Children's shoes found in pits during Cheshire quarry dig
Archaeologists working on restoring the Upper Gardens at Quarry Bank in Styal, Cheshire have found children's shoes buried in the dirt.
The leather shoes were found in rubbish pits along with some pottery and bottles, the National Trust said.
Further pieces of leather were recovered, and experts believe this shows the Quarry Bank gardener had moonlighted as a cobbler.
The Upper Gardens project reopens next month.
Initially it was thought the shoes could have belonged to young mill apprentices nearby.
However, pottery and glass pieces found with them were identified as late Victorian or Edwardian, suggesting the shoes were made after the apprentice system had ended.
'Pure and unbiased'
Another theory was the shoes came from children who kept the garden wall stoves burning through the night.
But the moonlighting gardener theory seems most likely, experts said.
"We think one of the gardeners might have been supplementing his income fixing shoes for people from Styal village," said Jamie Lund, an archaeologist with the National Trust.
He added: "Maybe he threw away the ones that were beyond repair. Rubbish is a great giveaway because people throw things away and never expect them to be found.
"It gives us a pure and unbiased view into the life of someone who was living and working at Quarry Bank."
Leather experts will examine the shoes and boots and the best pairs will be sent to the University of London for restoration.
Meanwhile, visitors will be able to see the Upper Garden project's progress when it reopens in February.
General Manager Eleanor Underhill said: "We were expecting 2016 to be a great year in the gardens, but this kind of discovery gives us even more reason to be excited about the project.
"Who knows what else we might find as the team continue their work."