Going Up in the World

Recent work in our Collections revealed a small, but interesting, collection of pattens. This is a word which is probably unfamiliar to many people, as pattens are not in common usage now.

The cleanly maiden thro the village streets
In pattens clicks down causeways never dry
While eves above head drops – were of she meets
The schoolboy leering on wi mischiefs eye
Trying to splash her as he hurrys’ bye

from November, The Shepherd’s Calendar – John Clare 1826

The patten was a wooden sole shaped piece attached by straps around the wearer’s shoe and mounted on a iron ring which raised it from the floor. This enabled the wearer to walk in the streets above the muck, protecting their shoes and clothing. The patten could then be unstrapped when the wearer arrived at their destination, leaving it at the door, where it could be reattached later to continue the journey. The need for pattens declined with the arrival of pavements and eventually they disappeared completely from regular use.

A pair of pattens.

The Worshipful Company of Patten Makers was awarded its Royal Charter in 1670, although the Company itself dates dates back to at least 1379.

Although pattens are no longer in vogue the Pattenmakers Charitable Foundation now uses their skills in the making of orthopaedic shoes, particularly for injured servicemen.