A Leap back in History – The story of the Frog Island sock
Dig into the history of most towns north of London and you’ll find proud manufacturing heritage. All across the midlands and the north of England, the course of the 20th century was quite literally woven and knitted and small villages grew into vast conurbations, each with their own specialisation.
In the last two centuries the population of the UK has grown by 600% while life expectancy has almost doubled. It’s a story of growth and prosperity and it was fuelled largely by the industrial revolution.
What does all of this mean for a brand like Admiral though?
Founded in 1914, the company began in Wigston, Leicestershire, manufacturing clothing and accessories. Just as Northampton became a centre for shoemaking, Leicester and the surrounding area was the place to get socks made.
Off the back of this, by 1930 Leicester was reputedly the second richest city in Europe. Remnants of this era remain intact in Leicester, albeit repurposed for more contemporary use. The 1840s Pex Building has been tastefully refurbished as the Land Registry office, while numerous other formerly industrial use buildings have either been demolished or restored for non-manufacturing use.
While Admiral had to wait until the 1970s to really cement its name through football kit manufacture, it was in socks that it began in earnest. ABC hosiery Ltd was the first company to produce Admiral branded product more than 100 years ago.
Central to the hosiery trade was the curiously-named Frog Island. It was an area formed by the construction of a canal off the River Soar and it was this adjacent water source which aided the manufacturing industry which took root. The easy access to water was important in the dyeing process, while steam-powered equipment also harnessed this abundance of water. The canal had been built to cope with the rise in industry, particularly the transport of coal, but Frog Island’s location at the centre of transport routes was instrumental in its rise to prominence.
Following the second world war, the UK underwent a period of deindustrialisation and many cities saw their landscapes begin to change. In Leicester, Frog Island went from busy urban manufacturing hub to a largely derelict area at the end of the 20th century.
Fast forward to the cusp of 2021 and the area is slowly finding its feet, with creative industries increasingly using the affordable space.
While the hosiery industry has all but been wound down in Leicester, Admiral Sporting Goods Co. is keen to celebrate it and as such, we’ve produced a high quality sports sock which is in keeping with the heritage of Frog Island. Utilising modern threads and manufacturing techniques in Portugal, this low gauge, thick and comfortable sock is made up of a precise mix of 94% cotton, 5% polyamide and 1% elastane. This gives the sock a mostly traditional feel, but with some added stretch for comfort.
We may not be able to fuel a resurgence in the hosiery industry in Leicester, but through the release of our Frog Island socks we aim to celebrate its past and ensure its role in the rise of Leicester is not forgotten.
Words by Mark Smith