Watch: Work boots from 1800’s found under Sydenham Church

The rubble from demolished Sydenham Church is being cleared, and a pair of old boots has been found in the wreckage. While finding footwear doesn't seem too out of the ordinary, you'll never guess what they were actually for.

VIDEO: Geoff Sloan and Ashleigh Monk

A pair of leather work boots used to ward off evil spirits has been discovered in the rubble at the Sydenham Heritage Church site.

The small boots, which are more than 150-years-old, were found by contractors as they cleared the site.

A penny from 1868 with Queen Victoria on it was inside one of them to indicate the year they were left under the floor boards of the demolished church’s vestry office.

Sydenham Heritage Trust chairwoman Dorothy Haywood said is was an exciting surprise.

“The shoes were in the church because in Victorian times when the workers built a building, they left a pair of shoes inside to scare away the evil spirits because the shoes took on the shape of your foot.”

She said it is interesting both boots were left as it was normal practice to leave one.

Other items salvaged included part of the church’s first reverend Leonard Isitt’s pulpit, clay pipes, old coins, a Gould & Co chemist bottle, Sydenham School trophies, parts of the communion rail and ink pots.

The category two heritage church, built in 1864, was damaged in the February 22, 2011, earthquake, and controversially demolished two days later.

Contractors finally started clearing the pile of rubble early last year, with the last of it to go within the next week.

Trust member Joshua Moot said the boots were well worn and had been resoled three times. He spent three days softening the leather and restoring them.

There was a splatter of red paint on them, suggesting they belonged to one of the workers who painted the Gothic arch in the church, he said.

The trust wants to construct a new community building on the site, which would display the items found. lt was unknown when that would happen.

Ms Haywood said in the meantime, the site would be landscaped with a temporary car park to help raise funds for the rebuild.

She said the church’s northern wall was still standing, but its future was still to be decided.

“It’s been a long, long time, but now we can see our way to the future.”