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London College of Fashion: College Archive

View all images from the London College of Fashion Cordwainers Shoe Collection

History and Context

C1192, Ten button calf boot by J. Taylor and Son

Cordwainers College had its origins in the Leather Trades School which was founded in Bethnal Green, London in 1887, and was the first school of boot and shoe manufacture. The term "Cordwainer" derives from the fact that in the Middle Ages, the finest leather was imported from Cordova, Spain, and bootmakers working with this leather became known as Cordwainers. The Worshipful Company of Cordwainers, which had been involved in the establishment of the school, took responsibility for it from 1913 when it became known as the Cordwainers Technical College. In 1946 it moved to Mare Street in Hackney and became Cordwainers College in 1989. The college was unique in providing vocational courses in footwear, saddlery and leathercraft. In August 2000 it was incorporated in the London College of Fashion, one of the constituent colleges of the London Institute, where the Cordwainers courses in footwear and accessories continue.

C0759, Slip-on evening shoe by Emma Hope

The shoe collection, of around 650 items, was built up by Cordwainers College as a teaching aid and it consists mainly of women's shoes with some men's and a few children's, the majority being British "fashion" footwear with some orthopaedic, some prize and exhibition work, lasts and shoemaker's tools and some ethnic footwear. A number of the items are unfinished, or cut to show technical details, and others show alterations or repairs.

The shoes cover the period from 1780-1990s and include examples produced by important makers e.g. Pinet, (late 1870's), Joseph Box (1890's), James Taylor (c 1900-1910) and W.L. Douglas (1900, 1920). Many of the men's shoes are important because their rarity. Other well-know makers are represented including Bartley (c 1885-1920), Bata (1960's), Clarks, (1965-71) Flack and Smith (1890's), Peal (1920's and 1930's), Ravel (early 1970's), Rosenthal and Doucette (1930's) and Sacha (c 1973). The collection, although incomplete, includes many items which illustrate the history of shoe fashions and shoemaking constructions and techniques.

C1234, Miniature front lace trainer by Dolphin Twelve of the shoes are on long term loan to Northampton Museum and twelve to Clarks Shoe Museum, where they have been on display. The rest of the collection had been in storage for many years, undocumented and inaccessible, until June Swann M.B.E. (Assistant Keeper of the Boot and Shoe Collection, Northampton Museum 1950-1988, Founder Member and Chairman of the Costume Society 1980-87 and now international Consultant on the History of Shoes and Shoemaking) began to work on the catalogue in 1992. The cataloguing was completed in 2000 and photographed in early 2001 by Alexander Brattell ( a professional photographer who also teaches at the London College of Fashion, with June Swann ensuring that key features were recorded.

Copyright and Permitted Uses

The images and metadata presented in the Cordwainers College Shoe Collection are copyright of the London College of Fashion. They may be used for private research and study purposes only. They must not be copied or amended in any way without first gaining the permission of the copyright holder.

Enquiries regarding reproduction should be sent to the address below. The original shoes are too fragile to be handled and are not available for study purposes.

C1198, Yeomanry hessian knee boot by Bartley and Sons
Address: The Archives
London College of Fashion
20 John Princes Street
London WIG OBJ

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