|There has probably been some form of community at Olney for approximately two thousand years because remains of early man have been found in areas near the river.
These people would have lived in underground houses - about six feet under the surface of the ground, with just a thatched roof visible from the surface.
|Later, probably about 55 BC, the Romans arrived in this area, and Olney began to develop more as a village.
Evidence of Roman occupation, such as coins and pots, has been found on many of the local farms. This leads historians to believe that this was a heavily populated area for the time!
Some of these remains are on show in the Cowper and Museum in Olney.
|Over many hundreds of years, the area became largely a farming community and Olney grew into a busy market village, selling produce from the surrounding district.
The lace industry also developed very well, with many ladies and girls working in groups involved in producing beautiful hand made lace.
However, by the 1890's the lace had been replace with the boot and shoe industry. The same ladies were now finishing, or closing shoes made by their husbands in small sheds at the end of their gardens (these were called closing factories).
|There were many closing factories by this time Olney. Some can still be found in gardens of some of the older houses.
Machines were also being developed to help the cobblers make the shoes, not everyone had these though, most work was still done by hand.
|Saint Crispin became the patron saint of Cobblers or cordwainers as they were first known. Crispin and his brother were Roman missionaries who worked as cobblers to make money for food. They were killed in 285 or 286 AD for their Christian beliefs. Saint Crispin's day is celebrated on October 25. On this day there could very well have been a celebration or day of feasting by the boot and shoe people of Olney!
Certainly in other towns, there were grand parades through the town and there would probably have been a holiday!
|Boys as young as eight could be taken on to learn about the shoe trade. If he was a member of a large family, with lots of mouths to feed, he may even have been as young as six. They carried out small task in the factories, and gradually learned the trade of being a cobbler. When they first started, they were known as 'Colts'. They were paid only a little money for their work and they had a long working day!|
|As time went on, the demand for more and more shoes became so much that much bigger factories, such as the Hinde and Mann one, came into being. These bigger factories were able to produce many hundreds of pairs of shoes a week.
However, the smaller closing factories existed alongside, and many cobblers, wearing their traditional white aprons, could be seen carrying great loads of shoes along the street to the bigger factories to be finished.
|Eventually, many more shoes could be made cheaper in countries abroad. This made the Olney shoes seem expensive. By the time of the second world war, for example, the Hinde and mann factory had been sold to Ledge plugs for making aeroplane parts.
The golden age of cobbling in Olney was definitely at an end!
Whilst here though, both the lace and cobbling industries had an important impact on the town that we have now. That's why you can seen them on the town sign - still in the market square!