Shoemakers and Cobblers

In 1841 there were two shoemakers in Brook, James and Robert Raynor, and a shoe binder called Elizabeth Collyer (the shoe binder added the upper to the sole). From then until the 1880s there was always at least one shoemaker in the village.

It was in the 1930s that Mr Leal, or Alf, as he was better known, came to live in Brook. Short in stature with little round glasses, a peak cap and brown apron, Alf was a baker who had retired through ill health and was affectionately known as the ‘bunman’.

He and his wife, Louisa, raised their three children, Ellen, Ida and Leonard at Compton Grange, Brook. They later moved to No 1 Coastguard Station when Alf became a coastguard. Alf bought a plot of land half way up Coastguard Lane and built a wooden workshop which he covered in black tar and which became the village cobbler’s shop.

Alf could be seen standing in his ‘shop window’ looking down to the sea and taking in the air. A notice hung outside saying: ‘Shoes soled free to any person over 80 bringing their mother and father with them.’ The workshop has been described as ‘organised chaos,’ but Alf knew just where everything was.

The tools of his trade hung on the wall and there was a sewing machine on the work bench. Alf charged tuppence for every job that was done. He played a game with the village kids dodging them to try to stop them coming into the shed, but the youngsters would dart in through his legs. It is said that he didn’t like children much! We hear that the ladies too, were apprehensive of him and would throw their shoes in the door for repair, for fear of having their legs tickled!

Alf was also very clever at watch and clock repairs and very good at playing the hand bells. ‘Skinny Leal’ was apparently his nickname when on the carrier’s van.

Stories told about Alf Leal include: One night they were all up the Sun Inn and someone said, ‘Who drew up the plans for your shed then Bunman?’ ‘Plans, I never had no plans. I made it all out of my own head,’ ‘Yes,’ said someone, ‘and had enough wood left over to make a fowl house as well.‘ Bill Humber took his father’s shoes to be mended and Alf started to complain about the workmanship of the previous repair: Rough job this, who did them last time? and I said, ‘You did, Mr Leal.