Children’s footwear from the 1900s took inspiration from horse shoes to create a product built to last, a new find has revealed.
Two pairs of antique shoes, part of a collection of Edwardian and Victorian shoes, boots and clogs found in Derby, have thick pieces of metal, similar to a horse shoe, embedded into the soles.
“These Victorian shoes are sturdy to say the least,” said Isabel Murtough, valuer at Hansons Auctioneers, where the shoes will be sold on Monday, July 22.
“Many parents complain their children’s school shoes don’t last five minutes. Clearly, our forebears made efforts to ensure footwear was anything but throw-away.
“Children would have to wear their shoes until they outgrew them and then, if they had any younger siblings, they would be passed down to them.
“The fact that these shoes are still around prove our ancestors knew how to make footwear with longevity. The leather was thick and rather crude but hardwearing and those metal sections on the soles look as if they were produced by a farrier. Children were shod like a horse – not literally of course.”
Some eight pairs of shoes and boots, estimate £75-£120, are part of a collection being sold by Alan Hutchins, 84, of Littleover, Derby – a man whose career was devoted to the shoe-making industry.
Mr Hutchins, who was managing director of Totectors before his retirement, a Northamptonshire manufacturer of safety boots, said: “I gathered this private collection at antique shops and fairs over many years. The children’s shoes were shod with metal to preserve them.”
The collection also includes tiny doll-size shoes. “They’re apprentice shoes,” said Mr Hutchins. “They would have been made by apprentices to help them learn cobbler skills. They were made inside out and then turned the right way round.”
While most of the collection dates back to the 19th century the odd pair could be 18th century. There is also a pair of black leather Edwardian lady’s lace-up ankle boots from the early 1900s.
“The boots look like something out of a Harry Potter film,” said Isabel. “You could imagine Hermione Granger wearing them. Some items are worthy of a museum.”
Mr Hutchins said: “My forebears were involved in shoemaking as early as 1820 in Norfolk. I’m not parting with all of my antique shoe collection but need to make some space as I’m downsizing.”
Though Mr Hutchins’ career was based in Northamptonshire, the shoemaking capital of the world with a heritage spanning 900 years, he’s lived in Derby since 1987 and has a proud claim to fame.
“I’ve protected the feet of Derby’s workforce,” he said. “Rolls-Royce was my biggest customer for safety boots.”
The antique shoe collection, lot 2456, will be sold on July 22 in Hansons’ July Antiques and Collectors Auction, estimate £75-£120. Mr Hutchins is also selling a collection of ornamental ceramic shoes. You can preview the sale at Hansons, Heage Lane, Etwall, Derbyshire, DE65 6LS, on Wednesday July 17, 11am-7pm or visit www.the-saleroom.com to browse the catalogue. Anything unusual at home? Free valuations available at Hansons on Wednesdays, 5-7pm, Fridays, 10am-4pm, and Saturdays, 9am-noon.