WELCOME TO THE BU HISTORY WEBSITE
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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, 2020No Comments
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 email@example.com if you can help. Thanks so much.
Date posted: May 17, 2020No Comments
The Hamylton Family and BU0
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
And thank you, Christine, for sharing your memories of your family and BU.
Date posted: April 30, 2020No Comments
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, 2020No Comments
No.9 Upper Skiving Machine0
Anthony Mansfield has sent us a request – “Is there any chance you or one of your members would have any information (instruction or parts manual) for a BUSM No.9 Upper Skiving Machine? I have one and after a lot of cleaning and oiling it is working a treat but I foresee the day when I will need to change blades and stones and adjust everything. A manual would be very handy!”
Email email@example.com if you can help.
Date posted: September 9, 2019No Comments
Rod Cripps in Australia needs...1
Hi – I am from Melbourne Australia. I have an old BU machine, serial number 5291, hand operated, with gold-leaf writing on the hand-wheel.
I can’t see any model numbers or other identification on it anywhere – it was probably the only model of it’s type when it was made, but the gold painting is not the best in places so there could have been something there somewhere.
The serial number is stamped on both the rim of the hand-wheel and the frame of the machine beside the top of the needle slide.
It has the long (approx 1-3/4”) shuttle with a long slot on the bottom and a number of holes on the top surface, and the thin bobbin spindle. The wear around the holes on the top surface indicate a considerable amount of use. There is also a lot of wear on the lever which drives the needle and the thread guide “knob” which rides on the top of it, just above the needle. I will fix this (I am at a loss at the moment as to why the thread guide was on this separate lever, unless there is a spring or something missing but i can’t see where anything else may have been).
My questions to you are:
Can you tell me approx. when it might have been made?
What thickness leather where they made to sew? Saddles? Harness?
Are suitable needles still available? The one needle I have is approx. 93mm long, 84mm to the eye, and 2.5mm diameter. What would the modern designation of suitable needles be – Imperail and metric if possible.
There is a thread guide on a slotted fixed arm mounted on the frame beside the needle slide, and this is guide is adjustable in the slot. The purpose of this adjustment?
I want to get it working again. It is in generally good working order, the paint is poor, but otherwise it has survived well considering the obvious use it has had. I think the main problem with it at the moment is probably a badly worn needle which is fraying the thread.
Thanks – Rod Cripps.
If you can help with any of Rod’s questions please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org Thanks!
Date posted: June 4, 20191 Comment