The First Ten Years 1875-1885

For most of the Branches good images are to be found on the gallery 
Early 1870’s William Henry Franklin (Bootmaker) is operating at Leeds, boot factoring under his own name. Leeds at that time was a reputable and recognised boot centre with a buoyant hand finishing operation from within the locality. Bramley is one such centre.

Three Brothers by the name of Brow, John & William Dickinson begin making good handmade boots in their parents’ cottage in Back Lane Bramley after serving an apprenticeship in which they learn how to use machinery!

John Kirby a glover and draper by trade, it is my belief he went off to Leeds and either retrained as a Bootmaker or began a new life selling boots as a boot factor in the Leeds area. He and Franklin met on the market stalls. John is destined along with his brother George to become partners in a great adventure forming the Northern Public Benefit Boot Company.

John KIRBY introduces William Franklin to Brow Dickinson (became M.D. & chairman of the Pub Ben. Co:) 
HENRY LENNARD (one of five brothers, Samuel, John, William, and Thomas Joseph from Leicester) is also working the stalls in Leeds and Bradford. He and William Franklin become partners. No record exists of when this occurred. This is the group that would form the Southern Public Benefit Boot Company 

1873 Hull Packet 22nd Aug George Edward Franklin (Williams’ brother) in Hull having bought a grocery shop in Trinity Street with a liquor license. George also became a partner to his brother as they opened up shops together some under the name of Franklin brothers. The only member of the group missing, Benjamin Hunn a chemist and George Franklins’ brother in law. He was persuaded to sell his chemist business and join with George in setting up the Midlands territory
William Franklin visits Hull 1875 from Leeds

1875 HULL October the very first branch of the company was opened by William Henry Franklin partnered by Henry Lennard of Leicester. The shop a single window one storey no frills building sited along the Brighton Arcade, Prospect Street on the East Side of the Street opposite the expansive and bustling infirmary. The railway station was a three-minute walk away.

1876 Hull 1st December Hull Packet details of a theft from the first branch managed by Richard Franklin (William & Georges’ father.)
1876 HULL 5th December a report in Hull Packet of the sentencing of the thief a known felon, in this report the address of the shop is confirmed Richard living at 13 Stanley Street close to Trinity Street Hull is married to Eunice Harker. Eunice is sister to Jabez Harker a bootmaker who also becomes a partner to William Brow Dickinson a major founder of the Northern Public Benefit Boot company. His manufacturing and retail experience served him well under John Kirby as chairman. He later became chairman to replace John upon his death, around 1915. Brow’s considerable Interests and later retailing ventures in the North East prior to the final incorporation of 1897 assured his stake in the company. M.D. for a long time

HULL PACKET   5th July-1878 Prosecution of Felon by Richard Franklin

1878 Hull Packet 5th October George Franklin is still at his Trinity Street shop when he advertises for sale a harmonium. However, he is soon to leave to open a branch at 26-28 London Road Derby.
A company booklet produced in 1947 has a photograph of number 93 Prospect Street being a single storey shop and ‘picked out’ as being the first branch. The photo was taken in 1887 a follow up photo shows a series of small single storey shops extended onto the first branch.  Whites directory of 1882 shows an entry for W.H. Franklin proprietor in a block of premises between Albion Street and heading down to Story Street where the company held numbers 90,91,92,93,94 consecutively. This bears out the shop extensions mentioned in the booklet and location for Brighton Arcade.

1878 The company also advertised as occupying a small shop unit existing close to or even part of the Infirmary forecourt. Number 16 Prospect Street occupied by the company is perhaps better explained when we consult the Bulmer’s Trade directory for 1892 and three entries states: 16 PROSPECT STREET
Moncaster Thos. Jas., saddler.  Hull Royal Infirmary; Frank Savery, house surgeon.     Rousseau Chas., head porter, Infirmary lodge

1878 Hull Packet 28th June theft from Franklin and Lennard (not Lennen as mistakenly reported)

1878 Hull Packet 5th July-Prosecution of Felon by Richard Franklin

J. Wallis Goddard one of the few men to be on the board of both Southern and Northern companies. He remained with the Northern board until his death. Described as a true gentleman his death came in 1927 whilst serving on the Leeds Board. Mr Goddard was also part of the 1904 merger

Jabez Harker one of the original founders of the seven businesses that made up the Northern company. He was also uncle to William and George Franklin. Jabez was part of a large family he was already working ‘in the trade’ and operated in the Nottingham region

George Kirby, commanded the Lancashire & Cheshire regions and joined the business a little later enticed by his Brother. Large Branches in Warrington, Burnley and others emerged.

John Kirby commanded the Sheffield and Chesterfield region. For a long time, apart from a resignation period he was chairman of the Northern Board. One of the original founders and seven businessmen he was part of the ‘Leeds’ gang in the 1870’s

1879 Hull Packet 12th December William Franklin is advertising his intention to once again take up a stall on the annual Fat stock show no means of selling is overlooked.

1879 Two references to dissolving of partnership by William Henry Franklin and Henry Lennard Huddersfield Chronicle 18th January and Leeds times 18th January. Whilst it is unusual to find partnerships ‘formed’ in fact so rare I have never seen one; it is common to see them advertised as dissolved. Reason for this was the normal and accepted system of conducting business through the formation of partnerships. Each partner would dissolve in order from that day to absolve themselves of any ‘come back’ or liability of debts.


1879 Hull Packet 15th August from 18 Market Place Barton a Public Benefit shop the manager W. H. Wainhouse is also an agent selling Jones sewing machines. Jones worked on the principles of hiring agents to promote their machines.

1879 Derby Daily Telegraph 20th August Salesman: Wanted a salesman for our establishment in Hull-Public Benefit Boot & Shoe company 26-28 London street Derby (some manufacturing was being carried out here.)

1879 Derby Daily telegraph 23rd August advertisement mentioning Hull (William Franklin) and DERBY (This establishment was owned by George Edward Franklin) He calls his branch ‘BIG BOOT’
How do you stand out in a crowd? Invent a trademark, a gimmick, that folks associate with your company. There was some illiteracy still, amongst the labouring classes but a trademark is one way of doing business with those people.

Evidence of this important advertising device is strong. We know the first large boot was made for William Franklin, it was born in Hull.

1882 An advertisement placed in the Hull Packet 29th December by William Allman a Boot & Shoe manufacturer calling himself ‘The Working Man’s Friend’ going under the “trademark’ of ‘Golden Boot’ reminds everyone his premises are on the corner of Dock Street and also St. James Street, Pottery. Further descriptions are applied: Four doors from the church and ‘BIG BOOT’ 28 Trippett, Wincolmlee. I have always wondered did Allman make the first Big boot for Franklin? He definitely knew of ‘Big Boot’ and was capitalising on it?

Two decent trademarks there, a Golden Boot and Big Boot! Franklins’ company became known not as Public Benefit Boot company but by the nickname ‘Big Boot’ and the idea would ‘catch on’ nationally. So, having devised a ‘cracking’ trademark you’ll still fall flat on your face if you don’t produce the goods! Franklin did two things from the very start, cut out the middle man by selling boots at factory prices and traded on a cash only business. This would eradicate bad debt problems. William had his premises, nothing flash, in fact downright basic but then he was selling cheap and stacking high in a one window shop.

All this alone are tools and not guaranteed to ‘knock out’ the competition. His boots had to ooze quality and be sturdy enough to suit the labouring classes. This he achieved through buying from fledgling entrepreneurs like the Dickinsons of Bramley making hand-made boots, or Charlie Burroughs with his factory in Leeds and retail shops across Yorkshire. Burroughs was well known in the area for his good boots which he traded on the market stalls of Leeds and Bradford and in his own shops. Both were making excellent, tough, boots, ‘just the job boots’, boots to stand up to the rigours of working in mines or foundries, boots with durability that wouldn’t fall apart when someone sneezed.

Sir James T. Woodhouse once chairman of the Northern company a solicitor, J.P governor of Hymers College and Lord Mayor of Hull; he did not remain long but is shown on the original board of 1897. A Hull solicitor and J.P. he lived in a large house close to the Railway station at Brough East Yorkshire

Founder William Henry Franklin, co-ordinated initially the Public Benefit Boot Company a company to Benefit the Public. Opening his first Branch in October 1875 he quickly expanded his operations particularly in Yorkshire. A man filled with ideas he began the highly rated ‘Big Boot’ trademark and erected lots of Emporiums, many are still around to this day
Bramley in those days was one of the very last Boot centres to forestall the advent of machines, yet the Dickinson’s knew the age of the machine was dawning and when they learned their trade they would embrace the advancing technology. Next question, how did he get his boots from Leeds to Hull? Easy peasy- via the train, the ‘anywhere to everywhere’ mode of transport built for industry and his shop was three minutes away from Paragon railway station. His boots arrived in crates and barrels ‘undressed’, all the same colour and style, unfinished or unrefined they were everything the public wanted, cheap, working boots and they would be ‘stacked’ in the window in rows, pair on pair. He then sold them all for one price, ‘half guinea a pair,’ a concept for which Franklin was remembered years later as a pioneering price for a basic quality product.
Franklin knew he had ‘lift off’ and soon other shops would be needed, his father Richard managed the first Branch leaving William to expand and continue with his plans unfettered. Quite apart from expansions in Hull his brother George sold his grocery and liquor shop and moseyed down to Derby in 1879, opening in 26-28 London Street which he named from the outset ‘Big Boot’.
The Anglo-American Public Benefit Company 1879

Henry Lennard, Franklins’ partner, one of his roles was helping to co-ordinate and motivate his brothers into trading in similar fashion in the Southern half of the country. This idea was undoubtedly borne from day one. 
He and Franklin also worked together to trade with the Americans. They were experiencing hard times, suffering from many problems one of which was over production resulting in bankruptcy’s, to try to solve this the Americans arranged deals with British companies to take cheap, good quality footwear. Franklin and Lennard embraced the deals whilst British manufacturers protested.
one of three Giants of the boot trade manufacturing and retail empire Sir Joseph T. Lennard who founded Lennards Ltd and erected the huge H.Q. in Bristol in 1896. He also entered politics as a liberal and in 1904 appointed himself chairman and M.D. of both Public Benefit companies.

Samuel Lennard who formed Lennard Brothers retailing and manufacturing but sold the retail side to his brother, brother, he lived to the age of fifty. The eldest of the five brothers he became a liberal serving on Leicester Town council, an alderman and a J.P. One of the giants of the trade

Ernest William Lennard nephew to Sir Joseph took over the reins when T. J. Lennard eventually retired.
The first advertisement appeared in the Leicester Mercury on 31st May 1879 selling the boots and shoes directly from a Lennard Warehouse at 6, Welford Road Leicester. Some of the footwear on offer were being sold at extraordinary prices.

Women’s kid boots, sewn from 3s 3d

Mens shoes & boots sewn from 5s 0d

Boys nailed boots sewn from     3s 2d

Nurseries sewn boots from        0s 7d

There was no inflation in those times prices and wages remained constant
1879 American footwear was sold too in Derby and Hull at Humber Mills by William and George when an advertisement in the Derby Daily Telegraph in August announced:
‘The Great Midland Boot & Shoe Stores are now open at 26-28 London Street. Prices unheard of ‘and, with an eye on health and safety it was advised, everyone turn up early to avoid ‘crowding’

This was the market stall concept taken a step further with direct selling from warehouses and factories. They even sold directly to the trade, the policy Franklin appears to have was ‘push’ the imported footwear out of the door as quickly as possible, ‘small profits rapid returns’. Whether any of this footwear was sent to their shops is unclear as it seems mainly to be distributed to the public from warehouses? Later Franklin was to set up an arrangement called ‘The Great British Foreign Boot and Shoe Exchange’ and this continued well into the 1890’s. Franklin continued his ‘winning’ policy of importing, pushing cheap footwear through factory gates and warehouses. His brother George in Derby also advertised as being proprietors of ‘The Great Midland Boot and Shoe exchange’

A visiting congressman to Hull made these comments in the New York Times picked up by Franklin as he includes his observations in the Hull daily mail of 26th July 1894.

‘England’s Greatness commercially, is as clearly demonstrated in her colossal retail Palaces as it is in her Stupendous Wholesale Warehouses, factories, mills, workshops etc. I thought so when I viewed, near the Royal Infirmary Hull, a magnificent Mammoth Boot & Shoe Emporium, that appeared to solve the most difficult problem we have in New York-supplying all classes with every possible requirement in one establishment. It has sectional shops and Saloons with separate Street entrances for Ladies and gentlemen and the General Public, and caters for all societies, from the highest and wealthiest to the lowest and poorest and evidently with great advantage to patrons or such an immense establishment could not be upheld. Verily the energy and enterprise of British Tradesmen and their enormous Marts exemplifies Englands’ greatness!

Whilst I am not completely sold on the American congressman and his visit to the Emporium his observations are ‘spot on’, the establishment is the absolute representation of a progressive company. Personally, I believe Franklin who was trading regularly with America, could very well have been ‘known’ to the congressman and go so far as to suggest Franklin’ entertained him at their home in the ‘Park’; we’ll never know!

This is not the first-time William Franklin has been in American newspapers, he was quoted as saying, in one Newspaper across the pond:
‘If you have money to spend? Then spend it on advertising’

Advertising in all its’ forms was something Franklin believed in passionately another aspect of their policy making was using franchises.

William Franklin adopted the policy of supplying small boot sellers at wholesale prices, (selling to the ‘trade’) and one way or another he was selling ‘Benefit boots’ depriving the competition of extra revenue. A clever idea, though it wasn’t because they were being nice to the small ‘middle man’. By supplying them, an individual’s sales could be monitored by the boots they bought off the company. Franchising, using existing businesses was one of the major ways in which the retailing empire was established as well as undercutting the competition and working on a small profit margin. Franklin and his partners could, using this method, work out who was in a good trading spot by the volume of sales. To this end franchises would then be offered to the ‘right’ individuals, Lennards also traded in this way.

There are countless examples from one end of the country to the other of ‘using established businesses’. Some worked, some were disastrous and fell into bankruptcy. Charlie Burroughs whom I mentioned earlier, a good example of owning a small chain of shops, began trading under the banner of Public Benefit Boot company in the 1880’s. He represented the company in Westgate Bradford, 15 Buxton Road Huddersfield, Lord Street Rochdale, and 19 Tower Hill gate Stockport. Burroughs also traded under other names so he was ‘into’ franchising in a big way. He also had his own reputable manufacturing facility in Leeds. His sudden downfall began when there was an unexpected ‘downturn’ in the market and he had ventured into the confectionary trade by opening a shop at 21 Kirkgate Leeds known as the Central Cocoa House; on which he spent large sums of money, he had ‘over reached’
1879 The company opened in CARLISLE using another franchise, Todd Brothers this arrangement was successful as the Todd Brother’s extended their franchise to other towns for the company. On 4th October in Carlisle Express and Examiner an advertisement announcing their premises ‘The Great Emporium for Low shoes’ and extolling the virtues of buying from the Public Benefit Boot and Shoe Company by offering a choice between machine sewn and hand sawn boots in the latest fashions. Proclaiming their riveted boots ‘which wear longer and does not come to pieces like ordinary made boots and shoe’s’.

1880 The partnership between William and his brother George was extended to another partnership between William and Jabez Harker their bootmaker uncle who lived in the Midlands. They erected a prestigious branch of the company close to a major attraction Albert Hall and called their establishment Albert Hall buildings 21-23 Derby road. The earliest we learn of this is from the Nottingham Journal 19th February advertising for staff. This Branch became a ‘flagship’ over the years. Making it known they were the ‘King of Boot shops’

1880 Coventry Times 7th April the Franklins pushed into Coventry opening a new branch establishment? The first time this phrase was used but It came to mean that larger premises were opened first and if successful smaller premises would be opened and supplied by the much larger Branch. Yet another highly successful strategy because the larger Branches were capable of holding huge stocks and were able to control the stockholding of smaller branches within their dominance.
1878 Sometime earlier possibly 1878/9 premises at 3-4 Hales Street was opened, instantly successful another smaller branch at 37 Spon Street appeared, a Branch establishment. We must also bear in mind partnerships within the Public Benefit Boot Company were well underway and the original founders and partners were all bootmakers working and trading in their own right. Coventry was in all likelihood already trading under a different name and, following an agreement, later changed to the common name of Public Benefit Boot Company.

1880 Derby extended their premises on the London Road and were now 24,26 & 28 they were also manufacturing. Throughout the year 1880 the newspapers are mainly advertising the branches mentioned. There were franchises ‘coming off’ all over the country
1881 Evidence of a Branch brought back into service appears when Bradford Daily telegraph December are advertising for staff at 22 Westgate Bradford for their shop. Another franchise under the management of William Faulkner a bootmaker

1882 Whites Directory Hull. Entry W H Franklin gives an indication of his personal intervention when he has opened a branch at 147 Cleethorpes Road Grimsby, 90 Prospect Street Hull then Leicester, Nottingham and London

1882 29th September 19 Stall Street Bath trading as Public Benefit under the Lennards ownership.

1882 and 1884 there is a company shop in Beverley Toll Gavel number 22 but it is a Franchise arrangement through Charles Whittaker of Leeds who went on to open another branch in Market Weighton half way to York

1883 all the above premises are still trading and then we see adverts for Public Benefit Boot Stores in January with Middlesbrough advertising the branch at 152 High Street Stockton opposite the old Church

1883 Action in Sheffield in March The company Branch at 59 Fargate are auctioning off all the stock as the premises are ‘coming down’

1883 28 High street Rotherham manager Brocklebank

1883 A Leicester company bought the entire stock of the Public Benefit Boot company at 152 High street Stockton, the company are leaving on account of the lease expiring and the stock is being removed to 127 high Street an old boot shop known as Fosters.

1883 George Franklin is now advertising the premises on London street as ‘BIG BOOT’ and with branches at: Hull, Nottingham, Leeds, Bristol, Sheffield, Ripley, Belper, & Gainsbrough:  with manufacturing capacity at Hull, Leeds and Wellingboro

1883 22nd May York branch at 22 Goodramgate are advertising for staff

1883 30th June first illustrated advert for the Kirby Brothers Branch of Public Benefit Boot at 75 St. James Street Burnley

1883 July a shop recently occupied by the Public Benefit Boot company to let in the Market Place Chesterfield apply G Stevenson


1885 Branch at 78a Westgate Bradford

1885 Corporation Street Chesterfield a veritable Emporium with six large windows

1885 Huge Emporium opens in Sheffield at the Moorhead

1885 Another opened in Hull in May Prospect Street

1885 London gazette William Franklin and Jabez Harker dissolve their partnership they were trading under the name of Franklin and CO: under the larger umbrella title of the public Benefit Boot Company. The building was owned by William Franklin and Jabez was working for William as a Boot factor.

The Southern Public Benefit Boot company/ Lennards Brothers


Samuel Lennard having served an apprenticeship with a large local firm, Walker Kempson and Brown rose to the position of factory manager prior to manufacturing in a rented factory in 1876 on his own account. He also teamed up with a partner Thomas Wright, they venture into retailing. Samuel, however, remained totally focused on manufacturing, his brothers began to gradually extend the family business into retailing, something a lot of manufacturers appeared to do; make boots and sell them in their own shops.
The brothers John, Henry, William and Thomas Joseph known as Lennard brothers collectively traded under a variety of trading names.
LENNARD BROTHERS was the name Samuel, born 1851 adopted to represent his manufacturing interests and retail branches, but he personally did not stray from manufacturing. Thomas Joseph formed partnerships with two of his brothers John & William whilst Henry operated on his own under the title of Public Benefit Boot Company chiefly in Bristol and elsewhere whilst William manged a Branch in Stroud. When Thomas established LENNARDS LTD he acquired all the branches trading under varying titles and in 1896 removed to Bristol where he set up a huge Headquarters and manufacturing site.

PEOPLES’ BENEFIT BOOT COMPANY, Lennards Brothers and Public Benefit Boot Company
1879 Lennard brothers traded under firstly the name Peoples Benefit Boot Company Significantly the date and the name being so close to the Public Benefit Boot Company trading name and retailing ‘start up’ is an early indicator that Franklin and Lennards were co-operating. The brothers included Henry Lennard he was the direct link who worked with William Franklin in Leeds and other locations as his partner, they chose a name that would only require a quick name change. An example of this trading name appears in Newport as Peoples Benefit Boot Co. Commercial Road, 17th November 1891

A timeline of events appears in the following:

Lennard Brothers Samuel, (Alderman and J.P. of Leicester) John, William and Henry (partner to William franklin in the 1870’s dissolved in 1879.

Leicester Chronicle 27 July 1870 Sam Lennard selling hosiery business

Leicester Chronicle 01-04-1876 Samuel Lennard Manager of Walker, kempson and Brown.

Leicester Chronicle 10th March 1877 Lennard & Wright. Sam has formed a partnership

Leicester Chronicle 1878 Lennard and wright dispute with the Post office

The brothers began to open branches in a variety of trading names:

Stafford Sentinel 27-10-1879 A depraved Woman -Hanley Branch of Peoples’ Benefit Boot co. a trading name of Lennard Brothers

1879 One of the earliest known branches belonging to LENNARD & WRIGHT but trading as Peoples’ Benefit Boot & Shoe Company was number 60 Piccadilly in Hanley Staffordshire. This came to light thanks to a court case involving a woman stealing boots from a peg outside the shop in October 1879.
Leicester Chronicle Lennard & Wright 12-11-1881 still working the partnership

Leicester Journal 12th August 1881 Theft from Ruth Ball managing the P.B. store in 1880 this branch at 12 West bridge Street was known as the Cheap Boot stores ‘run’ by Rupert Ball and the following three years was franchised under Public Benefit Boot
Leicester, LEI, 12 West Bridge Street, 1881-1884 under Public Benefit Boot name

Chesterfield Peoples Benefit Boot Company Derbyshire Times 14th Jan 1882 Theft of Boots
1882 November the manager of the shop on Low Pavement Chesterfield trading as Peoples Benefit Boot Company prosecuted a man for the theft of boots.

Cambridge Independent Press 8-25-03-1882 Fred James prosecuted by manager Thomas Wright for stealing from Public Benefit Boot Company (likely a Henry Lennard branch)

Failed Franchisee files for bankruptcy: Leicester Chronicle 4-5-08-1893 George Thornell Dudley File for Bankruptcy (Franchise)
Leicester Chronicle 5-07-1884 Theft of Heel lifts Lennard & Wright

The last known trading under this title was in 1887 when the branch in Hanley and another in Newcastle Under Lyme trading under the title of Peoples’ Benefit Boot Company filed for bankruptcy. Lennard formed a partnership with Boot dealer George Blackburn to operate the branch in Hanley. George then formed a separate agreement with John Blatherwick and between them they managed Hanley and another branch they opened in Newcastle under Lyme in 1886. Their separate partnership began in September 1885 and ended in April 1887 owing to bankruptcy. The pair took 30 shillings per week out of the meagre takings from the shops and kept no records and was unable to account for the large deficit that had accrued.
Both Lennards and their counterparts appeared to use the franchise method in a big way, it was a popular method of trading amongst Boot companies. Franklin also adopted the franchise idea along with fostering his own branches. Sourcing a town with a ready-made boot shop operating and willing to act on behalf of another concern may have appeared to be a better prospect than struggling under their own arrangement. Often though it ended abruptly in bankruptcy proceedings whereby both parties lost out as we have seen with the Blatherwick/Blackburn affair. This said it did not deter companies from using the practice.

Samuel realised successes too when he moved into larger premises in Junior Street employing more hands and in 1881 thence to Asylum Street an even larger factory. Asylum Street being the main manufacturing base in Leicester the company opened branch factories in Kettering, Northampton and Blaby with extensive warehousing in Gosling Street Leicester. Samuel was able to supply domestic and foreign markets and converted the company to a limited liability company

Retailing began to accelerate once Thomas Joseph became involved after 1884 when he returned from a spell in Leeds; where he made many friends amongst the Methodists and liberals there and became interested in politics. Thomas was destined to follow his older brother Sam into politics in later life. He initially formed partnerships with two of his brothers John & William. Henry, as mentioned, appeared to work independently for some time working very much in the style of his former partner Franklin in Hull until the formation of Lennards Ltd.


1878 HENRY LENNARD on ending his agreement with William made his way to Bristol.

BRISTOL This ancient city with a history of trading across the world became the Headquarters of the Southern Public Benefit Boot Company at the turn of the twentieth century. The very first Branch may have been 7 High Street occupied originally by a Mr. Franklin in 1878.
Old Newspaper reports from Bristol Mercury for 1896 claims the Company by Lennard of Leicester began retailing at 38 High Street in a four-storey building situated next to “Market Gate,” a very prominent position. They also took over number 37 and expanded the operations. The medieval arrangement still in existence at the time of Public Benefit occupation down the High street consisting of four main thoroughfares, including High Street, Wine Street, Corn Street & Broad Street which all met at a crossroads in the middle of which stood a medieval High Cross. St Nicholas Gate stood at the bottom of High Street and was one of the entrances to the town. The gate has long since gone but the impressive spired structure still stands.
1878 on 16th April & 25th December 1879 Greenock Advertiser a Mr C M Percy proclaimed at his establishment 38 Hamilton Street Greenock famed Boot Depot the return of the annual time honoured and genuine Public Benefit Boot company once a year sale of Boots, Shoes and slippers.

The company adopted this strategy in the Channel Islands also.
1880 KINGS LYNN: A Franchise. Here the firm opened two shops more or less at the same time in 1880/1 according to the 1881 census; the first at 4, North Street under the management of Alfred Smith and the other at 136-137 Norfolk Street. The first branch in North Street was opened to attract custom from the developing docklands and the railway.

Smith born in Leicester had two sons Frederick and Walter Henry who both worked as boot salesmen helping their father; Frederick at North Street and the premises at Norfolk Street assisted by Walter Henry. Interestingly Walter went on to become a boot factor from the public Benefit Boot company premises at 359 Cleethorpes Road Grimsby, which hints at the fact that opportunities and vacancies could be made available, in both sectors, for which anyone could apply. Smith, indications are he held the two locations under, ‘arrangement’ with the Lennard Brothers

Norfolk Street premises were situated between High Street and Broad Street to take advantage of trade using the main thoroughfare of High Street and it was located within a short distance from ‘Tuesday Market’ with its distinctive Corn Exchange. The Market has a wide-open space enclosed by Regency and other fine buildings. Kings Lynn like Hull is a Hansiatic seaport, a Market Town and began to expand in the 19th century
1880 Franchise 17th January in the Weston mercury Proprietors E. Wilcox & Co; are claiming to be The Public Benefit Boot warehouse corner of high Street & Holyrood Street Chard and Regent Street and Meadow Street Weston super Mare.
1880 BRISTOL: FACTORY public Benefit boot are advertising for workers for the factory ST. JAMES SQUARE, described as:’ Through the Red Gates by the Mission and school rooms. The Bristol factory was still operating in 1882.

1880 CHELTENHAM: The company branch at 380 High Street can be dated from around 1880 in this Spa town that was and still is the most complete Regency town in England. High Street has been the main thoroughfare throughout its history. Along it stood the timber-framed houses of the market town, which were gradually rebuilt or refronted as Cheltenham grew and prospered. It has always been the commercial heart of the town.

1880-onwards LEICESTER: A branch was advertised as 15 Belgrave Gate in 1885 also a major branch at Cheapside occupying a corner position opposite a major Landmark a huge clock tower. The Haymarket tower was sited at a junction to five busy and important roads and close to where markets were held. The five major streets (Gallowtree Gate, Humberstone Gate, Belgrave Gate, Church Gate and Eastgates) meet, and also close by to the junction with Cheapside.
1881-2 CAMBRIDGE: The earliest verifiable record on a branch in the University and market town came to us via a court case reported in March 1882 in the Cambridge Independent Press. The manager at the time was THOMAS WRIGHT, Samuel Lennards partner We know the shop was close to Sidney Street because of another newspaper report of 1884
1881 7th May in the Cheltenham Mercury another franchise has been set up using a company called Pitcher and Son boot manufacturers of 85 Winchcomb Street Cheltenham and was advertising as Public Benefit Boot & Shoe supply stores. Again, this would have been a Lennard Brothers arrangement
1881 MONMOUTH: From 1881 Lennards operated a couple of branches here at 8 & 12 Monnow Street, Benjamin Yeates a locally born man managed the two boot shops under an arrangement with Lennards.  His wife Fanny managed one of the premises and following his death 15 January 1890 aged 56, his widow and children carried on the business. Monnow Street ran from Monnow Bridge a medieval three-arched structure with a gatehouse right up to Agincourt Square previously known as the Market Place. Within the market place is an 18th century Shire Hall an impressive building with six arches. Research also reveals deeds belonging to 14 Monnow Street being in the possession of Benjamin Yeates and combined with number 12 the shops would have provided an imposing sight, attracting a large footfall as the location is very close to the market place. Number 12 is on the corner of St John Street and a huge spired church can be seen at the head of Monnow Street, all in all another good example of the firm seeking the right location.

1882 LONDON The first London branch, was opened as far as can be ascertained at 294 Regent Street West in 1885, gaps in sources such as Trade directories make it difficult to pinpoint.  An old Hull (Whites’) directory lists London as one of the places where the company has established a branch in 1882 but the whereabouts remains a mystery. Regent Street did become a flagship branch for Lennards with many years trading.

1885 STRATFORD ON AVON: Here the shop was at 2 High Street around 1885 close to the corner of Bridge Street, the proprietor was Stephen Hilton.
1885 STROUD: Important ‘cloth’ town in Gloucestershire nestling amongst the Cotswold’s where numerous Woollen mills operated and where the company opened a branch at 50 High Street. Proprietors were Lennard Brothers but traded under the common name Public Benefit Boot. William Lennard was the manager for a number of years and he remained responsible for the branch along with a similar one at Gloucester opened much later. Information gleaned from Kelly’s 1885 for Stroud. In this year, also a successful application was submitted for a sign to project nine feet from the front of the shop made up of revolving letters. The sign could not extend beyond the pavement.

1885 Sale of boots by the company under the franchise of Blaire’s Public Benefit Boot & Shoe stores at Woodside and Auchmill

1885 Public Benefit Boot & Shoe Company 58 Hannah Street Porth auctioning off stock fixtures and fittings of a small factory. Reason for sale the company having taken a wholesale business in London (this included a factory)

The many trading names being used at this time is highly confusing but a serious threat was being mounted to the Public Benefit Boot and Lennards alliance. The following may give further clarity.


MOTTO: Lets pull together incorporated in an illustrated trademark

The following title Lennards operated under was Mutual Boot Stores utilising a trademark depicting a boat on the high seas with crossed oars. The message was simple ‘Let’s pull together’ the trademark was registered on 29th April 1894. This was a Company formed to counter the direct threat from The Freeman group

Examples and details of their trading name in use are seen in the following:

Portsmouth E. News 08-11-1892 Early Closing Mutual Boot Stores Commercial Road Western Daily Press
Southsea Mutual Boot Stores Portsmouth Evening News 01 January 1895 ad for staff at 108 Somers Road
Southampton Bridge Street Mutual Boot Stores Hampshire Advertiser 13-11-1895

November 1892 and a petition to obtain collective agreement for all boot companies and shops in Portsmouth to restrict opening hours was underway and duly signed Mutual boot stores was one such company. Three years later in November 1895 a branch in Bridge Street Southampton prosecuted a felon for the theft of boots.


Freeman Hardy purchased a registered company by the name of Mutual Benefit Boot Company with a limited number of branches and immediately opened branches in Haverford West and Tenby under the new name. It was registered in April 1890 and an ad at the company headquarters in Pershore Street Birmingham in the same month wants a manager for the Tenby branch. The new company did not last long it was wound up in May 1891 and the real target and purpose of this act was to apply pressure to George Franklin in Derby advertising his branch as ‘Big Boot’.
Freeman’s’ answer was to open a branch close to the Public Benefit Boot Company and called their branch ‘The Spot’
Part of the advert warned ’Be careful to find the right spot’ Both Public Benefit and Mutual Benefit advertised frequently each trying to outdo the other in a bid to ‘up the Ante’. Mutual Benefit announced in their adverts they had branches at BIRMINGHAM, LEICESTER, NOTTINGHAM, WREXHAM, PONTYPOOL, TENBY ETC. Gas lighting was fitted to the London road Branch of the Mutual Benefit Boot shop claiming to be the best lit in Derby. Intense competition and yet it lasted in reality just over 16 months when Freeman’s’ pulled out. This company was registered at 1, Welford Place Leicester using names of their clerks and a stones’ throw from number 3 & 6 Welford Place occupied by Lennard Brothers and their partners Public Benefit Boot Company

Birmingham. D. Post 17-04-1890 this is an Advertisement for staff by Mutual Benefit Boot company at Pershore Street Birmingham and on the same page.

Public Benefit Boot company were also advertising for staff at their Corporation Street shop.

Derby daily Telegraph 24th May 1890 Two ads by Public Benefit Boot and One large ad by Mutual Benefit Boot

Freemans opened branches in Wales number 3 high street Haverfordwest in 1891there are no other entries for this branch. They also opened another branch High Street Tenby in 1891 and again no other entries appear for this branch.

This was in direct competition to Public Benefit Boot company premises opened in 1891at 41 Neath Road Briton Ferry other entries for this branch are in 1901 culminating in ten years of trading. These attempts by the Freeman, Hardy and Willis group appear to be half hearted as they never offered serious competition in some places such as Wales. Their main attentions appear to have been concentrated upon driving George Franklin out of Derby and attacking Thomas J. Lennard. Interestingly the Freeman Group don’t appear to have desires at this point to spread their opposition to Yorkshire where William Franklin concentrated his branches? Instead they concentrated on the Midlands and beyond.


One final twist to this story of heated rivalry was another company purchased by Freeman Hardy & Willis called the PEOPLES’ BENEFIT BOOT STORES was registered as trading from Winchester House, 1, Welford Road Leicester. Both companies purchased by Freeman’s’ were a stone throw from Lennards H.Q at 3 Welford Road and Public Benefit H.Q. at Birmingham. Manchester Courier & Lancashire gen. Advertiser 02 March 1887 Peoples’ Benefit Boot company bankruptcy


This was another similar trading name and did cause concern at one time and an advert was placed in the Western News by Lennard Brothers in November 1884 following a court case involving a William Beer accused of assaulting his wife. Beer traded as: BRISTOL BENEFIT BOOT & SHOE COMPANY. He controlled three branches, one near the Bristol Bridge, one in White Ladies Road, one in Hotwell Road. Lennards were concerned owing to the similarity in trading names people were beginning to think Beer was part of the Public Benefit Boot Company in the High Street and were keen to distance themselves from him and his company


Big Boot was one of the most important advertising devices the two companies that formed the Public Benefit Boot Company had. Powerfully visual ‘it was an in your face’ Giant Boot and at around 4-6 feet X 8 feet across approximately, anchored to a flat dray and pulled by a pony. A man standing inside used it, The Hull Boot to tour villages in the East and West Ridings of Yorkshire, ringing a bell to inform the people of that district the ‘King of Boot shops’ had arrived.

There are many stories and photographs of the Hull Boot. The idea caught on across the entire country. Evidences uncovered include:

1879 23rd October Derby Telegraph driver William Miller fined 5s for failing to stop for a police officer, endangering life by driving the big boot at a speed of 8 miles per hour.

1880 7th April Derby Telegraph John Brelsworth was seen speeding in the Big b0ot in the Cornmarket. Fined 20s and costs or eleven days’ prison
1881 6th July Nottingham Guardian, The Albert Hall buildings on Derby Road wanted a Stable, coach house, groom and pony for a BIG BOOT
1882 Cornishman Penzance November Big Boot described as being 8 feet long and four feet high whilst the reporter states the idea is legitimate it is also quirky

1882 Notts Guardian May Coach house required eleven feet high for Big Boot

1883 Big Boot is registered as a trademark by Henry Lennard of High Street Bristol
1883 Derby are selling a horse that was being used to drive their delivery van around but was too small for the purpose.

1884 5th April Cambridge Independent a story of a big boot driven by the manager whereby the horse slipped on cobbles near Jesus Lane Cambridge spilling driver, his son and a box of Benefit Boots onto the road.
1887 September 30th Infringement of the Bye laws. Charles Staniforth employed by Public Benefit Boot Company was summoned for driving a vehicle in the shape of a giant boot down Moseley Street. The argument being that the vehicle was for advertisement purposes and not to be taken onto the highways. Fined 5s and costs.

1888 Hull Packet 2nd October wanted a groom to attend horse & drive parcel van Public Benefit Prospect Street Hull

1891 Nottingham Evening Post 11th July Tenders required for coach builders to supply a trap and Boot as owned by the Public Benefit Boot company apply J. Hume Belfast.

1899 August Hull Daily mail an ad is placed for a coach house for BIG BOOT Beverley Road preferred

Plenty of publicity all concerning the courts but that boot image was used on merchandise given away at Xmas time. Painted onto external walls, onto illuminating gas lamps outside the shops and, above all there are numerous Newspapers with illustrations of New Branches erected, many depicting the Big boot making its way to the shop.  About four feet high large lamps of all styles would be hung from the company fascias. Councils generally insisted on the lamps being raised to a height of 7 feet and six inches bit this was waived in certain circumstances.

We know the company up and down the country advertised in the newspapers regularly and the Southern half of the company used the image of the trademark ‘man in the Boot’ to advertise their branches week in week out right into the new century. However, the finest advertisement of all was the branches. 
1885 witnessed a series of large upgrades this had the advantage of, if we take Hull as an example, Franklin was able to close the 4 branches along the Brighton Arcade and trade solely from the Albion Street Corner colossus. This Four Storey branch had plenty of stockholding space it was enormous. It replaced a Temperance Hotel previously on that site fronting two streets Prospect Street and Albion Street. Apart from the elaborations on the exterior the ground floor interior was divided into three separate and distinct shops. One the ladies dept. fitted with carved Oak panelling’s, screen, cushioned seats, stained glass representing birds and human figures. A retiring room was laid on for the ladies after transacting their business.

Gentlemen’s fitting room 27 feet by 32 feet by 14 feet in height with fittings of polished Pine, brass gas mountings.

A stock room is also accommodated on the ground floor and the manager’s office with Spring blinds that work from below upwards. The ‘Goods entrance’ is marked by Gold lettering. Ascending the broad stairway that leads to 18 stock rooms containing all classes of footwear. Each room is 19feet by 24 feet and all walls and ceilings above and below are of polished deal and throughout the building are central heating radiators. Large upgrades similar to this are also in Derby, Nottingham, Leeds and Sheffield.

Ten years later this shop was refitted, expensive appointments, fittings and so on were lavished on the exterior and interior. The ladies dept. was enlarged with new shop front and window cases made of Teak. Mosaic and marble pavements, huge bevelled glass and plate glass shelves, massive brass frames, luxurious Oak seats, upholstered in Utrecht velvet.


The Gentlemen’s Saloon was doubled in size entirely remodelled and rearranged and at the farthest end of the room a magnificent marble chimney piece, handsome fireplace and a richly decorated stained glass window. On that window was represented a life-sized figure of St. Crispin in monks’ vestments. The patron saint of the followers of the ‘last’ in other words the ‘cobblers’ saint. So, struck were the visitors to the room luxuriously beautiful and comfortable with the grandeur of a palace that they found it difficult to leave the room.

The stock rooms and packing rooms had been increased to 36. Similar establishments were erected in London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield. Nottingham, Lichfield, Doncaster, York, Wakefield, and other industrial centres from which they in turn supply several sub- branches it gives some idea of the statement these premises were presenting, impressive to say the least.

The Hessle Road Branch on the corner of Coltman Street erected by Franklin in 1897, designed by Gelder and Kitchen another example of lavish no expense spared features. The sign on the facias, showed 3 large replicated gold medals they won at an exhibition in Paris, in fact they are still on one of the facias put back by the owner when revamping the exterior of his store Premier Workwear. The rest of the signage is in storage; Gold leaf was used in the lettering The Public Benefit Boot Company. Above the doorway the previous owner has placed sympathetically ‘Benefit House’

Similarly, in the Boothferry Road Goole Branch a few years back similar Gold lettering was also used, discovered by a shopkeeper who wanted to remove all previous facias and replace them. I photographed part of the signage many years ago and although the images are not brilliant they give an excellent view of how they once looked on the facia.