logo - Join me in the 1900s early C20th
Florence Cole as a child

A cobbler's shop
in the early 1900s

YOU ARE HERE: home > shops > shops & shopping, early 1900s > cobblers

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.

We didn't need to go to the shop much because my father mended our boots and shoes at home to save money, but I clearly remember the times that we did go.

A cobbler, also known as a 'snob' or a shoe-mender in the early 1900s mending a boot.

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 The Printed Word Bookshop. SEE INSIDE THE BOOK.

The snobs in Silver Street in Edmonton where I grew up 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.

Cobblers in Edmonton from the 1911 census

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 advert.

Rose Westbrook, early 1900s

Rose Westbrook, courtesy of David Riggs.

Edward Westbrook, early 1900s

Edward Westbrook, courtesy of David Riggs.

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.

Hobbing foot

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, webmaster

Hobbing foot

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

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.

Charles Budd, who worked in the Edmonton cobblers shop in the early 1900s

Charles Budd ('granddad'), courtesy of David Riggs.

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.

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.

Another local cobblers

I remember being told about a nearby boot and shoemender's shop of the same period run by my own family, the Wilkinsons. It was just on the boundary with Tottenham opposite Noel Park. Working practices would have been very similar:

Child deliveries

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 Pymmes Park. I think the Tylers lived there then.

Peter Johnson

to top of page

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 sash and looked out onto Silver Street. Every time a bus passed they rattled horribly and must have been very draughty.

Pauline Raines
Granddaughter of Edward and Rose Westbrook

If you can add anything to this page or provide a photo, I would be pleased to hear from you.

Pat Cryer, webmaster

to top of page