Cordwainer support for Capel Manor College

Judith Millidge's Photo

For many years, Capel Manor College has been well-known for its internationally-respected saddlery and leather-goods courses, and when the college introduced its first shoemaking course in 2017, it realised a long-held ambition.

Complementing the Worshipful Company of Cordwainers’ Diploma in Saddle, Harness and Bridle making, the new Shoemaking Advanced Diploma is a one-year BTEC diploma, that requires students to make four pairs of shoes, three of them to their own design. Learning about the materials, components, design, anatomy of the foot, health and safety and quality measures used in the world of footwear gives them the background knowledge they need. Visits to a shoe factory, bespoke shoemaker, small atelier, and merchants introduces the students to current shoemaking practice.

Set in the old stable yard at Capel Manor College, the workshop contains all the machinery and equipment necessary for shoemaking. Much of this has been made possible through the generosity of the Cordwainers Company, who also provide a number of grants and bursaries to the college. There is also a studio where each student has their own workspace, for design, theory and sometimes pattern cutting.

Starting with a basic court shoe, the students learn all the stages of the shoemaking process and the materials and components involved. Once this is achieved the students are encouraged to be creative and make a pair of sandals to their own design. They then move on to design and make more complicated constructions: a derby and an ankle boot all in their own size. 

Now in its second year, the course has ten students from a wide range of backgrounds. Some are just moving on from school, while others are mature students who wish to make a career change. They are an enthusiastic, hardworking and positive group, supporting each other and sharing the skills and knowledge they have from previous experiences.

Short, one-week, courses have recently been introduced, too. In May 2019 there will be a belt-making course and In July a sandal-making course is on offer, as well as a one-week introduction to working with hand-stitched leather.  

Capel Manor College is planning further developments in leather related areas and more short pilot courses will be on offer in the next academic year.  Watch this space or check us out on

Liveryman Sue Saunders, Lecturer at Capel Manor College