National Leather Collection boss wants Northampton shoe companies to display footwear at museum
The National Leather Collection, with over 10,000 artefacts dating from prehistory to modern day, has backed the Chronicle & Echo's Save Our Sole campaign to promote Northampton's famous shoe heritage.
The campaign aims to champion Northamptonshire’s rich shoe-making history and get international tourists - who are known for visiting the factory shops and immediately leaving by bus - into the town centre to boost tourism.
The museum, based on the top floor of the Grosvenor Centre, opened last year and features the world's largest treasury of historical leather artefacts, including Daniel Craig’s very own signed Crockett and Jones shoes worn on set in Spectre, fragments of the dead sea scrolls and Queen Victoria’s side saddle.
The collection, which is on loan to Northampton Borough Council until 2028, is funded partly by The Leathersellers' Company in London, and a two year community grant scheme provided by the local authority.
However, its long-term future is still unclear.
Museum boss Philip Warner said: "Northampton is a town built on its shoe and leather heritage.
"We have been the best at it for more than 900 years. We want people here to be celebrating what is good for the town.
"Ours is one of many green shoots of growth. The challenge is to get more partnership working, and essentially trust locals more with the ongoing work to make the town thrive."
His new venture as curator is to get shoe companies to sponsor a cabinet inside the museum to display their wares - for a fee to help with running costs of the leather collection - so he can tell the firms’ stories and champion Northampton’s footwear.
But with little signposting to the museum in the Grosvenor Centre and a display that's not in the 'cultural quarter' Philip said the museum might struggle to attract shoe companies if they don't work closely with the borough council to promote the museum.
He added: "It’s not about spending lots of money its more about joined up thinking and partnership working.
"The promotion around heritage open days is a great example of Northampton Borough Council leading in the right direction and everyone benefiting.
"But more talks about expanding the remit of the cultural quarter and a shared cultural strategy document embracing industry and education would help smaller organisations such as ourselves to play a part in bringing the tourists and locals back into this wonderful town centre."
The collection was established in 1946 following the work of John Waterer, whose passion for leather led him to collect thousands of unique items in his lifetime and create a library of over 3,000 volumes on leather craft.
Councillor Anna King, Northampton Borough Council Cabinet member for community engagement and safety, said the local authority is sorting out signs to point people to its location.
“The National Leather Collection is a fascinating element of Northampton’s cultural offering and we are extremely proud and supportive of it.
“To that end, we are funding the collection to enable the trustees to seek support from other sources, and we’re in the process of devising new wayfinding signage for the town centre which highlights the museum’s location.
“Northampton has a long and proud connection with leather-working, particularly as the global centre of quality footwear manufacture, and I would urge anyone who has an interest in that history to head along to the Grosvenor Centre and take a look at the collection.”
Other artefacts include the jewel casket of King Charles V, a 17th century Scottish shield and a Victorian-era set of pince-nez glasses with a carry case.
The museum is free to enter every Wednesday and Saturday between 10am and 4pm, or during the week by appointment.