Over 140 years of shoemaking experience.

From small beginnings to the present day, NPS Shoes has lived a product defining history!

We’re proud of our heritage and how over a century of experience in factory surroundings has shaped our outlook, processes and work ethic to make us a great example of British craftsmanship.


The county of Northamptonshire, England has a long history of shoemaking dating back to the 13th century. Originally this was due to its plentiful supply of oak bark and its proximity to water, abundant supply of material (e.g. leather from local cattle markets), and its central location in the country for trading links.

Until the latter part of the 19th century, shoes and boots were normally made in homes by individual shoemakers who were paid only for the work they had ready when the collector came with his barrow to the door. Remuneration was poor and there was little security of employment.


In an attempt to impose some regularity to their income, five men living in the village of Wollaston banded together to form a co-operative (a company owned and run by the people working in it) called the Northamptonshire Productive Society (NPS). Known locally as ‘the Duffers’ their premises was a dove house in Thrift Street.

Luck was with them from the outset as they managed to secure an order for army boots from the Government, an order which would sustain them for the first year.


As industrialisation spread in England during the late nineteenth century, demand in England and abroad for high-quality boots steadily increased.

As a result, NPS enjoyed rapid growth and by the turn of the century, NPS had grown to 80 employees. Consequently, NPS moved to a larger purpose-built factory on South Street in 1899, which although extended in 1907 and again in 1951, we occupy to this day.


Footwear has been made at NPS with various different construction methods, including riveted and stitched, stuck-on, vulcanised and more recently Goodyear-welted, which is now used in all our footwear production.

In the 1950's Dr. Maertens and his associate Dr. Herbert Funck developed a now famous air cushion sole. R. Griggs and Company Ltd., who owned the rights to manufacture footwear with this technology, sought out the best local factories to manufacture footwear using this sole.

NPS was an obvious choice and in 1959 some sample boots with air-cushioned soles were welted for Griggs' factory.

For 35 years NPS produced Solovair (Sole-of-Air) boots and shoes under licence, which were sold under the name ‘Dr Martens by Solovair’.


Times change and NPS no longer produces footwear under licence, but we have maintained our independence and high-quality standards. NPS registered the name Solovair in 1994 and our footwear not only maintains our original manufacturing quality, but our footwear has been enhanced with 'Soft Suspension' soles for improved comfort and durability.

At the turn of this century, NPS was on the verge of collapse and was propositioned by a property developer to demolish the factory site for land development.

Ivor Tilley, who lives in the village of Wollaston and has been involved with the footwear industry since the 1970's, wanted to try and save the factory.

In 2006 he asked the co-operative if he could purchase NPS Shoes with the hope of both continuing its life as a shoe factory, whilst also preserving both the employment, skills and knowledge of the local villagers which had accumulated during the long history of the company. The workers voted in his favour!


Our customers understand that British made footwear is amongst the best quality in the world.

Since 1881, we have been combining traditional craftsmanship and tooling with the latest technology and materials, NPS will continue to produce the finest quality footwear.

To maintain this undisputed quality, our products will always be handmade from start to finish in the UK.