This tiny pair of shoes, each one no more than 5 centimetres long, may have been made to complete a doll dressed as a coal miner. Similar miniature pairs were made of fine materials for exhibitions and shop display.
These are clogs, a scaled down version of the hard-wearing protective shoes widely worn by working people around the country from the 1700s. Associated with more than 50 different occupations and working conditions, clogs have become firmly linked with the Lancashire and Yorkshire mills and mines. They were also worn by Welsh miners. Our mini clogs have hide (leather) uppers, fastened with a metal clasp. Men’s clogs were usually fastened with iron, and women’s with brass. The wooden soles are reinforced with grooved metal clog irons, crafted by a blacksmith in the same way as horseshoes. Clogs were well established in Lancashire by this time. Records of ‘purring’ matches, a contest involving kicking the opponent while wearing clogs, show that the result could be fatal. Even children would compete to ‘strike fire’ by hitting the clog irons against the kerb, causing sparks to fly.
The word ‘clog’ can simply mean a piece of wood; a distinction between the work of the cloggers and pattenmakers ( of raised wooden overshoes ) was already being made in the eighteenth century. Fine leather ‘clogs’ or ‘pattens’ were part of the shoemaker’s trade. These were often made to match fine silk shoes for women of rank, whereas hardwearing wooden clogs were clearly meant for country or workwear.
The best wood for clog-making is alder as it is lightweight, water-resistant and does not split. By the 1900s clog-blocks were sourced from around the country, rather than the region where clogs were made and worn. Devon and the South West was one of the areas where sycamore was sourced. However, there is no evidence that clogs were made in Devon, although pattens would certainly have been worn in farm-yards around the county.