Bootmaker’s Shop, 22 High Street, Willunga.

Many Willunga children and their families wore boots and shoes made especially for them by bootmaker John Hockney. Hockney leased the Bootmaker’s Shop at Richards Store from 1890, following the death of John Richards Junior, who had founded the business and was also one of the Willunga slate carvers. Joyce Brown’s shoes, made by John Hockney, are held in the collection at Willunga Courthouse Museum and are periodically on display to museum visitors.

The Boot-maker’s shop was a very interesting place for a small boy. Doug Lush, born in 1909, gives an child’s insight into the work carried out by the boot-makers:

“The next most interesting place up the street was Mr John Hockney’s boot maker’s shop. Everything done by hand, even to the making of the sewing thread, known as wax end. This was made by drawing a length of loosely woven string through a ball of black wax. He would then lay the string across the upper part of his thigh, and with the palm of his hand roll it toward his knee, this process was continued several times till he considered it was the right strength, and all stitching of the boots was done with this.”

“He had a one legged assistant, Ted Elliott, who sat at the end of the small shop which consisted of a counter, a strong wooden seat opposite the counter, and a heap of hides standing against the wall behind Ted. Mr Hockney sat at his work behind the counter. He was a local preacher in the Methodist Church, and was known among the young people in the congregation as oft times. This was because somewhere in his sermon he would say oft times dear friends as I sit at my work, hence the name.”

“Sometime during the day, anyone who had nothing to do would drop in, sit on the wooden seat, and the conversation would be carried on between one and another all day. Neither Mr Hockney nor Ted would rarely look up from their work, but just throw a remark in now and then to keep the story alive. I can assure you that there was very little that went on in the district that wasn’t discussed in there. It was a veritable inexhaustible source of information.”

“About twice a year my Mother would send me in to have a pair of heavy boots made. I would have to take my boots off and Mr Hockney would draw the outline of my feet on a thick piece of leather. Each night after school I would call in to see how my boots were progressing. At last they would be finished and I would put them on and lace them up with great thick laces cut from the hide by Mr Hockney. Heavy boots! I could scarcely lift them off the ground, and was invariably half crippled for about a week. It was our custom to lace them up as tight as we could to ensure a good fit; the boots didn’t fit the feet, the feet had to fit the boots!”

This building is on the City of Onkaparinga’s local heritage list (SA Heritage Places database #5481)


Recollections of Doug Lush born 1909, written Monday April 14th 1986, Willunga National Trust.

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