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Article researched by Margaret Craddock with assistance from Mr Angus Westley. Presented by Margaret Craddock.

Whitney & Westley Ltd

The business started on 1 January 1896 although it really began when two men used to walk three miles from Burton Latimer to Kettering each day, in all weathers, to work in one of the shoe factories.  The two young men aged 29 were Harry WHITNEY and Joseph WESTLEY.  In fact, Joseph Westley began work as a boy of 10 helping to make shoes for a Higham Ferrers’ firm.  The work was taken to Burton Latimer by trap and made up in small shops there.  After this he worked at Saddington & Robinson’s in Workhouse Lane, Kettering and Harry Whitney worked at Loake Bros.

To fulfil their dream of owning their own concern, they saved from their meagre wages in order to provide capital for their business.  In 1895 they decided to work and save until Christmas and then to launch their own firm planning to work with the intention of retiring at the age of 50 if they were in a position to do so.  They each managed to provide £50 capital and set up a workshop at 66 Finedon Street in an empty cottage which they rented at a weekly rent of 1s 6d.  The four rooms were used for the various departments.  Most of the work was outwork and production gradually rose to 400-500 pairs a week by the end of 1896.  The total profit was £25, which was an improvement on the earlier situation when after six months a loss of £37 was shown.

66 Finedon Street Middle: Mr Oliver Tailby
Right: Mr Herbert Dunmore

In May 1896, Mr Arthur Coles was employed as a packer and remained with the firm for more than 50 years.  Mr Henry Sudborough who was employed as a clicker later founded Sudborough Bros of Wellingborough.

In 1897, a plot of land became available opposite the cottage and was purchased to enable a three-storey factory building to be erected with production increasing to 1000 pairs per week.  In 1899 ground level extensions were made and in 1904 six cottages and gardens below the premises were purchased to provide a further extension and double the size of the factory.  Both the wives of Harry Whitney and Joseph Westley worked in the Closing Room to assist in the establishment of the business.

Local people gathered outside the factory before the extension was built
Local people gathered outside the factory
before the extension was built
Photograph showing new factory extension with supply lorry
View of factory showing
new extension and supply lorry
Workers pictured outside the factory
Workers pictured outside the factory

Joseph Westley and Harold Whitney always concentrated completely on their business and many a night they remained at the factory working until dawn broke, letting in the operatives in the morning without having had a wink of sleep.  This dedication enabled them to realise their ambition on 31 December 1913 to retire at the age of 50 having worked in the industry for 40 years.  Mr Westley reached the age of 91 when he died on 13 January 1957. (To read his obituary click here and about his will click here.)

Memorial stone in Burton Latimer cemetery for Mr Joseph Westley and his wife, Hannah
Memorial stone in Burton Latimer cemetery for Mr Joseph Westley and his wife, Hannah

In 1920 Joseph Westley was awarded the Special Constables Long Service Medal for his community work.

Joseph Westley's Special Constable Long Service Medal and badge Letter from Superintendent announcing award of Special Constables Long Service Medal to Joseph Westley Photograph of Special Constables showing Joseph Westley
Special Constables Long Service Medal,
awarded to Joseph Westley, and badge
Letter to Joseph Westley
announcing award of Special
Constables Long Service Medal
Special Constables. Joseph Westley
seated second left, front row

The control of the business was passed to Frank and Joseph, the sons  of Joseph Westley and Harold Whitney.   Mr Oliver Tailby joined the firm in 1900 as a part-time office boy and became a Director 18 years later.  Mr Wright Harris became a Director at the same time as Mr Tailby but retired after two years.

Photograph of Oliver Tailby at his desk in the office
Oliver Tailby at his desk in the office

In 1911 all employees were invited to a Meat Tea and Programme of Sports Activities in the Higham Road Field. This event was held to celebrate the marriage of Joseph Whitney. The chief stewards on the day were Mr Harold Whitney and Mr Joseph Westley and the Secretary, Mr O Tailby. The programmes are shown below:

Programme for the Meat Tea and sports activities in 1911
Programme of Meat Tea and Activities

Sports Programme 1911
The Sports Programme

Frank Westley and Joseph Whitney took over the old malting premises in the town from Mr Charles Barlow and founded the Standard Boot Co in which Mr J W Coles was their partner.  Mr Coles represented the company as a traveller, became a partner and changed the name to Coles Boot Co.  From 1922, Frank Westley became the sole Managing Director following the death of Joseph Whitney.  Mr Westley remained at the factory until 1950 when ill health forced his retirement and his death occurred in 1969 at the age of 75.

Memorial stone in Burton Latimer cemetery for Mr Frank Westley
Memorial stone in Burton Latimer cemetery for Mr Frank Westley


One former employee recalled working at the factory in 1915.  He lived in Finedon and used to walk past Finedon Church at 6.30 am to get to work by 7 am.  He worked until 6 pm in the evening plus Saturday mornings until 12.30 pm with no overtime payment.

In 1929, the Wellingborough branch factory was opened.  Further extensions occurred in 1930 when coke bunkers at the rear of the Burton Latimer factory were converted into a sizeable extension to accommodate the Bottom Stock and Heel Building Departments.  This building was later used by the Instock Division (Angus Westley Shoemakers Ltd) serving independent retailers at home and abroad with Angus Westley branded shoes. The Instock Division was established in 1947 replacing Mediator Shoes which had been in operation from the mid 1930s in Alexandra Street.

Click here to read about the funeral in 1933 of Walter Summerfield, Factory Manager, aged 46 years.

  • Extract from Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette - Monday 26 November 1934

    Whitney & Westley Work–Relief Committee

    WORK FOR BOYS AND GIRLS It was stated in the report that three boys and six girls had been accepted for employment by Messrs Whitney and Westley Ltd, of Burton Latimer and Wellingborough.

    Wages to be paid for boys were 12s 6d a week for the first twelve months, 17s 6d at 16 years of age, 20s 3d at 17, 23s at 17 ½, and 23s at 18.

    The Public Assistance Officer in his report pointed out that it would be necessary for the children to be supplemented until they became self supporting, and suggested that the Minister of Health should be requested to sanction this proposal.

    The Homes Committee are recommending that the course suggested by the Public Assistance Officer be adopted.

    Applications for four further girls and two boys, it is also reported by the Homes Committee, have been received from Messrs Whitney and Westley, and arrangements have been made for their transfer.

    The statistical statement for the week ended November 3 showed that the number of persons relieved was 64,927 at a cost of £20,139 16s 1d compared with 61,613 persons and £17,881 15s 8d for the corresponding week last year, an increase of 3,314 persons and £2,258 0s 5d.

In the 1930’s, Eric Ambler worked in the office.  Following army service he joined the Coles Boot Co as a representative and later became Design Director and then Sales Director.  He designed the first pair of shoes for a star – Cowboy boots for Tommy Steele.

During World War II, from 1939-46, army boots were the main production but other types of service footwear were also manufactured.  Half a million pairs were made – a creditable achievement in view of the fact that the whole of the Bottom Stock department was taken over by the Ministry of Aircraft Production.  Buckby Bros, another Burton Latimer firm, also shared part of the factory and a considerable amount of co-operation was required to enable both firms to make best use of available materials and personnel.  Later in 1946 both Buckby Bros and the Ministry of Aircraft Production left the premises.  At this time too, the building was redecorated internally and new cloakrooms were installed.  Individual motors were fitted superseding all shafting.  A weekly production of 7000 pairs was planned, half of which were to be ladies welted shoes.  In 1973 the weekly output was 6000 pairs of mens shoes.  At that time 60% of the 250 employees were women.

50th Anniversary Jubilee Celebrations

Press announcement for 50th Anniversary
Press announcement for 50th Anniversary

In 1946 the firm celebrated its 50th Anniversary and, on 23 November, 200 employees with 80 friends were treated to a day in London.  A three-course luncheon was provided at Lyons Corner House in Coventry Street and in the afternoon the guests were able to spend time following their own interests.  In the evening tickets were booked for a performance of “Sweetheart Mine” starring Lupino Lane and Company at the Victoria Palace Theatre.  Finally a stop was made at the Mulberry Café, Cockfosters, for a buffet supper.

Programme of events for the 50th Anniversary
Programme of 50th Anniversary Event

Items from the Jubilee programme include the following:

The Jubilee

“There is no more fitting way to celebrate an anniversary than to share it with those who have contributed to the success attaching itself to such an occasion.  It is an achievement of which all can be proud and it is our hope that this day shall be remembered as signifying appreciation of services loyally rendered and work well done.

“We know of many who should be celebrating with us, but although absent, they are not forgotten and so may this Jubilee message go out to them as a token of our appreciation of their past and valued services.”

1946 and The Future

“The Jubilee Year has not been without its hard work of preparation and planning for the Future.  Everywhere in the factory can be seen some indication of the shape of things to come.

“In spite of the acute leather situation, many of our lower grade shoes have been withdrawn and the build up for the better class of work goes steadily ahead.  Our output, which will be mostly welted, will include a large proportion of ladies’ shoes.

“Quality and craftsmanship must be the keynote of our production and we shall always endeavour to choose materials and designs which will be worthy of your best workmanship and skill.

“The quality of the work today is our best assurance of work for tomorrow.”

Cutting from Evening Telegraph c 1946


Never call to see anyone in the Burton Latimer shoe trade just at midday.

You won’t be popular for they’re all “twelve o’clock lunchers” at  Burton.

The reason is that years ago Burton’s factories all started at seven – half an hour before the Kettering starting time.  They broke off for lunch half an hour earlier, too.

Since then they have adopted 7.30 as a starting time, but midday lunch is still the rule.

In 1946, Mr Angus Westley returned from service with the RAF and became a Director and on his father’s retirement in 1950 became joint Managing Director with Oliver Tailby.  Mr W E Billing of Wellingborough who was Works Manager retired owing to ill health in 1945 to be succeeded by Mr Herbert Dunmore.  Mr Dunmore joined the firm as a boy in the Lasting Room.  He left the firm in 1938 to work with another manufacturer, Wilson & Watson Ltd, Kettering but returned to Whitney & Westley in 1946 as Works Director.  He was an outstanding personality and a highly regarded practical shoemaker. (Click here for newspaper article of Mr Dunmore's death)

In 1957, Mr J H Matthews, who was Company Secretary, became a Director, and finally Joint Managing Director with Angus Westley.  Mr Oliver Tailby retired in 1961 (click here to read his obituary) and Mr Dunmore in 1968. 

Three generations, Frank Westley, Joseph Westley, Angus Westley Mr & Mrs Angus Westley, Mr & Mrs Oliver Tailby, Mr Herbert Dunmore
Three generations L to R:
Mr Frank Westley, Mr Joseph Westley
MrAngus Westley
L to R: Mr & Mrs Angus Westley
Mr & Mrs Oliver Tailby,
Mr Herbert Dunmore

Photograph of a group of workers preparing for a factory outing c1950
A factory outing c 1950

Notice showing Annual Holiday Payments in 1958
Notice of Annual Holiday Payments 1958


In 1925, Frank Westley pioneered the company’s overseas selling by undertaking a round-the-world trip and established contacts in New Zealand and Australia and other markets in the Far East.  Mr Westley made regular visits to New Zealand and Australia throughout his lifetime.  In all, the factory exported to about twenty different countries. In 1948, Mr Angus Westley undertook visits to the USA and Canada establishing contacts lasting for many years.   As the European markets developed, particularly in Scandinavia and Germany, they were the responsibility of Mr Ted Reed, Sales Director.  Shoes produced for this market were Goodyear welted together with those meeting the specific needs of soft uppers and rugged crepe soles.

Sign showing the Mediator brand
Mediator brand sign
Showboat the prize winning entry from Mediator in 1953 carnival
Showboat, the Mediator entry awarded 1st prize
in 1953 carnival
L to R: June Hampton, Angela Cattell
Elsie Tailby, Pauline Smith, Marie Johnson
and Mr Angus Westley's children

During the 1950’s a close association was formed with The Coles Group of factories.  A Wellingborough factory in Mill Road was involved for two years with repairing and renovating army boots ready to put them back into service.   This was a combined operation with the factories.  Herbert Dunmore of Whitney & Westley Ltd and Lewis Langford of The Coles Boot Co worked together on this project.  The association was formalised in the late fifties and continued for several years.  Angus Westley represented The Coles Boot Co when necessary during his visits to the United States.


In 1973, Mr Angus Westley was interviewed for the BBC Down Your Way programme hosted by Fyfe Robertson, when it visited Burton Latimer.  As Managing Director of Whitney & Westley Ltd he described the production of footwear by his company.


The main processes used in the manufacturing of shoes:-

1 CLICKING This is a process where the skins, hides or man-made materials are cut into the shoe upper sections. Click here for memories of Tony Palmer.

2 CLOSING To produce an upper, the various upper sections are stitched together.

3 BOTTOM STOCK This is where the process of cutting and preparing bottom components (such as soles and insoles) takes place.

4 LASTING Gathering and shaping the assembled uppers on the last and fixing the upper on to the insole.

5 MAKING A number of processes by which heels and soles are attached to the lasted shoe.

6 FINISHING The process of improving the durability and appearance of the shoe by various operations such as bottom securing and edge trimming.

7 SHOE ROOM Where all the cosmetic operations take place, such as upper cleaning and dressing, insertion of socks, final inspection and boxing.

Click here for Gallery of Photographs of various processes in the factory


On Saturday, 14 June 1969, a large section of the factory was gutted by fire with the first and second floors collapsing.  Workers were at the factory until 11 am on the morning of the fire and the Caretaker was alerted to the blaze in mid-afternoon.  Many employees assisted in removing charred remains from the building once the fire was under control and helped throughout the weekend with the clearing-up operations.  One of the items recovered from the fire by a helper was Mr Westley’s passport. After investigation, the description of the fire by the Fire Investigation Officer was that it was a ‘High Level Fire’.

View of factory fire in 1969 Vieew of factory fire in 1969
Two views of the factory fire in 1969

This was a peak production time for the business with over 200 employees.  The workforce was concerned that their jobs would be affected.  The disaster struck at a very healthy period of production that had resulted in a record week for despatching.  All leather stocks together with quantities of shoes for export were destroyed as was part of the production area, the Finishing and Shoe Rooms being severely damaged.  The Office area was also ruined.  Five days after the fire many employees were back at work.  The Closing, Lasting, Making and Bottom Stock departments were unaffected by the blaze and only slight damage occurred in the Finishing Room.  Shoe Room workers were able to return a few days later and the Clickers the following week.  Leather suppliers co-operated to replace requirements as the entire upper leather stock was lost in the fire.

Mr B Whiteman photographed in the Finishing Room just 5 days after the fire
Mr B Whiteman in the Finishing Room -
5 days after the fire

Mr Ted Reed, Sales Director, managed to leave for an export trip to Scandinavia shortly after the fire.  The workforce worked flat out to produce replacement samples for those lost in the fire.  Mr Reed visited Sweden, Finland, Norway and Denmark where quite a large proportion of the exports were sent.  He reassured customers that efforts were being made to catch up with losses from the fire.  The Sales Department was, at that time, operating from a caravan situated in the factory yard.

Mr Ted Reed leaving for Scandinavia
Mr Ted Reed (right), leaving for Scandinavia,
with Mr D W Denton (Factory Manager) and
Mr H Swingler (Quality Manager)
Examples of shoes
Examples of shoes

The following letter written by Angus Westley was published in the local paper:


We would like to express our sincere appreciation and gratitude to those employees, members of their families and to the numerous townsfolk of Burton Latimer – some of whom had no apparent associations with the firm – who worked so hard throughout the late afternoon and night of Saturday until dusk on Sunday to clear the debris after the serious fire.

We would also like to express our admiration of the fine work of the local fire brigades in stemming the fire and saving the major part of the production floor.  Our thanks also to other authorities, particularly the police for their help.

Several shoe manufacturers have offered assistance in various ways and we are particularly grateful to the Coles Group in providing us with temporary factory space.

All this magnificent and spontaneous help means we are hopeful of starting part production before the end of this week.  If our uppper leather suppliers can be equally helpful, in spite of difficult market conditions, then we anticipate resuming production in all departments during next week.

The help given and the help offered to an old established family business in a moment of stress is a wonderful encouragement.  The company is extremely grateful.




The office and showroom was temporarily installed in the factory canteen and then located in part of the Bottom Stock Department until the new office block could be built. In 1971, two years after the fire, the factory was again back to normal production, the final restoration being the office block. The subsequent building was more modern in appearance and well laid out with maximum use of floor space, better lighting and decoration and a more scientific flow of work.

Photograph showing the new office block Mr Ted Reed, Mr John Matthews, Mr Angus Westley and Mr Walter Cornell examining some of the shoes produced
Front of factory showing new office block
L and R: Mr Ted Reed, Mr John Matthews,
Mr Angus Westley and Mr Walter Cornell
examining some of the shoes produced


Just over ten years after the fire, due to the economic situation, the Directors were forced to appoint a Receiver/Manager to look after the Company’s affairs.

Closure letter sent to employees
Closure Letter sent to employees

Many footwear manufactures were placed in a similar position at that time with the shoemakers union losing over 20,000 members in just three years – mainly from Northamptonshire.  The demise of the industry was largely due to cheap foreign imports.  From being the centre of the shoe industry, the county firms were struggling to survive.  Records of the company from 1897-1977 can be found at the Northamptonshire Records Office (Ref: NRA22298 Whitney).  These include financial records, purchase analysis book, customer accounts, wages books, price lists, copy drawings and plans.

Mr Angus Westley became involved with a new company making his own branded footwear.  The uppers were produced in a small Closing Room in Burton Latimer and the finished shoes produced in a factory at Finedon.  The shoes are stocked by retailers today.  In fact they are available worldwide from numerous outlets to be found on the Internet – even on eBay. 

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