Holy Island shoe discovery's possible link to witches and demons

An old shoe found on Holy Island could have been used to keep witches and demons at bay

Holy Island Roger Andrews with the ladies boot he found at the bottom of his fireplace during renovations
Holy Island Roger Andrews with the ladies boot he found at the bottom of his fireplace during renovations

A shoe thought to have been used to keep witches and demons at bay in the dim and distant past has been discovered in the chimney of an island home.

The brown leather boot, which could date back to the year 1800, was found in a hidden fireplace at a property on Holy Island, by workmen.

Roger and Lesley Andrews, who live at Market Square, asked builders to take out their fireplace in order to find out whether there was an Inglenook fire place behind it.

The workmen confirmed that there was and inside its chimney they discovered the battered old shoe, alongside a broken glass bottle.

Mr Andrews, a retired 70-year-old who used to run a telecoms company, has been carrying out research into the finds.

Holy Island Roger Andrews with the ladies boot he found at the bottom of his fireplace during renovations
Holy Island Roger Andrews with the ladies boot he found at the bottom of his fireplace during renovations
 

This has led him to believe that the boot could date back to 1800, with shoes before this time the same for left and right feet but that in his home - parts of which date back to the 17th century - being for a right.

He has come across two possible explanations for why the shoe would have been left in the chimney, the first of which involved evil spirits.

“The theory is that in the medieval times when people were doing renovations or building work they would put a shoe in the fireplace or in the floor boards and the point of this was to attract witches and demons and spirits and what would happen is that eventually demons were attracted to the smell in the shoe.

“The demons would go into the shoe after the smell and they could not get out.”

There was a similar belief about bottles with it believed inquisitive spirits would go inside and not be able to escape.

Holy Island Roger Andrews with the ladies boot he found at the bottom of his fireplace during renovations
Holy Island Roger Andrews with the ladies boot he found at the bottom of his fireplace during renovations
 

It was thought witches and demons could get into a house easily down its chimney which is the reason many shoes were left in chimneys.

The alternative reason for shoes being left lying around in homes was because they were believed to be linked to fertility.

The explanations for this link are twofold, with the fact shoes are tied to the bumpers of wedding cars one. The second is the reference in a nursery rhyme to an old woman who lived in a shoe and having so many children, she didn’t know what to do.

Whatever the reason, the Andrews are planning to put a new shoe in the chimney when their fireplace is replaced, and possibly the old one, with a note of explanation by way of time capsule.

Roger explained: “We are going to keep the tradition going as we do not want any bad luck!”

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer