Some time before 1883, Benjamin Riley built a boot and shoe factory (now part of the Lawrence’s factory site). This was earlier than the significant concentration of footwear manufacture in powered factories in 1895. It is also one of the longest factories of its date in Northamptonshire. The Riley family also built the cottages at 15-21 Harborough Road (mid to late 19 century) as housing for workers and managers.
In 1913, Riley moved into an adjacent building (demolished in 1972) and sold the original building to Bird & Co (also footwear manufacturers). Bird & Co then converted the two storey building into a three storey building by excavating and adding a basement. Bird & Co also added to the building with a single storey extension along the eastern edge and also an extension fronting Gladstone Street (before 1926).
In the 1960s, the building was refurbished by the then owners R S Lawrence and Co. Leather Factors and Sole Cutters.
The building became disused at the turn of the millennium and became derelict. In the years since then the ownership of the site has changed (it is now owned by North Northamptonshire Council but was being sold in late 2023). There have been a number of suggestions and proposals for the site in that time including: a mixed-use development, a supermarket, and housing.
In 2007 the factory buildings and environs were adopted by the then Kettering Borough Council into a Desborough Conservation Area. It defines the special character of the conservation area as:-
- “The area is a discernible industrial suburb, containing a disused boot and shoe factory site and related worker housing, which represents the first planned estate in Desborough, which is the direct result of the boot and shoe industry.
- “The boot and shoe industry has had a strong influence in shaping the character of the area and forming a sense of place. The form and layout of the buildings in this area remain intact, providing documentary evidence as to how the industry developed within a relatively short time.“