Footwear Finds

May 2014

Members of the Bailies Work Party working near the new pond on 5th April stumbled upon a collection of footwear on the surface of the ground within the FCS land. The items had presumably been buried in a pit long ago, which had experienced subsequent disturbance by ditch digging (probably), 20th-century tree planting, and recent felling, all of which may have contributed to bringing these items to the surface. We gathered most of the visible artefacts over a period of a few minutes, but did not excavate. The site has been marked and Jackie has a GPS grid reference.
Having ended up with the bag of finds, I carried out basic cleaning, and now have a collection of some 58 footwear remnants plus a few unidentifiable bits of leather. Listing is in progress. There are some interesting observations. The minimum number of pairs of shoes represented by the surviving remnants is 14, although no matching pairs (i.e. left and right) were found. Probably the missing ones are still buried. Most of the items are from ladies footwear (see attached photos for one of the better examples), consisting of dress shoes and work boots (although some detached eyelet strips could be from men's boots). There is one child's boot, very similar to the one in the Bennachie Centre's permanent exhibition. Generally, the footwear has fallen apart due to the fine stitching having decayed, hence there a lots of separated pieces, although the leather itself in some cases is still serviceable! The only inscriptions found were "VIII" on a sole, and "4" plus "IIII" on an insole. Lastly, it is of note that absolutely no bootlaces were found, despite a reasonable assumption that some of them, at least, would have been of leather.
As it happens, the find site is only 50-100 metres from the ruined farmhouse known as Cummingston, which is situated just across the Clachie Burn and formerly accessed by a ford and, probably by a footbridge when the house was occupied. I do not know when it was finally vacated. It would appear that at some stage an accumulation of footwear was removed and buried on nearby land. More questions!!
So, we have a presumed pit full of footwear. Excavation might be inadvisable unless we have a home for the numerous finds which are likely to result. Meanwhile, I am currently looking after Saturday's finds, but would like to find a home for them (together with provenance ID and professional conservation where justified) as soon as possible. Input from Bailies Council and others will be welcomed.

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