Duckers shoe shop
Shoe shop Duckers, home of the Oxford brogue, closed last year. Its ledgers containing the customer accounts of famous literary luminaries such as JRR Tolkien and Evelyn Waugh were offered at auction. The Bodleian, the main research library of the University of Oxford, bought the ledgers at Mallams’ February 8 auction.

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The ledgers were hammered down at £7000 at auctioneer Mallams in Oxford.

Duckers, home of the Oxford brogue, was one of very few traditional hand-sewn, bespoke shoemakers outside central London.

The ledgers contained the customer accounts of little-known Oxford academics as well as literary luminaries such as JRR Tolkien, Evelyn Waugh and publisher Sir Basil Blackwell.

The Bodleian, the main research library of the University of Oxford and one of the oldest libraries in Europe, bought the ledgers at Mallams’ February 8 auction.

Other notable customers include the German First World War flying ace aka Manfred von Richtofen Red Baron, European aristocratic family figures and several maharajahs.

Duckers shoe shop

Oxford shoe shop Duckers closed last year and its ledgers containing the customer accounts of famous and wealthy patrons were sold at Mallams’ February 8 auction. The Bodleian, the main research library of the University of Oxford, bought the ledgers for a hammer price of £7000.

More recent patrons were Olympic rower Matthew Pinsent, comedian Rowan Atkinson, former Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson and Formula One boss Eddie Jordan.

For over a hundred years, Duckers traded from its well-known shop on Oxford's Turl Street from 1898 until it closed in late 2016. Ducker & Son owners Bob and Isobel Avery closed the store when they were unable to find someone to take over the business.

The 12 x 9in (30.5 x 23cm) leather-bound volumes cover the years 1910-58. The ledgers are numbered 4 to 14 (the first three volumes have long been missing). Copperplate writing details the names, addresses and indeed sartorial style of thousands of those customers, both ‘town and gown’.

An entry from 1913 records Tolkien’s purchase of black football boots for 14s 6d and a pair of porpoise laces for 10d.

The Bodleian purchased the ledgers with help from funding provided by the Friends of the Bodleian. It holds the largest collection of original Tolkien manuscripts and decided to buy the ledgers because of their “connection with the history of the university and many prominent literary figures whose papers are already held” in the library.

Chris Fletcher, keeper of special collections at the Bodleian Libraries, said: “We are delighted that we have been able to save this fascinating piece of Oxford history and to keep the Duckers ledgers in the city where they have been for more than a century.

“Clothes make the man, as someone once said, and people will have fun looking at the buying habits of some familiar names, as well as taking a serious look into a sustained historical record of social and business history in Oxford.”