The Shoe Museum, based in Street, Somerset, houses more than 1500 shoes from Roman to modern day. It tells the story of Clarks from its beginnings in the early 19th century.
There are four galleries which showcase the development of the footwear industry in Street and items on display include shoemaking machinery and tools, advertising materials and hundreds of shoes.
The earliest shoe on display is a 2nd century girl’s sandal sole and there are Roman shoes which were found locally near Langport. Medieval shoes from London are also on show.
There is a beautiful collection of Georgian and Victorian shoes made from a wide range of materials such as satin, silk, brocade, linen, wool and kid leather. There are also buckles and Edwardian side button boots and high lace boots.
A selection of footwear from around the world includes an Emir’s slipper from Nigeria, a Chinese shoe for a bound foot, kub kobs worn in Turkish baths and Finnish shoes made from birch bark.
Clarks shoes include a Brown Petersburg, which were the first footwear made by Clarks, from 1885 and the earliest women’s shoe from 1856. Items from the extensive Clarks archives are also on display and visitors can see the original 1928 apprenticeship indenture of James Clark, who with his elder brother Cyrus founded the footwear business. Other documents include photos of Clarks factory and information about the Quakers and the Temperance movement.Advertising material includes 1920s showcards designed by Edward McKnight Kauffer who also worked on designs for the London Underground in 1915.
A replica outworker’s cottage in the museum shows the tools and equipment used to make shoes by hand and there is also the original office where members of the Clarks family worked.
Highlights of the museum include the last made for Princess Diana’s wedding slipper, a replica of the shoes worn by the Queen when she married Prince Philip, shoes designed by Joanna Lumley, Tracey Emin and Terry de Havilland for charity, and a 1923 Perugia ladies gold, black and silver bar shoe.
Did You Know?The Clarks shoe company was started by Quaker brothers in 1825 when James Clark made slippers from sheepskin rug off-cuts.
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Guided tours are available for groups booking in advance.
Family trails are available free of charge and there is a children’s corner with shoe-related books and toys.
Other activities are often available.
The Museum can assist researchers with enquiries about the collection and Clarks Company.
Please contact the Alfred Gillett Trust Archives for further information on using the collections for research purposes on 01458 842557 or firstname.lastname@example.org.