Sole2Soul: Boot and Shoe Snippets


Facts about the Falkner exhibit from my research at Market Harborough Museum.

  • In 1831 Pigot’s Directory records that Harris Falkner, boot and shoe maker, had a shop in the Sheep Market, Market Harborough.
  • There was a separate rack of lasts in the Falkner workshop for “specials”. Many of these were for “customers with awkward feet”.
  • The brown paper measures often carried comments such as “nasty corn under the big toe joint”.
  • In 1890 a sailor was charged with stealing a pair of shoes valued at 18/- and was committed to the Quarter Sessions at Leicester.
  • Leather had to be checked for holes left by the warble fly – these were usually in the best part of the skin on either side of the backbone.


Sole2Soul: My commissioned poem


Market Day

As if pulled by linen thread he was drawn
to the shop, past traders’ shouts and bleating sheep.
Leather essence wrapped itself around him,
each breath a blend of comfort and sharp nostalgia.
He ran his hand along the rack of lasts,
savoured the mellowed beech, remembered
every stage: selecting morocco,
calf or kid; checking for signs of warble fly;
laying it out on the willow cutting board.
By instinct he inspected the uppers
of a pair of newly-finished shoes – the smell,
their feel. He longed to step through the open door
into the yard, move among the bales of horsehide.
Instead he tucked the shoes under his coat
and strode towards The Swan.


Sole2Soul: The writing process #4



I couldn’t get part of the poem to work so rewrote it in the third person – it made all the difference. After a couple of minor redrafts it felt complete. Paul Valery said, “Poems are never finished – just abandoned” but I prefer to think of letting go of my poems.


Sole2Soul: The writing process #3


Once I had written my first draft, I switched from pen and paper to laptop and typed it up, and immediately started to move words, phrases and lines to create a second draft.


The photos in these posts show sections of the Falkner exhibit. The recreated workshop is crammed with lasts, tools, and a range of items used in shoemaking.

Other exhibitions in the refurbished museum include the Hallaton Treasure, 17th century toys, and a display about the corset factory.


Sole2Soul: The writing process #2


From the information I’d gathered, I made initial notes for my poem – words, phrases ideas to include. The story of the thief remained the focus. I realised I had a few gaps in my research so checked dates, materials and methods to ensure authenticity. The first draft emerged – rough and incomplete – as I distilled my notes and ideas into the shape of the poem.


Sole2Soul: The writing process #1


I was delighted to be commissioned to write a poem in response to the Falkner Boot and Shoe exhibit at Market Harborough Museum and enjoyed my visit there, taking photos and making notes. I was given access to a slender folder of documents about the Falkner business. This included a newspaper article about the theft of a pair of shoes in 1890 which gave me the initial idea for the focus of my poem. Once home, I researched online for information about the process of shoemaking.

Information about the Sole2Soul project can be found at: