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Not widely known, this company was the first to establish a national multiple Branch network across the U.K. The first no frills plain and simple shop was opened in 1875 in HULL by William Henry Franklin. Ten years on, 1885 again in Hull and elsewhere up and down the country no expense spared or detail overlooked Emporiums, were erected. Investing money that perhaps other businessmen would begrudge spending

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 led the way, ‘they held the candle’but there were also many hundreds of other people, who also made a vital contribution to the success of the venture through the years.

STACK ‘EM HIGH, SELL CHEAP’ they cut out the middle man, cash only no credit, avoiding ‘bad debts’ coupled with consistent modern styles and quality, they sold by the millions. From the outset advertising was essential, a giant-size boot 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. Evidence shows this important piece of showmanship earned them the recognition of ‘The Big Boot firm’

Premises were undoubtedly another way to advertise a business, outstanding buildings often, with six window displays began to appear, divided up into classes, Gents, Ladies and children with huge stock holding abilities, stocking latest designs of footwear. Comfortable, lavish, many of those grand buildings still survive, across the country.

I aim to increase further knowledge not only of this company but of the trade in general of eras now long past.

Valuable sources for family historians, local historians, genealogists, archive facilities and local history groups nationally with comprehensive listings including Biographical and shareholding, Branches complete with data and images in many cases.

Images:

The Hull Big Boot,

York Market Street, still there erected in 1902.

Truro Branch erected in 1893 now a bank it still stands majestically on Boscawen Street and King Street notice the cathedral behind.The cathedral wasn’t completed until 1914.

Another variation on the Hull Big Boot

Hull Hessle Road Branch 1897 still trading and selling boots and shoes under the name Premier

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