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“My dog hates my Bill Bird shoes!”

Victor Steadman and Ben visit Bill Bird Shoes' Cotswolds workshop to pick up his bespoke fell boots.

Victor Steadman used to walk many miles a day until a spinal injury and subsequent wear to his right ankle, followed by surgery to rebuild his foot reduced his mobility considerably.

The pain he experienced when walking prevented him from getting out and about, which was terrible for him but delighted his ten-year-old golden retriever, Ben.

But that has all changed now thanks to his new fell boots crafted by the bespoke shoemakers at Bill Bird Shoes in the Cotswolds.

“I am now walking around 8 miles a day, so it’s no wonder Ben is complaining,” said Victor.

“Previously I’d had some NHS orthotic shoes made but they just weren’t comfortable. I found Bill Bird Shoes in an internet search and I was pleased to find they were only two hours away from us in Corsham, Wiltshire.

“I had my first pair in August and picked up my second pair today (23.1.19). They have had a commando sole fitted to ensure I don’t wear them out!”

Bill Bird said he was delighted to craft the fell boots for Victor that allow him to walk with confidence and in comfort – and hopes he hasn’t upset Ben too much!

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Bill Bird Shoes takes delivery of three machines

Russell, a shoemaker at Bill Bird Shoes in the Cotswolds, on the new skiving machine
Russell, a shoemaker at Bill Bird Shoes in the Cotswolds, on the new skiving machine
Russell, a shoemaker at Bill Bird Shoes in the Cotswolds, on the new skiving machine

Bill Bird Shoes has taken delivery of three machines that will help improve results, achieve greater precision and provide greater safety for our bespoke shoemakers.

The shoemakers in Gloucestershire solve fitting and walking difficulties for people across the UK by handcrafting made-to-measure footwear. The team was offered a state-of-the-art Italian skiving machine for upper leathers free of charge – the only problem was that it was at the German School of Orthopaedic Shoemaking in Dusseldorf!

This did not deter Bill Bird shoemaker Chris and his dad Mick, who drove the 22-hour round trip to pick up the machine and return it to our workshop in the Cotswolds. And very grateful we are too.

George, a bespoke shoemaker at Bill Bird Shoes, trims a heavy leather sole
George, a bespoke shoemaker at Bill Bird Shoes, trims a heavy leather sole

Extra safety, greater confidence

The second machine we bought from our dear friend and fellow shoemaker, David Xavier, who died in 2016. It is a German-made combination leather trimmer and skiver that allows us to trim heavy soles, among other things.

A drill press completes the list and this allows us to achieve really accurate drilling, which is especially useful when adding heels or making lasts, the wooden blocks around which shoes are made.

Previously we would have carried out the tasks by hand with hand drills and knives and there was the danger we would cut the leather uppers – or ourselves – if we slipped. These big, heavy, solid machines can be relied upon to steady the work and give even the least experienced of us the confidence to do an excellent job every time.

Bespoke shoemaker Bill Bird on the new heavy drill press
Bespoke shoemaker Bill Bird on the new heavy drill press
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Bill Bird shoemakers reveal secret to doubling the life of your shoes

Bill Bird carves a boot tree - something that will double the life of the footwear.
Bill Bird carves a boot tree – something that will double the life of the footwear.

Buying a pair of handmade shoes or boots is an investment. You can double the life of your made-to-measure footwear by buying a bespoke shoe or boot tree.

Hand crafted by the bespoke orthopaedic shoemakers at Bill Bird Shoes in the Cotswolds, the shoe tree replicates your last – the wooden blocks around which your shoes are made.

The shoe tree is easy to get into and out of your shoes. Every time the shoe tree is placed back into your shoe it reforms it, taking it back to its original shape. This helps avoid creases forming over the vamp, the front of the shoe or boot, keeping them smooth and new-looking.

Shoe trees from Bill Bird Shoes cost between £120 – £140 and boot trees start at £300 and are made from either beech wood or aromatic cedar.

If you would like to find out more about the handmade shoe and boot trees from Bill Bird Shoes in the Midlands, please get in touch. You can email or call us on 01386 700855 and we look forward to hearing from you.

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Shoemakers’ conference planning gets underway

Tony and Jane Slinger visit Bill Bird Shoes' Cotswolds workshop to chat through their plans for the 21st Shoemakers Conference in Harrogate in February 2019
Tony and Jane Slinger visit Bill Bird Shoes' Cotswolds workshop to chat through their plans for the 21st Shoemakers Conference in Harrogate in February 2019
Tony and Jane Slinger visit Bill Bird Shoes’ Cotswolds workshop to chat through their plans for the 21st Shoemakers Conference in Harrogate in February 2019

The Bill Bird Shoes team welcomed Tony and Jane Slinger to our Cotswolds workshop today to discuss the 21st Independent Shoemakers Conference they are hosting in Harrogate next February.

Bill, Russell and Emily have plenty of experience of planning and hosting the much-anticipated annual event and were happy to share their tips. This is the first time Tony and Jane, from T Slinger Footwear, have hosted the event – and they have lots of great ideas up their sleeves!

The conference, taking place on February 22nd – 24th at the Old Swan Hotel, is set to attract shoemakers from across the world, including Lisa Sorrell, America’s finest cowboy bootmaker and Swedish bespoke shoemaker, Carina Eneroth.

The event will include lots of different topics, talks and workshops about shoes and feet and we are very much looking forward to attending.

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Budding Bill Bird shoemaker wins accolade

Chris Thorne from Bill Bird Shoes (r) with his trophy alongside his dad Mick, who is holding the winning shoes.
David Xavier Award winner Chris Thorne from Bill Bird Shoes and runner up Adele Williamson.
David Xavier Award winner Chris Thorne from Bill Bird Shoes and runner up Adele Williamson.

We are so proud to announce that Chris Thorne of Bill Bird Shoes in Gloucestershire scooped the David Xavier Award at the 20th Independent Shoemakers Conference in Eastbourne recently – with his first ever pair of shoes.

The annual award, in memory of Midlands’ shoemaker and dear friend David Xavier, challenged budding shoemakers to make footwear to accommodate a medical condition.

Chris previously worked as an upholsterer in the vintage car industry for many years before joining Bill Bird Shoes. Although Chris has been making lasts here for a few years now, his winning entry, a pair of dark tan Derby brogues, the first pair of shoes he had ever made by himself.

Flowers in a boot Dave made at his funeral November 18th 2016. The boot held water!
Flowers in a boot Dave made at his funeral November 18th 2016. The boot held water!
David Xavier with Kate Bird and Carina Eneroth, Stockholm shoemaker to the Swedish Royal Family, who came to see David in his hospice a week before he died. We are a tight knit bunch, us shoemakers. Bill Bird is behind the camera.
David Xavier with Kate Bird and Carina Eneroth, Stockholm shoemaker to the Swedish Royal Family, who came to see David in his hospice a week before he died. We are a tight knit bunch, us shoemakers. Bill Bird is behind the camera.

Chris also produced an eye-catching portfolio describing the process he went through including his many mistakes and learnings along the way. He was presented with a silver trophy, £300 cash and £300 in leather vouchers.

Adele Williamson, an apprentice bespoke shoemaker at Tricker’s of Northampton, was named runner up. Adele’s entry was a pair of very elegant zip up the inside ankle boots to her own design.

Adele graduated with a BA from DMU in Footwear Design and Illustration in 2016 before being taken on by Tricker’s, which has been producing distinctive and carefully crafted shoes and boots since 1829. The contest attracted six entries and was a close run thing between the two of them.

Voting was made by the 80 delegates of the conference rather than by a panel. Each delegate had a little wooden last shape to tuck into a brown envelope next to the contestant’s entry.

Dave visited Bill Bird at our Cotswolds workshop about a month before he died. He, his wife Diane and his two sons came to deliver some machinery that we bought from his workshop near Redditch.
Dave visited Bill Bird at our Cotswolds workshop about a month before he died. He, his wife Diane and his two sons came to deliver some machinery that we bought from his workshop near Redditch.
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Bill Bird Shoes’ 30th anniversary of leasing Unit 49

Bespoke orthopaedic shoemaker, Bill Bird, back in the 80s

Today is the 30th anniversary of taking up the lease of Unit 49 – wow! That’s a lot of water under the bridge!

Bill Bird

The first pair of Bill Bird Shoes was made in the attic of 5 Bovill Road, London SE23 1HB as early as 1984.

I moved with my family to Mickleton, Gloucestershire, in September 1986. Henry was 10 months old, Camilla was 4 1/2 and Thomas was 7 1/2.

I worked in the back of Andy’s Blockley Cobbler shop in Blockley village from November 1986 until about June 1987. I used the north half of Unit 31 in Northwick Business Centre around the corner from Apt Design and Development after that.

I mostly commuted to London 4 days a week, sleeping overnight in Peen’s workshop in The Elephant and Castle area of SE London. Lobb’s owned Peens and I still worked for them at the time. I occasionally made lasts and shoes for the proto-business during that period.

Derek Smith and I started to build a workshop in the north half of Unit 31 in the summer of 1987.
When the opportunity of Unit 49 came up, we jumped at it and left Unit 31 gradually over the next couple of months.

I still commuted and worked for Lobb’s until May 9th 1988 when Mr Eric Lobb found out about Bill Bird Shoes and banished me. That’s when the business became a full time enterprise. Thank you Mr Eric. Without you doing that, it all may have just remained a part time hobby!

I started going to Freeman Tonkin, 34 Chiltern Street, across the street from Grey Flannel in spring 1987 for one day a week. They were a specialist shoe shop for people with fitting and walking difficulties and I did the bespoke work for those they could not fit off the shelf. That kicked off our client list big time!

I think the designated birthday of Bill Bird Shoes should be set as March 3rd 1987 to reflect the development of the business before Unit 49, especially as that’s about the time we set up on Chiltern Street. So… Happy 31st, Bill Bird Shoes!

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More national recognition for Bill Bird Shoes

Gloucestershire-based Bill Bird Shoes recently appeared in The Bulletin, a national magazine published by the British Polio Fellowship. Following its publication, we were really pleased to receive an email from one of its readers praising the work our skilled, bespoke shoemakers carry out.

I read the article on the Cordwainer in the New Year edition and was pleased to note that reference was made to Bill Bird Shoes. This is because that after my left ankle was rearranged in a car crash in 1990 I have used the services of Bill and his brilliant team to make all my boots.

Bill and his team have worked brilliantly with me over the years in producing not just the normal black leather boots but Desert Boots, Hiking Boots of both medium and high ankle support, a pair of tan boots that look like moccasins and the most comfortable pair of slippers that I can wear around the house safely without having to use my ankle support.

You are always met with open arms and tea or coffee, plus they have a resident cat and, if Russell has some of his menagerie with him that day, some very friendly dogs.

It is always a pleasure to visit Bill and his team in the knowledge that you will always get what you need from people who listen to what you need and produce fantastic footwear.

Gordon Kett

British Polio Fellowship Worthing & Sussex Branch

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Bill Bird is a Living National Treasure in Country Life

Living National Treasure Bill Bird

The team at Gloucestershire-based Bill Bird Shoes would like to say thank you to all the people who have been in touch since we appeared in Country Life magazine on January 31st.

We are delighted with the double page feature and photograph of our orthopaedic shoemaker, Bill Bird, which was taken by the talented photographer Richard Cannon at our Cotswolds workshop.

One of our clients said:

“As a reader of Country Life I was pleased to see that you have now gained the status of “living national treasure”.

I have always treasured your skill and kindness to me when I came to you for several pairs of boots. You continue to do great work, not least in helping people like myself, not only to walk but also to overcome the self consciousness that this kind of disability can bring. Long may you continue and I hope the pages of Country Life bring you more of the recognition you so deserve.”

For those of you who haven’t seen it, here is a digital version of the magazine feature. We hope you enjoy it. Living National Treasure Bill Bird

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“An extra ordinary pair of bespoke boots made by Bill Bird…”

Our bespoke shoemakers at Bill Bird Shoes in the Cotswolds and London

The team at Bill Bird Shoes in Gloucestershire is always pleased to hear from happy clients so imagine our delight when we received this email and photos…

“An extra ordinary pair of bespoke boots made by Bill Bird, Russell, Emily, Becks and Chris…magical experience….magical boots…from an eternally grateful pair of feet and their owner.” Cherie

Bespoke shoemaker Emily and Cherie check the comfort and fit of her new boots at Bill Bird Shoes' Cotswold workshop
Bespoke shoemaker Emily and Cherie check the comfort and fit of her new boots at Bill Bird Shoes’ Cotswold workshop
Cherie takes a look at her new boots from bespoke shoemakers' Bill Bird Shoes in the Midlands
Cherie takes a look at her new boots
Cherie checks her new made to measure boots from bespoke shoemakers' Bill Bird Shoes in Gloucestershire
Cherie checks over her new made to measure boots

 

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Celebrating shoemakers of the equestrian variety!

Moreton Show horse shoemaking winner Sam Wilkes – his prize was sponsored by Bill Bird Shoes bespoke shoemakers in the Midlands

Blockley-based Bill Bird Shoes is delighted to have once again sponsored the horseshoe making competition at Saturday’s hugely popular Moreton Show.

The Farrier Competition saw scores of hopefuls battle it out for the top spots and we are pleased to announce that Sam West won best 1st and 2nd year shoemaker, with Sam Wilkes taking the prize in the 3rd and 4th year category.

Master shoefitter, our very own Russell Marks, was also a Chief Equine Steward at the event. Russell has been a volunteer steward at the Moreton Show for the last five years and Bill Bird Shoes has sponsored the show for the last three.

Russell, who outside of work judges equines for several different societies across the UK and abroad, said: “As bespoke shoemakers ourselves, sponsoring the horseshoe making competition seemed like a natural choice. As a local business in the Cotswolds we like to support events on our doorstep.”