Agecroft Hall: Discover 17th Century England in Richmond
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Shoe Horn (AH1985.0007)

Robert Mindum, England, 1613 

 

   This shoe horn, about nine inches long, was engraved by Robert Mindum in 1613. Inscribed along the outer edge ‘ROBART MINDVM [sic] MADE THIS SHOOING HORNE FOR…IANE [sic] HIS WIFE ANNODOMINI 1613,’ the piece is also etched with a variety of stylized floral and geometric designs: a Tudor rose topped with a crown, a small, round flower encased in a circular band containing diamond shapes, and a stylized tree with large, symmetrical leaves. The narrow end of the horn contains swirling geometric patterns and scales.

 

   Shoe horns were often times given as a gift and became necessities during the Renaissance due to the rise in popularity of soft backed, flexible shoes. There are twenty-one known Mindum shoe horns and each is dedicated to a single person and inscribed with a year; obviously, these were intended as gifts.  Not much is known about Mindum and there is no written record of him ever being a member of the Worshipful Company of Horners. One did not need to be a horner to craft intricately decorated shoe horns such as these—one just needed to know how to carve and work with a material that had a grain, such as a wood. It is likely that Mindum bought his shoe horns, carved from the inner curved edge of a cow’s horn, pre-made from a horner guild member, and then designed and engraved the horns with elements he may have chosen from design books (1). 

  

   Mindum was active from 1593 to 1613 and used different symbols and images throughout his work. One of his common designs, which can be found on Agecroft’s ‘shooing horne,’ is the crowned Tudor rose. Illustrating the union of the houses of York and Lancaster through the marriage of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, the image is the linking of two roses, underneath a crown. Wayne Robinson, a Mindum scholar, points out that Mindum continues to use the crowned Tudor rose even after the death of Elizabeth I, signifying the end of the Tudor period, through part of the reign of King James I, the beginning of the Stuart era (2).  The other design elements on the Agecroft’s horn were very likely chosen for both aesthetic appeal and ability to fill the space. Or perhaps his customers chose the design.

 

   Mindum’s twenty-one known shoe horns (and one known gun powder flask) seem to raise more questions than answers. If he was not a member of the horner’s guild, then what did he do? Why did he only create twenty-two horn pieces in two decades? Did he also create unsigned pieces? His shoe horns can be found in private collections and museums throughout the United Kingdom, a museum collection in Canada, one in Washington, DC, and one at a small historic house museum in Richmond, VA—Agecroft Hall.

 

 

Sources:

(1) Robinson, Wayne. “Mindum’s Shoehorns—a study of method.” The Reverend’s Big Blog of Leather. 29 August 2013. Web. 30 April 2015.
(2) Robinson, Wayne. “This is Francis Hinson’s Shoing Horne…” The Reverend’s Big Blog of Leather. 6 May 2014. Web. 30 April 2015.
The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs. Vol. 85, No. 500 (Nov., 1944), pp. 282-284
Brooke-Little, J.P. Royal Heraldry: Beasts and Badges of Britain.
Hardwick, Paula. Discovering Horn. Southampton: The Camelot Press, Ltd. 1981.

 

Prepared by Libby Howlett, Manager of Collections, with research assistance from Josh Kline.