The Church family was hand-making gentlemen’s shoes as far back as 1675 in Northamptonshire, a county that had been the centre of a flourishing leather and footwear industry since the Middle Ages.
But it was two centuries later, in 1873, that Thomas Church and his three sons – Alfred, William and Thomas Jr. – founded the ‘modern’ Church’s company. They consolidated production that had traditionally been carried out in workers’ own homes, into a modern factory in Northampton, where the firm’s worldwide headquarters are still based today. Church’s was transformed from a craft workshop into a benchmark producer of top-quality footwear.
It was the first footwear manufacturer to introduce the concept of left and right shoes, since most companies at that time still sold ‘straights’.
This innovative style was called Adaptable and it won the prestigious Gold Medal at the 1884 International and Universal exhibition at Crystal Palace. At the turn of the 20th century, Church’s began exporting to new markets, such as the United States, Canada, China and South America, appointing distributors in many European Countries. The company opened its first British retail stores in 1921, followed by New York in 1929. The prestigious ‘Queen’s Award for Exports’ put the official seal of recognition on Church’s status as a leading international brand in 1965, and was presented by Queen Elizabeth II when she visited the Northampton factory and headquarters that year. Since 1999 Church’s has been part of the Prada Group, a world leader in luxury goods, which has optimised the brand’s business opportunities while still respecting its English identity.
A strong expansion of the retail business at an international level began in 2008, with new openings in Hong Kong, Geneva, Madrid, Singapore, Leeds, Edinburgh, Venice, Bologna, Turin and Paris. In 2011 Church’s opened its first shop solely dedicated to ladies’ shoes and accessories collections on New Bond Street, London, and opened outlets in Shanghai, Chicago and Tokyo. All of Church’s men’s welted shoes are still hand-made using traditional techniques, at the Northampton factory, by specialised craftsmen. It takes up to eight weeks to produce a pair, since each undergoes more than 250 detailed manual operations before it is completed. Church’s shoes are beyond fashion. The great men’s styles such as Oxfords and brogues never date, though colours and details may vary from season to season.
Next to the traditional collection, Church’s offers a range of styles with a trend-driven twist.
This continuous development demonstrates the brand’s ability to innovate, and ensures its position as the world’s leader of top quality Goodyear Welted footwear. And for those who can’t bear to see a favourite pair of shoes wear out, Church’s provides the traditional full refurbishment service at its Northampton factory, using the same quality materials and attention as in the original manufacturing process. This service considerably extends the life of each pair of Church’s shoes which, if properly looked after, will last a lifetime.
CHURCH’S ST JAMES ROAD, NORTHAMPTON NN5 5JB +44 (0)1604 751251