The history of Lotus Ltd is closely connected to the history of the Bostock family, who owned the firm and its predecessor companies. Thomas Bostock established a shoe manufacturing firm in Stafford in 1814 and three of his sons, Edwin, Thomas and Frederick later joined the business and entered into partnership with their father. Edwin continued the Stafford business; Thomas started manufacturing in Stone and Frederick started a business in Northampton. Edwin Bostock took control of the factory in Stone on the death of his brother Thomas in 1871.
Edwin Bostock & Co Ltd was incorporated in 1898 to take over the business of T E Bostock and H Bostock of Stafford and Stone. When a fire destroyed its premises on the corner of Foregate Street and Glover Street in Stafford in 1901, a new factory was built on Sandon Road. This was finished in 1903.
Frederick Bostock started business in College Street, Northampton in 1835 and later moved to Victoria Street, Northampton. In 1912 the firm became a private company. Frederick Bostock Ltd.
Lotus Shoe Makers Ltd was incorporated in 1903, as a subsidiary company of Edwin Bostock & Co Ltd. Its purpose was to sell ready-made shoes manufactured by its parent company. It was the first shoe manufacturer to adopt this instock method, rather than manufacturing shoes to order. This method of holding a range of styles and sizes in stock effected a faster delivery to the customer and led to increased productivity and greater profits. The Company's name was shortened to Lotus Ltd in 1914, by which time it was outstripping its parent company in performance and profits. In 1919 the business of Edwin Bostock & Co Ltd and Frederick Bostock Ltd amalgamated with Lotus Ltd under the name of Lotus Ltd. The amalgamation of these three firms provided a diversity of knowledge and experience. The Company not only manufactured shoes but also stored them in large quantities; made its own lasts, heels, celluloid products and cardboard boxes. It also developed a joiner's shop and builder's department for general maintenance and for the construction of packing cases for export. It operated its own garage and most of its own transport and in addition there were canteens and welfare establishments
The early 1920's saw the development of the multiple retailer and in line with this trend Lotus Ltd acquired its first 4 retail shops in 1926, to sell exclusively Lotus and Delta shoes. More retail shops were purchased later and operated through the subsidiary company. Lotus & Delta Ltd. The shops, and later the dwelling houses, which the Company purchased in Stafford to rent to employees, were maintained by the joinery and building departments. These departments amalgamated and became a separate shop-fitting company in 1957.
A sales catalogue dating from 1904 explains the origins of the Company name:
"The name Lotus - The Lotus was a large white water-lily of exquisite beauty. Kings offered it to the gods, guests wore it at banquets, architectural forms were modelled upon it, it was employed in the ornamentation of thrones. Whether its root had the effect on men ascribed to it by Homer may be doubted, but no one ever saw it without recognising it instantly as a thing of beauty and therefore as a joy for ever." This quotation was an extract from Professor Rawlinson's book Egypt and the implication was that Lotus shoes would be a thing of beauty. The brand name "Delta" is probably an allusion to the Nile Delta where the Lotus flower grew.
The Bostock family connection with the Company ended in 1970 when Mr James F Bostock, retired from the Board of Directors and his daughter, Miss Annabel Bostock, retired from her position as Fashion Director. On 31 December 1972 the Argo Caribbean Group Ltd purchased a majority shareholding in the Company. It became a subsidiary of Debenhams plc, part of the Burton Group, in August 1973. The factory at Stone was closed in 1975 and manufacture continued at Stafford and Northampton.
The Fii Group purchased the Company from the Burton Group in August 1986, to expand its share of the footwear market. The Fii Group was principally a manufacturer of shoes and medical and laboratory equipment and by the end of 1987 it was the 2nd largest footwear manufacturer in Britain. In 1996 the greater part of footwear manufacture was transferred from Stafford to Bridgend and the Lotus factory on Sandon Road was demolished in 1997. A reduced workforce operated from smaller premises off Sandon Road until the end of 1998, when the remainder of the operation was transferred to Bridgend. This marked the end of an association of nearly 200 years with the town of Stafford and it was also the end of the town's long history of footwear manufacture, which had been a major industry throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.