All’s fair in war: Faire Brothers of Leicester

Faire Brothers of Leicester operated the largest shoe findings factory in England.

Watkin Lewis Faire (1819 – 1892) was born in Kidderminster. He relocated to Leicester from 1850 to work as an agent for the Leicester Temperance Society. He visited 3,030 houses in 1851.

Faire established Faire Brothers, lace manufacturers, in partnership with his brother in 1855.

His son, Arthur Faire (1854 – 1933), established Smith Faire & Co, boot and shoe manufacturers, in 1876.

Watkin Lewis Faire retired from Faire Brothers in 1886, and the business was continued by his three sons, Joseph Louis Faire (1841 – 1898), John Edward Faire (1843 – 1929) and Samuel Faire (1849 – 1931).

Watkin Lewis Faire died in 1892, and his funeral took place immediately after that of Thomas Cook, travel agent and fellow temperance advocate.

Faire Brothers operated factories at Wimbledon Street and Southampton Street, Leicester by 1892.

Joseph Louis Faire was the head of Faire Brothers when he died in 1898.

Watkin Lewis Faire built a new factory at Rutland Street, Leicester in 1898. The firm acquired a factory at Borrowash, Derbyshire, in 1900.

Faire Brothers became a limited company with a capital of £250,000 in 1900.

St George’s Mills, Wimbledon Street, Leicester was the largest shoe findings factory in England by 1912. Faire Brothers employed 600 workers. Most of the factory machinery was built by the company itself.

St George's Mills in Leicester
St George’s Mills in Leicester

John Edward Faire was chairman by 1916.

Faire Brothers received a contract to provide around one million pairs of braces for the army in 1916. The firm also manufactured suspenders and garters.

Faire Brothers had seven factories across Leicester, Burton upon Trent and Borrowash in Derbyshire by 1917. They included the largest small wares factories in Britain.

During the First World War, the firm was able to take a large share of the shoe and boot lace market, which had largely been held by German manufacturers.

John Edward Faire died in 1929 and left a gross estate valued at £166,113.

Sir Samuel Faire died in 1931 and left £271,874. A Liberal Unionist, he had been a keen philanthropist throughout his life.

Ernest Alfred Lillie, company chairman, died in 1956. By this time Faire Brothers had factories at Burton upon Trent, Thorne near Doncaster, Mansfield, Borrowash and Leicester.

Faire Brothers was acquired by Phipps & Son in 1967.

Faire Brothers employed 1,000 people by 1970, including 400 at the Rutland Street factory. That year the unprofitable braces and suspenders manufacturing operation was closed down due to declining sales.

Phipps extensively streamlined the Faire Brothers operations, reducing eight factories to two large factories and two smaller specialist supporting factories.

Smith Faire & Co was liquidated in 1982.

Chamberlain Phipps entered into receivership in 1996 and was subject to a management buyout.

3 thoughts on “All’s fair in war: Faire Brothers of Leicester”

  1. Hello, This week I discovered at the rear of a former factory in Abbotsford Victoria, signage for: FAIRE BROS. PTY LTD above the rear entrance; and on either side of the door SHOE SLIPPER FINDINGS, and MANFRS OF BELTS BRACES & SUSPENDERS. I can send you images if they would be of interest. They have not been uploaded to my Old Signs webite (below)
    Regards, John Hunter, Melbourne Austalia

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