A SHOEMAKER has scooped an award at a national conference with his his first ever pair of shoes.

Chris Thorne of Bill Bird Shoes orthopaedic shoemakers in Blockley scooped a prestigious award at the 20th Independent Shoemakers Conference in Eastbourne – with his first pair of shoes.

The award, in memory of Midlands’ shoemaker David Xavier, challenged budding shoemakers to make footwear to accommodate a medical condition and the competition was fierce.

Mr Thorne, aged 31, previously worked as an upholsterer in the vintage car industry before joining Bill Bird Shoes in 2013.

Although he has been making lasts - the wooden blocks that the shoes are made around - for a few years now, his winning entry, a pair of dark tan Derby brogues, was the first pair of shoes he had ever made by himself.

Mr Thorne said: “Taking into consideration the other entrants and the quality of their work I would have been thrilled with any placing. I was blown away to actually win it, as I didn’t expect it.“

Mr Thorne also produced an eye-catching portfolio describing the process he went through including his many mistakes and findings along the way. He was presented with a silver trophy, £300 cash and £300 in leather vouchers.

Praising Mr Thorne, Bill Bird said: “We are thrilled at Chris’s win especially as this was his very first pair of handmade shoes. He is dedicated to his work and is always striving to improve his skills.“