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Harborough Museum

Papillon Hall brocade shoes

Papillon Hall brocade shoes

This month’s object was chosen by one of our volunteers, Lesley Minnis.

From the moment I read the story of the brocade shoes, I was hooked!

The family name synonymous with the brocade slipper is “Papillon” and although I assumed it was of French origin, it isn’t.  The name Papillon in England, dates back to the time of William the Conqueror.

Papillon Hall was built in Lubenham in 1622 by David Papillon who designed the hall in a unique, octagon shaped stone construction with only one entrance and four attics. Eventually it was  inherited  by his namesake,  David Papillon. (1691 – 1762 and nicknamed “Pamp” by local people)  Who, was rumoured to be a good looking, charismatic, and a completely hypnotic character.  Before his marriage in 1717 it is believed he had a mistress of Spanish origin but she was never allowed to leave the building and took all her fresh air and exercise on the flat roof of the east wing.  She died in mysterious circumstances in 1715 but there are no records of her death. The brocade slippers belonged to the Spanish mistress and before she died, she cursed anyone who removed them from Papillon Hall.

During the years that followed, every time the hall changed hands, the slippers were passed on with the deeds of the house, because of the disturbing and sometimes sinister events which took place when the slippers were removed for safe keeping, or when they were loaned to exhibitions.

The slipper in our museum was discovered during alterations to the hall in 1903, commissioned by the then owner, Sir Frank Bellville. The alterations were undertaken by a renowned architect of the time, Sir Edwin Lutyens.  Sir Frank Bellville didn’t believe in the curse and dispatched the slippers to his solicitor’s office for safe keeping.   The work began and the body of a woman was found walled up in one of the attics,  known as Pamp’s attic. A series of accidents started to happen to the construction crew and they refused to complete the work.  Workers from outside the area were drafted in but when Sir Frank Bellville was thrown from a pony and trap, receiving a broken skull, the slippers were immediately returned to the house.

The brocade slipper, in style, is not unlike the wedge shoes of modern times but because it is mostly made of fabric it has a very sensible overshoe to protect it from mud etc.  There are no new fashions, just recycled ones !

The curse seems to have disappeared with the demolition of the hall in 1950 but as for the “accidents”,  I quite firmly believe that they are along the lines of the curse of Tutankhamun.  But who knows ?

There is more information on Papillon hall and the slippers at the museum. The village of Lubenham lies 2 miles west of Market Harborough. Lubenham dates back to the 12th Century. Well worth a visit for its pub, village shop and the Coach and Horses pub. There are lots of lovely walks starting from the village.

The village has a useful website.

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