Early Seventeenth Century shoe

I have recently been working on a collection of leather finds from the Coombe area of Dublin for Claire Walsh. It’s a mixed bag of material and includes both medieval and post-medieval footwear. Claire has published a preliminary piece on the site in Medieval Dublin XII. For this post I want to focus on one of the post-medieval finds as it is an interesting comparison to the previous posts on Mill Street.

The shoe is possibly the most complete example I have come across in some time. It might have been up for repair before it was discarded and that may account for the missing pieces – the forepart of the tread sole and the heel top-piece. What is really interesting is that the soles and vamp are still firmly connected – possibly by wooden pegs. Also intact is the low wooden heel and its heel cover of leather.


The shoe from above. Clearly visible are two pairs of lace holes on the instep. One set was for the lace-ties, the other for a decorative shoe rose. You can also see the long, narrowing tongue and wide side openings. The stitching has disintegrated at the heel but the two quarters are still held firmly in place around the heel. The most wear damaged part of the vamp is at the toe.


A slightly different angle which makes the side opening more obvious as well as the damaged toe.


The underside of the shoe is interesting. It looks as if a repair might have been started but never finished. The forepart of the tread sole seems to have been been cut away. However, the shoe could have been worn in this condition and the sole literally fallen off as opposed to having been an attempted repair job. You can see where the heel top-piece has been worn away and the heel itself probably reduced in height by wear damage. The heel cover was made from a single piece of leather which was split and then seamed to give a tight fit to the wooden heel.

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From the same location came a second heel assembly of matching parts. This wooden heel is different in shape to the first and appears to have been higher. An interesting detail in this picture is the lace which is still in situ on the latchet. A close examination reveals how it was tightly twisted and rolled for attaching to a lace tag. Also obvious is the severe wear damage on the left half of the heel cover which suggests the shoe was worn on the left foot.


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