William Lennon

May 21, 2018 | Filed under: 2018, June 2018

Readers may remember that in January, Lib Slattery entertained our Local History Club with stories concerning this, the last heavy working boot manufacturer in Britain. Lib had then promised us a visit to the works in Stoney Middleton and so in early May about 22 members of the club regaled themselves with excellent chips, butties and pizza at the Moon Inn before strolling across the road to the factory which is located in the old corn mill just below the fish and chip shop.

A narrow staircase led to a workroom where an operator was stamping out the uppers for some quite exclusive cycling shoes (in recent years Lennons have diversified tremendously) and just behind him on the racks were rolls of beautifully smelling leather. This is now sourced from all over the world including some from India which has almost psychedelic printing on the outer surface.

On another bench Helen Lewis was sewing up the backs of quite high boots on an immensely big, solid sewing machine which according to the maker’s badge, was made in America in 1892. It was an education to see the accuracy with which she spun this beautiful leather around in order to get the stitches just so. Later on, Helen demonstrated the “skiving “machine which shaved a fraction off two pieces of leather so that they could be sewn together without the edges being too “proud”.
The factory is filled with machinery like this – some of which are so old and so specialised that Leslie Lennon – Lib’s dad – has to engineer spare parts for them himself. The thing is that Lennons have seen off so many competitors that these machines are no longer produced. When some re-enactors wanted some replica WWl boots (the B5’s), Leslie went searching through their sheds and came back with the exact knives and lasts to complete the order – they must have been put away for nearly 100 years. Providently, one of our members placed an order for a pair of B5’s so the afternoon proved to be quite successful for Lennons.

Thanks Lib for such an educational trip and we very much hope that your boots continue to sell for another 120 years.

So another successful season for the history club comes to a close, we hope with good luck see you all again in November.

Brian Woodall.