From elegant Georgian shoes wornby the well-heeled to the truancy clog to stop young miscreants escaping school, Whitby Museum’s exhibition has plenty of heart and sole.
And the good news is there is still time to catch it, as the exhibition, Fancy Shoes to Fishermen’s Boots – 200 years of Whitby footwear, can still be seen until the end of next month.
Costumes curator Alison Roberts said: “It has been really popular and we’ve had some great feedback.”
The museum’s entire collection of shoes, with some dating back 200 years, is neatly laid out in the upstairs costumes gallery, documenting the changing fashions throughout the ages.
Shoes are powerful indicators of the wearer’s gender, class, status, identity and taste. Throughout the centuries and across cultures, impractical footwear has denoted a privileged and leisurely lifestyle.
Footwear can also be a symbol of domination, from the red-heeled men’s shoes of the French court of Louis XIV and the black platform boots of mandarin officials of the Chinese emperor. Consider our oldest shoe story, Cinderella, where the glass slipper elevates the wearer to a superior social position.
One of the most striking items on display at the exhibition is a black designer shoe from Georgian times, boasting a heel far higher than commonly found on footwear of this period, measuring six inches high.
The shoe is elegant with latchets crossing the instep and retains its original metal buckle of very ornate design.
People may be amused to see the truancy clog, once used at The Mount boys’ school on the West Cliff in the late 1800s.
The early 1800s was a busy period for the shoe trade; the 1823 Census shows there were 30 boot and shoemakers in Whitby town, with many of these around the Church Street area; a map on display at the exhibition shows where they all were.
The history of clogging in the woods is documented.
From the 1850s, cloggers could be found shaping shoes from alder wood in the woods at Mulgrave, Arncliffe, Newbiggin and Beck Hole. Some of the clogs were supplied locally to farm workers, they were half the price of boots and reliable for keeping feet dry.