Northampton has a long history of shoemaking dating back to the 15th century. Medieval shoemakers were then known as cordwainers. Northampton was ideally situated for cordwaining, it had a good local supply of materials, being close to large cattle markets and its central location made it the perfect spot for distribution.
The Northampton Museum and Art Gallery is home to some fine examples of shoes and shoemaking equipment. The collection boasts an impressive 15000 shoes from across the globe and includes shoes dating from ancient Egypt to the latest fashions. It is home to a wonderful collection of shoes crafted over the centuries here in Northampton.
Over the past few weeks many of us have had the opportunity to visit the museum which is located in the town centre. Over the past 18 months the museum has undergone a remodel and the results are fabulous, there really is something for everyone.
The basement of the museum is home to its famous shoe collection. The exhibits are beautifully displayed with some of the older pieces being encased in glass and some pieces being accessable to the public. We were able to handle the cordwaining tools and really get a sense of the processes involved, you could almost feel the history running through them.
Following on from the shoe exhibits we visited an exhibiton of Northampton’s rich history. We saw photographs of well known buildings and their evolution through the centuries. There was a wealth of information about the people who have lived and worked in Northampton and a catalogue of their acheivements. We discovered that the founders of the British Red Cross were from Northampton.
The top floor of the museum is dedicated to the history of Northampton with exhibits dating back to the Anglo Saxons and the Vikings. It is quite something to see artifacts from so long ago, it reinforces just how far we’ve come and how much has been achieved.
Finally we visited the gallery and were shown some wonderful pieces by local artists, we are surrounded by such talent and it was lovely to be able to see it.
We are surrounded by such innovation and talent and we often take it for granted. This trip provided the perfect reminder of our journey through history and of the great strides made by our ancestors.
This trip was both informative and interesting but most of all it was uplifting, we all came away with a greater appreciation for Northampton and for all who have dwelled here.