The Lamb is a pub on Tottington Road in Bury, Greater Manchester, which was built in 1830, when it started out as an inn, complete with stables. It’s now a traditional pub, situated on a busy road in a residential, but semi-rural area of Bury, frequented mainly by locals. Roger Elliott became the landlord of The Lamb in 2013, but has been a regular here for fifteen years at least – and for as long as Roger can remember, the shoe has been on display in a glass and wooden case above the fireplace in the main bar area.
I came across a reference to the shoe on a local community Facebook group and immediately contacted Roger, asking to see it. He was more than happy to let me conduct my research, and invited me to The Lamb on Saturday 31st October – noting the aptness of the date. The pub – cosy, even though it wasn’t opening time yet – was bedecked for Halloween, and the shoe seemed to fit the theme.
The shoe is small – certainly a child’s – and is clearly old and well worn, with frayed and folded edges, and a damaged toe. It was found roughly 30 years ago when former owners of the pub rebuilt the chimney. Within the chimney breast was a ledge, and on the ledge sat the shoe. Behind the ledge was also a number of clay-pipes. According to Roger, the owners wanted to keep these finds as close as possible to their original place of concealment, so they built a case and placed it on top of the fireplace for customers to see. As Roger told me, there were apparent consequences when it was moved from this spot:
“There is a bit of a story where it was moved, moved to the end of the bar, and there was straw found there the following morning, as if from the stables. There was just straw found all over the place. And it happened for a couple of days and he moved it back on there [the fireplace] and it all went…it didn’t appear anymore.”
When I asked Roger if he would ever move the shoe, he replied with an emphatic “no”: He wants to keep it “almost exactly – by about nine inches – exactly where it was found”. And would he take the shoe with him if he ever moved out of the pub? “No, no, no. That is part of the pub”. Roger’s theory is that the shoe was placed there in the 1830s or 1840s, in order to bring good luck to the pub and ensure it doesn’t burn down. Does he think it works? “No not really”, he replies automatically, but then he re-considers. “Well, so far we’ve not had any bad luck. So in that sense…” He gestures to the room around him. “It’s still standing.”