Richard Podmore & Son

Stafford Box factory

The former Stafford Box factory, Marston Road, Stafford, January 2011. Originally built by Richard Podmore in 1862-3.

Richard Podmore was born in Sandon in 1815, the son of an agricultural labourer. Richard was apprenticed to Edward Lloyd, shoemaker, in Stafford. The 1841 census records him as a shoemaker living in Union Buildings on Gaol Road. He is believed to have fathered 22 children from both his marriages, virtually all of whom, including his wives, were shoemakers or cordwainers in Stafford.

Richard set up his own boot and shoe making business on Back Browning Street around 1846. In the 1860s shoemakers began to ‘bring in’ outworkers to work in manufactories, and like many others, Richard Podmore acquired and converted existing industrial premises, in his case the former Foregate Steam Brewery. He was in the vanguard of boot and shoe manufacturers who introduced sewing and binding machines into the industry.

The company quickly outgrew this site, and its increasing success meant that Richard Podmore was able to build a brand new, purpose built factory on Marston Road in 1862-1863. An extension was soon needed and was built along Wogan Street and Shepherds Bush Street a few years later. Howe’s and Blake’s sewing machines were introduced by the 1870s, ensuring that all the shoemaking processes could take place in the factory. At its peak the company emloyed 200 people. As with virtually all of Stafford’s boot and shoemaking companies, Podmore & Son specialised in ‘the finer grades of ladies’ and children’s foot-gear’.

Richard Podmore died in 1886. He had played a major role in the expansion of Stafford’s shoe trade and in the development of the north part of the town. As well as being a Poor Law Guardian, a magistrate and a member of the Stafford Permanent Building Society and the Shoe Manufacturers Association, he was a town councillor and served as Mayor in 1868.

The company continued under the management of his son, John Podmore. In 1890, Goodyear machines were introduced, replacing Blake Sole stitchers, improving the factory’s efficiency, but its days were numbered. After John’s death, the company’s fortunes declined rapidly, and it and its premises were acquired by C.H. Riley & Son in 1914. The reasons for its decline are complex, but centred around poor management, trade conditions and a failure to modernise buildings and equipment.

Podmore’s factory, later occupied by Stafford Box Company, still stands on Marston Road and Shepherds Bush Street.

Source: Martin Harrison, ‘Richard Podmore and Son, Shoe Manufacturers’, in the Journal of the Staffordshire Industrial Archaeology Society’, Vol.19, 2005.

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