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Last Updated: Friday, 1 April, 2005, 08:34 GMT 09:34 UK
Clarks' closure is end of an era
Clarks factory
Bosses say the closure is essential for the company's survival
Shoemaker Clarks closes its last major UK factory on Friday with production being transferred to the Far East.

The closure means the loss of more than 70 jobs at the works in Dowlish Ford near Ilminster, Somerset.

It marks the end of an era for the county's manufacturing link with the company, although its headquarters remain in Street.

Clarks once had 15 plants across the UK, but now has only one remaining in Millom in Cumbria, employing 37 people.

In January, Clarks' bosses said the closure of the Ilminster factory was essential for the company's survival.

Cheaper production

Spokesman John Keery said: "The cost of manufacturing in the UK has increased over the last 20 years, and we have been able to source our shoes cheaper in the Far East."

The company started in the Somerset village of Street in 1825 when Cyrus Clark started tanning sheepskin rugs.

His brother James introduced sheepskin slippers in 1830 and a reputation was soon established for foot-friendly, comfortable shoes.

The company's best sellers have included the iconic Desert Boot and the Wallabee shoe as well as being a parent's favourite for their children's school shoes.

The building in Dowlish Ford has been taken over by Gooch and Housego, which produces precision optical components mainly for the defence industry.

Shoe factory's closure defended
10 Jan 05 |  Somerset

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