There is a saying that the cobbler's wife is the worst shod, I wonder if that holds true for the shoemaker's wife also? Or did Helen Priestman Bright who married William Stephens Clark of Strete in Somerset have lovely embroidered shoes like these? The Clarks family have traded since the mid 17th century in Strete. (So-called because it is on a causeway specially constructed to carry quarried stone above the marshy Somerset Levels for the building of Glastonbury Cathedral.) In the beginning, Cyrus Clark sold sheepskin rugs, boots and woollen slippers. James, his brother joined him later and together they began making shoes. Today the company is still C & J Clarks. But it was James' son, and Helen's husband, William, who went on to to build the company into the flourishing success it remains to this day, while ploughing back profits into employee housing, welfare and education. This first pair is too early though for Helen, made in 1790 from white satin they have little louis heels.
This second pair, pumps crafted from cleverly tailored brocade is later and dates from 1810-1820. Both pairs come from the Clarks Shoe Museum in Street and I am very grateful to them for the care and consideration taken by the archivist in preparing these images for us to see.
As a little coda to my aquaintance with Clarks, a descendent of the family informed me that one of his female ancestors stitched a map 'sampler' when she was in her 40s. And we are now seeing more samplers stitched by mature women. We are not alone!