In 1933, 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.
He could be found there, dressed head to toe in Harris Tweed, nailing bespoke patterns in boots and running spikes. He always wore a trilby (the baseball cap of its time) and always had a pencil behind his ear.
After the war, as mountain walking and climbing became more and more popular, the shop began to sell ex-War Department climbing equipment. You'd be able to find government surplus rucksacks, clothing, and snowshoes for 2/6d per pair.
Fred continued to offer bespoke nailing patterns, and his name became synonymous with quality and expertise.
As more and more British climbers visited the Alps, the Brigham family began to visit the Alpine valleys to buy the latest mountaineering equipment. French climbing hardware and Italian boots appeared on the shelves of Ellis Brigham’s Manchester shop.
Frederick Ellis Brigham died before the end of the fifties, leaving behind a legacy that was taken over by his eldest son Bob, who was soon to be joined by younger brother Ellis.
1960 was a milestone year in our history, with the opening of the Manchester city centre shop on Cathedral Street.
It also saw the publication of the first F. Ellis Brigham customer catalogue. This catalogue featured clothing, footwear, and equipment for mountaineering, rock climbing, camping, and skiing.
We were in a unique position in the 1970’s: all technical developments in mountain and snow sports equipment were first seen in the UK in Ellis Brigham shops and catalogues. This included the first lightweight EB (Edouard Bourdonneau) rock shoes, the first modern nylon climbing rope, the first plastic ski boots and the first fibreglass skis.
By the end of the 1970s there were four Ellis Brigham stores across the country, and we had truly plunged our mountaineering toes into the world of skiing.
In the 1980s we doubled in size, with eight Ellis Brigham stores throughout the country as the popularity of outdoor sports boomed.
This popularity caused huge technical developments across clothing and equipment, with fabrics such as GORE-TEX and polar fleece setting new standards. All these developments could be found at Ellis Brigham.
In 1986 the first of Ellis Brigham’s White Book winter sports catalogues was published and the first snowboards to be sold in the UK appeared in Ellis Brigham shops and catalogues.
In 1996 Ellis Brigham hit the internet, beginning with a website that contained basic contact information.
The 90s also saw the birth of The Snowboard Asylum in our shops, and the first The Snowboard Asylum catalogue appeared, once again setting the industry standard.
We opened our biggest store in Covent Garden, London, at the location of the old YHA shop, where we were determined to carry on its legacy as an outdoor enthusiasts’ destination. Our new store housed the most comprehensive range of specialist products and some of the most knowledgeable staff in the industry. It was also home to our very own indoor ice climbing wall.
This move gave us the opportunity to open Europe’s first stand-alone The North Face store, proudly run by Ellis Brigham staff. In 1967, Bob Brigham was at the official opening of the first The North Face store in Berkeley, San Francisco, and this London store opening cemented our long-standing and ongoing friendship with The North Face.
80 years since it began, Ellis Brigham remained a family-owned company passionately driven by Ellis and Bob, now ably assisted by the next generation: their sons Robert and Mark.
When The Olympic Games came to London in 2012, we were proud to open an Ellis Brigham store and The North Face store on "The Street" in Westfield Stratford to welcome athletes from all over the world. Plus, our The North Face store in Covent Garden was given European Flagship status.
We began a partnership with Glenmore Lodge to help us drive our vision of enabling more people to experience and enjoy the outdoors, while another partnership with Youth Adventure Trust allowed us to support their work with young people in developing skills and resilience.
The 2020s bring our 90th year, and our family mindset and innovative ethos remain the same.
Our family expands, with our new partner store Outsiders opening its doors in Liverpool and London.
For the first time since the war, our stores closed for the COVID-19 pandemic, and we turned our focus to becoming stronger advocates for the outdoors as a place for mental wellness through the Mountains For The Mind campaign. A partnership with Protect Our Winters also solidifies our commitment to protecting the places we love to explore.