Just a short 6 minute walk from Northampton's (brand, spanking new) train station is probably the towns' most well-known shoe factory, Church's.
Although now owned by Prada, it's gratifying to know from an English shoe industry perspective that all Church's welted shoes are still designed and manufactured in this busy industrial corner of Northampton by expert shoemakers and leather artisans.
The Church's shoe factory shop
So, some practical information. Church's shoe factory is home to around 350 employees ranging from the designers and management team at 'Church's HQ' to the the factory workers. There's parking opposite the factory shop itself and the staff are welcoming and helpful.
Shoe factory shop vs. shoe factory outlet
And some really useful information. There's a varied range of gentleman's shoes, boots (and slippers!) available to browse through, mainly seconds but also perfects from past ranges. In terms of discounts, the shoes I tried on had anything from 40% off outlet prices (let alone retail prices) to a whopping 70% off for quality Church's shoes.
Comparing this visit to a recent trip out to Bicester Village and there's a big difference. Much more choice and much better deals are to be had by getting directly to the source at Church's shoe factory.
One thing to note, and this is the same for all Northampton shoe factory shops, is that the range is changing all of the time. This was my second visit in a month and there was so much more choice that suited my particular sartorial taste; chunky brogues, Oxford brogues, single-buckle and double-buckle monks and Derbys in some great colours.
The Matlock brogues, green Downish brogues and classic Brookland 'Mr Men' brogues are timeless English footwear masterpieces whereas the black and red Dorneys have a distinctively modern twist with the chunky red laces and generous welted soles. Triple stitched, up to 8 weeks to manufacture and with around 250 handcrafted processes for each shoe, it’s easy to see how Church’s shoes have achieved iconic status.
A bastion of fine shoemaking in the heart of England
Coincidentally, my visit to Church’s was on St George’s Day, one day of the year that we English have to openly celebrate our Englishness and one day of the year, more-often-than-not, that we choose to under-celebrate.
So, for the sake of St George’s, for England and for a bastion of fine shoemaking in the very heart of our green and pleasant land I openly and eagerly recommend a visit to Church’s shoe factory shop.