A Cobbler’s Life in 17th Century England

Growing up in Penketh, 1835-1843

Different terms have been used to describe those whose trade is to make and repair boots and shoes — cobblers, cloggers, cordwainers or shoemakers are the commonest ones found in census records. One important distinction is described in What is a cordwainer

The Gandy family were very well known local cobblers in the Warrington area for many generations. Around 1800-1850 the inhabitants of Penketh were mainly employed as Bakers, Cabinet makers, Cobblers (the Gandy’s were a large cobbling family exporting shoes to the United States), Brewers or Boatmen and hauliers on the Mersey and Sankey canal.

A Cordwainer at his Last

 Read more about cordwainers here:  The Honourable Cordwainers Company

A group of cottages in Chapel Road, Penketh was known as Cobblers Square, after a cobbler named Gandy. Thomas Gandy (1812-1871) lived in one of the cottages, called Gandy´s Cottage. Other names used were Thomas Gandy´s cottages, Gandy´s House and Gandy´s Row. Most of the families in this area were engaged in the business of shoemaking. Thomas Gandy became a very successful master shoemaker employing his brothers Edward and James and many other men apprentices. He sent his boots and shoes to shopkeepers in Wigan and Manchester besides getting up large shipping orders for Liverpool merchants to export abroad. Isaac´s older brothers William, Peter and James were all shoemakers.

A look at trade directories of the early 19th. century for Warrington shows how established the Gandy´s were in the cobbling trade. In the 1824/25 directory we find:

Boot and Shoe Makers – James Gandy, Cheapside

In a similar trade directory for 1829/30 we find:

James Gandy, Cheapside, Boot/shoemaker
Thomas Gandy, Church Street, Clog & Pattern Maker

The family that Isaac left behind in England carried on their shoemaking trade. In 1851 for example we find Isaac’s older brother Peter, by now 24 years old, living in Red Lion Lane, Penketh with his wife Alice, two daughters and unmarried younger brother James. Peter and James both worked as shoemakers.

Another older brother, William (unmarried aged 25), was also a shoemaker living in Red Lion Lane (see photos right). In 1861 we find William in Stocks Lane End Penketh with wife Mary and five children. He was a cordwainer employing 3 men and an apprentice. By 1871 William and family have moved to West Bank, Widnes, down by the River Mersey. He was still a shoemaker, as were his three sons William, Isaac and Charles.

Peter Gandy was still working as a boot and shoemaker in 1881, also in Widnes.

Cobbler Douglas Gandy

  Photo Courtesy Peter Rutherford

Douglas Gandy was the last in the line of Gandy cobblers in Warrington, seen here before his retirement in the 1970’s. The shop interior was acquired by the Warrington Museum.

Read more about Douglas Gandy and the Gandy family of shoemakers here: Gandy cloggers