Churchs English shoes logo

Church’s history, one that spans centuries, paints a meaningful portrait of a brand that fully appreciates the value of tradition. The Church family tree can be traced back to as early as 1675 when Stone Church, the company founder’s great-grandfather, was born in Northampton, a town that has been known for its thriving leather and footwear industry since Cromwellian times. The skills and mantle of Master Cordwainer were passed down from generation to generation, all the way to Stone’s great-grandson, Thomas, who would establish the world-renowned eponymous brand nearly two centuries later.

In a small workshop at 30 Maple Street in Northampton on the 1st of May, Thomas, his wife Eliza and his two sons, Alfred and William decided to set up a small factory, marking the official birth of Church’s Shoes. This structure would house the company only until 1880 when they would eventually expand to a larger premise on Duke Street.

In a bold break with the footwear trends of the time and an early manifestation of the brand’s innovative spirit, William Church introduced the revolutionary concept of right and left shoes in the “Adaptable” model, advertised to be available in a variety of widths, materials and unheard-of half sizes. Another style, the Trademarked “Adapted” boot, went on to win the Gold Medal at the 1881 Great Exhibition.

By 1907, the first deliveries were being made to the American and Canadian markets, solidifying the foundations on which the brand would continue to grow. In 1910, Church’s offered special lasts to U.S. retailers like Lord & Taylor and the English shoes began to make their way across the country, beginning to appear on America’s West Coast and throughout Canada. When King George and Queen Mary visited Northampton in 1913, Church’s had the honour of creating a pair of shoes to be presented to the Royal princess and in 1919, Church’s acted as founding member of the British Shoe and Allied Trades Research Association, now known as SATRA.

In the following years and decades, the brand only continued to grow and further expand, setting a benchmark in excellency. In the brand’s second royal encounter in 1965, HRH the Queen Elizabeth II visited Church’s and bestowed the company with the prestigious Queen’s Award to Industry for excelling in exports. This achievement further demonstrated Church’s growing recognition as a distinguished name in the international footwear industry.

In 1999, with the support of the family, Church’s was acquired by the Prada Group, a paradigm of artisanal excellence in its own right and the ideal ally to help the shoemaker take its brand to the next level. Prada, whose luxury leather goods and shoes have enjoyed international renown for over a century, combined its inherent appreciation of heritage with a more marketing-oriented mentality to evolve Church’s global strategy. This new path saw a continued, rigorous dedication to craftsmanship and the label’s quintessential English identity with some adjustments, such as the introduction of contemporary and seasonal styles alongside the more traditional offering.

The early years of the century saw the opening of several boutiques in international capitals throughout the world, including Milan and Paris in 2001, Rome and St. Moritz in 2002 and New York City in 2003.

Starting in 2008, the brand set a new development strategy in motion, leading to a slew of international openings in Venice, Bologna, Leeds, Edinburgh, Hong Kong and Singapore. In July 2011, the first shop totally dedicated to the women’s collections was inaugurated at the heart of London’s luxury shopping district in New Bond Street.

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