Saturday, 18 May 2013

My ancestor was a BOOTMAKER...

Gedera Historic Museum - Shoemaker
(Image link:, Author:
Dr. Avishai Teicher, 1 June 2009, accessed 9 Feb 2014
In the early 19th century most high streets had a cobblers shop, where footwear was made and repaired. Everyone would visit this shop to buy their footwear or have them repaired as well as pick up other items made of leather or products for looking after their shoes such as wax and polish.

All footwear was handmade until the industrial revolution when the process became mechanised and it became cheaper to mass produce shoes.

In 1851 it was the third largest manufacturing industry in the UK, which means that most people will have at least one person in their family tree who worked in the footwear manufacturing trade.

My great, great grandfather, Frederick Sutcliffe was a boot maker all of his life. He started his career as a journeyman which meant he had completed an apprenticeship and was fully educated in the trade but not yet a master. Later in his career he was a boot riveter which was probably a part of a factory line in the production of footwear.

Becoming a cobbler or shoemaker was a perfect trade for a man who had limited mobility or a disability as it did not involve a huge amount of physical labour as many other occupations did.

 Other occupations within the trade:

  • cobbler - traditionally mended shoes
  • shoemaker - made shoes
  • bootmaker - made boots
  • cordwainer or cordiner - produced high class shoes

Occupations within the mass production of footwear:
  • Pressman - operated a press to cut the leather
  • Prickers - would make holes in the leather
  • Bottom fillers - filled the bottoms of shoes in the finishing process
  • Skivers - used a tool to cut or split leather
  • Rough-stuff worker - cut the soles and heels
  • Finishers - polished and finished off the footwear
  • Hand craftsmen
  • Clickers - cut the uppers of the shoes from the sheets of leather

Copyright © 2013 Ruth Hogan

No comments:

Post a Comment