The Alfred Gillett Trust works very closely with the separate Shoe Museum of C & J Clark Ltd, which showcases the development of the footwear industry and the history of the company. The Shoe Museum provides a public gallery and exhibition space, giving an opportunity for many of the Trust’s heritage collections (usually in storage) to appear on public display.
The Shoe Museum, based in Street, Somerset, houses more than 1500 shoes from Roman to modern day. It tells the story of Clarks from its beginnings in the early 19th century.
There are four galleries which showcase the development of the footwear industry in Street and items on display include shoemaking machinery and tools, advertising materials and hundreds of shoes.
The earliest shoe on display is a 2nd century girl’s sandal sole and there are Roman shoes which were found locally near Langport. Medieval shoes from London are also on show.
There is a beautiful collection of Georgian and Victorian shoes made from a wide range of materials such as satin, silk, brocade, linen, wool and kid leather. There are also buckles and Edwardian side button boots and high lace boots.
A selection of footwear from around the world includes an Emir’s slipper from Nigeria, a Chinese shoe for a bound foot, kub kobs worn in Turkish baths and Finnish shoes made from birch bark.
Highlights of the museum include the last made for Princess Diana’s wedding slipper, a replica of the shoes worn by the Queen when she married Prince Philip, shoes designed by Joanna Lumley, Tracey Emin and Terry de Havilland for charity, and a 1923 Perugia ladies gold, black and silver bar shoe.
Clarks shoes on display include an 1885 facsimile Brown Petersburgh (the first type of footwear made by Clarks), a Clarks child’s bootee from 1840 and a Clarks women’s shoe from 1856. Archival items are also on display and visitors can see the original 1828 apprenticeship indenture of James Clark, who with his elder brother Cyrus founded the footwear business. Other documents include photographs of the Clarks shoe factory in Street and information about the Quakers and the Temperance movement. Advertising material includes 1920s showcards designed by Edward McKnight Kauffer who was well known for working on poster designs for the London Underground during WW1.
A replica outworker’s cottage in the museum shows the tools and equipment used to make shoes by hand and there is also the opportunity to view one of the original offices where members of the Clarks family worked.
Visiting the Museum
Monday-Friday – 10am-4.45pm
Saturday – 10am-4pm
Bank Holidays- sometimes open – please check the museum’s website
Entry is free, but donations are welcome.
How To Find Us
40 High Street (opposite the Bear Inn)
By bus: Regular services from Bristol, Wells and Taunton.
By rail: Nearest stations Bristol and Taunton, then by bus.
Parking: Clarks Outlet Village is a five minute walk away
Museum Officer: Pam Walker
Tel: 01458 842243
Guided tours and educational visits are available for groups booking in advance. To make an enquiry about booking for museum visits or if you have any questions about the museum, please use the contact form below. This email will be sent to the Museum Officer, Clarks (NOT to the Alfred Gillett Trust).