In 1856 Mr Henry Lee Norris, an American entrepreneur, landed on Scottish soil in search of a home for his boot making company. Having acquired a block of buildings in Edinburgh, known as the Castle Silk Mills, the North British Rubber Company (which much later became known as Hunter Boot Ltd) was registered as a limited liability company in September 1856. In the beginning there were only four people working for the company, by 1875 the team had grown to 600 members of staff.
Production of wellington boots were dramatically boosted with the advent of World War I when the company was asked by the War Office to construct a sturdy boot suitable for the conditions in flooded trenches. The mills ran day and night to produce immense quantities of these trench boots. In total, 1,185,036 pairs were made to cope with the Army's demands. The fashionable boot was now a functional necessity.
For WWII they were once again called upon to supply vast quantities of wellingtons and thigh boots. 80% of production was for war materials - from ground sheets to life belts and gas masks.
After WWII boot making had to move to a larger factory in Heathhall Dumfries, where the company has been based since, to deal with the rise in demand.
Hunter's most famous welly, the original Green wellington, was made over 50 years ago in the winter of 1955. It was the first orthopedic boot that we made and was launched alongside the Royal Hunter - another boot that remains in Hunter's range today.
In 1977, having continued to supply wellies to the Royal Households, Hunter was awarded a Royal Warrant from HRH The Duke of Edinburgh. This was shortly followed, in 1986, by a Royal Warrant from HM The Queen. Providing great recognition for their work in keeping some very important feet dry!
Hunter enjoyed a record season in summer 2007 but, despite this, remained faced with major financial challenges regarding production. High manufacturing and fuel costs that contributed to the company's move into administration in 2006 remained prominent and, like many UK manufacturing businesses, Hunter was forced to consider whether it was commercially viable to keep making boots in the UK. The company also had to negotiate a volatile relationship with its landlord and an expensive and inefficient 96-year-old factory. Eventually, alternative supply sources were sought and developed in Europe and the Far East and plans were made to exit the Dumfries plant and relocate the company HQ to Edinburgh. This move was finally made in September 2008.
Today, Hunter remains the preferred welly brand for those who like to work hard and play hard - there's a great range of boots to suit welly wearers all over the world - from the Royal Family to festival-goers, working farmers and landed gentry alike.
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