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|WHEN IT ALL BEGAN........
|The Wellington boot, is a type of boot based upon hessian boots worn and popularised by Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington and fashionable among the British aristocracy in the early 19th century.
The first Duke of Wellington, instructed his shoemaker, Hoby of St. James Street, London, to modify the 18th century hessian boot. The resulting new boot designed in soft calfskin leather had the trim removed and was cut closer around the leg. It was hard wearing for battle yet comfortable for the evening. The Iron Duke didn't know what he'd started-the boot was dubbed the Wellington and the name has stuck ever since.
|These boots quickly caught on with patriotic British gentlemen eager to emulate their war hero.|
|Considered fashionable and foppish in the best circles, they remained the main fashion for men through the 1840s. In the 1950s they were more commonly made in the calf high version and in the 1960s they were both superseded by the ankle boot, except for riding.
The early Wellingtons were made of soft calf leather, but makers soon started to experiment with other materials, especially rubber. One American entrepreneur, Henry Lee Norris, moved his operation from the US to Scotland where, in Edinburgh, in the Castle Silk Mills, the 'North British Rubber Company' (later known as the Hunter Rubber Company) was founded and registered in September 1856.
Mr. Norris then had to find employees skilled in the manufacture of rubber footwear. This was no simple task for such a new industry. The problem was solved by importing labour. Four adventurous individuals from New York set sail on a ship laden with manufacturing machinery bound to become pioneers of the rubber industry in Scotland. They were employed not only to make the boots, but also to instruct others in the process.
Although the company began its life as a manufacturer of rubber boots and shoes, it quickly expanded to produce an extensive range of rubber products. These included tyres, conveyor belts, combs, golf balls, hot water bottles and rubber flooring - to name just a few.
|Initially the rubber boot was produced in a limited number but production was dramatically boosted with the advent of World War I. The North British Rubber Company was asked by the War Office to construct a sturdy boot suitable for the conditions in flooded trenches.||
|The mills ran day and night to produce immense quantities of these trench boots. In total, 1,185,036 pairs were made to cope with the Army's demands.
At the outbreak of World War II in September 1939, 80% of the entire output consisted of war materials. The list of contributions was extensive, including ground sheets, life belts, bomb covers, gas masks and wellington boots.
|To deal with this success the company extended their manufacturing premises in 1946, acquiring an extensive factory in Dumfriesshire. This factory, known as Heathhall, had been built in 1912 originally to manufacture car and aeronautical engines.
The North British Rubber Company continued to prosper introducing both the Green Hunter and Royal Hunter wellingtons into the market in 1954. Trade reaction was very slow - an order of 36 pairs was regarded as quite an achievement. However, the company persisted in their promotion taking them to county shows. The Hunter Original, became a fashion item as well as a practical piece of footwear. Thought of as more up-market than the traditional black Welly, the 'Original' tended, initially, to be worn by middle to upper class rural folk, who are still sometimes referred to as the 'Green Welly Brigade'.
In 1966, The North British Rubber Company underwent a name change and from that date operated under the name of Uniroyal Limited. In 1978, the golf ball production side of the business was sold off. This was shortly followed by the sale of the tyre factory at Newbridge near Edinburgh.
In 1986 the Gates Rubber Co. Ltd of Colorado, USA bought Uniroyal and the following year the name of the Scottish company was changed to Gates Rubber Co. Ltd.. In 1966 Gates was bought by Tomkins PLC of London and later became the Hunter Division of Interfloor.
In 2004, after a management buy out, Hunter boots are now manufactured, once again, by The Hunter Rubber Co. Ltd. and continue to prosper as the UK's only wellington boot manufacturer.
|BOOT PRODUCTION TODAY
|Whilst every Hunter boot is made entirely by hand using skills perfected over 150 years, technology play and increasingly important role. Hunter's dedicated team of rubber technicians work to ensure their long term sources of natural rubber attain a level of consistency reflected in the quality of Hunter Rubber products. Their dedication to developing new techniques has resulted in Hunter's unique latex dipping process that has revolutionised traditional boot manufacturing and set new performance standards for the once humble wellington boot.
The can be up to 28 parts to a Hunter boot, each carefully assembled by hand. The reason for so many parts is simple: they all have a job to do. For grip and comfort, for withstanding the rigours of a busy outdoor life, for performing hour after hour, week in and week out, everything has to be in its place.
At Hunter the commitment to continued innovation extends to the inner shell of each boot. Advanced latex technology is complemented with specially developed linings from anti-bacterial nylon for temperate climates to combinations of sponge neoprene and Polartec* fleece for extreme cold.
Hunter's most luxurious boot, the Sovereign, is lined in soft full grain leather for those who demand the ultimate. Similarly there is an extensive range of hardwearing soles designed to give you excellent traction whatever the terrain.