Bowhill & Elliott: The Velvet Slipper Underground

Entering their 147th year, stalwarts of Norwich’s historic shoemaking industry, Bowhill & Elliott are quietly handcrafting the finest slippers from the same shop in which the company was established.

Located along the River Wensum, Norwich is the county town of Norfolk, and is considered the most complete medieval city in the United Kingdom. For so long a bastion of traditional British shoemaking, its demise was in part down to the obstinacy of its craftsman not to lose any of the authenticity in their shoemaking techniques, which had given Norwich a worldwide shoemaking reputation. After Northampton and London, it was revered as a well-respected hub for producing elegant and classical designs, using the best grade leathers.

Their refusal to deduce cheaper techniques was made all the more commendable, but sealed their fate when Margaret Thatcher’s deindustrialisation policies heightened foreign competition. Coupled with a public demand for low-cost shoes, production began to move to overseas territories such as China where the cheap labour phenomenon proved the death knell for most of the long-standing shoemakers in Norwich.

    Contributor

    Freddie Anderson

    Published

    January 2021

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