‘Concealed shoes’ index to go online


Image copyright Dr Ceri Houlbrook
Image caption The custom of concealing shoes in places such as chimneys and walls dates back the 1500s

An index of 3,000 shoes found hidden in the walls of buildings as part of a superstition dating back to the 1500s is to be digitised.

The tradition – said to bring good luck and warn off evil spirits – died out in the UK in 1900s.

Held at Northampton Museum since the 1950s, the index lists 2,000 worldwide locations where shoes were found.

The oldest shoe in the index was found behind the Winchester Cathedral choir stalls, installed in 1308.

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The work to make the index available online is being carried out alongside the University of Hertfordshire.

Dr Ceri Houlbrook, of the university, said it was important to make the index available online as it shows footwear’s “prominent place in folklore”.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Cinderella the “most obvious” example of footwear in a fairytale, Dr Houlbrook said

“Folklore is going through something of a renaissance at the moment,” she said.

“There are so many legends and fairytales with shoes at their centre,

“Cinderella is just the most obvious, and so many folk customs that involve footwear.”

Dr Houlbrook said one example of a custom was “throwing shoes at people as they begin a journey or get married, to grant them luck”.

Image copyright Dr Ceri Houlbrook
Image caption Queen Victoria was captured throwing a shoe after her soldiers as they departed for the Crimean War

Work began last year on a £6.7m refurbishment of the museum, which is due to be completed next year

The project is being paid for by proceeds of the sale of the Northampton Borough Council-owned Egyptian Sekhemka statue, which was sold for £16m in 2014.

Northampton’s history for boot and shoemaking dates back almost 900 years and grew in the middle of the 19th Century and continues to thrive in the town.

Image copyright GSS Architecture
Image caption Plans at the revamped museum in Northampton include a new shoe gallery to showcase the town’s links with the industry

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