Historical shoemaker creates 15th century-inspired platform shoes for Northampton Museum

A pair of 15th century-inspired 12-inch platform shoes are being created by a historical shoemaker to go on display at Northampton Museum and Art Gallery.

Tuesday, 18th June 2019, 5:47 pm
(L-R) Church's apprentices Harry Gayton, Bobby Nangla and Ricardo Coco, shoemaker Andy Burke, Northampton Museum & Art Gallery senior shoe curator Rebecca Shawcross, and Loake apprentices Ben Smith and Matthew Hunt. Photo: Northampton Borough Council

The Venetian chopines are being made by specialist cobbler Andy Burke thanks to funding from the Worshipful Company of Cordwainers.

Rebecca Shawcross, senior shoe curator at the museum said: “Chopines are platform shoes that were worn by women in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries.

"They were very popular in Venice and made with a very tall platform to protect the dress from mud and street dirt.

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The Venetian chopines being made by specialist shoemaker Andy Burke. Photo: Northampton Borough Council

"The size of the chopines was made according to the status of the wearer – the higher the platform, the higher the social status.”

Andy unveiled his work in progress for the first time to shoemaking apprentices at Northampton College during a practical session about his work and the historic and heritage elements of shoemaking.

Colin Needle, employee development executive at the college, said: “Our apprentices are used to getting hands-on and understanding how shoes are made in the 21st century so being able to take a step back in time and learn more about the historical side of the industry is a really good experience for them.

"Discovering the heritage of shoemaking and seeing how styles have evolved over hundreds of years is vital.

"We’re thrilled to have been able to see these stunning chopines during their development stage and look forward to seeing the finished product.”

Penny Graham, clerk at the Worshipful Company of Cordwainers, said the collection of shoes held by Northampton Museum is unrivalled anywhere in the world.

"These are exciting times for footwear in Northampton and we are especially pleased to be able to support the rich heritage of shoemaking in the town," she added.

For more information about Northampton Museum & Art Gallery visit www.northampton.gov.uk/museums