Leather Shoe
© Steve Tomlinson
The shoe as it was found on a foreshore in North Kent.
A Bronze Age relic found on a Kent beach is believed to be the oldest shoe ever found in the UK.

The artefact, which has been dated at 3,000-years-old, was discovered on a foreshore in the north of the county by professional archaeologist Steve Tomlinson.

Mr Tomlinson, who lives in Ramsgate, found the child's shoe in September last year, and was "in deep shock" when he heard how old it was.

He recalled: "We had been out for three hours scouring the shoreline, when I came across what looked like a very old shoe like piece of leather washed up on the mud.

"I picked it up and I immediately thought it looks like the sole of an old little shoe."

The leather was sent to the SUERC carbon dating unit in East Kilbride, Scotland, to find out who wore the little shoe, and Mr Tomlinson was told he "may need to sit down for the news".

"The date they had given me was just astonishing," the 51-year-old explained.

The shoe after cleaning.
© Steve Tomlinson
The shoe after cleaning.
"It's incredible, and it's so, so rare.

"Textiles like this don't survive often, they have to be found in anaerobic conditions."

It is thought that it was worn by a child aged two- to three-years-old, and measures 15cm in length.

In 2005, a 2,000-year-old shoe found by archaeologists excavating a quarry in Somerset was believed to be the UK's oldest.

But the discovery in Kent is even older - and is also potentially the smallest Bronze Age shoe ever found in the world.

Mr Tomlinson, who would not reveal which exact beach he found the artefact on, said: "I was so so excited, and the shock still hasn't quite sunk in.

"I will certainly look forward to the future and what we can all learn from this incredible find."

Now, further analysis is being carried out to try to determine the type of animal the leather was made from, and if any DNA can be sourced from the artefact.

Mr Tomlinson, who works with Canterbury Archaeological Trust, added: "Finding something like that is quite extraordinary.

"It opens up history too; we just know nothing about these kinds of things."

The ancient shoe is expected to go to the British Museum after further investigation has taken place.