The Shoe Museum
Richard Cavendish reflects on the growth of the Clark's shoe industry.
The town of Street in Somerset, just outside Glastonbury, is a rare thing in the south of England – a company town. With a population of about 10,000, it is dominated by the massive footwear firm of C. and J. Clark Ltd. Since the nineteenth century the bulk of the town's pay packets, directly or indirectly, as well as much of its housing stock, schooling and amenities, a theatre, the sports field and almost all the principal buildings, have come from Clark's Shoes. The company opened the Shoe Museum in 1974 in the oldest part of the factory building in Street. Admission is free and it attracts some 45,000 visitors a year, so the museum has become a factor in the town's economy, which also depends on its astonishing number of discount shoe shops, queuing up in orderly fashion heel to toe along the High Street.