1929 fattade fabriken på Wood Street eld och skadorna blev förödande. Trots det kunde man tillverka skor igen reda efter en vecka. Nedan återberättar Andrew Loake om sin fars minnen från händelsen.
I don’t think it can be pure coincidence that the date in 1929 on which the factory caught fire was 5th November. It has always been assumed, but never known for certain, that the cause of it was a firework.
All of the Clicking (cutting) room, most of the Closing (stitching) room and the leather room were destroyed.
My father was born in Kettering and grew up in a small house in one of the neighbouring streets just a few hundred yards from the factory. Although only a 7 year old boy at the time, he had very clear memories of looking out of his parents’ bedroom window and seeing the flames of his father’s factory on fire.
The damage was devastating.
Later in life, when he looked back on these events, he was amazed by the friendliness of the people of Kettering.
The next morning after the fire, other shoe manufacturers in the town were already offering us help by lending us machinery and by offering temporary accommodation for some of the workers.
Machinery suppliers were also very quick to offer their help by providing replacement machines at short notice.
Many of the clickers (leather cutters) worked from bedrooms in neighbouring houses.
It really was quite extraordinary how people who would normally be in competition with us were rallying round to help.
It is perhaps worth remembering that it had only been 10 years since the end of the First World War, and I suppose people were used to the idea of trying to survive in extraordinary circumstances and helping others who were in difficulty.
I sometimes wonder how different things might be if the same thing were to occur today. I hope we never find out.
Although one should never wish for misfortune on anyone, I do think that the way in which disasters can draw a community together is a hallmark of a civilised society.