Shoe of the Month – Concealed Shoes

Concealed Shoes

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.

Concealed Shoe

Concealed Shoe

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 museum@nothampton.gov.uk

 

Concealed shoes

People often hid old boots and shoes in chimneys and walls to bring good luck to their houses and to ward off evil spirits.

 

  • The shoes are always worn out.
  • Very often there is only one shoe.
  • Many of the shoes are for children.
  • The shoes were often put in place when building work was being done to the house.
  • It may be that if the workmen found a shoe they replaced it with a new offering, or put the old shoe back together with a new one?

  • No one knows when and how this habit began.
  • The earliest shoes we know of were put in place about 1500.
  • Shoes seem to have had a special significance.
  • A shoe is the only item of clothing which takes on the shape of the person wearing it.
  • A single worn shoe was hidden so that a malevolent spirit could not steal it and  take away the protection the shoe gave.

 

Today people renovating old buildings sometimes come across ‘concealed shoes’.  The finds are very important because they show us what ordinary people were wearing on their feet hundreds of years ago.

 
We keep a concealed shoe index here at the museum
 
At the moment the index stands at approximately 1,900 entries from all over the U.K and also records concealed shoe finds in North America, Canada, and a number of countries in Europe including France, Spain and Poland.

 We are always keen to add people’s shoe finds to the index. Information we like to know if possible is:

 

Address of building

Date of the building if known and date of any alterations / building work

What the building was / is such as a private house, pub, farm etc

Where it was found within the building?

What if anything else was found with it?

Description of the footwear

Date of the footwear

Images of the footwear.