Crockett & Jones…since 1879

Crockett & Jones, a symbol of quality for nearly 140 years, have been crafting beautiful English made shoes in Northampton since 1879.

It’s where heritage meets style and with over 200 individual stages to the finished product, these shoes are handcrafted with an extraordinary degree of care and precision. With shops in London, Paris and New York they really are created for the most discerning customer. After all, even James Bond wears a pair of Crockett & Jones shoes in the film ‘Spectre’.

Crockett & Jones Northampton Shoemaker Close Up Detail of Dark Blue Shoebox Texture and Gold Crockett and Jones Logo © Paul Worpole Photography

Close Up Detail of Dark Blue Shoebox Texture and Gold Crockett and Jones Logo © Paul Worpole Photography

Crockett & Jones Northampton Shoemaker Close Up Toe Detail of Chestnut Leather Shoes in a row © Paul Worpole Photography

Toe Detail of Chestnut Leather Shoes in a row © Paul Worpole Photography

Crockett & Jones Shoemakers Northampton Rack of Dark Brown Monk Shoes Awaiting to Be Boxed © Paul Worpole Photography

Dark Brown Monk Shoes Awaiting to Be Boxed © Paul Worpole Photography

It’s been five years…

When you arrive at the address, it’s always surprising to see such a robust Victorian building in a ‘normal street’ claustrophobically packed on all four sides with terrace houses and cars parked nose to nose. Only the early bird gets a parking space within a streets distance!

It had been five years since I last visited Crockett & Jones. I received a call from them to come back and refresh their image bank with industrial photographs of the factory and process’s.

Crockett & Jones Northampton Shoemaker Man Hands Shown Polishing Brown Brogues on a Polishing Wheel © Paul Worpole Photography

Man hand polishes Chestnut leather brogue with buffing wheel © Paul Worpole Photography

Crockett & Jones Shoemakers Northampton Close Up Detail of Brogue Design Stretched Over a Wooden Last for Drying © Paul Worpole Photography

Brogue Design Stretched Over a Wooden Last © Paul Worpole Photography

Smells familiar…

The first thing that hits you is an intoxicating mix of glues, leathers and polish. It feels familiar, like the smell of pear drops. Apart from a few fresh coats of paint, it was comforting to know that not a huge amount had changed and it was nice to see faces that I recognised immediately. As you walk on to the factory floor there is a satisfying hum of machines and people beavering away, with the occasional person looking a bit daunted as I take out a camera and attach it to the tripod.

I spent half of the day looking through a macro lens at the impeccable detail and quality of leather, hand sewing and polishing techniques that are passed down from one generation to another. It’s only when you get this close you start to appreciate how serious they are about shoes.

Crockett & Jones Shoemakers Northampton Uppers Showing Cleats on Boots in Making Up Room © Paul Worpole Photography

Uppers Showing Cleats on Boots in Making Up Room © Paul Worpole Photography

Crockett & Jones Shoemakers Northampton Close Up Detail of Skiver Process of Grained Leather Making Up Room © Paul Worpole Photography

Skiver Process of Grained Leather Brogue Design Making Up Room © Paul Worpole Photography

Crockett & Jones Shoemakers Northampton Close Up Detail of Brogue Design in Grained Leather Making Up Room © Paul Worpole Photography

Detail of Brogue Design in Grained Leather Making Up Room © Paul Worpole Photography

Top floor…

It’s up on the top floor where all the ‘Clickers’ (named for the sound the knife creates when cutting) are based. Light floods in from the massive windows to illuminate precision hand cutting. It’s very controlled and quiet and has more of an air of a library than a factory

The ‘Clickers’ create their own knives from hacksaw blades, as it allows them to bend more freely than any standard knife manufactured, honed and sharpened they are fitted into a wooden handle.

In the hide room which is covered from floor to ceiling in leathers from around the world. Labelled with origin and graded by hand, it looks more like the work of a cartographer who has stored them with love and care. The smell is unbelievable…in a good way!

Crockett & Jones Shoemakers Northampton Man in Clicking Room Sorting Uppers in Black Leather © Paul Worpole Photography

Clicking Room Sorting Uppers in Black Leather © Paul Worpole Photography

Crockett & Jones Shoemakers Northampton Close Up of Rolls of Leather Leaning Against a Wall with Yellow Paper Orders Attached © Paul Worpole Photography

Rolls of Leather Leaning Against a Wall with Orders Attached © Paul Worpole Photography

Quality control is of upmost importance in the factory and compromising isn’t an option…

The shoes have an enduring quality about them and because every pair is inspected by hand they really are as good as they look. I witnessed the quality control area pushing and pressing leather to see whether, by some chance, it revealed any imperfections at the end of the construction process.

I meet a hand stitcher, who lovingly hand sews shoes is surrounded by a treasure trove of tools. He threads thin strand of cotton with the use of a piano wire that he’s stripped down to assist in puncturing the leathers with meticulous commitment of detail and craftsmanship.

A Skiver trims leather on a circular blade the size of a 50p piece and spinning at such a high speed you cannot see it move. However, she still manages to cut an intricate 45 degree angle all around the edge on a piece of leather you can hold in the palm of your hand… whilst carrying on a conversation with me!

Crockett & Jones Shoemakers Northampton Close Up Detail of Metal Stamp Die Used for Identification of Sizes and Name © Paul Worpole Photography

Metal Stamp Die Used for Identification of Sizes and Name © Paul Worpole Photography

Crockett & Jones Shoemakers Northampton Man in Red Polo Shirt Sewing Sole onto Leather Uppers with a Machine © Paul Worpole Photography

Sewing Sole onto Leather Uppers © Paul Worpole Photography

Way down…

Going into the basement of the building you are surrounded by hard white tiled walls and extraordinary amounts of soles, heels awaiting a top half. The majority of the floor space is taken up by a world of wooden lasts stored and neatly ordered in cubby shelving as far as the eye can see.

Prepared pieces of leather swing in unison awaiting construction into a loafer, formal dress shoe or a pair of boots are carefully selected and put into a lift ( which has no doubt seen at least two world wars) to move them further up the process.

Crockett & Jones Northampton Shoemaker Basement View of Leather Shoe Liners Soles © Paul Worpole Photography

Crockett & Jones Basement © Paul Worpole Photography

Crockett & Jones Shoemakers Northampton Wood Lined Lift in Basement Moving a Rack of Yellow Lasts to the Next Floor © Paul Worpole Photography

Wood Lined Lift in Basement © Paul Worpole Photography

Crockett & Jones Shoemakers Northampton Image of Cubby Boxes in Wood Filled With Shoes Lasts in the Basement © Paul Worpole

Cubby Boxes in Wood Filled With Shoes Lasts in the Basement © Paul Worpole

Crockett & Jones Shoemakers Northampton Unsold Black Shoe Leather Hanging On Metal Bars in Basement with White Tiles © Paul Worpole Photography

Black Shoe Leather Uppers Hanging looking for some soles © Paul Worpole Photography

Crockett & Jones Shoemakers Northampton Shoe Liners Stacked in Blue Box Shelves © Paul Worpole Photography

Crockett & Jones Shoemakers Northampton Shoe Liners Stacked like Books © Paul Worpole Photography

Repair room…

Shoes that have had a lifetime of wear on the street, are sent in for repair and essentially everything, apart from the top leather is replaced. New soles are attached using a traditional Goodyear-welted construction method. Heels and liners are added, battle scars are removed. They are polished back up to a reassuring lustre, boxed and returned for many more years of faithful service.

Crockett & Jones Shoemakers Northampton Man Removing Liners of Black Cap Oxford Shoe for Complete Renewal Repair © Paul Worpole Photography

Removing Liners of Black Cap Oxford Shoe for Complete Renewal © Paul Worpole Photography

Crockett & Jones Shoemakers Northampton Close Up Detail of Man Repairing Shoes with New Sole on Machine © Paul Worpole Photography

Replacing New Sole © Paul Worpole Photography

End of the day…

At 4:30 a bell rings for the end of a day, it’s time for the building to go quiet as the machines slowly wind down and it’s time for me to go back and pick up the shots that I have mentally stored to photograph later when it’s empty.

In the silence, you get to hear the creak of the floorboards and every noise is echoed. In that moment you realise just how much the factory is alive when people are creating some of the finest shoes produced today!

For some reason, there is a reassuring feeling knowing that that everyone in Crockett and Jones are still making shoes in a time honoured fashion.

Crockett & Jones Shoemakers Northampton Wooden Shoe Lasts In A Cubby Box © Paul Worpole Photography

Wooden Shoe Lasts In A Cubby Box © Paul Worpole Photography

Crockett & Jones Shoemakers Northampton Close Up Detail of Grind Blades Used for Final Shaping of Shoe Soles and Heels © Paul Worpole Photography

Grind Blades Used for Final Shaping of Shoe Soles and Heels © Paul Worpole Photography

Crockett & Jones Shoemakers Northampton Close Up Detail Shoe Uppers in Chestnut Brown Leather Attached to Sole without Heel © Paul Worpole Photography

Shoe Uppers in Chestnut Brown Leather Attached to Sole without Heel © Paul Worpole Photography

All images © Paul Worpole Photography – see more on Instagram

Like to discuss a project of your own…please contact me.

For some beautiful shoes…see Crockett & Jones website HERE