52 Weeks – Heirloom

Many of the heirlooms I have are a bit of a mystery to me. I discovered a number of family items in the attic when I cleared the house after my Mum died. These included items belonging to my paternal Grandma, who lived with us for a number of years until she died. Identifying who heirlooms belonged to is a puzzle, largely based on which box I found the item in and what else was in the box!

These shoemakers’ lasts came from a box belonging to my Grandma. So, despite the fact I know there are shoemakers and cordwainers on my Mum’s side – mostly following the military around (who always need boots!), I must deduce they belong to her side of the family.

Who does my heirloom belong to?

Wandering back up Grandma’s family tree I can only find a couple of Shoemakers and Bootmakers in the census records. My 3x Great Grandfather Thomas Wood and his son Thomas. I guess they are his!

The elder Thomas Wood was born in Chevening, Kent in 1798 and after he married Sophia Bowles in 1822 he moved about 10 miles to Farningham, in Kent where he stayed for the rest of his life. It appears that Farningham was a thriving community with up to 6 stagecoaches passing through each day, so I guess there were enough people to provide a shoemaker with a living. His 4th child, Jane was my 2xGreat Grandmother.

The unanswered question this leaves me with is “Are these lasts actually old enough to be his?” There is very little wear on them and internet searching has not revealed much to help me date them.

So, what can I tell?

  • The lasts are small and narrow compared to modern shoes and are shaped, so you can tell the right foot from the left.
    • This shaping of lasts came in from the mid C19.
  • They have L & R stamped on them in a serif font that is consistent with the time.
  • If I look more closely at how they were made they do seem to straddle that boundary between machine manufacture and handmade items.
    • The screw mechanism is machined, the slot for the metal bar is hand chiselled. The handle for the screw was turned on a lathe.
    • This is consistent with the late C19 when industrialisation was on the rise.

I will continue to search for more information about shoemaking at the end of the C19 but, for the moment, I am satisfied that these lasts belonged to GGG Grandad Thomas Wood!


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