Sole Appeal

Julia Simpson on a new museum celebrating the clog shoe

Britain's last surviving Clog Mill has risen phoenix-like from a serious fire, and now offers visitors the double attraction of seeing a working factory and a new museum that celebrates the history of the working man's most practical shoe.

The interior of Walkley's Clog Factory was completely gutted last Christmas, and a vast quantity of documents were lost dating back to 1870, when the mill was founded in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, by James Maude. However, Walkley's refused to admit defeat, putting out a local appeal for paperwork and artefacts to replace what had been lost, and restoring items that had been only partially destroyed by the fire.

The response to the appeal resulted in the re-opening of the original factory building in September, with a new interior that now combines an active industrial factory with a museum that charts the clog's role in the history of the British labour force. Exhibits are distributed around the factory's four floors, and visitors can watch weavers and spinners working in cottages, as well as an authentic steam engine that, it is hoped, will be functional within a few months. Clearly, Walkley's intend to give a more vivid picture of the period in which the mill flourished, by showing other practical skills that were indirectly related to the manufacture of the clogs themselves.

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