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The purpose of this website is to bring together information on people associated with The Public Benefit Boot Company Ltd and allied companies – Benefit Footwear Ltd, Lennards Ltd, and Lennard Bros Ltd. The people include numerous employees, managers, dealers, directors, business associates, family members and shareholders. The main focus is on the 1880s to 1930s period – although the companies operated in various forms throughout the UK for more than a century.
In 1875, when William Henry Franklin opened the doors of his meagre Public Benefit Boot shop for the first time, Victorian England was enjoying prosperity and a time of great technological progress, enormous optimism and expansion. Within thirty years his little shop in Hull had evolved into a nation-wide network of 200 boot stores, several repair shops and four modern factories stretching from Newcastle to Cornwall, South Wales and Ireland.
From the early years William Franklin developed strong business partnerships with family members and numerous entrepreneurs in the boot trade. Many members of the Dickinson, Lennard, Harker, Kirby, Franklin and Hunn families lead the way, but there were also many hundreds of other people who made a vital contribution to the success of the venture.
The Public Benefit Boot Company sold goods cheaper than many of their competitors, consequently selling large quantities of footwear on a regular basis. The profits were constantly ploughed back into the business enabling new stores to be opened at strategic locations throughout the country.
Late in the nineteenth century one of the most colourful forms of the company’s advertising was a giant-size boot that was regularly paraded around Yorkshire towns and villages on a flat horse-drawn cart. The rim of the boot was about four metres above the road and the driver’s figure emerged from the top of the boot. A man ringing a bell and calling out the virtues of Benefit Boots usually preceded the enormous horse-drawn boot. In 1883 the horse-drawn boot was registered as a company trademark.
The business empire grew in a fiercely competitive environment with various merger attempts, changing footwear fashions and ingenious forms of advertising to make sure the companies stood out from their rivals in the footwear trade. The people behind The Public Benefit Boot Co and the Lennard family companies subsequently went on to steer a steady course through two world wars, economic slumps and prosperity and the consequent social changes.
With the ongoing development of this website we aim to bring together and illustrate some of the threads of this story and provide interested people, local historians and genealogists with data and images that may have otherwise been lost in the mists of time. Initially we are posting some images, a list of 1897 shareholders, a comprehensive list of branches and a series of biographical and genealogical notes on people associated with the companies
We will be further expanding the website content so please revisit again soon. In the meantime additional information can be obtained on many of the people and the companies in: Well-Heeled – the Remarkable Story of The Public Benefit Boot Company by Brian Seddon and David L Bean, published 2004 by Phillimore & Co Ltd, West Sussex. Available though major booksellers or for £16.19 through
The History Press, The Mill, Brimscombe Port, Stroud, Gloucestershire GL5 2QG, England
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