Shoe business founded in 1920 by twins now run by their twin grandsons

A family-run shoe business started by twin brothers a century ago has celebrated 100 years of trading - with their identical twin grandsons now at the helm.

DB Shoes was founded by Jack and Bill Denton on February 11, 1920 and went on to make boots for the British army during the 1930s and 40s.

The firm was then run by Jack's sons Hugh and John between the late 60s up until 1997 when it was handed down to a third generation of Dentons.

Identical twins Charles and David Denton, 56, managed to turn round the fortunes of the company which was struggling at the time and turn into a thriving business.

And on Tuesday (11/2) the firm celebrated a century of trading after bucking the high street trend, which the brothers put down to a willingness to "adapt to the times".

The firm began making staple-welted shoes from their factory based in Rushden, Northants., during the 1920s.

The advent of the new technology allowed them to become a polyurethane-injection factory to design trendier shoes during the swinging 60s.

Charles and David said they managed to transform the firm when it fell on tough times

by specialising in made-to-order wider-fit shoes, which can be mail ordered online.

The pair believe if Jack and Bill, who were also identical twins, could see the firm today they would be "very proud" to have lasted in the town.

Northamptonshire is renowned internationally as the home of shoemaking and in Rushden alone there were once 40 shoe firms.

Jack and Bill's dad George was involved in another shoe firm - Wilkins and Denton - from 1873, while their grandfather, also George, was involved in the trade as early as 1841.

Charles said: "We have five generations of shoe-making history going back almost 180 years.

"I believe we are the only shoe business founded by identical twins and now run by identical twins.

"We have a love for shoes, and that's in the family. Shoes have been in our blood."

Jack and Bill originally set up the firm on the same site it exists on today called Denbros Ltd in 1920.

They were also known as the Denton Twins and "all round sportsmen" when they played county cricket for Northamptonshire.

Both served with the Northants Regiment during World War One and were taken prisoner by the Germans in 1918.

Dad-of-two Charles added: "I hope Jack and Bill would be proud of what we have done.

"We had to reinvent ourselves and found our strength in this niche market, given our ageing population.

"A hundred years is a fantastic achievement, especially in the shoe trade.

"To mark the anniversary, we had a party last night - with customers, factory workers and suppliers.

"We have had a very interesting past.

"We have had some very successful years and turbulent years, and we have had to change and adapt with the times.

"We are one of the few footwear companies that have survived and we are very proud.

"In the 1920s it was a staple-welted factory. In the 1930s and 1940s we made a lot of boots for the army.

"In the late 1960s and early 1970s, new production techniques became available, involving polyurethanes (PU) and polyvinyl chlorides (PVC).

"DB was an early adopter of these techniques. Ours is the longest-surviving PU-injection factory in the world.

"As a result of that, the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s were good years, and we expanded to having three factories in the UK. These were in Rushden, Northampton and Leicester.

"In the 1990s, cheap imports came in. China and India came in as sources of supply and the UK couldn't compete, so the business suffered terribly.

"In 1997, my brother and I bought out the other shareholders and took on a loss-making operation.

"We spent the first two years cleaning up the mess.

"We made 220 out of 250 people redundant. That was the lowest of the lows. We went through a very difficult time.

"You couldn't be a made-to-order manufacturer. You had to do something different.

"We had always made wider-fitting shoe. I saw the potential with a growing, ageing population with foot health issues.

"There was a niche in the market for us to become a specialist manufacturer.

"We offer style instead of being orthopaedic and we survived."

Charles and David have four children between them but none of them are twins. However, they still hope one day they will follow in their footsteps.

Dad-of-two David added: "It would be nice for a sixth generation of shoe-makers, but I don't think we'd hold it against them if they didn't follow suit.

"Shoes have always been in our blood. We lost our father [Hugh Denton] at a young age.

"We were 15. He left his shares to us in the company. We got an education outside shoes. We both went to university.

"I came in to the company and Charles came later.

"Charles and I aren't trying to do the same job. Charles is front office, strategy, dealing with customers and medium term planning.

"I am back office, dealing with detail, people and systems.

"We naturally trust each other with a good understanding of what each other does. It was very natural how our roles evolved.

"And long may it continue."

ENDS