Guest post by the Museum of London

Visiting the Past: An Irish Shoe in London

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Irish shoe at the Museum of London

St Patrick’s Day is nearly here and London will once again be awash with 40 shades of green, but what are the celebrations all about?

They commemorate St Patrick, who is traditionally said to have brought Christianity to Ireland in the 5th century AD. The Early Christian period in Ireland (c. 400AD to 1000AD) was a time of artistic and cultural wealth – illuminated manuscripts such as the Book of Kells and fine metalwork like the Ardagh chalice were produced.

But what was everyday life like and, more importantly for the fashion conscious, what were people wearing?

During research for the Museum of London’s Collections Online Project, a very strange looking shoe was discovered, unlike any type of footwear usually found in London. It has now been identified as coming from Ireland and dating to the Early Christian period. But what was this shoe doing in London and in the collections of the Museum of London? A hunt through our paper records provided the answer.

The shoe had been bought by Sir Guy Laking, first Keeper of the London Museum, which was founded in 1911. It was described as being Irish, but was bought by him to be used in the museum displays “to show type of shoe worn in Anglo-Saxon Times”. So here is an object that originally had nothing to do with London but is now part of London’s history, telling a story about the development of the Museum’s collections, which are many and varied.

Museum of LondonSo Happy St Patrick’s Day and why not celebrate by looking at some of our wonderful collections online?

A guest post by the Museum of London as part of our Visiting the Past series. More London history next week.