Monday, 6 April 2015

Salford Clogs

Act One ... The scene represents the interior of Hobson's Boot Shop in Chapel Street, Salford. ... The business is prosperous, but to prosper in Salford in 1880, you did not require the elaborate accessories of a later day. ... The windows exhibit little stock, and amongst what there is, clogs figure prominently.

The sound of clogs of the cotton-mill workers on the cobblestones were once a part of everyday life. The wearing of clogs by mill workers was in terminal decline before the end of the Second World War, and by 1950 there appears to have been only one clogmaker and repairer left, James Critchley, of Whit Lane, Salford

 'The adult population (I would estimate 90%)', wrote Jack Lanigan of Salford at the turn of the twentieth century, 'wore clogs, and you could hear them half a mile away.'

But Lowry didn't care much anyway 
They said he just paints cats and dogs 
And matchstalk men in boots and clogs 
And Lowry said that's just the way they'll stay

Brian and Michael

click on images to enlarge
Salford City Reporter ca. 1975-6

James Critchley the Clogmaker
Whit Lane Salford
Source: Riley Archive

Working-class men, women and children wore clogs. They were durable, repairable, and relatively cheap, still the poorest went barefoot.  Jack Lanigan wrote in 1890:
"Shoes on your feet were the last things you could expect. It was so common to see boys and girls playing in the street without shoes and stockings. Many were the days during winter we went to school with sacking round our feet."

In the Language

Clog Dancing

Also known as clogging.  The dance below is based on the Old Lancashire heel and toe style of dance and some of the steps emulate the machinery and sounds of the cotton mills.

Clog dancing reached its peak between 1880 and 1910. Competitions, with cash prizes, were held at music halls and working men's clubs. The development of clog dancing in Lancashire was influenced by the large number of Irish immigrants that moved into the county. They introduced elements of Irish traditional dancing to form a hybrid called Lancashire-Irish clog dancing. Dancing clogs were made of ash, and therefore lighter than work clogs, which were made of alder. Work clogs usually had irons.

Weaponized Clogs

Gangs of Scuttlers once roamed the streets of Salford looking for trouble. Sporting fancy scarves and bell-bottomed trouses, which floated above their narrow brass-tipped clogs, they were the nineteenth century equivalent of 'bovver boys'.  The clogs were used for purring, the practice of violently kicking a victim until he was senseless or dead. In one month, August of 1874, seventeen people appeared in court, charged with this offense. By the early 1890s, after stiff prison sentences, purring was replaced by stabbing. (see purring duels)

It was reported that in one day, clogs had been used by three Salford men to kick their respective wives to death.

Source: Boot and Shoe Recorder (vol. LX, no. 4, 25 Oct 1911)

click on image to enlarge


The newspaper article refers to Evelyn Vigeon, who published "Clogs or Wooden-soled shoes", an article in Costume (1977) 11: 1–27

Of Interest

Lancashire clogs and shawls
Clog (British)
Some poems featuring clogs 
The English Clog Maker

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