Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Saturday, 17 March 2018

An industry treasure-trove - the National Leather Collection

Northampton's historic market square

Welcome back good shoe folk, having just thrown the mantle of winter off its due to be back with avengeance this weekend with gallons of snow predicted for the UK. 

Fortunately we snuck in our trip to Northampton at the start of the week...when it was just grey and rainy.... a warm welcome and glimpse of the treasure trove at the National Leather Collection soon cheered us up. Many thanks to Phil and Vicky...

Whitaker Malem 

Leather work courses and activities
As you can see, the main exhibition is a huge space with a fascinating array of leather items from across the centuries on display...but with 10,000 pieces in the collection it is not where the real treasure lies. Make an appointment with Phil or Vicky to spend time in the archives and you never know what you might discover.

The trunk room
Surface decoration

Stitch detail

Strap detail

Doe skin covered case....from the days of travel and exploration in style

Shoe display models

Showing stitch sizes for a customer to choose from

Leather detailing and stud work on a coach
Leather mirror surround

There aren't just amazing objects could get lost for days in the contents of the library....shelves of wonderful resource from books to magazines and old trade catalogues...many still in boxes ready to be sorted and displayed.

The library...

The Collection's survival and potential expansion requires continued support from the industry, the Guilds, the Council and the landlord...a not insurmountable task! It's one which Phil and Vicky are approaching with pragmatism, passion and patience. 

Investment would see the collection curated, archived and housed permanently in the Grade II listed building next door; with an activity and exhibition space in the existing rooms and crafts studios above. 

It's a collection of such size, national and international importance surely it must be preserved and available as a resource...making it a 'must-see' destination for leather professionals, designers, craftspeople and conservators from across the the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto?

If helping with the funding is a stretch I'm sure Phil and Vicky would welcome any volunteers to sort through and help to archive the books. We're certainly going to be heading back soon to do our bit...and obviously lock ourselves away in the archive for a good rummage! 

Until next week and part two of our trip to Northampton, happy shoe making!