The History of Barker
Arthur Barker, known affectionately by all the succeeding members of his family as Great Grandfather Barker, must have been a man of great resolve and tenacity of purpose. He began by working in a ‘shop’ (or workshop) situated at the bottom of the garden of a house in North Road, Earls Barton.
In the earlier days, Arthur Barker personally made boots or shoes as a hand sewn man, but in 1880 he founded a Company working with one or two others and sending a great part of the work out to home workers in their individual ‘shops’.
After a time, Arthur moved his business to a small factory in Station Road and in 1905 his three sons joined him in ‘The Firm’ as it was called. After a time Arthur’s eldest son Charles left to become a leather importer. Ernest and Arthur junior worked on with their father during World War I, fulfilling contracts for army boots.
The 1920s saw Barker producing fine quality footwear in considerable quantity. An export trade was established in South Africa, which grew to such an extent that within a few years an astonishing 75% of Barkers’ output was being sent there. Arthur, the ‘Grand old Man’ and founder of the Barker enterprise, died in 1921.
In 1933 a new branch was established in South Africa and several workers from Earls Barton emigrated and settled there. This redoubtable band is still referred to today as ‘The Pioneers’. It was Arthur Barker junior who took up the reins at the South African branch, helped by his son Roy, who subsequently ran it until 1965.
Shortly after World War II, Barkers expanded considerably in Earls Barton. A new factory was designed and built in Station Road for the making of ladies footwear. This enabled the older factory to be developed and to concentrate on men’s boots and shoes only.
In 1955 ‘The Firm’ celebrated its 75th Anniversary, seven years after the third generation of Barkers had come into the Company. These were brothers Albert and Charles Barker. The former became one of the world’s finest shoe designers. This is not too surprising for a flair for art and design runs like a thread through the Barker generations. Albert was also a quite remarkable painter. His brother Charles remained in the business until his early eighties.
It was during 1956 that the fourth Barker generation joined ‘The Firm’, when William, Albert’s son, took the interests of this remarkable business to his heart. Like Albert before him, William was a respected shoe maker and shoe designer until his untimely death in 1996.
Today Barker is owned by an international group who are committed towards maintaining the brand integrity. Barker traditions continue in Earls Barton in an impressive modern factory, purpose-built in 1986.
In recent years Barker shoes have become much sought after by discerning customers. Both classic and casual styles are always in demand at prestigious stores around the world where the ‘English look’ is increasingly popular.
There is little doubt that ‘Barker England’ has joined that select band of quality products for which Britain is justly famous.
Genuine quality and individuality is increasingly rare these days, but you can be certain that Barker will always maintain the very highest standards of shoemaking, as they have done for 130 years.