This report contains an assessment of the leather from the excavation. The report was written by Beth Richardson of the Museum of London Archaeology, but has been edited for web by Chaz Morse and Guy Hunt. For a full index of the assessment reports, please see the assessment report index.

Summary of archive

Class Quantity
Accessioned leather 49 objects (all have been stabilised by conservation and packed in suitable containers for archiving)

Introduction and Methodology

All the leather from the site was collected. It was sorted and accessioned while wet, and conserved by being freeze dried. It was re-examined and quantified at assessment stage. The bulk leather was re-bagged by shoe-part categories, and additional items accessioned.

The vast majority of the leather is from large early post Medieval (late 15th century) quarry pit [639]. This feature contained context (642), and overlying contexts (637) and (638), and the included finds within these contexts consisted of shoes, large quantities of cobbling and currying waste and a few pieces from straps and garments.

There is a very small amount of Roman leather from the site, but it does include a decoratively-stamped sole from a closed shoe or ankle-boot from context (709).

Categories by dating and materials: Roman

There is leather from two contexts, these being (709) and (1426). A single piece of leather from (1249) could also be Roman.

Context (709) was the primary fill of quarry pit [710], and as stated there was a small amount of leather from this post Medieval quarry pit. The finds assemblage from (709), was of mixed date, demonstrating the Roman finds to be residual. The Roman leather includes a stamped sole from an adult-sized closed shoe or ankle boot. The sole has a natural slightly waisted shape, and a lasting margin with edge/flesh stitch-holes indicating that it would have been sewn rather than nailed to the upper (cf van Driel-Murray in Goubitz 2001, 353 and 365-9). Its upper side is stamped around the margins and in a line up the centre with a small rectangular motif of leaves enclosing eight circles, approximately 7mm in length. The stamp could represent a vine, fig or flower. Stamped decoration on Roman footwear is very rare, and is more likely to be present on sandal soles or sandal/shoe uppers than on the sole of a closed shoe or boot (MacConnoran in Miller, Scofield and Rhodes 1986, 221-5; van Driel-Murray ibid 335). This is an interesting and unusual find, and it should be a priority to try to relate it to a disturbed burial or cremation in the area of the quarry pit.

A piece of thick tread sole with worn marginal tunnel stitch-marks from (709) is also Roman. Three fragments of vamp with lasting margin stitch-holes could be Roman or Medieval.

Context (1426) was the primary fill of Roman pit [1427] and held inclusions of three large pieces of thin supple hide, one with a length of flesh/grain hem stitch-holes could come from a garment. The context is dated to c. AD 120–250.

Context (1249) was a dumped deposit that included a very worn small piece of leather with two finished edges that could be Roman.

Categories by dating and materials: Early post-medieval

Most of the leather from Prescot Street site is early post Medieval (c 1480–1500), and comes from (642), the fill of quarry pit [639]. It is summarised below.

In context (642) there are three substantially complete shoes (<584>, <585>, <590>) and three accessioned shoe-parts with fastening details. There are also two boxes of bulk shoe parts which include soles, rands, tongues, heel-stiffeners, fragmentary vamps and quarters. All the shoes and shoe-parts are worn. They were presumably collected for re-use by cobblers and subsequently dumped with large amounts of cobbling and other waste as infill.

Typological and construction details date the shoes to the mid to late 15th century, c.1460/80–1500. The latest and most complete shoes are pointed turn-shoes, with high (tongued) vamps, two-part quarters and a buckle fastening across the instep, identical or very similar to shoes from large late 15th to early 16th century leather deposits recently excavated in Southwark (Nailer in Egan 2005, fig 8, 9-10; Richardson in Saxby et al forthcoming).

None of the accessioned shoes have soles, but lengths of wide rand with two rows of stitching, and some examples of two-part ‘clump’ or repair soles indicate that these are transitional welted shoes, just pre-dating the welted shoes of the 16th century. As well as the buckled shoes there are fragments from earlier, probably early to mid 15th century, side-laced boots (cf Grew and de Neergaard 1988 fig 108).


There are eight soles and straps from leather- and wooden-soled pattens, all from context (642). Three soles and a V-shaped buckled toe strap (<607>) are from a distinctive mid to late 15th century style of patten with stacked leather soles, V-shaped straps at the toe and instep (joined with a central buckle), and a two-part buckled back-strap (Richardson in Saxby et al forthcoming; Nailer in Egan 2005, fig 13, 45-52)().

Half a wooden-soled patten (<583>) and part of a nailed hinge-strap from a wooden-soled patten (<606>) are also mid to late 15th (cf Nailer in Egan ibid, fig 14, 55). Two large triangular pieces of leather with lines of decorative tooling along the edges and lace holes at the apex are straps from a type of open patten or sandal more often seen in 15th and 16th century European assemblages (<592>) (Goubitz 263,fig 43a, 264 figs 45-6). The lasting margins have been cut away, presumably so that the straps could be re-used.


Context (642) also included a large rectangular piece of leather (<586>), that measured approx 320×270mm. It has flesh/grain stitch-holes on three edges, and may come from a garment.

A smaller piece of fine supple leather, <589>, with six whip-stitched edges, and a circle of flesh/grain stitch marks, possibly for a patch that may have come from a jacket, was also recovered from this context. It is similar in shape to pieces from a Roman jacket from St Magnus House (Rhodes in Miller et al 1986, 213, 7.5-6) although it is from an early post Medieval context (570), a capping layer.


All the pieces of strap are from context (642). They are plain functional straps, probably from belts, bags or harness.

Strap <593> is a flat plain strap with parallel knife-cut edges, cut chamfered ends, and six midline perforations. It is 25mm wide and probably from a belt or harness.

Strap <596> is a flat plain strap with parallel knife-cut edges. It is 14mm wide, is torn at both ends, and has no perforations.

Strap <597> is formed from two short pieces overlapping flat plain strap with parallel knife-cut edges sewn together at their cut ends with a leather thong forming a possibly decorative ‘X’ on outer side. It is 25mm wide. Further research is needed to help determine function and parallels.

Strap <598> is a flat plain strap with parallel knife-cut edges, and is torn at both ends.

Strap <602> is a flat plain strap with parallel knife-cut edges, and cut chamfered ends with 2 small, possibly functional, perforations. It is 15mm wide.

Strap <605> is a flat plain strap with parallel knife-cut edges, cut chamfered ends, one of which has two small flat horizontally lined rivets, and the other a single perforated hole.

Other leather

All these pieces are from context (642). Piece <588> is a wide strap-like piece, measuring 54mm in width, with a slightly rounded openwork terminal, two arrow-shaped cut-outs, and a tooled line along one edge, ending above the terminal. The other end is roughly cut for strips, with one still there, presumably for re-use as straps. Further research is required into the function of the piece and for any parallels.

Piece <594> was a slightly curved, folded or pleated strip, with holes for ribbon or cord. It was probably from a purse or garment.

Piece <570> was a piece with short row of large flesh/grain holes, and another double row, with six holes, at right angles

Piece <587> was a piece with neat whip-stitched seams. It was too folded to investigate without damaging leather. What is thought to be a piece of worked bone is noted in one of the folds. Further conservation would be desirable for this piece, if possible.


There are five boxes of waste from context (642). All the waste was examined and counted. A total of 3,409 pieces were recorded, with fragments obviously cut from shoes or other items bagged separately. A very small amount is primary waste from the unusable parts of the hide, but the majority is secondary, from the cutting and trimming of shoe-patterns and other pieces. Some of this leather was cut from shoes and other items for re-use. There are also thin strips from the paring of tanned hides during the currying process (cf Cameron in Mould, Carlisle and Cameron 2003, 3254). Most of the leather is cattle hide, but a few pieces are sheep/goat or deer hide, and have been separately bagged for analysis.

Amongst the waste were two pieces with partially-cut punched small decorative stars presumably trial pieces for openwork decoration on shoes, garments or saddlery (cf Goubitz 2002, 53-4, figs 24-28). There is also a piece punched with a small impressed circle.

Early post Medieval leather from other contexts

Contexts (637) and (638) formed later fills of quarry pit [639]. Context (637) held a small bag of shoe parts, which included five pieces of sole, two lengths of rand, four short lengths of turn-welt, a whip-stitched lining and a small piece of upper-insert. A large bag of shoe-making waste, 134 pieces, was also recorded, and is presumed to be late 15th century, as with the material from (642). Context (638) also had an inclusion of a small bag of shoe parts, including a rand and a possible top-band. Additionally a large bag of shoe-making waste, 214 pieces, was also recovered from this context, and again is presumed to be late 15th century.

Context (879), an organic layer at the bottom of well cut [506], held an inclusion of one piece of waste leather.

Context (863), the primary fill of a Medieval well, produced two sole fragments of leather.

Analysis of potential – Roman Leather

The stamped shoe-sole from (709) is a highly unusual and important find, particularly as it comes from a closed shoe/boot rather than a sandal. It may not be possible to relate it to a specific burial, but it should be researched (which should narrow the dating) and published with reference to any similar stamped soles from Roman Britain and Europe.

Analysis of potential – Early post Medieval

There is an exceptionally large and well-stratified group of cobbling waste from quarry-infill (642), which also contains a few near-complete shoes and pieces from more fragmentary shoes, pattens, straps, possible garments and a purse. There are a few mid 15th century-shoe parts, but the bulk of the leather appears to date to the late 15th century (c.1480–1500). Few assemblages of leather from this period have been excavated or published from Britain, and there is considerable potential to publish this group, comparing it with recently excavated material from Southwark (Nailer in Egan 2005; Richardson in Saxby et al forthcoming).

Significance of the data – National significance

The Roman stamped shoe sole is an important find of national significance.

Significance of the data- National, regional and local significance

The large group of early post Medieval cobbling waste, shoes and other items from (642) has London and regional/national significance. The shoes and pattens can be added to a growing London typology for the late 15th century, an important transitional period in shoe manufacture. The manufacturing waste may also provide information on late 15th century technological developments such as types of hides used e.g. larger livestock, with larger and thicker hides, and items being manufactured.