Hundreds pay tribute to Sheringham cobbler John Hart

Master shoe repairer John Hart, who is giving up soling footwear at his Sheringham shop after 40 yea

Master shoe repairer John Hart - Credit: Archant

A larger-than-life seaside character who repaired shoes on north Norfolk’s coast for more than four decades has died aged 88. 

John Hart, of Sheringham’s former Sheepshed shoe repair and key cutting shop, based in the town’s Wyndham Street, died suddenly on October 14. 

On hearing the news, hundreds of people left words of condolences via the town’s community noticeboard Facebook page. 

Mr Hart was born in the market town of Ashby de la Zouch in North West Leicestershire in 1933, joining his older sibling Doris, who was seven years his senior. One of his earliest memories was being diagnosed with polio at the age of six on the same day the Second World War broke out. 

Face to Face. weel 10. Sheringham shoe repairer John Hart as a toddler, before he contracted polio a

John Hart as a toddler, before he contracted polio at the age of six - Credit: SUPPLIED

In spite of being left with restricted growth in his right leg and undergoing numerous operations, he went on to become one of the top men in his field and was made president of the Society of Master Shoe Repairers five times. 

His nephew, Ian Taberner, explained how his uncle’s condition never held him back. 

He said: “He was ill during the time of pre-NHS and it did cause some hardship on the family but people rallied around and helped. During his recovery, he was looked after by an order of nuns in a cottage hospital in Ashby. 

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“As a youth, John would enjoy playing board games and, as he got older, he would join in with games of football at the park with his friends where they would make sure to place him in goal.” 

He joined the local Methodist church youth group and helped to stage productions, including the annual pantomime. He also worked part-time as a projectionist at a nearby cinema.  

His first job after school was working as an apprentice car mechanic but he was fired and told “his disability was too risky”.

It was then he began working as an apprentice shoe repairer at the Co-operative Society. Eventually he opened his own shop in nearby Coalville with school friends and life-long business partners, the late Peter and Greta Cooper. 

Dubbed “the Sheringham trio”, the group moved to the coastal market town and opened the Sheepshed in 1974. 

FAce to Face, week 10. Sheringham shoe repairer John Hart.For: NNNDate: 27/03/2007Photo: karen

John Hart in 2007 - Credit: KAREN BETHELL

The shop is fondly remembered by the thousands of customers who walked through its doors. From the clogs from around the world nailed to the beams, to sitting on comfortable sheepskin rugs placed around the premises, many people have a story to tell.  

In 2012, Mr Hart decided to give up shoe repairing after doing it for more than half a century. One of the last repairs he undertook was resoling a pair of black patent Prada heels. In his 60-year career his customers ranged from celebrities, MPs and Bishops, to a gentleman boasting size 23 feet. He continued cutting keys, fitting watch batteries and selling specialist sheepskin products until the shop closed around five years ago. 

“Over the years, he got to know many, many people,” Mr Taberner said. 

“He was larger than life, always smiling, never complaining and would do anything to help anybody.” 

Mr Hart was also a member of the local Masonic lodge and the Salvation Army, as well as many other groups and organisations. He would give talks to students at his local surgery about his experiences of having polio, and is also remembered for shouting out the answers from excitement during weekly quiz nights. 

Sheringham shoe repairer John Hart, who shut up shop for the final time at the weekend after trading

Sheringham shoe repairer John Hart, when he shut up shop for the final time after trading in the town for more than 40 years - Credit: Archant

His friend of three years, Julie Golec, who met Mr Hart after joining the Salvation Army following a relocation from Lincolnshire, said: “John was Hart by name, and heart by nature. He had such a big heart. He helped a lot of people and enjoyed life.” 

A real Sheringham character, Mr Hart leaves behind his two nephews, Ian and Peter, and their families, as well as many friends including Moira Skillen, of Scotland, who he would speak to on the phone daily. 

Mr Hart’s funeral takes place on Monday, November 15, leaving from the Masonic lodge in Sheringham at 12.30pm, travelling through the town past the old shop, before the service at Cromer Crematorium at 1pm. Family flowers only.

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