This single boot was found hidden in the attic of a cottage in Tonge, Kent. It is an example of what is known as a concealed shoe. These are shoes or boots that have been deliberately hidden in buildings to help ward off evil spirits that might want to harm the house and its occupants.
There are a lot of theories as to why people concealed shoes, but as yet there isn’t a definitive answer as the practice is shrouded in mystery.
Concealed shoes are usually worn out and there is often only one shoe. Many of them are children’s shoes.
So why were shoes hidden? Shoes have a special significance. A shoe is the only item of clothing which takes on the shape of the person wearing it. It is container shaped and it is thought people believed that it held something of the wearer’s essence even when it was not being worn, so that the good spirits contained in the shoe would ward off evil spirits.
We occasionally accept concealed shoes as a donation, though most people who find them put them back ‘just in case!’
We do keep a concealed shoe index at the museum. At the moment the index stands at approximately 1,900 entries from all over the UK and also records concealed shoe finds in North America, Canada and a number of countries in Europe including France, Spain and Poland. We would be very happy to hear about any concealed finds. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org