Artefacts from Leicester’s Industrial Past, Digitized and Online

One major aspect of the Manufacturing Pasts project is to digitise materials pertaining to Leicester’s industrial past, especially (but not only) the post-World-War-II period. Simon Gunn and Rebecca Madgin from the Centre for Urban History selected items from the Skinner special collection of the University library, and from the Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland. The first batch has now been professionally digitised.

This photo, from the Skinner collection, show some of the beautiful shoes produced at the Liberty Shoe factory, formerly of Leicester.

One thing I am learning is that these artefacts, and the resulting learning materials that I am endeavouring to produce (I should have some to reveal within the next few weeks), raise as many questions as they answer. For example, the photo above makes me ask: were these shoes typical of their time, or were they at the higher end or even lower end of the spectrum in terms of price range? Is the level of evident artistic flair typical? How much did a business such as Liberty invest in designers, stylists, even on research and development? And how much of that investment was carried through to the final item price?

One challenge in producing good OER learning materials from these artefacts is: how to give enough information to encourage questions and help sound conclusions to be drawn, yet without prescribing a narrative.

The digitised primary sources are being made available online in the Manufacturing Pasts collection within My Leicestershire History.

Terese Bird

Learning Technologist and SCORE Research Fellow, University of Leicester


4 Responses

  1. Liberty produced medium grade shoes and were typical of the type of shoes produced in Leicester during the 20th century.

    I have written a considerable amount about the history of the shoe industry from 1800 to the present day. Please feel free to contact me if you require further information.

    David Holmes

    • Hello again, David. We would be interested in the information about early days of Lennards, and also the photos you describe. Might you email the project at so we can arrange something? Many thanks indeed!

  2. Thanks for this, David. Is there a book (written by you, perhaps) which you could recommend? We are particularly interested in the Liberty building and company.

    • There are virtually no records of the Liberty building other than the occasional newspaper article written when the building was to be demolished. It was important because it was the only (I think) prestressed concrete building, of a design introduced by a Frenchman, that existed in the city.

      The only record at ROLLR consists of a list of shoe designs which are of absolutely no importance because there is no drawing attached, neither is there a costing.

      I have rather more information about the early days of Lennards and some photos of the interior of the previous factory.

      Suggest we meet if you want details.


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