and his shoe factory
His father's sister Sarah, had married a William Preston. The Prestons had spent some time in the registration district of Rochdale; William was born there, but at the time Samuel made his journey there were Prestons working in clogs and boots in Whitchurch too where, it is possible, Sarah first met William. Their marriage in 1852 was in Manchester Cathedral.
Even fifty years earlier, in the Whitchurch of 1830, a family of boot and shoemakers had a shop right in the High Street. Their name was Preston too, so perhaps a member of William's family had experienced trying to make a start somewhere else, as he and Sarah were doing.
Samuel, on his way to live with the Prestons, was really joining family. From the birth dates of the Preston children (Georgina in Manchester in 1862 and Nancy in Bilston in 1867) the Prestons must have arrived in Bilston between 1862 and 1867. In White's Birmingham & District Directory for 1873 William Preston is shown as a Clog and Patten maker at 63 Oxford Street.
Now, in the Bilston of 1881, William Preston is still shown in business as a clog maker at that address, and is shown, in the Census of that year, to be employing four men and three boys. His clog making business was in Oxford Street. Bilston. Coincidentally the whole of this part of Bilston was known as Newtown, and to some of its residents still is. Whitchurch was also in Staffordshire in 1830. Add to that the nearby churches and it must almost have seemed like home from home. It is not surprising that the Prestons, and the Edges, settled to pursue a trade, that they were so well acquainted with, in a part of Bilston that held so many associations with their home town.
In 1881 Samuel, now 19 years of age, is described in the census as "assistant to clog maker". Whether he was officially certificated or not, we can say that Sam was serving an apprenticeship.
Samuel was living in what was then Coseley Street when he met Naomi Nume, daughter of a High Street grocer. The wedding took place on 25th December 1885 at the Primitive Methodist Church that stood at the top of the High Street, just round the corner from Coseley Street, and near to where he would have his new workshop.
He was certainly listed in 1904 in Kelly's Trade Directory as a boot and shoemaker at Millfields Road. This was at the Bilston end of the present Millfields Road and then known as Union Street, near to the toll gate house at the entry to the town. In more recent times the site is best remembered as being not far from the warehouse of Job and Thomas Wallett, fruit and potato merchants. Both this and Edge's works were on the north side of Millfields Road, just west of the crossroads formed by today's High Street, Coseley Road, Wolverhampton Street and Millfields Road.
In 1904 William Preston had moved from 63 to 135 Oxford Street when he advertised himself as a boot and shoemaker. Was the clog now out of fashion in these Edwardian times? Changes in industrial practice could have reduced demand. There may have been few Bilstonians able to afford to dress like their adventurous new king but perhaps there would have been some who tried. In 1904 there were still some clog makers in both Bilston and Wolverhampton, presumably still with an industrial market to serve, and even William Preston let it be known that he would make a clog for anyone who asked him.
There can be no mistaking however, that Samuel Edge Shoes is now an independent business, and a competitor, even if the firm was still in its infancy.
The stories of those early faltering days have been told and retold, passed on through family generations who have found their workplace at Edge's. It was possible to find three generations of a family who had worked at Edge's. It is said that Sammy climbed onto his horse and trap, late on a Saturday afternoon, and toured the town, and its market area, as the stallholders closed. Any sizeable piece of card, particularly the white, was gathered and taken back to Millfields Road to be stored until it was cut to provide insoles for those first shoes.
Children's employment had been a source of concern since 1841 when Government Inspector R. H. Horne visited the Black Country and, following his report and increasing Parliamentary concern, legislation was introduced to outlaw the employment of young children. It was legislation requiring the most stringent of inspections continually taking place, and this was beyond the Inspectorate. Their task was made more difficult by the active encouragement of the employers by the children's parents who were only too glad of the few extra coppers their children's work brought in.
All sorts of arrangements were made to counter the threat of the Inspector. The Inspectors themselves said it was only possible to visit one works in a day in any one town as the parents spread the message of their presence so quickly.
Its workers best tell some of the Edge story. Paul Leadbeater joined his father in the business and recalls much of what his father could tell him of the old days. One story was of the times, particularly on a Saturday, when there was no school. Children were brought in to work at softening up the soles in tanning liquor ready for Monday morning. The liquor was stored in barrels. At the approach of the Inspector the children had to hide in the barrels - one hopes the empty ones! These children were jokingly nicknamed "Sammy's Rabbits", perhaps because of the smart way they could disappear down their holes!
Samuel and Naomi were to have three children. All of them carried the Nume name! These were Howard Nume Edge, Dorothy Nume Edge, and Phillipa Nume Edge. Howard Nume Edge would become the "& Son" of the later years.
Naomi died on the 25th November 1918 aged 52 years. She was buried in Bilston Cemetery, just across the road from the new factory. A significant Edge memorial was erected and it was said that Sammy could see it from the front windows of the firm. This would be before the hedges grew. For many years one of his female employees, Mrs. Goodyear, was sent, once a week, to clean the grave.