The British United Shoe Machinery Company (BU) was Leicester’s greatest manufacturing company. It existed between 1899 and 2000, spanning the twentieth century, and at it’s peak employed over 4000 people at it’s Union Works site in Leicester.

The BU History Group wants to hear from you. Please share your memories and photographs.

Send an email to  info@buhistory.org.uk

Prepare to be Amazed! The BU Research Department on Film


‘Eye on Research’ – Nigel Tout, 30 years part of BUSMC Research Department, has sent us this absolutely wonderful film. Made by Stephen Makovski in the very early 1960s, this incredible and important gem shows research personnel doing silly things, ending with a presentation to someone – Does anyone know the person who was the subject of the presentation? We would love to know.

When the Research Department vacated the building on Macdonald Road and moved across Ross Walk in the mid-1980s Nigel rescued this reel of 16mm cine film that was on a pile of things heading to the skip.

Some of the people he can identify include Ernie Simms, Alan Moore, Fred Langton, Barry Sharpe, ‘Wal’ Waller, Harry Mellors, Ewan Cameron, John Pope, and also tea ladies dispensing tea on their round.

Enjoy this amazing piece of BU history.

Date posted: October 25, 2020

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Anyone know what this is?


Andrew Bowman from Chester is considering buying this. He thinks it may be some sort of eyelet maker?

Date posted: August 23, 2020

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Saddle Maker needs Skiving...


We’ve been contacted by a saddle-maker based in Oxfordshire, Arena Saddles. They currently have a BU skiving machine (see images below) from the 1960s – still going strong, of course!

However, they need more of this particular type of skiving machine, that has a flat knife disc, not ones that use a round barrel blade.

Can anyone please help with suggestions where they might be able to source such a piece of kit in the UK?

Please email with any ideas and I’ll forward to Arena. Thank you – it would be great if we could help out this company.



Date posted: August 11, 2020

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Identifying a piece of BU...


Ian Henderson has been in touch. He runs a small leather goods manufacturing company, based in the old shoemaking town of Maybole in Ayrshire, Scotland.

He has unearthed the machine pictured below during a recent expedition into the dark depths of their warehouse – Can anyone assist Ian and help identify the machine and it’s purpose (please email info@buhistory.org.uk)? It has “No. 2535” stamped onto the nameplate, and “SD 228” cast into the main body.

“My grandfather purchased a number of pieces of equipment in the mid-20th century, as the local shoemaking industry began its decline, and my guess is this is one that he bought but never used!”





Date posted: July 23, 2020

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Mick Lumba


Thank you, Anthony Lumba, for sending us your dad’s 25 year service certificate – the old Quarter Century Club, which in the 1960s and 70s had over 2000 members. Mick carried on for another six years at BU until the company finally closed in 2000. He was part of the nail making department – the IVI.

Its odd, but even by 1994 BU had dropped the ‘Company’ from their name – BUSMC.

Date posted: July 15, 2020

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Jeremy O’Dwyer


10 year BU man Jeremy Dwyer has sent us the following photos from his time working in sales.

“I worked for BUSM from 1983 to 1993.  I can’t recall exact dates, however:

  • UK sales, working alongside the likes of Peter Dexter.  In initially in the midlands and then a couple of years in Lancashire with Stan Ashworth.
  • A couple of years in a newly form team targeting the leathergoods manufacturing
  • Remaining years in export sales working for Mike Eliseou

The first picture. Is the automatic seeming machine technical/sales team.  Left to right: Dilip Jagjivan, (unknown), Ann Stafford and me.”


“The second picture is of Nick Tolton and myself.  The Japanese agent took the whole company away for a weekend and we were there to coincide with that.  What a weekend that was!”

“My Dad. Mum and younger brother all did stints working for the company, so quite a family affair.”

Date posted: June 30, 2020

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Information Needed


We’ve had a request for information about BU machinery.

See what you make of these, and if you can assist please email info@buhistory.org.uk

Sam Hale in Macclesfield would like to know what he’s got here…. Does anyone know – looks pretty old.






















Date posted: May 24, 2020

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Thank you, Lynne Nickson, for this beautiful photo. It includes her cousin, Herbert Diggle (middle row, second right), who was born in 1920. This photo is from maybe 1940? On the back it says ‘BU’ and the board in the photo reads ‘Group Personnel’. Many BU staff were given reserved occupation status as their work was vital to the war effort. Could this be a BU Home Guard unit?











We’ve also heard from Philip Kendall, whose mother, Beatrice Anne McTighe, worked in a secretarial capacity at BU between 1937 and 1942. I know it’s a long-shot, but does anyone remember her?

Julian Keeber wants to know if anyone knew his father, Stan Keeber. He would love to know if anyone has any stories or photos. He worked there during the 60s’ 70s and 80s.

Also, Nick Wilkinson’s great uncle was a BU man. Bill Penny, does anyone remember him? Not sure which years.

Please send an email to info@buhistory.org.uk if you can help. Thanks so much.

Date posted: May 17, 2020

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The Hamylton Family and BU


Christine Shaw has written to us about her aunts and an uncle who worked at BU many years ago – Will anyone remember them? Their time working there took place between the 1920s and 1960s.

The story is certainly an interesting one.

A century ago William Hamylton and his wife lived on Humberstone Road in Leicester. They had six children, four girls and two boys. William is recorded in the Kelly’s Directory of 1936 as being an Illusionist by trade! Christine remembers him to be “a clever man who turned his hand to many different things, even to making suits for my father (Clarence) and Uncle Max.”

Clarence became an outstanding optician. His firm, Henry Smith and Hamylton Opticians, are still flourishing to this day with branches across Leicester. Sadly, Clarence passed away at a young age in 1962 while his own children were still of school age.

His brother, Max, worked at BU, as did three of his four sisters; Gladys, Dorothy and Gwen – Phyllis stayed at home to help her mother. Christine has the BU Quarter Century (25 years unbroken service) certificates for each of them. Unusually perhaps, none of the four girls got married. Instead they stayed living together at the family home for all of their lives, initially on Humberstone Road, then moving across town to a house on Welford Road in 1953.


The first picture is of Gwen. She started at BU on 14th April 1928 and worked in the Cashiers Dept.

The second photo is of Dorothy (often known as Dean) and Gwen, taken on the Island of Sark (Dorothy on the left and Gwen on the right).

The third photo is of Max Hamylton; “My Uncle Max was in the  Engineers Dept. And was well known for his meticulous work.”

The fourth photo is of the four Hamylton sisters together; from the left, Dorothy, Gwen, Phyllis and Gladys. The lady on the far right is their friend, another Dorothy.

William, their father, died on Christmas Day, either 1956 or 57. “My Aunt Gwen, who was the youngest, lived until Easter Sunday 2008 and died at the same Welford Road house.”

Quite an extraordinary story, but actually not that unusual. During the twentieth century many working families were intrinsically linked with their employers, across the generations. Sons, daughters, fathers, brothers, all working in the same factory, often living close by their work and even life outside work would involve the company social club, events and sports teams.

This all changed during the last quarter of the century as right across Britain the big manufacturing firms gradually closed down. With their demise, so did this way of life also disappear.

If anyone remembers any of the Hamylton family it would be fantastic to hear from you. Please email to info@buhistory.org.uk


And thank you, Christine, for sharing your memories of your family and BU.

Date posted: April 30, 2020

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Stan Preston


We’ve had some great correspondence from Stan Preston, who now lives in New Zealand.

Stan was BU for over 25 years and emigrated in 1974. He even features (just!) on our ‘BU People’ book cover photo of the Knife Shop. He was 14 years old at the time – this was back in the 1950s – and Stan is mostly obscured on the back row.











“I can remember every person on the photo and what their job was; even the man from the union works office with his arms folded. The Merall twins, middle front row, and the Foreman in white to the far right.”

Stan also worked in the TD department, then in X2. After numerous problems with management Stan moved to NZ in 1974.  “I read much about how ex workers so enjoyed their time at the BU. There certainly was a good social side, but I could write a book about the VERY bad side. The BU lost a lot of skilled people through bad management.”











“This photo is the BU Archery club taken at Mowmaker Hill BU grounds in Birstall (long ago).

Second from the left is Flint (forgot his first name) Third from right is Chris Lloyd from Birstall who worked in the drawing office. Far right is myself (on the back row). All the rest I remember the faces but have forgotten the names. In those days we all shot long bows, or as in the photo, steel recurves.

I shot recurve then when I got too old I shot a compound. I was once NZ champion, but the last time I shot three arrows two ended up in the grass & one on the edge of the target butt.”

The second photo is again the BU Archery club; Stan is the second archer in.

And the final photo is much more recent and taken in New Zealand.”

I am wearing a hat I purchased from a shop opposite the BU many years ago on the way to Cossington Street swimming baths where I taught life saving; it was snowing at the time and I didn’t have much hair to keep me warm.”


It is the same with my swimming – I was once an instructor at BU in life saving classes – But now I cant even walk down the pool steps (not good being old).”

Date posted: March 2, 2020

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