The oldest houses in Britain conceal a shared secret – a load of old footwear. Medieval houses often give up their mysterious stores of hidden shoes when alterations are made and old partitions or foundations are opened up. The tradition is that the ‘sacrifice’ of a piece of footwear keeps evil spirits – perhaps the devil himself – at bay. And who doesn’t have an old odd shoe to trade for a lifetime or more of luck?
Woodchester Mansion is no exception, and last week a Victorian worker’s hobnailed boot was found lodged into an eaves space by builders preparing to start on roof repairs in the unfinished buildings North Range.
WMT Manager Hannah Jones says; “The boot is going back where we found it. Woodchester Mansion is famed for its paranormal activities and we do our best to take very good care of our resident spirits.”
The tradition of ‘concealment shoes’ is obscure but might derive from the idea of human sacrifice, thankfully out of fashion today. WMT Chairman Stephen Davis says; “In the United States there is folk tradition that the devil catches you by the heel but if you grease your foot all he will be left with is your shoe. Maybe it’s where we get the expression ‘a load of old cobblers’ from.”
Visitors to Woodchester Mansion have always been advised to bring stout footwear for their tours, but are discouraged from leaving it behind.