Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

Registered UK Charity (No. 115342)

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

G. B. Britton and Sons

From Graces Guide

of Dryfoot Boot Works, Kingswood, Bristol

1880 George Bryant Britton and George Jeffries went into partnership and built a small factory in Waters Road, Kingswood.

1881 Boot Manufacturer Employing 9 Men, 10 Boys and 6 Girls [1]

1897 Listed under Boot and Shoe Manufacturers as Britton and Jefferies, Waters Road, Two Mile Hill, Bristol [2]

Towards the end of the century George Jeffries retired. His partner, G. B. Britton, the father of three sons, was determined to expand the business and build a larger more modern factory.

1900 He left the original premises and moved to Lodge Road, Kingswood. The building in Waters Road contained some fifteen or twenty sewing machines and three crude presses for cutting out soles and insoles. All were treadle-operated, for it was not until the next decade that the first gas-engine was installed.

Only four or five makers worked in-house; for the rest, uppers and bottoms were issued to out-workers who lasted the uppers and attached and finished the bottoms in their own homes - all by hand.

Mechanisation followed gradually, though in those days anyone walking through the Kingswood streets late at night would pass lighted workshop window at the back of the houses where the boot-makers were finishing off the work which had to be ‘shopped’ next day.

During the 1900s his sons George Ewart Britton and Samuel Wesley Britton joined the business

1908 The business continued to make steady progress and an extension to the factory became necessary to deal with the increase in the demand for footwear, which, at the time, was almost exclusively nailed men's boots.

1914 A further extension was built and during the First World War work continued at high pressure, much of the output being devoted to army boots. In those days the factory opened at 6-30 a.m. and overtime was frequently worked till late at night.

Post-WWI. The replenishment of depleted stocks kept demand at a high level and in the period of lofty prices which followed, the annual value of sales approached £250,000.

1922 Listed Exhibitor. The celebrated "Dryfoot" (Registered) Brand of Medium and Heavy Walking Boots for Men, Women and Children. Specialities for Agriculturists, Sportsmen, Policemen, Artisans, Miners. (Stand No. J.156) [3]

Then came the slump and leather prices suddenly dropped to less than half their former levels. This was a period of great difficulty; prolonged short-time working struck the local industry and with the poor demand and low prices the value of sales fell sharply.

1929 G. B. Britton, the founder, died. He had been a remarkable man and an inspiration to all who worked with him - many knew him as a worker, for he could often be seen in the workshop dressed in his overalls and shirtsleeves.

1930 A year after his death it was decided to end the employment of out-workers. Since the war their number had steadily declined, and a growing proportion of the production was being made by machinery in the factory.

Britton’s were always been ready to experiment in new types of footwear. They did then as they have done through their long history, right up to the present day with their renowned TUF boot and lately the GLUV shoe.

1934 The business was converted into a limited company with J. H. Britton as managing director. The following years saw a considerable development of new business in Scotland, Northern England and Northern Ireland, where hitherto a comparatively small trade had been done.

1930s Several improvements were made to the factory just before the outbreak of the Second World War. But before the full effect could be properly assessed the nation began to feel the impact of rearmament and in the early part of 1939 the company secured a contract for a substantial quantity of army boots.

1941 The factory at Lodge Road was requisitioned by the Ministry of Aircraft Production and the whole manufacturing space of some 20,000 square feet was cleared in a few days.

1945 Towards the end of 1945, after prolonged negotiations with the various Ministries involved, the Lodge Road factory was 'de-requisitioned', and it was decided to use its screwed and riveted production and to set up an extended welting plant at Church Road. The link-up of the two factories enabled G. B. Britton and Sons to produce their heavy boots at Lodge Road on a large scale and under ideal conditions, while the smaller unit at Church Road was perfectly adapted to re-build the lighter side of the men’s trade. At about this time the business was converted into a public company.

1951 Then came a period of rapid expansion. Additional agents were appointed in most towns of any size throughout England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and by the end of 1951, Britton’s shoes were to be seen in some of the finest stores in the West End of London while their heavy boots reached areas as far afield as the Scottish Isles. The company began to export its highest grades of men’s shoes to the United States and various quantities were being shipped to West Africa, the West Indies, Malaya and the Middle East.

1955 The keynote to the company’s expansion was the TUF boot - a light and flexible men’s working boot which was produced in 1955 as the result of experiments in a partitioned off corner of the factory on apparatus which became popularly known as Britton’s 'secret weapon'. A moulded process was applied to men’s heavy boots. It was immediately successful. A distributing subsidiary company Moulded Footwear, was formed to market it. Soon, eight machines were working twenty-four hours a day. But orders far exceeded production.

1956 The whole of the conventional lasting and finishing machinery was moved to premises to Oakfield Road, Kingswood, where Britton’s had acquired a business a few months previously.

1957 Newspaper and television advertising brought even greater increase in the sales of TUF and the introduction of both heavy and lighter shoes made on similar lines meant that by the end of 1958 Britton’s again needed more space to deal adequately with the demand.

1959 Expansion took place in three ways: 1) a factory adjoining their Lodge Road premises was acquired; 2) arrangements were made with the Ulster Ministry of Commerce for a factory to be built at Ballymena to manufacture TUF uppers; 3) another factory was bought in Brynmawr, South Wales, and turned over to the production of TUF.

1960 Even these factories were unable to cope with the increasing demand for TUF and consequently a £250,000 factory was built on the playing field adjoining Britton’s head office in Lodge Road.

Immediately before this factory was in use, the company were producing nearly 50,000 pairs of boots and shoes a week and the expected figure was in the region of 70,000 pairs weekly. Canada, New Zealand, Belgium and Australia were among the countries included in the company’s export chart, TUF shoes were also being made under licence in Holland.

1961 Britton’s had their own stand at the British Trade Fair in Moscow. They acquired Wyles Brothers, a chain of 50 footwear shops in the Midlands."

1965 Patent - Improvements in or relating to gauges for footwear. [4]

1970 Patent Review - Mould assemblies. [5]

1973 Acquired by Ward White[6]

2001 Factories closed after cheaper imports gradually took over the market. [7]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. 1881 Census
  2. 1897 Kelly's Directory of Gloucestershire
  3. 1922 British Industries Fair p12
  4. [1] Wikipatents
  5. [2] Wikipatents
  6. The Times Mar. 16, 1974
  7. Bristol's 'M Shed'
  • [3] Newspaper Article of 1961