Based on childhood recollections
of shops in Edmonton, north London in Edwardian times.
Shops where shoes were made or mended were always called 'snobs' when I was a child
in the early 1900s. I don't know why, but everyone did it, although the term
'cobbler' became more common as I grew older.
A 'snob' or cobbler in the early 1900s mending a boot.
Adapted from a sketch provided by Rosemary Hampton from
her book: A Jersey Family: from Vikings to Victorians,
published by Channel Islands Family History Society, available from
Printed Word Bookshop. SEE INSIDE
The snobs in Silver Street, Edmonton was owned by a family called Westbrook:
a husband and wife who had two daughters. There was also an old gentleman who
I thought was the grandfather.
The 1911 census shows that my mother's memory was absolutely
right: Edward Westbrook, 29, was a bootmaker, born in London, who lived
at 103 Silver Street (presumably over his shop) with his wife Rose, 28,
born in Islington and daughters Jenny, 4, and Rose,1, both born in Edmonton.
Furthermore, Edward's father-in-law, Charles Budd, lived with them. He was a widower, 62,
a boot repairer, born in nearby Southgate.
Pat Cryer, webmaster
In the 1930s there was another cobbler in the area. See the
Above: Rose and Edward Westbrook, courtesy of David Riggs.
Cobbler's workshop. Click the thumbnail for a large image, which clearly
shows all the tools of the trade.
Mrs Westbrook helped in the shop, taking the money and giving out the receipts
and tickets. She was very pleasant but her husband was a man of few words.
A hobbing foot of the type shown in the drawing, courtesy of Ken Pople.
It has been in his family for many years and has RD NO 703160 on it with
what looks like an 8 above it. Neither he nor I know what his means. Do
you? Pat Cryer
Wooden shoe lasts, photographed in Amberley Museum.
Desmond Dyer points out that the two outer lasts were adjustable by
turning the handle or handles and were inserted into shoes to stretch the upper
to alleviate the pain caused by bunions or calluses.
Most of the work was done by hand. Although there was a machine in the middle
of the shop, it was only used to finish repairs off, once the boots or shoes
had been soled and heeled.
A 'hobbing foot' was a piece of metal shaped like
a shoe which supported a shoe while it was being mended. A 'last' - as I
understand it - was (and is) - the wooden form around which a shoe is
moulded while being made. Pat Cryer
Granddad would sit in the shop with a cape round his shoulders and a hobbing
foot between his legs doing some of the repair work.
Above: Charles Budd ('granddad'), courtesy of David Riggs.
To me, it seemed amazing how Granddad would put a number of tacks into his
mouth and then take them out one by one as he needed them for hammering them
into the leather. I was sure he would injure himself, but he never seemed to.
His eyes had that screwed up look that people seem to get when they have to
concentrate on handwork.
Peter Johnson remembers being told about a nearby boot and shoemender's shop of the same period
run by his own family, the Wilkinsons, just on the boundary with Tottenham opposite Noel Park.
Working practices would have been very
My auntie Edie as a small girl would deliver the repaired boots and shoes to the larger houses on a Saturday morning, and bring back all those that needed repairing. These she carried in a sack slung over her shoulder, for
which she would get a small wage plus tips, I remember her saying that she used to deliver to
Pymmes Villas and the big house in
Park. I think the Tylers lived there then.
My father mended our boots and shoes
at home so he could, to save money.
The living area of the shop - probably typical of that in other local shops
The shop had a small back room with a fireplace which was the living accommodation. A door led off into a narrow hallway with a staircase. At the back of the property was a small
scullery and another small room leading from it housing a bath
- which was probably only plumbed for cold water.
The bath always seemed to be full of fish which Eddie (junior) caught, I
believe, mainly in the River Lee. He was a very keen fresh fisherman.
Behind the bath on the other side of the wall was the outside
privy, which was the usual affair - a
chain flush and a
seat which was a board with a hole in it.
Upstairs there was a landing with bedrooms off. I cannot remember how many there were. Then there was another flight of stairs up to the sitting room which went right across the property. It was a big room with a full-sized billiards table and various pieces of furniture plus a lovely
fireplace. The windows were
looked out onto Silver Street. Every time a bus passed they rattled horribly and must have been very draughty.
Granddaughter of Edward and Rose Westbrook
This website Join me in the 1900s is a contribution to the social history of everyday life in early to mid 20th century Britain, seen through personal recollections and illustrations, with the emphasis on what it was like to live in those times. It is © Pat Cryer.