Room with a shoe

Wimpole_Shoe (C) NT

If you’ve read earlier posts on the blog you will know all about our cabling project, but one discovery you might no be aware of is our seventeenth Century shoe, found under the floorboards.

The shoe was found by an asbestos contractor, Darren, it is a gentleman’s shoe, which remarkably had lain undisturbed for over 200 years.  The shoe we think 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.

When our Project Conservator Mary Luckhurst spoke to me she 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. 

IMG_0126Shoes 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 and it does make you think how he would have hobbled about, maybe the servants helped him!

The six month cabling project at Wimpole has involved removing floorboards on each of the floors, which gave us a great opportunity to see what had fallen beneath the floorboards over many years, if not centuries, including more recent items such as Skittles wrapper, I wonder who ate those and posted the wrapper between the boards?

DSCN6618As well as plenty of dust and the Skittles wrapper, some of the other 320 artifacts found during the project include, letters, sewing items, food, children’s toys, animal bones, pieces of wallpaper and newspaper cuttings, offer a glimpse into another era.

Some of the artifacts including the seventeenth Century shoe, will be on display in the Documents Room at Wimpole Hall from Saturday 1 March 11am-5pm, so come and see what archaeology has lain undiscovered under our floorboards.

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View from the stables

George & Captain

My name is George and I have been a volunteer since April 2013 in the Heavy Horse Dept. on the Farm.I don’t have a background in anything remotely to do with farming and I had never been near a horse in my life before last April. But hey if you’re going to get to know a horse you might as well choose a big one.

Funny thing occurred to me the other day while standing shovel in hand contemplating the varied contents of Queenie (only Mare) and Lady’s (Queenies Foal of 7months age) stable; here I am top of the food chain and they are out in the field sunning themselves and here I am, well I’m the one with the shovel!

That’s one of the things I like about volunteering on the farm it puts things into perspective.I have been a Scientist ,a Sales Manager and a Business Manager but I have never felt as content as I am stood in a stable shovel in hand. Not sure it warrants much investigation or deep thought its easy really.I did enjoy a lot of what I did in my paid work life and it for sure paid the mortgage but what I do with the horses is just more satisfying.I reckon I just feel that at last I am doing something useful. Hanky anyone? It helps that I am completely animalphylic not in a potty way but as a species we do need to share a bit more. I’d hate to see the world covered in concrete and empty except for us

Any way the plan is to keep writing to you with updates on whats going on at the farm and particularly with the horses. Although I am horse biased I promise not to neglect the other animals and to keep you up to date with whats going on with the crops.

Each of the horses is going to contribute a guest diary – up first is Captain (age before beauty). I aim also to include snippets on whats going on with Lady and how she is developing and changing over time.

One idea is to have regularly contributed recipes that are based around the farms produce eg lamb,pork.Looking for contributors for this- need to be all your own or hybrids with appropriate attribution

So treat this one as me saying hello and letting you know the plan.

Next issue Captains Diary, Lady update and hopefully the first recipe