 Peter and Ashley decided to look at selling leather to other trades and went to Italy to buy upholstery leathers for the UK furniture trade. This proved to be a good decision as only a few shoe manufacturers survive, and leather became very popular for furniture.

In 2012 90% of their leather goes to the furniture and automotive trades.

billhead from 1994 the warehouse
A statement
The warehouse
Notes from a former employee.

The company was founded in 1942. Mr Cecil Wildman had a licence to buy and sell leather which was needed during the war, and Mr Don Bugby had been working at Ingle’s, leather factors, but the firm had closed. Mr Bugby then went into partnership with Mr Wildman. Mr Ned Dickens who had also been working at Ingle’s came as a warehouseman. They started off in a small way, having just one girl in the office. After the war the business became busier and gradually the office staff increased to 3 girls, including the company secretary. In 1952 they appointed a salesman for Leicestershire, Warwickshire, Lancashire, and Norfolk. Again the business became busier and another salesman was appointed for Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire. Both of these representatives became Directors. They also had an agent in the Bristol area. At this time Mr Bugby's health was deteriorating.

They bought their own van as the deliveries were quite extensive and employed another warehouseman and van driver. In 1961 Mr Peter Wildman joined the firm. They were buying and selling many types of leather. During the war it had been mainly heavy leather for boots but they later sold suede, calf and lighter leathers for shoes. Amongst their suppliers were local firms - e.g. Clifford Collins, A.R. & J.R. Harris, J.W. Barker, Stimpson-Perkins, J. Hardy Smith of Leicester where they had connections with the BATA Group. They sold to many local shoe manufacturers, John White, Alfred Sargent, Grensons, Jaques & Clark, Ladds. This is not a comprehensive list but just a few of the local names. Mr Wildman made trips to India over the years to visit the suppliers.

Rushden Echo & Argus, 3rd April 1953, transcribed by Kay Collins
Edgar receives gifts ONE of the original employees, Mr. Edgar Dickens, has retired from the service of Messrs. Wildman and Bugby, the Rushden leather factors, and received farewell gifts at a dinner in his honour, last Friday. He is seen receiving a table lamp from Mr. C. W. Harrison (for the staff), and on the right is Mr. Don Bugby, who presented a cheque.

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