“This boot was made for walking, and that’s just what it’ll do one of these days this boot we’ll find the other and then we’ll have all two.”

Wimpole shoe

Wimpole shoe - Credit: Archant

A 17th century shoe was found hidden under floorboards at Wimpole Hall near Cambridge during recent cabling works and goes on display from this weekend.

The shoe was found by an asbestos contractor, Darren, a gentleman’s shoe, which remarkably had lain undisturbed for over 200 years. The shoe dates to the mid-1700s, and would have originally been fastened with a buckle. It would also have had a low heel that appears to have been lost.

Wimpole Project Conservator Mary Luckhurst said : “The burying of shoes in walls and under floors was a well practiced method to ward off evil spirits. This shoe was found under a floorboard directly in front of a window, presumably to stop any evil spirits entering the house through it. Shoes were usually concealed in this way during alterations to a house.”

The 1st Earl of Hardwicke commissioned the architect Henry Flitcroft to reconfigure the Hall in 1742, so it’s possible the shoe was hidden at this time. It is very common for concealed shoes to be well worn. Shoes can show a lot about their owner, including the foot shape and even abnormalities in the foot. This appears to have given rise to the belief that they contained the spirit of their owner. This shoe shows the last wearer had a pronounced bunion.

The six month cabling project at Wimpole has involved removing floorboards on each of the floors which gave a team of staff and volunteers the opportunity to see what lay beneath. As well as plenty of dust, some of the other 320 artefacts found during the project include, letters, sewing items, food, children’s toys, animal bones, pieces of wallpaper and newspaper cuttings, some of which will be on display in the Documents Room at Wimpole Hall from Saturday 1 March 11am-5pm.


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