The 25th October is St. Crispins Day.

On this day each year, the market town of Northampton in central England provides entertainment for its residents in celebration of its patron saint.

Crispin is the patron saint of leather and shoe making and Northampton is the town at the heart of the shoe making industry in England.

Oak bark is aplenty along with fine leather fetched at the local cattle market.

Who would be a tanner?

More than a hundred shoe factories set up in Northampton during the evolution of the nineteenth century from workshop to factory.

Brand names were established for the highest quality of footwear which are still highly regarded today.

Dr Martens, Churches, Crocket and Jones, Greens, are but a few of those brand names.

Cobblers, the trade title for the worker who makes shoes and boots, became the adopted nickname of Northampton Town Football Club.

The trend of shoe-making in the town probably started around the time of the civil war in the middle of the seventeenth century when hardy boots were needed and worn by both roundheads and cavaliers in combat.

That trend continued for the Napoleonic, Crimenn and Boer Wars of the nineteenth century and then of course for both the first and second world war of the twentieth century.

A mental hospital was built in 1876 on the outskirts of the town at Berrywood and carried the name of St. Crispins for many years.

It is a fine pavillion style building with magnificent views across the Nene Valley.

It was built on expansive grounds with its own self-contained working farm, market garden, shoemakers, tailors, carpenters and upholsterers.

The hospital was at the forefront of abandoning the notion of bedlam and straight-jackets to provide patients with occupational therapy.

Since 1995, the site of the former hospital has long been redeveloped for housing but there is one derelict section which still exists to this day.

Notably, on the south facade, there is a 190 foot clock tower which serves as a landmark of a bygone era.

A footnote to the story is that of the unfortunate cobbler who ended up at the aylum in the 1920s and who apparently haunts the ruins as a ghostly apparition.

He might not be alone.

You might well say that all of this is a load of cobblers but this, I tell you, is a fascinating story.


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