The history of Church’s shoes and brand is one that spans centuries. The official birth of Church’s shoes started in 1873 in a small factory run by Thomas Church, his wife, and his two sons in the small town of Northampton in England, historically known as the shoemaking capital of the world. However, shoemaking had been in the family since 1675 and can be traced back to his great grand-father Stone Church who was a master of shoemaking and leather goods who passed it down through the generations to Thomas.
In 1881 Church’s won the Gold Medal at the famous Great Exhibition of the Crystal Palace with the trademarked “Adapted” boot. This was part of the “Adaptable” model which introduced the revolutionary concept of right and left shoes. This and the fact that it was available in a variety of widths, materials, and half sizes was unheard of at the time.
The company was also responsible for many other huge shoe innovations including the Goodyear welt and cork insoling.
In the 1890s the brand’s range of sporty and casual footwear expanded considerably, echoing the continuously evolving tastes of the clientele.
When King George V and Queen Mary visited Northampton in 1913 Church’s had the privilege to present their only daughter Princess Mary with a specially made pair of shoes.
Church’s has always been at the forefront of English handmade shoes and in 1919 became a founder-member of the British Boot, Shoe and Allied Trades Research Association that is now known as SATRA.
The Roaring Twenties saw a major upheaval in terms of lifestyle, culture, and fashion. In 1921, Church’s opened its first boutique in London and introduced the brand’s first women’s shoe, “Archmoulded”, shaped to the foot’s arch.
During the second world war, Church’s produced footwear for the armed forces.
A new factory as pictured below was opened in 1957 in St James Road in Northampton, which is still the headquarters of the company to this day.
In 1965 the brand had its second Royal encounter. Queen Elizabeth II visited Church’s and bestowed the company with the prestigious Queen’s Award to Industry for excelling in exports this was a recognition that they had become a prestigious international brand.
In 1999 the family business came under the control of the Italian luxury fashion house “Prada” whose luxury leather goods and shoes have enjoyed international renown for over a century. This enabled the shoemaker to take its brand to the next level globally and has since then expanded its outlets overseas to 50 stores.
All Church’s shoes were continued to be made by hand in Northampton, England and in 2014 they expanded again with adjacent premises in St James Road.
The production of each pair of Church’s shoes can involve more than 250 manual operations and can take up to eight weeks to complete. Each shoe utilizes the Goodyear welt construction method where the sole and the upper are sewn on a ” welt ” – a strip of leather cut to hand – which is then sewn on the bottom of the shoe. This construction allows for the shoes to be resoled and repaired many times giving each pair of shoes a long life if properly looked after.
Church’s have firmly established themselves and one of the world’s premier shoe brands both in terms of styling and quality of handmade construction. They both fully encompass the best in historic English handmade shoes and with their new(ish) owners Prada’s careful input ensures that they are also at the forefront of modern fashion stylings. This gives the owner a wide range of wardrobe options from the Country look or the classic formal look to pairing up with uber-cool streetwear and modern cut suits and jackets.
Pair up with Brioni style tailored suits as Pierce Brosman did in his tenure as James Bond or go casual with colored pants. The choice is yours as the quality of the Church’s footwear will always take your outfit up a notch.
Here’s our rundown of what we consider to be the 6 most popular classic Church’s shoes and boots.
The iconic Consul has been gracing the feet of the English gentry since 1945 and was named historically after the English ambassadors and politicians who wore it. Crafted on the 173 last, the time-honored Consul has become Church’s most popular style to date due to its sleek, elegant and uncomplicated, yet formal appeal.
A natural finish is achieved using waxes, applied by hand, to gradually build up shading and enhance the innate beauty of the calf leather, while double stitching on the toe cap and quarter lining add defining details to this exemplary style.
The Consul features a Goodyear welt construction with a leather sole. Handwritten shoe info on the internal lining complete this classic lace-up oxford.
This formal dress shoe is fantastic for smart occasions. It is also considered in many circles as the ultimate business suit shoe.
Seen above in Calf leather Oxford black.
First introduced in 1970 this classic full brogue oxford has exceptional durability. It’s a favorite among those who prefer a sturdier shoe without compromising on elegance, the Burwood contrasts decorative brogueing and a high-shine finish with a highly practical double sole, perfect for repelling water and offering longevity of wear.
Crafted on the 81 last the Burwood features a Goodyear welt construction with a Leather double-sole with rubber heel. Calf leather upper with polished binder finish and handwritten shoe info on the internal lining complete this classic shoe.
Fantastic shoes for that country look with tweeds or pair up with jeans for the ultimate relaxed but smart look.
Seen above in Polished Binder black.
The Shannon is an exquisite exemplar of artisanal expertise. Popular since its inception in 1970, this clean and classic whole cut derby is crafted from a single piece of leather that requires the highest quality hide that is completely free of marks and flaws.
Smooth and sleek, the Shannon’s unblemished upper is punctuated with artisanal subtleties – hand-stitches are applied by specialized craftsmen to form a half-moon motifs to the eyestay while a rounded toe and glossy polished binder finish complete an aesthetic that is both elegant and practical.
Crafted on the 103 last the Shannon features a Goodyear construction with storm welted double leather sole. Leather laces over a bellow tongue and handwritten shoe info on the internal lining complete this classic lace-up derby blucher.
Works well with many looks from country look tweeds and corduroys to easy-going weekend wear or from pairing up with well-cut jeans to giving a great dress shoe look perfect with a sharp blazer. This shoe can pull most styles off magnificently and makes a great base shoe for any wardrobe.
Seen above in Polished Binder Sandalwood.
A true classic, the Westbury was born in 1970 and has been a bestselling monk strap style ever since. Coveted for its sleek, elegant aesthetic the Westbury is made with a smooth upper, in a glossy polish binder finish.
Free from embellishment, it’s sole defining feature is the prominent monk strap with oversized buckle fastening. The men’s Monk Strap has earned a reputation as a statement shoe thanks to its high-impact closures and dignified feel. Distinctive yet versatile, it has the ability to go from traditional to trend-focused with the quick change of an outfit.
Crafted on the 173 last the Westbury features a Goodyear welt construction with leather sole. Handwritten shoe info on the internal lining complete this classic monk strap shoe.
For a great look pair it with a suit as an alternative to a formal oxford.
Seen above in Polished Binder Black
This iconic full brogue ladies Chelsea boot maintains its high rank as an essential city shoe. The Ketsby combines this famous silhouette with traditional brogue perforations, adding an extra layer of sophistication to its sleek contours. Its styling makes it one of the most trans-seasonal available.
The Ketsby Wg features a Blake construction and a diamond rubber sole for extra grip in wet weather.
Calf leather uppers with elasticated side inserts, a polished binder finish and handwritten shoe info on the internal lining complete this classic Chelsea boot.
Works fantastically well with any seasonal style from fitted trousers or jeans to looking beautiful with flowing maxi dresses. The wonderful trans-seasonal look of this boot makes it a great base footwear for any wardrobe.
Speak with your retailer as the fittings are on the smaller side and we advise you to purchase a half size smaller than your usual size.
Seen above in Polished Binder Black.
These beautiful ladies slip on Pembrey loafers are a perfect example of Church’s expertise in encapsulating this classic style, crafted with all the traditional trimmings like hand-stitching detailing to the sides, a gimped (cut out) edge and a Penny loafer saddle strap.
The Pembry W features a Blake construction and a diamond rubber sole.
Calf leather uppers with a polished fumè treatment add a unique twist, giving the shoe a glossy finish that allows for slick styling. Lined for longevity, it will hold its shape despite its soft and comfortable fit. A folded topline ensures maximum comfort and handwritten shoe info on the inner vamp complete this classic ladies loafer.
This timeless essential to any ladies’ shoe collection works well with many looks from classic wool checked trousers to shorts with or without playful ankle socks.
Seen above in Polished Fumè Black.
Pros & Cons of the Church’s range
- Fantastic range from historic classics to fashion leading designs.
- Quality of finishing and detailing close to being unmatched.
- Timeless and outstanding elegance.
- The end-game for many footwear aficionados.
- Fantastic repair-ability
- Made to last a lifetime
- 100% made in England
- Luxury branding and quality are reflected in their high (justified) pricing.
Church’s shoes are a highly distinguished and world-renowned high-end English handmade footwear manufacturer and deservedly so. They have built a name for themselves by being leaders of English handmade footwear with a historic reputation that few other brands can match.
Their inspired merge within the Prada Fashion house has secured their place as world leaders in both unsurpassed historic craftsmanship and being at the forefront of taste and style.
As with all other classic English handmade shoes, the craftsmanship and traditional construction methods will see these shoes last a lifetime being the pride and joy of any ladies or gentleman’s wardrobe.