What do we mean by “Heritage“? Every shoemaker has learned from a master, but that master learned from a previous one and each of them accumulated layers of understanding that may not be written anywhere but amount to an inherited memory in the shoemaking trade. So our heritage is more than just skill in making, but includes standards, values, principles and ethics as well.

Our own Foster & Son is 180 years old, but as shoemakers we belong to one of the oldest continuous traditions in the World with a craft heritage reaching back thousands of years. The oldest shoes found in a cave in Armemia are at least 5,500 years old and are properly tanned with laces and stuffed with straw to keep their shape.

By the Middle Ages the shoemakers were achieving a quiet status as “Gentlemen shoemakers”, signifying their high status amongst the artisan classes, not only because of the skills required but also the status conferred by beautiful shoes and the horrible discomfort that could be inflicted by an unhappy shoemaker! Trade Guilds such as the famous Cordwainers Company and the Worshipful Company of Pattenmakers, dating back to the 12th century, set trade standards and educated apprentices, creating a distinct culture in the trade. Different countries displayed a high degree of cross-fertilization in shoe design and fashion, suggesting that the mobile aristocratic families attracted the services of mobile craftspeople, and so from the mediaeval caravanserai to the latest Pitti Uomo fair, the culture of shoemaking has always been remarkably global.

In our firm we very much reflect the classic shoemaking culture of deep involvement in what we make, respect for craft skills, the tools and the natural materials we work with, and the desire to improve incrementally, sharing ideas, evolving with the times and with our customers’ needs. So we are unlikely to shock, but we aim to deliver a sense of confident satisfaction in wearing the very best of English footwear.

We at Foster & Son trace our origins to 1840, and we also “followed the money” by trading close to London’s St. James’s Palace, the cynosure of London fashion and wealth. The most senior English royal residence, St James’s Palace, had been built by King Henry VIII by 1536. The surrounding area was developed by Henry Jermyn from 1665 for the exclusive residences of the aristocracy, and thus were laid the foundations for what must surely be the most congenial and comprehensive neighbourhood in the World for the Man-about-Town, providing gentlemens’ clubs, toiletries, shirts, scarves and ties, suits from nearby Savile Row, and of course the foundation of every gentleman’s wardrobe, his bespoke shoes.

Mr. Foster gained himself a repution as a fine shoe and bootmaker with an eye for stylish “West End” design. The firm prospered as the monied classes came to London’s West End from around the World for the finest craftsmanship and style.  A society that used horses for everyday transport, in battle and for sport needed riding boots, and Foster made some of the best in the World. Periodic wars were disruptive to the shoemaking trade, but also created spikes in demand for military boots, especially during the Great War of 1914 -1918.

The Second World War took away Mr. Foster, but he was succeeded by the Chester family who expanded from modest premises in Eagle Place to 5 Duke of York Street St. James’s, and then to 83 Jermyn Street in 1966. At that time our celebrated last-maker Terry Moore joined Foster & Son and helped to further refine our elegant designs and superb fit into the classic shapes we still make today.  Attracting clients such as Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby, Paul Newman and many other luminaries, the firm built an enviable Hollywood clientele alongside its traditional City and equestrian customer base. By the turn of its second century Foster & Son had been joined by luxury leather goods maker Barrow and Hepburn and by Henry Maxwell the famous boot and shoemakers.

The year 2021 marks a new chapter in our long history, with our move to a new workshop in London’s Islington, where we are entirely dedicated to making the very finest bespoke shoes, boots and leather goods by hand.

In October 2022 Foster & Son parted ways with the Henry Maxwell brand and have no further association with it. Foster & Son and its workshop ceased manufacturing any Henry Maxwell products from October 2022 although we continue to service any items that were made by us prior to that date.

So today Foster & Son remains a family owned business upholding the very finest English shoemaking traditions and commitment to the very best of craftsmanship and service.