The Shoe Museum, Street
Street in Somerset is a shoe town, well more accurately a village. Since the 1830s Clarks have been making shoes in Street, and while their shoes are now manufactured abroad, its headquarters are still located there. Within these headquarters is housed the most delightful little museum.
Passing through the corporate-style glass doors you find the introductory section which tells of the origins of Clarks and has a fabulous display of some of the fearsome foot measuring machines that used to feature in their shops. There’s also a selection of shop display showcards from the thirties, fifties and sixties. In fact ‘showcard’ does them an injustice - some are stylish and charming little 3D dioramas.
Up the wooden staircase the museum really gets into its stride, with a comprehensive chronological display of the history of shoes, housed in simple vitrines with hessian backed displays, a touch that reminds me of museums in the seventies and perhaps gives a clue as to when this museum was established. While the overriding emphasis is on shoes worn in Britain, from Roman times on, there are plenty of examples of footwear from all over the world, including some adorable Chinese silk children’s shoes. Even the most resistant visitor will soon be fascinated, as my (male) companion will happily confirm.
There’s plenty of contextual information should you need it, especially from the 19th century and on, including fashion pictures, advertisements, catalogue illustrations and photographs of shops. But its also possible, and perfectly natural, just to ooh and aah. One thing you can’t do it is rush through it - there’s so much to detain you despite its small size. Importantly, you are welcome to take pictures, something that cannot be taken for granted in many museums these days.