Frederick Ellis Brigham set up business making walking boots and cycling shoes in a tiny ‘two up, two down’ building on the outskirts of Manchester. A photograph (below) of FEB captures the spirit of the age: "...the trilby, which was hardly ever off, was the modern day baseball cap of its time. His pants and jacket are Harris Tweed, as that was virtually all you could get at the time. His shirt would be Harris Tweed also. He is wearing Scottish beaters’ shoes with huge toe spring which made striding the fells easier and walking was a rocking-along motion. There would be a leather flap over the front lacing for extra weather protection. He always wore a pencil behind his ear. He’s holding a pair of his hand made sandals. In the shop door window are for sale Bartholomews folded fabric maps of the nearby Pennines & Lake District. The shop window has rubber wellingtons for the local trade, hand made spiked running shoes, hand knitted Harris Tweed wool socks and a rucksack by R.Burns Ltd - the best rucksack maker of the day being technically superior to the rival Brown Best rucksacks."
After the war, as mountain walking and climbing became more and more popular, the shop began to sell ex WD climbing equipment. This was the era of government surplus items like ex-army rucksacks, snow shoes for 2/6d per pair and skis for 30/- a pair. Mr. Brigham's boots with their special nailing patterns became very sought after.
As more and more British climbers began to visit the Alps, the Brigham family began to visit the alpine valleys to buy the latest mountaineering equipment, and exotic French climbing hardware and Italian boots began to appear on the shelves of Ellis Brigham’s Manchester shop. Sadly Frederick Brigham died before the end of the fifties and the business was taken over by eldest son Bob, soon to be joined by younger brother Ellis.
A milestone year in Ellis Brigham’s history with the opening of the Manchester city centre shop in Cathedral Street and the publication of the first F. Ellis Brigham customer catalogue. This catalogue featured clothing, footwear, and equipment for mountaineering, rock climbing, camping and skiing which was beginning to gain a following.
Four Ellis Brigham shops across the country with a thriving outdoor and mountaineering business and a growing interest in skiing. At this time we were in a unique position, whereby all technical developments in mountain and snow sports equipment were to be seen first in Ellis Brigham shops and catalogues: the first lightweight EB rock shoes, the first modern nylon climbing rope, the first plastic ski boots and the first fibreglass and metal skis.
Eight Ellis Brigham shops throughout the country. Outdoor and mountain sports are hugely popular and skiing is positively booming. Clothing and equipment shows incredible technical development. Outdoor clothing companies become more sophisticated with brands such as Berghaus and The North Face establishing a strong market presence and fabrics such as GORETEX and polarfleece setting new industry standards. Key year is 1986 when the first of Ellis Brigham’s White Book winter sports consumer catalogues was published, setting a standard previously unseen in the outdoor retail marketplace.The first snowboards to be sold in the UK appeared in Ellis Brigham shops and catalogues at this time.
Eleven Ellis Brigham Mountain Sports shops throughout the country. Outdoor and winter sports clothing hugely popular both as functional outdoor garments and as cutting-edge youth fashion. Snowboarding begins to gain momentum and Ellis Brigham establish The Snowboard Asylum shop in shop areas. The first Snowboard Asylum catalogue appears and again sets the industry standard. The Ellis Brigham spring/summer outdoor catalogue is relaunched as The Green Book. And then came the internet… in 1996 www.ellis-brigham.com was launched, initially with just basic contact and shop information, it quickly lead to a full e-commerce website.
The old YHA shop in Covent Garden, that had made the area such an important outdoor enthusiasts’ destination for so many years, closed giving us the opportunity to pick up the baton and reinvent the way in which outdoor sports was retailed. We made the move from our smaller store on Southampton St. and opened what is still regarded as one of the leading outdoor and snowsports stores in Europe. This massive space houses the most comprehensive range of specialist products and some of the most knowledgeable staff in the industry, it is also home to our very own indoor Ice climbing wall! This move brought another opportunity and our old store became Europe’s first stand-alone The North Face Store. The two stores combined make Southampton St., Covent Garden a real outdoor enthusiast's Mecca. Interestingly in 1967, Bob Brigham was at the official opening of the first TNF store in Berkeley, San Francisco, USA, and this London store opening cemented a very long-standing (and ongoing) relationship with The North Face.
80 years since it began, Ellis Brigham Mountain Sports is still a family-owned company passionately driven by Ellis and Bob, now ably assisted by sons Robert and Mark; the next generation. Over 20 stores are open in total, including two on "The Street" in Westfield Stratford placing both Ellis Brigham and The North Face brands in front of a huge international audience with the arrival of the Olympic games in 2012. Many of the older stores have been refurbished including a new design for The North Face store in Covent Garden which is given European Flagship status. A partnership with Glenmore Lodge helps to drive our vision of enabling more people to experience and enjoy the outdoors, while another partnership with Youth Adventure Trust allows us to support their work with young people in developing skills and resilience to help them deal with life in a positive way.