AN EXHIBITION telling the story of how boots, shoes, and clogs were made in Cockermouth for several hundred years opens at the town’s Kirkgate Centre next week.

Dead animals, dog and pigeon poo, and even the bark from oak trees were all once used in the shoemaking process. 

The exhibition reveals the history of making shoes in Cockermouth, from the tanneries of the 18th and 19th centuries to the shoe factory Millers, which set up in town during World War Two and traded there for 50 years.

Kirkgate general manager Emma Heys said: "It's about giving people the opportunity to understand what their cultural heritage is.

"While we want to hear from people who were born and brought up here, who might not realise how unique certain aspects of their life are, we also want to hear stories from recent refugees, immigrants and people who have relocated.

“People are invited to come along to one of the events, celebrate what makes our communities unique and share their family traditions and stories with others."

Times and Star: Kirkgate youth Theatre members performing at Cockermouth Live as part of the In My Shoes projectKirkgate youth Theatre members performing at Cockermouth Live as part of the In My Shoes project (Image: Chris Lewis)

The exhibition runs from Tuesday, November 7, to Saturday, November 18 (11am to 4pm), with a tea party for former Millers employees and their families on Saturday, November 11 2pm – 4pm.

It forms part of a wider 18-month Kirkgate Arts and Heritage project that celebrates West Cumbria’s diverse heritage by capturing the personal experiences of people throughout the area during a series of oral history workshops.

Called In My Shoes, a series of events featuring storytelling and performances will be held in community centres across the region. The hope is that these will inspire people to come forward and share their stories.

The sessions are on Saturday, November 4 at The Beacon, Whitehaven (1pm to 4pm), and Sunday, November 12 at The Settlement, Maryport (1pm – 4pm). 

Times and Star: Millers machinists at work Millers machinists at work (Image: Supplied)

Helen Johnston, community projects officer, added: “There’s a saying about standing in other people’s shoes to help us all empathise with each other, bringing everyone in.

“We can learn so much from cultural heritage and personal histories to keep community bonds strong. That’s what’s inspired this innovative project."