If the boot fits
Horace Batten (Bootmakers) Ltd (01604 770287; www.horacebatten.com) is a survivor from a time when Northamptonshire led the world in shoe- and bootmaking.
There are still shoemakers—such as Church’s, Loake Bros, Dr Martens, Edward Green and Padders—but Timothy Batten and his daughter, Emma, the seventh generation, arguably run the finest bespoke bootmaker left in this country.
The smell of leather, maps of hunt countries and rows of brown-topped boots lined up like sentries below a fox’s mask and a print of the York and Ainsty Hunt is a familiar scene to the Batten family in its workshop in the quiet village of Ravensthorpe. About four pairs of beautifully crafted riding boots are made each week, using methods and techniques developed by their ancestors in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Tim’s father, Horace, died in 2014, aged 102, and knew much more about members of the hunting world than just their calf width. ‘Father knew everyone,’ says Tim, ‘and was a great storyteller.’ His obituary in The Times took up a full page and his clients included an American who flew over on Concorde just to be measured for a pair of boots.
Horace Batten Ltd continues a tradition that goes back to Cromwell, who wanted an army costume and footwear for his New Model Army. It put Northampton on the map as the home of shoe- and bootmaking and it’s only since the 1960s that factories began to close down.
The shoes are made from Devon leather using skilled craftsmanship cutting, shaping and sewing, with wooden lasts achieving perfect individual measurements. Tim says that there are only two ingredients required for the perfect fit: ‘A good bootmaker and a good customer.’