Rare 19th century boot discovered hidden under schoolroom’s wooden floor
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
For more than a hundred years it has laid forgotten under the wooden floor of an 18th century schoolroom.
But now a tiny boot, which protected pauper children in one of Norfolk's most well-known workhouses, has been discovered.
Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse, near Dereham, recently closed its doors for the visitor season and began work to the floor.
The find, which is believed to be from the late 19th century, was recovered from under one of the boards.
Curator Ruth Battersby-Tooke said: "This is a Derby boot. The laces are on the vamp and it has a galoshed toe with broguing - the punched holes decorating the edge.
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"Because the eyelets are metal then the shoe dates to mid 19th century. This style of boot stays in use all the way through the 19th into the 20th century but I think this is a mid to last quarter 19th. It could be as late as 1880s."
Its dating ties in with the history of the building and staff at the museum believe the boot was probably placed beneath the floor when the schoolroom was originally built.
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Curator Megan Dennis added: "Concealed shoes hidden in buildings have been discovered in many European countries, as well as in other parts of the world, since at least the early modern period.
"Typically boots and shoes are found in chimneys, under floors, above ceilings, around doors and windows or in the roof.
"Some people suggest that they are concealed as magical charms to protect the occupants of the building against evil influences such as demons, ghosts and witches. Maybe the guardians just wanted to keep the pauper children who studied in the schoolroom safe."
The boot will now be added into the museum's collections and will join other unique finds including a mummified cat, which was found in 1983 during renovation work at a 15th century house at Thetford.
- Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse runs a rural heritage centre and is home to a 50 acre estate and working heritage farm. The family friendly museum will open for February half term on Monday, February 17, and will then reopen for the new visitor season on Monday, March 9, 2020. See the website for further information.