In the years leading up to WWII the Norwich boot and shoe trade employed over 10,000 people making it the City’s premier industry.

  By the mid 1960s there were 30 factories producing upwards of 7million pairs, Numbers that meant Norwich had become the heart and manufacturing centre for ladies and childrens shoes in the UK.

  Sadly times changed and by the 1980s the trend for importing cheaper alternatives had begun to take hold. The


march for fast fashion had arrived and the industry experienced a steep and inexorable decline.

  Come the turn of the century brands such as Bally, Startrite, Edwards & Holmes, Norvic, Sexton, Son & Everard had all disappeared and with them generations of skills pasted down from master to apprentice had been lost.

  Bar one, in fact Van Dal remains.

  The last shoemaker in the city and the largest traditional


ladies shoe manufacturer in the UK, our production in the city is once again growing and our skilled craftsmen are winning new friends. Not only amongst the largest of our high street retailers but also, and ironically, though exporting to China and other international markets.

  Most importantly with Van Dal those generations of skills survive, and in a small way so do the experiences, stories and personal histories of the Norwich shoemakers.

  This is our tribute to them and their craft.

Meet Richard French   Meet Ray Carpenter   Meet Ray Cooper