September 22 2014 Latest news:
By Matthew Gooding
Monday, March 10, 2014
A shoe dating back to the 18th century is among more than 300 items found hidden under floorboards at a stately home which have gone on display.
The gentleman’s shoe, which had lain undisturbed for more than 200 years, has gone on show at Wimpole Hall. It was found by an asbestos contractor working on the site, and dates to the mid-1700s.
Wimpole project conservator Mary Luckhurst 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 first 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. Shoes 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.”
The shoe would have originally been fastened with a buckle, and would also have had a low heel which appears to have been lost.
It was found during a six-month cabling project at Wimpole, which has involved removing floorboards and gave a team of staff and volunteers the opportunity to see what lay beneath.
As well as plenty of dust, some of the other 320 artefacts found during the project include letters, sewing items, food, children’s toys, animal bones, pieces of wallpaper and newspaper cuttings, some of which will be on display in the Documents Room at the hall.
The exhibition of artefacts opened last Saturday, and is available to visitors daily from 1pm-5pm.