Concealing shoes in the post-medieval house
Within walls, up chimneybreasts, and under floorboards are just some of the strange places in which shoes have been found. Accidental loss cannot account for their locations; they must have been deliberately secreted away with no intention of retrieval. This custom of concealment was evidently popular throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, with almost 2000 concealed shoes on record, but it remains a mystery to us. Why were such shoes concealed? What were their concealers hoping to achieve? In this talk, Dr. Ceri Houlbrook will consider possible answers to these questions, exploring the theory that shoes were employed as protective devices, concealed within homes to protect the inhabitants from evil forces.
Ceri Houlbrook is a historic ethnographer and archaeologist, whose primary interests include the materiality of post-medieval magic and ritual, and contemporary folkloric practices. She attained her doctorate in Archaeology from the University of Manchester in 2014, having written her thesis on the British custom of coin-trees, and is currently a postdoctoral research assistant on the ‘Inner Lives’ project, University of Hertfordshire. This role sees her mapping concealed deposits across the British Isles and engaging with their contemporary finders.