In homage to the town’s long and celebrated history of shoe-making, the Northampton Museum & Gallery houses one of the world’s largest collection of footwear.
The town of Northampton, England, first made a name for itself as Britain’s premier shoemaking capitol in the 15th century, peaking in the mid-1840s as more than 1,800 shoemakers operated in the town. Some of history’s most notable footwear fads originated in the town, such as the first JuJu jelly shoe.
Just a few shoe manufacturers remain in Northampton today, but the town’s museum has devoted an enormous swath of its collection to document this legacy. The museum began collecting shoes in the 1870s, which range from medieval pointy-toed poulaines to modern, high-fashion stilettos.
The museum dedicates two galleries to their footwear collection. “Life & Sole” spotlights the history of shoemaking and “Followers of Fashion” tracks trends across the centuries, culminating in haute couture. The 12,000-something shoes in the collection contain some real oddities, such as the boots Elton John wore in the film Pinball Wizard, boots made for an elephant, and cleats signed by soccer legend David Beckham.
Know Before You Go
The shoe gallery is in a basement room on the left-hand side and is signposted from the entrance. The museum is closed Mondays, except for Bank Holidays.