Object of the Month – February 2022

This is no ordinary shoe. It was discovered in 1975 behind a chimney in Wright’s Bakery, (now Costa Coffee) by Ron Mott, who was doing building repairs on the roof at the time.  An article about the discovery appeared in the Oxford Mail in September 1975.

Shoes were often hidden in chimneys, floorboards or walls, to protect the household against evil forces.  Chimneys particularly, were believed to be a gateway for bad spirits and ‘witches’.  A well protected home was a defence against multiple misfortunes that could be encountered in a world built upon superstition. Even though the last ‘witch’ was persecuted in 1680 there is evidence of continued rituals of protecting the home through to the early twentieth century. Children’s shoes were most often chosen because they represented innocent souls.

This shoe is now displayed in the Elizabethan Wall Paintings room at the museum.

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