The Armitt Museum and Library
The tradition of concealing shoes near the openings of buildings, generally windows, doorways, fireplaces dates from at least the 15th century, the earliest example being found at Tewkesbury Abbey, and still continued into the twentieth century. Many can be shown to date to the period of building whilst others to alterations. The Museum of Northampton holds the Concealed Shoes Index which records over a thousand examples predominantly in the south of the country. The most northern example so far is from an early 18th century farmhouse at East Rainton near Sunderland.
It is believed that hiding a shoe, considered a symbol of good luck was a deterrent to evil spirits entering a house. The tradition has also been associated with the unofficial saint, John Schorn who was alleged to have performed the remarkable feat of casting the devil into a boot; this may have led to the idea of the shoe as a spirit trap.
The shoe at the Armitt shows very clear signs of use, the toe is cobbled and one lace hole broken. What is unusual is that the sole is shaped and fixed with wooden pegs. Pegged heels began in c.1590; pegged soles are more commonly associated 19th century cobbling. Only two other examples of this, dating from 1568 and c.1760, have been recorded and is believed to be a wet weather adaptation since thread would rot sooner.