April Phillips Footwear at the Northampton Museums & Art Gallery UK + top ten footwear pieces from the collection

Back in October 2013 I exhibited a series of five boots at Gallery@OXO tower London UK ‘The Imaginary Happenings of Hospitalfield’ (to view these boots along with a short video click here) : A body of work created in response to an artist residency opportunity at Hospitalfield House, Arbroath, Scotland.

All five boots have recently been acquired by The Northampton Museums & Art Gallery UK permanent footwear collection. The museum has one of the worlds most outstanding footwear collections, with key pieces that represent makers, design, production, innovation, and the history of footwear. Together the collection stands to preserve footwear for the future ~ so for my series boots to be cared for amongst such an important crowd of footwear styles I am truly proud and honoured.

To celebrate the new acquisition I requested the Northampton Museums and Art Gallery put forward ten footwear styles from the permanent collection that are considered to be of special significance.  I imagine it must have been very difficult to compile this list, Thank you to the team at the museum for assisting me to put together this post.

no. 1: Queen Victoria’s Wedding Shoes


Queen Victoria wedding shoes

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Queen Victoria & Prince Albert on their wedding day 1840

Maker / Brand: Gundry & Son, 1 Soho Square, London. Boot and Shoemakers to the Queen

Dated: 1840

Date of acquisition: January 1949

Origin: Donation

Materials: Silk, Satin and Leather

Significance: unique, worn by Queen Victoria on her wedding day

Key Detail: Long ribbon ties fastened round the ankles to hold the shoes in place.                                                                                                                                                                                                            

These shoes…were worn by Queen Victoria on her wedding day 10th February 1840. Queen Victoria married her cousin Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in the Chapel Royal, St. James, London. To compliment her white satin dress trimmed with Honiton lace she wore these flat soled shoes trimmed with ribbon. They show the typical style worn by women of the time – simple flat soled square toed slip on shoes.

no. 2: Moira Shearer’s pointe ballet shoes


Freed pointe shoes made for the film ‘The Red Shoes’ (1948)

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Moira Shearer in the film ‘The Red Shoes’ (1948)

Maker / Brand: Freed

Dated: 1948

Date of acquisition: 1966

Origin: Donation

Materials: Satin and Leather

Significance: Evocative pointe shoes made for Moira Shearer to wear in the film ‘The Red Shoes’ (1948)

Key Detail:  This pair was prepared to be worn, the toes have been darned and the ribbons attached, but they remained unused.

These pointe ballet shoes… were one of twenty five pairs  of pointe shoes made by Freed to be worn by Moira Shearer to take her through all rehearsals and filming.

no. 3 Cloud and Rainbow Heels


Maker / Brand: Shoemaker and designer Thea Cadabra

Dated: 1979

Date of acquisition: 1979

Origin: Purchased from Thea Cadabra

Materials: Suede, Leather, Synthetic materials and beads

Significance: An eye catching seminal design by Thea Cadabra

Key Detail: Floating cloud and lightning motifs, mixed material combination

These heels… were made for the Arts Council exhibition called The Shoe Show: British Shoes Since 1790. It took place at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, The Mall London, 5 December 1979 to 6 January 1980.

no. 4: 1851 Exhibition boot

B0009P 0039

John Nelson Hefford boots 1851

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Interior sketch for media of the great Exhibition london – ‘The Crystal Palace’, UK 1851,

Maker / Brand:  John Nelson Hefford, shoemaker from Derby

Dated: 1851

Date of acquisition: 2006

Origin: Donation

Materials: Leather

Significance: A showcase of skills for the great exhibition UK. Came with label stating  the pair won a prize medal at the Great Exhibition 1851.

Key Details: Pair of beige and black leather dress Wellington boots. They have a wide flat square toe with a low stacked heel. Galosh in black leather with shaped top edge. Leg in beige leather with side seams piped in red. Front of leg decorated with appliqué design in black leather and coloured silk (now missing) of crown, national emblems, crosses, stars and scalloped border. Back of leg decorated with scrolling pattern. Beige leather boot top band. Wide ribbon loop sewn to inside of top at sides. Its leather sole has a domed waist.

This pair of boots… are a wonderful example of exhibition craftsmanship. Shoemakers were craftsmen. They had served an apprenticeship to learn their trade and were proud of their skills. They often made special shoes for exhibitions, beginning with the Great Exhibition of 1851.  These are full size shoes and could be worn if you could get them on your feet. They show a very high standard of workmanship.

no 5: Kinky Boots


kinky boots from the film made in 2005

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Transition from making mens formal shoes to over the knee boots, from the film ‘Kinky boots’ 2005

Maker / Brand: Unknown

Dated: 2005

Date of acquisition: 2006

Origin: Loan and then donation

Materials: Leather and printed pony

Significance: Appeared as set dressing / props in the film Kinky Boots (2005).

Key Detail: Dramatic metallic red over the knee boot

These boots… were used in the film Kinky Boots. The film was based on the true story of a shoemaker from Earls Barton, Northamptonshire who diversified into making large size Kinky Boots for men and women.

no 6: Silver Platforms

B0009P 0030

silver platforms made by John Fluevog Shoes for Sacha, 1970s

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Disco dance floor, 1970s

Maker / Brand: John Fluevog Shoes for Sacha

Dated: 1970s

Date of acquisition: 2006

Origin: Purchased

Materials: Leather and synthetic

Significance: A wonderful example of 1970s platform shoes

Key Detail: Metallic leather with a dynamic square toe & high flared heels

This pair of woman’s silver leather buckle shoes with platform sole…examine the transition of footwear styles from the 60s to the 70s and capture the spirit of the 1970s dance floor

no 7: Confetti Shoe


single shoe covered in confetti made as made by ‘the girls’ sears factory as a wedding gift

Maker / Brand: Made by ‘the girls’, the closers, at Sears Factory, Northampton in 1925. This was a common practice at the factory to make a confetti shoe to give to a bride working at the same shoe factory.

Dated: 1925

Date of acquisition: 1987

Origin: Donation

Materials: paper, ribbon, adhesive

Significance: A great example of how shoes can pervade all aspects of life and be associated with rites of passage

Key Detail: Women’s single shoe covered with confetti, ribbon tied on vamp

This single shoe… was given to Edith Crouch at her wedding to Frederick Arthur Amos at St Michael’s Church, Northampton on August 2 1925. Edith was a closer at Sears shoe factory and Fred was a clicker at Oakeshott & Finnemore shoe factory.

no 8: Super Elevated Ghillie Platforms


Vivienne Westwood commissioned platforms for the Northampton Museum and Art Gallery

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Super model Naomi Campbell falls during a Vivienne Westwood catwalk show in Paris 1993

Maker / Brand: Designed by Vivienne Westwood

Dated: 1998

Date of acquisition: 1999

Origin: Commissioned and purchased

Materials: Leather, synthetic material, and cotton laces

Significance: The blue moc croc Super Elevated Ghillie shoes were made famous when the super model Naomi Campbell was filmed falling to the ground in them as she walked down the catwalk for the Vivienne Westwood Autumn/Winter 1993-4 collection.

These platforms… were made famous when Naomi tumbled during a catwalk show in Paris in 1993. The innovative adaptation of  a traditional footwear style is typical to many shoes Vivienne Westwood has designed during her career.

no 9: Wheel Heels


wheel heels, Designed by Maurice Kurdash for Mexico shoes Ltd

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Maker / Brand: Designed by Maurice Kurdash for Mexico shoes Ltd (now Gina Shoes Ltd)

Dated: Circa 1965

Date of acquisition:  2001                                                                                                                                                                                     

Origin: Donation

Materials: Leather and brass

Significance: A very interesting design from the 1960s.

Key Detail: Wheel in place of top piece on heel

This Pair of pumps… features a wheel is set at a critical angle, so that as the wearer puts weight on it a brake action is achieved. It was said to prevent the pitting problems in floors as well as problems of the heel breaking. Quite a novelty but do you think you can wear them safely?

no 10: George Boots

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Mens Boot with a print of lead singer of the Northampton band: Bauhaus Pete Murphy Designed by Guy West for Jeffery-West

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Northampton band : Bauhaus. Lead singer Pete Murphy (third from left)

Maker / Brand: Designed by Guy West for Jeffery-West

Dated: 1998-1999

Date of acquisition: 2002

Origin: Donation

Materials: Leather

Significance: These boots take Northampton’s long standing tradition of making classic English men’s shoes and with the Jeffery-West own twist.

Key Detail: The leather has been digitally printed with a repeated image of Pete Murphy who was the lead singer of Northampton band Bauhaus

These mens boots… are made through Jeffery-West, a well-known and successful shoe company located in Northampton and with outlets in Piccadilly, London City, Leeds, Manchester, New York and Taipei.  We are always interested in expanding our collection and are keen to collect locally made shoes as well as shoes from across the world.

I highly recommend having a look at the Northampton Museums and Art Gallery blog which you can find by clicking: HERE

Until next time,



2 thoughts on “April Phillips Footwear at the Northampton Museums & Art Gallery UK + top ten footwear pieces from the collection

  1. Hey April
    Loved this post .. How wonderful to have your fabulous shoes in such good company .. Very exciting for you ! Do you think you will miss them ? There would be some sort of emotional attachment to your work with all the love and attention you give them ! Sounds like place I would love to visit if I ever find myself in that part of the world.. Well done ..
    Sim x

  2. Thank you Sim for taking the time to post a comment – I think the fact that they are in such good company outweighs any longing I have to have them with me. The work was made in response and exhibited in the UK so it makes sense they ended up there. I also think it is always good to have a separation from one body of work to the next – which this acquisition has allowed. I hope the series will do great things across the world in their new home.

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