CHILD'S 18TH CENTURY LEATHER SHOE

Godalming Museum, ref: B996.2.1


This shoe fell from the rafters at Matthew's Place in Hascombe when the house was being repaired. It is over 200 years old and would have been worn by a child of one to two years old. The child has broken down the heel putting the shoe on and eventually their toe has worn through the leather.


Northampton Museum has been recording the incidence of shoes found concealed in buildings since the 1950s and has over 1000 records, mainly from Britain, but also elsewhere in Europe and other parts of the world. The shoes are usually well-worn and often found in the roof or chimney area. In Britain they turn up in all kinds of buildings - from cottages to churches and are almost always of a later date than the original structure. Occasionally they can be identified as having been put in place by workmen and there seems to have been something of a tradition (carrying on into the present day) of builders concealing objects (often personal) in buildings they have worked on. Although builder's activities do not account for all the finds, it is obvious from much of the evidence that shoes were deliberately (and often carefully) concealed.

Theories about the meaning of the practice are varied. However, it is commonly believed that hidden shoes cast some sort of protective power over a building and its occupants. One of the more intriguing ideas is that witches could be lured into them and trapped inside unable to carry out mischief. Shoes in folklore and superstition have often been associated with good luck - the practice of tying a boot or shoe to the back bumper of a wedding car is still known today. Not all of the items found are actual shoes; they can be shoe lasts, irons or pattens from clogs, models of shoes, even scratched outlines of shoes, which suggest the importance of the symbol.

The fact that shoes have been preserved in buildings offers insights into daily life in the past. This child's shoe in Godalming Museum's collection is well-worn, trodden down at the heel and open at the toe. In former times shoes were too expensive to be thrown away and were often worn to destruction, patched, re-soled and mended or the leather and fixings used to mend or adapt other pairs.

 


SOURCE

Swann, J, 1996. 'Shoes concealed in buildings', in Costume:The Journal of the Costume Society, No.30, 56-59. www.apotropaios.co.uk/june_swann_concealed_shoes.htm

 

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