Launched: Green Wellington 1955
History: Hunter Boot Ltd. is the maker of fine rubber wellington boots.
Established in January 1856 as Norris & Co. (later to become the North British Rubber Company Ltd in September 1857) by Henry Lee Norris (from New Jersey) and Spener Thomas Parmelee (of New Haven) who arrived in Glasgow to work on a Charles Goodyear patent to manufacture rubber overshoes and boots. The company is now headquartered in Edinburgh
A true British heritage brand, Hunter is a Royal Warrant holder “as suppliers of waterproof footwear” to both the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh.
Norris succeeded at the company by William Erskine Bartlett who sold his “Bartlett” patent to British Dunlop for just under $1m to acquire the rights to manufacture and distribute rubber tyres that were substantially similar to those used today.
World War I saw a dramatic boost in wellington boot production as a result of an order from the War Office to construct a sturdy boot suitable for the conditions in flooded trenches, over 1.1m pairs were made. Likewise, in World War II 80% of production was for war materials, with the boots becoming a firm favourite with the services and civilians alike.
After WWII, boot making moved to a larger factory in Heathhall, Dumfries and in the winter of 1955 the famous Original Tall Green wellington was launched., was made over 50 years ago in the winter of 1955.
In 1966, North British Rubber was bought by car tyre manufacturer, Uniroyal who in turn sold to Gate Rubber Company in 1986 which became a wholly owned subsidiary of Tomkins Plc in 1996 who sold on their interest in 1999 to Interfloor – an underlay manufacturer. In 2004, a management-led investor group acquired the Hunter Boots business of Interfloor Group Ltd for £1.98m becoming the independent Hunter Rubber Company. There followed announcements that to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Green Wellington seven different coloured boots would be launched.
In 2006, the Hunter Rubber Company was placed into administration being purchased by a private consortium funded by the Pentland Group Ltd re-launching as Hunter Boot Ltd with a substantial re-structuring of the business saw itself re-established as a major player in the traditional country and leisure footwear markets with summer 2007 seeing an 85% sales increase against the same period in 2006.
High manufacturing and fuel costs caused the business to move production overseas to China and Indonesia – some feel that this had an impact on quality. The likes of Gwyneth Paltrow style guide site www.goop.com doesn’t agree calling Hunter’s and associated rainwear “impeccable, long-lasting quality that result in the kinds of enduring must-haves that become hand-me-downs”.
My Green Hunter Wellingtons: As a kid I remember the chunkiness and smell of our wellingtons they were always a little too tall scratching the backs of our knees but no Sunday ramble, Bonfire Night or Autumn garden clear-up was complete without our trust Wellys.
As an adult, my pair of Hunters bought in the mid 1980’s were a constant site at the banks of a fishing river, a Point to Point and on country walks. That pair unfortunately rotted in an outside shed some years ago – the peril of mistreating real rubber – but as the impact of years of cycling took hold of my calves I was delighted to try on, at Hunter’s Regent Street showroom, a pair with a very comfortable and expandable calf section!
Your Hunter Wellingtons?: Sharing your experiences of this wonderful British brand couldn’t be easier either complete the “Leave a Reply” section below or Reblog this post but we’d really like to hear your tales of the joys of owning a pair of classic Hunter Wellington Boots.
Image by Hunter