The Bentley Group
Started as Bentley Engineering, makers of machinery for the clothing industry, including the celebrated Komet sock knitting machine. Takeovers gave the company control of many other local firms and Bentley became the largest knitting machine company in the world with a staff of 4,000. The company continued to expand and had 9,000 staff by 1970 but fell victim to overseas competition and closed in 1988. The Komet Works building still exists on New Bridge Street.
A film of Komet knitting machines running in a factory in Minnesota, USA.
British United Shoe Machinery Company (BUSM)
Based in Belgrave the main factory was on Ross Walk but it is now a housing estate. For much of the 20th century the BUSM was the world's largest manufacturer of footwear machinery and materials, exporting shoe machinery to more than 50 countries.
Click here to visit a website dedicated to memories of life at the company.
Click here to read the Wikipedia page about the company.
Started in 1894 as a Leicester based family engineering business, manufacturing a wide range of shoe making equipment. Became one of the two major manufacturers of shoe machinery in Leicester (along with the BUSM). The company still makes shoe repair machines and is based in Kettering.
Click here to view the company website.
Wildt, Mellor Bromley
A major manufacturer of knitting machines. Founded in 1884, the name is an amalgamation of the Wildt and Mellor Bromley companies. As part of the Bentley Group, the company closed in 1977 despite a 15 day sit-in by employees. Their building on St Saviours Road is still there.
A well-established maker of knitting machines, Stibbes fell foul of changing fashions and cash flow problems. In a short space of time at the beginning of the 1970s the company shed two thirds of its workforce and went bankrupt in 1975.
Jones & Shipman
Formed in 1899 to make grinding machines, the company continues this work more than 100 years later and is one of the few long term survivors in Leicester’s industrial history.
Click here to visit the company website.
As well as Jones & Shipman current companies include Richards Engineering (foundry equipment), Transmon Engineering (materials handling equipment) and Trelleborg (suspension components for rail, marine, and industrial applications).